THE DIALOGUE IN HELL BETWEEN MACHIAVELLI AND MONTESQUIEU -- INTRODUCTION
Biographical information on Joly is sketchy at best.  There are numerous inconsistencies even concerning the year of his birth and death. A recent writer on the Dialogue takes this as indicative of the cavalier way in which posterity has treated Maurice Joly  He was in fact born in Lons-le-Saunier, France, in 1821. He died in 1878. His father was French and served for a time as Councilor General of the Jura and his mother was Italian. Joly was not of Jewish descent as was later asserted by Nazi apologists who, after the revelations of the Protocols forgery, still sought a Jewish connection to that work.
Joly's moralism, which was later to degenerate into misanthropy, was evident at an early age. He was known for his sharp tongue and biting wit that had for its target many of his closest associates. As an adolescent, he was a habitual truant, having run away from his boarding school no less than five times. He was described as fitting the classic mold of a rebel.
To support himself in higher studies, he had to work for seven years in a tedious bureaucratic post. He then found employment as a tutor at the Ecole superieure du Commerce. He successfully completed a course of study in law and was admitted to the Paris bar in 1859. He was then hired as a secretary to Jules Grevy. A former member of the Constituent Assembly of 1848, Grevy was out of office and practicing law while also involving himself in various republican political causes. Joly was soon to have a falling out with the man who was later to be President of the General Assembly.
Joly's fIrst book was written shortly thereafter and was entitled Le Barreau de Paris, a series of sketches portraying then- prominent lawyers and jurists. It was described as caustic and totally lacking in any indulgence for human foibles. His second work, Cesar, vigorously attacked Napoleon III and anticipates the modern Caesar as he appears in the Dialogue. He was a prolific writer. But his many articles were characterized as "philosophic and severe." They did not suit the literary tastes of his times and were not often accepted by Parisian journals.
The Dialogue in Hell was published in Brussels in 1864. Joly's efforts to have copies of it smuggled into France were compromised by police infiltrators. Arrest followed quickly. Society did not welcome him after his release from prison. Defenders of the Empire denounced him while republicans saw him as someone to avoid -- more a troublemaker than a martyr to their cause. He fell into sullen solitude that he used for research into his L'Art du Parvenir, which pilloried his contemporaries for the acts that brought the profit and esteem he perhaps secretly craved for himself.
He became editor of a new journal, Le Palais, a position that ended after a confrontation with his principal collaborator in the enterprise. After the fall of the Empire in 1870, he sought a government position from Grevy. He failed in this and joined the radical resistance under Louis Auguste Blanqui and Louis Charles Delacruze, after vehemently having denounced the terms of armistice with Germany. In November, he was arrested again but was freed a few months later by the Council of War. During his detention, he wrote an autobiographical sketch that, among other things, is noteworthy for its reference to the circumstances surrounding the writing of the Dialogue. Though he states that he was a revolutionary during the Resistance, he is emphatic in affirming that his motives were patriotic and denying he had any communist sympathies. 
For a while, the new Republic seemed more congenial to Joly. In 1872, he was offered a position with the journal La Liberte. In 1878, during the political crisis that saw the Chamber dissolved, Joly publicly attacked Grevy who was a candidate for the Presidency against General MacMahon. He had posters plastered all over Paris that said of his former associate that "he had done all the evil one man can do to another without killing him." He was attacked in return. He brought suit against certain of his detractors charging defamation. Representing his own cause in court, he also used the occasion to assail his political enemies, then important figures in the Republic. He died the same year, by suicide. Near the revolver he used to kill himself was found the manuscript of his novel, Les Affames, published two years earlier.
Beyond scant biographical details, what we can know of this unhappy individual largely depends on a proper interpretation of the Dialogue in Hell, his most complex and far-reaching statement on contemporary politics. In A Short Introductory Statement, Joly professes to be giving voice to the public's "conscience" and to be describing abiding truths about politics. It is his lasting achievement to have uncovered in the analysis of his own times the vulnerabilities of modern politics to a new form of tyranny. His work remains one of the earliest and richest investigations of the essential conditions of modern despotism, the threat of which he sensed in the historic project of Napoleon III.
The Dialogue in Hell rightfully can be viewed as Joly's consummate achievement. The conversation in hell between the celebrated Montesquieu and the infamous Machiavelli draws upon his considerable literary skills and his deep study of political theory. Literary tastes, which he offended in his earlier works, are pleasantly engaged while he elaborates a political teaching to modern men framed in philosophic seriousness and, indeed, world-historic significance.
