hostem aeterna auctertas esto.
Against the enemy, revendication is eternal.
OF THE TWELVE TABLES.
PSYCHOLOGICAL EXPOSITION OF THE IDEA OF JUSTICE AND INJUSTICE,
AND A DETERMINATION OF THE PRINCIPLE OF GOVERNMENT
AND OF RIGHT.
Property is impossible; equality does not exist. We hate the
former, and yet wish to possess it; the latter rules all our
thoughts, yet we know not how to reach it. Who will explain this
profound antagonism between our conscience and our will? Who
will point out the causes of this pernicious error, which has
become the most sacred principle of justice and society?
I am bold enough to undertake the task, and I hope to succeed.
But before explaining why man has violated justice, it is necessary
to determine what justice is.
§ 1. — Of
the Moral Sense in Man and the Animals.
have endeavored often to locate the line which separates man's
intelligence from that of the brutes; and, according
to their general custom, they gave utterance to much foolishness
before resolving upon the only course possible for them to take,
— observation. It was reserved for an unpretending savant — who perhaps did not
pride himself on his philosophy — to put an end to the interminable
controversy by a simple distinction; but one of those luminous
distinctions which are worth more than systems. Frederic Cuvier
separated instinct from intelligence.
yet, no one has proposed this question: —
difference between man’s moral sense and that of
the brute a difference in kind or only in degree?
If, hitherto, any one had dared to maintain the
latter alternative, his arguments would have seemed scandalous,
offensive to morality and religion. The ecclesiastical and secular
tribunals would have condemned him with one voice. And, mark
the style in which they would have branded the immoral paradox! "Conscience," — they
would have cried, — "conscience, man's chief glory, was given
to him exclusively; the notion of justice and injustice, of merit
and demerit, is his noble privilege; to man, alone, — the lord
of creation, — belongs the sublime power to resist his worldly
propensities, to choose between good and evil, and to bring himself
more and more into the resemblance of God through liberty and
justice. . . . No; the holy image of virtue was never graven
save on the heart of man." Words full of feeling, but void
Man is a
rational and social animal — zwon logikon kai politikon —
said Aristotle. This definition is worth more than all which
since. I do not except even M. de Bonald's celebrated definition,
— man is an intellect served by organs — a definition which
double fault of explaining the known by the unknown; that is,
the living being by the intellect; and of neglecting man's essential
quality, — animality.
is an animal living in society. Society means the sum total
of relationships; in short, system. Now, all systems
exist only on certain conditions. What, then, are the conditions,
the laws, of human society?
the rights of men with respect to each other; what is justice?
It amounts to nothing to say, — with the philosophers
of various schools, — "It is a divine instinct, an immortal and heavenly
voice, a guide given us by Nature, a light revealed unto every
man on coming into the world, a law engraved upon our hearts;
it is the voice of conscience, the dictum of reason, the inspiration
of sentiment, the penchant of feeling; it is the love of self
in others; it is enlightened self-interest; or else it is an
innate idea, the imperative command of applied reason, which
has its source in the concepts of pure reason; it is a passional
attraction," &c., &c. This may be as true as it
seems beautiful; but it is utterly meaningless. Though we should
prolong this litany through ten pages (it has been filtered through
a thousand volumes), we should be no nearer to the solution of
"Justice is public utility," says Aristotle. That
is true, but it is a tautology. "The principle that the
public welfare ought to be the object of the legislator" — says
M. Ch. Comte in his "Treatise on Legislation" — "cannot
be overthrown. But legislation is advanced no farther by its
announcement and demonstration, than is medicine when it is said
that it is the business of physicians to cure the sick."
Let us take
another course. Right is the sum total of the principles which
govern society. Justice, in man, is the respect and observation
of those principles. To practise justice is to obey the social
instinct; to do an act of justice is to do a social act. If,
then, we watch the conduct of men towards each other under different
circumstances, it will be easy for us to distinguish between
the presence and absence of society; from the result we may inductively
infer the law.
Let us commence with the simplest and least doubtful cases.
The mother, who protects her son at the peril of her life, and
sacrifices every thing to his support, is in society with him —
she is a good mother. She, on the contrary, who abandons her
child, is unfaithful to the social instinct, — maternal love being
one of its many features; she is an unnatural mother.
If I plunge into the water to rescue a drowning man, I am his
brother, his associate; if, instead of aiding him, I sink him,
I am his enemy, his murderer.
Whoever bestows alms treats the poor man as his associate; not
thoroughly, it is true, but only in respect to the amount which
he shares with him. Whoever takes by force or stratagem that
which is not the product of his labor, destroys his social character — he
is a brigand.
The Samaritan who relieves the traveller lying by the wayside,
dresses his wounds, comforts him, and supplies him with money,
thereby declares himself his associate — his neighbor; the priest,
who passes by on the other side, remains unassociated, and is
In all these cases, man is moved by an internal attraction towards
his fellow, by a secret sympathy which causes him to love, congratulate,
and condole; so that, to resist this attraction, his will must
struggle against his nature.
But in these respects there is no decided difference between
man and the animals. With them, as long as the weakness of their
young endears them to their mothers, — in a word, associates them
with their mothers, — the latter protect the former, at the peril
of their lives, with a courage which reminds us of our heroes
dying for their country. Certain species unite for hunting purposes,
seek each other, call each other (a poet would say invite each
other), to share their prey; in danger they aid, protect, and
warn each other. The elephant knows how to help his companion
out of the ditch into which the latter has fallen. Cows form
a circle, with their horns outward and their calves in the centre,
in order to repel the attacks of wolves. Horses and pigs, on
hearing a cry of distress from one of their number, rush to the
spot whence it comes. What descriptions I might give of their
marriages, the tenderness of the males towards the females, and
the fidelity of their loves! Let us add, however, — to be entirely
just — that these touching demonstrations of society, fraternity,
and love of neighbor, do not prevent the animals from quarrelling,
fighting, and outrageously abusing one another while gaining
their livelihood and showing their gallantry; the resemblance
between them and ourselves is perfect.
The social instinct, in man and beast, exists to a greater or
less degree — its nature is the same. Man has the greater need
of association, and employs it more; the animal seems better
able to endure isolation. In man, social needs are more imperative
and complex; in the beast, they seem less intense, less diversified,
less regretted. Society, in a word, aims, in the case of man,
at the preservation of the race and the individual; with the
animals, its object is more exclusively the preservation of the
As yet, we have met with no claim which man can make for himself
alone. The social instinct and the moral sense he shares with
the brutes; and when he thinks to become god-like by a few acts
of charity, justice, and devotion, he does not perceive that
in so acting he simply obeys an instinct wholly animal in its
nature. As we are good, loving, tender, just, so we are passionate,
greedy, lewd, and vindictive; that is, we are like the beasts.
Our highest virtues appear, in the last analysis, as blind, impulsive
instincts. What subjects for canonization and apotheosis!
There is, however, a difference between us two-handed bipeds
and other living creatures — what is it?
A student of philosophy would hasten to reply: "This
difference lies in the fact that we are conscious of our social
while the animals are unconscious of theirs — in the fact that
while we reflect and reason upon the operation of our social
instinct, the animals do nothing of the kind."
I will go
farther. It is by our reflective and reasoning powers, with
which we seem to be exclusively endowed, that we know that
it is injurious, first to others and then to ourselves, to resist
the social instinct which governs us, and which we call justice.
It is our reason which teaches us that the selfish man, the robber,
the murderer — in a word, the traitor to society — sins against
Nature, and is guilty with respect to others and himself, when
he does wrong wilfully. Finally, it is our social sentiment on
the one hand, and our reason on the other, which cause us to
think that beings such as we should take the responsibility of
their acts. Such is the principle of remorse, revenge, and penal
But this proves only an intellectual diversity between the animals
and man, not at all an affectional one; for, although we reason
upon our relations with our fellows, we likewise reason upon
our most trivial actions, — such as drinking, eating, choosing
a wife, or selecting a dwelling-place. We reason upon things
earthly and things heavenly; there is nothing to which our reasoning
powers are not applicable. Now, just as the knowledge of external
phenomena, which we acquire, has no influence upon their causes
and laws, so reflection, by illuminating our instinct, enlightens
us as to our sentient nature, but does not alter its character;
it tells us what our morality is, but neither changes nor modifies
it. Our dissatisfaction with ourselves after doing wrong, the
indignation which we feel at the sight of injustice, the idea
of deserved punishment and due remuneration, are effects of reflection,
and not immediate effects of instinct and emotion. Our appreciation
(I do not say exclusive appreciation, for the animals also realize
that they have done wrong, and are indignant when one of their
number is attacked, but), our infinitely superior appreciation
of our social duties, our knowledge of good and evil, does not
establish, as regards morality, any vital difference between
man and the beasts.
§ 2. —
Of the first and second degrees of Sociability.
I insist upon the fact, which I have just pointed out, as one
of the most important facts of anthropology.
The sympathetic attraction, which causes us to associate, is,
by reason of its blind, unruly nature, always governed by temporary
impulse, without regard to higher rights, and without distinction
of merit or priority. The bastard dog follows indifferently all
who call it; the suckling child regards every man as its father
and every woman as its nurse; every living creature, when deprived
of the society of animals of its species, seeks companionship
in its solitude. This fundamental characteristic of the social
instinct renders intolerable and even hateful the friendship
of frivolous persons, liable to be infatuated with every new
face, accommodating to all whether good or bad, and ready to
sacrifice, for a passing liaison, the oldest and most honorable
affections. The fault of such beings is not in the heart — it
is in the judgment. Sociability, in this degree, is a sort of
magnetism awakened in us by the contemplation of a being similar
to ourselves, but which never goes beyond the person who feels
it; it may be reciprocated, but not communicated. Love, benevolence,
pity, sympathy, call it what you will, there is nothing in it
which deserves esteem, — nothing which lifts man above the beast.
degree of sociability is justice, which may be defined as the
recognition of the equality between another’s personality
and our own. The sentiment of justice we share with the
animals; we alone can form an exact idea of it; but our idea,
as has been
said already, does not change its nature. We shall soon see how
man rises to a third degree of sociability which the animals
are incapable of reaching. But I must first prove by metaphysics
that society, justice, and equality, are three equivalent terms,
— three expressions meaning the same thing, — whose mutual
is always allowable.
If, amid the confusion of a shipwreck, having escaped in a boat
with some provisions, I see a man struggling with the waves,
am I bound to go to his assistance? Yes, I am bound under penalty
of being adjudged guilty of murder and treason against society.
But am I also bound to share with him my provisions?
To settle this question, we must change the phraseology. If
society is binding on the boat, is it also binding on the provisions?
Undoubtedly. The duty of an associate is absolute. Man's occupancy
succeeds his social nature, and is subordinate to it; possession
can become exclusive only when permission to occupy is granted
to all alike. That which in this instance obscures our duty is
our power of foresight, which, causing us to fear an eventual
danger, impels us to usurpation, and makes us robbers and murderers.
Animals do not calculate the duty of instinct any more than the
disadvantages resulting to those who exercise it; it would be
strange if the intellect of man — the most sociable of animals — should
lead him to disobey the law.
He betrays society who attempts to use it only for his own advantage;
better that God should deprive us of prudence, if it is to serve
as the tool of our selfishness.
"What!" you will say, "must I
share my bread, the bread which I have earned and which belongs
to me, with the
stranger whom I do not know; whom I may never see again, and
who, perhaps, will reward me with ingratitude? If we had earned
this bread together, if this man had done something to obtain
it, he might demand his share, since his co-operation would entitle
him to it; but as it is, what claim has he on me? We have not
produced together — we shall not eat together."
