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Title: What is Property?
Author: Proudhon, P.-J. (Pierre-Joseph), 1809-1865
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "What is Property?" ***

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By P. J. Proudhon








   % 1.  Property as a Natural Right.
   % 2.  Occupation as the Title to Property.
   % 3.  Civil Law as the Foundation and Sanction of Property.


   % 1.  The Land cannot be appropriated.
   % 2.  Universal Consent no Justification of Property.
   % 3.  Prescription gives no Title to Property.
   % 4.  Labor.--That Labor has no Inherent Power to appropriate
            Natural Wealth.
   % 5.  That Labor leads to Equality of Property.
   % 6.  That in Society all Wages are Equal.
   % 7.  That Inequality of Powers is the Necessary Condition of
            Equality of Fortunes.
   % 8.  That, from the stand-point of Justice, Labor destroys




   Property is the Right of Increase claimed by the Proprietor over
   any thing which he has stamped as his own.

   Property is Impossible, because it demands Something for Nothing.

   Property is Impossible, because, wherever it exists, Production
   costs more than it is worth.

   Property is Impossible, because, with a given Capital, Production
   is proportional to Labor, not to Property.

   Property is Impossible, because it is Homicide.

   Property is Impossible, because, if it exists, Society devours itself.

   Appendix to the Fifth Proposition.

   Property is Impossible, because it is the Mother of Tyranny.

   Property is Impossible, because, in consuming its Receipts, it
   loses them; in hoarding them, it nullifies them; and, in
   using them as Capital, it turns them against Production.

   Property is Impossible, because its Power of Accumulation is
   infinite, and is exercised only over Finite Quantities.

   Property is Impossible, because it is powerless against Property.

   Property is Impossible, because it is the Negation of Equality.


   PART 1.

   % 1.  Of the Moral Sense in Man and the Animals.
   % 2.  Of the First and Second Degrees of Sociability.
   % 3.  Of the Third Degree of Sociability.

   PART I 1.
   % 1.  Of the Causes of our Mistakes.  The Origin of Property.
   % 2.  Characteristics of Communism and of Property.
   % 3.  Determination of the Third Form of Society.  Conclusion.



The correspondence [1] of P. J. Proudhon, the first volumes of which we
publish to-day, has been collected since his death by the faithful
and intelligent labors of his daughter, aided by a few friends. It was
incomplete when submitted to Sainte Beuve, but the portion with which
the illustrious academician became acquainted was sufficient to allow
him to estimate it as a whole with that soundness of judgment which
characterized him as a literary critic.

He would, however, caution readers against accepting the biographer's
interpretation of the author's views as in any sense authoritative;
advising them, rather, to await the publication of the remainder
of Proudhon's writings, that they may form an opinion for

In an important work, which his habitual readers certainly have not
forgotten, although death did not allow him to finish it, Sainte Beuve
thus judges the correspondence of the great publicist:--

"The letters of Proudhon, even outside the circle of his particular
friends, will always be of value; we can always learn something from
them, and here is the proper place to determine the general character of
his correspondence.

"It has always been large, especially since he became so celebrated;
and, to tell the truth, I am persuaded that, in the future, the
correspondence of Proudhon will be his principal, vital work, and that
most of his books will be only accessory to and corroborative of this.
At any rate, his books can be well understood only by the aid of his
letters and the continual explanations which he makes to those who
consult him in their doubt, and request him to define more clearly his

"There are, among celebrated people, many methods of correspondence.
There are those to whom letter-writing is a bore, and who, assailed with
questions and compliments, reply in the greatest haste, solely that the
job may be over with, and who return politeness for politeness, mingling
it with more or less wit. This kind of correspondence, though coming
from celebrated people, is insignificant and unworthy of collection and

"After those who write letters in performance of a disagreeable duty,
and almost side by side with them in point of insignificance, I should
put those who write in a manner wholly external, wholly superficial,
devoted only to flattery, lavishing praise like gold, without counting
it; and those also who weigh every word, who reply formally and
pompously, with a view to fine phrases and effects. They exchange words
only, and choose them solely for their brilliancy and show. You think
it is you, individually, to whom they speak; but they are addressing
themselves in your person to the four corners of Europe. Such letters
are empty, and teach as nothing but theatrical execution and the
favorite pose of their writers.

"I will not class among the latter the more prudent and sagacious
authors who, when writing to individuals, keep one eye on posterity.
We know that many who pursue this method have written long, finished,
charming, flattering, and tolerably natural letters. Beranger furnishes
us with the best example of this class.

"Proudhon, however, is a man of entirely different nature and habits.
In writing, he thinks of nothing but his idea and the person whom he
addresses: ad rem et ad hominem. A man of conviction and doctrine, to
write does not weary him; to be questioned does not annoy him. When
approached, he cares only to know that your motive is not one of futile
curiosity, but the love of truth; he assumes you to be serious, he
replies, he examines your objections, sometimes verbally, sometimes
in writing; for, as he remarks, 'if there be some points which
correspondence can never settle, but which can be made clear by
conversation in two minutes, at other times just the opposite is the
case: an objection clearly stated in writing, a doubt well expressed,
which elicits a direct and positive reply, helps things along more than
ten hours of oral intercourse!' In writing to you he does not hesitate
to treat the subject anew; he unfolds to you the foundation and
superstructure of his thought: rarely does he confess himself
defeated--it is not his way; he holds to his position, but admits the
breaks, the variations, in short, the EVOLUTION of his mind. The history
of his mind is in his letters; there it must be sought.

"Proudhon, whoever addresses him, is always ready; he quits the page
of the book on which he is at work to answer you with the same pen, and
that without losing patience, without getting confused, without
sparing or complaining of his ink; he is a public man, devoted to the
propagation of his idea by all methods, and the best method, with him,
is always the present one, the latest one. His very handwriting, bold,
uniform, legible, even in the most tiresome passages, betrays no haste,
no hurry to finish. Each line is accurate: nothing is left to chance;
the punctuation, very correct and a little emphatic and decided,
indicates with precision and delicate distinction all the links in the
chain of his argument. He is devoted entirely to you, to his business
and yours, while writing to you, and never to anything else. All the
letters of his which I have seen are serious: not one is commonplace.

"But at the same time he is not at all artistic or affected; he does
not CONSTRUCT his letters, he does not revise them, he spends no time in
reading them over; we have a first draught, excellent and clear, a jet
from the fountain-head, but that is all. The new arguments, which he
discovers in support of his ideas and which opposition suggests to
him, are an agreeable surprise, and shed a light which we should vainly
search for even in his works. His correspondence differs essentially
from his books, in that it gives you no uneasiness; it places you in
the very heart of the man, explains him to you, and leaves you with an
impression of moral esteem and almost of intellectual security. We feel
his sincerity. I know of no one to whom he can be more fitly compared in
this respect than George Sand, whose correspondence is large, and at the
same time full of sincerity. His role and his nature correspond. If
he is writing to a young man who unbosoms himself to him in sceptical
anxiety, to a young woman who asks him to decide delicate questions of
conduct for her, his letter takes the form of a short moral essay, of a
father-confessor's advice. Has he perchance attended the theatre (a
rare thing for him) to witness one of Ponsart's comedies, or a drama of
Charles Edmond's, he feels bound to give an account of his impressions
to the friend to whom he is indebted for this pleasure, and his letter
becomes a literary and philosophical criticism, full of sense, and like
no other. His familiarity is suited to his correspondent; he affects no
rudeness. The terms of civility or affection which he employs towards
his correspondents are sober, measured, appropriate to each, and honest
in their simplicity and cordiality. When he speaks of morals and the
family, he seems at times like the patriarchs of the Bible. His command
of language is complete, and he never fails to avail himself of it. Now
and then a coarse word, a few personalities, too bitter and quite unjust
or injurious, will have to be suppressed in printing; time, however, as
it passes away, permits many things and renders them inoffensive. Am I
right in saying that Proudhon's correspondence, always substantial, will
one day be the most accessible and attractive portion of his works?"

Almost the whole of Proudhon's real biography is included in his
correspondence. Up to 1837, the date of the first letter which we have
been able to collect, his life, narrated by Sainte Beuve, from whom we
make numerous extracts, may be summed up in a few pages.

Pierre Joseph Proudhon was born on the 15th of January, 1809, in
a suburb of Besancon, called Mouillere. His father and mother were
employed in the great brewery belonging to M. Renaud. His father, though
a cousin of the jurist Proudhon, the celebrated professor in the faculty
of Dijon, was a journeyman brewer. His mother, a genuine peasant, was a
common servant. She was an orderly person of great good sense; and, as
they who knew her say, a superior woman of HEROIC character,--to use the
expression of the venerable M. Weiss, the librarian at Besancon. She
it was especially that Proudhon resembled: she and his grandfather
Tournesi, the soldier peasant of whom his mother told him, and whose
courageous deeds he has described in his work on "Justice." Proudhon,
who always felt a great veneration for his mother Catharine, gave
her name to the elder of his daughters. In 1814, when Besancon was
blockaded, Mouillere, which stood in front of the walls of the town, was
destroyed in the defence of the place; and Proudhon's father established
a cooper's shop in a suburb of Battant, called Vignerons. Very honest,
but simple-minded and short-sighted, this cooper, the father of five
children, of whom Pierre Joseph was the eldest, passed his life in
poverty. At eight years of age, Proudhon either made himself useful in
the house, or tended the cattle out of doors. No one should fail to read
that beautiful and precious page of his work on "Justice," in which he
describes the rural sports which he enjoyed when a neatherd. At the age
of twelve, he was a cellar-boy in an inn. This, however, did not prevent
him from studying.

His mother was greatly aided by M. Renaud, the former owner of the
brewery, who had at that time retired from business, and was engaged in
the education of his children.

Proudhon entered school as a day-scholar in the sixth class. He was
necessarily irregular in his attendance; domestic cares and restraints
sometimes kept him from his classes. He succeeded nevertheless in his
studies; he showed great perseverance. His family were so poor that they
could not afford to furnish him with books; he was obliged to borrow
them from his comrades, and copy the text of his lessons. He has himself
told us that he was obliged to leave his wooden shoes outside the door,
that he might not disturb the classes with his noise; and that, having
no hat, he went to school bareheaded. One day, towards the close of his
studies, on returning from the distribution of the prizes, loaded with
crowns, he found nothing to eat in the house.

"In his eagerness for labor and his thirst for knowledge, Proudhon,"
says Sainte Beuve, "was not content with the instruction of his
teachers. From his twelfth to his fourteenth year, he was a constant
frequenter of the town library. One curiosity led to another, and he
called for book after book, sometimes eight or ten at one sitting. The
learned librarian, the friend and almost the brother of Charles Nodier,
M. Weiss, approached him one day, and said, smiling, 'But, my little
friend, what do you wish to do with all these books?' The child raised
his head, eyed his questioner, and replied: 'What's that to you?' And
the good M. Weiss remembers it to this day."

Forced to earn his living, Proudhon could not continue his studies. He
entered a printing-office in Besancon as a proof-reader. Becoming,
soon after, a compositor, he made a tour of France in this capacity. At
Toulon, where he found himself without money and without work, he had a
scene with the mayor, which he describes in his work on "Justice."

Sainte Beuve says that, after his tour of France, his service book being
filled with good certificates, Proudhon was promoted to the position
of foreman. But he does not tell us, for the reason that he had no
knowledge of a letter written by Fallot, of which we never heard until
six months since, that the printer at that time contemplated quitting
his trade in order to become a teacher.

Towards 1829, Fallot, who was a little older than Proudhon, and
who, after having obtained the Suard pension in 1832, died in his
twenty-ninth year, while filling the position of assistant librarian at
the Institute, was charged, Protestant though he was, with the revisal
of a "Life of the Saints," which was published at Besancon. The book was
in Latin, and Fallot added some notes which also were in Latin.

"But," says Sainte Beuve, "it happened that some errors escaped his
attention, which Proudhon, then proof-reader in the printing office,
did not fail to point out to him. Surprised at finding so good a Latin
scholar in a workshop, he desired to make his acquaintance; and soon
there sprung up between them a most earnest and intimate friendship: a
friendship of the intellect and of the heart."

Addressed to a printer between twenty-two and twenty-three years of age,
and predicting in formal terms his future fame, Fallot's letter seems to
us so interesting that we do not hesitate to reproduce it entire.

"PARIS, December 5, 1831.

"MY DEAR PROUDHON,--YOU have a right to be surprised at, and even
dissatisfied with, my long delay in replying to your kind letter; I will
tell you the cause of it. It became necessary to forward an account of
your ideas to M. J. de Gray; to hear his objections, to reply to them,
and to await his definitive response, which reached me but a short time
ago; for M. J. is a sort of financial king, who takes no pains to be
punctual in dealing with poor devils like ourselves. I, too, am careless
in matters of business; I sometimes push my negligence even to disorder,
and the metaphysical musings which continually occupy my mind, added to
the amusements of Paris, render me the most incapable man in the world
for conducting a negotiation with despatch.

"I have M. Jobard's decision; here it is: In his judgment, you are
too learned and clever for his children; he fears that you could not
accommodate your mind and character to the childish notions common
to their age and station. In short, he is what the world calls a good
father; that is, he wants to spoil his children, and, in order to do
this easily, he thinks fit to retain his present instructor, who is not
very learned, but who takes part in their games and joyous sports with
wonderful facility, who points out the letters of the alphabet to
the little girl, who takes the little boys to mass, and who, no less
obliging than the worthy Abbe P. of our acquaintance, would readily
dance for Madame's amusement. Such a profession would not suit you, you
who have a free, proud, and manly soul: you are refused; let us dismiss
the matter from our minds. Perhaps another time my solicitude will be
less unfortunate. I can only ask your pardon for having thought of thus
disposing of you almost without consulting you. I find my excuse in the
motives which guided me; I had in view your well-being and advancement
in the ways of this world.

"I see in your letter, my comrade, through its brilliant witticisms and
beneath the frank and artless gayety with which you have sprinkled it,
a tinge of sadness and despondency which pains me. You are unhappy, my
friend: your present situation does not suit you; you cannot remain in
it, it was not made for you, it is beneath you; you ought, by all
means, to leave it, before its injurious influence begins to affect your
faculties, and before you become settled, as they say, in the ways of
your profession, were it possible that such a thing could ever happen,
which I flatly deny. You are unhappy; you have not yet entered upon the
path which Nature has marked out for you. But, faint-hearted soul, is
that a cause for despondency? Ought you to feel discouraged? Struggle,
morbleu, struggle persistently, and you will triumph. J. J. Rousseau
groped about for forty years before his genius was revealed to him.
You are not J. J Rousseau; but listen: I know not whether I should have
divined the author of "Emile" when he was twenty years of age, supposing
that I had been his contemporary, and had enjoyed the honor of his
acquaintance. But I have known you, I have loved you, I have divined
your future, if I may venture to say so; for the first time in my life,
I am going to risk a prophecy. Keep this letter, read it again fifteen
or twenty years hence, perhaps twenty-five, and if at that time the
prediction which I am about to make has not been fulfilled, burn it as
a piece of folly out of charity and respect for my memory. This is my
prediction: you will be, Proudhon, in spite of yourself, inevitably,
by the fact of your destiny, a writer, an author; you will be a
philosopher; you will be one of the lights of the century, and your name
will occupy a place in the annals of the nineteenth century, like those
of Gassendi, Descartes, Malebranche, and Bacon in the seventeenth, and
those of Diderot, Montesquieu, Helvetius. Locke, Hume, and Holbach in
the eighteenth. Such will be your lot! Do now what you will, set type in
a printing-office, bring up children, bury yourself in deep seclusion,
seek obscure and lonely villages, it is all one to me; you cannot escape
your destiny; you cannot divest yourself of your noblest feature, that
active, strong, and inquiring mind, with which you are endowed; your
place in the world has been appointed, and it cannot remain empty. Go
where you please, I expect you in Paris, talking philosophy and the
doctrines of Plato; you will have to come, whether you want to or not.
I, who say this to you, must feel very sure of it in order to be willing
to put it upon paper, since, without reward for my prophetic skill,--to
which, I assure you, I make not the slightest claim,--I run the risk of
passing for a hare-brained fellow, in case I prove to be mistaken: he
plays a bold game who risks his good sense upon his cards, in return
for the very trifling and insignificant merit of having divined a young
man's future.

"When I say that I expect you in Paris, I use only a proverbial phrase
which you must not allow to mislead you as to my projects and plans.
To reside in Paris is disagreeable to me, very much so; and when this
fine-art fever which possesses me has left me, I shall abandon the place
without regret to seek a more peaceful residence in a provincial town,
provided always the town shall afford me the means of living, bread, a
bed, books, rest, and solitude. How I miss, my good Proudhon, that dark,
obscure, smoky chamber in which I dwelt in Besancon, and where we spent
so many pleasant hours in the discussion of philosophy! Do you remember
it? But that is now far away. Will that happy time ever return? Shall
we one day meet again? Here my life is restless, uncertain, precarious,
and, what is worse, indolent, illiterate, and vagrant. I do no work, I
live in idleness, I ramble about; I do not read, I no longer study; my
books are forsaken; now and then I glance over a few metaphysical works,
and after a days walk through dirty, filthy, crowded streets. I lie
down with empty head and tired body, to repeat the performance on the
following day. What is the object of these walks, you will ask. I make
visits, my friend; I hold interviews with stupid people. Then a fit of
curiosity seizes me, the least inquisitive of beings: there are museums,
libraries, assemblies, churches, palaces, gardens, and theatres to
visit. I am fond of pictures, fond of music, fond of sculpture; all
these are beautiful and good, but they cannot appease hunger, nor take
the place of my pleasant readings of Bailly, Hume, and Tennemann, which
I used to enjoy by my fireside when I was able to read.

"But enough of complaints. Do not allow this letter to affect you too
much, and do not think that I give way to dejection or despondency; no,
I am a fatalist, and I believe in my star. I do not know yet what my
calling is, nor for what branch of polite literature I am best fitted;
I do not even know whether I am, or ever shall be, fitted for any: but
what matters it? I suffer, I labor, I dream, I enjoy, I think; and, in a
word, when my last hour strikes, I shall have lived.

"Proudhon, I love you, I esteem you; and, believe me, these are not mere
phrases. What interest could I have in flattering and praising a poor
printer? Are you rich, that you may pay for courtiers? Have you a
sumptuous table, a dashing wife, and gold to scatter, in order to
attract them to your suite? Have you the glory, honors, credit, which
would render your acquaintance pleasing to their vanity and pride? No;
you are poor, obscure, abandoned; but, poor, obscure, and abandoned,
you have a friend, and a friend who knows all the obligations which that
word imposes upon honorable people, when they venture to assume it. That
friend is myself: put me to the test.


It appears from this letter that if, at this period, Proudhon had
already exhibited to the eyes of a clairvoyant friend his genius for
research and investigation, it was in the direction of philosophical,
rather than of economical and social, questions.

Having become foreman in the house of Gauthier & Co., who carried on
a large printing establishment at Besancon, he corrected the proofs of
ecclesiastical writers, the Fathers of the Church. As they were printing
a Bible, a Vulgate, he was led to compare the Latin with the original

"In this way," says Sainte Beuve, "he learned Hebrew by himself, and,
as everything was connected in his mind, he was led to the study of
comparative philology. As the house of Gauthier published many works
on Church history and theology, he came also to acquire, through this
desire of his to investigate everything, an extensive knowledge of
theology, which afterwards caused misinformed persons to think that he
had been in an ecclesiastical seminary."

Towards 1836, Proudhon left the house of Gauthier, and, in company
with an associate, established a small printing-office in Besancon. His
contribution to the partnership consisted, not so much in capital, as
in his knowledge of the trade. His partner committing suicide in 1838,
Proudhon was obliged to wind up the business, an operation which he did
not accomplish as quickly and as easily as he hoped. He was then urged
by his friends to enter the ranks of the competitors for the Suard
pension. This pension consisted of an income of fifteen hundred francs
bequeathed to the Academy of Besancon by Madame Suard, the widow of the
academician, to be given once in three years to the young man residing
in the department of Doubs, a bachelor of letters or of science, and
not possessing a fortune, whom the Academy of Besancon SHOULD DEEM BEST
OR OF MEDICINE. The first to win the Suard pension was Gustave Fallot.
Mauvais, who was a distinguished astronomer in the Academy of Sciences,
was the second. Proudhon aspired to be the third. To qualify himself, he
had to be received as a bachelor of letters, and was obliged to write a
letter to the Academy of Besancon. In a phrase of this letter, the terms
of which he had to modify, though he absolutely refused to change
its spirit, Proudhon expressed his firm resolve to labor for the
amelioration of the condition of his brothers, the working-men.

The only thing which he had then published was an "Essay on General
Grammar," which appeared without the author's signature. While
reprinting, at Besancon, the "Primitive Elements of Languages,
Discovered by the Comparison of Hebrew roots with those of the Latin and
French," by the Abbe Bergier, Proudhon had enlarged the edition of his
"Essay on General Grammar."

The date of the edition, 1837, proves that he did not at that time think
of competing for the Suard pension. In this work, which continued and
completed that of the Abbe Bergier, Proudhon adopted the same point
of view, that of Moses and of Biblical tradition. Two years later, in
February, 1839, being already in possession of the Suard pension, he
addressed to the Institute, as a competitor for the Volney prize,
a memoir entitled: "Studies in Grammatical Classification and the
Derivation of some French words." It was his first work, revised and
presented in another form. Four memoirs only were sent to the Institute,
none of which gained the prize. Two honorable mentions were granted,
one of them to memoir No. 4; that is, to P. J. Proudhon, printer at
Besancon. The judges were MM. Amedde Jaubert, Reinaud, and Burnouf.

"The committee," said the report presented at the annual meeting of the
five academies on Thursday, May 2, 1839, "has paid especial attention to
manuscripts No. 1 and No. 4. Still, it does not feel able to grant
the prize to either of these works, because they do not appear to
be sufficiently elaborated. The committee, which finds in No. 4 some
ingenious analyses, particularly in regard to the mechanism of the
Hebrew language, regrets that the author has resorted to hazardous
conjectures, and has sometimes forgotten the special recommendation of
the committee to pursue the experimental and comparative method."

Proudhon remembered this. He attended the lectures of Eugene Burnouf,
and, as soon as he became acquainted with the labors and discoveries of
Bopp and his successors, he definitively abandoned an hypothesis which
had been condemned by the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-lettres.
He then sold, for the value of the paper, the remaining copies of the
"Essay" published by him in 1837. In 1850, they were still lying in a
grocer's back-shop.

A neighboring publisher then placed the edition on the market, with
the attractive name of Proudhon upon it. A lawsuit ensued, in which
the author was beaten. His enemies, and at that time there were many of
them, would have been glad to have proved him a renegade and a recanter.
Proudhon, in his work on "Justice," gives some interesting details of
this lawsuit.

In possession of the Suard pension, Proudhon took part in the contest
proposed by the Academy of Besancon on the question of the utility
of the celebration of Sunday. His memoir obtained honorable mention,
together with a medal which was awarded him, in open session, on the
24th of August, 1839. The reporter of the committee, the Abbe Doney,
since made Bishop of Montauban, called attention to the unquestionable
superiority of his talent.

"But," says Sainte Beuve, "he reproached him with having adopted
dangerous theories, and with having touched upon questions of practical
politics and social organization, where upright intentions and zeal for
the public welfare cannot justify rash solutions."

Was it policy, we mean prudence, which induced Proudhon to screen his
ideas of equality behind the Mosaic law? Sainte Beuve, like many others,
seems to think so. But we remember perfectly well that, having asked
Proudhon, in August, 1848, if he did not consider himself indebted in
some respects to his fellow-countryman, Charles Fourier, we received
from him the following reply: "I have certainly read Fourier, and have
spoken of him more than once in my works; but, upon the whole, I do not
think that I owe anything to him. My real masters, those who have caused
fertile ideas to spring up in my mind, are three in number: first, the
Bible; next, Adam Smith; and last, Hegel."

Freely confessed in the "Celebration of Sunday," the influence of the
Bible on Proudhon is no less manifest in his first memoir on property.
Proudhon undoubtedly brought to this work many ideas of his own; but
is not the very foundation of ancient Jewish law to be found in its
condemnation of usurious interest and its denial of the right of
personal appropriation of land?

The first memoir on property appeared in 1840, under the title, "What is
Property? or an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government."
Proudhon dedicated it, in a letter which served as the preface, to the
Academy of Besancon. The latter, finding itself brought to trial by its
pensioner, took the affair to heart, and evoked it, says Sainte Beuve,
with all possible haste.

The pension narrowly escaped being immediately withdrawn from the bold
defender of the principle of equality of conditions. M. Vivien, then
Minister of Justice, who was earnestly solicited to prosecute the
author, wished first to obtain the opinion of the economist, Blanqui, a
member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences. Proudhon having
presented to this academy a copy of his book, M. Blanqui was appointed
to review it. This review, though it opposed Proudhon's views, shielded
him. Treated as a savant by M. Blanqui, the author was not prosecuted.
He was always grateful to MM. Blanqui and Vivien for their handsome
conduct in the matter.

M. Blanqui's review, which was partially reproduced by "Le Moniteur," on
the 7th of September, 1840, naturally led Proudhon to address to him, in
the form of a letter, his second memoir on property, which appeared
in April, 1841. Proudhon had endeavored, in his first memoir, to
demonstrate that the pursuit of equality of conditions is the true
principle of right and of government. In the "Letter to M. Blanqui," he
passes in review the numerous and varied methods by which this principle
gradually becomes realized in all societies, especially in modern

In 1842, a third memoir appeared, entitled, "A Notice to Proprietors, or
a Letter to M. Victor Considerant, Editor of 'La Phalange,' in Reply
to a Defence of Property." Here the influence of Adam Smith manifested
itself, and was frankly admitted. Did not Adam Smith find, in the
principle of equality, the first of all the laws which govern wages?
There are other laws, undoubtedly; but Proudhon considers them all as
springing from the principle of property, as he defined it in his first
memoir. Thus, in humanity, there are two principles,--one which leads us
to equality, another which separates us from it. By the former, we
treat each other as associates; by the latter, as strangers, not to say
enemies. This distinction, which is constantly met with throughout the
three memoirs, contained already, in germ, the idea which gave birth to
the "System of Economical Contradictions," which appeared in 1846, the
idea of antinomy or contre-loi.

The "Notice to Proprietors" was seized by the magistrates of Besancon;
and Proudhon was summoned to appear before the assizes of Doubs within
a week. He read his written defence to the jurors in person, and was
acquitted. The jury, like M. Blanqui, viewed him only as a philosopher,
an inquirer, a savant.

In 1843, Proudhon published the "Creation of Order in Humanity," a
large volume, which does not deal exclusively with questions of social
economy. Religion, philosophy, method, certainty, logic, and dialectics
are treated at considerable length.

Released from his printing-office on the 1st of March of the same year,
Proudhon had to look for a chance to earn his living. Messrs. Gauthier
Bros., carriers by water between Mulhouse and Lyons, the eldest of whom
was Proudhon's companion in childhood, conceived the happy thought
of employing him, of utilizing his ability in their business, and in
settling the numerous points of difficulty which daily arose. Besides
the large number of accounts which his new duties required him to make
out, and which retarded the publication of the "System of Economical
Contradictions," until October, 1846, we ought to mention a work, which,
before it appeared in pamphlet form, was published in the "Revue des
Economistes,"--"Competition between Railroads and Navigable Ways."

"Le Miserere, or the Repentance of a King," which he published in
March, 1845, in the "Revue Independante," during that Lenten season when
Lacordaire was preaching in Lyons, proves that, though devoting himself
with ardor to the study of economical problems, Proudhon had not lost
his interest in questions of religious history. Among his writings on
these questions, which he was unfortunately obliged to leave unfinished,
we may mention a nearly completed history of the early Christian
heresies, and of the struggle of Christianity against Caesarism.

We have said that, in 1848, Proudhon recognized three masters. Having
no knowledge of the German language, he could not have read the works
of Hegel, which at that time had not been translated into French. It
was Charles Grun, a German, who had come to France to study the various
philosophical and socialistic systems, who gave him the substance of the
Hegelian ideas. During the winter of 1844-45, Charles Grun had some long
conversations with Proudhon, which determined, very decisively, not the
ideas, which belonged exclusively to the bisontin thinker, but the form
of the important work on which he labored after 1843, and which was
published in 1846 by Guillaumin.

Hegel's great idea, which Proudhon appropriated, and which he
demonstrates with wonderful ability in the "System of Economical
Contradictions," is as follows: Antinomy, that is, the existence of two
laws or tendencies which are opposed to each other, is possible,
not only with two different things, but with one and the same thing.
Considered in their thesis, that is, in the law or tendency which
created them, all the economical categories are rational,--competition,
monopoly, the balance of trade, and property, as well as the division
of labor, machinery, taxation, and credit. But, like communism and
population, all these categories are antinomical; all are opposed, not
only to each other, but to themselves. All is opposition, and disorder
is born of this system of opposition. Hence, the sub-title of the
work,--"Philosophy of Misery." No category can be suppressed; the
opposition, antinomy, or contre-tendance, which exists in each of them,
cannot be suppressed.

Where, then, lies the solution of the social problem? Influenced by the
Hegelian ideas, Proudhon began to look for it in a superior synthesis,
which should reconcile the thesis and antithesis. Afterwards, while at
work upon his book on "Justice," he saw that the antinomical terms do
not cancel each other, any more than the opposite poles of an electric
pile destroy each other; that they are the procreative cause of motion,
life, and progress; that the problem is to discover, not their fusion,
which would be death, but their equilibrium,--an equilibrium for ever
unstable, varying with the development of society.

On the cover of the "System of Economical Contradictions," Proudhon
announced, as soon to appear, his "Solution of the Social Problem." This
work, upon which he was engaged when the Revolution of 1848 broke
out, had to be cut up into pamphlets and newspaper articles. The two
pamphlets, which he published in March, 1848, before he became editor
of "Le Representant du Peuple," bear the same title,--"Solution of the
Social Problem." The first, which is mainly a criticism of the early
acts of the provisional government, is notable from the fact that in
it Proudhon, in advance of all others, energetically opposed the
establishment of national workshops. The second, "Organization of
Credit and Circulation," sums up in a few pages his idea of economical
progress: a gradual reduction of interest, profit, rent, taxes, and
wages. All progress hitherto has been made in this manner; in this
manner it must continue to be made. Those workingmen who favor a nominal
increase of wages are, unconsciously following a back-track, opposed to
all their interests.

After having published in "Le Representant du Peuple," the statutes of
the Bank of Exchange,--a bank which was to make no profits, since it
was to have no stockholders, and which, consequently, was to discount
commercial paper with out interest, charging only a commission
sufficient to defray its running expenses,--Proudhon endeavored, in
a number of articles, to explain its mechanism and necessity. These
articles have been collected in one volume, under the double title,
"Resume of the Social Question; Bank of Exchange." His other articles,
those which up to December, 1848, were inspired by the progress of
events, have been collected in another volume,--"Revolutionary Ideas."

Almost unknown in March, 1848, and struck off in April from the list of
candidates for the Constituent Assembly by the delegation of workingmen
which sat at the Luxembourg, Proudhon had but a very small number of
votes at the general elections of April. At the complementary elections,
which were held in the early days of June, he was elected in Paris by
seventy-seven thousand votes.

After the fatal days of June, he published an article on le terme, which
caused the first suspension of "Le Representant du Peuple." It was at
that time that he introduced a bill into the Assembly, which, being
referred to the Committee on the Finances, drew forth, first, the report
of M. Thiers, and then the speech which Proudhon delivered, on the
31st of July, in reply to this report. "Le Representant du Peuple,"
reappearing a few days later, he wrote, a propos of the law requiring
journals to give bonds, his famous article on "The Malthusians" (August
10, 1848).

Ten days afterwards, "Le Representant du Peuple," again suspended,
definitively ceased to appear. "Le Peuple," of which he was the
editor-in-chief, and the first number of which was issued in the early
part of September, appeared weekly at first, for want of sufficient
bonds; it afterwards appeared daily, with a double number once a week.
Before "Le Peuple" had obtained its first bond, Proudhon published a
remarkable pamphlet on the "Right to Labor,"--a right which he denied
in the form in which it was then affirmed. It was during the same
period that he proposed, at the Poissonniere banquet, his Toast to the

Proudhon, who had been asked to preside at the banquet, refused, and
proposed in his stead, first, Ledru-Rollin, and then, in view of the
reluctance of the organizers of the banquet, the illustrious president
of the party of the Mountain, Lamennais. It was evidently his intention
to induce the representatives of the Extreme Left to proclaim at last
with him the Democratic and Social Republic. Lamennais being accepted by
the organizers, the Mountain promised to be present at the banquet. The
night before, all seemed right, when General Cavaignac replaced Minister
Senart by Minister Dufaure-Vivien. The Mountain, questioning the
government, proposed a vote of confidence in the old minister, and,
tacitly, of want of confidence in the new. Proudhon abstained from
voting on this proposition. The Mountain declared that it would not
attend the banquet, if Proudhon was to be present. Five Montagnards,
Mathieu of Drome at their head, went to the temporary office of "Le
Peuple" to notify him of this. "Citizen Proudhon," said they to the
organizers in his presence, "in abstaining from voting to-day on
the proposition of the Mountain, has betrayed the Republican cause."
Proudhon, vehemently questioned, began his defence by recalling, on
the one hand, the treatment which he had received from the dismissed
minister; and, on the other, the impartial conduct displayed towards him
in 1840 by M. Vivien, the new minister. He then attacked the Mountain by
telling its delegates that it sought only a pretext, and that really, in
spite of its professions of Socialism in private conversation, whether
with him or with the organizers of the banquet, it had not the courage
to publicly declare itself Socialist.

On the following day, in his Toast to the Revolution, a toast which
was filled with allusions to the exciting scene of the night before,
Proudhon commenced his struggle against the Mountain. His duel with
Felix Pyat was one of the episodes of this struggle, which became less
bitter on Proudhon's side after the Mountain finally decided to publicly
proclaim the Democratic and Social Republic. The campaign for the
election of a President of the Republic had just begun. Proudhon made
a very sharp attack on the candidacy of Louis Bonaparte in a pamphlet
which is regarded as one of his literary chefs-d'oeuvre: the "Pamphlet
on the Presidency." An opponent of this institution, against which he
had voted in the Constituent Assembly, he at first decided to take no
part in the campaign. But soon seeing that he was thus increasing the
chances of Louis Bonaparte, and that if, as was not at all probable, the
latter should not obtain an absolute majority of the votes, the Assembly
would not fail to elect General Cavaignac, he espoused, for the sake of
form, the candidacy of Raspail, who was supported by his friends in
the Socialist Committee. Charles Delescluze, the editor-in-chief of
"La Revolution Democratique et Sociale," who could not forgive him for
having preferred Raspail to Ledru-Rollin, the candidate of the Mountain,
attacked him on the day after the election with a violence which
overstepped all bounds. At first, Proudhon had the wisdom to refrain
from answering him. At length, driven to an extremity, he became
aggressive himself, and Delescluze sent him his seconds. This time,
Proudhon positively refused to fight; he would not have fought with
Felix Pyat, had not his courage been called in question.