The court that sentenced Joly for authorship of the Dialogue saw his work mainly in terms of his implied criticism of the policies of the Emperor Napoleon III. Its general thesis had succeeded in showing how "the dreadful despotism taught by Machiavelli in The Prince" could, "by artifice and evil ways," impose itself on modern society. But this concealed a more specific charge against the French government, which was portrayed as having "through shameful means, hypocritical ways, and perfidious contrivances, led the public astray, degraded the character of the nation and corrupted its morals." Machiavelli's "dreadful despotism" was current reality and a theoretical conversation between two philosophers was an expose of the reigning sovereign of the Second Empire. 
Napoleon's police immediately confiscated what were probably thought to be all extant copies of the Dialogue. But the text, surprisingly enough, later somehow found its way to Istanbul. It was there, in 1921, that a correspondent of the London Times made the connection with the Protocols when he stumbled upon Joly's work. That prestigious newspaper had previously published the Protocols and was involved in a polemic about its authenticity.
The rediscovery of the Dialogue in Hell in conjunction with the Protocols has seriously affected posterity's treatment of Joly, who has come to be known more as a historic curiosity than as an author and political thinker. His name may surface from time to time in talks of literary forgeries, as it notably did in the 1980s during discussions of the Hitler's supposed diaries, and most recently with regard to the authenticity of the Tiananmin Papers. For the most part, however, he has been consigned to a footnote in intellectual history. Such summary treatment inevitably contributes to misconceptions about Joly while it unfairly associates him with some of history's most unsavory anti-Semites.
Given the momentous legacy of the Protocols, it is not surprising that a "great amount of critical intelligence" has been spent in unraveling the riddle of such a hoax. Humane concerns have combined with devotion to the truth to expose a lie with such murderous consequences. This has resulted in a "truly staggering" number of books and studies on the Protocols.  Such scholarly endeavors inevitably placed first-rate thinkers into contact with Joly's Dialogue. Though their overriding concern was with the Protocols and their attempt to piece together all the relevant material and events in its sordid history, such scholars have given Joly large (if passing) tribute as a student of contemporary despotism and an author of considerable talent. Their comments have long pointed the way to a more serious treatment of Joly but the fact remains that Joly's Dialogue has never been read as it should nor extensively commented upon.
Konrad Heiden, one of the earliest and perhaps still the best biographer of Hitler, writes that Maurice Joly
has seen the secret disease of his epoch and that is something that men do not like. Today we read Joly with quite different eyes. Today the evils are no longer secret. To us, living in the present day, some of the sentences of this forgotten work seem like a lightning flash bathing the present in dazzling light.
According to Heiden, Joly's great achievement was to take the thought of Machiavelli and apply its teaching to modern conditions. Joly combines "timeless Machiavellian wisdom, and understanding of domination, with a knowledge of the modern mass and its state of mind." 
Heiden does not stand alone among scholars who, drawn to Joly from their study of the Protocols, have come to appreciate the author of the Dialogue. Norman Cohn, whose investigation of the Protocols inspired the title for his most celebrated study -- Warrant for Genocide -- refers to the Dialogue as "an admirable work, incisive, ruthlessly logical, beautifully constructed." He sees Joly not only as a "brilliant stylist," but as having a "fine intuition for the forces which, gathering strength after his death, were to produce the cataclysms of the present century." 
Herman Bernstein in his History of a Lie went so far as to translate the complete text of the Dialogue in Hell as well as other documents used to concoct the Protocols.  Despite accessibility to English-speaking readers through Bernstein's effort, and the inviting comments of thinkers such as Heiden and Cohn, scholarship continued to deal only sparingly with Joly and the Dialogue. Indeed, as the Nazi era receded and the political influence of the discredited Protocols temporarily began to wane, Joly and his Dialogue seemed to retreat once again into obscurity.
More recently, however, there is evidence that Joly is coming into his own as an author and thinker. The Dialogue in Hell was published in France in 1968 as an integral text. It is there, appropriately enough, that interest in Joly tentatively blossomed, no doubt due in part to the prestige that Raymond Aron, who directed its publication, had lent it. France Culture broadcast a radio presentation of the Dialogue, along with excerpts from other of Joly's works, in 1983. The program was taken from a staging of the Dialogue in Hell at the Theatre de Petit Odeon in 1982 with members of the prestigious Academie Francaise playing the roles of Machiavelli and Montesquieu. It has since been restaged in Paris. Coincidental to such interest is, of course, the incredible revival of the political influence of the Protocols. For different reasons, then, attention is again turning to Joly. This opens the way for the present study and a more thorough investigation of his thought and dramatic art.