The fallacy in this argument lies in the false supposition,
that each producer is not necessarily associated with every other
When two or more individuals have regularly organized a society, — when
the contracts have been agreed upon, drafted, and signed, — there
is no difficulty about the future. Everybody knows that when
two men associate — for instance — in order to fish, if one of
them catches no fish, he is none the less entitled to those caught
by his associate. If two merchants form a partnership, while
the partnership lasts, the profits and losses are divided between
them; since each produces, not for himself, but for the society:
when the time of distribution arrives, it is not the producer
who is considered, but the associate. That is why the slave,
to whom the planter gives straw and rice; and the civilized laborer,
to whom the capitalist pays a salary which is always too small, — not
being associated with their employers, although producing with
them, — are disregarded when the product is divided. Thus, the
horse who draws our coaches, and the ox who draws our carts produce
with us, but are not associated with us; we take their product,
but do not share it with them. The animals and laborers whom
we employ hold the same relation to us. Whatever we do for them,
we do, not from a sense of justice, but out of pure benevolence.1
But is it possible that we are not all associated? Let us call
to mind what was said in the last two chapters, That even though
we do not want to be associated, the force of things, the necessity
of consumption, the laws of production, and the mathematical
principle of exchange combine to associate us. There is but a
single exception to this rule, — that of the proprietor, who,
producing by his right of increase, is not associated with any
one, and consequently is not obliged to share his product with
any one; just as no one else is bound to share with him. With
the exception of the proprietor, we labor for each other; we
can do nothing by ourselves unaided by others, and we continually
exchange products and services with each other. If these are
not social acts, what are they?
Now, neither a commercial, nor an industrial, nor an agricultural
association can be conceived of in the absence of equality; equality
is its sine qua non. So that, in all matters which concern this
association, to violate society is to violate justice and equality.
Apply this principle to humanity at large.
After what has been said, I assume that the reader has sufficient
insight to enable him to dispense with any aid of mine.
principle, the man who takes possession of a field, and says, "This
field is mine," will not be unjust
so long as every one else has an equal right of possession; nor
will he be unjust, if, wishing to change his location, he exchanges
this field for an equivalent. But if, putting another in his
place, he says to him, "Work for me while I rest," he
then becomes unjust, unassociated, unequal. He is a proprietor.
Reciprocally, the sluggard, or the rake, who, without performing
any social task, enjoys like others — and often more than others —
the products of society, should be proceeded against as a thief
and a parasite. We owe it to ourselves to give him nothing; but,
since he must live, to put him under supervision, and compel
him to labor.
is the attraction felt by sentient beings for each other. Justice
is this same attraction, accompanied by thought
and knowledge. But under what general concept, in what category
of the understanding, is justice placed? In the category of equal
quantities. Hence, the ancient definition of justice — Justum
aequale est, injustum inaequale. What is it, then, to practise
justice? It is to give equal wealth to each, on condition of
equal labor. It is to act socially. Our selfishness may complain;
there is no escape from evidence and necessity.
What is the right of occupancy? It is a natural method of dividing
the earth, by reducing each laborer's share as fast as new laborers
present themselves. This right disappears if the public interest
requires it; which, being the social interest, is also that of
What is the right of labor? It is the right to obtain one's
share of wealth by fulfilling the required conditions. It is
the right of society, the right of equality.
Justice, which is the product of the combination of an idea
and an instinct, manifests itself in man as soon as he is capable
of feeling, and of forming ideas. Consequently, it has been regarded
as an innate and original sentiment; but this opinion is logically
and chronologically false. But justice, by its composition hybrid — if
I may use the term, — justice, born of emotion and intellect combined,
seems to me one of the strongest proofs of the unity and simplicity
of the ego; the organism being no more capable of producing such
a mixture by itself, than are the combined senses of hearing
and sight of forming a binary sense, half auditory and half visual.
nature of justice gives us the definitive basis of all the
demonstrations in Chapters II., III., and IV. On the
one hand, the idea of justice being identical with that of society,
and society necessarily implying equality, equality must underlie
all the sophisms invented in defence of property; for, since
property can be defended only as a just and social institution,
and property being inequality, in order to prove that property
is in harmony with society, it must be shown that injustice is
justice, and that inequality is equality, — a contradiction in
terms. On the other hand, since the idea of equality — the second
element of justice — has its source in the mathematical proportions
of things; and since property, or the unequal distribution of
wealth among laborers, destroys the necessary balance between
labor, production, and consumption, — property must be impossible.
All men, then, are associated; all are entitled to the same
justice; all are equal. Does it follow that the preferences of
love and friendship are unjust?
This requires explanation. I have already supposed the case
of a man in peril, I being in a position to help him. Now, I
suppose myself appealed to at the same time by two men exposed
Am I not allowed — am I not commanded even — to
rush first to the aid of him who is endeared to me by ties
of blood, friendship,
acquaintance, or esteem, at the risk of leaving the other to
perish? Yes. And why? Because within universal society there
exist for each of us as many special societies as there are individuals;
and we are bound, by the principle of sociability itself, to
fulfil the obligations which these impose upon us, according
to the intimacy of our relations with them. Therefore we must
give our father, mother, children, friends, relatives, &c.,
the preference over all others. But in what consists this preference?
has a case to decide, in which one of the parties is his friend,
and the other his enemy. Should he, in this instance,
prefer his intimate associate to his distant associate;
and decide the case in favor of his friend, in spite of evidence
contrary? No: for, if he should favor his friend's injustice,
he would become his accomplice in his violation of the social
compact; he would form with him a sort of conspiracy against
the social body. Preference should be shown only in personal
matters, such as love, esteem, confidence, or intimacy, when
all cannot be considered at once. Thus, in case of fire, a father
would save his own child before thinking of his neighbor's; but
the recognition of a right not being an optional matter with
a judge, he is not at liberty to favor one person to the detriment
The theory of these special societies — which are formed concentrically,
so to speak, by each of us inside of the main body — gives the
key to all the problems which arise from the opposition and conflict
of the different varieties of social duty, — problems upon which
the ancient tragedies are based.
The justice practised among animals is, in a certain degree,
negative. With the exception of protecting their young, hunting
and plundering in troops, uniting for common defence and sometimes
for individual assistance, it consists more in prevention than
in action. A sick animal who cannot arise from the ground, or
an imprudent one who has fallen over a precipice, receives neither
medicine nor nourishment. If he cannot cure himself, nor relieve
himself of his trouble, his life is in danger: he will neither
be cared for in bed, nor fed in a prison.
Their neglect of their fellows arises as much from the weakness
of their intellect as from their lack of resources. Still, the
degrees of intimacy common among men are not unknown to the animals.
They have friendships of habit and of choice; friendships neighborly,
and friendships parental. In comparison with us, they have feeble
memories, sluggish feelings, and are almost destitute of intelligence;
but the identity of these faculties is preserved to some extent,
and our superiority in this respect arises entirely from our
It is our
strength of memory and penetration of judgment which enable
us to multiply and combine the acts which our social instinct
impels us to perform, and which teaches us how to render them
more effective, and how to distribute them justly. The beasts
who live in society practise justice, but are ignorant of its
nature, and do not reason upon it; they obey their instinct without
thought or philosophy. They know not how to unite the social
sentiment with the idea of equality, which they do not possess;
this idea being an abstract one. We, on the contrary, starting
with the principle that society implies equality, can, by our
reasoning faculty, understand and agree with each other in settling
our rights; we have even used our judgment to a great extent.
But in all this our conscience plays a small part, as is proved
by the fact that the idea of right — of which we catch a glimpse
in certain animals who approach nearer than any others to our
standard of intelligence — seems to grow, from the low level
which it stands in savages, to the lofty height which it reaches
in a Plato or a Franklin. If we trace the development of the
moral sense in individuals, and the progress of laws in nations,
we shall be convinced that the ideas of justice and legislative
perfection are always proportional to intelligence. The notion
of justice — which has been regarded by some philosophers as
simple — is then, in reality, complex. It springs from the
on the one hand, and the idea of equality on the other; just
as the notion of guilt arises from the feeling that justice has
been violated, and from the idea of free-will.
In conclusion, instinct is not modified by acquaintance with
its nature; and the facts of society, which we have thus far
observed, occur among beasts as well as men. We know the meaning
of justice; in other words, of sociability viewed from the standpoint
of equality. We have met with nothing which separates us from
§ 3. — Of the third degree of Sociability.
The reader, perhaps, has not forgotten what was said in the
third chapter concerning the division of labor and the speciality
of talents. The sum total of the talents and capacities of the
race is always the same, and their nature is always similar.
We are all born poets, mathematicians, philosophers, artists,
artisans, or farmers, but we are not born equally endowed; and
between one man and another in society, or between one faculty
and another in the same individual, there is an infinite difference.
This difference of degree in the same faculties, this predominance
of talent in certain directions, is, we have said, the very foundation
of our society. Intelligence and natural genius have been distributed
by Nature so economically, and yet so liberally, that in society
there is no danger of either a surplus or a scarcity of special
talents; and that each laborer, by devoting himself to his function,
may always attain to the degree of proficiency necessary to enable
him to benefit by the labors and discoveries of his fellows.
Owing to this simple and wise precaution of Nature, the laborer
is not isolated by his task. He communicates with his fellows
through the mind, before he is united with them in heart; so
that with him love is born of intelligence.
It is not so with societies of animals. In every
species, the aptitudes of all the individuals — though very
limited — are equal
in number and (when they are not the result of instinct) in intensity.
Each one does as well as all the others what all the others do;
provides his food, avoids the enemy, burrows in the earth, builds
a nest, &c. No animal, when free and healthy, expects or
requires the aid of his neighbor; who, in his turn, is equally
Associated animals live side by side without any intellectual
intercourse or intimate communication, — all doing the same things,
having nothing to learn or to remember; they see, feel, and come
in contact with each other, but never penetrate each other. Man
continually exchanges with man ideas and feelings, products and
services. Every discovery and act in society is necessary to
him. But of this immense quantity of products and ideas, that
which each one has to produce and acquire for himself is but
an atom in the sun. Man would not be man were it not for society,
and society is supported by the balance and harmony of the powers
which compose it.
among the animals, is simple; with man it is complex.
Man is associated with man by the same instinct which associates
animal with animal; but man is associated differently from the
animal, and it is this difference in association which constitutes
the difference in morality.
I have proved,
— at too great length, perhaps, — both by the spirit of the
laws which regard property as the basis of society, and
by political economy, that inequality of conditions is justified
neither by priority of occupation nor superiority of talent,
service, industry, and capacity. But, although equality of conditions
is a necessary consequence of natural right, of liberty, of the
laws of production, of the capacity of physical nature, and of
the principle of society itself, — it does not prevent the social
sentiment from stepping over the boundaries of debt and
credit. The fields of benevolence and love extend far beyond;
economy has adjusted its balance, the mind begins to benefit
by its own justice, and the heart expands in the boundlessness
of its affection.
The social sentiment then takes on a new character, which varies
with different persons. In the strong, it becomes the pleasure
of generosity; among equals, frank and cordial friendship; in
the weak, the pleasure of admiration and gratitude.
The man who is superior in strength, skill, or courage, knows
that he owes all that he is to society, without which he could
not exist. He knows that, in treating him precisely as it does
the lowest of its members, society discharges its whole duty
towards him. But he does not underrate his faculties; he is no
less conscious of his power and greatness; and it is this voluntary
reverence which he pays to humanity, this avowal that he is but
an instrument of Nature, — who is alone worthy of glory and worship, — it
is, I say, this simultaneous confession of the heart and the
mind, this genuine adoration of the Great Being, that distinguishes
and elevates man, and lifts him to a degree of social morality
to which the beast is powerless to attain. Hercules destroying
the monsters and punishing brigands for the safety of Greece,
Orpheus teaching the rough and wild Pelasgians, — neither of them
putting a price upon their services, — there we see the noblest
creations of poetry, the loftiest expression of justice and virtue.
The joys of self-sacrifice are ineffable.
If I were to compare human society to the old Greek tragedies,
I should say that the phalanx of noble minds and lofty souls
dances the strophe, and the humble multitude the antistrophe.