On the 25th of January, 1849, Proudhon, rising from a sick bed, saw
that the existence of the Constituent Assembly was endangered by the
coalition of the monarchical parties with Louis Bonaparte, who was
already planning his coup d'Etat. He did not hesitate to openly attack
the man who had just received five millions of votes. He wanted to break
the idol; he succeeded only in getting prosecuted and condemned himself.
The prosecution demanded against him was authorized by a majority of the
Constituent Assembly, in spite of the speech which he delivered on that
occasion. Declared guilty by the jury, he was sentenced, in March, 1849,
to three years' imprisonment and the payment of a fine of ten thousand

Proudhon had not abandoned for a single moment his project of a Bank of
Exchange, which was to operate without capital with a sufficient number
of merchants and manufacturers for adherents. This bank, which he then
called the Bank of the People, and around which he wished to gather the
numerous working-people's associations which had been formed since
the 24th of February, 1848, had already obtained a certain number of
subscribers and adherents, the latter to the number of thirty-seven
thousand. It was about to commence operations, when Proudhon's sentence
forced him to choose between imprisonment and exile. He did not hesitate
to abandon his project and return the money to the subscribers. He
explained the motives which led him to this decision in an article in
"Le Peuple."

Having fled to Belgium, he remained there but a few days, going thence
to Paris, under an assumed name, to conceal himself in a house in the
Rue de Chabrol. From his hiding-place he sent articles almost every
day, signed and unsigned, to "Le Peuple." In the evening, dressed in a
blouse, he went to some secluded spot to take the air. Soon, emboldened
by habit, he risked an evening promenade upon the Boulevards, and
afterwards carried his imprudence so far as to take a stroll by daylight
in the neighborhood of the Gare du Nord. It was not long before he was
recognized by the police, who arrested him on the 6th of June, 1849, in
the Rue du Faubourg-Poissonniere.

Taken to the office of the prefect of police, then to Sainte-Pelagie,
he was in the Conciergerie on the day of the 13th of June, 1849, which
ended with the violent suppression of "Le Peuple." He then began to
write the "Confessions of a Revolutionist," published towards the end
of the year. He had been again transferred to Sainte-Pelagie, when he
married, in December, 1849, Mlle. Euphrasie Piegard, a young working
girl whose hand he had requested in 1847. Madame Proudhon bore him four
daughters, of whom but two, Catherine and Stephanie, survived their
father. Stephanie died in 1873.

In October, 1849, "Le Peuple" was replaced by a new journal, "La Voix
du Peuple," which Proudhon edited from his prison cell. In it were
published his discussions with Pierre Leroux and Bastiat.

The political articles which he sent to "La Voix du Peuple" so
displeased the government finally, that it transferred him to Doullens,
where he was secretly confined for some time. Afterwards taken back
to Paris, to appear before the assizes of the Seine in reference to
an article in "La Voix du Peuple," he was defended by M. Cremieux and
acquitted. From the Conciergerie he went again to Sainte-Pelagie, where
he ended his three years in prison on the 6th of June, 1852.

"La Voix du Peuple," suppressed before the promulgation of the law of
the 31st of May, had been replaced by a weekly sheet, "Le Peuple" of
1850. Established by the aid of the principal members of the Mountain,
this journal soon met with the fate of its predecessors.

In 1851, several months before the coup d'Etat, Proudhon published the
"General Idea of the Revolution of the Nineteenth Century," in which,
after having shown the logical series of unitary governments,--from
monarchy, which is the first term, to the direct government of the
people, which is the last,--he opposes the ideal of an-archy or
self-government to the communistic or governmental ideal.

At this period, the Socialist party, discouraged by the elections of
1849, which resulted in a greater conservative triumph than those of
1848, and justly angry with the national representative body which
had just passed the law of the 31st of May, 1850, demanded direct
legislation and direct government. Proudhon, who did not want, at any
price, the plebiscitary system which he had good reason to regard as
destructive of liberty, did not hesitate to point out, to those of his
friends who expected every thing from direct legislation, one of the
antinomies of universal suffrage. In so far as it is an institution
intended to achieve, for the benefit of the greatest number, the social
reforms to which landed suffrage is opposed, universal suffrage is
powerless; especially if it pretends to legislate or govern directly.
For, until the social reforms are accomplished, the greatest number is
of necessity the least enlightened, and consequently the least capable
of understanding and effecting reforms. In regard to the antinomy,
pointed out by him, of liberty and government,--whether the latter be
monarchic, aristocratic, or democratic in form,--Proudhon, whose chief
desire was to preserve liberty, naturally sought the solution in the
free contract. But though the free contract may be a practical solution
of purely economical questions, it cannot be made use of in politics.
Proudhon recognized this ten years later, when his beautiful study on
"War and Peace" led him to find in the FEDERATIVE PRINCIPLE the exact
equilibrium of liberty and government.

"The Social Revolution Demonstrated by the Coup d' Etat" appeared in
1852, a few months after his release from prison. At that time, terror
prevailed to such an extent that no one was willing to publish his
book without express permission from the government. He succeeded in
obtaining this permission by writing to Louis Bonaparte a letter which
he published at the same time with the work. The latter being offered
for sale, Proudhon was warned that he would not be allowed to publish
any more books of the same character. At that time he entertained the
idea of writing a universal history entitled "Chronos." This project was
never fulfilled.

Already the father of two children, and about to be presented with a
third, Proudhon was obliged to devise some immediate means of gaining a
living; he resumed his labors, and published, at first anonymously, the
"Manual of a Speculator in the Stock-Exchange." Later, in 1857, after
having completed the work, he did not hesitate to sign it, acknowledging
in the preface his indebtedness to his collaborator, G. Duchene.

Meantime, he vainly sought permission to establish a journal, or review.
This permission was steadily refused him. The imperial government
always suspected him after the publication of the "Social Revolution
Demonstrated by the Coup d'Etat."

Towards the end of 1853, Proudhon issued in Belgium a pamphlet entitled
"The Philosophy of Progress." Entirely inoffensive as it was, this
pamphlet, which he endeavored to send into France, was seized on the
frontier. Proudhon's complaints were of no avail.

The empire gave grants after grants to large companies. A financial
society, having asked for the grant of a railroad in the east of France,
employed Proudhon to write several memoirs in support of this demand.
The grant was given to another company. The author was offered an
indemnity as compensation, to be paid (as was customary in such cases)
by the company which received the grant. It is needless to say that
Proudhon would accept nothing. Then, wishing to explain to the public,
as well as to the government, the end which he had in view, he
published the work entitled "Reforms to be Effected in the Management of

Towards the end of 1854, Proudhon had already begun his book on
"Justice," when he had a violent attack of cholera, from which he
recovered with great difficulty. Ever afterwards his health was

At last, on the 22d of April, 1858, he published, in three large
volumes, the important work upon which he had labored since 1854. This
work had two titles: the first, "Justice in the Revolution and in the
Church;" the second, "New Principles of Practical Philosophy, addressed
to His Highness Monseigneur Mathieu, Cardinal-Archbishop of Besancon."
On the 27th of April, when there had scarcely been time to read the
work, an order was issued by the magistrate for its seizure; on the
28th the seizure was effected. To this first act of the magistracy,
the author of the incriminated book replied on the 11th of May in a
strongly-motived petition, demanding a revision of the concordat of
1802; or, in other words, a new adjustment of the relations between
Church and State. At bottom, this petition was but the logical
consequence of the work itself. An edition of a thousand copies being
published on the 17th of May, the "Petition to the Senate" was regarded
by the public prosecutor as an aggravation of the offence or offences
discovered in the body of the work to which it was an appendix, and was
seized in its turn on the 23d. On the first of June, the author appealed
to the Senate in a second "Petition," which was deposited with the
first in the office of the Secretary of the Assembly, the guardian and
guarantee, according to the constitution of 1852, of the principles
of '89. On the 2d of June, the two processes being united, Proudhon
appeared at the bar with his publisher, the printer of the book, and
the printer of the petition, to receive the sentence of the police
magistrate, which condemned him to three years' imprisonment, a fine of
four thousand francs, and the suppression of his work. It is needless
to say that the publisher and printers were also condemned by the sixth

Proudhon lodged an appeal; he wrote a memoir which the law of 1819, in
the absence of which he would have been liable to a new prosecution,
gave him the power to publish previous to the hearing. Having decided
to make use of the means which the law permitted, he urged in vain the
printers who were prosecuted with him to lend him their aid. He then
demanded of Attorney-General Chaix d'Est Ange a statement to the effect
that the twenty-third article of the law of the 17th of May, 1819,
allows a written defence, and that a printer runs no risk in printing
it. The attorney-general flatly refused. Proudhon then started for
Belgium, where he printed his defence, which could not, of course, cross
the French frontier. This memoir is entitled to rank with the best of
Beaumarchais's; it is entitled: "Justice prosecuted by the Church;
An Appeal from the Sentence passed upon P. J. Proudhon by the Police
Magistrate of the Seine, on the 2d of June, 1858." A very close
discussion of the grounds of the judgment of the sixth chamber, it was
at the same time an excellent resume of his great work.

Once in Belgium, Proudhon did not fail to remain there. In 1859, after
the general amnesty which followed the Italian war, he at first thought
himself included in it. But the imperial government, consulted by his
friends, notified him that, in its opinion, and in spite of the contrary
advice of M. Faustin Helie, his condemnation was not of a political
character. Proudhon, thus classed by the government with the authors
of immoral works, thought it beneath his dignity to protest, and waited
patiently for the advent of 1863 to allow him to return to France.

In Belgium, where he was not slow in forming new friendships, he
published in 1859-60, in separate parts, a new edition of his great work
on "Justice." Each number contained, in addition to the original text
carefully reviewed and corrected, numerous explanatory notes and some
"Tidings of the Revolution." In these tidings, which form a sort of
review of the progress of ideas in Europe, Proudhon sorrowfully
asserts that, after having for a long time marched at the head of the
progressive nations, France has become, without appearing to suspect it,
the most retrogressive of nations; and he considers her more than once
as seriously threatened with moral death.

The Italian war led him to write a new work, which he published in 1861,
entitled "War and Peace." This work, in which, running counter to
a multitude of ideas accepted until then without examination, he
pronounced for the first time against the restoration of an aristocratic
and priestly Poland, and against the establishment of a unitary
government in Italy, created for him a multitude of enemies. Most of
his friends, disconcerted by his categorical affirmation of a right
of force, notified him that they decidedly disapproved of his new
publication. "You see," triumphantly cried those whom he had always
combated, "this man is only a sophist."

Led by his previous studies to test every thing by the question of
right, Proudhon asks, in his "War and Peace," whether there is a real
right of which war is the vindication, and victory the demonstration.
This right, which he roughly calls the right of the strongest or the
right of force, and which is, after all, only the right of the most
worthy to the preference in certain definite cases, exists, says
Proudhon, independently of war. It cannot be legitimately vindicated
except where necessity clearly demands the subordination of one will to
another, and within the limits in which it exists; that is, without ever
involving the enslavement of one by the other. Among nations, the right
of the majority, which is only a corollary of the right of force, is
as unacceptable as universal monarchy. Hence, until equilibrium is
established and recognized between States or national forces, there must
be war. War, says Proudhon, is not always necessary to determine which
side is the strongest; and he has no trouble in proving this by examples
drawn from the family, the workshop, and elsewhere. Passing then to the
study of war, he proves that it by no means corresponds in practice to
that which it ought to be according to his theory of the right of force.
The systematic horrors of war naturally lead him to seek a cause for
it other than the vindication of this right; and then only does the
economist take it upon himself to denounce this cause to those who, like
himself, want peace. The necessity of finding abroad a compensation
for the misery resulting in every nation from the absence of economical
equilibrium, is, according to Proudhon, the ever real, though ever
concealed, cause of war. The pages devoted to this demonstration and to
his theory of poverty, which he clearly distinguishes from misery and
pauperism, shed entirely new light upon the philosophy of history. As
for the author's conclusion, it is a very simple one. Since the treaty
of Westphalia, and especially since the treaties of 1815, equilibrium
has been the international law of Europe. It remains now, not to destroy
it, but, while maintaining it, to labor peacefully, in every nation
protected by it, for the equilibrium of economical forces. The last line
of the book, evidently written to check imperial ambition, is: "Humanity
wants no more war."

In 1861, after Garibaldi's expedition and the battle of Castelfidardo,
Proudhon immediately saw that the establishment of Italian unity would
be a severe blow to European equilibrium. It was chiefly in order to
maintain this equilibrium that he pronounced so energetically in
favor of Italian federation, even though it should be at first only
a federation of monarchs. In vain was it objected that, in being
established by France, Italian unity would break European equilibrium in
our favor. Proudhon, appealing to history, showed that every State which
breaks the equilibrium in its own favor only causes the other States to
combine against it, and thereby diminishes its influence and power. He
added that, nations being essentially selfish, Italy would not fail,
when opportunity offered, to place her interest above her gratitude.

To maintain European equilibrium by diminishing great States and
multiplying small ones; to unite the latter in organized federations,
not for attack, but for defence; and with these federations, which, if
they were not republican already, would quickly become so, to hold in
check the great military monarchies,--such, in the beginning of 1861,
was the political programme of Proudhon.

The object of the federations, he said, will be to guarantee, as far as
possible, the beneficent reign of peace; and they will have the
further effect of securing in every nation the triumph of liberty over
despotism. Where the largest unitary State is, there liberty is in the
greatest danger; further, if this State be democratic, despotism without
the counterpoise of majorities is to be feared. With the federation, it
is not so. The universal suffrage of the federal State is checked by the
universal suffrage of the federated States; and the latter is offset in
its turn by PROPERTY, the stronghold of liberty, which it tends, not to
destroy, but to balance with the institutions of MUTUALISM.

All these ideas, and many others which were only hinted at in his
work on "War and Peace," were developed by Proudhon in his subsequent
publications, one of which has for its motto, "Reforms always, Utopias
never." The thinker had evidently finished his evolution.

The Council of State of the canton of Vaud having offered prizes for
essays on the question of taxation, previously discussed at a congress
held at Lausanne, Proudhon entered the ranks and carried off the first
prize. His memoir was published in 1861 under the title of "The Theory
of Taxation."

About the same time, he wrote at Brussels, in "L'Office de Publicite,"
some remarkable articles on the question of literary property, which
was discussed at a congress held in Belgium, These articles must not be
confounded with "Literary Majorats," a more complete work on the same
subject, which was published in 1863, soon after his return to France.

Arbitrarily excepted from the amnesty in 1859, Proudhon was pardoned two
years later by a special act. He did not wish to take advantage of this
favor, and seemed resolved to remain in Belgium until the 2d of June,
1863, the time when he was to acquire the privilege of prescription,
when an absurd and ridiculous riot, excited in Brussels by an article
published by him on federation and unity in Italy, induced him to hasten
his return to France. Stones were thrown against the house in which
he lived, in the Faubourg d'Ixelles. After having placed his wife and
daughters in safety among his friends at Brussels, he arrived in Paris
in September, 1862, and published there, "Federation and Italian Unity,"
a pamphlet which naturally commences with the article which served as a
pretext for the rioters in Brussels.

Among the works begun by Proudhon while in Belgium, which death did not
allow him to finish, we ought to mention a "History of Poland," which
will be published later; and, "The Theory of Property," which appeared
in 1865, before "The Gospels Annotated," and after the volume entitled
"The Principle of Art and its Social Destiny."

The publications of Proudhon, in 1863, were: 1. "Literary Majorats: An
Examination of a Bill having for its object the Creation of a Perpetual
Monopoly for the Benefit of Authors, Inventors, and Artists;" 2.
"The Federative Principle and the Necessity of Re-establishing the
Revolutionary party;" 3. "The Sworn Democrats and the Refractories;" 4.
"Whether the Treaties of 1815 have ceased to exist? Acts of the Future

The disease which was destined to kill him grew worse and worse; but
Proudhon labored constantly!... A series of articles, published in 1864
in "Le Messager de Paris," have been collected in a pamphlet under the
title of "New Observations on Italian Unity." He hoped to publish
during the same year his work on "The Political Capacity of the Working
Classes," but was unable to write the last chapter.... He grew weaker
continually. His doctor prescribed rest. In the month of August he went
to Franche-Comte, where he spent a month. Having returned to Paris,
he resumed his labor with difficulty.... From the month of December
onwards, the heart disease made rapid progress; the oppression became
insupportable, his legs were swollen, and he could not sleep....

On the 19th of January, 1865, he died, towards two o'clock in the
morning, in the arms of his wife, his sister-in-law, and the friend who
writes these lines....

The publication of his correspondence, to which his daughter Catherine
is faithfully devoted, will tend, no doubt, to increase his reputation
as a thinker, as a writer, and as an honest man.



The following letter served as a preface to the first edition of this

"To the Members of the Academy of Besancon

"PARIS, June 30, 1840.

"GENTLEMEN,--In the course of your debate of the 9th of May, 1833,
in regard to the triennial pension established by Madame Suard, you
expressed the following wish:--

"'The Academy requests the titulary to present it annually, during the
first fortnight in July, with a succinct and logical statement of the
various studies which he has pursued during the year which has just

"I now propose, gentlemen, to discharge this duty.

"When I solicited your votes, I boldly avowed my intention to bend my
efforts to the discovery of some means of AMELIORATING THE PHYSICAL,
CLASSES. This idea, foreign as it may have seemed to the object of my
candidacy, you received favorably; and, by the precious distinction with
which it has been your pleasure to honor me, you changed this formal
offer into an inviolable and sacred obligation. Thenceforth I understood
with how worthy and honorable a society I had to deal: my regard for
its enlightenment, my recognition of its benefits, my enthusiasm for its
glory, were unbounded.

"Convinced at once that, in order to break loose from the beaten paths
of opinions and systems, it was necessary to proceed in my study of man
and society by scientific methods, and in a rigorous manner, I devoted
one year to philology and grammar; linguistics, or the natural history
of speech, being, of all the sciences, that which was best suited to
the character of my mind, seemed to bear the closest relation to the
researches which I was about to commence. A treatise, written at
this period upon one of the most interesting questions of comparative
grammar,[2] if it did not reveal the astonishing success, at least bore
witness to the thoroughness, of my labors.

"Since that time, metaphysics and moral science have been my only
studies; my perception of the fact that these sciences, though badly
defined as to their object and not confined to their sphere, are, like
the natural sciences, susceptible of demonstration and certainty, has
already rewarded my efforts.

"But, gentlemen, of all the masters whom I have followed, to none do
I owe so much as to you. Your co-operation, your programmes, your
instructions, in agreement with my secret wishes and most cherished
hopes, have at no time failed to enlighten me and to point out my road;
this memoir on property is the child of your thought.

"In 1838, the Academy of Besancon proposed the following question:

"Thereby it asked, in less general terms, what was the cause of the
social evil, and what was its remedy? You admitted that yourselves,
gentlemen when your committee reported that the competitors had
enumerated with exactness the immediate and particular causes of
suicide, as well as the means of preventing each of them; but that
from this enumeration, chronicled with more or less skill, no positive
information had been gained, either as to the primary cause of the evil,
or as to its remedy.

"In 1839, your programme, always original and varied in its academical
expression, became more exact. The investigations of 1838 had pointed
out, as the causes or rather as the symptoms of the social malady,
the neglect of the principles of religion and morality, the desire for
wealth, the passion for enjoyment, and political disturbances. All these
data were embodied by you in a single proposition: _THE UTILITY OF THE

"In a Christian tongue you asked, gentlemen, what was the true system
of society. A competitor [3] dared to maintain, and believed that he
had proved, that the institution of a day of rest at weekly intervals
is inseparably bound up with a political system based on the equality of
conditions; that without equality this institution is an anomaly and
an impossibility: that equality alone can revive this ancient and
mysterious keeping of the seventh day. This argument did not meet with
your approbation, since, without denying the relation pointed out by
the competitor, you judged, and rightly gentlemen, that the principle of
equality of conditions not being demonstrated, the ideas of the author
were nothing more than hypotheses.

"Finally, gentlemen, this fundamental principle of equality you
presented for competition in the following terms: THE ECONOMICAL AND

"Instead of confining one to common places without breadth or
significance, it seems to me that your question should be developed as

"If the law has been able to render the right of heredity common to
all the children of one father, can it not render it equal for all his
grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

"If the law no longer heeds the age of any member of the family, can
it not, by the right of heredity, cease to heed it in the race, in the
tribe, in the nation?

"Can equality, by the right of succession, be preserved between
citizens, as well as between cousins and brothers? In a word, can the
principle of succession become a principle of equality?

"To sum up all these ideas in one inclusive question: What is the
principle of heredity? What are the foundations of inequality? What is

"Such, gentlemen, is the object of the memoir that I offer you to day.

"If I have rightly grasped the object of your thought; if I succeed in
bringing to light a truth which is indisputable, but, from causes
which I am bold enough to claim to have explained, has always been
misunderstood; if by an infallible method of investigation, I establish
the dogma of equality of conditions; if I determine the principle
of civil law, the essence of justice, and the form of society; if I
annihilate property forever,--to you, gentlemen, will redound all the
glory, for it is to your aid and your inspiration that I owe it.

"My purpose in this work is the application of method to the problems of
philosophy; every other intention is foreign to and even abusive of it.

"I have spoken lightly of jurisprudence: I had the right; but I should
be unjust did I not distinguish between this pretended science and
the men who practise it. Devoted to studies both laborious and severe,
entitled in all respects to the esteem of their fellow-citizens by their
knowledge and eloquence our legists deserve but one reproach, that of an
excessive deference to arbitrary laws.

"I have been pitiless in my criticism of the economists: for them
I confess that, in general, I have no liking. The arrogance and
the emptiness of their writings, their impertinent pride and their
unwarranted blunders, have disgusted me. Whoever, knowing them, pardons
them, may read them.

"I have severely blamed the learned Christian Church: it was my duty.
This blame results from the facts which I call attention to: why has
the Church decreed concerning things which it does not understand? The
Church has erred in dogma and in morals; physics and mathematics
testify against her. It may be wrong for me to say it, but surely it
is unfortunate for Christianity that it is true. To restore religion,
gentlemen, it is necessary to condemn the Church.

"Perhaps you will regret, gentlemen, that, in giving all my attention to
method and evidence, I have too much neglected form and style: in vain
should I have tried to do better. Literary hope and faith I have none.
The nineteenth century is, in my eyes, a genesic era, in which new
principles are elaborated, but in which nothing that is written shall
endure. That is the reason, in my opinion, why, among so many men of
talent, France to-day counts not one great writer. In a society like
ours, to seek for literary glory seems to me an anachronism. Of what
use is it to invoke an ancient sibyl when a muse is on the eve of birth?
Pitiable actors in a tragedy nearing its end, that which it behooves us
to do is to precipitate the catastrophe. The most deserving among us
is he who plays best this part. Well, I no longer aspire to this sad

"Why should I not confess it, gentlemen? I have aspired to your
suffrages and sought the title of your pensioner, hating all which
exists and full of projects for its destruction; I shall finish this
investigation in a spirit of calm and philosophical resignation. I have
derived more peace from the knowledge of the truth, than anger from the
feeling of oppression; and the most precious fruit that I could wish to
gather from this memoir would be the inspiration of my readers with that
tranquillity of soul which arises from the clear perception of evil and
its cause, and which is much more powerful than passion and enthusiasm.
My hatred of privilege and human authority was unbounded; perhaps at
times I have been guilty, in my indignation, of confounding persons and
things; at present I can only despise and complain; to cease to hate I
only needed to know.

"It is for you now, gentlemen, whose mission and character are the
proclamation of the truth, it is for you to instruct the people, and to
tell them for what they ought to hope and what they ought to fear. The
people, incapable as yet of sound judgment as to what is best for them,
applaud indiscriminately the most opposite ideas, provided that in them
they get a taste of flattery: to them the laws of thought are like the
confines of the possible; to-day they can no more distinguish between a
savant and a sophist, than formerly they could tell a physician from
a sorcerer. 'Inconsiderately accepting, gathering together, and
accumulating everything that is new, regarding all reports as true and
indubitable, at the breath or ring of novelty they assemble like bees at
the sound of a basin.' [4]

"May you, gentlemen, desire equality as I myself desire it; may you,
for the eternal happiness of our country, become its propagators and its
heralds; may I be the last of your pensioners! Of all the wishes that
I can frame, that, gentlemen, is the most worthy of you and the most
honorable for me.

"I am, with the profoundest respect and the most earnest gratitude,

"Your pensioner,


Two months after the receipt of this letter, the Academy, in its debate
of August 24th, replied to the address of its pensioner by a note, the
text of which I give below:--

"A member calls the attention of the Academy to a pamphlet, published
last June by the titulary of the Suard pension, entitled, "What is
property?" and dedicated by the author to the Academy. He is of the
opinion that the society owes it to justice, to example, and to its
own dignity, to publicly disavow all responsibility for the anti-social
doctrines contained in this publication. In consequence he demands:

"1. That the Academy disavow and condemn, in the most formal manner,
the work of the Suard pensioner, as having been published without its
assent, and as attributing to it opinions diametrically opposed to the
principles of each of its members;

"2. That the pensioner be charged, in case he should publish a second
edition of his book, to omit the dedication;

"3. That this judgment of the Academy be placed upon the records.

"These three propositions, put to vote, are adopted."

After this ludicrous decree, which its authors thought to render
powerful by giving it the form of a contradiction, I can only beg the
reader not to measure the intelligence of my compatriots by that of our

While my patrons in the social and political sciences were fulminating
anathemas against my brochure, a man, who was a stranger to
Franche-Comte, who did not know me, who might even have regarded himself
as personally attacked by the too sharp judgment which I had passed upon
the economists, a publicist as learned as he was modest, loved by the
people whose sorrows he felt, honored by the power which he sought to
enlighten without flattering or disgracing it, M. Blanqui--member of the
Institute, professor of political economy, defender of property--took up
my defence before his associates and before the ministry, and saved me
from the blows of a justice which is always blind, because it is always

It seems to me that the reader will peruse with pleasure the letter
which M. Blanqui did me the honor to write to me upon the publication
of my second memoir, a letter as honorable to its author as it is
flattering to him to whom it is addressed.

"PARIS, May 1, 1841.

"MONSIEUR,--I hasten to thank you for forwarding to me your second
memoir upon property. I have read it with all the interest that an
acquaintance with the first would naturally inspire. I am very glad that
you have modified somewhat the rudeness of form which gave to a work
of such gravity the manner and appearance of a pamphlet; for you quite
frightened me, sir, and your talent was needed to reassure me in regard
to your intentions. One does not expend so much real knowledge with
the purpose of inflaming his country. This proposition, now coming into
notice--PROPERTY IS ROBBERY!--was of a nature to repel from your book
even those serious minds who do not judge by appearances, had you
persisted in maintaining it in its rude simplicity. But if you have
softened the form, you are none the less faithful to the ground-work
of your doctrines; and although you have done me the honor to give me a
share in this perilous teaching, I cannot accept a partnership which,
as far as talent goes, would surely be a credit to me, but which would
compromise me in all other respects.

"I agree with you in one thing only; namely, that all kinds of property
get too frequently abused in this world. But I do not reason from the
abuse to the abolition,--an heroic remedy too much like death, which
cures all evils. I will go farther: I will confess that, of all abuses,
the most hateful to me are those of property; but once more, there is
a remedy for this evil without violating it, all the more without
destroying it. If the present laws allow abuse, we can reconstruct them.
Our civil code is not the Koran; it is not wrong to examine it. Change,
then, the laws which govern the use of property, but be sparing of
anathemas; for, logically, where is the honest man whose hands are
entirely clean? Do you think that one can be a robber without knowing
it, without wishing it, without suspecting it? Do you not admit that
society in its present state, like every man, has in its constitution
all kinds of virtues and vices inherited from our ancestors? Is
property, then, in your eyes a thing so simple and so abstract that you
can re-knead and equalize it, if I may so speak, in your metaphysical
mill? One who has said as many excellent and practical things as occur
in these two beautiful and paradoxical improvisations of yours cannot
be a pure and unwavering utopist. You are too well acquainted with the
economical and academical phraseology to play with the hard words
of revolutions. I believe, then, that you have handled property as
Rousseau, eighty years ago, handled letters, with a magnificent and
poetical display of wit and knowledge. Such, at least, is my opinion.

"That is what I said to the Institute at the time when I presented my
report upon your book. I knew that they wished to proceed against you in
the courts; you perhaps do not know by how narrow a chance I succeeded
in preventing them. [5] What chagrin I should always have felt, if
the king's counsel, that is to say, the intellectual executioner, had
followed in my very tracks to attack your book and annoy your person! I
actually passed two terrible nights, and I succeeded in restraining
the secular arm only by showing that your book was an academical
dissertation, and not the manifesto of an incendiary. Your style is too
lofty ever to be of service to the madmen who in discussing the gravest
questions of our social order, use paving-stones as their weapons. But
see to it, sir, that ere long they do not come, in spite of you, to
seek for ammunition in this formidable arsenal, and that your
vigorous metaphysics falls not into the hands of some sophist of the
market-place, who might discuss the question in the presence of a
starving audience: we should have pillage for conclusion and peroration.

"I feel as deeply as you, sir, the abuses which you point out; but I
have so great an affection for order,--not that common and strait-laced
order with which the police are satisfied, but the majestic and imposing
order of human societies,--that I sometimes find myself embarrassed
in attacking certain abuses. I like to rebuild with one hand when I am
compelled to destroy with the other. In pruning an old tree, we guard
against destruction of the buds and fruit. You know that as well as any
one. You are a wise and learned man; you have a thoughtful mind. The
terms by which you characterize the fanatics of our day are strong
enough to reassure the most suspicious imaginations as to your
intentions; but you conclude in favor of the abolition of property! You
wish to abolish the most powerful motor of the human mind; you attack
the paternal sentiment in its sweetest illusions; with one word you
arrest the formation of capital, and we build henceforth upon the sand
instead of on a rock. That I cannot agree to; and for that reason I
have criticised your book, so full of beautiful pages, so brilliant with
knowledge and fervor!

"I wish, sir, that my impaired health would permit me to examine with
you, page by page, the memoir which you have done me the honor to
address to me publicly and personally; I think I could offer some
important criticisms. For the moment, I must content myself with
thanking you for the kind words in which you have seen fit to speak of
me. We each possess the merit of sincerity; I desire also the merit
of prudence. You know how deep-seated is the disease under which the
working-people are suffering; I know how many noble hearts beat under
those rude garments, and I feel an irresistible and fraternal sympathy
with the thousands of brave people who rise early in the morning to
labor, to pay their taxes, and to make our country strong. I try to
serve and enlighten them, whereas some endeavor to mislead them. You
have not written directly for them. You have issued two magnificent
manifestoes, the second more guarded than the first; issue a third more
guarded than the second, and you will take high rank in science, whose
first precept is calmness and impartiality.

"Farewell, sir! No man's esteem for another can exceed mine for you.


I should certainly take some exceptions to this noble and eloquent
letter; but I confess that I am more inclined to realize the prediction
with which it terminates than to augment needlessly the number of
my antagonists. So much controversy fatigues and wearies me. The
intelligence expended in the warfare of words is like that employed in
battle: it is intelligence wasted. M. Blanqui acknowledges that property
is abused in many harmful ways; I call PROPERTY the sum these abuses
exclusively. To each of us property seems a polygon whose angles need
knocking off; but, the operation performed, M. Blanqui maintains
that the figure will still be a polygon (an hypothesis admitted in
mathematics, although not proven), while I consider that this figure
will be a circle. Honest people can at least understand one another.

For the rest, I allow that, in the present state of the question, the
mind may legitimately hesitate before deciding in favor of the abolition
of property. To gain the victory for one's cause, it does not suffice
simply to overthrow a principle generally recognized, which has the
indisputable merit of systematically recapitulating our political
theories; it is also necessary to establish the opposite principle, and
to formulate the system which must proceed from it. Still further, it
is necessary to show the method by which the new system will satisfy
all the moral and political needs which induced the establishment of
the first. On the following conditions, then, of subsequent evidence,
depends the correctness of my preceding arguments:--

The discovery of a system of absolute equality in which all existing
institutions, save property, or the sum of the abuses of property,
not only may find a place, but may themselves serve as instruments
of equality: individual liberty, the division of power, the public
ministry, the jury system, administrative and judicial organization, the
unity and completeness of instruction, marriage, the family, heredity
in direct and collateral succession, the right of sale and exchange, the
right to make a will, and even birthright,--a system which, better than
property, guarantees the formation of capital and keeps up the courage
of all; which, from a superior point of view, explains, corrects, and
completes the theories of association hitherto proposed, from Plato
and Pythagoras to Babeuf, Saint Simon, and Fourier; a system, finally,
which, serving as a means of transition, is immediately applicable.

A work so vast requires, I am aware, the united efforts of twenty
Montesquieus; nevertheless, if it is not given to a single man to
finish, a single one can commence, the enterprise. The road that he
shall traverse will suffice to show the end and assure the result.




     _Adversus hostem aeterna auctertas esto._

     Against the enemy, revendication is eternal. LAW OF THE


If I were asked to answer the following question: WHAT IS SLAVERY? and I
should answer in one word, IT IS MURDER, my meaning would be understood
at once. No extended argument would be required to show that the power
to take from a man his thought, his will, his personality, is a power of
life and death; and that to enslave a man is to kill him. Why, then, to
this other question: WHAT IS PROPERTY! may I not likewise answer, IT
IS ROBBERY, without the certainty of being misunderstood; the second
proposition being no other than a transformation of the first?

I undertake to discuss the vital principle of our government and our
institutions, property: I am in my right. I may be mistaken in the
conclusion which shall result from my investigations: I am in my right.
I think best to place the last thought of my book first: still am I in
my right.

Such an author teaches that property is a civil right, born of
occupation and sanctioned by law; another maintains that it is a natural
right, originating in labor,--and both of these doctrines, totally
opposed as they may seem, are encouraged and applauded. I contend that
neither labor, nor occupation, nor law, can create property; that it is
an effect without a cause: am I censurable?

But murmurs arise!

PROPERTY IS ROBBERY! That is the war-cry of '93! That is the signal of

Reader, calm yourself: I am no agent of discord, no firebrand of
sedition. I anticipate history by a few days; I disclose a truth whose
development we may try in vain to arrest; I write the preamble of
our future constitution. This proposition which seems to you
blasphemous--PROPERTY IS ROBBERY--would, if our prejudices allowed us
to consider it, be recognized as the lightning-rod to shield us from the
coming thunderbolt; but too many interests stand in the way!... Alas!
philosophy will not change the course of events: destiny will fulfill
itself regardless of prophecy. Besides, must not justice be done and our
education be finished?

PROPERTY IS ROBBERY!... What a revolution in human ideas! PROPRIETOR and
ROBBER have been at all times expressions as contradictory as the beings
whom they designate are hostile; all languages have perpetuated this
opposition. On what authority, then, do you venture to attack universal
consent, and give the lie to the human race? Who are you, that you
should question the judgment of the nations and the ages?

Of what consequence to you, reader, is my obscure individuality? I
live, like you, in a century in which reason submits only to fact and
to evidence. My name, like yours, is TRUTH-SEEKER. [6] My mission is
written in these words of the law: SPEAK WITHOUT HATRED AND WITHOUT
FEAR; TELL THAT WHICH THOU KNOWEST! The work of our race is to build the
temple of science, and this science includes man and Nature. Now, truth
reveals itself to all; to-day to Newton and Pascal, tomorrow to
the herdsman in the valley and the journeyman in the shop. Each one
contributes his stone to the edifice; and, his task accomplished,
disappears. Eternity precedes us, eternity follows us: between two
infinites, of what account is one poor mortal that the century should
inquire about him?