Joly's "lightning flash of illumination" impressed Jean-Francois Revel, another member of the Academie Francaise. With the Fifth Republic in mind, this eminent thinker sees something prophetic in Joly's description of the modern media and the use to which it could be put in shaping public opinion. Revel implies that students today will continue to find relevance in Joly's teaching and marvel at the multiple examples of his "startlingly prophetic powers." 
Hans Speier, an even more recent commentator on the Dialogue, speaks of the "bitter freshness" of the Dialogue. He remarked that Joly's powers of prediction "can be traced to the paradox that, strictly speaking, Joly's foresight was insight." Speier distinguishes Joly's insight from the statistical extrapolations of the "futurology" studies that are current academic fad.
Instead, it was derived from certain firmly held views of human nature in combination with very close analytical observations of the political scene. Sensitized by his liberal predilections to the hazards of liberty in the industrialized society of nineteenth century France, he described Bonapartism as though it was a prototype of twentieth century despotism. 
According to Speier, Joly's fairest and most appreciative critic, no author of distinction has been treated more capriciously than Maurice Joly. Speier's short essay "The Truth in Hell" (1977) intends to redeem the Dialogue from obscurity in order to open the way to a fuller assessment of Joly's contribution to our understanding of modern despotism. The journal Commentaire reprinted a translation of his article in France in 1991.
The present study follows on the enterprise begun by Speier but, beyond him, endeavors to show what in fact is the deepest source of what inspires. "Machiavelli's Politics in the Nineteenth Century" -- the subtitle of Joly's work. This will lead to fresh insights into the mind of Napoleon III while it opens readers to a body of nineteenth century political thought that Joly saw as inspiring the policies of the Second Empire. The threat to liberal freedoms and a path to a radically new form of despotism can be found in Napoleon's implementation of Saint-Simonian doctrine. An examination of its influence on the Dialogue in Hell will provide a key to the full understanding of Joly's work.
Chapters 1 through 6 are devoted to a close analysis of Joly's text. Two chapters devoted to Saint-Simonian thought and its connection to the Dialogue follow them. Chapter 10 is an essay that uses Joly's analysis as an entry into the historical controversy surrounding Napoleon III. There it will be argued that the ambiguities of the Second Empire can be traced to the complex ideological goals of Napoleon that Saint-Simonianism inspired. Chapter 9 treats the Dialogue's drama, an element that goes relatively unexamined by those who have written about Joly. The staging of the Dialogue in Hell in France indicates that the literary talent of Joly has come to be appreciated. However, Joly himself makes clear in his brief introduction that he intends his book to be read and studied as containing political lessons of importance.
Like the staging of Platonic Dialogues, the staging of Joly's Dialogue perhaps risks diverting students from sustained reflection to matters of "aesthetics" -- secondary considerations of all too questionable value. Speier criticizes those readers of the Dialogue who concentrate on such matters, thinking that therein lies the truly worthy element of what is viewed as an "artistic achievement."  They are as guilty of misreading Joly as those who, despite his introductory warning, dismiss the Dialogue in Hell as a mere "lampoon" or political satire. The author of the Dialogue surely would have been shocked by the perversion of his thought and the use to which it was put in the Protocols. He probably would have been as much surprised by its appearance later in this century in dramatic form, "sanitized' of the political concerns that prompted him to write in the first place.
The last chapter of the work takes a more detailed look at the Protocols and the Dialogue's connection to it. A short appendix has been added on Thomas Babington Macaulay, a nineteenth-century thinker who was very influential on Machiavellian scholarship, someone to whom Joly, too, may have been indebted.
Readers of Joly today will find his voice still amazingly pertinent. The post-Communist world we live in has been marked, to say the least, by controversy over liberalism and its global relevancy. To a large extent, the preeminent dispute in the Dialogue in Hell is once again our own. Joly raises the whole issue of historical "endism" well before Francis Fukuyama, drawing on the thought of Kojeve and Hegel, made it popularly topical in our day.  Our most explicit domestic preoccupation is arguably the culture war between "secularists" and "traditionalists" and there are strong echoes of this in the Dialogue. Until recently, it was a bitter dispute over the merits, even the morality, of deficit financing. And this too figures prominently in its pages. There are even references to the amorous adventures of the ruler, which, if conducted honorably, can have pleasant consequences, short, of course, but also long term. In brief, I have tried (unsuccessfully) to resist giving repeated references to the situation and conditions of today. Otherwise I would never have finished and the readers Joly wanted to reach are not in need of this anyway. 