Burdened with painful and disagreeable tasks, but rendered omnipotent
by their number and the harmonic arrangement of their functions,
the latter execute what the others plan. Guided by them, they
owe them nothing; they honor them, however, and lavish upon them
praise and approbation.
Gratitude fills people with adoration and enthusiasm.
But equality delights my heart. Benevolence degenerates into
tyranny, and admiration into servility. Friendship is the daughter
of equality. O my friends! may I live in your midst without emulation,
and without glory; let equality bring us together, and fate assign
us our places. May I die without knowing to whom among you I
owe the most esteem!
Friendship is precious to the hearts of the children of men.
gratitude (I mean here only that gratitude which is born of
admiration of a superior power), and friendship are
three distinct shades of a single sentiment which I will call
équité, or social proportionality.2Equité does
not change justice: but, always taking équité for the base,
esteem, and thereby forms in man a third degree of sociability.
Equité makes it at once our duty and our pleasure to aid the
weak who have need of us, and to make them our equals; to pay
to the strong a just tribute of gratitude and honor, without
enslaving ourselves to them; to cherish our neighbors, friends,
and equals, for that which we receive from them, even by right
of exchange. Equité is sociability raised to its ideal by reason
and justice; its commonest manifestation is urbanity or
politeness, which, among certain nations, sums up in a single
all the social duties.
It is the just distribution of social sympathy and universal
Now, this feeling is unknown among the beasts, who love and
cling to each other, and show their preferences, but who cannot
conceive of esteem, and who are incapable of generosity, admiration,
This feeling does not spring from intelligence, which calculates,
computes, and balances, but does not love; which sees, but does
not feel. As justice is the product of social instinct and reflection
combined, so équité is a product of justice and taste combined — that
is, of our powers of judging and of idealizing.
This product — the third and last degree of human sociability — is
determined by our complex mode of association; in which inequality,
or rather the divergence of faculties, and the speciality of
functions — tending of themselves to isolate laborers — demand
a more active sociability.
That is why the force which oppresses while protecting
is execrable; why the silly ignorance which views with the
same eye the marvels
of art, and the products of the rudest industry, excites unutterable
contempt; why proud mediocrity, which glories in saying, "I
have paid you — I owe you nothing," is especially odious.
justice, équité — such, in its
triplicity, is the exact definition of the instinctive faculty
which leads us into
communication with our fellows, and whose physical manifestation
is expressed by the formula: Equality in natural wealth, and
the products of labor.
degrees of sociability support and imply each other. Equité cannot
exist without justice; society without justice is a solecism.
If, in order to reward talent, I take from one
to give to another, in unjustly stripping the first, I do not
esteem his talent as I ought; if, in society, I award more to
myself than to my associate, we are not really associated. Justice
is sociability as manifested in the division of material things,
susceptible of weight and measure; équité is justice accompanied
by admiration and esteem, — things which cannot be measured.
From this several inferences may be drawn.
1. Though we are free to grant our esteem to one more than to
another, and in all possible degrees, yet we should give no one
more than his proportion of the common wealth; because the duty
of justice, being imposed upon us before that of équité, must
always take precedence of it. The woman honored by the ancients,
who, when forced by a tyrant to choose between the death of her
brother and that of her husband, sacrificed the latter on the
ground that she could find another husband but not another brother, — that
woman, I say, in obeying her sense of équité, failed in point
of justice, and did a bad deed, because conjugal association
is a closer relation than fraternal association, and because
the life of our neighbor is not our property.
By the same principle, inequality of wages cannot be admitted
by law on the ground of inequality of talents; because the just
distribution of wealth is the function of economy, — not of enthusiasm.
Finally, as regards donations, wills, and inheritance, society,
careful both of the personal affections and its own rights, must
never permit love and partiality to destroy justice. And, though
it is pleasant to think that the son, who has been long associated
with his father in business, is more capable than any one else
of carrying it on; and that the citizen, who is surprised in
the midst of his task by death, is best fitted, in consequence
of his natural taste for his occupation, to designate his successor;
and though the heir should be allowed the right of choice in
case of more than one inheritance, — nevertheless, society can
tolerate no concentration of capital and industry for the benefit
of a single man, no monopoly of labor, no encroachment.3
justice, and society, can exist only between individuals of
the same species. They form no part of the relations of different
races to each other, — for instance, of the wolf to the goat,
of the goat to man, of man to God, much less of God to man. The
attribution of justice, equity, and love to the Supreme Being
is pure anthropomorphism; and the adjectives just, merciful,
pitiful, and the like, should be stricken from our litanies.
God can be regarded as just, equitable, and good, only to another
God. Now, God has no associate; consequently, he cannot experience
social affections, — such as goodness, équité,
and justice. Is the shepherd said to be just to his sheep and
his dogs? No: and
if he saw fit to shear as much wool from a lamb six months old,
as from a ram of two years; or, if he required as much work from
a young dog as from an old one, — they would say, not that he
was unjust, but that he was foolish. Between man and beast there
is no society, though there may be affection. Man loves the animals
as things, — as sentient things, if you will,
— but not as persons. Philosophy, after having eliminated
from the idea
of God the
passions ascribed to him by superstition, will then be obliged
to eliminate also the virtues which our liberal piety awards
If God should
come down to earth, and dwell among us, we could not love him
unless he became like us; nor give him any thing
unless he produced something; nor listen to him unless he proved
us mistaken; nor worship him unless he manifested his power.
All the laws of our nature, affectional, economical, and intellectual,
would prevent us from treating him as we treat our fellow-men,
— that is, according to reason, justice, and équité. I
infer from this that, if God should wish ever to put himself
into immediate communication with man, he would have to become
Now, if kings are images of God, and executors of his will,
they cannot receive love, wealth, obedience, and glory from us,
unless they consent to labor and associate with us — produce as
much as they consume, reason with their subjects, and do wonderful
things. Still more; if, as some pretend, kings are public functionaries,
the love which is due them is measured by their personal amiability;
our obligation to obey them, by the wisdom of their commands;
and their civil list, by the total social production divided
by the number of citizens.
Thus, jurisprudence, political economy, and psychology agree
in admitting the law of equality. Right and duty — the due reward
of talent and labor — the outbursts of love and enthusiasm, — all
are regulated in advance by an invariable standard; all depend
upon number and balance. Equality of conditions is the law of
society, and universal solidarity is the ratification of this
Equality of conditions has never been realized, thanks to our
passions and our ignorance; but our opposition to this law has
made it all the more a necessity. To that fact history bears
perpetual testimony, and the course of events reveals it to us.
Society advances from equation to equation. To the eyes of the
economist, the revolutions of empires seem now like the reduction
of algebraical quantities, which are inter-deducible; now like
the discovery of unknown quantities, induced by the inevitable
influence of time. Figures are the providence of history. Undoubtedly
there are other elements in human progress; but in the multitude
of hidden causes which agitate nations, there is none more powerful
or constant, none less obscure, than the periodical explosions
of the proletariat against property. Property, acting by exclusion
and encroachment, while population was increasing, has been the
life-principle and definitive cause of all revolutions. Religious
wars, and wars of conquest, when they have stopped short of the
extermination of races, have been only accidental disturbances,
soon repaired by the mathematical progression of the life of
nations. The downfall and death of societies are due to the power
of accumulation possessed by property.
In the middle
ages, take Florence, — a republic of merchants and brokers,
always rent by its well-known factions, the Guelphs
and Ghibellines, who were, after all, only the people and the
proprietors fighting against each other, — Florence, ruled by
bankers, and borne down at last by the weight of her debts;5 in
ancient times, take Rome, preyed upon from its birth by usury,
flourishing, nevertheless, as long as the known world furnished
its terrible proletaires with labor stained with blood by civil
war at every interval of rest, and dying of exhaustion when the
people lost, together with their former energy, their last spark
of moral sense; Carthage, a commercial and financial city, continually
divided by internal competition; Tyre, Sidon, Jerusalem, Nineveh,
Babylon, ruined, in turn, by commercial rivalry and, as we now
express it, by panics in the market, — do not these famous examples
show clearly enough the fate which awaits modern nations, unless
the people, unless France, with a sudden burst of her powerful
voice, proclaims in thunder-tones the abolition of the régime of property?
Here my task should end. I have proved the right of the poor;
I have shown the usurpation of the rich. I demand justice; it
is not my business to execute the sentence. If it should be argued — in
order to prolong for a few years an illegitimate privilege — that
it is not enough to demonstrate equality, that it is necessary
also to organize it, and above all to establish it peacefully,
I might reply: The welfare of the oppressed is of more importance
than official composure. Equality of conditions is a natural
law upon which public economy and jurisprudence are based. The
right to labor, and the principle of equal distribution of wealth,
cannot give way to the anxieties of power. It is not for the
proletaire to reconcile the contradictions of the codes, still
less to suffer for the errors of the government. On the contrary,
it is the duty of the civil and administrative power to reconstruct
itself on the basis of political equality. An evil, when known,
should be condemned and destroyed. The legislator cannot plead
ignorance as an excuse for upholding a glaring iniquity. Restitution
should not be delayed. Justice, justice! recognition of right!
reinstatement of the proletaire! — when these results are accomplished,
then, judges and consuls, you may attend to your police, and
provide a government for the Republic!
For the rest, I do not think that a single one
of my readers accuses me of knowing how to destroy, but of
not knowing how
to construct. In demonstrating the principle of equality, I have
laid the foundation of the social structure I have done more.
I have given an example of the true method of solving political
and legislative problems. Of the science itself, I confess that
I know nothing more than its principle; and I know of no one
at present who can boast of having penetrated deeper. Many people
cry, "Come to me, and I will teach you the truth!" These
people mistake for the truth their cherished opinion and ardent
conviction, which is usually any thing but the truth. The science
of society — like all human sciences — will be for ever incomplete.
The depth and variety of the questions which it embraces are
infinite. We hardly know the A B C of this science, as is proved
by the fact that we have not yet emerged from the period of systems,
and have not ceased to put the authority of the majority in the
place of facts. A certain philological society decided linguistic
questions by a plurality of votes. Our parliamentary debates — were
their results less pernicious — would be even more ridiculous.
The task of the true publicist, in the age in which we live,
is to close the mouths of quacks and charlatans, and to teach
the public to demand demonstrations, instead of being contented
with symbols and programmes. Before talking of the science itself,
it is necessary to ascertain its object, and discover its method
and principle. The ground must be cleared of the prejudices which
encumber it. Such is the mission of the nineteenth century.
For my part,
I have sworn fidelity to my work of demolition, and I will
not cease to pursue the truth through the ruins and
rubbish. I hate to see a thing half done; and it will be believed
without any assurance of mine, that, having dared to raise my
hand against the Holy Ark, I shall not rest contented with the
removal of the cover. The mysteries of the sanctuary of iniquity
must be unveiled, the tables of the old alliance broken, and
all the objects of the ancient faith thrown in a heap to the
swine. A charter has been given to us, — a résumé of
political science, the monument of twenty legislatures. A code
written, — the pride of a conqueror, and the summary of ancient
wisdom. Well! of this charter and this code not one article shall
be left standing upon another! The time has come for the wise
to choose their course, and prepare for reconstruction. But,
since a destroyed error necessarily implies a counter-truth,
I will not finish this treatise without solving the first problem
of political science, — that which receives the attention of
When property is abolished, what will be the form of society!
Will it be communism?
— Of the Causes of our Mistakes.
The Origin of Property.
The true form of human society cannot be determined until the
following question has been solved: —
Property not being our natural condition, how did it gain a
foothold? Why has the social instinct, so trustworthy among the
animals, erred in the case of man? Why is man, who was born for
society, not yet associated?
I have said
that human society is complex in its nature. Though this expression
is inaccurate, the fact to which it refers is
none the less true; namely, the classification of talents and
capacities. But who does not see that these talents and capacities,
owing to their infinite variety, give rise to an infinite variety
of wills, and that the character, the inclinations, and — if
I may venture to use the expression — the form of the ego,
changed; so that in the order of liberty, as in the order of
intelligence, there are as many types as individuals, as many
characters as heads, whose tastes, fancies, and propensities,
being modified by dissimilar ideas, must necessarily conflict?