Disregard then, reader, my title and my character, and attend only to my
arguments. It is in accordance with universal consent that I undertake
to correct universal error; from the OPINION of the human race I appeal
to its FAITH. Have the courage to follow me; and, if your will is
untrammelled, if your conscience is free, if your mind can unite two
propositions and deduce a third therefrom, my ideas will inevitably
become yours. In beginning by giving you my last word, it was my purpose
to warn you, not to defy you; for I am certain that, if you read me, you
will be compelled to assent. The things of which I am to speak are so
simple and clear that you will be astonished at not having perceived
them before, and you will say: "I have neglected to think." Others offer
you the spectacle of genius wresting Nature's secrets from her, and
unfolding before you her sublime messages; you will find here only a
series of experiments upon JUSTICE and RIGHT a sort of verification of
the weights and measures of your conscience. The operations shall be
conducted under your very eyes; and you shall weigh the result.

Nevertheless, I build no system. I ask an end to privilege, the
abolition of slavery, equality of rights, and the reign of law. Justice,
nothing else; that is the alpha and omega of my argument: to others I
leave the business of governing the world.

One day I asked myself: Why is there so much sorrow and misery in
society? Must man always be wretched? And not satisfied with the
explanations given by the reformers,--these attributing the general
distress to governmental cowardice and incapacity, those to conspirators
and emeutes, still others to ignorance and general corruption,--and
weary of the interminable quarrels of the tribune and the press, I
sought to fathom the matter myself. I have consulted the masters of
science; I have read a hundred volumes of philosophy, law, political
economy, and history: would to God that I had lived in a century in
which so much reading had been useless! I have made every effort to
obtain exact information, comparing doctrines, replying to objections,
continually constructing equations and reductions from arguments, and
weighing thousands of syllogisms in the scales of the most rigorous
logic. In this laborious work, I have collected many interesting facts
which I shall share with my friends and the public as soon as I have
leisure. But I must say that I recognized at once that we had never
understood the meaning of these words, so common and yet so sacred:
JUSTICE, EQUITY, LIBERTY; that concerning each of these principles our
ideas have been utterly obscure; and, in fact, that this ignorance was
the sole cause, both of the poverty that devours us, and of all the
calamities that have ever afflicted the human race.

My mind was frightened by this strange result: I doubted my reason.
What! said I, that which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor insight
penetrated, you have discovered! Wretch, mistake not the visions of
your diseased brain for the truths of science! Do you not know (great
philosophers have said so) that in points of practical morality
universal error is a contradiction?

I resolved then to test my arguments; and in entering upon this new
labor I sought an answer to the following questions: Is it possible
that humanity can have been so long and so universally mistaken in the
application of moral principles? How and why could it be mistaken? How
can its error, being universal, be capable of correction?

These questions, on the solution of which depended the certainty of my
conclusions, offered no lengthy resistance to analysis. It will be seen,
in chapter V. of this work, that in morals, as in all other branches of
knowledge, the gravest errors are the dogmas of science; that, even in
works of justice, to be mistaken is a privilege which ennobles man; and
that whatever philosophical merit may attach to me is infinitely small.
To name a thing is easy: the difficulty is to discern it before its
appearance. In giving expression to the last stage of an idea,--an idea
which permeates all minds, which to-morrow will be proclaimed by another
if I fail to announce it to-day,--I can claim no merit save that of
priority of utterance. Do we eulogize the man who first perceives the

Yes: all men believe and repeat that equality of conditions is identical
with equality of rights; that PROPERTY and ROBBERY are synonymous terms;
that every social advantage accorded, or rather usurped, in the name of
superior talent or service, is iniquity and extortion. All men in their
hearts, I say, bear witness to these truths; they need only to be made
to understand it.

Before entering directly upon the question before me, I must say a word
of the road that I shall traverse. When Pascal approached a geometrical
problem, he invented a method of solution; to solve a problem in
philosophy a method is equally necessary. Well, by how much do the
problems of which philosophy treats surpass in the gravity of their
results those discussed by geometry! How much more imperatively, then,
do they demand for their solution a profound and rigorous analysis!

It is a fact placed for ever beyond doubt, say the modern psychologists,
that every perception received by the mind is determined by certain
general laws which govern the mind; is moulded, so to speak, in certain
types pre-existing in our understanding, and which constitutes its
original condition. Hence, say they, if the mind has no innate IDEAS,
it has at least innate FORMS. Thus, for example, every phenomenon is of
necessity conceived by us as happening in TIME and SPACE,--that compels
us to infer a CAUSE of its occurrence; every thing which exists implies
the ideas of SUBSTANCE, MODE, RELATION, NUMBER, &C.; in a word, we form
no idea which is not related to some one of the general principles of
reason, independent of which nothing exists.

These axioms of the understanding, add the psychologists, these
fundamental types, by which all our judgments and ideas are inevitably
shaped, and which our sensations serve only to illuminate, are known
in the schools as CATEGORIES. Their primordial existence in the mind is
to-day demonstrated; they need only to be systematized and catalogued.
Aristotle recognized ten; Kant increased the number to fifteen; M.
Cousin has reduced it to three, to two, to one; and the indisputable
glory of this professor will be due to the fact that, if he has not
discovered the true theory of categories, he has, at least, seen more
clearly than any one else the vast importance of this question,--the
greatest and perhaps the only one with which metaphysics has to deal.

I confess that I disbelieve in the innateness, not only of IDEAS, but
also of FORMS or LAWS of our understanding; and I hold the metaphysics
of Reid and Kant to be still farther removed from the truth than that of
Aristotle. However, as I do not wish to enter here into a discussion of
the mind, a task which would demand much labor and be of no interest to
the public, I shall admit the hypothesis that our most general and
most necessary ideas--such as time, space, substance, and cause--exist
originally in the mind; or, at least, are derived immediately from its

But it is a psychological fact none the less true, and one to which the
philosophers have paid too little attention, that habit, like a second
nature, has the power of fixing in the mind new categorical forms
derived from the appearances which impress us, and by them usually
stripped of objective reality, but whose influence over our judgments
is no less predetermining than that of the original categories. Hence
we reason by the ETERNAL and ABSOLUTE laws of our mind, and at the same
time by the secondary rules, ordinarily faulty, which are suggested to
us by imperfect observation. This is the most fecund source of false
prejudices, and the permanent and often invincible cause of a multitude
of errors. The bias resulting from these prejudices is so strong that
often, even when we are fighting against a principle which our mind
thinks false, which is repugnant to our reason, and which our conscience
disapproves, we defend it without knowing it, we reason in accordance
with it, and we obey it while attacking it. Enclosed within a circle,
our mind revolves about itself, until a new observation, creating within
us new ideas, brings to view an external principle which delivers us
from the phantom by which our imagination is possessed.

Thus, we know to-day that, by the laws of a universal magnetism whose
cause is still unknown, two bodies (no obstacle intervening) tend to
unite by an accelerated impelling force which we call GRAVITATION. It is
gravitation which causes unsupported bodies to fall to the ground, which
gives them weight, and which fastens us to the earth on which we live.
Ignorance of this cause was the sole obstacle which prevented the
ancients from believing in the antipodes. "Can you not see," said St.
Augustine after Lactantius, "that, if there were men under our feet,
their heads would point downward, and that they would fall into the
sky?" The bishop of Hippo, who thought the earth flat because it
appeared so to the eye, supposed in consequence that, if we should
connect by straight lines the zenith with the nadir in different places,
these lines would be parallel with each other; and in the direction
of these lines he traced every movement from above to below. Thence he
naturally concluded that the stars were rolling torches set in the vault
of the sky; that, if left to themselves, they would fall to the earth in
a shower of fire; that the earth was one vast plain, forming the lower
portion of the world, &c. If he had been asked by what the world itself
was sustained, he would have answered that he did not know, but that
to God nothing is impossible. Such were the ideas of St. Augustine in
regard to space and movement, ideas fixed within him by a prejudice
derived from an appearance, and which had become with him a general and
categorical rule of judgment. Of the reason why bodies fall his mind
knew nothing; he could only say that a body falls because it falls.

With us the idea of a fall is more complex: to the general ideas of
space and movement which it implies, we add that of attraction or
direction towards a centre, which gives us the higher idea of cause. But
if physics has fully corrected our judgment in this respect, we still
make use of the prejudice of St. Augustine; and when we say that a thing
has FALLEN, we do not mean simply and in general that there has been
an effect of gravitation, but specially and in particular that it is
towards the earth, and FROM ABOVE TO BELOW, that this movement has taken
place. Our mind is enlightened in vain; the imagination prevails, and
our language remains forever incorrigible. To DESCEND FROM HEAVEN is as
incorrect an expression as to MOUNT TO HEAVEN; and yet this expression
will live as long as men use language.

FROM THE CLOUDS, &C.--are henceforth harmless, because we know how to
rectify them in practice; but let us deign to consider for a moment how
much they have retarded the progress of science. If, indeed, it be a
matter of little importance to statistics, mechanics, hydrodynamics, and
ballistics, that the true cause of the fall of bodies should be known,
and that our ideas of the general movements in space should be exact,
it is quite otherwise when we undertake to explain the system of the
universe, the cause of tides, the shape of the earth, and its position
in the heavens: to understand these things we must leave the circle
of appearances. In all ages there have been ingenious mechanicians,
excellent architects, skilful artillerymen: any error, into which it was
possible for them to fall in regard to the rotundity of the earth and
gravitation, in no wise retarded the development of their art; the
solidity of their buildings and accuracy of their aim was not affected
by it. But sooner or later they were forced to grapple with phenomena,
which the supposed parallelism of all perpendiculars erected from the
earth's surface rendered inexplicable: then also commenced a struggle
between the prejudices, which for centuries had sufficed in daily
practice, and the unprecedented opinions which the testimony of the eyes
seemed to contradict.

Thus, on the one hand, the falsest judgments, whether based on isolated
facts or only on appearances, always embrace some truths whose sphere,
whether large or small, affords room for a certain number of inferences,
beyond which we fall into absurdity. The ideas of St. Augustine, for
example, contained the following truths: that bodies fall towards the
earth, that they fall in a straight line, that either the sun or the
earth moves, that either the sky or the earth turns, &c. These general
facts always have been true; our science has added nothing to them. But,
on the other hand, it being necessary to account for every thing, we are
obliged to seek for principles more and more comprehensive: that is why
we have had to abandon successively, first the opinion that the world
was flat, then the theory which regards it as the stationary centre of
the universe, &c.

If we pass now from physical nature to the moral world, we still find
ourselves subject to the same deceptions of appearance, to the same
influences of spontaneity and habit. But the distinguishing feature of
this second division of our knowledge is, on the one hand, the good
or the evil which we derive from our opinions; and, on the other, the
obstinacy with which we defend the prejudice which is tormenting and
killing us.

Whatever theory we embrace in regard to the shape of the earth and the
cause of its weight, the physics of the globe does not suffer; and,
as for us, our social economy can derive therefrom neither profit nor
damage. But it is in us and through us that the laws of our moral nature
work; now, these laws cannot be executed without our deliberate aid,
and, consequently, unless we know them. If, then, our science of moral
laws is false, it is evident that, while desiring our own good, we are
accomplishing our own evil; if it is only incomplete, it may suffice for
a time for our social progress, but in the long run it will lead us
into a wrong road, and will finally precipitate us into an abyss of

Then it is that we need to exercise our highest judgments; and, be it
said to our glory, they are never found wanting: but then also commences
a furious struggle between old prejudices and new ideas. Days of
conflagration and anguish! We are told of the time when, with the same
beliefs, with the same institutions, all the world seemed happy: why
complain of these beliefs; why banish these institutions? We are slow to
admit that that happy age served the precise purpose of developing the
principle of evil which lay dormant in society; we accuse men and gods,
the powers of earth and the forces of Nature. Instead of seeking the
cause of the evil in his mind and heart, man blames his masters, his
rivals, his neighbors, and himself; nations arm themselves, and slay
and exterminate each other, until equilibrium is restored by the vast
depopulation, and peace again arises from the ashes of the combatants.
So loath is humanity to touch the customs of its ancestors, and to
change the laws framed by the founders of communities, and confirmed by
the faithful observance of the ages.

_Nihil motum ex antiquo probabile est_: Distrust all innovations, wrote
Titus Livius. Undoubtedly it would be better were man not compelled to
change: but what! because he is born ignorant, because he exists only
on condition of gradual self-instruction, must he abjure the light,
abdicate his reason, and abandon himself to fortune? Perfect health is
better than convalescence: should the sick man, therefore, refuse to
be cured? Reform, reform! cried, ages since, John the Baptist and Jesus
Christ. Reform, reform! cried our fathers, fifty years ago; and for a
long time to come we shall shout, Reform, reform!

Seeing the misery of my age, I said to myself: Among the principles that
support society, there is one which it does not understand, which its
ignorance has vitiated, and which causes all the evil that exists. This
principle is the most ancient of all; for it is a characteristic of
revolutions to tear down the most modern principles, and to respect
those of long-standing. Now the evil by which we suffer is anterior to
all revolutions. This principle, impaired by our ignorance, is honored
and cherished; for if it were not cherished it would harm nobody, it
would be without influence.

But this principle, right in its purpose, but misunderstood: this
principle, as old as humanity, what is it? Can it be religion?

All men believe in God: this dogma belongs at once to their conscience
and their mind. To humanity God is a fact as primitive, an idea as
inevitable, a principle as necessary as are the categorical ideas of
cause, substance, time, and space to our understanding. God is proven to
us by the conscience prior to any inference of the mind; just as the
sun is proven to us by the testimony of the senses prior to all the
arguments of physics. We discover phenomena and laws by observation and
experience; only this deeper sense reveals to us existence. Humanity
believes that God is; but, in believing in God, what does it believe? In
a word, what is God?

The nature of this notion of Divinity,--this primitive, universal
notion, born in the race,--the human mind has not yet fathomed. At each
step that we take in our investigation of Nature and of causes, the idea
of God is extended and exalted; the farther science advances, the more
God seems to grow and broaden. Anthropomorphism and idolatry constituted
of necessity the faith of the mind in its youth, the theology of infancy
and poesy. A harmless error, if they had not endeavored to make it a
rule of conduct, and if they had been wise enough to respect the
liberty of thought. But having made God in his own image, man wished
to appropriate him still farther; not satisfied with disfiguring the
Almighty, he treated him as his patrimony, his goods, his possessions.
God, pictured in monstrous forms, became throughout the world the
property of man and of the State. Such was the origin of the corruption
of morals by religion, and the source of pious feuds and holy wars.
Thank Heaven! we have learned to allow every one his own beliefs; we
seek for moral laws outside the pale of religion. Instead of legislating
as to the nature and attributes of God, the dogmas of theology, and
the destiny of our souls, we wisely wait for science to tell us what to
reject and what to accept. God, soul, religion,--eternal objects of
our unwearied thought and our most fatal aberrations, terrible
problems whose solution, for ever attempted, for ever remains
unaccomplished,--concerning all these questions we may still be
mistaken, but at least our error is harmless. With liberty in religion,
and the separation of the spiritual from the temporal power, the
influence of religious ideas upon the progress of society is purely
negative; no law, no political or civil institution being founded on
religion. Neglect of duties imposed by religion may increase the general
corruption, but it is not the primary cause; it is only an auxiliary or
result. It is universally admitted, and especially in the matter
which now engages our attention, that the cause of the inequality
of conditions among men--of pauperism, of universal misery, and of
governmental embarrassments--can no longer be traced to religion: we
must go farther back, and dig still deeper.

But what is there in man older and deeper than the religious sentiment?

There is man himself; that is, volition and conscience, free-will and
law, eternally antagonistic. Man is at war with himself: why?

"Man," say the theologians, "transgressed in the beginning; our race
is guilty of an ancient offence. For this transgression humanity has
fallen; error and ignorance have become its sustenance. Read history,
you will find universal proof of this necessity for evil in the
permanent misery of nations. Man suffers and always will suffer; his
disease is hereditary and constitutional. Use palliatives, employ
emollients; there is no remedy."

Nor is this argument peculiar to the theologians; we find it
expressed in equivalent language in the philosophical writings of the
materialists, believers in infinite perfectibility. Destutt de Tracy
teaches formally that poverty, crime, and war are the inevitable
conditions of our social state; necessary evils, against which it would
be folly to revolt. So, call it NECESSITY OF EVIL or ORIGINAL DEPRAVITY,
it is at bottom the same philosophy.

"The first man transgressed." If the votaries of the Bible interpreted
it faithfully, they would say: MAN ORIGINALLY TRANSGRESSED, that is,
made a mistake; for TO TRANSGRESS, TO FAIL, TO MAKE A MISTAKE, all mean
the same thing.

"The consequences of Adam's transgression are inherited by the race;
the first is ignorance." Truly, the race, like the individual, is born
ignorant; but, in regard to a multitude of questions, even in the moral
and political spheres, this ignorance of the race has been dispelled:
who says that it will not depart altogether? Mankind makes continual
progress toward truth, and light ever triumphs over darkness. Our
disease is not, then, absolutely incurable, and the theory of the
theologians is worse than inadequate; it is ridiculous, since it is
reducible to this tautology: "Man errs, because he errs." While the true
statement is this: "Man errs, because he learns."

Now, if man arrives at a knowledge of all that he needs to know, it is
reasonable to believe that, ceasing to err, he will cease to suffer.

But if we question the doctors as to this law, said to be engraved upon
the heart of man, we shall immediately see that they dispute about a
matter of which they know nothing; that, concerning the most important
questions, there are almost as many opinions as authors; that we find
no two agreeing as to the best form of government, the principle of
authority, and the nature of right; that all sail hap-hazard upon a
shoreless and bottomless sea, abandoned to the guidance of their private
opinions which they modestly take to be right reason. And, in view
of this medley of contradictory opinions, we say: "The object of our
investigations is the law, the determination of the social principle.
Now, the politicians, that is, the social scientists, do not understand
each other; then the error lies in themselves; and, as every error has
a reality for its object, we must look in their books to find the truth
which they have unconsciously deposited there."

Now, of what do the lawyers and the publicists treat? Of JUSTICE,
EQUITY, LIBERTY, NATURAL LAW, CIVIL LAWS, &c. But what is justice?
What is its principle, its character, its formula? To this question our
doctors evidently have no reply; for otherwise their science, starting
with a principle clear and well defined, would quit the region of
probabilities, and all disputes would end.

What is justice? The theologians answer: "All justice comes from God."
That is true; but we know no more than before.

The philosophers ought to be better informed: they have argued so much
about justice and injustice! Unhappily, an examination proves that their
knowledge amounts to nothing, and that with them--as with the savages
whose every prayer to the sun is simply _O! O!_--it is a cry of
admiration, love, and enthusiasm; but who does not know that the sun
attaches little meaning to the interjection O! That is exactly our
position toward the philosophers in regard to justice. Justice, they
a thousand other similar things. What, I ask, does this pious litany
amount to? To the prayer of the savages: O!

All the most reasonable teachings of human wisdom concerning justice are
summed up in that famous adage: DO UNTO OTHERS THAT WHICH YOU WOULD THAT
NOT THAT OTHERS SHOULD DO UNTO YOU. But this rule of moral practice is
unscientific: what have I a right to wish that others should do or not
do to me? It is of no use to tell me that my duty is equal to my right,
unless I am told at the same time what my right is.

Let us try to arrive at something more precise and positive.

Justice is the central star which governs societies, the pole around
which the political world revolves, the principle and the regulator of
all transactions. Nothing takes place between men save in the name of
RIGHT; nothing without the invocation of justice. Justice is not the
work of the law: on the contrary, the law is only a declaration and
application of JUSTICE in all circumstances where men are liable to come
in contact. If, then, the idea that we form of justice and right were
ill-defined, if it were imperfect or even false, it is clear that all
our legislative applications would be wrong, our institutions vicious,
our politics erroneous: consequently there would be disorder and social

This hypothesis of the perversion of justice in our minds, and, as a
necessary result, in our acts, becomes a demonstrated fact when it is
shown that the opinions of men have not borne a constant relation to the
notion of justice and its applications; that at different periods they
have undergone modifications: in a word, that there has been progress
in ideas. Now, that is what history proves by the most overwhelming

Eighteen Hundred years ago, the world, under the rule of the Caesars,
exhausted itself in slavery, superstition, and voluptuousness. The
people--intoxicated and, as it were, stupefied by their long-continued
orgies--had lost the very notion of right and duty: war and dissipation
by turns swept them away; usury and the labor of machines (that is of
slaves), by depriving them of the means of subsistence, hindered them
from continuing the species. Barbarism sprang up again, in a hideous
form, from this mass of corruption, and spread like a devouring leprosy
over the depopulated provinces. The wise foresaw the downfall of the
empire, but could devise no remedy. What could they think indeed? To
save this old society it would have been necessary to change the objects
of public esteem and veneration, and to abolish the rights affirmed by
a justice purely secular; they said: "Rome has conquered through her
politics and her gods; any change in theology and public opinion would
be folly and sacrilege. Rome, merciful toward conquered nations, though
binding them in chains, spared their lives; slaves are the most fertile
source of her wealth; freedom of the nations would be the negation of
her rights and the ruin of her finances. Rome, in fact, enveloped in the
pleasures and gorged with the spoils of the universe, is kept alive by
victory and government; her luxury and her pleasures are the price of
her conquests: she can neither abdicate nor dispossess herself."
Thus Rome had the facts and the law on her side. Her pretensions were
justified by universal custom and the law of nations. Her institutions
were based upon idolatry in religion, slavery in the State, and
epicurism in private life; to touch those was to shake society to its
foundations, and, to use our modern expression, to open the abyss of
revolutions. So the idea occurred to no one; and yet humanity was dying
in blood and luxury.

All at once a man appeared, calling himself The Word of God. It is not
known to this day who he was, whence he came, nor what suggested to
him his ideas. He went about proclaiming everywhere that the end of the
existing society was at hand, that the world was about to experience a
new birth; that the priests were vipers, the lawyers ignoramuses,
and the philosophers hypocrites and liars; that master and slave
were equals, that usury and every thing akin to it was robbery, that
proprietors and idlers would one day burn, while the poor and pure in
heart would find a haven of peace.

This man--The Word of God--was denounced and arrested as a public enemy
by the priests and the lawyers, who well understood how to induce the
people to demand his death. But this judicial murder, though it put the
finishing stroke to their crimes, did not destroy the doctrinal seeds
which The Word of God had sown. After his death, his original disciples
travelled about in all directions, preaching what they called the GOOD
NEWS, creating in their turn millions of missionaries; and, when their
task seemed to be accomplished, dying by the sword of Roman justice.
This persistent agitation, the war of the executioners and martyrs,
lasted nearly three centuries, ending in the conversion of the world.
Idolatry was destroyed, slavery abolished, dissolution made room for a
more austere morality, and the contempt for wealth was sometimes pushed
almost to privation.

Society was saved by the negation of its own principles, by a revolution
in its religion, and by violation of its most sacred rights. In this
revolution, the idea of justice spread to an extent that had not before
been dreamed of, never to return to its original limits. Heretofore
justice had existed only for the masters; [7] it then commenced to exist
for the slaves.

Nevertheless, the new religion at that time had borne by no means all
its fruits. There was a perceptible improvement of the public morals,
and a partial release from oppression; but, other than that, the SEEDS
SOWN BY THE SON OF MAN, having fallen into idolatrous hearts, had
produced nothing save innumerable discords and a quasi-poetical
mythology. Instead of developing into their practical consequences the
principles of morality and government taught by The Word of God, his
followers busied themselves in speculations as to his birth, his origin,
his person, and his actions; they discussed his parables, and from the
conflict of the most extravagant opinions upon unanswerable questions
and texts which no one understood, was born THEOLOGY,--which may be

The truth of CHRISTIANITY did not survive the age of the apostles; the
GOSPEL, commented upon and symbolized by the Greeks and Latins, loaded
with pagan fables, became literally a mass of contradictions; and to
this day the reign of the INFALLIBLE CHURCH has been a long era of
darkness. It is said that the GATES OF HELL will not always prevail,
that THE WORD OF GOD will return, and that one day men will know truth
and justice; but that will be the death of Greek and Roman Catholicism,
just as in the light of science disappeared the caprices of opinion.

The monsters which the successors of the apostles were bent on
destroying, frightened for a moment, reappeared gradually, thanks to the
crazy fanaticism, and sometimes the deliberate connivance, of priests
and theologians. The history of the enfranchisement of the French
communes offers constantly the spectacle of the ideas of justice and
liberty spreading among the people, in spite of the combined efforts of
kings, nobles, and clergy. In the year 1789 of the Christian era, the
French nation, divided by caste, poor and oppressed, struggled in the
triple net of royal absolutism, the tyranny of nobles and parliaments,
and priestly intolerance. There was the right of the king and the right
of the priest, the right of the patrician and the right of the plebeian;
there were the privileges of birth, province, communes, corporations,
and trades; and, at the bottom of all, violence, immorality, and misery.
For some time they talked of reformation; those who apparently desired
it most favoring it only for their own profit, and the people who were
to be the gainers expecting little and saying nothing. For a long
time these poor people, either from distrust, incredulity, or despair,
hesitated to ask for their rights: it is said that the habit of serving
had taken the courage away from those old communes, which in the middle
ages were so bold.

Finally a book appeared, summing up the whole matter in these two
TO BE?--EVERY THING. Some one added by way of comment: WHAT IS THE

This was a sudden revelation: the veil was torn aside, a thick bandage
fell from all eyes. The people commenced to reason thus:--

If the king is our servant, he ought to report to us;

If he ought to report to us, he is subject to control;

If he can be controlled, he is responsible;

If he is responsible, he is punishable;

If he is punishable, he ought to be punished according to his merits;

If he ought to be punished according to his merits, he can be punished
with death.

Five years after the publication of the brochure of Sieyes, the third
estate was every thing; the king, the nobility, the clergy, were no
more. In 1793, the nation, without stopping at the constitutional
fiction of the inviolability of the sovereign, conducted Louis XVI. to
the scaffold; in 1830, it accompanied Charles X. to Cherbourg. In each
case, it may have erred, in fact, in its judgment of the offence; but,
in right, the logic which led to its action was irreproachable. The
people, in punishing their sovereign, did precisely that which the
government of July was so severely censured for failing to do when it
refused to execute Louis Bonaparte after the affair of Strasburg: they
struck the true culprit. It was an application of the common law, a
solemn decree of justice enforcing the penal laws. [8]

The spirit which gave rise to the movement of '89 was a spirit of
negation; that, of itself, proves that the order of things which was
substituted for the old system was not methodical or well-considered;
that, born of anger and hatred, it could not have the effect of a
science based on observation and study; that its foundations, in a word,
were not derived from a profound knowledge of the laws of Nature and
society. Thus the people found that the republic, among the so-called
new institutions, was acting on the very principles against which they
had fought, and was swayed by all the prejudices which they had intended
to destroy. We congratulate ourselves, with inconsiderate enthusiasm,
on the glorious French Revolution, the regeneration of 1789, the great
changes that have been effected, and the reversion of institutions: a
delusion, a delusion!

When our ideas on any subject, material, intellectual, or social,
undergo a thorough change in consequence of new observations, I call
that movement of the mind REVOLUTION. If the ideas are simply extended
or modified, there is only PROGRESS. Thus the system of Ptolemy was a
step in astronomical progress, that of Copernicus was a revolution. So,
in 1789, there was struggle and progress; revolution there was none. An
examination of the reforms which were attempted proves this.

The nation, so long a victim of monarchical selfishness, thought to
deliver itself for ever by declaring that it alone was sovereign. But
what was monarchy? The sovereignty of one man. What is democracy? The
sovereignty of the nation, or, rather, of the national majority. But it
is, in both cases, the sovereignty of man instead of the sovereignty of
the law, the sovereignty of the will instead of the sovereignty of the
reason; in one word, the passions instead of justice. Undoubtedly, when
a nation passes from the monarchical to the democratic state, there
is progress, because in multiplying the sovereigns we increase the
opportunities of the reason to substitute itself for the will; but in
reality there is no revolution in the government, since the principle
remains the same. Now, we have the proof to-day that, with the most
perfect democracy, we cannot be free. [9]

Nor is that all. The nation-king cannot exercise its sovereignty itself;
it is obliged to delegate it to agents: this is constantly reiterated by
those who seek to win its favor. Be these agents five, ten, one hundred,
or a thousand, of what consequence is the number; and what matters the
name? It is always the government of man, the rule of will and caprice.
I ask what this pretended revolution has revolutionized?

We know, too, how this sovereignty was exercised; first by the
Convention, then by the Directory, afterwards confiscated by the Consul.
As for the Emperor, the strong man so much adored and mourned by the
nation, he never wanted to be dependent on it; but, as if intending to
set its sovereignty at defiance, he dared to demand its suffrage: that
is, its abdication, the abdication of this inalienable sovereignty; and
he obtained it.

But what is sovereignty? It is, they say, the POWER TO MAKE LAW. [10]
Another absurdity, a relic of despotism. The nation had long seen kings
issuing their commands in this form: FOR SUCH IS OUR PLEASURE; it wished
to taste in its turn the pleasure of making laws. For fifty years it
has brought them forth by myriads; always, be it understood, through the
agency of representatives. The play is far from ended.

The definition of sovereignty was derived from the definition of the
then, under a monarchy, the law is the expression of the will of the
king; in a republic, the law is the expression of the will of the
people. Aside from the difference in the number of wills, the two
systems are exactly identical: both share the same error, namely, that
the law is the expression of a will; it ought to be the expression of
a fact. Moreover they followed good leaders: they took the citizen of
Geneva for their prophet, and the contrat social for their Koran.

Bias and prejudice are apparent in all the phrases of the new
legislators. The nation had suffered from a multitude of exclusions and
privileges; its representatives issued the following declaration: ALL
MEN ARE EQUAL BY NATURE AND BEFORE THE LAW; an ambiguous and redundant
declaration. MEN ARE EQUAL BY NATURE: does that mean that they are equal
in size, beauty, talents, and virtue? No; they meant, then, political
and civil equality. Then it would have been sufficient to have said: ALL

But what is equality before the law? Neither the constitution of 1790,
nor that of '93, nor the granted charter, nor the accepted charter, have
defined it accurately. All imply an inequality in fortune and station
incompatible with even a shadow of equality in rights. In this respect
it may be said that all our constitutions have been faithful expressions
of the popular will: I am going, to prove it.

Formerly the people were excluded from civil and military offices; it
was considered a wonder when the following high-sounding article
was inserted in the Declaration of Rights: "All citizens are equally
eligible to office; free nations know no qualifications in their choice
of officers save virtues and talents."

They certainly ought to have admired so beautiful an idea: they admired
a piece of nonsense. Why! the sovereign people, legislators, and
reformers, see in public offices, to speak plainly, only opportunities
for pecuniary advancement. And, because it regards them as a source of
profit, it decrees the eligibility of citizens. For of what use would
this precaution be, if there were nothing to gain by it? No one would
think of ordaining that none but astronomers and geographers should be
pilots, nor of prohibiting stutterers from acting at the theatre and
the opera. The nation was still aping the kings: like them it wished
to award the lucrative positions to its friends and flatterers.
Unfortunately, and this last feature completes the resemblance, the
nation did not control the list of livings; that was in the hands of its
agents and representatives. They, on the other hand, took care not to
thwart the will of their gracious sovereign.

This edifying article of the Declaration of Rights, retained in the
charters of 1814 and 1830, implies several kinds of civil inequality;
that is, of inequality before the law: inequality ofstation, since the
public functions are sought only for the consideration and emoluments
which they bring; inequality of wealth, since, if it had been desired
to equalize fortunes, public service would have been regarded as a duty,
not as a reward; inequality of privilege, the law not stating what
it means by TALENTS and VIRTUES. Under the empire, virtue and talent
consisted simply in military bravery and devotion to the emperor; that
was shown when Napoleon created his nobility, and attempted to connect
it with the ancients. To-day, the man who pays taxes to the amount
of two hundred francs is virtuous; the talented man is the honest
pickpocket: such truths as these are accounted trivial.

The people finally legalized property. God forgive them, for they
knew not what they did! For fifty years they have suffered for their
miserable folly. But how came the people, whose voice, they tell us,
is the voice of God, and whose conscience is infallible,--how came the
people to err? How happens it that, when seeking liberty and equality,
they fell back into privilege and slavery? Always through copying the
ancient regime.

Formerly, the nobility and the clergy contributed towards the expenses
of the State only by voluntary aid and gratuitous gift; their property
could not be seized even for debt,--while the plebeian, overwhelmed by
taxes and statute-labor, was continually tormented, now by the
king's tax-gatherers, now by those of the nobles and clergy. He whose
possessions were subject to mortmain could neither bequeath nor inherit
property; he was treated like the animals, whose services and offspring
belong to their master by right of accession. The people wanted the
conditions of OWNERSHIP to be alike for all; they thought that every one
FRUIT OF HIS LABOR AND INDUSTRY. The people did not invent property; but
as they had not the same privileges in regard to it, which the nobles
and clergy possessed, they decreed that the right should be exercised
by all under the same conditions. The more obnoxious forms of
property--statute-labor, mortmain, maitrise, and exclusion from public
office--have disappeared; the conditions of its enjoyment have been
modified: the principle still remains the same. There has been progress
in the regulation of the right; there has been no revolution.

These, then, are the three fundamental principles of modern society,
established one after another by the movements of 1789 and 1830: 1.
WEALTH AND RANK. 3. PROPERTY--above JUSTICE, always invoked as the
guardian angel of sovereigns, nobles, and proprietors; JUSTICE, the
general, primitive, categorical law of all society.

We must ascertain whether the ideas of DESPOTISM, CIVIL INEQUALITY
and PROPERTY, are in harmony with the primitive notion of JUSTICE, and
necessarily follow from it,--assuming various forms according to the
condition, position, and relation of persons; or whether they are not
rather the illegitimate result of a confusion of different things, a
fatal association of ideas. And since justice deals especially with the
questions of government, the condition of persons, and the possession
of things, we must ascertain under what conditions, judging by universal
opinion and the progress of the human mind, government is just, the
condition of citizens is just, and the possession of things is just;
then, striking out every thing which fails to meet these conditions,
the result will at once tell us what legitimate government is, what the
legitimate condition of citizens is, and what the legitimate possession
of things is; and finally, as the last result of the analysis, what

Is the authority of man over man just?

Everybody answers, "No; the authority of man is only the authority of
the law, which ought to be justice and truth." The private will counts
for nothing in government, which consists, first, in discovering truth
and justice in order to make the law; and, second, in superintending the
execution of this law. I do not now inquire whether our constitutional
form of government satisfies these conditions; whether, for example, the
will of the ministry never influences the declaration and interpretation
of the law; or whether our deputies, in their debates, are more intent
on conquering by argument than by force of numbers: it is enough for me
that my definition of a good government is allowed to be correct. This
idea is exact. Yet we see that nothing seems more just to the Oriental
nations than the despotism of their sovereigns; that, with the ancients
and in the opinion of the philosophers themselves, slavery was just;
that in the middle ages the nobles, the priests, and the bishops felt
justified in holding slaves; that Louis XIV. thought that he was right
when he said, "The State! I am the State;" and that Napoleon deemed it
a crime for the State to oppose his will. The idea of justice, then,
applied to sovereignty and government, has not always been what it is
to-day; it has gone on developing and shaping itself by degrees, until
it has arrived at its present state. But has it reached its last phase?
I think not: only, as the last obstacle to be overcome arises from the
institution of property which we have kept intact, in order to finish
the reform in government and consummate the revolution, this very
institution we must attack.