Readers of the Dialogue will work through timeless issues of politics, guided by Machiavelli and Montesquieu.  Substantial effort has been made in this book to reintroduce a perhaps forgotten body of political doctrine, Saint-Simonianism, to establish its relevancy to the drama and substance of the Dialogue as well as to the politics of Napoleon III. Joly's text is noteworthy in drawing parallels between the Caesars and the Bonapartes to describe the most ambitious of political projects. As a study of modern tyranny, his work is perhaps unsurpassed. Readers will undoubtedly be prompted at certain points of Machiavelli's and Montesquieu's debate to think of thinkers within Joly's intellectual universe: Rousseau, Constant, DeBonald, De Maistre, Guizot, J. S. Mill, Tocqueville, Marx, Smith, Jefferson, the authors of the Federalist; and to think of others that post-date Joly's world: Galbraith, C. W. Mills, Keynes, Huxley, Orwell, Aron, Niewche, among others. The better-informed reader surely will be drawn to think of additional thinkers and historic personages, I'm sure. The point in all this is to underscore the continued vitality and richness of Maurice Joly and to take seriously his modest plea to read his book carefully, as important to understanding our political situation. For many reasons then, we are in a better position today to appreciate the wisdom of the unfortunate author of Dialogue in Hell, and to assess his contribution to history, both intended and unintended. 
1. Most biographical detail of any substance comes from Henri Rollin, L 'Apocalypse de Notre Temps (Paris: Gallimard, 1939) Information on the life of Joly in the "Avant Propos" of the 1968 French edition of the Dialogue is taken from this source. See Maurice Joly, Dialogue Aux Enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu, published in the collection "Liberte de l'esprit" dirigee par Raymond Aron (Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1968), vii-xii. Biographical material for this introduction is taken mainly from there.
2. In "The Truth in Hell," 31, Hans Speier notes these discrepancies in some of the more prominent works on Joly:
The article on Joly in Grande Encyclopedie, Hans Leisegang, Gesprache in der Unterwelt, and Hans Barth, "Maurice Joly," state that Maurice Joly lived from 1821 to 1878. Herman Bemstein gives the dates 1831-1878. Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide, has 1829-1879. Finally, Henri Rollin in his "Avant Propos" to Maurice Joly, Dialogue Aux Enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu, states that Joly was born in 1829 and died 17 July 1877.
To underscore the cavalier manner in which posterity treats Joly, consider that the only English translation until now, that of Bernstein, inexplicably mistranslates even the title of the Dialogue.
3. Excerpts from the "autobiography" can be found in Herman Bernstein, The Truth About The Protocols of Zion (New York: Covici-Freide, 1935), 16-17.
4. See Bernstein for excerpts of the court decision as reported by Le Droit, a Paris newspaper, on Apri1 26, 1865.
5. Walter Laqueur, Russia and Germany (Boston: Little, Brown, 1965), 97. Laqueur also lists "the more substantial investigations" in solving the riddle of what he calls "the greatest politico-literary hoax in modem history." See note 43, 339.
6. Konrad Heiden, Der Feuhrer, tr. Ralph Manheim (Boston: Houghton-Miflin, 1944), 6. We are beholden to Pierre-Andre Taguieff and the monumental efforts he made to collect all important documents relevant to the Protocols. Within his work is a collection of scholarly efforts to bring to light once again its entire sordid legacy. See his two-volume work, Les Protocoles Des Sages de Sion (Paris: Berg International, 1992). The first volume is by Taguieff and is an introduction to the study of the fabrication of the Protocols and the uses to which it was put in this century. The second volume is an impressive collection of Studies and documents under his editorial direction. I refer those who might have further interest in the Protocols to these works, a kind of "one stop shopping" for interested scholars. Taguieff does in a much better way what Herman Bernstein earlier tried to do. He works with much more material. One of the reasons for this is the astonishing influence the nefarious document has again exerted, subsequent to Bernstein's time. See note 8 in this regard.
7. Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1967), 73.
8. The English translation of Godsche's "Jewish Cemetary in Prague," the Protocols itself, as well as the Dialogue can be found in Bernstein, The Truth About The Protocols. Bernstein was the first to trace Godsche's tale to the forgery. More will be said of this connection in chapter 11. Perhaps one of the reasons Joly's text has failed to draw commentary from English speaking readers is the terribly flawed quality of Bernstein's translation. This was the motive for including a new translation as part of this work.