Man, by his nature and his instinct, is predestined to society;
but his personality, ever varying, is adverse to it.
In societies of animals, all the members do exactly the same
things. The same genius directs them; the same will animates
them. A society of beasts is a collection of atoms, round, hooked,
cubical, or triangular, but always perfectly identical. These
personalities do not vary, and we might say that a single ego
governs them all. The labors which animals perform, whether alone
or in society, are exact reproductions of their character. Just
as the swarm of bees is composed of individual bees, alike in
nature and equal in value, so the honeycomb is formed of individual
cells, constantly and invariably repeated.
But man's intelligence, fitted for his social destiny and his
personal needs, is of a very different composition, and therefore
gives rise to a wonderful variety of human wills. In the bee,
the will is constant and uniform, because the instinct which
guides it is invariable, and constitutes the animal's whole life
and nature. In man, talent varies, and the mind wavers; consequently,
his will is multiform and vague. He seeks society, but dislikes
constraint and monotony; he is an imitator, but fond of his own
ideas, and passionately in love with his works.
the bees, every man were born possessed of talent, perfect
knowledge of certain kinds, and, in a word, an innate
acquaintance with the functions he has to perform, but destitute
of reflective and reasoning faculties, society would organize
itself. We should see one man plowing a field, another building
houses; this one forging metals, that one cutting clothes; and
still others storing the products, and superintending their distribution.
Each one, without inquiring as to the object of his labor, and
without troubling himself about the extent of his task, would
obey orders, bring his product, receive his salary, and would
then rest for a time; keeping meanwhile no accounts, envious
of nobody, and satisfied with the distributor, who never would
be unjust to any one. Kings would govern, but would not reign;
for to reign is to be a proprietor a l'engrais, as Bonaparte
said: and having no commands to give, since all would be at their
posts, they would serve rather as rallying centres than as authorities
or counsellors. It would be a state of ordered communism, but
not a society entered into deliberately and freely.
But man acquires skill only by observation and experiment. He
reflects, then, since to observe and experiment is to reflect;
he reasons, since he cannot help reasoning. In reflecting, he
becomes deluded; in reasoning, he makes mistakes, and, thinking
himself right, persists in them. He is wedded to his opinions;
he esteems himself, and despises others. Consequently, he isolates
himself; for he could not submit to the majority without renouncing
his will and his reason, — that is, without disowning himself,
which is impossible. And this isolation, this intellectual egotism,
this individuality of opinion, lasts until the truth is demonstrated
to him by observation and experience. A final illustration will
make these facts still clearer.
If to the blind but convergent and harmonious instincts of a
swarm of bees should be suddenly added reflection and judgment,
the little society could not long exist. In the first place,
the bees would not fail to try some new industrial process; for
instance, that of making their cells round or square. All sorts
of systems and inventions would be tried, until long experience,
aided by geometry, should show them that the hexagonal shape
is the best. Then insurrections would occur. The drones would
be told to provide for themselves, and the queens to labor; jealousy
would spread among the laborers; discords would burst forth;
soon each one would want to produce on his own account; and finally
the hive would be abandoned, and the bees would perish. Evil
would be introduced into the honey-producing republic by the
power of reflection, — the very faculty which ought to constitute
Thus, moral evil, or, in this case, disorder in society, is
naturally explained by our power of reflection. The mother of
poverty, crime, insurrection, and war was inequality of conditions;
which was the daughter of property, which was born of selfishness,
which was engendered by private opinion, which descended in a
direct line from the autocracy of reason. Man, in his infancy,
is neither criminal nor barbarous, but ignorant and inexperienced.
Endowed with imperious instincts which are under the control
of his reasoning faculty, at first he reflects but little, and
reasons inaccurately; then, benefiting by his mistakes, he rectifies
his ideas, and perfects his reason. In the first place, it is
the savage sacrificing all his possessions for a trinket, and
then repenting and weeping; it is Esau selling his birthright
for a mess of pottage, and afterwards wishing to cancel the bargain;
it is the civilized workman laboring in insecurity, and continually
demanding that his wages be increased, neither he nor his employer
understanding that, in the absence of equality, any salary, however
large, is always insufficient. Then it is Naboth dying to defend
his inheritance; Cato tearing out his entrails that he might
not be enslaved; Socrates drinking the fatal cup in defence of
liberty of thought; it is the third estate of '89 reclaiming
its liberty: soon it will be the people demanding equality of
wages and an equal division of the means of production.
Man is born a social being, — that is, he seeks equality and
justice in all his relations, but he loves independence and praise.
The difficulty of satisfying these various desires at the same
time is the primary cause of the despotism of the will, and the
appropriation which results from it. On the other hand, man always
needs a market for his products; unable to compare values of
different kinds, he is satisfied to judge approximately, according
to his passion and caprice; and he engages in dishonest commerce,
which always results in wealth and poverty. Thus, the greatest
evils which man suffers arise from the misuse of his social nature,
of this same justice of which he is so proud, and which he applies
with such deplorable ignorance.
The practice of justice is a science which, when once discovered
and diffused, will sooner or later put an end to social disorder,
by teaching us our rights and duties.
This progressive and painful education of our instinct, this
slow and imperceptible transformation of our spontaneous perceptions
into deliberate knowledge, does not take place among the animals,
whose instincts remain fixed, and never become enlightened.
to Frederic Cuvier, who has so clearly distinguished between
instinct and intelligence in animals, `instinct is a
natural and inherent faculty, like feeling, irritability, or
intelligence. The wolf and the fox who recognize the traps in
which they have been caught, and who avoid them; the dog and
the horse, who understand the meaning of several of our words,
and who obey us, — thereby show intelligence. The dog who hides
the remains of his dinner, the bee who constructs his cell, the
bird who builds his nest, act only from instinct. Even
man has instincts: it is a special instinct which leads the new-born
child to suck. But, in man, almost every thing is accomplished
by intelligence; and intelligence supplements instinct. The opposite
is true of animals: their instinct is given them as a supplement
to their intelligence.'" — Flourens: Analytical Summary
of the Observations of F. Cuvier.
can form a clear idea of instinct only by admitting that
animals have in their sensorium, images or innate
and constant sensations, which influence their actions in the
manner that ordinary and accidental sensations commonly do.
It is a sort of dream, or vision, which always follows them
in all which relates to instinct they may be regarded as somnambulists." — F.
Cuvier: Introduction to the Animal Kingdom.
and instinct being common, then, though in different degrees,
to animals and man, what is the distinguishing characteristic
of the latter? According to F. Cuvier, it is reflection or
the power of intellectually considering our own modifications
a survey of ourselves. This lacks clearness, and requires an
If we grant
intelligence to animals, we must also grant them, in some degree,
reflection; for, the first cannot exist without
the second, as F. Cuvier himself has proved by numerous examples.
But notice that the learned observer defines the kind of reflection
which distinguishes us from the animals as the power of considering
our own modifications. This I shall endeavour to interpret,
by developing to the best of my ability the laconism of the
acquired by animals never modifies the operations which they
perform by instinct: it is given them only as a provision
against unexpected accidents which might disturb these operations.
In man, on the contrary, instinctive action is constantly changing
into deliberate action. Thus, man is social by instinct, and
is every day becoming social by reflection and choice. At first,
he formed his words by instinct;6 he was a poet by inspiration:
to-day, he makes grammar a science, and poetry an art. His conception
of God and a future life is spontaneous and instinctive, and
his expressions of this conception have been, by turns, monstrous,
eccentric, beautiful, comforting, and terrible. All these different
creeds, at which the frivolous irreligion of the eighteenth century
mocked, are modes of expression of the religious sentiment. Some
day, man will explain to himself the character of the God whom
he believes in, and the nature of that other world to which his
he does from instinct man despises; or, if he admires it, it
is as Nature's work, not as his own. This explains the
obscurity which surrounds the names of early inventors; it explains
also our indifference to religious matters, and the ridicule
heaped upon religious customs. Man esteems only the products
of reflection and of reason. The most wonderful works of instinct
are, in his eyes, only lucky god-sends; he reserves the
name discovery — I had almost said creation — for the works of
Instinct is the source of passion and enthusiasm; it is intelligence
which causes crime and virtue.
In developing his intelligence, man makes use of not only his
own observations, but also those of others. He keeps an account
of his experience, and preserves the record; so that the race,
as well as the individual, becomes more and more intelligent.
The animals do not transmit their knowledge; that which each
individual accumulates dies with him.
It is not
enough, then, to say that we are distinguished from the animals
by reflection, unless we mean thereby the constant tendency
of our instinct to become intelligence. While man is
governed by instinct, he is unconscious of his acts. He never
would deceive himself, and never would be troubled by errors,
evils, and disorder, if, like the animals, instinct were his
only guide. But the Creator has endowed us with reflection, to
the end that our instinct might become intelligence; and since
this reflection and resulting knowledge pass through various
stages, it happens that in the beginning our instinct is opposed,
rather than guided, by reflection; consequently, that our power
of thought leads us to act in opposition to our nature and our
end; that, deceiving ourselves, we do and suffer evil, until
instinct which points us towards good, and reflection which makes
us stumble into evil, are replaced by the science of good and
evil, which invariably causes us to seek the one and avoid the
Thus, evil — or error and its consequences — is the firstborn
son of the union of two opposing faculties, instinct and reflection;
good, or truth, must inevitably be the second child. Or, to again
employ the figure, evil is the product of incest between adverse
powers; good will sooner or later be the legitimate child of
their holy and mysterious union.
born of the reasoning faculty, intrenches itself behind comparisons.
But, just as reflection and reason are subsequent
to spontaneity, observation to sensation, and experience to instinct,
so property is subsequent to communism. Communism — or association
in a simple form — is the necessary object and original aspiration
of the social nature, the spontaneous movement by which it manifests
and establishes itself. It is the first phase of human civilization.
In this state of society, — which the jurists have called negative
communism — man draws near to man, and shares with him
the fruits of the field and the milk and flesh of animals.
this communism — negative as long as man does not produce —
tends to become positive and organic through the development
and industry. But it is then that the sovereignty of thought,
and the terrible faculty of reasoning logically or illogically,
teach man that, if equality is the sine qua non of society, communism
is the first species of slavery. To express this idea by an Hegelian
formula, I will say:
— the first expression of the social nature — is the first
term of social development, — the thesis; property,
the reverse of communism, is the second term, — the antithesis.
we have discovered the third term, the synthesis, we shall have
the required solution. Now, this synthesis necessarily results
from the correction of the thesis by the antithesis. Therefore
it is necessary, by a final examination of their characteristics,
to eliminate those features which are hostile to sociability.
The union of the two remainders will give us the true form of
§ 2. — Characteristics of Communism and of Property.
I. I ought not to conceal the fact that property and communism
have been considered always the only possible forms of society.
This deplorable error has been the life of property. The disadvantages
of communism are so obvious that its critics never have needed
to employ much eloquence to thoroughly disgust men with it. The
irreparability of the injustice which it causes, the violence
which it does to attractions and repulsions, the yoke of iron
which it fastens upon the will, the moral torture to which it
subjects the conscience, the debilitating effect which it has
upon society; and, to sum it all up, the pious and stupid uniformity
which it enforces upon the free, active, reasoning, unsubmissive
personality of man, have shocked common sense, and condemned
communism by an irrevocable decree.
The authorities and examples cited in its favor disprove it.