Is political and civil inequality just?

Some say yes; others no. To the first I would reply that, when the
people abolished all privileges of birth and caste, they did it, in all
probability, because it was for their advantage; why then do they favor
the privileges of fortune more than those of rank and race? Because, say
they, political inequality is a result of property; and without property
society is impossible: thus the question just raised becomes a question
of property. To the second I content myself with this remark: If you
wish to enjoy political equality, abolish property; otherwise, why do
you complain?

Is property just?

Everybody answers without hesitation, "Yes, property is just." I say
everybody, for up to the present time no one who thoroughly understood
the meaning of his words has answered no. For it is no easy thing to
reply understandingly to such a question; only time and experience can
furnish an answer. Now, this answer is given; it is for us to understand
it. I undertake to prove it.

We are to proceed with the demonstration in the following order:--

I. We dispute not at all, we refute nobody, we deny nothing; we accept
as sound all the arguments alleged in favor of property, and confine
ourselves to a search for its principle, in order that we may then
ascertain whether this principle is faithfully expressed by property. In
fact, property being defensible on no ground save that of justice, the
idea, or at least the intention, of justice must of necessity underlie
all the arguments that have been made in defence of property; and, as on
the other hand the right of property is only exercised over those things
which can be appreciated by the senses, justice, secretly objectifying
itself, so to speak, must take the shape of an algebraic formula.

By this method of investigation, we soon see that every argument which
has been invented in behalf of property, WHATEVER IT MAY BE, always and
of necessity leads to equality; that is, to the negation of property.

The first part covers two chapters: one treating of occupation, the
foundation of our right; the other, of labor and talent, considered as
causes of property and social inequality.

The first of these chapters will prove that the right of occupation
OBSTRUCTS property; the second that the right of labor DESTROYS it.

II. Property, then, being of necessity conceived as existing only in
connection with equality, it remains to find out why, in spite of this
necessity of logic, equality does not exist. This new investigation also
covers two chapters: in the first, considering the fact of property in
itself, we inquire whether this fact is real, whether it exists, whether
it is possible; for it would imply a contradiction, were these two
opposite forms of society, equality and inequality, both possible. Then
we discover, singularly enough, that property may indeed manifest
itself accidentally; but that, as an institution and principle, it is
mathematically impossible. So that the axiom of the school--ab actu ad
posse valet consecutio: from the actual to the possible the inference is
good--is given the lie as far as property is concerned.

Finally, in the last chapter, calling psychology to our aid, and
probing man's nature to the bottom, we shall disclose the principle of
JUSTICE--its formula and character; we shall state with precision the
organic law of society; we shall explain the origin of property, the
causes of its establishment, its long life, and its approaching death;
we shall definitively establish its identity with robbery. And, after
having shown that these three prejudices--THE SOVEREIGNTY OF MAN, THE
INEQUALITY OF CONDITIONS, AND PROPERTY--are one and the same; that they
may be taken for each other, and are reciprocally convertible,--we
shall have no trouble in inferring therefrom, by the principle
of contradiction, the basis of government and right. There our
investigations will end, reserving the right to continue them in future

The importance of the subject which engages our attention is recognized
by all minds.

"Property," says M. Hennequin, "is the creative and conservative
principle of civil society. Property is one of those basic institutions,
new theories concerning which cannot be presented too soon; for it must
not be forgotten, and the publicist and statesman must know, that on the
answer to the question whether property is the principle or the result
of social order, whether it is to be considered as a cause or an effect,
depends all morality, and, consequently, all the authority of human

These words are a challenge to all men of hope and faith; but, although
the cause of equality is a noble one, no one has yet picked up the
gauntlet thrown down by the advocates of property; no one has been
courageous enough to enter upon the struggle. The spurious learning of
haughty jurisprudence, and the absurd aphorisms of a political economy
controlled by property have puzzled the most generous minds; it is a
sort of password among the most influential friends of liberty and
the interests of the people that EQUALITY IS A CHIMERA! So many false
theories and meaningless analogies influence minds otherwise keen,
but which are unconsciously controlled by popular prejudice. Equality
advances every day--fit aequalitas. Soldiers of liberty, shall we desert
our flag in the hour of triumph?

A defender of equality, I shall speak without bitterness and without
anger; with the independence becoming a philosopher, with the courage
and firmness of a free man. May I, in this momentous struggle, carry
into all hearts the light with which I am filled; and show, by the
success of my argument, that equality failed to conquer by the sword
only that it might conquer by the pen!



The Roman law defined property as the right to use and abuse one's own
within the limits of the law--jus utendi et abutendi re sua, guatenus
juris ratio patitur. A justification of the word ABUSE has been
attempted, on the ground that it signifies, not senseless and immoral
abuse, but only absolute domain. Vain distinction! invented as an excuse
for property, and powerless against the frenzy of possession, which it
neither prevents nor represses. The proprietor may, if he chooses, allow
his crops to rot under foot; sow his field with salt; milk his cows
on the sand; change his vineyard into a desert, and use his
vegetable-garden as a park: do these things constitute abuse, or not? In
the matter of property, use and abuse are necessarily indistinguishable.

According to the Declaration of Rights, published as a preface to the
Constitution of '93, property is "the right to enjoy and dispose at
will of one's goods, one's income, and the fruit of one's labor and

Code Napoleon, article 544: "Property is the right to enjoy and dispose
of things in the most absolute manner, provided we do not overstep the
limits prescribed by the laws and regulations."

These two definitions do not differ from that of the Roman law: all
give the proprietor an absolute right over a thing; and as for the
restriction imposed by the code,--PROVIDED WE DO NOT OVERSTEP THE LIMITS
PRESCRIBED BY THE LAWS AND REGULATIONS,--its object is not to limit
property, but to prevent the domain of one proprietor from interfering
with that of another. That is a confirmation of the principle, not a
limitation of it.

There are different kinds of property: 1. Property pure and simple, the
dominant and seigniorial power over a thing; or, as they term it, NAKED
PROPERTY. 2. POSSESSION. "Possession," says Duranton, "is a matter of
fact, not of right." Toullier: "Property is a right, a legal power;
possession is a fact." The tenant, the farmer, the commandite', the
usufructuary, are possessors; the owner who lets and lends for use, the
heir who is to come into possession on the death of a usufructuary, are
proprietors. If I may venture the comparison: a lover is a possessor, a
husband is a proprietor.

This double definition of property--domain and possession--is of the
highest importance; and it must be clearly understood, in order to
comprehend what is to follow.

From the distinction between possession and property arise two sorts of
rights: the jus in re, the right in a thing, the right by which I may
reclaim the property which I have acquired, in whatever hands I find
it; and the jus ad rem, the right TO a thing, which gives me a claim to
become a proprietor. Thus the right of the partners to a marriage over
each other's person is the jus in re; that of two who are betrothed is
only the jus ad rem. In the first, possession and property are united;
the second includes only naked property. With me who, as a laborer,
have a right to the possession of the products of Nature and my own
industry,--and who, as a proletaire, enjoy none of them,--it is by
virtue of the jus ad rem that I demand admittance to the jus in re.

This distinction between the jus in re and the jus ad rem is the basis
of the famous distinction between possessoire and petitoire,--actual
categories of jurisprudence, the whole of which is included within their
vast boundaries. Petitoire refers to every thing relating to property;
possessoire to that relating to possession. In writing this memoir
against property, I bring against universal society an action petitoire:
I prove that those who do not possess to-day are proprietors by the same
title as those who do possess; but, instead of inferring therefrom
that property should be shared by all, I demand, in the name of general
security, its entire abolition. If I fail to win my case, there is
nothing left for us (the proletarian class and myself) but to cut our
throats: we can ask nothing more from the justice of nations; for, as
the code of procedure (art 26) tells us in its energetic style, THE
the case, we must then commence an action possessoire, that we may be
reinstated in the enjoyment of the wealth of which we are deprived by
property. I hope that we shall not be forced to that extremity; but
these two actions cannot be prosecuted at once, such a course being
prohibited by the same code of procedure.

Before going to the heart of the question, it will not be useless to
offer a few preliminary remarks.

% 1.--Property as a Natural Right.

The Declaration of Rights has placed property in its list of the natural
and inalienable rights of man, four in all: LIBERTY, EQUALITY, PROPERTY,
SECURITY. What rule did the legislators of '93 follow in compiling
this list? None. They laid down principles, just as they discussed
sovereignty and the laws; from a general point of view, and according to
their own opinion. They did every thing in their own blind way.

If we can believe Toullier: "The absolute rights can be reduced to
three: SECURITY, LIBERTY, PROPERTY." Equality is eliminated by the
Rennes professor; why? Is it because LIBERTY implies it, or because
property prohibits it? On this point the author of "Droit Civil
Explique" is silent: it has not even occurred to him that the matter is
under discussion.

Nevertheless, if we compare these three or four rights with each other,
we find that property bears no resemblance whatever to the others;
that for the majority of citizens it exists only potentially, and as a
dormant faculty without exercise; that for the others, who do enjoy it,
it is susceptible of certain transactions and modifications which do
not harmonize with the idea of a natural right; that, in practice,
governments, tribunals, and laws do not respect it; and finally that
everybody, spontaneously and with one voice, regards it as chimerical.

Liberty is inviolable. I can neither sell nor alienate my liberty;
every contract, every condition of a contract, which has in view the
alienation or suspension of liberty, is null: the slave, when he plants
his foot upon the soil of liberty, at that moment becomes a free man.
When society seizes a malefactor and deprives him of his liberty, it is
a case of legitimate defence: whoever violates the social compact by the
commission of a crime declares himself a public enemy; in attacking the
liberty of others, he compels them to take away his own. Liberty is the
original condition of man; to renounce liberty is to renounce the nature
of man: after that, how could we perform the acts of man?

Likewise, equality before the law suffers neither restriction nor
exception. All Frenchmen are equally eligible to office: consequently,
in the presence of this equality, condition and family have, in many
cases, no influence upon choice. The poorest citizen can obtain judgment
in the courts against one occupying the most exalted station. Let the
millionaire, Ahab, build a chateau upon the vineyard of Naboth: the
court will have the power, according to the circumstances, to order the
destruction of the chateau, though it has cost millions; and to force
the trespasser to restore the vineyard to its original state, and pay
the damages. The law wishes all property, that has been legitimately
acquired, to be kept inviolate without regard to value, and without
respect for persons.

The charter demands, it is true, for the exercise of certain political
rights, certain conditions of fortune and capacity; but all publicists
know that the legislator's intention was not to establish a privilege,
but to take security. Provided the conditions fixed by law are complied
with, every citizen may be an elector, and every elector eligible. The
right, once acquired, is the same for all; the law compares neither
persons nor votes. I do not ask now whether this system is the best; it
is enough that, in the opinion of the charter and in the eyes of every
one, equality before the law is absolute, and, like liberty, admits of
no compromise.

It is the same with the right of security. Society promises its members
no half-way protection, no sham defence; it binds itself to them as
they bind themselves to it. It does not say to them, "I will shield
you, provided it costs me nothing; I will protect you, if I run no risks
thereby." It says, "I will defend you against everybody; I will save and
avenge you, or perish myself."

The whole strength of the State is at the service of each citizen; the
obligation which binds them together is absolute.

How different with property! Worshipped by all, it is acknowledged by
none: laws, morals, customs, public and private conscience, all plot its
death and ruin.

To meet the expenses of government, which has armies to support, tasks
to perform, and officers to pay, taxes are needed. Let all contribute to
these expenses: nothing more just. But why should the rich pay more than
the poor? That is just, they say, because they possess more. I confess
that such justice is beyond my comprehension.

Why are taxes paid? To protect all in the exercise of their natural
rights--liberty, equality, security, and property; to maintain order in
the State; to furnish the public with useful and pleasant conveniences.

Now, does it cost more to defend the rich man's life and liberty than
the poor man's? Who, in time of invasion, famine, or plague, causes
more trouble,--the large proprietor who escapes the evil without
the assistance of the State, or the laborer who sits in his cottage
unprotected from danger?

Is public order endangered more by the worthy citizen, or by the artisan
and journeyman? Why, the police have more to fear from a few hundred
laborers, out of work, than from two hundred thousand electors!

Does the man of large income appreciate more keenly than the poor man
national festivities, clean streets, and beautiful monuments?

Why, he prefers his country-seat to all the popular pleasures; and when
he wants to enjoy himself, he does not wait for the greased pole!

One of two things is true: either the proportional tax affords greater
security to the larger tax-payers, or else it is a wrong.

Because, if property is a natural right, as the Declaration of '93
declares, all that belongs to me by virtue of this right is as sacred as
my person; it is my blood, my life, myself: whoever touches it offends
the apple of my eye. My income of one hundred thousand francs is as
inviolable as the grisette's daily wage of seventy-five centimes; her
attic is no more sacred than my suite of apartments. The tax is not
levied in proportion to strength, size, or skill: no more should it be
levied in proportion to property.

If, then, the State takes more from me, let it give me more in return,
or cease to talk of equality of rights; for otherwise, society is
established, not to defend property, but to destroy it. The State,
through the proportional tax, becomes the chief of robbers; the State
sets the example of systematic pillage: the State should be brought to
the bar of justice at the head of those hideous brigands, that execrable
mob which it now kills from motives of professional jealousy.

But, they say, the courts and the police force are established to
restrain this mob; government is a company, not exactly for insurance,
for it does not insure, but for vengeance and repression. The premium
which this company exacts, the tax, is divided in proportion to
property; that is, in proportion to the trouble which each piece of
property occasions the avengers and repressers paid by the government.

This is any thing but the absolute and inalienable right of property.
Under this system the poor and the rich distrust, and make war upon,
each other. But what is the object of the war? Property. So that
property is necessarily accompanied by war upon property. The liberty
and security of the rich do not suffer from the liberty and security
of the poor; far from that, they mutually strengthen and sustain each
other. The rich man's right of property, on the contrary, has to be
continually defended against the poor man's desire for property. What
a contradiction! In England they have a poor-rate: they wish me to pay
this tax. But what relation exists between my natural and inalienable
right of property and the hunger from which ten million wretched people
are suffering? When religion commands us to assist our fellows, it
speaks in the name of charity, not in the name of law. The obligation
of benevolence, imposed upon me by Christian morality, cannot be imposed
upon me as a political tax for the benefit of any person or poor-house.
I will give alms when I see fit to do so, when the sufferings of others
excite in me that sympathy of which philosophers talk, and in which I do
not believe: I will not be forced to bestow them. No one is obliged to
do more than comply with this injunction: IN THE EXERCISE OF YOUR OWN
is the exact definition of liberty. Now, my possessions are my own;
no one has a claim upon them: I object to the placing of the third
theological virtue in the order of the day.

Everybody, in France, demands the conversion of the five per cent.
bonds; they demand thereby the complete sacrifice of one species of
property. They have the right to do it, if public necessity requires it;
but where is the just indemnity promised by the charter? Not only
does none exist, but this indemnity is not even possible; for, if the
indemnity were equal to the property sacrificed, the conversion would be

The State occupies the same position to-day toward the bondholders
that the city of Calais did, when besieged by Edward III, toward its
notables. The English conqueror consented to spare its inhabitants,
provided it would surrender to him its most distinguished citizens to do
with as he pleased. Eustache and several others offered themselves; it
was noble in them, and our ministers should recommend their example to
the bondholders. But had the city the right to surrender them? Assuredly
not. The right to security is absolute; the country can require no one
to sacrifice himself. The soldier standing guard within the enemy's
range is no exception to this rule. Wherever a citizen stands guard,
the country stands guard with him: to-day it is the turn of the one,
to-morrow of the other. When danger and devotion are common, flight is
parricide. No one has the right to flee from danger; no one can serve
as a scapegoat. The maxim of Caiaphas--IT IS RIGHT THAT A MAN SHOULD DIE
FOR HIS NATION--is that of the populace and of tyrants; the two extremes
of social degradation.

It is said that all perpetual annuities are essentially redeemable. This
maxim of civil law, applied to the State, is good for those who wish to
return to the natural equality of labor and wealth; but, from the point
of view of the proprietor, and in the mouth of conversionists, it is
the language of bankrupts. The State is not only a borrower, it is an
insurer and guardian of property; granting the best of security, it
assures the most inviolable possession. How, then, can it force open the
hands of its creditors, who have confidence in it, and then talk to
them of public order and security of property? The State, in such
an operation, is not a debtor who discharges his debt; it is a
stock-company which allures its stockholders into a trap, and there,
contrary to its authentic promise, exacts from them twenty, thirty, or
forty per cent. of the interest on their capital.

That is not all. The State is a university of citizens joined together
under a common law by an act of society. This act secures all in the
possession of their property; guarantees to one his field, to another
his vineyard, to a third his rents, and to the bondholder, who might
have bought real estate but who preferred to come to the assistance of
the treasury, his bonds. The State cannot demand, without offering an
equivalent, the sacrifice of an acre of the field or a corner of the
vineyard; still less can it lower rents: why should it have the right
to diminish the interest on bonds? This right could not justly exist,
unless the bondholder could invest his funds elsewhere to equal
advantage; but being confined to the State, where can he find a place to
invest them, since the cause of conversion, that is, the power to borrow
to better advantage, lies in the State? That is why a government, based
on the principle of property, cannot redeem its annuities without the
consent of their holders.

The money deposited with the republic is property which it has no right
to touch while other kinds of property are respected; to force
their redemption is to violate the social contract, and outlaw the

The whole controversy as to the conversion of bonds finally reduces
itself to this:--

QUESTION. Is it just to reduce to misery forty-five thousand families
who derive an income from their bonds of one hundred francs or less?

ANSWER. Is it just to compel seven or eight millions of tax-payers to
pay a tax of five francs, when they should pay only three? It is clear,
in the first place, that the reply is in reality no reply; but, to make
the wrong more apparent, let us change it thus: Is it just to endanger
the lives of one hundred thousand men, when we can save them by
surrendering one hundred heads to the enemy? Reader, decide!

All this is clearly understood by the defenders of the present system.
Yet, nevertheless, sooner or later, the conversion will be effected
and property be violated, because no other course is possible; because
property, regarded as a right, and not being a right, must of right
perish; because the force of events, the laws of conscience, and
physical and mathematical necessity must, in the end, destroy this
illusion of our minds.

To sum up: liberty is an absolute right, because it is to man what
impenetrability is to matter,--a sine qua non of existence; equality
is an absolute right, because without equality there is no society;
security is an absolute right, because in the eyes of every man his own
liberty and life are as precious as another's. These three rights are
absolute; that is, susceptible of neither increase nor diminution;
because in society each associate receives as much as he gives,--liberty
for liberty, equality for equality, security for security, body for
body, soul for soul, in life and in death.

But property, in its derivative sense, and by the definitions of law, is
a right outside of society; for it is clear that, if the wealth of each
was social wealth, the conditions would be equal for all, and it would
be a contradiction to say: PROPERTY IS A MAN'S RIGHT TO DISPOSE AT WILL
OF SOCIAL PROPERTY. Then if we are associated for the sake of liberty,
equality, and security, we are not associated for the sake of property;
then if property is a NATURAL right, this natural right is not SOCIAL,
but ANTI-SOCIAL. Property and society are utterly irreconcilable
institutions. It is as impossible to associate two proprietors as to
join two magnets by their opposite poles. Either society must perish, or
it must destroy property.

If property is a natural, absolute, imprescriptible, and inalienable
right, why, in all ages, has there been so much speculation as to its
origin?--for this is one of its distinguishing characteristics. The
origin of a natural right! Good God! who ever inquired into the origin
of the rights of liberty, security, or equality? They exist by the same
right that we exist; they are born with us, they live and die with us.
With property it is very different, indeed. By law, property can exist
without a proprietor, like a quality without a subject. It exists for
the human being who as yet is not, and for the octogenarian who is no
more. And yet, in spite of these wonderful prerogatives which savor
of the eternal and the infinite, they have never found the origin of
property; the doctors still disagree. On one point only are they in
harmony: namely, that the validity of the right of property depends upon
the authenticity of its origin. But this harmony is their condemnation.
Why have they acknowledged the right before settling the question of

Certain classes do not relish investigation into the pretended titles to
property, and its fabulous and perhaps scandalous history. They wish to
hold to this proposition: that property is a fact; that it always has
been, and always will be. With that proposition the savant Proudhon [11]
commenced his "Treatise on the Right of Usufruct," regarding the origin
of property as a useless question. Perhaps I would subscribe to this
doctrine, believing it inspired by a commendable love of peace, were
all my fellow-citizens in comfortable circumstances; but, no! I will not
subscribe to it.

The titles on which they pretend to base the right of property are two
in number: OCCUPATION and LABOR. I shall examine them successively,
under all their aspects and in detail; and I remind the reader that,
to whatever authority we appeal, I shall prove beyond a doubt that
property, to be just and possible, must necessarily have equality for
its condition.

% 2.--Occupation, as the Title to Property.

It is remarkable that, at those meetings of the State Council at which
the Code was discussed, no controversy arose as to the origin and
principle of property. All the articles of Vol. II., Book 2, concerning
property and the right of accession, were passed without opposition or
amendment. Bonaparte, who on other questions had given his legists so
much trouble, had nothing to say about property. Be not surprised at it:
in the eyes of that man, the most selfish and wilful person that ever
lived, property was the first of rights, just as submission to authority
was the most holy of duties.

The right of OCCUPATION, or of the FIRST OCCUPANT, is that which results
from the actual, physical, real possession of a thing. I occupy a
piece of land; the presumption is, that I am the proprietor, until
the contrary is proved. We know that originally such a right cannot be
legitimate unless it is reciprocal; the jurists say as much.

Cicero compares the earth to a vast theatre: _Quemadmodum theatrum cum
commune sit, recte tamen dici potest ejus esse eum locum quem quisque

This passage is all that ancient philosophy has to say about the origin
of property.

The theatre, says Cicero, is common to all; nevertheless, the place that
each one occupies is called HIS OWN; that is, it is a place POSSESSED,
not a place APPROPRIATED. This comparison annihilates property;
moreover, it implies equality. Can I, in a theatre, occupy at the same
time one place in the pit, another in the boxes, and a third in the
gallery? Not unless I have three bodies, like Geryon, or can exist
in different places at the same time, as is related of the magician

According to Cicero, no one has a right to more than he needs: such
is the true interpretation of his famous axiom--_suum quidque cujusque
sit_, to each one that which belongs to him--an axiom that has been
strangely applied. That which belongs to each is not that which each MAY
possess, but that which each HAS A RIGHT to possess. Now, what have we a
right to possess? That which is required for our labor and consumption;
Cicero's comparison of the earth to a theatre proves it. According to
that, each one may take what place he will, may beautify and adorn it,
if he can; it is allowable: but he must never allow himself to overstep
the limit which separates him from another. The doctrine of Cicero leads
directly to equality; for, occupation being pure toleration, if the
toleration is mutual (and it cannot be otherwise) the possessions are

Grotius rushes into history; but what kind of reasoning is that which
seeks the origin of a right, said to be natural, elsewhere than in
Nature? This is the method of the ancients: the fact exists, then it
is necessary, then it is just, then its antecedents are just also.
Nevertheless, let us look into it.

"Originally, all things were common and undivided; they were the
property of all." Let us go no farther. Grotius tells us how this
original communism came to an end through ambition and cupidity; how the
age of gold was followed by the age of iron, &c. So that property rested
first on war and conquest, then on treaties and agreements. But either
these treaties and agreements distributed wealth equally, as did the
original communism (the only method of distribution with which the
barbarians were acquainted, and the only form of justice of which they
could conceive; and then the question of origin assumes this form:
how did equality afterwards disappear?)--or else these treaties and
agreements were forced by the strong upon the weak, and in that case
they are null; the tacit consent of posterity does not make them valid,
and we live in a permanent condition of iniquity and fraud.

We never can conceive how the equality of conditions, having once
existed, could afterwards have passed away. What was the cause of such
degeneration? The instincts of the animals are unchangeable, as well
as the differences of species; to suppose original equality in human
society is to admit by implication that the present inequality is
a degeneration from the nature of this society,--a thing which the
defenders of property cannot explain. But I infer therefrom that, if
Providence placed the first human beings in a condition of equality, it
was an indication of its desires, a model that it wished them to realize
in other forms; just as the religious sentiment, which it planted in
their hearts, has developed and manifested itself in various ways. Man
has but one nature, constant and unalterable: he pursues it through
instinct, he wanders from it through reflection, he returns to it
through judgment; who shall say that we are not returning now? According
to Grotius, man has abandoned equality; according to me, he will yet
return to it. How came he to abandon it? Why will he return to it? These
are questions for future consideration.

Reid writes as follows:--

"The right of property is not innate, but acquired. It is not grounded
upon the constitution of man, but upon his actions. Writers on
jurisprudence have explained its origin in a manner that may satisfy
every man of common understanding.

"The earth is given to men in common for the purposes of life, by the
bounty of Heaven. But to divide it, and appropriate one part of its
produce to one, another part to another, must be the work of men
who have power and understanding given them, by which every man may
accommodate himself, WITHOUT HURT TO ANY OTHER.

"This common right of every man to what the earth produces, before it
be occupied and appropriated by others, was, by ancient moralists, very
properly compared to the right which every citizen had to the public
theatre, where every man that came might occupy an empty seat, and
thereby acquire a right to it while the entertainment lasted; but no man
had a right to dispossess another.

"The earth is a great theatre, furnished by the Almighty, with perfect
wisdom and goodness, for the entertainment and employment of all
mankind. Here every man has a right to accommodate himself as a
spectator, and to perform his part as an actor; but without hurt to

Consequences of Reid's doctrine.

1. That the portion which each one appropriates may wrong no one, it
must be equal to the quotient of the total amount of property to be
shared, divided by the number of those who are to share it;

2. The number of places being of necessity equal at all times to that
of the spectators, no spectator can occupy two places, nor can any actor
play several parts;

3. Whenever a spectator comes in or goes out, the places of all contract
or enlarge correspondingly: for, says Reid, "THE RIGHT OF PROPERTY
IS NOT INNATE, BUT ACQUIRED;" consequently, it is not absolute;
consequently, the occupancy on which it is based, being a conditional
fact, cannot endow this right with a stability which it does not possess
itself. This seems to have been the thought of the Edinburgh professor
when he added:--

"A right to life implies a right to the necessary means of life; and
that justice, which forbids the taking away the life of an innocent man,
forbids no less the taking from him the necessary means of life. He has
the same right to defend the one as the other. To hinder another man's
innocent labor, or to deprive him of the fruit of it, is an injustice
of the same kind, and has the same effect as to put him in fetters or in
prison, and is equally a just object of resentment."

Thus the chief of the Scotch school, without considering at all the
inequality of skill or labor, posits a priori the equality of the means
of labor, abandoning thereafter to each laborer the care of his own
person, after the eternal axiom: WHOSO DOES WELL, SHALL FARE WELL.

The philosopher Reid is lacking, not in knowledge of the principle, but
in courage to pursue it to its ultimate. If the right of life is equal,
the right of labor is equal, and so is the right of occupancy. Would
it not be criminal, were some islanders to repulse, in the name of
property, the unfortunate victims of a shipwreck struggling to reach
the shore? The very idea of such cruelty sickens the imagination. The
proprietor, like Robinson Crusoe on his island, wards off with pike and
musket the proletaire washed overboard by the wave of civilization, and
seeking to gain a foothold upon the rocks of property. "Give me work!"
cries he with all his might to the proprietor: "don't drive me away, I
will work for you at any price." "I do not need your services," replies
the proprietor, showing the end of his pike or the barrel of his gun.
"Lower my rent at least." "I need my income to live upon." "How can
I pay you, when I can get no work?" "That is your business." Then the
unfortunate proletaire abandons himself to the waves; or, if he attempts
to land upon the shore of property, the proprietor takes aim, and kills

We have just listened to a spiritualist; we will now question a
materialist, then an eclectic: and having completed the circle of
philosophy, we will turn next to law.

According to Destutt de Tracy, property is a necessity of our nature.
That this necessity involves unpleasant consequences, it would be
folly to deny. But these consequences are necessary evils which do not
invalidate the principle; so that it as unreasonable to rebel against
property on account of the abuses which it generates, as to complain
of life because it is sure to end in death. This brutal and pitiless
philosophy promises at least frank and close reasoning. Let us see if it
keeps its promise.

"We talk very gravely about the conditions of property,... as if it was
our province to decide what constitutes property.... It would seem, to
hear certain philosophers and legislators, that at a certain moment,
spontaneously and without cause, people began to use the words THINE and
MINE; and that they might have, or ought to have, dispensed with them.
But THINE and MINE were never invented."

A philosopher yourself, you are too realistic. THINE and MINE do not
necessarily refer to self, as they do when I say your philosophy, and my
equality; for your philosophy is you philosophizing, and my equality is
I professing equality. THINE and MINE oftener indicate a relation,--YOUR
country, YOUR parish, YOUR tailor, YOUR milkmaid; MY chamber, MY seat at
the theatre, MY company and MY battalion in the National Guard. In the
former sense, we may sometimes say MY labor, MY skill, MY virtue; never
MY grandeur nor MY majesty: in the latter sense only, MY field, MY
house, MY vineyard, MY capital,--precisely as the banker's clerk says
MY cash-box. In short, THINE and MINE are signs and expressions of
personal, but equal, rights; applied to things outside of us, they
indicate possession, function, use, not property.

It does not seem possible, but, nevertheless, I shall prove, by
quotations, that the whole theory of our author is based upon this
paltry equivocation.

"Prior to all covenants, men are, not exactly, as Hobbes says, in a
state of HOSTILITY, but of ESTRANGEMENT. In this state, justice and
injustice are unknown; the rights of one bear no relation to the rights
of another. All have as many rights as needs, and all feel it their duty
to satisfy those needs by any means at their command."

Grant it; whether true or false, it matters not. Destutt de Tracy cannot
escape equality. On this theory, men, while in a state of ESTRANGEMENT,
are under no obligations to each other; they all have the right
to satisfy their needs without regard to the needs of others, and
consequently the right to exercise their power over Nature, each
according to his strength and ability. That involves the greatest
inequality of wealth. Inequality of conditions, then, is the
characteristic feature of estrangement or barbarism: the exact opposite
of Rousseau's idea.

But let us look farther:--

"Restrictions of these rights and this duty commence at the time when
covenants, either implied or expressed, are agreed upon. Then appears
for the first time justice and injustice; that is, the balance between
the rights of one and the rights of another, which up to that time were
necessarily equal."

Listen: RIGHTS WERE EQUAL; that means that each individual had the right
words, that all had the right to injure each other; that there was no
right save force and cunning. They injured each other, not only by war
and pillage, but also by usurpation and appropriation. Now, in order to
abolish this equal right to use force and stratagem,--this equal
right to do evil, the sole source of the inequality of benefits and
injuries,--they commenced to make COVENANTS EITHER IMPLIED OR EXPRESSED,
and established a balance. Then these agreements and this balance
were intended to secure to all equal comfort; then, by the law of
contradictions, if isolation is the principle of inequality, society
must produce equality. The social balance is the equalization of the
strong and the weak; for, while they are not equals, they are strangers;
they can form no associations,--they live as enemies. Then, if
inequality of conditions is a necessary evil, so is isolation, for
society and inequality are incompatible with each other. Then, if
society is the true condition of man's existence, so is equality also.
This conclusion cannot be avoided.

This being so, how is it that, ever since the establishment of this
balance, inequality has been on the increase? How is it that justice and
isolation always accompany each other? Destutt de Tracy shall reply:--

"NEEDS and MEANS, RIGHTS and DUTIES, are products of the will. If man
willed nothing, these would not exist. But to have needs and means,
rights and duties, is to HAVE, to POSSESS, something. They are so many
kinds of property, using the word in its most general sense: they are
things which belong to us."

Shameful equivocation, not justified by the necessity for
generalization! The word PROPERTY has two meanings: 1. It designates the
quality which makes a thing what it is; the attribute which is peculiar
to it, and especially distinguishes it. We use it in this sense when we
MAGNET, &c. 2. It expresses the right of absolute control over a thing
by a free and intelligent being. It is used in this sense by writers
on jurisprudence. Thus, in the phrase, IRON ACQUIRES THE PROPERTY OF A
MAGNET, the word PROPERTY does not convey the same idea that it does in
man that he HAS property because he HAS arms and legs,--that the hunger
from which he suffers, and his power to sleep in the open air are his
property,--is to play upon words, and to add insult to injury.

"The sole basis of the idea of property is the idea of personality. As
soon as property is born at all, it is born, of necessity, in all its
fulness. As soon as an individual knows HIMSELF,--his moral personality,
his capacities of enjoyment, suffering, and action,--he necessarily
sees also that this SELF is exclusive proprietor of the body in which
it dwells, its organs, their powers, faculties, &c.... Inasmuch as
artificial and conventional property exists, there must be natural
property also; for nothing can exist in art without its counterpart in

We ought to admire the honesty and judgment of philosophers! Man has
properties; that is, in the first acceptation of the term, faculties. He
has property; that is, in its second acceptation, the right of domain.
He has, then, the property of the property of being proprietor. How
ashamed I should be to notice such foolishness, were I here considering
only the authority of Destutt de Tracy! But the entire human race, since
the origination of society and language, when metaphysics and dialectics
were first born, has been guilty of this puerile confusion of thought.
All which man could call his own was identified in his mind with his
person. He considered it as his property, his wealth; a part of himself,
a member of his body, a faculty of his mind. The possession of things
was likened to property in the powers of the body and mind; and on this
false analogy was based the right of property,--THE IMITATION OF NATURE
BY ART, as Destutt de Tracy so elegantly puts it.

But why did not this ideologist perceive that man is not proprietor even
of his own faculties? Man has powers, attributes, capacities; they are
given him by Nature that he may live, learn, and love: he does not own
them, but has only the use of them; and he can make no use of them that
does not harmonize with Nature's laws. If he had absolute mastery over
his faculties, he could avoid hunger and cold; he could eat unstintedly,
and walk through fire; he could move mountains, walk a hundred leagues
in a minute, cure without medicines and by the sole force of his will,
and could make himself immortal. He could say, "I wish to produce," and
his tasks would be finished with the words; he could say. "I wish to
know," and he would know; "I love," and he would enjoy. What then? Man
is not master of himself, but may be of his surroundings. Let him use
the wealth of Nature, since he can live only by its use; but let him
abandon his pretensions to the title of proprietor, and remember that he
is called so only metaphorically.

To sum up: Destutt de Tracy classes together the external PRODUCTIONS of
nature and art, and the POWERS or FACULTIES of man, making both of them
species of property; and upon this equivocation he hopes to establish,
so firmly that it can never be disturbed, the right of property. But
of these different kinds of property some are INNATE, as memory,
imagination, strength, and beauty; while others are ACQUIRED, as land,
water, and forests. In the state of Nature or isolation, the strongest
and most skilful (that is, those best provided with innate property)
stand the best chance of obtaining acquired property. Now, it is to
prevent this encroachment and the war which results therefrom, that
a balance (justice) has been employed, and covenants (implied or
expressed) agreed upon: it is to correct, as far as possible, inequality
of innate property by equality of acquired property. As long as the
division remains unequal, so long the partners remain enemies; and it
is the purpose of the covenants to reform this state of things. Thus
we have, on the one hand, isolation, inequality, enmity, war, robbery,
murder; on the other, society, equality, fraternity, peace, and love.
Choose between them!

