Maurice Joly (1829 - 1878) was a French satirist and lawyer.
He was born in Lons-le-Saunier to a French father and an Italian mother. He studied law, but stopped in 1849 in order to go to Paris where he worked at the Ministry of State for ten years. He successfully completed his legal studies and was finally admitted to the Paris bar in 1859.
His most famous work of fiction was the unattributed source material of the anti-Semitic forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
"Dialogue aux Enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu"
Joly is best known as author of the political satire pamphlet entitled The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu (Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu), which attacks the political ambitions of Napoleon III. It was first published in Geneva in 1864, and then in Brussels. The piece used the literary device of a dialogue between two diabolical plotters in Hell, the historical characters of Machiavelli and Montesquieu. In this way he tried to cover up a direct, and illegal, attack on Napoleon's rule. The pamphlets were smuggled into France for distribution, but were seized by the police immediately upon crossing the border. The police swiftly tracked down its author, and Joly was arrested and imprisioned for fifteen months. The books were banned. On April 25, 1865, he was sentenced to a prison term of fifteen months at Sainte-Pélagie.
Joly relates in his 1870 autobiography that one evening by the Seine he was inspired to write a dialogue between Montesquieu and Machiavelli. The noble baron Montesquieu would make the case for liberalism; the Florentine wizard Machiavelli would present the case for cynical despotism. In this manner, Joly would communicate the secret ways in which liberalism might spawn a despot like Napoleon III.
Subsequent research points out that Joly appears to have plagiarized a good amount of the material from a popular novel by Eugene Sue.
Joly committed suicide in 1879.
One of the few copies to survive the confiscation of Napoleon III’s secret police found its way to Switzerland, where it was picked up by the Okhrana, the Russian secret police, and served as the basis for their fraudulent document, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.