18 October 1962 - Third address by President Charles de Gaulle
Women and men of France,
On October 28, the answer you are going to give to what I ask you will commit the destiny of France. It is my duty to tell you why.
Everyone knows that in adopting, on my proposal, the 1958 Constitution, our people condemned, by an overwhelming majority, the disastrous regime that was surrendering the Republic to the discretion of the parties and, once again, had almost hurled France into the abyss.
Everyone knows that, by the same vote, our people instituted a President-Chief of State, leader of France, keystone of the institutions - and gave sanction to the referendum which enables the President to submit directly to the country whatever may be essential. Everyone knows that, at the same time, our people put their faith in me to settle, together with my Government, the heavy problems in the face of which the system of decadence had just collapsed : an immediate threat of bankruptcy, the absurd Algerian conflict, the serious danger of opposition between the nation and its Army, the decline of France in the midst of a world that was, at that time, looking at her unkindly or contemptuously.
If I have been able, up to now, to fulfill this mission, it is above all because I was sure that you were in agreement. But it is also because our new institutions gave me the means to do what was needed. Thus I have been able, for four years, without impairing the rights of the citizens or the public liberties, to ensure the leadership of the country toward progress, prosperity and grandeur, to suppress one by one the criminal threats that were raised against the State and to prevent a return to the shortcomings of the condemned regime.
As the proof has thus been given of the worth of a Constitution which wills it that the State has a head, and as no one has ever thought, since I have performed this role, that the President of the Republic was there for any other purpose, I believe, in all awareness, that the French people must show now, by a solemn vote, that they wish it to be so today, tomorrow and in the future. I believe that the time has come for them to reach a decision on this, for otherwise the criminal attempts that have been perpetrated and that are being planned make it clear that my disappearance would risk plunging France once again into the confusion of the past and, soon after, into catastrophe. In short, I believe that, whatever may happen, the nation must henceforth have the means of choosing its President itself, a President to whom this direct investiture will give the strength and the duty to be the guide of France and the guarantor of the State.
That is why, women and men of France, taking our Constitution as my authority, exercising the right that it formally gives me to propose to the sovereign people, by means of a referendum, any bill which concerns the organization of the public powers, giving more weight than ever before to the historic responsibility for our country that is incumbent upon me, that is why I am asking you, quite simply, to decide that henceforth you will elect your President by universal suffrage.
If your answer is "no," as all the old parties would wish it in order to restore their ill-fated regime, together with all the malcontents so that they can launch into subversion, or even if the "yes" majority is weak, mediocre, uncertain, it is quite obvious that my task will be immediately and irretrievably terminated. For what could I do then, without the warm confidence of the nation ?
But if, as I hope, as I believe, as I am sure, you answer "yes" once again and as one, then I shall have my confirmation from each one of you women and men in the responsibility that I bear. Then the country will know where it stands, the Republic will be secure and the horizon cleared. Then the world will be absolutely sure of the great future of France.
Vive la République ! Vive la France !