9. See Jean Francois Revel's Preface to the Dialogue aux Enfers, xvii-xix.
10. Speier, "The Truth in Hell," 32.
11. This is the view of Hans Liesegang, the German translator of the Dialogue, who considers it a literary "masterpiece" and compares the author to Dostoyevsky. See Speier, "The Truth in Hell," 31.
12. See Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History?" The National Interest, 16 (summer 1989). His book (1992) drops the question mark but adds "And the Last Man." The idea of an "end" to history comes from Hegel. The idea of "the Last Man" comes from Nietzsche. One might be tempted to think, by his dropping the question mark, that he grew more optimistic about the prospects for liberalism in the interval between the article and the book. And by adding "the Last Man," that he became more reflective of its ultimate conclusions. In the interval, four generations of Communist rule were openly repudiated and the party deposed. The Soviet Union ceased to exist. Power passed from Gorbachev to Yeltsin as President of the Russian Federation. A vigorous reformer and Westernizer was once again in the saddle and he would soon prove himself strong enough to quell any attempt at counterrevolution. News from Asia was still astonishingly encouraging. Things have changed since, to say the least. Internal struggle and external conflict appear everywhere and the upshot of such things can not really be foreseen with confidence. This certainly looks like "history" and the thesis that it is coming to end seems more and more implausible. Such is the fate of any thesis that is tied to unpredictable events. The "phenomena can be saved" if we posit, like the Communists of old, that history's cunning is beyond the ken of naive simpletons. Long term, indeed, now, it seems, over the very long term, things will prove the thesis right. But "in the long term, we are all dead." So, it seems, Fukuyama's thesis will never be proved right by us, or wrong. Joly, we will see, has something to tell us about these things.
13. About two decades ago, in the United States, there was an advertisement about a ragu sauce, if I remember correctly. Not all the power of the woman's movement has been able to purge such things from American culture. A man's voice (the husband) asked: "Are there tomatoes in it? (A stupid question). Is there beef in it? Is there oregano -- and basil in it?" A woman's voice (the wife) would refrain in dulcet voice, ever smugger and more reassuring (or was it really controlled exasperation?) to the repeated queries: "It's in theeeere." With respect to Joly, I would not go as far as this woman would, but almost. I don't want to grate too much.
14. Raymond Aron, one of the last century's greatest thinkers and political analysts, explained why "for over four centuries the quarrel over Machiavellianism has not ceased being of contemporary interest." It is "because at bottom this quarrel is eternal." Aron had planned a multi-volume work on Machiavelli that was to be his magnum opus. He abandoned the work after the war. This quote is taken from a generally favorable review of the work of the Christian, Jacques Maritain, in his quarrel with the Florentine. The reservations Aron expressed give us a sketch of the lines of critique he himself probably would have developed in his abandoned work. It is no wonder that Joly and his Machiavellian teaching saw the light of day in France under the aegis of Aron. He figured prominently in my thoughts as I delved deeper into the Dialogue, as you will see. I also contend that the thought of Montesquieu has particular relevance to today's political dilemmas. Pierre Manent is the finest of Raymond Aron's progeny. He also thinks Montesquieu particularly relevant to us as "decidedly the modern philosopher most capable of losing us as well as saving us." See Aron's essay entitled "FrenchThought in Exile: Jacques Maritain and the Quarrel over Machiavellianism," in Daniel J. Mahoney, ed. In Defense of Political Reason, Essays by Raymond Aron (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield), 53. Manent's quote can be found in his La Cite de L 'Homme (Paris: Fayard, 1994), 109.
15. This book, about freedom and character, was written shortly before the events of September 11. I would have said certain things with different nuance (and more strongly), if I had written it after. But, for many reasons, I decided to change nothing and let things stand as they were written.
I wrote that America had never suffered a tragedy, at least at the hands of others. I still think this the case. September 11 was a personal tragedy for all victims of that day, American and non-American, citizens at peace and at work. We all shared in that deeply. Indeed, it shook our very soul. The nation's real tragedy would be, by gross blunder or weakness of will, to succumb to the forces that were unleashed that day. Writing now six months after the "events," this is not the case.
Abraham Lincoln led us through our only real tragedy. He set high standards for us, in peace, for sure, but in war, also. He waged it vigorously because freedom and other dear principles were at stake. But he also waged it with malice toward none.
The better angels of our nation were in display on that horrible September day. They struck a mystic chord in all of us. I, for one, never thought that they had abandoned our spirit. It's just that they seemed to have sat silent for so long. Looking to the future, we hope, fondly, and pray, fervently, that they continue to play upon us.