M. Joseph Dutens--a physician, engineer, and geometrician, but a very
poor legist, and no philosopher at all--is the author of a "Philosophy
of Political Economy," in which he felt it his duty to break lances in
behalf of property. His reasoning seems to be borrowed from Destutt
de Tracy. He commences with this definition of property, worthy of
Sganarelle: "Property is the right by which a thing is one's own."
Literally translated: Property is the right of property.

After getting entangled a few times on the subjects of will, liberty,
and personality; after having distinguished between IMMATERIAL-NATURAL
property, and MATERIAL-NATURAL property, a distinction similar to
Destutt de Tracy's of innate and acquired property,--M. Joseph Dutens
concludes with these two general propositions: 1. Property is a natural
and inalienable right of every man; 2. Inequality of property is a
necessary result of Nature,--which propositions are convertible into a
simpler one: All men have an equal right of unequal property.

He rebukes M. de Sismondi for having taught that landed property has no
other basis than law and conventionality; and he says himself, speaking
of the respect which people feel for property, that "their good sense
reveals to them the nature of the ORIGINAL CONTRACT made between society
and proprietors."

He confounds property with possession, communism with equality, the just
with the natural, and the natural with the possible. Now he takes these
different ideas to be equivalents; now he seems to distinguish between
them, so much so that it would be infinitely easier to refute him than
to understand him. Attracted first by the title of the work, "Philosophy
of Political Economy," I have found, among the author's obscurities,
only the most ordinary ideas. For that reason I will not speak of him.

M. Cousin, in his "Moral Philosophy," page 15, teaches that all
morality, all laws, all rights are given to man with this injunction:
"FREE BEING, REMAIN FREE." Bravo! master; I wish to remain free if I
can. He continues:--

"Our principle is true; it is good, it is social. Do not fear to push it
to its ultimate.

"1. If the human person is sacred, its whole nature is sacred; and
particularly its interior actions, its feelings, its thoughts, its
voluntary decisions. This accounts for the respect due to philosophy,
religion, the arts industry, commerce, and to all the results of
liberty. I say respect, not simply toleration; for we do not tolerate a
right, we respect it."

I bow my head before this philosophy.

"2. My liberty, which is sacred, needs for its objective action an
instrument which we call the body: the body participates then in the
sacredness of liberty; it is then inviolable. This is the basis of the
principle of individual liberty.

"3. My liberty needs, for its objective action, material to work upon;
in other words, property or a thing. This thing or property naturally
participates then in the inviolability of my person. For instance, I
take possession of an object which has become necessary and useful in
the outward manifestation of my liberty. I say, 'This object is
mine since it belongs to no one else; consequently, I possess it
legitimately.' So the legitimacy of possession rests on two conditions.
First, I possess only as a free being. Suppress free activity, you
destroy my power to labor. Now it is only by labor that I can use this
property or thing, and it is only by using it that I possess it. Free
activity is then the principle of the right of property. But that alone
does not legitimate possession. All men are free; all can use property
by labor. Does that mean that all men have a right to all property? Not
at all. To possess legitimately, I must not only labor and produce in
my capacity of a free being, but I must also be the first to occupy the
property. In short, if labor and production are the principle of the
right of property, the fact of first occupancy is its indispensable

"4. I possess legitimately: then I have the right to use my property as
I see fit. I have also the right to give it away. I have also the right
to bequeath it; for if I decide to make a donation, my decision is as
valid after my death as during my life."

In fact, to become a proprietor, in M. Cousin's opinion, one must take
possession by occupation and labor. I maintain that the element of time
must be considered also; for if the first occupants have occupied every
thing, what are the new comers to do? What will become of them, having
an instrument with which to work, but no material to work upon?
Must they devour each other? A terrible extremity, unforeseen by
philosophical prudence; for the reason that great geniuses neglect
little things.

Notice also that M. Cousin says that neither occupation nor labor, taken
separately, can legitimate the right of property; and that it is born
only from the union of the two. This is one of M. Cousin's eclectic
turns, which he, more than any one else, should take pains to
avoid. Instead of proceeding by the method of analysis, comparison,
elimination, and reduction (the only means of discovering the truth amid
the various forms of thought and whimsical opinions), he jumbles
all systems together, and then, declaring each both right and wrong,
exclaims: "There you have the truth."

But, adhering to my promise, I will not refute him. I will only prove,
by all the arguments with which he justifies the right of property, the
principle of equality which kills it. As I have already said, my sole
intent is this: to show at the bottom of all these positions that
inevitable major, EQUALITY; hoping hereafter to show that the principle
of property vitiates the very elements of economical, moral, and
governmental science, thus leading it in the wrong direction.

Well, is it not true, from M. Cousin's point of view, that, if the
liberty of man is sacred, it is equally sacred in all individuals; that,
if it needs property for its objective action, that is, for its life,
the appropriation of material is equally necessary for all; that, if I
wish to be respected in my right of appropriation, I must respect
others in theirs; and, consequently, that though, in the sphere of the
infinite, a person's power of appropriation is limited only by
himself, in the sphere of the finite this same power is limited by the
mathematical relation between the number of persons and the space which
they occupy? Does it not follow that if one individual cannot prevent
another--his fellow-man--from appropriating an amount of material equal
to his own, no more can he prevent individuals yet to come; because,
while individuality passes away, universality persists, and eternal laws
cannot be determined by a partial view of their manifestations? Must we
not conclude, therefore, that whenever a person is born, the others must
crowd closer together; and, by reciprocity of obligation, that if the
new comer is afterwards to become an heir, the right of succession does
not give him the right of accumulation, but only the right of choice?

I have followed M. Cousin so far as to imitate his style, and I am
ashamed of it. Do we need such high-sounding terms, such sonorous
phrases, to say such simple things? Man needs to labor in order to live;
consequently, he needs tools to work with and materials to work upon.
His need to produce constitutes his right to produce. Now, this right is
guaranteed him by his fellows, with whom he makes an agreement to that
effect. One hundred thousand men settle in a large country like France
with no inhabitants: each man has a right to 1/100,000 of the land. If
the number of possessors increases, each one's portion diminishes in
consequence; so that, if the number of inhabitants rises to thirty-four
millions, each one will have a right only to 1/34,000,000. Now,
so regulate the police system and the government, labor, exchange,
inheritance, &c., that the means of labor shall be shared by all
equally, and that each individual shall be free; and then society will
be perfect.

Of all the defenders of property, M. Cousin has gone the farthest. He
has maintained against the economists that labor does not establish the
right of property unless preceded by occupation, and against the jurists
that the civil law can determine and apply a natural right, but cannot
create it. In fact, it is not sufficient to say, "The right of property
is demonstrated by the existence of property; the function of the civil
law is purely declaratory." To say that, is to confess that there is
no reply to those who question the legitimacy of the fact itself.
Every right must be justifiable in itself, or by some antecedent right;
property is no exception. For this reason, M. Cousin has sought to base
it upon the SANCTITY of the human personality, and the act by which the
will assimilates a thing. "Once touched by man," says one of M. Cousin's
disciples, "things receive from him a character which transforms and
humanizes them." I confess, for my part, that I have no faith in this
magic, and that I know of nothing less holy than the will of man. But
this theory, fragile as it seems to psychology as well as jurisprudence,
is nevertheless more philosophical and profound than those theories
which are based upon labor or the authority of the law. Now, we have
just seen to what this theory of which we are speaking leads,--to the
equality implied in the terms of its statement.

But perhaps philosophy views things from too lofty a standpoint, and
is not sufficiently practical; perhaps from the exalted summit of
speculation men seem so small to the metaphysician that he cannot
distinguish between them; perhaps, indeed, the equality of conditions is
one of those principles which are very true and sublime as generalities,
but which it would be ridiculous and even dangerous to attempt to
rigorously apply to the customs of life and to social transactions.
Undoubtedly, this is a case which calls for imitation of the wise
reserve of moralists and jurists, who warn us against carrying things to
extremes, and who advise us to suspect every definition; because there
is not one, they say, which cannot be utterly destroyed by developing
its disastrous results--_Omnis definitio in jure civili periculosa
est: parum est enim ut non subverti possit_. Equality of conditions,--a
terrible dogma in the ears of the proprietor, a consoling truth at
the poor-man's sick-bed, a frightful reality under the knife of the
anatomist,--equality of conditions, established in the political, civil,
and industrial spheres, is only an alluring impossibility, an inviting
bait, a satanic delusion.

It is never my intention to surprise my reader. I detest, as I do death,
the man who employs subterfuge in his words and conduct. From the first
page of this book, I have expressed myself so plainly and decidedly that
all can see the tendency of my thought and hopes; and they will do me
the justice to say, that it would be difficult to exhibit more frankness
and more boldness at the same time. I do not hesitate to declare that
the time is not far distant when this reserve, now so much admired in
philosophers--this happy medium so strongly recommended by professors of
moral and political science--will be regarded as the disgraceful feature
of a science without principle, and as the seal of its reprobation. In
legislation and morals, as well as in geometry, axioms are absolute,
definitions are certain; and all the results of a principle are to be
accepted, provided they are logically deduced. Deplorable pride! We know
nothing of our nature, and we charge our blunders to it; and, in a
fit of unaffected ignorance, cry out, "The truth is in doubt, the
best definition defines nothing!" We shall know some time whether this
distressing uncertainty of jurisprudence arises from the nature of
its investigations, or from our prejudices; whether, to explain social
phenomena, it is not enough to change our hypothesis, as did Copernicus
when he reversed the system of Ptolemy.

But what will be said when I show, as I soon shall, that this same
jurisprudence continually tries to base property upon equality? What
reply can be made?

% 3.--Civil Law as the Foundation and Sanction of Property.

Pothier seems to think that property, like royalty, exists by divine
right. He traces back its origin to God himself--ab Jove principium. He
begins in this way:--

"God is the absolute ruler of the universe and all that it contains:
_Domini est terra et plenitudo ejus, orbis et universi qui habitant in
eo_. For the human race he has created the earth and all its creatures,
and has given it a control over them subordinate only to his own. 'Thou
madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put
all things under his feet,' says the Psalmist. God accompanied this gift
with these words, addressed to our first parents after the creation: 'Be
fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth,'" &c.

After this magnificent introduction, who would refuse to believe the
human race to be an immense family living in brotherly union, and
under the protection of a venerable father? But, heavens! are brothers
enemies? Are fathers unnatural, and children prodigal?

GOD GAVE THE EARTH TO THE HUMAN RACE: why then have I received none? HE
HAS PUT ALL THINGS UNDER MY FEET,--and I have not where to lay my head!
MULTIPLY, he tells us through his interpreter, Pothier. Ah, learned
Pothier! that is as easy to do as to say; but you must give moss to the
bird for its nest.

"The human race having multiplied, men divided among themselves the
earth and most of the things upon it; that which fell to each, from that
time exclusively belonged to him. That was the origin of the right of

Say, rather, the right of possession. Men lived in a state of communism;
whether positive or negative it matters little. Then there was no
property, not even private possession. The genesis and growth of
possession gradually forcing people to labor for their support, they
agreed either formally or tacitly,--it makes no difference which,--that
the laborer should be sole proprietor of the fruit of his labor; that
is, they simply declared the fact that thereafter none could live
without working. It necessarily followed that, to obtain equality of
products, there must be equality of labor; and that, to obtain equality
of labor, there must be equality of facilities for labor. Whoever
without labor got possession, by force or by strategy, of another's
means of subsistence, destroyed equality, and placed himself above or
outside of the law. Whoever monopolized the means of production on the
ground of greater industry, also destroyed equality. Equality being then
the expression of right, whoever violated it was UNJUST.

Thus, labor gives birth to private possession; the right in a thing--jus
in re. But in what thing? Evidently IN THE PRODUCT, not IN THE SOIL.
So the Arabs have always understood it; and so, according to Caesar and
Tacitus, the Germans formerly held. "The Arabs," says M. de Sismondi,
"who admit a man's property in the flocks which he has raised, do not
refuse the crop to him who planted the seed; but they do not see why
another, his equal, should not have a right to plant in his turn.
The inequality which results from the pretended right of the first
occupant seems to them to be based on no principle of justice; and when
all the land falls into the hands of a certain number of inhabitants,
there results a monopoly in their favor against the rest of the nation,
to which they do not wish to submit."

Well, they have shared the land. I admit that therefrom results a more
powerful organization of labor; and that this method of distribution,
fixed and durable, is advantageous to production: but how could this
division give to each a transferable right of property in a thing
to which all had an inalienable right of possession? In the terms
of jurisprudence, this metamorphosis from possessor to proprietor is
legally impossible; it implies in the jurisdiction of the courts the
union of possessoire and petitoire; and the mutual concessions of those
who share the land are nothing less than traffic in natural rights. The
original cultivators of the land, who were also the original makers of
the law, were not as learned as our legislators, I admit; and had
they been, they could not have done worse: they did not foresee the
consequences of the transformation of the right of private possession
into the right of absolute property. But why have not those, who in
later times have established the distinction between jus in re and jus
ad rem, applied it to the principle of property itself?

Let me call the attention of the writers on jurisprudence to their own

The right of property, provided it can have a cause, can have but
one--_Dominium non potest nisi ex una causa contingere_. I can possess
by several titles; I can become proprietor by only one--_Non ut ex
pluribus causis idem nobis deberi potest, ita ex pluribus causis idem
potest nostrum esse_. The field which I have cleared, which I cultivate,
on which I have built my house, which supports myself, my family, and
my livestock, I can possess: 1st. As the original occupant; 2d. As a
laborer; 3d. By virtue of the social contract which assigns it to me as
my share.

But none of these titles confer upon me the right of property. For, if I
attempt to base it upon occupancy, society can reply, "I am the original
occupant." If I appeal to my labor, it will say, "It is only on that
condition that you possess." If I speak of agreements, it will respond,
"These agreements establish only your right of use." Such, however, are
the only titles which proprietors advance. They never have been able
to discover any others. Indeed, every right--it is Pothier who says
it--supposes a producing cause in the person who enjoys it; but in man
who lives and dies, in this son of earth who passes away like a
shadow, there exists, with respect to external things, only titles of
possession, not one title of property. Why, then, has society recognized
a right injurious to itself, where there is no producing cause? Why,
in according possession, has it also conceded property? Why has the law
sanctioned this abuse of power?

The German Ancillon replies thus:--

"Some philosophers pretend that man, in employing his forces upon a
natural object,--say a field or a tree,--acquires a right only to the
improvements which he makes, to the form which he gives to the object,
not to the object itself. Useless distinction! If the form could be
separated from the object, perhaps there would be room for question; but
as this is almost always impossible, the application of man's strength
to the different parts of the visible world is the foundation of the
right of property, the primary origin of riches."

Vain pretext! If the form cannot be separated from the object, nor
property from possession, possession must be shared; in any case,
society reserves the right to fix the conditions of property. Let us
suppose that an appropriated farm yields a gross income of ten thousand
francs; and, as very seldom happens, that this farm cannot be divided.
Let us suppose farther that, by economical calculation, the annual
expenses of a family are three thousand francs: the possessor of this
farm should be obliged to guard his reputation as a good father of a
family, by paying to society ten thousand francs,--less the total
costs of cultivation, and the three thousand francs required for the
maintenance of his family. This payment is not rent, it is an indemnity.

What sort of justice is it, then, which makes such laws as this:--

"Whereas, since labor so changes the form of a thing that the form
and substance cannot be separated without destroying the thing itself,
either society must be disinherited, or the laborer must lose the fruit
of his labor; and

"Whereas, in every other case, property in raw material would give a
title to added improvements, minus their cost; and whereas, in this
instance, property in improvements ought to give a title to the

"Therefore, the right of appropriation by labor shall never be admitted
against individuals, but only against society."

In such a way do legislators always reason in regard to property.

The law is intended to protect men's mutual rights,--that is, the rights
of each against each, and each against all; and, as if a proportion
could exist with less than four terms, the law-makers always disregard
the latter. As long as man is opposed to man, property offsets property,
and the two forces balance each other; as soon as man is isolated, that
is, opposed to the society which he himself represents, jurisprudence is
at fault: Themis has lost one scale of her balance.

Listen to the professor of Rennes, the learned Toullier:--

"How could this claim, made valid by occupation, become stable and
permanent property, which might continue to stand, and which might be
reclaimed after the first occupant had relinquished possession?

"Agriculture was a natural consequence of the multiplication of the
human race, and agriculture, in its turn, favors population, and
necessitates the establishment of permanent property; for who would
take the trouble to plough and sow, if he were not certain that he would

To satisfy the husbandman, it was sufficient to guarantee him possession
of his crop; admit even that he should have been protected in his right
of occupation of land, as long as he remained its cultivator. That was
all that he had a right to expect; that was all that the advance of
civilization demanded. But property, property! the right of escheat over
lands which one neither occupies nor cultivates,--who had authority to
grant it? who pretended to have it?

"Agriculture alone was not sufficient to establish permanent property;
positive laws were needed, and magistrates to execute them; in a word,
the civil State was needed.

"The multiplication of the human race had rendered agriculture
necessary; the need of securing to the cultivator the fruit of his labor
made permanent property necessary, and also laws for its protection. So
we are indebted to property for the creation of the civil State."

Yes, of our civil State, as you have made it; a State which, at first,
was despotism, then monarchy, then aristocracy, today democracy, and
always tyranny.

"Without the ties of property it never would have been possible to
subordinate men to the wholesome yoke of the law; and without permanent
property the earth would have remained a vast forest. Let us admit,
then, with the most careful writers, that if transient property, or
the right of preference resulting from occupation, existed prior to
the establishment of civil society, permanent property, as we know it
to-day, is the work of civil law. It is the civil law which holds that,
when once acquired, property can be lost only by the action of
the proprietor, and that it exists even after the proprietor has
relinquished possession of the thing, and it has fallen into the hands
of a third party.

"Thus property and possession, which originally were confounded, became
through the civil law two distinct and independent things; two things
which, in the language of the law, have nothing whatever in common. In
this we see what a wonderful change has been effected in property, and
to what an extent Nature has been altered by the civil laws."

Thus the law, in establishing property, has not been the expression of a
psychological fact, the development of a natural law, the application of
a moral principle. It has literally CREATED a right outside of its own
province. It has realized an abstraction, a metaphor, a fiction; and
that without deigning to look at the consequences, without considering
the disadvantages, without inquiring whether it was right or wrong.

It has sanctioned selfishness; it has indorsed monstrous pretensions;
it has received with favor impious vows, as if it were able to fill up a
bottomless pit, and to satiate hell! Blind law; the law of the ignorant
man; a law which is not a law; the voice of discord, deceit, and
blood! This it is which, continually revived, reinstated, rejuvenated,
restored, re-enforced--as the palladium of society--has troubled the
consciences of the people, has obscured the minds of the masters, and
has induced all the catastrophes which have befallen nations.

This it is which Christianity has condemned, but which its ignorant
ministers deify; who have as little desire to study Nature and man, as
ability to read their Scriptures.

But, indeed, what guide did the law follow in creating the domain of
property? What principle directed it? What was its standard?

Would you believe it? It was equality.

Agriculture was the foundation of territorial possession, and the
original cause of property. It was of no use to secure to the farmer the
fruit of his labor, unless the means of production were at the same time
secured to him. To fortify the weak against the invasion of the strong,
to suppress spoliation and fraud, the necessity was felt of establishing
between possessors permanent lines of division, insuperable obstacles.
Every year saw the people multiply, and the cupidity of the husbandman
increase: it was thought best to put a bridle on ambition by setting
boundaries which ambition would in vain attempt to overstep. Thus the
soil came to be appropriated through need of the equality which is
essential to public security and peaceable possession. Undoubtedly the
division was never geographically equal; a multitude of rights, some
founded in Nature, but wrongly interpreted and still more wrongly
applied, inheritance, gift, and exchange; others, like the privileges
of birth and position, the illegitimate creations of ignorance and brute
force,--all operated to prevent absolute equality. But, nevertheless,
the principle remained the same: equality had sanctioned possession;
equality sanctioned property.

The husbandman needed each year a field to sow; what more convenient and
simple arrangement for the barbarians,--instead of indulging in annual
quarrels and fights, instead of continually moving their houses,
furniture, and families from spot to spot,--than to assign to each
individual a fixed and inalienable estate?

It was not right that the soldier, on returning from an expedition,
should find himself dispossessed on account of the services which he had
just rendered to his country; his estate ought to be restored to him. It
became, therefore, customary to retain property by intent alone--_nudo
animo;_ it could be sacrificed only with the consent and by the action
of the proprietor.

It was necessary that the equality in the division should be kept up
from one generation to another, without a new distribution of the land
upon the death of each family; it appeared therefore natural and just
that children and parents, according to the degree of relationship
which they bore to the deceased, should be the heirs of their ancestors.
Thence came, in the first place, the feudal and patriarchal custom of
recognizing only one heir; then, by a quite contrary application of the
principle of equality, the admission of all the children to a share in
their father's estate, and, very recently also among us, the definitive
abolition of the right of primogeniture.

But what is there in common between these rude outlines of instinctive
organization and the true social science? How could these men, who never
had the faintest idea of statistics, valuation, or political economy,
furnish us with principles of legislation?

"The law," says a modern writer on jurisprudence, "is the expression of
a social want, the declaration of a fact: the legislator does not make
it, he declares it. 'This definition is not exact. The law is a method
by which social wants must be satisfied; the people do not vote it, the
legislator does not express it: the savant discovers and formulates it."
But in fact, the law, according to M. Ch. Comte, who has devoted half a
volume to its definition, was in the beginning only the EXPRESSION OF
A WANT, and the indication of the means of supplying it; and up to this
time it has been nothing else. The legists--with mechanical fidelity,
full of obstinacy, enemies of philosophy, buried in literalities--have
always mistaken for the last word of science that which was only the
inconsiderate aspiration of men who, to be sure, were well-meaning, but
wanting in foresight.

They did not foresee, these old founders of the domain of property, that
the perpetual and absolute right to retain one's estate,--a right which
seemed to them equitable, because it was common,--involves the right to
transfer, sell, give, gain, and lose it; that it tends, consequently,
to nothing less than the destruction of that equality which they
established it to maintain. And though they should have foreseen it,
they disregarded it; the present want occupied their whole attention,
and, as ordinarily happens in such cases, the disadvantages were at
first scarcely perceptible, and they passed unnoticed.

They did not foresee, these ingenuous legislators, that if property is
retainable by intent alone--_nudo animo_--it carries with it the right
to let, to lease, to loan at interest, to profit by exchange, to settle
annuities, and to levy a tax on a field which intent reserves, while the
body is busy elsewhere.

They did not foresee, these fathers of our jurisprudence, that, if
the right of inheritance is any thing other than Nature's method of
preserving equality of wealth, families will soon become victims of the
most disastrous exclusions; and society, pierced to the heart by one of
its most sacred principles, will come to its death through opulence and
misery. [12]

Under whatever form of government we live, it can always be said that
_le mort saisit le vif;_ that is, that inheritance and succession will
last for ever, whoever may be the recognized heir. But the St. Simonians
wish the heir to be designated by the magistrate; others wish him to
be chosen by the deceased, or assumed by the law to be so chosen: the
essential point is that Nature's wish be satisfied, so far as the law of
equality allows.

To-day the real controller of inheritance is chance or caprice; now, in
matters of legislation, chance and caprice cannot be accepted as guides.
It is for the purpose of avoiding the manifold disturbances which
follow in the wake of chance that Nature, after having created us equal,
suggests to us the principle of heredity; which serves as a voice by
which society asks us to choose, from among all our brothers, him whom
we judge best fitted to complete our unfinished work.

They did not foresee.... But why need I go farther?

The consequences are plain enough, and this is not the time to criticise
the whole Code.

The history of property among the ancient nations is, then, simply a
matter of research and curiosity. It is a rule of jurisprudence that the
fact does not substantiate the right. Now, property is no exception to
this rule: then the universal recognition of the right of property
does not legitimate the right of property. Man is mistaken as to the
constitution of society, the nature of right, and the application of
justice; just as he was mistaken regarding the cause of meteors and the
movement of the heavenly bodies. His old opinions cannot be taken for
articles of faith. Of what consequence is it to us that the Indian race
was divided into four classes; that, on the banks of the Nile and the
Ganges, blood and position formerly determined the distribution of the
land; that the Greeks and Romans placed property under the protection
of the gods; that they accompanied with religious ceremonies the work
of partitioning the land and appraising their goods? The variety of the
forms of privilege does not sanction injustice. The faith of Jupiter,
the proprietor, [13] proves no more against the equality of citizens,
than do the mysteries of Venus, the wanton, against conjugal chastity.

The authority of the human race is of no effect as evidence in favor
of the right of property, because this right, resting of necessity upon
equality, contradicts its principle; the decision of the religions which
have sanctioned it is of no effect, because in all ages the priest
has submitted to the prince, and the gods have always spoken as the
politicians desired; the social advantages, attributed to property,
cannot be cited in its behalf, because they all spring from the
principle of equality of possession.

What means, then, this dithyramb upon property?

"The right of property is the most important of human institutions."...

Yes; as monarchy is the most glorious.

"The original cause of man's prosperity upon earth."

Because justice was supposed to be its principle.

"Property became the legitimate end of his ambition, the hope of his
existence, the shelter of his family; in a word, the corner-stone of the
domestic dwelling, of communities, and of the political State."

Possession alone produced all that.

"Eternal principle,--"

Property is eternal, like every negation,--

"Of all social and civil institutions."

For that reason, every institution and every law based on property will

"It is a boon as precious as liberty."

For the rich proprietor.

"In fact, the cause of the cultivation of the habitable earth."

If the cultivator ceased to be a tenant, would the land be worse cared

"The guarantee and the morality of labor."

Under the regime of property, labor is not a condition, but a privilege.

"The application of justice."

What is justice without equality of fortunes? A balance with false

"All morality,--"

A famished stomach knows no morality,--

"All public order,--"

Certainly, the preservation of property,--

"Rest on the right of property." [14]

Corner-stone of all which is, stumbling-block of all which ought to
be,--such is property.

To sum up and conclude:--

Not only does occupation lead to equality, it PREVENTS property. For,
since every man, from the fact of his existence, has the right of
occupation, and, in order to live, must have material for cultivation
on which he may labor; and since, on the other hand, the number of
occupants varies continually with the births and deaths,--it follows
that the quantity of material which each laborer may claim varies
with the number of occupants; consequently, that occupation is always
subordinate to population. Finally, that, inasmuch as possession, in
right, can never remain fixed, it is impossible, in fact, that it can
ever become property.

Every occupant is, then, necessarily a possessor or usufructuary,--a
function which excludes proprietorship. Now, this is the right of the
usufructuary: he is responsible for the thing entrusted to him; he
must use it in conformity with general utility, with a view to its
preservation and development; he has no power to transform it, to
diminish it, or to change its nature; he cannot so divide the usufruct
that another shall perform the labor while he receives the product. In a
word, the usufructuary is under the supervision of society, submitted to
the condition of labor and the law of equality.

Thus is annihilated the Roman definition of property--THE RIGHT OF USE
AND ABUSE--an immorality born of violence, the most monstrous pretension
that the civil laws ever sanctioned. Man receives his usufruct from the
hands of society, which alone is the permanent possessor. The individual
passes away, society is deathless.

What a profound disgust fills my soul while discussing such simple
truths! Do we doubt these things to-day? Will it be necessary to again
take arms for their triumph? And can force, in default of reason, alone
introduce them into our laws?



This no code has ever expressed; this no constitution can admit! These
are axioms which the civil law and the law of nations deny!.....

But I hear the exclamations of the partisans of another system: "Labor,
labor! that is the basis of property!"

Reader, do not be deceived. This new basis of property is worse than the
first, and I shall soon have to ask your pardon for having demonstrated
things clearer, and refuted pretensions more unjust, than any which we
have yet considered.


Nearly all the modern writers on jurisprudence, taking their cue from
the economists, have abandoned the theory of first occupancy as a too
dangerous one, and have adopted that which regards property as born of
labor. In this they are deluded; they reason in a circle. To labor it is
necessary to occupy, says M. Cousin.

Consequently, I have added in my turn, all having an equal right of
occupancy, to labor it is necessary to submit to equality. "The rich,"
exclaims Jean Jacques, "have the arrogance to say, 'I built this wall; I
earned this land by my labor.' Who set you the tasks? we may reply, and
by what right do you demand payment from us for labor which we did not
impose upon you?" All sophistry falls to the ground in the presence of
this argument.

But the partisans of labor do not see that their system is an absolute
contradiction of the Code, all the articles and provisions of which
suppose property to be based upon the fact of first occupancy. If labor,
through the appropriation which results from it, alone gives birth to
property, the Civil Code lies, the charter is a falsehood, our whole
social system is a violation of right. To this conclusion shall we come,
at the end of the discussion which is to occupy our attention in this
chapter and the following one, both as to the right of labor and the
fact of property. We shall see, on the one hand, our legislation in
opposition to itself; and, on the other hand, our new jurisprudence in
opposition both to its own principle and to our legislation.

I have asserted that the system which bases property upon labor implies,
no less than that which bases it upon occupation, the equality of
fortunes; and the reader must be impatient to learn how I propose to
deduce this law of equality from the inequality of skill and faculties:
directly his curiosity shall be satisfied. But it is proper that I
should call his attention for a moment to this remarkable feature of
the process; to wit, the substitution of labor for occupation as the
principle of property; and that I should pass rapidly in review some
of the prejudices to which proprietors are accustomed to appeal, which
legislation has sanctioned, and which the system of labor completely

Reader, were you ever present at the examination of a criminal? Have
you watched his tricks, his turns, his evasions, his distinctions, his
equivocations? Beaten, all his assertions overthrown, pursued like
a fallow deer by the in exorable judge, tracked from hypothesis
to hypothesis,--he makes a statement, he corrects it, retracts it,
contradicts it, he exhausts all the tricks of dialectics, more subtle,
more ingenious a thousand times than he who invented the seventy-two
forms of the syllogism. So acts the proprietor when called upon
to defend his right. At first he refuses to reply, he exclaims, he
threatens, he defies; then, forced to accept the discussion, he
arms himself with chicanery, he surrounds himself with formidable
artillery,--crossing his fire, opposing one by one and all together
occupation, possession, limitation, covenants, immemorial custom, and
universal consent. Conquered on this ground, the proprietor, like a
wounded boar, turns on his pursuers. "I have done more than occupy,"
he cries with terrible emotion; "I have labored, produced, improved,
transformed, CREATED. This house, these fields, these trees are the work
of my hands; I changed these brambles into a vineyard, and this bush
into a fig-tree; and to-day I reap the harvest of my labors. I have
enriched the soil with my sweat; I have paid those men who, had they not
had the work which I gave them, would have died of hunger. No one
shared with me the trouble and expense; no one shall share with me the

You have labored, proprietor! why then do you speak of original
occupancy? What, were you not sure of your right, or did you hope to
deceive men, and make justice an illusion? Make haste, then, to acquaint
us with your mode of defence, for the judgment will be final; and you
know it to be a question of restitution.

You have labored! but what is there in common between the labor which
duty compels you to perform, and the appropriation of things in which
there is a common interest? Do you not know that domain over the soil,
like that over air and light, cannot be lost by prescription?

You have labored! have you never made others labor? Why, then, have they
lost in laboring for you what you have gained in not laboring for them?

You have labored! very well; but let us see the results of your labor.
We will count, weigh, and measure them. It will be the judgment of
Balthasar; for I swear by balance, level, and square, that if you have
appropriated another's labor in any way whatsoever, you shall restore it
every stroke.

Thus, the principle of occupation is abandoned; no longer is it said,
"The land belongs to him who first gets possession of it." Property,
forced into its first intrenchment, repudiates its old adage; justice,
ashamed, retracts her maxims, and sorrow lowers her bandage over her
blushing cheeks. And it was but yesterday that this progress in social
philosophy began: fifty centuries required for the extirpation of a
lie! During this lamentable period, how many usurpations have been
sanctioned, how many invasions glorified, how many conquests celebrated!
The absent dispossessed, the poor banished, the hungry excluded by
wealth, which is so ready and bold in action! Jealousies and wars,
incendiarism and bloodshed, among the nations! But henceforth, thanks
to the age and its spirit, it is to be admitted that the earth is not a
prize to be won in a race; in the absence of any other obstacle, there
is a place for everybody under the sun. Each one may harness his goat
to the bearn, drive his cattle to pasture, sow a corner of a field, and
bake his bread by his own fireside.

But, no; each one cannot do these things. I hear it proclaimed on all
sides, "Glory to labor and industry! to each according to his capacity;
to each capacity according to its results!" And I see three-fourths of
the human race again despoiled, the labor of a few being a scourge to
the labor of the rest.

"The problem is solved," exclaims M. Hennequin. "Property, the daughter
of labor, can be enjoyed at present and in the future only under the
protection of the laws. It has its origin in natural law; it derives its
power from civil law; and from the union of these two ideas, LABOR and
PROTECTION, positive legislation results."...

then, is the right of accession, and the right of succession, and the
right of donation, &c., if not the right to become a proprietor by
simple occupancy? What are your laws concerning the age of majority,
emancipation, guardianship, and interdiction, if not the various
conditions by which he who is already a laborer gains or loses the right
of occupancy; that is, property?

Being unable, at this time, to enter upon a detailed discussion of the
Code, I shall content myself with examining the three arguments oftenest
resorted to in support of property. 1. APPROPRIATION, or the formation
of property by possession; 2. THE CONSENT OF MANKIND; 3. PRESCRIPTION. I
shall then inquire into the effects of labor upon the relative condition
of the laborers and upon property.

% 1.--The Land cannot be Appropriated.

"It would seem that lands capable of cultivation ought to be regarded
as natural wealth, since they are not of human creation, but Nature's
gratuitous gift to man; but inasmuch as this wealth is not fugitive,
like the air and water,--inasmuch as a field is a fixed and limited
space which certain men have been able to appropriate, to the
exclusion of all others who in their turn have consented to this
appropriation,--the land, which was a natural and gratuitous gift,
has become social wealth, for the use of which we ought to pay."--SAY:

Was I wrong in saying, at the beginning of this chapter, that the
economists are the very worst authorities in matters of legislation and
philosophy? It is the FATHER of this class of men who clearly states
the question, How can the supplies of Nature, the wealth created by
Providence, become private property? and who replies by so gross an
equivocation that we scarcely know which the author lacks, sense or
honesty. What, I ask, has the fixed and solid nature of the earth to do
with the right of appropriation? I can understand that a thing LIMITED
and STATIONARY, like the land, offers greater chances for appropriation
than the water or the sunshine; that it is easier to exercise the right
of domain over the soil than over the atmosphere: but we are not dealing
with the difficulty of the thing, and Say confounds the right with the
possibility. We do not ask why the earth has been appropriated to a
greater extent than the sea and the air; we want to know by what right
man has appropriated wealth WHICH HE DID NOT CREATE, AND WHICH NATURE

Say, then, did not solve the question which he asked. But if he had
solved it, if the explanation which he has given us were as satisfactory
as it is illogical, we should know no better than before who has a right
to exact payment for the use of the soil, of this wealth which is not
man's handiwork. Who is entitled to the rent of the land? The producer
of the land, without doubt. Who made the land? God. Then, proprietor,

But the creator of the land does not sell it: he gives it; and, in
giving it, he is no respecter of persons. Why, then, are some of his
children regarded as legitimate, while others are treated as bastards?
If the equality of shares was an original right, why is the inequality
of conditions a posthumous right?