The communistic republic of Plato involved slavery; that of Lycurgus
employed Helots, whose duty it was to produce for their masters,
thus enabling the latter to devote themselves exclusively to
athletic sports and to war. Even J. J. Rousseau — confounding
communism and equality — has said somewhere that, without slavery,
he did not think equality of conditions possible. The communities
of the early Church did not last the first century out, and soon
degenerated into monasteries. In those of the Jesuits of Paraguay,
the condition of the blacks is said by all travellers to be as
miserable as that of slaves; and it is a fact that the good Fathers
were obliged to surround themselves with ditches and walls to
prevent their new converts from escaping. The followers of Baboeuf — guided
by a lofty horror of property rather than by any definite belief — were
ruined by exaggeration of their principles; the St. Simonians,
lumping communism and inequality, passed away like a masquerade.
The greatest danger to which society is exposed to-day is that
of another shipwreck on this rock.
Singularly enough, systematic communism — the deliberate negation
of property — is conceived under the direct influence of the proprietary
prejudice; and property is the basis of all communistic theories.
The members of a community, it is true, have no private property;
but the community is proprietor, and proprietor not only of the
goods, but of the persons and wills. In consequence of this principle
of absolute property, labor, which should be only a condition
imposed upon man by Nature, becomes in all communities a human
commandment, and therefore odious. Passive obedience, irreconcilable
with a reflecting will, is strictly enforced. Fidelity to regulations,
which are always defective, however wise they may be thought,
allows of no complaint. Life, talent, and all the human faculties
are the property of the State, which has the right to use them
as it pleases for the common good. Private associations are sternly
prohibited, in spite of the likes and dislikes of different natures,
because to tolerate them would be to introduce small communities
within the large one, and consequently private property; the
strong work for the weak, although this ought to be left to benevolence,
and not enforced, advised, or enjoined; the industrious work
for the lazy, although this is unjust; the clever work for the
foolish, although this is absurd; and, finally, man — casting
aside his personality, his spontaneity, his genius, and his affections —
humbly annihilates himself at the feet of the majestic and inflexible
is inequality, but not as property is. Property is the exploitation
of the weak by the strong.
Communism is the
exploitation of the strong by the weak. In property, inequality
of conditions is the result of force, under whatever name it
be disguised: physical and mental force; force of events, chance,
fortune; force of accumulated property, &c. In communism,
inequality springs from placing mediocrity on a level with excellence.
This damaging equation is repellent to the conscience, and causes
merit to complain; for, although it may be the duty of the strong
to aid the weak, they prefer to do it out of generosity, — they
never will endure a comparison. Give them equal opportunities
of labor, and equal wages, but never allow their jealousy to
be awakened by mutual suspicion of unfaithfulness in the performance
of the common task.
Communism is oppression and slavery. Man is very willing to
obey the law of duty, serve his country, and oblige his friends;
but he wishes to labor when he pleases, where he pleases, and
as much as he pleases. He wishes to dispose of his own time,
to be governed only by necessity, to choose his friendships,
his recreation, and his discipline; to act from judgment, not
by command; to sacrifice himself through selfishness, not through
servile obligation. Communism is essentially opposed to the free
exercise of our faculties, to our noblest desires, to our deepest
feelings. Any plan which could be devised for reconciling it
with the demands of the individual reason and will would end
only in changing the thing while preserving the name. Now, if
we are honest truth-seekers, we shall avoid disputes about words.
Thus, communism violates the sovereignty of the conscience,
and equality: the first, by restricting spontaneity of mind and
heart, and freedom of thought and action; the second, by placing
labor and laziness, skill and stupidity, and even vice and virtue
on an equality in point of comfort. For the rest, if property
is impossible on account of the desire to accumulate, communism
would soon become so through the desire to shirk.
II. Property, in its turn, violates equality by the rights of
exclusion and increase, and freedom by despotism. The former
effect of property having been sufficiently developed in the
last three chapters, I will content myself here with establishing
by a final comparison, its perfect identity with robbery.
words for robber are fur and latro; the former
taken from the Greek for, from fhrw, Latin fero,
I carry away; the latter from laqrw, I play the part of
a brigand, which is derived from lhqw, Latin lateo,
I conceal myself. The Greeks have also klepths, from kleptw,
I filch, whose radical consonants are the same as those of kalnptw,
I cover, I conceal. Thus, in these languages, the idea of a robber
is that of a man who conceals, carries away,
or diverts, in any manner whatever, a thing which does not belong
expressed the same idea by the word gannab, — robber,
— from the verb ganab, which means to put away,
to turn aside: lo thi-gnob (Decalogue: Eighth Commandment),
not steal, — that is, thou shalt not hold back, thou shalt not
put away any thing for thyself. That is the act of a man who,
on entering into a society into which he agrees to bring all
that he has, secretly reserves a portion, as did the celebrated
of the French verb voler is still more significant.
Voler, or faire la vole (from the Latin vola,
palm of the
hand), means to take all the tricks in a game of ombre; so that
le voleur, the robber, is the capitalist who takes all,
who gets the lion's share. Probably this verb voler had its
in the professional slang of thieves, whence it has passed into
common use, and, consequently into the phraseology of the law.
Robbery is committed in a variety of ways, which have been very
cleverly distinguished and classified by legislators according
to their heinousness or merit, to the end that some robbers may
be honored, while others are punished.
We rob, — 1. By murder on the highway; 2. Alone, or in a band;
3. By breaking into buildings, or scaling walls; 4. By abstraction;
5. By fraudulent bankruptcy; 6. By forgery of the handwriting
of public officials or private individuals; 7. By manufacture
of counterfeit money.
This species includes all robbers who practise their profession
with no other aid than force and open fraud. Bandits, brigands,
pirates, rovers by land and sea, — these names were gloried in
by the ancient heroes, who thought their profession as noble
as it was lucrative. Nimrod, Theseus, Jason and his Argonauts;
Jephthah, David, Cacus, Romulus, Clovis and all his Merovingian
descendants; Robert Guiscard, Tancred de Hauteville, Bohemond,
and most of the Norman heroes, — were brigands and robbers. The
heroic character of the robber is expressed in this line from
Horace, in reference to Achilles, — "Jura
neget sibi nata, nihil non arroget armis,"7 and
by this sentence from the dying words of Jacob (Gen. xlviii.),
which the Jews apply to David, and the Christians to their Christ:
Manus ejus contra omnes. In our day, the robber — the warrior
of the ancients — is pursued with the utmost vigor. His profession,
in the language of the code, entails ignominious and corporal
penalties, from imprisonment to the scaffold. A sad change in
opinions here below!
We rob, — 8. By cheating; 9. By swindling; 10. By abuse of trust;
11. By games and lotteries.
species was encouraged by the laws of Lycurgus, in order to
sharpen the wits of the young. It is the kind practised
by Ulysses, Solon, and Sinon; by the ancient and modern Jews,
from Jacob down to Deutz; and by the Bohemians, the Arabs, and
all savage tribes. Under Louis XIII. and Louis XIV., it was not
considered dishonorable to cheat at play. To do so was a part
of the game; and many worthy people did not scruple to correct
the caprice of Fortune by dexterous jugglery. To-day even, and
in all countries, it is thought a mark of merit among peasants,
merchants, and shopkeepers to know how to make a bargain, — that
is, to deceive one's man. This is so universally accepted, that
the cheated party takes no offence. It is known with what reluctance
our government resolved upon the abolition of lotteries. It felt
that it was dealing a stab thereby at property. The pickpocket,
the blackleg, and the charlatan make especial use of their dexterity
of hand, their subtlety of mind, the magic power of their eloquence,
and their great fertility of invention. Sometimes they offer
bait to cupidity. Therefore the penal code — which much prefers
intelligence to muscular vigor — has made, of the four varieties
mentioned above, a second category, liable only to correctional,
not to Ignominious, punishments.
Let them now accuse the law of being materialistic and atheistic.
We rob, — 12. By usury.
of robbery, so odious and so severely punished since the publication
of the Gospel, is the connecting link between
forbidden and authorized robbery. Owing to its ambiguous nature,
it has given rise to a multitude of contradictions in the laws
and in morals, — contradictions which have been very cleverly
turned to account by lawyers, financiers, and merchants. Thus
the usurer, who lends on mortgage at ten, twelve, and fifteen
per cent., is heavily fined when detected; while the banker,
who receives the same interest (not, it is true, upon a loan,
but in the way of exchange or discount, — that is, of sale),
is protected by royal privilege. But the distinction between
banker and the usurer is a purely nominal one. Like the usurer,
who lends on property, real or personal, the banker lends on
business paper; like the usurer, he takes his interest in advance;
like the usurer, he can recover from the borrower if the property
is destroyed (that is, if the note is not redeemed), — a circumstance
which makes him a money-lender, not a money-seller. But the banker
lends for a short time only, while the usurer's loan may be for
one, two, three, or more years. Now, a difference in the duration
of the loan, or the form of the act, does not alter the nature
of the transaction. As for the capitalists who invest their money,
either with the State or in commercial operations, at three,
four, and five per cent., — that is, who lend on usury at a little
lower rate than the bankers and usurers, — they are the flower
of society, the cream of honesty! Moderation in robbery is the
height of virtue!8
We rob, —
13. By farm-rent, house-rent, and leases of all kinds.
The author of the "Provincial Letters" entertained
the honest Christians of the seventeenth century at the expense
of Escobar, the Jesuit, and the contract Mohatra." The contract
Mohatra," said Escobar, "is a contract by which goods
are bought, at a high price and on credit, to be again sold at
the same moment to the same person, cash down, and at a lower
price." Escobar found a way to justify this kind of usury.
Pascal and all the Jansenists laughed at him. But what would
the satirical Pascal, the learned Nicole, and the invincible
Arnaud have said, if Father Antoine Escobar de Valladolid had
answered them thus: "A lease is a contract by which real
estate is bought, at a high price and on credit, to be again
sold, at the expiration of a certain time, to the same person,
at a lower price; only, to simplify the transaction, the buyer
is content to pay the difference between the first sale and the
second. Either deny the identity of the lease and the contract
Mohatra, and then I will annihilate you in a moment; or, if you
admit the similarity, admit also the soundness of my doctrine:
otherwise you proscribe both interest and rent at one blow"?
In reply to this overwhelming argument of the Jesuit, the sire
of Montalte would have sounded the tocsin, and would have shouted
that society was in peril, — that the Jesuits were sapping its
We rob, — 14. By commerce, when the profit of the merchant exceeds
his legitimate salary.
knows the definition of commerce — The art of buying
for three francs that which is worth six, and of selling for
which is worth three. Between commerce thus defined and
vol a l'americaine, the only difference is in the relative
proportion of the values exchanged, — in short, in the amount
of the profit.
We rob, — 15. By making profit on our product, by accepting sinecures,
and by exacting exorbitant wages.
The farmer, who sells a certain amount of corn to the consumer,
and who during the measurement thrusts his hand into the bushel
and takes out a handful of grains, robs; the professor, whose
lectures are paid for by the State, and who through the intervention
of a bookseller sells them to the public a second time, robs;
the sinecurist, who receives an enormous product in exchange
for his vanity, robs; the functionary, the laborer, whatever
he may be, who produces only one and gets paid four, one hundred,
or one thousand, robs; the publisher of this book, and I, its
author, — we rob, by charging for it twice as much as it is worth.
In recapitulation: —
after passing through the state of negative communism, called
by the ancient poets the age of gold, commences as the
right of the strongest. In a society which is trying to organize
itself, inequality of faculties calls up the idea of merit; équité suggests
the plan of proportioning not only esteem, but also material
comforts, to personal merit; and since the highest and
almost the only merit then recognized is physical strength, the
strongest, apistos, and consequently the best, apistos,
is entitled to the largest share; and if it is refused him, he
very naturally takes it by force. From this to the assumption
of the right of property in all things, it is but one step.
Such was justice in the heroic age, preserved,
at least by tradition, among the Greeks and Romans down to
the last days of their republics.
Plato, in the "Gorgias," introduces a character named
Callicles, who spiritedly defends the right of the strongest,
which Socrates, the advocate of equality, ton ison, seriously
refutes. It is related of the great Pompey, that he blushed easily,
and, nevertheless, these words once escaped his lips: "Why
should I respect the laws, when I have arms in my hand?" This
shows him to have been a man in whom the moral sense and ambition
were struggling for the mastery, and who sought to justify his
violence by the motto of the hero and the brigand.
