Have a Sadistic Bastille Day!


In honor of Bastille Day, you may want to check out the prison letters of the Marquis de Sade, or even sign up to be emailed a weekly letter from the Marquis.

When De Sade was imprisoned in the Bastille, sensing revolutionary stirrings, he shouted out from his window (falsely) that the inmates were being tortured and killed in hopes of provoking… well, the storming of the Bastille that occurred two weeks later. After, alas, the Marquis himself had been removed to an asylum.

It's hard to symptathize with de Sade—for all the self-pity in his letters, at least part of his punishment was well earned by his penchant for mistreating prostitutes. But his prison letters also—certainly more than his turgid, nigh unreadable novels or his sophistical philosophical tracts—are beautifully written and witty, probably one of the better samples out there of the epistolary form. If de Sade the man was unworthy of his prose, it remains, at any rate, fine prose. From a letter to his wife:

My manner of thinking, so you say, cannot be approved. Do you suppose I care? A poor fool indeed is he who adopts a manner of thinking for others! My manner of thinking stems straight from my considered reflections; it holds with my existence, with the way I am made. It is not in my power to alter it; and were it, I'd not do so. This manner of thinking you find fault with is my sole consolation in life; it alleviates all my sufferings in prison, it composes all my pleasures in the world outside, it is dearer to me than life itself. Not my manner of thinking but the manner of thinking of others has been the source of my unhappiness. The reasoning man who scorns the prejudices of simpletons necessarily becomes the enemy of simpletons; he must expect as much, and laughs at the inevitable. A traveler journeys along a fine road. It has been strewn with traps. He falls into one. Do you say it is the traveler's fault, or that of the scoundrel who lays the traps? If then, as you tell me, they are willing to restore my liberty if I am willing to pay for it by the sacrifice of my principles or my tastes, we may bid one another an eternal adieu, for rather than part with those, I would sacrifice a thousand lives and a thousand liberties, if I had them. These principles and these tastes, I am their fanatic adherent; and fanaticism in me is the product of the persecutions I have endured from my tyrants. The longer they continue their vexations, the deeper they root my principles in my heart, and I openly declare that no one need ever talk to me of liberty if it is offered to me only in return for their destruction.


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  1. In addition to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Rove also violated section 802 of the Patriot Act.

    The Rove leak is in direct violation of the Patriot Act as illustrated below.


    (a) DOMESTIC TERRORISM DEFINED- Section 2331 of title 18, United States Code, is amended–

    (1) in paragraph (1)(B)(iii), by striking `by assassination or kidnapping’ and inserting `by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping’;

    (2) in paragraph (3), by striking `and’;

    (3) in paragraph (4), by striking the period at the end and inserting `; and’; and

    (4) by adding at the end the following:

    `(5) the term `domestic terrorism’ means activities that–

    `(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

    `(B) appear to be intended–

    `(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

    `(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

    `(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

    `(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.’.

    (b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT- Section 3077(1) of title 18, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:

    `(1) `act of terrorism’ means an act of domestic or international terrorism as defined in section 2331;’.

  2. I just hope they don’t send any of de Sade’s letters to minors in Utah or Michigan.

  3. Julian,
    Do you think de Sade’s words above could be condensed into a sort of Boy Scouts’ Oath that each of us Reasonoids would recite/incant before posting?

  4. “Do you think de Sade’s words above could be condensed into a sort of Boy Scouts’ Oath that each of us Reasonoids would recite/incant before posting?”

    ‘I (state your name), am feeling sorry for myself, and I have the social skills of a papaya with a penis. But still, I shall be as pretentious as possible about it, so help me lack of God.’

  5. Speaking for myself only, Gaulois:
    Close, but no cigar.

    As Red Green says, “We’re all in this together, and I’m pullin’ for ya.”

    I know some Canadians, and you, Gaulois, are a Conehead!

  6. I’m reading posts newest-to-oldest. So what popped into my head as a condensation of de Sade, here:

    “Just the good ol’ boys,
    Never meanin’ no harm,
    Beats all you’ve ever saw, been in trouble with the law since the day they was born.

    Straight’nin’ the curve,
    Flat’nin’ the hills.
    Someday the moutain might get ’em, but the law never will.

    Makin’ their way,
    The only way they know how,
    That’s just a little bit more than the law will allow.”

    (I couldn’t help but read that entire de Sade letter to myself as if spoken by Bo Duke.)

  7. The irony of storming was the fact that the Bastille was virtually empty on the day in question, and the French government had done much to rid the prison (along with other royal prisons) of the abuses that were common a hundred years before. Indeed, though a number of books were written by prisoners of the Bastille in the decades before the storming, its clear that most of what wrote was, well, hype in order to push the book sales. The Bastille was far more of a symbol of autocratic despotism than it was a real example of such.

  8. France also got #1 and #2 in yesterday’s Tour de France stage! Brilliant!

  9. Nice letter, didn’t Galt say that fictionally a hundred fifty years later, but much much much much longer?

  10. i just re-watched marat/sade in honor of bastille day…not necessarily libertarian, but interesting.

    re galt speech: i read that the randies demanded that in any tv/film adaptation of atlas shrugged, the galt speech be read in its entirety! as if people are gonna listen to that for 15 hours or something. brevity is the soul of wit; it should also be so for philosophy.

  11. ‘I (state your name), am feeling sorry for myself, and I have the social skills of a papaya with a penis. But still, I shall be as pretentious as possible about it, so help me lack of God.’

    I didn’t get a chance to read Julian’s post yet, but good Gob! I’m trying to work here. My coworkers will think I’m clearly insane if they see my cracking up in my cubicle. They can probably hear me laughing through the corkboard walls…

  12. smacky,
    I resemble that remark/quote.

  13. Gaulois: “the social skills of a papaya with a penis”
    Well that doesn’t apply to ALL of us, but that image is damn funny!

    Matt: “but much much much much longer”

  14. Chaz’s post just makes me hate the Patriot Act even more:

    “appear to be intended-”

    Appears to be intended? Appears to whom? The jury doesn’t even have to find it was actually intended to do those things, just that it looks kinda like it was? WTF?

  15. “France also got #1 and #2 in yesterday’s Tour de France stage! Brilliant!”

    Small consolation for having to endure an American winning 6 (7?) years in a row.

  16. Clair hors de mon chemin! Clair l’enfer hors de mon chemin!

  17. Dogzilla,

    You don’t really understand the Tour de France I guess. Furthermore, Armstrong didn’t win the Tour de France, he and his team did. People don’t understand that its a team sport. Without proper support in the mountains holding off attacks, Armstrong would be toast.

  18. Dogzilla,

    BTW, Armstrong would be the first to be offended by your statement.

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