Say gives us to understand that if the air and the water were not of a
FUGITIVE nature, they would have been appropriated. Let me observe in
passing that this is more than an hypothesis; it is a reality. Men have
appropriated the air and the water, I will not say as often as they
could, but as often as they have been allowed to.

The Portuguese, having discovered the route to India by the Cape of
Good Hope, pretended to have the sole right to that route; and Grotius,
consulted in regard to this matter by the Dutch who refused to recognize
this right, wrote expressly for this occasion his treatise on
the "Freedom of the Seas," to prove that the sea is not liable to

The right to hunt and fish used always to be confined to lords and
proprietors; to-day it is leased by the government and communes to
whoever can pay the license-fee and the rent. To regulate hunting and
fishing is an excellent idea, but to make it a subject of sale is to
create a monopoly of air and water.

What is a passport? A universal recommendation of the traveller's
person; a certificate of security for himself and his property. The
treasury, whose nature it is to spoil the best things, has made the
passport a means of espionage and a tax. Is not this a sale of the right
to travel?

Finally, it is permissible neither to draw water from a spring situated
in another's grounds without the permission of the proprietor, because
by the right of accession the spring belongs to the possessor of the
soil, if there is no other claim; nor to pass a day on his premises
without paying a tax; nor to look at a court, a garden, or an orchard,
without the consent of the proprietor; nor to stroll in a park or an
enclosure against the owner's will: every one is allowed to shut himself
up and to fence himself in. All these prohibitions are so many positive
interdictions, not only of the land, but of the air and water. We who
belong to the proletaire class: property excommunicates us! _Terra, et
aqua, et aere, et igne interdicti sumus_.

Men could not appropriate the most fixed of all the elements without
appropriating the three others; since, by French and Roman law, property
in the surface carries with it property from zenith to nadir--_Cujus
est solum, ejus est usque ad caelum_. Now, if the use of water, air,
and fire excludes property, so does the use of the soil. This chain of
reasoning seems to have been presented by M. Ch. Comte, in his "Treatise
on Property," chap. 5.

"If a man should be deprived of air for a few moments only, he would
cease to exist, and a partial deprivation would cause him severe
suffering; a partial or complete deprivation of food would produce like
effects upon him though less suddenly; it would be the same, at least
in certain climates! were he deprived of all clothing and shelter.... To
sustain life, then, man needs continually to appropriate many different
things. But these things do not exist in like proportions. Some, such as
the light of the stars, the atmosphere of the earth, the water composing
the seas and oceans, exist in such large quantities that men cannot
perceive any sensible increase or diminution; each one can appropriate
as much as his needs require without detracting from the enjoyment of
others, without causing them the least harm. Things of this sort are, so
to speak, the common property of the human race; the only duty imposed
upon each individual in this regard is that of infringing not at all
upon the rights of others."

Let us complete the argument of M. Ch. Comte. A man who should be
prohibited from walking in the highways, from resting in the fields,
from taking shelter in caves, from lighting fires, from picking berries,
from gathering herbs and boiling them in a bit of baked clay,--such
a man could not live. Consequently the earth--like water, air, and
light--is a primary object of necessity which each has a right to use
freely, without infringing another's right. Why, then, is the earth
appropriated? M. Ch. Comte's reply is a curious one. Say pretends that
it is because it is not FUGITIVE; M. Ch. Comte assures us that it
is because it is not INFINITE. The land is limited in amount. Then,
according to M. Ch. Comte, it ought to be appropriated. It would
seem, on the contrary, that he ought to say, Then it ought not to be
appropriated. Because, no matter how large a quantity of air or light
any one appropriates, no one is damaged thereby; there always remains
enough for all. With the soil, it is very different. Lay hold who will,
or who can, of the sun's rays, the passing breeze, or the sea's billows;
he has my consent, and my pardon for his bad intentions. But let any
living man dare to change his right of territorial possession into the
right of property, and I will declare war upon him, and wage it to the

M. Ch. Comte's argument disproves his position. "Among the things
necessary to the preservation of life," he says, "there are some which
exist in such large quantities that they are inexhaustible; others which
exist in lesser quantities, and can satisfy the wants of only a certain
number of persons. The former are called COMMON, the latter PRIVATE."

This reasoning is not strictly logical. Water, air, and light are
COMMON things, not because they are INEXHAUSTIBLE, but because they are
INDISPENSABLE; and so indispensable that for that very reason Nature
has created them in quantities almost infinite, in order that their
plentifulness might prevent their appropriation. Likewise the land
is indispensable to our existence,--consequently a common thing,
consequently insusceptible of appropriation; but land is much scarcer
than the other elements, therefore its use must be regulated, not for
the profit of a few, but in the interest and for the security of all.

In a word, equality of rights is proved by equality of needs. Now,
equality of rights, in the case of a commodity which is limited in
amount, can be realized only by equality of possession. An agrarian law
underlies M. Ch. Comte's arguments.

From whatever point we view this question of property--provided we go
to the bottom of it--we reach equality. I will not insist farther on
the distinction between things which can, and things which cannot, be
appropriated. On this point, economists and legists talk worse than
nonsense. The Civil Code, after having defined property, says nothing
about susceptibility of appropriation; and if it speaks of things which
are in THE MARKET, it always does so without enumerating or describing
them. However, light is not wanting. There are some few maxims such as
these: _Ad reges potestas omnium pertinet, ad singulos proprietas; Omnia
rex imperio possidet, singula dominio_. Social sovereignty opposed to
private property!--might not that be called a prophecy of equality, a
republican oracle? Examples crowd upon us: once the possessions of
the church, the estates of the crown, the fiefs of the nobility
were inalienable and imprescriptible. If, instead of abolishing this
privilege, the Constituent had extended it to every individual; if
it had declared that the right of labor, like liberty, can never be
forfeited,--at that moment the revolution would have been consummated,
and we could now devote ourselves to improvement in other directions.

% 2.--Universal Consent no Justification of Property.

In the extract from Say, quoted above, it is not clear whether the
author means to base the right of property on the stationary character
of the soil, or on the consent which he thinks all men have granted
to this appropriation. His language is such that it may mean either
of these things, or both at once; which entitles us to assume that the
author intended to say, "The right of property resulting originally from
the exercise of the will, the stability of the soil permitted it to be
applied to the land, and universal consent has since sanctioned this

However that may be, can men legitimate property by mutual consent? I
say, no. Such a contract, though drafted by Grotius, Montesquieu, and J.
J. Rousseau, though signed by the whole human race, would be null in the
eyes of justice, and an act to enforce it would be illegal. Man can
no more give up labor than liberty. Now, to recognize the right of
territorial property is to give up labor, since it is to relinquish
the means of labor; it is to traffic in a natural right, and divest
ourselves of manhood.

But I wish that this consent, of which so much is made, had been given,
either tacitly or formally. What would have been the result? Evidently,
the surrenders would have been reciprocal; no right would have been
abandoned without the receipt of an equivalent in exchange. We thus come
back to equality again,--the sine qua non of appropriation; so that,
after having justified property by universal consent, that is, by
equality, we are obliged to justify the inequality of conditions by
property. Never shall we extricate ourselves from this dilemma. Indeed,
if, in the terms of the social compact, property has equality for its
condition, at the moment when equality ceases to exist, the compact is
broken and all property becomes usurpation. We gain nothing, then, by
this pretended consent of mankind.

% 3.--Prescription Gives No Title to Property.

The right of property was the origin of evil on the earth, the first
link in the long chain of crimes and misfortunes which the human race
has endured since its birth. The delusion of prescription is the fatal
charm thrown over the intellect, the death sentence breathed into the
conscience, to arrest man's progress towards truth, and bolster up the
worship of error.

The Code defines prescription thus: "The process of gaining and losing
through the lapse of time." In applying this definition to ideas and
beliefs, we may use the word PRESCRIPTION to denote the everlasting
prejudice in favor of old superstitions, whatever be their object; the
opposition, often furious and bloody, with which new light has always
been received, and which makes the sage a martyr. Not a principle, not a
discovery, not a generous thought but has met, at its entrance into the
world, with a formidable barrier of preconceived opinions, seeming
like a conspiracy of all old prejudices. Prescriptions against reason,
prescriptions against facts, prescriptions against every truth hitherto
unknown,--that is the sum and substance of the _statu quo_ philosophy,
the watchword of conservatives throughout the centuries.

When the evangelical reform was broached to the world, there was
prescription in favor of violence, debauchery, and selfishness; when
Galileo, Descartes, Pascal, and their disciples reconstructed philosophy
and the sciences, there was prescription in favor of the Aristotelian
philosophy; when our fathers of '89 demanded liberty and equality, there
was prescription in favor of tyranny and privilege. "There always have
been proprietors and there always will be:" it is with this profound
utterance, the final effort of selfishness dying in its last ditch,
that the friends of social inequality hope to repel the attacks of their
adversaries; thinking undoubtedly that ideas, like property, can be lost
by prescription.

Enlightened to-day by the triumphal march of science, taught by the most
glorious successes to question our own opinions, we receive with favor
and applause the observer of Nature, who, by a thousand experiments
based upon the most profound analysis, pursues a new principle, a law
hitherto undiscovered. We take care to repel no idea, no fact, under the
pretext that abler men than ourselves lived in former days, who did not
notice the same phenomena, nor grasp the same analogies. Why do we not
preserve a like attitude towards political and philosophical questions?
Why this ridiculous mania for affirming that every thing has been said,
which means that we know all about mental and moral science? Why is
the proverb, THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN, applied exclusively to
metaphysical investigations?

Because we still study philosophy with the imagination, instead of by
observation and method; because fancy and will are universally regarded
as judges, in the place of arguments and facts,--it has been impossible
to this day to distinguish the charlatan from the philosopher, the
savant from the impostor. Since the days of Solomon and Pythagoras,
imagination has been exhausted in guessing out social and psychological
laws; all systems have been proposed. Looked at in this light, it is
probably true that EVERY THING HAS BEEN SAID; but it is no less true
that EVERY THING REMAINS TO BE PROVED. In politics (to take only this
branch of philosophy), in politics every one is governed in his choice
of party by his passion and his interests; the mind is submitted to the
impositions of the will,--there is no knowledge, there is not even a
shadow of certainty. In this way, general ignorance produces general
tyranny; and while liberty of thought is written in the charter, slavery
of thought, under the name of MAJORITY RULE, is decreed by the charter.

In order to confine myself to the civil prescription of which the Code
speaks, I shall refrain from beginning a discussion upon this worn-out
objection brought forward by proprietors; it would be too tiresome
and declamatory. Everybody knows that there are rights which cannot be
prescribed; and, as for those things which can be gained through the
lapse of time, no one is ignorant of the fact that prescription requires
certain conditions, the omission of one of which renders it null. If it
is true, for example, that the proprietor's possession has been CIVIL,
PUBLIC, PEACEABLE, and UNINTERRUPTED, it is none the less true that
it is not based on a just title; since the only titles which it can
show--occupation and labor--prove as much for the proletaire who
demands, as for the proprietor who defends. Further, this possession is
DISHONEST, since it is founded on a violation of right, which prevents
prescription, according to the saying of St. Paul--_Nunquam in
usucapionibus juris error possessori prodest_. The violation of right
lies either in the fact that the holder possesses as proprietor, while
he should possess only as usufructuary; or in the fact that he has
purchased a thing which no one had a right to transfer or sell.

Another reason why prescription cannot be adduced in favor of property
(a reason borrowed from jurisprudence) is that the right to possess
real estate is a part of a universal right which has never been totally
destroyed even at the most critical periods; and the proletaire, in
order to regain the power to exercise it fully, has only to prove that
he has always exercised it in part.

He, for example, who has the universal right to possess, give, exchange,
loan, let, sell, transform, or destroy a thing, preserves the integrity
of this right by the sole act of loaning, though he has never shown his
authority in any other manner. Likewise we shall see that EQUALITY OF
many identical expressions of one and the same idea,--the RIGHT OF
PRESERVATION and DEVELOPMENT; in a word, the right of life, against
which there can be no prescription until the human race has vanished
from the face of the earth.

Finally, as to the time required for prescription, it would be
superfluous to show that the right of property in general cannot be
acquired by simple possession for ten, twenty, a hundred, a thousand,
or one hundred thousand years; and that, so long as there exists a human
head capable of understanding and combating the right of property, this
right will never be prescribed. For principles of jurisprudence and
axioms of reason are different from accidental and contingent facts.
One man's possession can prescribe against another man's possession; but
just as the possessor cannot prescribe against himself, so reason has
always the faculty of change and reformation. Past error is not binding
on the future. Reason is always the same eternal force. The institution
of property, the work of ignorant reason, may be abrogated by a more
enlightened reason. Consequently, property cannot be established by
prescription. This is so certain and so true, that on it rests the
maxim that in the matter of prescription a violation of right goes for

But I should be recreant to my method, and the reader would have the
right to accuse me of charlatanism and bad faith, if I had nothing
further to advance concerning prescription. I showed, in the first
place, that appropriation of land is illegal; and that, supposing it to
be legal, it must be accompanied by equality of property. I have shown,
in the second place, that universal consent proves nothing in favor
of property; and that, if it proves any thing, it proves equality of
property. I have yet to show that prescription, if admissible at all,
presupposes equality of property.

This demonstration will be neither long nor difficult. I need only to
call attention to the reasons why prescription was introduced.

"Prescription," says Dunod, "seems repugnant to natural equity, which
permits no one either to deprive another of his possessions without his
knowledge and consent, or to enrich himself at another's expense. But as
it might often happen, in the absence of prescription, that one who had
honestly earned would be ousted after long possession; and even that
he who had received a thing from its rightful owner, or who had been
legitimately relieved from all obligations, would, on losing his title,
be liable to be dispossessed or subjected again,--the public welfare
demanded that a term should be fixed, after the expiration of which no
one should be allowed to disturb actual possessors, or reassert rights
too long neglected.... The civil law, in regulating prescription, has
aimed, then, only to perfect natural law, and to supplement the law of
nations; and as it is founded on the public good, which should always be
considered before individual welfare,--_bono publico usucapio introducta
est_,--it should be regarded with favor, provided the conditions
required by the law are fulfilled."

Toullier, in his "Civil Law," says: "In order that the question of
proprietorship may not remain too long unsettled, and thereby injure the
public welfare, disturbing the peace of families and the stability of
social transactions, the law has fixed a time when all claims shall be
cancelled, and possession shall regain its ancient prerogative through
its transformation into property."

Cassiodorus said of property, that it was the only safe harbor in
which to seek shelter from the tempests of chicanery and the gales of
avarice--_Hic unus inter humanas pro cellas portus, quem si homines
fervida voluntate praeterierint; in undosis semper jurgiis errabunt_.

Thus, in the opinion of the authors, prescription is a means of
preserving public order; a restoration in certain cases of the original
mode of acquiring property; a fiction of the civil law which derives
all its force from the necessity of settling differences which otherwise
would never end. For, as Grotius says, time has no power to produce
effects; all things happen in time, but nothing is done by time.
Prescription, or the right of acquisition through the lapse of time, is,
therefore, a fiction of the law, conventionally adopted.

But all property necessarily originated in prescription, or, as the
Latins say, in _usucapion;_ that is, in continued possession.

I ask, then, in the first place, how possession can become property by
the lapse of time? Continue possession as long as you wish, continue
it for years and for centuries, you never can give duration--which of
itself creates nothing, changes nothing, modifies nothing--the power
to change the usufructuary into a proprietor. Let the civil law secure
against chance-comers the honest possessor who has held his position
for many years,--that only confirms a right already respected; and
prescription, applied in this way, simply means that possession which
has continued for twenty, thirty, or a hundred years shall be retained
by the occupant. But when the law declares that the lapse of time
changes possessor into proprietor, it supposes that a right can be
created without a producing cause; it unwarrantably alters the character
of the subject; it legislates on a matter not open to legislation; it
exceeds its own powers. Public order and private security ask only
that possession shall be protected. Why has the law created property?
Prescription was simply security for the future; why has the law made it
a matter of privilege?

Thus the origin of prescription is identical with that of property
itself; and since the latter can legitimate itself only when accompanied
by equality, prescription is but another of the thousand forms which the
necessity of maintaining this precious equality has taken. And this is
no vain induction, no far-fetched inference. The proof is written in all
the codes.

And, indeed, if all nations, through their instinct of justice and their
conservative nature, have recognized the utility and the necessity
of prescription; and if their design has been to guard thereby the
interests of the possessor,--could they not do something for the absent
citizen, separated from his family and his country by commerce, war, or
captivity, and in no position to exercise his right of possession? No.
Also, at the same time that prescription was introduced into the laws,
it was admitted that property is preserved by intent alone,--_nudo
animo_. Now, if property is preserved by intent alone, if it can be
lost only by the action of the proprietor, what can be the use of
prescription? How does the law dare to presume that the proprietor, who
preserves by intent alone, intended to abandon that which he has allowed
to be prescribed? What lapse of time can warrant such a conjecture;
and by what right does the law punish the absence of the proprietor by
depriving him of his goods? What then! we found but a moment since that
prescription and property were identical; and now we find that they are
mutually destructive!

Grotius, who perceived this difficulty, replied so singularly that his
words deserve to be quoted: _Bene sperandum de hominibus, ac propterea
non putandum eos hoc esse animo ut, rei caducae causa, hominem alterum
velint in perpetuo peccato versari, quo d evitari saepe non poterit sine
tali derelictione_.

"Where is the man," he says, "with so unchristian a soul that, for a
trifle, he would perpetuate the trespass of a possessor, which would
inevitably be the result if he did not consent to abandon his right?" By
the Eternal! I am that man. Though a million proprietors should burn for
it in hell, I lay the blame on them for depriving me of my portion of
this world's goods. To this powerful consideration Grotius rejoins, that
it is better to abandon a disputed right than to go to law, disturb the
peace of nations, and stir up the flames of civil war. I accept, if you
wish it, this argument, provided you indemnify me. But if this indemnity
is refused me, what do I, a proletaire, care for the tranquillity and
security of the rich? I care as little for PUBLIC ORDER as for the
proprietor's safety. I ask to live a laborer; otherwise I will die a

Whichever way we turn, we shall come to the conclusion that prescription
is a contradiction of property; or rather that prescription and property
are two forms of the same principle, but two forms which serve to
correct each other; and ancient and modern jurisprudence did not make
the least of its blunders in pretending to reconcile them. Indeed, if
we see in the institution of property only a desire to secure to
each individual his share of the soil and his right to labor; in the
distinction between naked property and possession only an asylum for
absentees, orphans, and all who do not know, or cannot maintain, their
rights; in prescription only a means, either of defence against unjust
pretensions and encroachments, or of settlement of the differences
caused by the removal of possessors,--we shall recognize in these
various forms of human justice the spontaneous efforts of the mind to
come to the aid of the social instinct; we shall see in this protection
of all rights the sentiment of equality, a constant levelling tendency.
And, looking deeper, we shall find in the very exaggeration of these
principles the confirmation of our doctrine; because, if equality of
conditions and universal association are not soon realized, it will be
owing to the obstacle thrown for the time in the way of the common sense
of the people by the stupidity of legislators and judges; and also to
the fact that, while society in its original state was illuminated with
a flash of truth, the early speculations of its leaders could bring
forth nothing but darkness.

After the first covenants, after the first draughts of laws and
constitutions, which were the expression of man's primary needs, the
legislator's duty was to reform the errors of legislation; to complete
that which was defective; to harmonize, by superior definitions, those
things which seemed to conflict. Instead of that, they halted at the
literal meaning of the laws, content to play the subordinate part of
commentators and scholiasts. Taking the inspirations of the human mind,
at that time necessarily weak and faulty, for axioms of eternal and
unquestionable truth,--influenced by public opinion, enslaved by the
popular religion,--they have invariably started with the principle
(following in this respect the example of the theologians) that that is
infallibly true which has been admitted by all persons, in all places,
and at all times--_quod ab omnibus, quod ubique, quod semper;_ as if a
general but spontaneous opinion was any thing more than an indication of
the truth. Let us not be deceived: the opinion of all nations may serve
to authenticate the perception of a fact, the vague sentiment of a law;
it can teach us nothing about either fact or law. The consent of mankind
is an indication of Nature; not, as Cicero says, a law of Nature. Under
the indication is hidden the truth, which faith can believe, but only
thought can know. Such has been the constant progress of the human mind
in regard to physical phenomena and the creations of genius: how can
it be otherwise with the facts of conscience and the rules of human

% 4.--Labor--That Labor Has No Inherent Power to Appropriate Natural

We shall show by the maxims of political economy and law, that is, by
the authorities recognized by property,--

1. That labor has no inherent power to appropriate natural wealth.

2. That, if we admit that labor has this power, we are led directly to
equality of property,--whatever the kind of labor, however scarce the
product, or unequal the ability of the laborers.

3. That, in the order of justice, labor DESTROYS property.

Following the example of our opponents, and that we may leave no
obstacles in the path, let us examine the question in the strongest
possible light.

M. Ch. Comte says, in his "Treatise on Property:"--

"France, considered as a nation, has a territory which is her own."

France, as an individuality, possesses a territory which she cultivates;
it is not her property. Nations are related to each other as individuals
are: they are commoners and workers; it is an abuse of language to call
them proprietors. The right of use and abuse belongs no more to nations
than to men; and the time will come when a war waged for the purpose of
checking a nation in its abuse of the soil will be regarded as a holy

Thus, M. Ch. Comte--who undertakes to explain how property comes into
existence, and who starts with the supposition that a nation is a
proprietor--falls into that error known as BEGGING THE QUESTION; a
mistake which vitiates his whole argument.

If the reader thinks it is pushing logic too far to question a nation's
right of property in the territory which it possesses, I will simply
remind him of the fact that at all ages the results of the fictitious
right of national property have been pretensions to suzerainty,
tributes, monarchical privileges, statute-labor, quotas of men and
money, supplies of merchandise, &c.; ending finally in refusals to pay
taxes, insurrections, wars, and depopulations.

"Scattered through this territory are extended tracts of land, which
have not been converted into individual property. These lands, which
consist mainly of forests, belong to the whole population, and the
government, which receives the revenues, uses or ought to use them in
the interest of all."

OUGHT TO USE is well said: a lie is avoided thereby.

"Let them be offered for sale...."

Why offered for sale? Who has a right to sell them? Even were the nation
proprietor, can the generation of to-day dispossess the generation of
to-morrow? The nation, in its function of usufructuary, possesses
them; the government rules, superintends, and protects them. If it also
granted lands, it could grant only their use; it has no right to sell
them or transfer them in any way whatever. Not being a proprietor, how
can it transmit property?

"Suppose some industrious man buys a portion, a large swamp for example.
This would be no usurpation, since the public would receive the exact
value through the hands of the government, and would be as rich after
the sale as before."

How ridiculous! What! because a prodigal, imprudent, incompetent
official sells the State's possessions, while I, a ward of the State,--I
who have neither an advisory nor a deliberative voice in the State
councils,--while I am allowed to make no opposition to the sale,
this sale is right and legal! The guardians of the nation waste its
substance, and it has no redress! I have received, you tell me, through
the hands of the government my share of the proceeds of the sale: but,
in the first place, I did not wish to sell; and, had I wished to, I
could not have sold. I had not the right. And then I do not see that I
am benefited by the sale. My guardians have dressed up some soldiers,
repaired an old fortress, erected in their pride some costly but
worthless monument,--then they have exploded some fireworks and set up a
greased pole! What does all that amount to in comparison with my loss?

The purchaser draws boundaries, fences himself in, and says, "This is
mine; each one by himself, each one for himself." Here, then, is a piece
of land upon which, henceforth, no one has a right to step, save
the proprietor and his friends; which can benefit nobody, save the
proprietor and his servants. Let these sales multiply, and soon the
people--who have been neither able nor willing to sell, and who have
received none of the proceeds of the sale--will have nowhere to rest,
no place of shelter, no ground to till. They will die of hunger at
the proprietor's door, on the edge of that property which was their
birthright; and the proprietor, watching them die, will exclaim, "So
perish idlers and vagrants!"

To reconcile us to the proprietor's usurpation, M. Ch. Comte assumes the
lands to be of little value at the time of sale.

"The importance of these usurpations should not be exaggerated: they
should be measured by the number of men which the occupied land would
support, and by the means which it would furnish them.

"It is evident, for instance, that if a piece of land which is worth
to-day one thousand francs was worth only five centimes when it was
usurped, we really lose only the value of five centimes. A square league
of earth would be hardly sufficient to support a savage in distress;
to-day it supplies one thousand persons with the means of existence.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine parts of this land is the legitimate
property of the possessors; only one-thousandth of the value has been

A peasant admitted one day, at confession, that he had destroyed a
document which declared him a debtor to the amount of three hundred
francs. Said the father confessor, "You must return these three hundred
francs." "No," replied the peasant, "I will return a penny to pay for
the paper."

M. Ch. Comte's logic resembles this peasant's honesty. The soil has not
only an integrant and actual value, it has also a potential value,--a
value of the future,--which depends on our ability to make it valuable,
and to employ it in our work. Destroy a bill of exchange, a promissory
note, an annuity deed,--as a paper you destroy almost no value at all;
but with this paper you destroy your title, and, in losing your title,
you deprive yourself of your goods. Destroy the land, or, what is the
same thing, sell it,--you not only transfer one, two, or several crops,
but you annihilate all the products that you could derive from it; you
and your children and your children's children.

When M. Ch. Comte, the apostle of property and the eulogist of labor,
supposes an alienation of the soil on the part of the government, we
must not think that he does so without reason and for no purpose; it
is a necessary part of his position. As he rejected the theory of
occupancy, and as he knew, moreover, that labor could not constitute the
right in the absence of a previous permission to occupy, he was obliged
to connect this permission with the authority of the government, which
means that property is based upon the sovereignty of the people;
in other words, upon universal consent. This theory we have already

To say that property is the daughter of labor, and then to give labor
material on which to exercise itself, is, if I am not mistaken, to
reason in a circle. Contradictions will result from it.

"A piece of land of a certain size produces food enough to supply a man
for one day. If the possessor, through his labor, discovers some method
of making it produce enough for two days, he doubles its value. This
new value is his work, his creation: it is taken from nobody; it is his

I maintain that the possessor is paid for his trouble and industry in
his doubled crop, but that he acquires no right to the land. "Let
the laborer have the fruits of his labor." Very good; but I do not
understand that property in products carries with it property in raw
material. Does the skill of the fisherman, who on the same coast
can catch more fish than his fellows, make him proprietor of the
fishing-grounds? Can the expertness of a hunter ever be regarded as
a property-title to a game-forest? The analogy is perfect,--the
industrious cultivator finds the reward of his industry in the abundancy
and superiority of his crop. If he has made improvements in the soil, he
has the possessor's right of preference. Never, under any circumstances,
can he be allowed to claim a property-title to the soil which he
cultivates, on the ground of his skill as a cultivator.

To change possession into property, something is needed besides labor,
without which a man would cease to be proprietor as soon as he ceased
to be a laborer. Now, the law bases property upon immemorial,
unquestionable possession; that is, prescription. Labor is only the
sensible sign, the physical act, by which occupation is manifested. If,
then, the cultivator remains proprietor after he has ceased to labor
and produce; if his possession, first conceded, then tolerated, finally
becomes inalienable,--it happens by permission of the civil law, and by
virtue of the principle of occupancy. So true is this, that there is not
a bill of sale, not a farm lease, not an annuity, but implies it. I will
quote only one example.

How do we measure the value of land? By its product. If a piece of land
yields one thousand francs, we say that at five per cent. it is worth
twenty thousand francs; at four per cent. twenty-five thousand francs,
&c.; which means, in other words, that in twenty or twenty-five years'
time the purchaser would recover in full the amount originally paid for
the land. If, then, after a certain length of time, the price of a piece
of land has been wholly recovered, why does the purchaser continue to be
proprietor? Because of the right of occupancy, in the absence of which
every sale would be a redemption.

The theory of appropriation by labor is, then, a contradiction of the
Code; and when the partisans of this theory pretend to explain the laws
thereby, they contradict themselves.

"If men succeed in fertilizing land hitherto unproductive, or even
death-producing, like certain swamps, they create thereby property in
all its completeness."

What good does it do to magnify an expression, and play with
equivocations, as if we expected to change the reality thereby? THEY
productive capacity which formerly did not exist; but this capacity
cannot be created without material to support it. The substance of the
soil remains the same; only its qualities and modifications are changed.
Man has created every thing--every thing save the material itself. Now,
I maintain that this material he can only possess and use, on condition
of permanent labor,--granting, for the time being, his right of property
in things which he has produced.

This, then, is the first point settled: property in product, if we grant
so much, does not carry with it property in the means of production;
that seems to me to need no further demonstration. There is no
difference between the soldier who possesses his arms, the mason
who possesses the materials committed to his care, the fisherman who
possesses the water, the hunter who possesses the fields and forests,
and the cultivator who possesses the lands: all, if you say so, are
proprietors of their products--not one is proprietor of the means of
production. The right to product is exclusive--jus in re; the right to
means is common--jus ad rem.

% 5.--That Labor leads to Equality of Property.

Admit, however, that labor gives a right of property in material.

Why is not this principle universal? Why is the benefit of this
pretended law confined to a few and denied to the mass of laborers?
A philosopher, arguing that all animals sprang up formerly out of the
earth warmed by the rays of the sun, almost like mushrooms, on being
asked why the earth no longer yielded crops of that nature, replied:
"Because it is old, and has lost its fertility." Has labor, once so
fecund, likewise become sterile? Why does the tenant no longer acquire
through his labor the land which was formerly acquired by the labor of
the proprietor?

"Because," they say, "it is already appropriated." That is no answer. A
farm yields fifty bushels per hectare; the skill and labor of the tenant
double this product: the increase is created by the tenant. Suppose the
owner, in a spirit of moderation rarely met with, does not go to the
extent of absorbing this product by raising the rent, but allows the
cultivator to enjoy the results of his labor; even then justice is not
satisfied. The tenant, by improving the land, has imparted a new value
to the property; he, therefore, has a right to a part of the property.
If the farm was originally worth one hundred thousand francs, and if
by the labor of the tenant its value has risen to one hundred and fifty
thousand francs, the tenant, who produced this extra value, is the
legitimate proprietor of one-third of the farm. M. Ch. Comte could not
have pronounced this doctrine false, for it was he who said:--

"Men who increase the fertility of the earth are no less useful to their
fellow-men, than if they should create new land."

Why, then, is not this rule applicable to the man who improves the land,
as well as to him who clears it? The labor of the former makes the land
worth one; that of the latter makes it worth two: both create equal
values. Why not accord to both equal property? I defy any one to
refute this argument, without again falling back on the right of first

"But," it will be said, "even if your wish should be granted, property
would not be distributed much more evenly than now. Land does not go on
increasing in value for ever; after two or three seasons it attains its
maximum fertility. That which is added by the agricultural art results
rather from the progress of science and the diffusion of knowledge, than
from the skill of the cultivator. Consequently, the addition of a
few laborers to the mass of proprietors would be no argument against

This discussion would, indeed, prove a well-nigh useless one, if our
labors culminated in simply extending land-privilege and industrial
monopoly; in emancipating only a few hundred laborers out of the
millions of proletaires. But this also is a misconception of our real
thought, and does but prove the general lack of intelligence and logic.

If the laborer, who adds to the value of a thing, has a right of
property in it, he who maintains this value acquires the same right.
For what is maintenance? It is incessant addition,--continuous creation.
What is it to cultivate? It is to give the soil its value every year;
it is, by annually renewed creation, to prevent the diminution or
destruction of the value of a piece of land. Admitting, then, that
property is rational and legitimate,--admitting that rent is equitable
and just,--I say that he who cultivates acquires property by as good a
title as he who clears, or he who improves; and that every time a tenant
pays his rent, he obtains a fraction of property in the land entrusted
to his care, the denominator of which is equal to the proportion of rent
paid. Unless you admit this, you fall into absolutism and tyranny; you
recognize class privileges; you sanction slavery.

Whoever labors becomes a proprietor--this is an inevitable deduction
from the acknowledged principles of political economy and jurisprudence.
And when I say proprietor, I do not mean simply (as do our hypocritical
economists) proprietor of his allowance, his salary, his wages,--I mean
proprietor of the value which he creates, and by which the master alone

As all this relates to the theory of wages and of the distribution of
products,--and as this matter never has been even partially cleared
up,--I ask permission to insist on it: this discussion will not
be useless to the work in hand. Many persons talk of admitting
working-people to a share in the products and profits; but in
their minds this participation is pure benevolence: they have never
shown--perhaps never suspected--that it was a natural, necessary right,
inherent in labor, and inseparable from the function of producer, even
in the lowest forms of his work.


I again quote M. Ch. Comte:--

"Some laborers are employed in draining marshes, in cutting down trees
and brushwood,--in a word, in cleaning up the soil. They increase the
value, they make the amount of property larger; they are paid for
the value which they add in the form of food and daily wages: it then
becomes the property of the capitalist."

The price is not sufficient: the labor of the workers has created a
value; now this value is their property. But they have neither sold
nor exchanged it; and you, capitalist, you have not earned it. That you
should have a partial right to the whole, in return for the materials
that you have furnished and the provisions that you have supplied, is
perfectly just. You contributed to the production, you ought to share in
the enjoyment. But your right does not annihilate that of the laborers,
who, in spite of you, have been your colleagues in the work of
production. Why do you talk of wages? The money with which you pay
the wages of the laborers remunerates them for only a few years of the
perpetual possession which they have abandoned to you. Wages is the cost
of the daily maintenance and refreshment of the laborer. You are wrong
in calling it the price of a sale. The workingman has sold nothing; he
knows neither his right, nor the extent of the concession which he has
made to you, nor the meaning of the contract which you pretend to
have made with him. On his side, utter ignorance; on yours, error and
surprise, not to say deceit and fraud.

Let us make this clearer by another and more striking example.

No one is ignorant of the difficulties that are met with in the
conversion of untilled land into arable and productive land. These
difficulties are so great, that usually an isolated man would perish
before he could put the soil in a condition to yield him even the most
meagre living. To that end are needed the united and combined efforts of
society, and all the resources of industry. M. Ch. Comte quotes on this
subject numerous and well-authenticated facts, little thinking that he
is amassing testimony against his own system.

Let us suppose that a colony of twenty or thirty families establishes
itself in a wild district, covered with underbrush and forests; and from
which, by agreement, the natives consent to withdraw. Each one of these
families possesses a moderate but sufficient amount of capital, of such
a nature as a colonist would be apt to choose,--animals, seeds, tools,
and a little money and food. The land having been divided, each one
settles himself as comfortably as possible, and begins to clear away the
portion allotted to him. But after a few weeks of fatigue, such as they
never before have known, of inconceivable suffering, of ruinous and
almost useless labor, our colonists begin to complain of their trade;
their condition seems hard to them; they curse their sad existence.