From the right of the strongest springs the exploitation
of man by man, or bondage; usury, or the tribute levied upon
conquered by the conqueror; and the whole numerous family of
taxes, duties, monarchical prerogatives, house-rents, farm-rents, &c.;
in one word, — property.
followed by artifice, the second manifestation of justice,
which was detested by the ancient heroes, who,
in that direction, were heavy losers by it. Force was still employed,
but mental force instead of physical. Skill in deceiving an enemy
by treacherous propositions seemed deserving of reward; nevertheless,
the strong always prided themselves upon their honesty. In those
days, oaths were observed and promises kept according to the
letter rather than the spirit: Uti lingua nuncupassit, ita
jus esto, — "As the tongue has spoken, so must the right
the law of the Twelve Tables. Artifice, or rather perfidy, was
the main element in the politics of ancient Rome. Among other
examples, Vico cites the following, also quoted by Montesquieu:
The Romans had guaranteed to the Carthaginians the preservation
of their goods and their city, — intentionally using
civitas, that is, the society, the State; the Carthaginians,
on the contrary, understood them to mean the material city, urbs,
and accordingly began to rebuild their walls. They were immediately
attacked on account of their violation of the treaty, by the
Romans, who, acting upon the old heroic idea of right, did not
imagine that, in taking advantage of an equivocation to surprise
their enemies, they were waging unjust war.
sprang the profits of manufactures, commerce, and banking,
mercantile frauds, and pretensions which are honored
with the beautiful names of talent and genius, but which ought
to be regarded as the last degree of knavery and deception; and,
finally, all sorts of social inequalities.
In those forms of robbery which are prohibited by law, force
and artifice are employed alone and undisguised; in the authorized
forms, they conceal themselves within a useful product, which
they use as a tool to plunder their victim.
The direct use of violence and stratagem was early and universally
condemned; but no nation has yet got rid of that kind of robbery
which acts through talent, labor, and possession, and which is
the source of all the dilemmas of casuistry and the innumerable
contradictions of jurisprudence.
The right of force and the right of artifice — glorified
by the rhapsodists in the poems of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" —
inspired the legislation of the Greeks and Romans, from which
they passed into our morals and codes. Christianity has not changed
at all. The Gospel should not be blamed, because the priests,
as stupid as the legists, have been unable either to expound
or to understand it. The ignorance of councils and popes upon
all questions of morality is equal to that of the market- place
and the money-changers; and it is this utter ignorance of right,
justice, and society, which is killing the Church, and discrediting
its teachings for ever. The infidelity of the Roman church and
other Christian churches is flagrant; all have disregarded the
precept of Jesus; all have erred in moral and doctrinal points;
all are guilty of teaching false and absurd dogmas, which lead
straight to wickedness and murder. Let it ask pardon of God and
men, — this church which called itself infallible, and which
has grown so corrupt in morals; let its reformed sisters humble
. . . and the people, undeceived, but still religious and merciful,
will begin to think.9
The development of right has followed the same order, in its
various expressions, that property has in its forms. Every where
we see justice driving robbery before it and confining it within
narrower and narrower limits. Hitherto the victories of justice
over injustice, and of equality over inequality, have been won
by instinct and the simple force of things; but the final triumph
of our social nature will be due to our reason, or else we shall
fall back into feudal chaos. Either this glorious height is reserved
for our intelligence, or this miserable depth for our baseness.
The second effect of property is despotism. Now, since despotism
is inseparably connected with the idea of legitimate authority,
in explaining the natural causes of the first, the principle
of the second will appear.
What is to be the form of government in the future?
hear some of my younger readers reply: "Why, how can you
ask such a question?
a republican." "A
republican! Yes; but that word specifies nothing. Res publica;
that is, the public thing.
Now, whoever is interested in public affairs — no matter under
what form of government — may call himself a republican. Even
kings are republicans." —
"Well! you are a democrat?" — "No." — "What!
you would have a monarchy." — "No." — "A constitutionalist?" — "God
forbid!" — "You are then an aristocrat?" — "Not
at all." — "You want a mixed government?" — "Still
less." — "What are you, then?" — "I am an anarchist."
"Oh! I understand you; you speak satirically. This is a
hit at the government." — "By no means. I have just
given you my serious and well-considered profession of faith.
Although a firm friend of order, I am (in the full force of the
term) an anarchist. Listen to me."
In all species of sociable animals, "the
weakness of the young is the principle of their obedience to
the old, who are
strong; and from habit, which is a kind of conscience with them,
the power remains with the oldest, although he finally becomes
Whenever the society is under the control of a chief, this chief
is almost always the oldest of the troop. I say almost always,
because the established order may be disturbed by violent outbreaks.
Then the authority passes to another; and, having been re-established
by force, it is again maintained by habit. Wild horses go in
herds: they have a chief who marches at their head, whom they
confidently follow, and who gives the signal for flight or battle.
sheep which we have raised follows us, but it follows in company
with the flock in the midst of which it was born.
It regards man as the chief of its flock. . . . Man is
regarded by domestic animals as a member of theIr society. All
has to do is to get himself accepted by them as an associate:
he soon becomes their chief, in consequence of his superior intelligence.
He does not, then, change the natural condition of these
animals, as Buffon has said. On the contrary, he uses this natural
to his own advantage; in other words, he finds sociable animals,
and renders them domestic by becoming their associate
and chief. Thus, the domesticity of animals is only a
a simple modification, a definitive consequence of their sociability.
All domestic animals are by nature sociable animals." .
. . — Flourens: Summary of the Observations of F. Cuvier.
animals follow their chief by instinct; but take notice
of the fact (which F. Cuvier omitted to state), that the function
of the chief is altogether one of intelligence. The chief does
not teach the others to associate, to unite under his lead, to
reproduce their kind, to take to flight, or to defend themselves.
Concerning each of these particulars, his subordinates are as
well informed as he. But it is the chief who, by his accumulated
experience, provides against accidents; he it is whose private
intelligence supplements, in difficult situations, the general
instinct; he it is who deliberates, decides, and leads; he it
is, in short, whose enlightened prudence regulates the public
routine for the greatest good of all.
Man (naturally a sociable being) naturally follows a chief.
Originally, the chief is the father, the patriarch, the elder;
in other words, the good and wise man, whose functions, consequently,
are exclusively of a reflective and intellectual nature. The
human race — like all other races of sociable animals — has its
instincts, its innate faculties, its general ideas, and its categories
of sentiment and reason. Its chiefs, legislators, or kings have
devised nothing, supposed nothing, imagined nothing. They have
only guided society by their accumulated experience, always however
in conformity with opinions and beliefs.
Those philosophers who (carrying into morals and into history
their gloomy and factious whims) affirm that the human race had
originally neither chiefs nor kings, know nothing of the nature
of man. Royalty, and absolute royalty, is — as truly and more
truly than democracy — a primitive form of government. Perceiving
that, in the remotest ages, crowns and kingships were worn by
heroes, brigands, and knight-errants, they confound the two things, — royalty
and despotism. But royalty dates from the creation of man; it
existed in the age of negative communism. Ancient heroism (and
the despotism which it engendered) commenced only with the first
manifestation of the idea of justice; that is, with the reign
of force. As soon as the strongest, in the comparison of merits,
was decided to be the best, the oldest had to abandon his position,
and royalty became despotic.
The spontaneous, instinctive, and — so to speak — physiological
origin of royalty gives it, in the beginning, a superhuman character.
The nations connected it with the gods, from whom they said the
first kings descended. This notion was the origin of the divine
genealogies of royal families, the incarnations of gods, and
the messianic fables. From it sprang the doctrine of divine right,
which is still championed by a few singular characters.
Royalty was at first elective, because — at a time when man produced
but little and possessed nothing — property was too weak to establish
the principle of heredity, and secure to the son the throne of
his father; but as soon as fields were cleared, and cities built,
each function was, like every thing else, appropriated, and hereditary
kingships and priesthoods were the result. The principle of heredity
was carried into even the most ordinary professions, — a circumstance
which led to class distinctions, pride of station, and abjection
of the common people, and which confirms my assertion, concerning
the principle of patrimonial succession, that it is a method
suggested by Nature of filling vacancies in business, and completing
to time, ambition caused usurpers, or supplanters of
kings, to start up; and, in consequence, some were called
kings by right, or legitimate kings, and others tyrants. But
we must not let these names deceive us. There have been execrable
kings, and very tolerable tyrants. Royalty may always be good,
when it is the only possible form of government; legitimate it
is never. Neither heredity, nor election, nor universal suffrage,
nor the excellence of the sovereign, nor the consecration of
religion and of time, can make royalty legitimate. Whatever form
it takes, — monarchic, oligarchic, or democratic, — royalty,
or the government of man by man, is illegitimate and absurd.
order to procure as speedily as possible the most thorough
satisfaction of his wants, seeks rule. In the beginning, this
rule is to him living, visible, and tangible. It is his father,
his master, his king. The more ignorant man is, the more obedient
he is, and the more absolute is his confidence in his guide.
But, it being a law of man's nature to conform to rule, — that
is, to discover it by his powers of reflection and reason, —
reasons upon the commands of his chiefs. Now, such reasoning
as that is a protest against authority, — a beginning of disobedience.
At the moment that man inquires into the motives which govern
the will of his sovereign, — at that moment man revolts. If he
obeys no longer because the king commands, but because the king
demonstrates the wisdom of his commands, it may be said that
henceforth he will recognize no authority, and that he has become
his own king. Unhappy he who shall dare to command him, and shall
offer, as his authority, only the vote of the majority; for,
sooner or later, the minority will become the majority, and this
imprudent despot will be overthrown, and all his laws annihilated.
In proportion as society becomes enlightened, royal authority
diminishes. That is a fact to which all history bears witness.
At the birth of nations, men reflect and reason in vain. Without
methods, without principles, not knowing how to use their reason,
they cannot judge of the justice of their conclusions. Then the
authority of kings is immense, no knowledge having been acquired
with which to contradict it. But, little by little, experience
produces habits, which develop into customs; then the customs
are formulated in maxims, laid down as principles, — in short,
transformed into laws, to which the king, the living law, has
to bow. There comes a time when customs and laws are so numerous
that the will of the prince is, so to speak, entwined by the
public will; and that, on taking the crown, he is obliged to
swear that he will govern in conformity with established customs
and usages; and that he is but the executive power of a society
whose laws are made independently of him.
Up to this point, all is done instinctively, and, as it were,
unconsciously; but see where this movement must end.
of self-instruction and the acquisition of ideas, man finally
acquires the idea of science, — that is, of a system of
knowledge in harmony with the reality of things, and inferred
from observation. He searches for the science, or the system,
of inanimate bodies, — the system of organic bodies, the system
of the human mind, and the system of the universe: why should
he not also search for the system of society? But, having reached
this height, he comprehends that political truth, or the science
of politics, exists quite independently of the will of sovereigns,
the opinion of majorities, and popular beliefs, — that kings,
ministers, magistrates, and nations, as wills, have no connection
with the science, and are worthy of no consideration. He comprehends,
at the same time, that, if man is born a sociable being, the
authority of his father over him ceases on the day when, his
mind being formed and his education finished, he becomes the
associate of his father; that his true chief and his king is
the demonstrated truth; that politics is a science, not a stratagem;
and that the function of the legislator is reduced, in the last
analysis, to the methodical search for truth.
Thus, in a given society, the authority of man over man is inversely
proportional to the stage of intellectual development which that
society has reached; and the probable duration of that authority
can be calculated from the more or less general desire for a
true government, — that is, for a scientific government. And just
as the right of force and the right of artifice retreat before
the steady advance of justice, and must finally be extinguished
in equality, so the sovereignty of the will yields to the sovereignty
of the reason, and must at last be lost in scientific socialism.
