In France they ignore those who set fires and punish those who give the alarm.

[En France, on laisse en repos ceux qui mettent le feu, et on persécute ceux qui sonnent le tocsin.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 8, ¶ 500 (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]

Likely true for more than just France, especially as Chamfort was referring to political leadership.

The source for this fragment seems to be from a political incident. After the exile of Calonne in April 1787, after proposing a number of social reforms, Chamfort noted, "They ignored him when he started the fire, but punished him when he sounded the alarm." [tr. Dusinberre (1992), ¶ 499]. When collected as his "Thoughts," it was made more general.

(Source (French), ¶ 500). Alternate translations:

In France we leave unmolested those who set fire to the house and persecute those who sound the alarm bell.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

In France we harry the man who rings the alarum bell, and leave the man in peace who starts the fire.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

In France, those who commit arson are left in peace, and those who sound the alarm are persecuted.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

In France, we leave arsonists in peace and persecute those who sound the alarm.
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 257]

In France, people leave alone the person who started the fire and persecute the one who rings the bell.
[tr. Sinicalchi, ¶ 499]

Added on 9-Oct-23 | Last updated 9-Oct-23
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