Suddenly, one of the shrewdest among them kills a pig, cures a part of
the meat; and, resolved to sacrifice the rest of his provisions, goes to
find his companions in misery. "Friends," he begins in a very benevolent
tone, "how much trouble it costs you to do a little work and live
uncomfortably! A fortnight of labor has reduced you to your last
extremity!... Let us make an arrangement by which you shall all profit.
I offer you provisions and wine: you shall get so much every day;
we will work together, and, zounds! my friends, we will be happy and

Would it be possible for empty stomachs to resist such an invitation?
The hungriest of them follow the treacherous tempter. They go to work;
the charm of society, emulation, joy, and mutual assistance double their
strength; the work can be seen to advance. Singing and laughing, they
subdue Nature. In a short time, the soil is thoroughly changed; the
mellowed earth waits only for the seed. That done, the proprietor pays
his laborers, who, on going away, return him their thanks, and grieve
that the happy days which they have spent with him are over.

Others follow this example, always with the same success. Then, these
installed, the rest disperse,--each one returns to his grubbing. But,
while grubbing, it is necessary to live. While they have been clearing
away for their neighbor, they have done no clearing for themselves. One
year's seed-time and harvest is already gone. They had calculated that
in lending their labor they could not but gain, since they would save
their own provisions; and, while living better, would get still more
money. False calculation! they have created for another the means
wherewith to produce, and have created nothing for themselves. The
difficulties of clearing remain the same; their clothing wears out,
their provisions give out; soon their purse becomes empty for the profit
of the individual for whom they have worked, and who alone can furnish
the provisions which they need, since he alone is in a position to
produce them. Then, when the poor grubber has exhausted his resources,
the man with the provisions (like the wolf in the fable, who scents his
victim from afar) again comes forward. One he offers to employ again by
the day; from another he offers to buy at a favorable price a piece of
his bad land, which is not, and never can be, of any use to him: that
is, he uses the labor of one man to cultivate the field of another
for his own benefit. So that at the end of twenty years, of thirty
individuals originally equal in point of wealth, five or six have
become proprietors of the whole district, while the rest have been
philanthropically dispossessed!

In this century of bourgeoisie morality, in which I have had the honor
to be born, the moral sense is so debased that I should not be at all
surprised if I were asked, by many a worthy proprietor, what I see
in this that is unjust and illegitimate? Debased creature! galvanized
corpse! how can I expect to convince you, if you cannot tell robbery
when I show it to you? A man, by soft and insinuating words, discovers
the secret of taxing others that he may establish himself; then, once
enriched by their united efforts, he refuses, on the very conditions
which he himself dictated, to advance the well-being of those who made
his fortune for him: and you ask how such conduct is fraudulent! Under
the pretext that he has paid his laborers, that he owes them nothing
more, that he has nothing to gain by putting himself at the service of
others, while his own occupations claim his attention,--he refuses, I
say, to aid others in getting a foothold, as he was aided in getting his
own; and when, in the impotence of their isolation, these poor laborers
are compelled to sell their birthright, he--this ungrateful proprietor,
this knavish upstart--stands ready to put the finishing touch to their
deprivation and their ruin. And you think that just? Take care!

I read in your startled countenance the reproach of a guilty conscience,
much more clearly than the innocent astonishment of involuntary

"The capitalist," they say, "has paid the laborers their DAILY WAGES."
To be accurate, it must be said that the capitalist has paid as many
times one day's wage as he has employed laborers each day,--which is not
at all the same thing. For he has paid nothing for that immense
power which results from the union and harmony of laborers, and
the convergence and simultaneousness of their efforts. Two hundred
grenadiers stood the obelisk of Luxor upon its base in a few hours; do
you suppose that one man could have accomplished the same task in two
hundred days? Nevertheless, on the books of the capitalist, the amount
of wages paid would have been the same. Well, a desert to prepare for
cultivation, a house to build, a factory to run,--all these are
obelisks to erect, mountains to move. The smallest fortune, the most
insignificant establishment, the setting in motion of the lowest
industry, demand the concurrence of so many different kinds of labor and
skill, that one man could not possibly execute the whole of them. It
is astonishing that the economists never have called attention to this
fact. Strike a balance, then, between the capitalist's receipts and his

The laborer needs a salary which will enable him to live while he works;
for unless he consumes, he cannot produce. Whoever employs a man owes
him maintenance and support, or wages enough to procure the same.
That is the first thing to be done in all production. I admit, for the
moment, that in this respect the capitalist has discharged his duty.

It is necessary that the laborer should find in his production, in
addition to his present support, a guarantee of his future support;
otherwise the source of production would dry up, and his productive
capacity would become exhausted: in other words, the labor accomplished
must give birth perpetually to new labor--such is the universal law of
reproduction. In this way, the proprietor of a farm finds: 1. In his
crops, means, not only of supporting himself and his family, but of
maintaining and improving his capital, of feeding his live-stock--in a
word, means of new labor and continual reproduction; 2. In his ownership
of a productive agency, a permanent basis of cultivation and labor.

But he who lends his services,--what is his basis of cultivation?

The proprietor's presumed need of him, and the unwarranted supposition
that he wishes to employ him. Just as the commoner once held his land by
the munificence and condescension of the lord, so to-day the working-man
holds his labor by the condescension and necessities of the master
and proprietor: that is what is called possession by a precarious [15]
title. But this precarious condition is an injustice, for it implies
an inequality in the bargain. The laborer's wages exceed but little his
running expenses, and do not assure him wages for to-morrow; while the
capitalist finds in the instrument produced by the laborer a pledge of
independence and security for the future.

Now, this reproductive leaven--this eternal germ of life,
this preparation of the land and manufacture of implements for
production--constitutes the debt of the capitalist to the producer,
which he never pays; and it is this fraudulent denial which causes the
poverty of the laborer, the luxury of idleness, and the inequality of
conditions. This it is, above all other things, which has been so fitly
named the exploitation of man by man.

One of three things must be done. Either the laborer must be given a
portion of the product in addition to his wages; or the employer must
render the laborer an equivalent in productive service; or else he
must pledge himself to employ him for ever. Division of the product,
reciprocity of service, or guarantee of perpetual labor,--from the
adoption of one of these courses the capitalist cannot escape. But it
is evident that he cannot satisfy the second and third of these
conditions--he can neither put himself at the service of the thousands
of working-men, who, directly or indirectly, have aided him in
establishing himself, nor employ them all for ever. He has no other
course left him, then, but a division of the property. But if the
property is divided, all conditions will be equal--there will be no more
large capitalists or large proprietors.

Consequently, when M. Ch. Comte--following out his hypothesis--shows
us his capitalist acquiring one after another the products of his
employees' labor, he sinks deeper and deeper into the mire; and, as his
argument does not change, our reply of course remains the same.

"Other laborers are employed in building: some quarry the stone, others
transport it, others cut it, and still others put it in place. Each
of them adds a certain value to the material which passes through his
hands; and this value, the product of his labor, is his property. He
sells it, as fast as he creates it, to the proprietor of the building,
who pays him for it in food and wages."

_Divide et impera_--divide, and you shall command; divide, and you
shall grow rich; divide, and you shall deceive men, you shall daze their
minds, you shall mock at justice! Separate laborers from each other,
perhaps each one's daily wage exceeds the value of each individual's
product; but that is not the question under consideration. A force of
one thousand men working twenty days has been paid the same wages that
one would be paid for working fifty-five years; but this force of
one thousand has done in twenty days what a single man could not have
accomplished, though he had labored for a million centuries. Is the
exchange an equitable one? Once more, no; when you have paid all the
individual forces, the collective force still remains to be paid.

Consequently, there remains always a right of collective property which
you have not acquired, and which you enjoy unjustly.

Admit that twenty days' wages suffice to feed, lodge, and clothe this
multitude for twenty days: thrown out of employment at the end of that
time, what will become of them, if, as fast as they create, they abandon
their creations to the proprietors who will soon discharge them? While
the proprietor, firm in his position (thanks to the aid of all the
laborers), dwells in security, and fears no lack of labor or bread,
the laborer's only dependence is upon the benevolence of this same
proprietor, to whom he has sold and surrendered his liberty. If, then,
the proprietor, shielding himself behind his comfort and his rights,
refuses to employ the laborer, how can the laborer live? He has ploughed
an excellent field, and cannot sow it; he has built an elegant and
commodious house, and cannot live in it; he has produced all, and can
enjoy nothing.

Labor leads us to equality. Every step that we take brings us nearer to
it; and if laborers had equal strength, diligence, and industry, clearly
their fortunes would be equal also. Indeed, if, as is pretended,--and
as we have admitted,--the laborer is proprietor of the value which he
creates, it follows:--

1. That the laborer acquires at the expense of the idle proprietor;

2. That all production being necessarily collective, the laborer is
entitled to a share of the products and profits commensurate with his

3. That all accumulated capital being social property, no one can be its
exclusive proprietor.

These inferences are unavoidable; these alone would suffice to
revolutionize our whole economical system, and change our institutions
and our laws. Why do the very persons, who laid down this principle, now
refuse to be guided by it? Why do the Says, the Comtes, the Hennequins,
and others--after having said that property is born of labor--seek to
fix it by occupation and prescription?

But let us leave these sophists to their contradictions and blindness.
The good sense of the people will do justice to their equivocations.
Let us make haste to enlighten it, and show it the true path. Equality
approaches; already between it and us but a short distance intervenes:
to-morrow even this distance will have been traversed.

% 6.--That in Society all Wages are Equal.

When the St. Simonians, the Fourierists, and, in general, all who in our
day are connected with social economy and reform, inscribe upon their

RESULTS" (St. Simon);


they mean--although they do not say so in so many words--that the
products of Nature procured by labor and industry are a reward, a palm,
a crown offered to all kinds of preeminence and superiority. They regard
the land as an immense arena in which prizes are contended for,--no
longer, it is true, with lances and swords, by force and by treachery;
but by acquired wealth, by knowledge, talent, and by virtue itself. In
a word, they mean--and everybody agrees with them--that the greatest
capacity is entitled to the greatest reward; and, to use the
mercantile phraseology,--which has, at least, the merit of being
straightforward,--that salaries must be governed by capacity and its

The disciples of these two self-styled reformers cannot deny that such
is their thought; for, in doing so, they would contradict their
official interpretations, and would destroy the unity of their systems.
Furthermore, such a denial on their part is not to be feared. The
two sects glory in laying down as a principle inequality of
conditions,--reasoning from Nature, who, they say, intended the
inequality of capacities. They boast only of one thing; namely, that
their political system is so perfect, that the social inequalities
always correspond with the natural inequalities. They no more trouble
themselves to inquire whether inequality of conditions--I mean of
salaries--is possible, than they do to fix a measure of capacity.[1]

[1] In St. Simon's system, the St.-Simonian priest determines the
capacity of each by virtue of his pontifical infallibility, in imitation
of the Roman Church: in Fourier's, the ranks and merits are decided by
vote, in imitation of the constitutional regime.

Clearly, the great man is an object of ridicule to the reader; he did
not mean to tell his secret.

"To each according to his capacity, to each capacity according to its

"To each according to his capital, his labor, and his skill."

Since the death of St. Simon and Fourier, not one among their numerous
disciples has attempted to give to the public a scientific demonstration
of this grand maxim; and I would wager a hundred to one that no
Fourierist even suspects that this biform aphorism is susceptible of two

"To each according to his capacity, to each capacity according to its

"To each according to his capital, his labor, and his skill."

This proposition, taken, as they say, _in sensu obvio_--in the sense
usually attributed to it--is false, absurd, unjust, contradictory,
hostile to liberty, friendly to tyranny, anti-social, and was unluckily
framed under the express influence of the property idea.

And, first, CAPITAL must be crossed off the list of elements which are
entitled to a reward. The Fourierists--as far as I have been able to
learn from a few of their pamphlets--deny the right of occupancy, and
recognize no basis of property save labor. Starting with a like premise,
they would have seen--had they reasoned upon the matter--that capital is
a source of production to its proprietor only by virtue of the right of
occupancy, and that this production is therefore illegitimate. Indeed,
if labor is the sole basis of property, I cease to be proprietor of my
field as soon as I receive rent for it from another. This we have
shown beyond all cavil. It is the same with all capital; so that to put
capital in an enterprise, is, by the law's decision, to exchange it
for an equivalent sum in products. I will not enter again upon this
now useless discussion, since I propose, in the following chapter, to
exhaust the subject of PRODUCTION BY CAPITAL.

Thus, capital can be exchanged, but cannot be a source of income.

LABOR and SKILL remain; or, as St. Simon puts it, RESULTS and
CAPACITIES. I will examine them successively.

Should wages be governed by labor? In other words, is it just that
he who does the most should get the most? I beg the reader to pay the
closest attention to this point.

To solve the problem with one stroke, we have only to ask ourselves
the following question: "Is labor a CONDITION or a STRUGGLE?" The reply
seems plain.

God said to man, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,"--that
is, thou shalt produce thy own bread: with more or less ease, according
to thy skill in directing and combining thy efforts, thou shalt labor.
God did not say, "Thou shalt quarrel with thy neighbor for thy bread;"
but, "Thou shalt labor by the side of thy neighbor, and ye shall dwell
together in harmony." Let us develop the meaning of this law, the
extreme simplicity of which renders it liable to misconstruction.

In labor, two things must be noticed and distinguished: ASSOCIATION and

In so far as laborers are associated, they are equal; and it involves a
contradiction to say that one should be paid more than another. For,
as the product of one laborer can be paid for only in the product of
another laborer, if the two products are unequal, the remainder--or the
difference between the greater and the smaller--will not be acquired
by society; and, therefore, not being exchanged, will not affect the
equality of wages. There will result, it is true, in favor of the
stronger laborer a natural inequality, but not a social inequality; no
one having suffered by his strength and productive energy. In a word,
society exchanges only equal products--that is, rewards no labor save
that performed for her benefit; consequently, she pays all laborers
equally: with what they produce outside of her sphere she has no more to
do, than with the difference in their voices and their hair.

I seem to be positing the principle of inequality: the reverse of this
is the truth. The total amount of labor which can be performed for
society (that is, of labor susceptible of exchange), being, within a
given space, as much greater as the laborers are more numerous, and as
the task assigned to each is less in magnitude,--it follows that natural
inequality neutralizes itself in proportion as association extends, and
as the quantity of consumable values produced thereby increases. So that
in society the only thing which could bring back the inequality of labor
would be the right of occupancy,--the right of property.

Now, suppose that this daily social task consists in the ploughing,
hoeing, or reaping of two square decameters, and that the average time
required to accomplish it is seven hours: one laborer will finish it in
six hours, another will require eight; the majority, however, will work
seven. But provided each one furnishes the quantity of labor demanded of
him, whatever be the time he employs, they are entitled to equal wages.

Shall the laborer who is capable of finishing his task in six hours have
the right, on the ground of superior strength and activity, to usurp
the task of the less skilful laborer, and thus rob him of his labor and
bread? Who dares maintain such a proposition? He who finishes before the
others may rest, if he chooses; he may devote himself to useful exercise
and labors for the maintenance of his strength, and the culture of his
mind, and the pleasure of his life. This he can do without injury to any
one: but let him confine himself to services which affect him solely.
Vigor, genius, diligence, and all the personal advantages which result
therefrom, are the work of Nature and, to a certain extent, of the
individual; society awards them the esteem which they merit: but the
wages which it pays them is measured, not by their power, but by their
production. Now, the product of each is limited by the right of all.

If the soil were infinite in extent, and the amount of available
material were exhaustless, even then we could not accept this maxim,--TO
EACH ACCORDING TO HIS LABOR. And why? Because society, I repeat,
whatever be the number of its subjects, is forced to pay them all the
same wages, since she pays them only in their own products. Only, on the
hypothesis just made, inasmuch as the strong cannot be prevented from
using all their advantages, the inconveniences of natural inequality
would reappear in the very bosom of social equality. But the land,
considering the productive power of its inhabitants and their ability to
multiply, is very limited; further, by the immense variety of products
and the extreme division of labor, the social task is made easy of
accomplishment. Now, through this limitation of things producible, and
through the ease of producing them, the law of absolute equality takes

Yes, life is a struggle. But this struggle is not between man and
man--it is between man and Nature; and it is each one's duty to take
his share in it. If, in the struggle, the strong come to the aid of the
weak, their kindness deserves praise and love; but their aid must be
accepted as a free gift,--not imposed by force, nor offered at a
price. All have the same career before them, neither too long nor too
difficult; whoever finishes it finds his reward at the end: it is not
necessary to get there first.

In printing-offices, where the laborers usually work by the job, the
compositor receives so much per thousand letters set; the pressman so
much per thousand sheets printed. There, as elsewhere, inequalities
of talent and skill are to be found. When there is no prospect of dull
times (for printing and typesetting, like all other trades, sometimes
come to a stand-still), every one is free to work his hardest, and exert
his faculties to the utmost: he who does more gets more; he who does
less gets less. When business slackens, compositors and pressmen divide
up their labor; all monopolists are detested as no better than robbers
or traitors.

There is a philosophy in the action of these printers, to which
neither economists nor legists have ever risen. If our legislators had
introduced into their codes the principle of distributive justice
which governs printing-offices; if they had observed the popular
instincts,--not for the sake of servile imitation, but in order to
reform and generalize them,--long ere this liberty and equality would
have been established on an immovable basis, and we should not now
be disputing about the right of property and the necessity of social

It has been calculated that if labor were equally shared by the whole
number of able-bodied individuals, the average working-day of each
individual, in France, would not exceed five hours. This being so, how
can we presume to talk of the inequality of laborers? It is the LABOR of
Robert Macaire that causes inequality.

The principle, TO EACH ACCORDING TO HIS LABOR, interpreted to mean, WHO
WORKS MOST SHOULD RECEIVE MOST, is based, therefore, on two palpable
errors: one, an error in economy, that in the labor of society tasks
must necessarily be unequal; the other, an error in physics, that there
is no limit to the amount of producible things.

"But," it will be said, "suppose there are some people who wish to
perform only half of their task?"... Is that very embarrassing? Probably
they are satisfied with half of their salary. Paid according to the
labor that they had performed, of what could they complain? and what
injury would they do to others? In this sense, it is fair to apply the
maxim,--TO EACH ACCORDING TO HIS RESULTS. It is the law of equality

Further, numerous difficulties, relative to the police system and the
organization of industry, might be raised here. I will reply to them all
with this one sentence,--that they must all be solved by the principle
of equality. Thus, some one might observe, "Here is a task which cannot
be postponed without detriment to production. Ought society to suffer
from the negligence of a few? and will she not venture--out of respect
for the right of labor--to assure with her own hands the product which
they refuse her? In such a case, to whom will the salary belong?"

To society; who will be allowed to perform the labor, either herself, or
through her representatives, but always in such a way that the general
equality shall never be violated, and that only the idler shall be
punished for his idleness. Further, if society may not use excessive
severity towards her lazy members, she has a right, in self-defence, to
guard against abuses.

But every industry needs--they will add--leaders, instructors,
superintendents, &c. Will these be engaged in the general task? No;
since their task is to lead, instruct, and superintend. But they must be
chosen from the laborers by the laborers themselves, and must fulfil
the conditions of eligibility. It is the same with all public functions,
whether of administration or instruction.

Then, article first of the universal constitution will be:--

"The limited quantity of available material proves the necessity of
dividing the labor among the whole number of laborers. The capacity,
given to all, of accomplishing a social task,--that is, an equal
task,--and the impossibility of paying one laborer save in the products
of another, justify the equality of wages."

% 7.--That Inequality of Powers is the Necessary Condition of Equality
of Fortunes.

It is objected,--and this objection constitutes the second part of the
St. Simonian, and the third part of the Fourierstic, maxims,--

"That all kinds of labor cannot be executed with equal ease. Some
require great superiority of skill and intelligence; and on this
superiority is based the price. The artist, the savant, the poet, the
statesman, are esteemed only because of their excellence; and this
excellence destroys all similitude between them and other men: in the
presence of these heights of science and genius the law of equality
disappears. Now, if equality is not absolute, there is no equality.
From the poet we descend to the novelist; from the sculptor to the
stonecutter; from the architect to the mason; from the chemist to the
cook, &c. Capacities are classified and subdivided into orders, genera,
and species. The extremes of talent are connected by intermediate
talents. Humanity is a vast hierarchy, in which the individual estimates
himself by comparison, and fixes his price by the value placed upon his
product by the public."

This objection always has seemed a formidable one. It is the
stumbling-block of the economists, as well as of the defenders of
equality. It has led the former into egregious blunders, and has caused
the latter to utter incredible platitudes. Gracchus Babeuf wished all
CALAMITY. To establish his communistic edifice, he lowered all citizens
to the stature of the smallest. Ignorant eclectics have been known to
object to the inequality of knowledge, and I should not be surprised if
some one should yet rebel against the inequality of virtue. Aristotle
was banished, Socrates drank the hemlock, Epaminondas was called to
account, for having proved superior in intelligence and virtue to some
dissolute and foolish demagogues. Such follies will be re-enacted, so
long as the inequality of fortunes justifies a populace, blinded and
oppressed by the wealthy, in fearing the elevation of new tyrants to

Nothing seems more unnatural than that which we examine too closely, and
often nothing seems less like the truth than the truth itself. On the
other hand, according to J. J. Rousseau, "it takes a great deal of
philosophy to enable us to observe once what we see every day;" and,
according to d'Alembert, "the ordinary truths of life make but little
impression on men, unless their attention is especially called to them."
The father of the school of economists (Say), from whom I borrow these
two quotations, might have profited by them; but he who laughs at the
blind should wear spectacles, and he who notices him is near-sighted.

Strange! that which has frightened so many minds is not, after all,
an objection to equality--it is the very condition on which equality

Natural inequality the condition of equality of fortunes!... What
a paradox!... I repeat my assertion, that no one may think I have
blundered--inequality of powers is the sine qua non of equality of

There are two things to be considered in society--FUNCTIONS and

I. FUNCTIONS. Every laborer is supposed to be capable of performing the
task assigned to him; or, to use a common expression, "every workman
must know his trade." The workman equal to his work,--there is an
equation between functionary and function.

In society, functions are not alike; there must be, then, different
capacities. Further,--certain functions demand greater intelligence
and powers; then there are people of superior mind and talent. For
the performance of work necessarily involves a workman: from the need
springs the idea, and the idea makes the producer. We only know what our
senses long for and our intelligence demands; we have no keen desire
for things of which we cannot conceive, and the greater our powers of
conception, the greater our capabilities of production.

Thus, functions arising from needs, needs from desires, and desires
from spontaneous perception and imagination, the same intelligence which
imagines can also produce; consequently, no labor is superior to the
laborer. In a word, if the function calls out the functionary, it is
because the functionary exists before the function.

Let us admire Nature's economy. With regard to these various needs which
she has given us, and which the isolated man cannot satisfy unaided,
Nature has granted to the race a power refused to the individual. This
gives rise to the principle of the DIVISION OF LABOR,--a principle

The satisfaction of some needs demands of man continual creation;
while others can, by the labor of a single individual, be satisfied for
millions of men through thousands of centuries. For example, the need of
clothing and food requires perpetual reproduction; while a knowledge
of the system of the universe may be acquired for ever by two or
three highly-gifted men. The perpetual current of rivers supports our
commerce, and runs our machinery; but the sun, alone in the midst of
space, gives light to the whole world. Nature, who might create
Platos and Virgils, Newtons and Cuviers, as she creates husbandmen and
shepherds, does not see fit to do so; choosing rather to proportion the
rarity of genius to the duration of its products, and to balance the
number of capacities by the competency of each one of them.

I do not inquire here whether the distance which separates one man from
another, in point of talent and intelligence, arises from the deplorable
condition of civilization, nor whether that which is now called the
INEQUALITY OF POWERS would be in an ideal society any thing more than
a DIVERSITY OF POWERS. I take the worst view of the matter; and, that
I may not be accused of tergiversation and evasion of difficulties, I
acknowledge all the inequalities that any one can desire. [16]

Certain philosophers, in love with the levelling idea, maintain that all
minds are equal, and that all differences are the result of education.
I am no believer, I confess, in this doctrine; which, even if it were
true, would lead to a result directly opposite to that desired. For, if
capacities are equal, whatever be the degree of their power (as no one
can be coerced), there are functions deemed coarse, low, and degrading,
which deserve higher pay,--a result no less repugnant to equality than
on the contrary, a society in which every kind of talent bears a proper
numerical relation to the needs of the society, and which demands from
each producer only that which his special function requires him to
produce; and, without impairing in the least the hierarchy of functions,
I will deduce the equality of fortunes.

This is my second point.

II. RELATIONS. In considering the element of labor, I have shown that in
the same class of productive services, the capacity to perform a social
task being possessed by all, no inequality of reward can be based upon
an inequality of individual powers. However, it is but fair to say that
certain capacities seem quite incapable of certain services; so that, if
human industry were entirely confined to one class of products, numerous
incapacities would arise, and, consequently, the greatest social
inequality. But every body sees, without any hint from me, that the
variety of industries avoids this difficulty; so clear is this that
I shall not stop to discuss it. We have only to prove, then, that
functions are equal to each other; just as laborers, who perform the
same function, are equal to each other.

Property makes man a eunuch, and then reproaches him for being nothing
but dry wood, a decaying tree.

Are you astonished that I refuse to genius, to knowledge, to
courage,--in a word, to all the excellences admired by the world,--the
homage of dignities, the distinctions of power and wealth? It is not I
who refuse it: it is economy, it is justice, it is liberty. Liberty! for
the first time in this discussion I appeal to her. Let her rise in her
own defence, and achieve her victory.

Every transaction ending in an exchange of products or services may be

Whoever says commerce, says exchange of equal values; for, if the values
are not equal, and the injured party perceives it, he will not consent
to the exchange, and there will be no commerce.

Commerce exists only among free men. Transactions may be effected
between other people by violence or fraud, but there is no commerce.

A free man is one who enjoys the use of his reason and his faculties;
who is neither blinded by passion, nor hindered or driven by oppression,
nor deceived by erroneous opinions.

So, in every exchange, there is a moral obligation that neither of the
contracting parties shall gain at the expense of the other; that is,
that, to be legitimate and true, commerce must be exempt from all
inequality. This is the first condition of commerce. Its second
condition is, that it be voluntary; that is, that the parties act freely
and openly.

I define, then, commerce or exchange as an act of society.

The negro who sells his wife for a knife, his children for some bits
of glass, and finally himself for a bottle of brandy, is not free. The
dealer in human flesh, with whom he negotiates, is not his associate; he
is his enemy.

The civilized laborer who bakes a loaf that he may eat a slice of bread,
who builds a palace that he may sleep in a stable, who weaves rich
fabrics that he may dress in rags, who produces every thing that he may
dispense with every thing,--is not free. His employer, not becoming
his associate in the exchange of salaries or services which takes place
between them, is his enemy.

The soldier who serves his country through fear instead of through love
is not free; his comrades and his officers, the ministers or organs of
military justice, are all his enemies.

The peasant who hires land, the manufacturer who borrows capital, the
tax-payer who pays tolls, duties, patent and license fees, personal and
property taxes, &c., and the deputy who votes for them,--all act
neither intelligently nor freely. Their enemies are the proprietors, the
capitalists, the government.

Give men liberty, enlighten their minds that they may know the meaning
of their contracts, and you will see the most perfect equality in
exchanges without regard to superiority of talent and knowledge; and
you will admit that in commercial affairs, that is, in the sphere of
society, the word superiority is void of sense.

Let Homer sing his verse. I listen to this sublime genius in comparison
with whom I, a simple herdsman, an humble farmer, am as nothing. What,
indeed,--if product is to be compared with product,--are my cheeses and
my beans in the presence of his "Iliad"? But, if Homer wishes to take
from me all that I possess, and make me his slave in return for his
inimitable poem, I will give up the pleasure of his lays, and dismiss
him. I can do without his "Iliad," and wait, if necessary, for the

Homer cannot live twenty-four hours without my products. Let him accept,
then, the little that I have to offer; and then his muse may instruct,
encourage, and console me.

"What! do you say that such should be the condition of one who sings of
gods and men? Alms, with the humiliation and suffering which they bring
with them!--what barbarous generosity!"... Do not get excited, I beg
of you. Property makes of a poet either a Croesus or a beggar; only
equality knows how to honor and to praise him. What is its duty? To
regulate the right of the singer and the duty of the listener. Now,
notice this point, which is a very important one in the solution of this
question: both are free, the one to sell, the other to buy. Henceforth
their respective pretensions go for nothing; and the estimate, whether
fair or unfair, that they place, the one upon his verse, the other
upon his liberality, can have no influence upon the conditions of the
contract. We must no longer, in making our bargains, weigh talent; we
must consider products only.

In order that the bard of Achilles may get his due reward, he must first
make himself wanted: that done, the exchange of his verse for a fee of
any kind, being a free act, must be at the same time a just act; that
is, the poet's fee must be equal to his product. Now, what is the value
of this product?

Let us suppose, in the first place, that this "Iliad"--this chef-d'
oeuvre that is to be equitably rewarded--is really above price, that we
do not know how to appraise it. If the public, who are free to purchase
it, refuse to do so, it is clear that, the poem being unexchangeable,
its intrinsic value will not be diminished; but that its exchangeable
value, or its productive utility, will be reduced to zero, will be
nothing at all. Then we must seek the amount of wages to be paid between
infinity on the one hand and nothing on the other, at an equal distance
from each, since all rights and liberties are entitled to equal respect;
in other words, it is not the intrinsic value, but the relative value,
of the thing sold that needs to be fixed. The question grows simpler:
what is this relative value? To what reward does a poem like the "Iliad"
entitle its author?

The first business of political economy, after fixing its definitions,
was the solution of this problem; now, not only has it not been solved,
but it has been declared insoluble. According to the economists,
the relative or exchangeable value of things cannot be absolutely
determined; it necessarily varies.

"The value of a thing," says Say, "is a positive quantity, but only for
a given moment. It is its nature to perpetually vary, to change from one
point to another. Nothing can fix it absolutely, because it is based
on needs and means of production which vary with every moment. These
variations complicate economical phenomena, and often render them very
difficult of observation and solution. I know no remedy for this; it is
not in our power to change the nature of things."

Elsewhere Say says, and repeats, that value being based on utility, and
utility depending entirely on our needs, whims, customs, &c., value
is as variable as opinion. Now, political economy being the science
of values, of their production, distribution, exchange, and
consumption,--if exchangeable value cannot be absolutely determined,
how is political economy possible? How can it be a science? How can two
economists look each other in the face without laughing? How dare they
insult metaphysicians and psychologists? What! that fool of a Descartes
imagined that philosophy needed an immovable base--an _aliquid
inconcussum_--on which the edifice of science might be built, and he was
simple enough to search for it! And the Hermes of economy, Trismegistus
Say, devoting half a volume to the amplification of that solemn text,
_political economy is a science_, has the courage to affirm immediately
afterwards that this science cannot determine its object,--which is
equivalent to saying that it is without a principle or foundation! He
does not know, then, the illustrious Say, the nature of a science; or
rather, he knows nothing of the subject which he discusses.

Say's example has borne its fruits. Political economy, as it exists at
present, resembles ontology: discussing effects and causes, it knows
nothing, explains nothing, decides nothing. The ideas honored with the
name of economic laws are nothing more than a few trifling generalities,
to which the economists thought to give an appearance of depth by
clothing them in high-sounding words. As for the attempts that have been
made by the economists to solve social problems, all that can be said
of them is, that, if a glimmer of sense occasionally appears in their
lucubrations, they immediately fall back into absurdity. For twenty-five
years political economy, like a heavy fog, has weighed upon France,
checking the efforts of the mind, and setting limits to liberty.

Has every creation of industry a venal, absolute, unchangeable, and
consequently legitimate and true value?--Yes.

Can every product of man be exchanged for some other product of
man?--Yes, again.

How many nails is a pair of shoes worth?

If we can solve this appalling problem, we shall have the key of the
social system for which humanity has been searching for six thousand
years. In the presence of this problem, the economist recoils confused;
the peasant who can neither read nor write replies without hesitation:
"As many as can be made in the same time, and with the same expense."

The absolute value of a thing, then, is its cost in time and expense.
How much is a diamond worth which costs only the labor of picking it
up?--Nothing; it is not a product of man. How much will it be worth when
cut and mounted?--The time and expense which it has cost the laborer.
Why, then, is it sold at so high a price?--Because men are not free.
Society must regulate the exchange and distribution of the rarest
things, as it does that of the most common ones, in such a way that each
may share in the enjoyment of them. What, then, is that value which is
based upon opinion?--Delusion, injustice, and robbery.

By this rule, it is easy to reconcile every body. If the mean term,
which we are searching for, between an infinite value and no value at
all is expressed in the case of every product, by the amount of time and
expense which the product cost, a poem which has cost its author thirty
years of labor and an outlay of ten thousand francs in journeys, books,
&c., must be paid for by the ordinary wages received by a laborer during
thirty years, PLUS ten thousand francs indemnity for expense incurred.
Suppose the whole amount to be fifty thousand francs; if the society
which gets the benefit of the production include a million of men, my
share of the debt is five centimes.

This gives rise to a few observations.

1. The same product, at different times and in different places, may
cost more or less of time and outlay; in this view, it is true that
value is a variable quantity. But this variation is not that of the
economists, who place in their list of the causes of the variation of
values, not only the means of production, but taste, caprice, fashion,
and opinion. In short, the true value of a thing is invariable in its
algebraic expression, although it may vary in its monetary expression.

2. The price of every product in demand should be its cost in time and
outlay--neither more nor less: every product not in demand is a loss to
the producer--a commercial non-value.

3. The ignorance of the principle of evaluation, and the difficulty
under many circumstances of applying it, is the source of commercial
fraud, and one of the most potent causes of the inequality of fortunes.

4. To reward certain industries and pay for certain products, a society
is needed which corresponds in size with the rarity of talents, the
costliness of the products, and the variety of the arts and sciences.
If, for example, a society of fifty farmers can support a schoolmaster,
it requires one hundred for a shoemaker, one hundred and fifty for a
blacksmith, two hundred for a tailor, &c. If the number of farmers rises
to one thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand, &c., as fast as
their number increases, that of the functionaries which are earliest
required must increase in the same proportion; so that the highest
functions become possible only in the most powerful societies. [17] That
is the peculiar feature of capacities; the character of genius, the seal
of its glory, cannot arise and develop itself, except in the bosom of
a great nation. But this physiological condition, necessary to the
existence of genius, adds nothing to its social rights: far from
that,--the delay in its appearance proves that, in economical and
civil affairs, the loftiest intelligence must submit to the equality
of possessions; an equality which is anterior to it, and of which it
constitutes the crown.

This is severe on our pride, but it is an inexorable truth. And here
psychology comes to the aid of social economy, giving us to understand
that talent and material recompense have no common measure; that, in
this respect, the condition of all producers is equal: consequently,
that all comparison between them, and all distinction in fortunes, is

_ _In fact, every work coming from the hands of man--compared with the
raw material of which it is composed--is beyond price. In this respect,
the distance is as great between a pair of wooden shoes and the trunk of
a walnut-tree, as between a statue by Scopas and a block of marble.
The genius of the simplest mechanic exerts as much influence over the
materials which he uses, as does the mind of a Newton over the inert
spheres whose distances, volumes, and revolutions he calculates. You ask
for talent and genius a corresponding degree of honor and reward. Fix
for me the value of a wood-cutter's talent, and I will fix that of
Homer. If any thing can reward intelligence, it is intelligence itself.
That is what happens, when various classes of producers pay to each
other a reciprocal tribute of admiration and praise. But if they
contemplate an exchange of products with a view to satisfying mutual
needs, this exchange must be effected in accordance with a system of
economy which is indifferent to considerations of talent and genius, and
whose laws are deduced, not from vague and meaningless admiration, but
from a just balance between DEBIT and CREDIT; in short, from commercial

Now, that no one may imagine that the liberty of buying and selling
is the sole basis of the equality of wages, and that society's sole
protection against superiority of talent lies in a certain force of
inertia which has nothing in common with right, I shall proceed to
explain why all capacities are entitled to the same reward, and why a
corresponding difference in wages would be an injustice. I shall prove
that the obligation to stoop to the social level is inherent in talent;
and on this very superiority of genius I will found the equality of
fortunes. I have just given the negative argument in favor of rewarding
all capacities alike; I will now give the direct and positive argument.