Property and royalty have been crumbling to pieces ever since
the world began. As man seeks justice in equality, so society
seeks order in anarchy.
— the absence of a master, of a sovereign,10 —
such is the form
of government to which we are every day approximating,
and which our accustomed habit of taking man for our rule, and
his will for law, leads us to regard as the height of disorder
and the expression of chaos. The story is told, that a citizen
of Paris in the seventeenth century having heard it said that
in Venice there was no king, the good man could not recover from
his astonishment, and nearly died from laughter at the mere mention
of so ridiculous a thing. So strong is our prejudice. As long
as we live, we want a chief or chiefs; and at this very moment
I hold in my hand a brochure, whose author — a zealous communist
— dreams, like a second Marat, of the dictatorship. The most
among us are those who wish the greatest possible number of sovereigns,
— their most ardent wish is for the royalty of the National
undoubtedly, some one, jealous of the citizen militia, will say, "Everybody
is king." But, when he has spoken, I will say, in my turn, "Nobody
is king; we are, whether we will or no, associated." Every
question of domestic politics must be decided by departmental
statistics; every question of foreign politics is an affair of
international statistics. The science of government rightly belongs
to one of the sections of the Academy of Sciences, whose permanent
secretary is necessarily prime minister; and, since every citizen
may address a memoir to the Academy, every citizen is a legislator.
But, as the opinion of no one is of any value until its truth
has been proven, no one can substitute his will for reason, —
nobody is king.
All questions of legislation and politics are matters of science,
not of opinion. The legislative power belongs only to the reason,
methodically recognized and demonstrated. To attribute to any
power whatever the right of veto or of sanction, is the last
degree of tyranny. Justice and legality are two things as independent
of our approval as is mathematical truth. To compel, they need
only to be known; to be known, they need only to be considered
and studied. What, then, is the nation, if it is not the sovereign, — if
it is not the source of the legislative power?
is the guardian of the law — the nation is the executive
Every citizen may assert: "This is true; that is
just; "but his opinion controls no one but himself. That
the truth which he proclaims may become a law, it must be recognized.
Now, what is it to recognize a law? It is to verify a mathematical
or a metaphysical calculation; it is to repeat an experiment,
to observe a phenomenon, to establish a fact. Only the nation
has the right to say, "Be it known and decreed."
I confess that this is an overturning of received ideas, and
that I seem to be attempting to revolutionize our political system;
but I beg the reader to consider that, having begun with a paradox,
I must, if I reason correctly, meet with paradoxes at every step,
and must end with paradoxes. For the rest, I do not see how the
liberty of citizens would be endangered by entrusting to their
hands, instead of the pen of the legislator, the sword of the
law. The executive power, belonging properly to the will, cannot
be confided to too many proxies. That is the true sovereignty
of the nation.11
The proprietor, the robber, the hero, the sovereign — for all
these titles are synonymous — imposes his will as law, and suffers
neither contradiction nor control; that is, he pretends to be
the legislative and the executive power at once. Accordingly,
the substitution of the scientific and true law for the royal
will is accomplished only by a terrible struggle; and this constant
substitution is, after property, the most potent element in history,
the most prolific source of political disturbances. Examples
are too numerous and too striking to require enumeration.
necessarily engenders despotism, — the government of caprice,
the reign of libidinous pleasure. That is so clearly
the essence of property that, to be convinced of it, one need
but remember what it is, and observe what happens around him.
Property is the right to use and abuse. If, then,
government is economy, — if its object is production and consumption,
the distribution of labor and products, — how is government possible
while property exists? And if goods are property, why should
not the proprietors be kings, and despotic kings — kings in proportion
to their facultes bonitaires? And if each proprietor is sovereign
lord within the sphere of his property, absolute king throughout
his own domain, how could a government of proprietors be any
thing but chaos and confusion?
§ 3. — Determination of the third form of Society. Conclusion.
Then, no government, no public economy, no administration, is
possible, which is based upon property.
seeks equality and law. Property, born of the
sovereignty of the reason, and the sense of personal merit,
all things independence and proportionality.
But communism, mistaking uniformity for law, and levelism for
equality, becomes tyrannical and unjust. Property, by its despotism
and encroachments, soon proves itself oppressive and anti-social.
The objects of communism and property are good — their results
are bad. And why? Because both are exclusive, and each disregards
two elements of society. Communism rejects independence and proportionality;
property does not satisfy equality and law.
Now, if we imagine a society based upon these four principles, —
equality, law, independence, and proportionality, — we find: —
equality, consisting only in equality of conditions,
that is, of means, and not in equality of comfort, —
which it is the business of the laborers to achieve for themselves,
provided with equal means, — in no way violates justice and équité.
law, resulting from the knowledge of facts, and consequently
based upon necessity itself, never clashes with independence.
individual independence, or the autonomy of the private reason,
originating in the difference in talents and capacities,
can exist without danger within the limits of the law.
proportionality, being admitted only in the sphere of intelligence
and sentiment, and not as regards material objects,
may be observed without violating justice or social equality.
third form of society, the synthesis of communism and property,
we will call liberty.12
In determining the nature of liberty, we do not unite communism
and property indiscriminately; such a process would be absurd
eclecticism. We search by analysis for those elements in each
which are true, and in harmony with the laws of Nature and society,
disregarding the rest altogether; and the result gives us an
adequate expression of the natural form of human society, — in
one word, liberty.
Liberty is equality, because liberty exists only in society;
and in the absence of equality there is no society.
Liberty is anarchy, because it does not admit the government
of the will, but only the authority of the law; that is, of necessity.
Liberty is infinite variety, because it respects all wills within
the limits of the law.
Liberty is proportionality, because it allows the utmost latitude
to the ambition for merit, and the emulation of glory.
We can now say, in the words of M. Cousin: "Our
principle is true; it is good, it is social; let us not fear
to push it
to its ultimate."
nature becoming justice through reflection, équité through
the classification of capacities, and having liberty for
its formula, is the true basis of morality, — the principle
and regulator of all our actions. This is the universal motor,
which philosophy is searching for, which religion strengthens,
which egotism supplants, and whose place pure reason never can
fill. Duty and right are born of need, which,
when considered in connection with others, is a right,
and when considered in
connection with ourselves, a duty.
We need to eat and sleep. It is our right to procure those things
which are necessary to rest and nourishment. It is our duty to
use them when Nature requires it.
We need to labor in order to live. To do so is both our right
and our duty.
We need to love our wives and children. It is our duty to protect
and support them. It is our right to be loved in preference to
all others. Conjugal fidelity is justice. Adultery is high treason
We need to exchange our products for other products. It is our
right that this exchange should be one of equivalents; and since
we consume before we produce, it would be our duty, if we could
control the matter, to see to it that our last product shall
follow our last consumption. Suicide is fraudulent bankruptcy.
We need to live our lives according to the dictates of our reason.
It is our right to maintain our freedom. It is our duty to respect
that of others.
We need to be appreciated by our fellows. It is our duty to
deserve their praise. It is our right to be judged by our works.
Liberty is not opposed to the rights of succession
and bequest. It contents itself with preventing violations
of equality. "Choose," it
tells us, "between two legacies, but do not take them both." All
our legislation concerning transmissions, entailments, adoptions,
and, if I may venture to use such a word, coadjutoreries, requires
Liberty favors emulation, instead of destroying it. In social
equality, emulation consists in accomplishing under like conditions;
it is its own reward. No one suffers by the victory.
Liberty applauds self-sacrifice, and honors it
with its votes, but it can dispense with it. Justice alone
suffices to maintain
the social equilibrium. Self-sacrifice is an act of supererogation.
Happy, however, the man who can say, "I sacrifice myself."13
Liberty is essentially an organizing force. To
insure equality between men and peace among nations, agriculture
and the centres of education, business, and storage, must be
distributed according to the climate and the geographical position
of the country, the nature of the products, the character and
natural talents of the inhabitants, &c., in proportions so
just, so wise, so harmonious, that in no place shall there ever
be either an excess or a lack of population, consumption, and
products. There commences the science of public and private right,
the true political economy. It is for the writers on jurisprudence,
henceforth unembarrassed by the false principle of property,
to describe the new laws, and bring peace upon earth. Knowledge
and genius they do not lack; the foundation is now laid for them.14
I have accomplished my task; property is conquered, never again
to arise. Wherever this work is read and discussed, there will
be deposited the germ of death to property; there, sooner or
later, privilege and servitude will disappear, and the despotism
of will will give place to the reign of reason. What sophisms,
indeed, what prejudices (however obstinate) can stand before
the simplicity of the following propositions: —
the condition of social life; five thousand years of property
demonstrate it. Property is the
suicide of society. Possession is a right; property is against
right. Suppress property while maintaining possession, and, by
this simple modification of the principle, you will revolutionize
law, government, economy, and institutions; you will drive evil
from the face of the earth.
II. All having an equal right of occupancy, possession varies
with the number of possessors; property cannot establish itself.
III. The effect of labor being the same for all, property is
lost in the common prosperity.
IV. All human labor being the result of collective force, all
property becomes, in consequence, collective and unitary. To
speak more exactly, labor destroys property.
V. Every capacity for labor being, like every instrument of
labor, an accumulated capital, and a collective property, inequality
of wages and fortunes (on the ground of inequality of capacities)
is, therefore, injustice and robbery.
VI. The necessary conditions of commerce are the liberty of
the contracting parties and the equivalence of the products exchanged.
Now, value being expressed by the amount of time and outlay which
each product costs, and liberty being inviolable, the wages of
laborers (like their rights and duties) should be equal.
VII. Products are bought only by products. Now, the condition
of all exchange being equivalence of products, profit is impossible
and unjust. Observe this elementary principle of economy, and
pauperism, luxury, oppression, vice, crime, and hunger will disappear
from our midst.
are associated by the physical and mathematical law of production,
before they are voluntarily associated by choice.
Therefore, equality of conditions is demanded by justice; that
is, by strict social law: esteem, friendship, gratitude, admiration,
all fall within the domain of equitable or proportional law only.
IX. Free association, liberty — whose sole function is to maintain
equality in the means of production and equivalence in exchanges — is
the only possible, the only just, the only true form of society.
X. Politics is the science of liberty. The government of man
by man (under whatever name it be disguised) is oppression. Society
finds its highest perfection in the union of order with anarchy.
The old civilization has run its race; a new sun is rising,
and will soon renew the face of the earth. Let the present generation
perish, let the old prevaricators die in the desert! the holy
earth shall not cover their bones. Young man, exasperated by
the corruption of the age, and absorbed in your zeal for justice! — if
your country is dear to you, and if you have the interests of
humanity at heart, have the courage to espouse the cause of liberty!
Cast off your old selfishness, and plunge into the rising flood
of popular equality! There your regenerate soul will acquire
new life and vigor; your enervated genius will recover unconquerable
energy; and your heart, perhaps already withered, will be rejuvenated!
Every thing will wear a different look to your illuminated vision;
new sentiments will engender new ideas within you; religion,
morality, poetry, art, language will appear before you in nobler
and fairer forms; and thenceforth, sure of your faith, and thoughtfully
enthusiastic, you will hail the dawn of universal regeneration!
And you, sad victims of an odious law! — you, whom a jesting
world despoils and outrages! — you, whose labor has always been
fruitless, and whose rest has been without hope, — take courage!
your tears are numbered! The fathers have sown in affliction,
the children shall reap in rejoicings!
O God of liberty! God of equality! Thou who didst place in my
heart the sentiment of justice, before my reason could comprehend
it, hear my ardent prayer! Thou hast dictated all that I have
written; Thou hast shaped my thought; Thou hast directed my studies;
Thou hast weaned my mind from curiosity and my heart from attachment,
that I might publish Thy truth to the master and the slave. I
have spoken with what force and talent Thou hast given me: it
is Thine to finish the work. Thou knowest whether I seek my welfare
or Thy glory, O God of liberty! Ah! perish my memory, and let
humanity be free! Let me see from my obscurity the people at
last instructed; let noble teachers enlighten them; let generous
spirits guide them! Abridge, if possible, the time of our trial;
stifle pride and avarice in equality; annihilate this love of
glory which enslaves us; teach these poor children that in the
bosom of liberty there are neither heroes nor great men! Inspire
the powerful man, the rich man, him whose name my lips shall
never pronounce in Thy presence, with a horror of his crimes;
let him be the first to apply for admission to the redeemed society;
let the promptness of his repentance be the ground of his forgiveness!
Then, great and small, wise and foolish, rich and poor, will
unite in an ineffable fraternity; and, singing in unison a new
hymn, will rebuild Thy altar, O God of liberty and equality!
perform an act of benevolence towards one's neighbor is
called, in Hebrew, to do justice; in Greek, to take
compassion or pity (elehmosunh, from which is derived
the French aumone); in Latin, to perform an act
of love or charity; in French, give alms. We can trace the degradation
of this principle through these various expressions: the
first signifies duty; the second only sympathy; the third,
affection, a matter of choice, not an obligation; the fourth,
I mean here by équité what the Latins called humanitas, — that
is, the kind of sociability which is peculiar to man. Humanity,
gentle and courteous to all, knows how to distinguish ranks,
virtues, and capacities without injury to any.
and équité never have been understood.
that some spoils, taken from the enemy, and equal to
twelve, are to be divided between Achilles and Ajax.
If the two persons were equal, their respective shares
would be arithmetically equal: Achilles would have six,
Ajax six. And if we should carry out this arithmetical
equality, Thersites would be entitled to as much as Achilles,
which would be unjust in the extreme. To avoid this injustice,
the worth of the persons should be estimated, and the
spoils divided accordingly. Suppose that the worth of
Achilles is double that of Ajax: the former's share is
eight, the latter four. There is no arithmetical equality,
but a proportional equality. It is this comparison of
merits, rationum, that Aristotle calls distributive justice.
It is a geometrical proportion." — Toullier:
French Law according to the Code.
Achilles and Ajax associated, or are they not? Settle
that, and you settle the whole question. If Achilles
and Ajax, instead of being associated, are themselves
in the service of Agamemnon who pays them, there is no
objection to Aristotle's method. The slave-owner, who
controls his slaves, may give a double allowance of brandy
to him who does double work. That is the law of despotism;
the right of slavery.
if Achilles and Ajax are associated, they are equals.
What matters it that Achilles has a strength of four,
while that of Ajax is only two? The latter may always
answer that he is free; that if Achilles has a strength
of four, five could kill him; finally, that in doing
personal service he incurs as great a risk as Achilles.
The same argument applies to Thersites. If he is unable
to fight, let him be cook, purveyor, or butler. If he
is good for nothing, put him in the hospital. In no case
wrong him, or impose upon him laws.
must live in one of two states: either in society, or
out of it. In society, conditions are necessarily equal,
except in the degree of esteem and consideration which
each one may receive. Out of society, man is so much
raw material, a capitalized tool, and often an incommodious
and useless piece of furniture.
woman and man there may exist love, passion, ties of
custom, and the like; but there is no real society. Man
and woman are not companions. The difference of the sexes
places a barrier between them, like that placed between
animals by a difference of race. Consequently, far from
advocating what is now called the emancipation of woman,
I should incline, rather, if there were no other alternative,
to exclude her from society.
rights of woman and her relations with man are yet to
be determined Matrimonial legislation, like civil legislation,
is a matter for the future to settle.
strong-box of Cosmo de Medici was the grave of Florentine liberty," said
M. Michelet to the College of France.
problem of the origin of language is solved by the distinction
made by Frederic Cuvier between instinct and intelligence.
Language is not a premeditated, arbitrary, or conventional
device; nor is it communicated or revealed to us by God.
Language is an instinctive and unpremeditated creation
of man, as the hive is of the bee. In this sense, it may
be said that language is not the work of man, since it
is not the work of his mind. Further, the mechanism of
language seems more wonderful and ingenious when it is
not regarded as the result of reflection. This fact is
one of the most curious and indisputable which philology
has observed. See, among other works, a Latin essay by
F. G. Bergmann (Strasbourg, 1839), in which the learned
author explains how the phonetic germ is born of sensation;
how language passes through three successive stages of
development; why man, endowed at birth with the instinctive
faculty of creating a language, loses this faculty as fast
as his mind develops; and that the study of languages is
real natural history, — in fact, a science. France
possesses to-day several philologists of the first rank,
endowed with rare talents and deep philosophic insight, — modest
savants developing a science almost without the knowledge
of the public; devoting themselves to studies which are
scornfully looked down upon, and seeming to shun applause
as much as others seek it."
right is my lance and my buckler." General de Brossard
said, like Achilles: "I get wine, gold, and women
with my lance and my buckler."
would be interesting and profitable to review the authors
who have written on usury, or, to use the gentler
expression which some prefer, lendingat interest. The
theologians always have opposed usury; but, since they
have admitted always the legitimacy of rent, and since
rent is evidently identical with interest, they have
lost themselves in a labyrinth of subtle distinctions,
and have finally reached a pass where they do not know
what to think of usury. The Church — the teacher
of morality, so jealous and so proud of the purity
of her doctrine — has always been ignorant of
the real nature of property and usury. She even has
through her pontiffs the most deplorable errors. Non
potest mutuum, said Benedict XIV., locationi
ullo pacto comparari. "Rent," says Bossuet, "is
as far from usury as heaven is from the earth." How,
on [sic] such a doctrine, condemn lending at interest?
how justify the Gospel, which expressly forbids usury?
The difficulty of theologians is a very serious one.
Unable to refute the economical demonstrations, which
rightly assimilate interest to rent, they no longer
dare to condemn interest, and they can say only that
must be such a thing as usury, since the Gospel forbids
what, then, is usury? Nothing is more amusing than
to see these instructors of nations hesitate between
authority of the Gospel, which, they say, never
can have spoken in vain, and the authority of
Nothing, to my mind, is more creditable to the Gospel
than this old infidelity of its pretended teachers.
Salmasius, having assimilated interest to rent, was refuted by
Grotius, Pufendorf, Burlamaqui, Wolf, and Heineccius;
what is more curious still, Salmasius admitted his
Instead of inferring from this doctrine of Salmasius
that all increase is illegitimate, and proceeding
on to the demonstration of Gospel equality, they
arrived at just the opposite conclusion; namely, that
acknowledges that rent is permissible, if we allow
that interest does not differ from rent, there is nothing
left which can be called usury. and, consequently,
the commandment of Jesus Christ is an illusion,
and amounts to nothing, which is an impious conclusion.
this memoir had appeared in the time of Bossuet,
that great theologian would have proved by scripture,
fathers, traditions, councils, and popes, that property
exists by Divine right, while usury is an invention
of the devil; and the heretical work would have been
and the author imprisoned.
preach the Gospel, I live by the Gospel," said the
Apostle; meaning thereby that he lived by his labor.
The Catholic clergy prefer to live by property. The struggles
in the communes of the middle ages between the priests
and bishops and the large proprietors and seigneurs are
famous. The papal excommunications fulminated in defence
of ecclesiastical revenues are no less so. Even to-day,
the official organs of the Gallican clergy still maintain
that the pay received by the clergy is not a salary,
but an indemnity for goods of which they were once proprietors,
and which were taken from them in '89 by the Third Estate.
The clergy prefer to live by the right of increase rather
than by labor.
of the main causes of Ireland's poverty to-day is the
immense revenues of the English clergy. So heretics and
orthodox — Protestants and Papists — cannot
reproach each other. All have strayed from the path of
justice; all have disobeyed the eighth commandment of
the Decalogue: "Thou shalt not steal."
The meaning ordinarily attached to the word "anarchy" is
absence of principle, absence of rule; consequently, it
has been regarded as synonymous with "disorder."
such ideas are ever forced into the minds of the people,
it will be by representative government and the tyranny
of talkers. Once science, thought, and speech were characterized
by the same expression. To designate a thoughtful and a
learned man, they said, "a man quick to speak and
powerful in discourse. "For a long time, speech has
been abstractly distinguished from science and reason.
Gradually, this abstraction is becoming realized, as the
logicians say, in society; so that we have to- day savants of many kinds who talk but little, and talkers who are
not even savants in the science of speech. Thus a philosopher
is no longer a savant: he is a talker. Legislators and
poets were once profound and sublime characters: now they
are talkers. A talker is a sonorous bell, whom the least
shock suffices to set in perpetual motion. With the talker,
the flow of speech is always directly proportional to the
poverty of thought. Talkers govern the world; they stun
us, they bore us, they worry us, they suck our blood, and
laugh at us. As for the savants, they keep silence: if
they wish to say a word, they are cut short. Let them write.
librare, libratio, libra, — liberty,
to liberate, libration, balance (pound), — words
which have a common derivation. Liberty is the balance
of rights and
duties. To make a man free is to balance him with others, — that
is, to put him or their level.
a monthly publication, the first number of which has just
appeared under the name of "L'Egalitaire," self-sacrifice
is laid down as a principle of equality. This is a confusion
of ideas. Self-sacrifice, taken alone, is the last degree
of inequality. To seek equality in self-sacrifice is to
confess that equality is against nature. Equality must
be based upon justice, upon strict right, upon the principles
invoked by the proprietor himself; otherwise it will never
exist. Self-sacrifice is superior to justice; but it cannot
be imposed as law, because it is of such a nature as to
admit of no reward. It is, indeed, desirable that everybody
shall recognize the necessity of self-sacrifice, and the
idea of "L'Egalitaire" is an excellent example.
Unfortunately, it can have no effect. What would you reply,
indeed, to a man who should say to you, "I do not
want to sacrifice myself"? Is he to be compelled to
do so? When self- sacrifice is forced, it becomes oppression,
slavery, the exploitation of man by man. Thus have the
proletaires sacrificed themselves to property.
disciples of Fourier have long seemed to me the most advanced
of all modern socialists, and almost the only
ones worthy of the name. If they had understood the nature
of their task, spoken to the people, awakened their sympathies,
and kept silence when they did not understand; if they
had made less extravagant pretensions, and had shown more
respect for public intelligence, — perhaps the reform
would now, thanks to them, be in progress. But why are
these earnest reformers continually bowing to power and
wealth, — that is, to all that is anti- reformatory?
How, in a thinking age, can they fail to see that the world
must be converted by demonstration, not by myths and allegories?
Why do they, the deadly enemies of civilization, borrow
from it, nevertheless, its most pernicious fruits, — property,
inequality of fortune and rank, gluttony, concubinage,
prostitution, what do I know? theurgy, magic, and sorcery?
Why these endless denunciations of morality, metaphysics,
and psychology, when the abuse of these sciences, which
they do not understand, constitutes their whole system?
Why this mania for deifying a man whose principal merit
consisted in talking nonsense about things whose names,
even, he did not know, in the strongest language ever put
upon paper? Whoever admits the infallibility of a man becomes
thereby incapable of instructing others. Whoever denies
his own reason will soon proscribe free thought. The phalansterians
would not fail to do it if they had the power. Let them
condescend to reason, let them proceed systematically,
let them give us demonstrations instead of revelations,
and we will listen willingly. Then let them organize manufactures,
agriculture, and commerce; let them make labor attractive,
and the most humble functions honorable, and our praise
shall be theirs. Above all, let them throw off that Illuminism
which gives them the appearance of impostors or dupes,
rather than believers and apostles.
Individual possession is no obstacle to extensive cultivation
and unity of exploitation. If I have not spoken of the
drawbacks arising from small estates, it is because I thought
it useless to repeat what so many others have said, and
what by this time all the world must know. But I am surprised
that the economists, who have so clearly shown the disadvantages
of spade- husbandry, have failed to see that it is caused
entirely by property; above all, that they have not perceived
that their plan for mobilizing the soil is a first step
towards the abolition of property.
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