Listen, first, to the economist: it is always pleasant to see how he
reasons, and how he understands justice. Without him, moreover, without
his amusing blunders and his wonderful arguments, we should learn
nothing. Equality, so odious to the economist, owes every thing to
political economy.

"When the parents of a physician [the text says a lawyer, which is
not so good an example] have expended on his education forty thousand
francs, this sum may be regarded as so much capital invested in his
head. It is therefore permissible to consider it as yielding an annual
income of four thousand francs. If the physician earns thirty thousand,
there remains an income of twenty-six thousand francs due to the
personal talents given him by Nature. This natural capital, then, if we
assume ten per cent. as the rate of interest, amounts to two hundred
and sixty thousand francs; and the capital given him by his parents, in
defraying the expenses of his education, to forty thousand francs. The
union of these two kinds of capital constitutes his fortune."--Say:
Complete Course, &c.

Say divides the fortune of the physician into two parts: one is composed
of the capital which went to pay for his education, the other represents
his personal talents. This division is just; it is in conformity with
the nature of things; it is universally admitted; it serves as the
major premise of that grand argument which establishes the inequality of
capacities. I accept this premise without qualification; let us look at
the consequences.

1. Say CREDITS the physician with forty thousand francs,--the cost of
his education. This amount should be entered upon the DEBIT side of the
account. For, although this expense was incurred for him, it was not
incurred by him. Then, instead of appropriating these forty thousand
francs, the physician should add them to the price of his product, and
repay them to those who are entitled to them. Notice, further, that
Say speaks of INCOME instead of REIMBURSEMENT; reasoning on the false
principle of the productivity of capital. The expense of educating a
talent is a debt contracted by this talent. From the very fact of its
existence, it becomes a debtor to an amount equal to the cost of its
production. This is so true and simple that, if the education of some
one child in a family has cost double or triple that of its brothers,
the latter are entitled to a proportional amount of the property
previous to its division. There is no difficulty about this in the case
of guardianship, when the estate is administered in the name of the

2. That which I have just said of the obligation incurred by talent of
repaying the cost of its education does not embarrass the economist. The
man of talent, he says, inheriting from his family, inherits among other
things a claim to the forty thousand francs which his education costs;
and he becomes, in consequence, its proprietor. But this is to abandon
the right of talent, and to fall back upon the right of occupancy; which
again calls up all the questions asked in Chapter II. What is the right
of occupancy? what is inheritance? Is the right of succession a right of
accumulation or only a right of choice? how did the physician's father
get his fortune? was he a proprietor, or only a usufructuary? If he was
rich, let him account for his wealth; if he was poor, how could he incur
so large an expense? If he received aid, what right had he to use that
aid to the disadvantage of his benefactors, &c.?

3. "There remains an income of twenty-six thousand francs due to
the personal talents given him by Nature." (Say,--as above quoted.)
Reasoning from this premise, Say concludes that our physician's talent
is equivalent to a capital of two hundred and sixty thousand francs.
This skilful calculator mistakes a consequence for a principle. The
talent must not be measured by the gain, but rather the gain by
the talent; for it may happen, that, notwithstanding his merit, the
physician in question will gain nothing at all, in which case will it be
necessary to conclude that his talent or fortune is equivalent to zero?
To such a result, however, would Say's reasoning lead; a result which is
clearly absurd.

Now, it is impossible to place a money value on any talent whatsoever,
since talent and money have no common measure. On what plausible ground
can it be maintained that a physician should be paid two, three, or a
hundred times as much as a peasant? An unavoidable difficulty, which has
never been solved save by avarice, necessity, and oppression. It is not
thus that the right of talent should be determined. But how is it to be

4. I say, first, that the physician must be treated with as much favor
as any other producer, that he must not be placed below the level of
others. This I will not stop to prove. But I add that neither must he be
lifted above that level; because his talent is collective property for
which he did not pay, and for which he is ever in debt.

Just as the creation of every instrument of production is the result of
collective force, so also are a man's talent and knowledge the product
of universal intelligence and of general knowledge slowly accumulated
by a number of masters, and through the aid of many inferior industries.
When the physician has paid for his teachers, his books, his diplomas,
and all the other items of his educational expenses, he has no more paid
for his talent than the capitalist pays for his house and land when he
gives his employees their wages. The man of talent has contributed to
the production in himself of a useful instrument. He has, then, a share
in its possession; he is not its proprietor. There exist side by side in
him a free laborer and an accumulated social capital. As a laborer, he
is charged with the use of an instrument, with the superintendence of a
machine; namely, his capacity. As capital, he is not his own master; he
uses himself, not for his own benefit, but for that of others.

Even if talent did not find in its own excellence a reward for the
sacrifices which it costs, still would it be easier to find reasons for
lowering its reward than for raising it above the common level.
Every producer receives an education; every laborer is a talent, a
capacity,--that is, a piece of collective property. But all talents are
not equally costly. It takes but few teachers, but few years, and but
little study, to make a farmer or a mechanic: the generative effort
and--if I may venture to use such language--the period of social
gestation are proportional to the loftiness of the capacity. But while
the physician, the poet, the artist, and the savant produce but little,
and that slowly, the productions of the farmer are much less uncertain,
and do not require so long a time. Whatever be then the capacity of a
man,--when this capacity is once created,--it does not belong to him.
Like the material fashioned by an industrious hand, it had the power
of BECOMING, and society has given it BEING. Shall the vase say to the
potter, "I am that I am, and I owe you nothing"?

The artist, the savant, and the poet find their just recompense in the
permission that society gives them to devote themselves exclusively to
science and to art: so that in reality they do not labor for themselves,
but for society, which creates them, and requires of them no other duty.
Society can, if need be, do without prose and verse, music and painting,
and the knowledge of the movements of the moon and stars; but it cannot
live a single day without food and shelter.

Undoubtedly, man does not live by bread alone; he must, also (according
to the Gospel), LIVE BY THE WORD OF GOD; that is, he must love the
good and do it, know and admire the beautiful, and study the marvels of
Nature. But in order to cultivate his mind, he must first take care of
his body,--the latter duty is as necessary as the former is noble. If it
is glorious to charm and instruct men, it is honorable as well to feed
them. When, then, society--faithful to the principle of the division
of labor--intrusts a work of art or of science to one of its members,
allowing him to abandon ordinary labor, it owes him an indemnity for
all which it prevents him from producing industrially; but it owes him
nothing more. If he should demand more, society should, by refusing his
services, annihilate his pretensions. Forced, then, in order to live, to
devote himself to labor repugnant to his nature, the man of genius would
feel his weakness, and would live the most distasteful of lives.

They tell of a celebrated singer who demanded of the Empress of Russia
(Catherine II) twenty thousand roubles for his services: "That is more
than I give my field-marshals," said Catherine. "Your majesty," replied
the other, "has only to make singers of her field-marshals."

If France (more powerful than Catherine II) should say to Mademoiselle
Rachel, "You must act for one hundred louis, or else spin cotton;" to
M. Duprez, "You must sing for two thousand four hundred francs, or else
work in the vineyard,"--do you think that the actress Rachel, and the
singer Duprez, would abandon the stage? If they did, they would be the
first to repent it.

Mademoiselle Rachel receives, they say, sixty thousand francs annually
from the Comedie-Francaise. For a talent like hers, it is a slight fee.
Why not one hundred thousand francs, two hundred thousand francs? Why!
not a civil list? What meanness! Are we really guilty of chaffering with
an artist like Mademoiselle Rachel?

It is said, in reply, that the managers of the theatre cannot give more
without incurring a loss; that they admit the superior talent of
their young associate; but that, in fixing her salary, they have been
compelled to take the account of the company's receipts and expenses
into consideration also.

That is just, but it only confirms what I have said; namely, that an
artist's talent may be infinite, but that its mercenary claims are
necessarily limited,--on the one hand, by its usefulness to the society
which rewards it; on the other, by the resources of this society: in
other words, that the demand of the seller is balanced by the right of
the buyer.

Mademoiselle Rachel, they say, brings to the treasury of the
Theatre-Francais more than sixty thousand francs. I admit it; but then I
blame the theatre. From whom does the Theatre-Francais take this
money? From some curious people who are perfectly free. Yes; but the
workingmen, the lessees, the tenants, those who borrow by pawning their
possessions, from whom these curious people recover all that they pay to
the theatre,--are they free? And when the better part of their products
are consumed by others at the play, do you assure me that their families
are not in want? Until the French people, reflecting on the salaries
paid to all artists, savants, and public functionaries, have plainly
expressed their wish and judgment as to the matter, the salaries of
Mademoiselle Rachel and all her fellow-artists will be a compulsory tax
extorted by violence, to reward pride, and support libertinism.

It is because we are neither free nor sufficiently enlightened, that we
submit to be cheated in our bargains; that the laborer pays the duties
levied by the prestige of power and the selfishness of talent upon the
curiosity of the idle, and that we are perpetually scandalized by these
monstrous inequalities which are encouraged and applauded by public

The whole nation, and the nation only, pays its authors, its savants,
its artists, its officials, whatever be the hands through which their
salaries pass. On what basis should it pay them? On the basis of
equality. I have proved it by estimating the value of talent. I shall
confirm it in the following chapter, by proving the impossibility of all
social inequality.

What have we shown so far? Things so simple that really they seem

That, as the traveller does not appropriate the route which he
traverses, so the farmer does not appropriate the field which he sows;

That if, nevertheless, by reason of his industry, a laborer may
appropriate the material which he employs, every employer of material
becomes, by the same title, a proprietor;

That all capital, whether material or mental, being the result of
collective labor, is, in consequence, collective property;

That the strong have no right to encroach upon the labor of the weak,
nor the shrewd to take advantage of the credulity of the simple;

Finally, that no one can be forced to buy that which he does not want,
still less to pay for that which he has not bought; and, consequently,
that the exchangeable value of a product, being measured neither by the
opinion of the buyer nor that of the seller, but by the amount of time
and outlay which it has cost, the property of each always remains the

Are not these very simple truths? Well, as simple as they seem to you,
reader, you shall yet see others which surpass them in dullness and
simplicity. For our course is the reverse of that of the geometricians:
with them, the farther they advance, the more difficult their problems
become; we, on the contrary, after having commenced with the most
abstruse propositions, shall end with the axioms.

But I must close this chapter with an exposition of one of those
startling truths which never have been dreamed of by legists or

% 8.--That, from the Stand-point of Justice, Labor destroys Property.

This proposition is the logical result of the two preceding sections,
which we have just summed up.

The isolated man can supply but a very small portion of his wants; all
his power lies in association, and in the intelligent combination of
universal effort. The division and co-operation of labor multiply the
quantity and the variety of products; the individuality of functions
improves their quality.

There is not a man, then, but lives upon the products of several
thousand different industries; not a laborer but receives from society
at large the things which he consumes, and, with these, the power to
reproduce. Who, indeed, would venture the assertion, "I produce, by
my own effort, all that I consume; I need the aid of no one else"?
The farmer, whom the early economists regarded as the only real
producer--the farmer, housed, furnished, clothed, fed, and assisted
by the mason, the carpenter, the tailor, the miller, the baker, the
butcher, the grocer, the blacksmith, &c.,--the farmer, I say, can he
boast that he produces by his own unaided effort?

The various articles of consumption are given to each by all;
consequently, the production of each involves the production of all.
One product cannot exist without another; an isolated industry is an
impossible thing. What would be the harvest of the farmer, if others
did not manufacture for him barns, wagons, ploughs, clothes, &c.? Where
would be the savant without the publisher; the printer without the
typecaster and the machinist; and these, in their turn, without a
multitude of other industries?... Let us not prolong this catalogue--so
easy to extend--lest we be accused of uttering commonplaces. All
industries are united by mutual relations in a single group; all
productions do reciprocal service as means and end; all varieties of
talent are but a series of changes from the inferior to the superior.

Now, this undisputed and indisputable fact of the general participation
in every species of product makes all individual productions common; so
that every product, coming from the hands of the producer, is mortgaged
in advance by society. The producer himself is entitled to only
that portion of his product, which is expressed by a fraction whose
denominator is equal to the number of individuals of which society is
composed. It is true that in return this same producer has a share in
all the products of others, so that he has a claim upon all, just as
all have a claim upon him; but is it not clear that this reciprocity of
mortgages, far from authorizing property, destroys even possession? The
laborer is not even possessor of his product; scarcely has he finished
it, when society claims it.

"But," it will be answered, "even if that is so--even if the product
does not belong to the producer--still society gives each laborer an
equivalent for his product; and this equivalent, this salary, this
reward, this allowance, becomes his property. Do you deny that this
property is legitimate? And if the laborer, instead of consuming his
entire wages, chooses to economize,--who dare question his right to do

The laborer is not even proprietor of the price of his labor, and cannot
absolutely control its disposition. Let us not be blinded by a spurious
justice. That which is given the laborer in exchange for his product is
not given him as a reward for past labor, but to provide for and secure
future labor. We consume before we produce. The laborer may say at the
end of the day, "I have paid yesterday's expenses; to-morrow I shall pay
those of today." At every moment of his life, the member of society is
in debt; he dies with the debt unpaid:--how is it possible for him to

They talk of economy--it is the proprietor's hobby. Under a system of
equality, all economy which does not aim at subsequent reproduction or
enjoyment is impossible--why? Because the thing saved, since it cannot
be converted into capital, has no object, and is without a FINAL CAUSE.
This will be explained more fully in the next chapter.

To conclude:--

The laborer, in his relation to society, is a debtor who of necessity
dies insolvent. The proprietor is an unfaithful guardian who denies the
receipt of the deposit committed to his care, and wishes to be paid for
his guardianship down to the last day.

Lest the principles just set forth may appear to certain readers
too metaphysical, I shall reproduce them in a more concrete form,
intelligible to the dullest brains, and pregnant with the most important

Hitherto, I have considered property as a power of EXCLUSION; hereafter,
I shall examine it as a power of INVASION.


The last resort of proprietors,--the overwhelming argument whose
invincible potency reassures them,--is that, in their opinion, equality
of conditions is impossible. "Equality of conditions is a chimera," they
cry with a knowing air; "distribute wealth equally to-day--to-morrow
this equality will have vanished."

To this hackneyed objection, which they repeat everywhere with the most
marvellous assurance, they never fail to add the following comment, as
a sort of GLORY BE TO THE FATHER: "If all men were equal, nobody would
work." This anthem is sung with variations.

"If all were masters, nobody would obey."

"If nobody were rich, who would employ the poor?"

And, "If nobody were poor, who would labor for the rich?"

But let us have done with invective--we have better arguments at our

If I show that property itself is impossible--that it is property which
is a contradiction, a chimera, a utopia; and if I show it no longer
by metaphysics and jurisprudence, but by figures, equations, and
calculations,--imagine the fright of the astounded proprietor! And you,
reader; what do you think of the retort?

Numbers govern the world--mundum regunt numeri. This proverb applies
as aptly to the moral and political, as to the sidereal and molecular,
world. The elements of justice are identical with those of algebra;
legislation and government are simply the arts of classifying
and balancing powers; all jurisprudence falls within the rules of
arithmetic. This chapter and the next will serve to lay the foundations
of this extraordinary doctrine. Then will be unfolded to the reader's
vision an immense and novel career; then shall we commence to see in
numerical relations the synthetic unity of philosophy and the sciences;
and, filled with admiration and enthusiasm for this profound and
majestic simplicity of Nature, we shall shout with the apostle: "Yes,
the Eternal has made all things by number, weight, and measure!" We
shall understand not only that equality of conditions is possible, but
that all else is impossible; that this seeming impossibility which
we charge upon it arises from the fact that we always think of it
in connection either with the proprietary or the communistic
regime,--political systems equally irreconcilable with human nature. We
shall see finally that equality is constantly being realized without our
knowledge, even at the very moment when we are pronouncing it incapable
of realization; that the time draws near when, without any effort or
even wish of ours, we shall have it universally established; that with
it, in it, and by it, the natural and true political order must make
itself manifest.

It has been said, in speaking of the blindness and obstinacy of the
passions, that, if man had any thing to gain by denying the truths of
arithmetic, he would find some means of unsettling their certainty: here
is an opportunity to try this curious experiment. I attack property,
no longer with its own maxims, but with arithmetic. Let the proprietors
prepare to verify my figures; for, if unfortunately for them the figures
prove accurate, the proprietors are lost.

In proving the impossibility of property, I complete the proof of its
injustice. In fact,--

That which is JUST must be USEFUL;

That which is useful must be TRUE;

That which is true must be POSSIBLE;

Therefore, every thing which is impossible is untrue, useless, unjust.
Then,--a priori,--we may judge of the justice of any thing by its
possibility; so that if the thing were absolutely impossible, it would
be absolutely unjust.



AXIOM.--Property is the Right of Increase claimed by the Proprietor over
any thing which he has stamped as his own.

This proposition is purely an axiom, because,--

1. It is not a definition, since it does not express all that is
included in the right of property--the right of sale, of exchange, of
gift; the right to transform, to alter, to consume, to destroy, to
use and abuse, &c. All these rights are so many different powers of
property, which we may consider separately; but which we disregard here,
that we may devote all our attention to this single one,--the right of

2. It is universally admitted. No one can deny it without denying the
facts, without being instantly belied by universal custom.

3. It is self-evident, since property is always accompanied (either
actually or potentially) by the fact which this axiom expresses; and
through this fact, mainly, property manifests, establishes, and asserts

4. Finally, its negation involves a contradiction. The right of increase
is really an inherent right, so essential a part of property, that, in
its absence, property is null and void.

OBSERVATIONS.--Increase receives different names according to the
thing by which it is yielded: if by land, FARM-RENT; if by houses and
furniture, RENT; if by life-investments, REVENUE; if by money, INTEREST;
if by exchange, ADVANTAGE, GAIN, PROFIT (three things which must not be
confounded with the wages or legitimate price of labor).

Increase--a sort of royal prerogative, of tangible and consumable
homage--is due to the proprietor on account of his nominal and
metaphysical occupancy. His seal is set upon the thing; that is enough
to prevent any one else from occupying it without HIS permission.

This permission to use his things the proprietor may, if he chooses,
freely grant. Commonly he sells it. This sale is really a stellionate
and an extortion; but by the legal fiction of the right of property,
this same sale, severely punished, we know not why, in other cases, is a
source of profit and value to the proprietor.

The amount demanded by the proprietor, in payment for this permission,
is expressed in monetary terms by the dividend which the supposed
product yields in nature. So that, by the right of increase, the
proprietor reaps and does not plough; gleans and does not till; consumes
and does not produce; enjoys and does not labor. Very different from the
idols of the Psalmist are the gods of property: the former had hands and
felt not; the latter, on the contrary, _manus habent et palpabunt_.
_ _The right of increase is conferred in a very mysterious and
supernatural manner. The inauguration of a proprietor is accompanied
by the awful ceremonies of an ancient initiation. First, comes the
CONSECRATION of the article; a consecration which makes known to all
that they must offer up a suitable sacrifice to the proprietor, whenever
they wish, by his permission obtained and signed, to use his article.

Second, comes the ANATHEMA, which prohibits--except on the conditions
aforesaid--all persons from touching the article, even in the
proprietor's absence; and pronounces every violator of property
sacrilegious, infamous, amenable to the secular power, and deserving of
being handed over to it.

Finally, the DEDICATION, which enables the proprietor or patron
saint--the god chosen to watch over the article--to inhabit it mentally,
like a divinity in his sanctuary. By means of this dedication, the
substance of the article--so to speak--becomes converted into the person
of the proprietor, who is regarded as ever present in its form.

This is exactly the doctrine of the writers on jurisprudence.
"Property," says Toullier, "is a MORAL QUALITY inherent in a thing;
AN ACTUAL BOND which fastens it to the proprietor, and which cannot be
broken save by his act." Locke humbly doubted whether God could make
matter INTELLIGENT. Toullier asserts that the proprietor renders it
MORAL. How much does he lack of being a God? These are by no means

PROPERTY IS THE RIGHT OF INCREASE; that is, the power to produce without
labor. Now, to produce without labor is to make something from nothing;
in short, to create. Surely it is no more difficult to do this than to
moralize matter. The jurists are right, then, in applying to proprietors
this passage from the Scriptures,--_Ego dixi: Dii estis et filii Excelsi
omnes_,--"I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the
Most High."

PROPERTY IS THE RIGHT OF INCREASE. To us this axiom shall be like the
name of the beast in the Apocalypse,--a name in which is hidden the
complete explanation of the whole mystery of this beast. It was known
that he who should solve the mystery of this name would obtain a
knowledge of the whole prophecy, and would succeed in mastering the
beast. Well! by the most careful interpretation of our axiom we shall
kill the sphinx of property.

Starting from this eminently characteristic fact--the RIGHT OF
INCREASE--we shall pursue the old serpent through his coils; we shall
count the murderous entwinings of this frightful taenia, whose head,
with its thousand suckers, is always hidden from the sword of its most
violent enemies, though abandoning to them immense fragments of its
body. It requires something more than courage to subdue this monster.
It was written that it should not die until a proletaire, armed with a
magic wand, had fought with it.

INCREASED. Whatever be the rate of interest,--whether it rise to three,
five, or ten per cent., or fall to one-half, one-fourth, one-tenth,--it
does not matter; the law of increase remains the same. The law is as

All capital--the cash value of which can be estimated--may be considered
as a term in an arithmetical series which progresses in the ratio of one
hundred, and the revenue yielded by this capital as the corresponding
term of another arithmetical series which progresses in a ratio equal to
the rate of interest. Thus, a capital of five hundred francs being the
fifth term of the arithmetical progression whose ratio is one hundred,
its revenue at three per cent. will be indicated by the fifth term of
the arithmetical progression whose ratio is three:--

          100 .  200 .  300 .  400 .  500.
           3  .   6  .   9  .   12 .   15.

An acquaintance with this sort of LOGARITHMS--tables of which,
calculated to a very high degree, are possessed by proprietors--will
give us the key to the most puzzling problems, and cause us to
experience a series of surprises.

By this LOGARITHMIC theory of the right of increase, a piece of
property, together with its income, may be defined as A NUMBER WHOSE
MULTIPLIED BY THE RATE OF INTEREST. For instance; a house valued at one
hundred thousand francs, and leased at five per cent., yields a revenue
of five thousand francs, according to the formula 100,000 x 5 / 100 =
five thousand. Vice versa, a piece of land which yields, at two and a
half per cent., a revenue of three thousand francs is worth one hundred
and twenty thousand francs, according to this other formula;
3,000 x 100/ 2 1/2 = one hundred and twenty thousand.

In the first case, the ratio of the progression which marks the increase
of interest is five; in the second, it is two and a half.

OBSERVATION.--The forms of increase known as farm-rent, income, and
interest are paid annually; rent is paid by the week, the month, or
the year; profits and gains are paid at the time of exchange. Thus, the
amount of increase is proportional both to the thing increased, and
the time during which it increases; in other words, usury grows like a
cancer--_foenus serpit sicut cancer_.

TO THE LATTER. For if the proprietor owed, in exchange for the increase
which he receives, some thing more than the permission which he grants,
his right of property would not be perfect--he would not possess
_jure optimo, jure perfecto;_ that is, he would not be in reality a
proprietor. Then, all which passes from the hands of the occupant into
those of the proprietor in the name of increase, and as the price of
the permission to occupy, is a permanent gain for the latter, and a dead
loss and annihilation for the former; to whom none of it will return,
save in the forms of gift, alms, wages paid for his services, or
the price of merchandise which he has delivered. In a word, increase
perishes so far as the borrower is concerned; or to use the more
energetic Latin phrase,--_res perit solventi_.

STRANGER. The master of a thing, as its proprietor, levies a tax for the
use of his property upon himself as its possessor, equal to that which
he would receive from a third party; so that capital bears interest in
the hands of the capitalist, as well as in those of the borrower and the
commandite. If, indeed, rather than accept a rent of five hundred francs
for my apartment, I prefer to occupy and enjoy it, it is clear that I
shall become my own debtor for a rent equal to that which I deny myself.
This principle is universally practised in business, and is regarded as
an axiom by the economists. Manufacturers, also, who have the advantage
of being proprietors of their floating capital, although they owe no
interest to any one, in calculating their profits subtract from them,
not only their running expenses and the wages of their employees, but
also the interest on their capital. For the same reason, money-lenders
retain in their own possession as little money as possible; for, since
all capital necessarily bears interest, if this interest is supplied by
no one, it comes out of the capital, which is to that extent diminished.
Thus, by the right of increase, capital eats itself up. This is,
doubtless, the idea that Papinius intended to convey in the phrase, as
elegant as it is forcible--_Foenus mordet solidam_. I beg pardon for
using Latin so frequently in discussing this subject; it is an homage
which I pay to the most usurious nation that ever existed.


Property is impossible, because it demands Something for Nothing.

The discussion of this proposition covers the same ground as that of the
origin of farm-rent, which is so much debated by the economists. When
I read the writings of the greater part of these men, I cannot avoid
a feeling of contempt mingled with anger, in view of this mass of
nonsense, in which the detestable vies with the absurd. It would be a
repetition of the story of the elephant in the moon, were it not for the
atrocity of the consequences. To seek a rational and legitimate origin
of that which is, and ever must be, only robbery, extortion, and
plunder--that must be the height of the proprietor's folly; the last
degree of bedevilment into which minds, otherwise judicious, can be
thrown by the perversity of selfishness.

"A farmer," says Say, "is a wheat manufacturer who, among other tools
which serve him in modifying the material from which he makes the
wheat, employs one large tool, which we call a field. If he is not the
proprietor of the field, if he is only a tenant, he pays the proprietor
for the productive service of this tool. The tenant is reimbursed by
the purchaser, the latter by another, until the product reaches the
consumer; who redeems the first payment, PLUS all the others, by means
of which the product has at last come into his hands."

Let us lay aside the subsequent payments by which the product reaches
the consumer, and, for the present, pay attention only to the first one
of all,--the rent paid to the proprietor by the tenant. On what ground,
we ask, is the proprietor entitled to this rent?

According to Ricardo, MacCulloch, and Mill, farm-rent, properly
demanded for the former until the increase of population renders
necessary the cultivation of the latter.

It is difficult to see any sense in this. How can a right to the land be
based upon a difference in the quality of the land? How can varieties of
soil engender a principle of legislation and politics? This reasoning
is either so subtle, or so stupid, that the more I think of it, the more
bewildered I become. Suppose two pieces of land of equal area; the one,
A, capable of supporting ten thousand inhabitants; the other, B, capable
of supporting nine thousand only: when, owing to an increase in their
number, the inhabitants of A shall be forced to cultivate B, the landed
proprietors of A will exact from their tenants in A a rent proportional
to the difference between ten and nine. So say, I think, Ricardo,
MacCulloch, and Mill. But if A supports as many inhabitants as it can
contain,--that is, if the inhabitants of A, by our hypothesis, have only
just enough land to keep them alive,--how can they pay farm-rent?

If they had gone no farther than to say that the difference in land has
OCCASIONED farm-rent, instead of CAUSED it, this observation would have
taught us a valuable lesson; namely, that farm-rent grew out of a desire
for equality. Indeed, if all men have an equal right to the possession
of good land, no one can be forced to cultivate bad land without
indemnification. Farm-rent--according to Ricardo, MacCulloch, and
Mill--would then have been a compensation for loss and hardship. This
system of practical equality is a bad one, no doubt; but it sprang from
good intentions. What argument can Ricardo, MacCulloch, and Mill develop
therefrom in favor of property? Their theory turns against themselves,
and strangles them.

Malthus thinks that farm-rent has its source in the power possessed by
land of producing more than is necessary to supply the wants of the
men who cultivate it. I would ask Malthus why successful labor should
entitle the idle to a portion of the products?

But the worthy Malthus is mistaken in regard to the fact. Yes; land has
the power of producing more than is needed by those who cultivate it, if
by CULTIVATORS is meant tenants only. The tailor also makes more clothes
than he wears, and the cabinet-maker more furniture than he uses. But,
since the various professions imply and sustain one another, not only
the farmer, but the followers of all arts and trades--even to the doctor
and the school-teacher--are, and ought to be, regarded as CULTIVATORS OF
THE LAND. Malthus bases farm-rent upon the principle of commerce.
Now, the fundamental law of commerce being equivalence of the products
exchanged, any thing which destroys this equivalence violates the law.
There is an error in the estimate which needs to be corrected.

Buchanan--a commentator on Smith--regarded farm-rent as the result of a
monopoly, and maintained that labor alone is productive. Consequently,
he thought that, without this monopoly, products would rise in price;
and he found no basis for farm-rent save in the civil law. This opinion
is a corollary of that which makes the civil law the basis of property.
But why has the civil law--which ought to be the written expression of
justice--authorized this monopoly? Whoever says monopoly, necessarily
excludes justice. Now, to say that farm-rent is a monopoly sanctioned by
the law, is to say that injustice is based on justice,--a contradiction
in terms.

Say answers Buchanan, that the proprietor is not a monopolist, because a
monopolist "is one who does not increase the utility of the merchandise
which passes through his hands."

How much does the proprietor increase the utility of his tenant's
products? Has he ploughed, sowed, reaped, mowed, winnowed, weeded? These
are the processes by which the tenant and his employees increase
the utility of the material which they consume for the purpose of

"The landed proprietor increases the utility of products by means of his
implement, the land. This implement receives in one state, and returns
in another the materials of which wheat is composed. The action of
the land is a chemical process, which so modifies the material that it
multiplies it by destroying it. The soil is then a producer of utility;
and when it [the soil?] asks its pay in the form of profit, or farm
rent, for its proprietor, it at the same time gives something to the
consumer in exchange for the amount which the consumer pays it. It gives
him a produced utility; and it is the production of this utility which
warrants us in calling land productive, as well as labor."

Let us clear up this matter.

The blacksmith who manufactures for the farmer implements of husbandry,
the wheelwright who makes him a cart, the mason who builds his barn,
the carpenter, the basket-maker, &c.,--all of whom contribute to
agricultural production by the tools which they provide,--are producers
of utility; consequently, they are entitled to a part of the products.

"Undoubtedly," says Say; "but the land also is an implement whose
service must be paid for, then...."

I admit that the land is an implement; but who made it? Did the
proprietor? Did he--by the efficacious virtue of the right of property,
by this MORAL QUALITY infused into the soil--endow it with vigor and
fertility? Exactly there lies the monopoly of the proprietor; in the
fact that, though he did not make the implement, he asks pay for its
use. When the Creator shall present himself and claim farm-rent, we will
consider the matter with him; or even when the proprietor--his pretended
representative--shall exhibit his power-of-attorney.

"The proprietor's service," adds Say, "is easy, I admit."

It is a frank confession.

"But we cannot disregard it. Without property, one farmer would contend
with another for the possession of a field without a proprietor, and the
field would remain uncultivated...."

Then the proprietor's business is to reconcile farmers by robbing
them. O logic! O justice! O the marvellous wisdom of economists! The
proprietor, if they are right, is like Perrin-Dandin who, when summoned
by two travellers to settle a dispute about an oyster, opened it,
gobbled it, and said to them:--

"The Court awards you each a shell."

Could any thing worse be said of property?

Will Say tell us why the same farmers, who, if there were no
proprietors, would contend with each other for possession of the
soil, do not contend to-day with the proprietors for this possession?
Obviously, because they think them legitimate possessors, and because
their respect for even an imaginary right exceeds their avarice. I
proved, in Chapter II., that possession is sufficient, without property,
to maintain social order. Would it be more difficult, then, to reconcile
possessors without masters than tenants controlled by proprietors? Would
laboring men, who respect--much to their own detriment--the pretended
rights of the idler, violate the natural rights of the producer and the
manufacturer? What! if the husbandman forfeited his right to the land as
soon as he ceased to occupy it, would he become more covetous? And would
the impossibility of demanding increase, of taxing another's labor, be a
source of quarrels and law-suits? The economists use singular logic.
But we are not yet through. Admit that the proprietor is the legitimate
master of the land.

"The land is an instrument of production," they say. That is true. But
when, changing the noun into an adjective, they alter the phrase, thus,
"The land is a productive instrument," they make a wicked blunder.

According to Quesnay and the early economists, all production comes from
the land. Smith, Ricardo, and de Tracy, on the contrary, say that labor
is the sole agent of production. Say, and most of his successors,
teach that BOTH land AND labor AND capital are productive. The latter
constitute the eclectic school of political economy. The truth is, that
NEITHER land NOR labor NOR capital is productive. Production results
from the co-operation of these three equally necessary elements, which,
taken separately, are equally sterile.

Political economy, indeed, treats of the production, distribution,
and consumption of wealth or values. But of what values? Of the values
produced by human industry; that is, of the changes made in matter
by man, that he may appropriate it to his own use, and not at all of
Nature's spontaneous productions. Man's labor consists in a simple
laying on of hands. When he has taken that trouble, he has produced a
value. Until then, the salt of the sea, the water of the springs, the
grass of the fields, and the trees of the forests are to him as if they
were not. The sea, without the fisherman and his line, supplies no fish.
The forest, without the wood-cutter and his axe, furnishes neither
fuel nor timber. The meadow, without the mower, yields neither hay
nor aftermath. Nature is a vast mass of material to be cultivated and
converted into products; but Nature produces nothing for herself: in the
economical sense, her products, in their relation to man, are not yet

Capital, tools, and machinery are likewise unproductive. The hammer and
the anvil, without the blacksmith and the iron, do not forge. The mill,
without the miller and the grain, does not grind, &c. Bring tools and
raw material together; place a plough and some seed on fertile soil;
enter a smithy, light the fire, and shut up the shop,--you will produce
nothing. The following remark was made by an economist who possessed
more good sense than most of his fellows: "Say credits capital with an
active part unwarranted by its nature; left to itself, it is an idle
tool." (J. Droz: Political Economy.)

Finally, labor and capital together, when unfortunately combined,
produce nothing. Plough a sandy desert, beat the water of the rivers,
pass type through a sieve,--you will get neither wheat, nor fish, nor
books. Your trouble will be as fruitless as was the immense labor of the
army of Xerxes; who, as Herodotus says, with his three million soldiers,
scourged the Hellespont for twenty-four hours, as a punishment for
having broken and scattered the pontoon bridge which the great king had
thrown across it.

Tools and capital, land and labor, considered individually and
abstractly, are not, literally speaking, productive. The proprietor who
asks to be rewarded for the use of a tool, or the productive power
of his land, takes for granted, then, that which is radically false;
namely, that capital produces by its own effort,--and, in taking pay for
this imaginary product, he literally receives something for nothing.

OBJECTION.--But if the blacksmith, the wheelwright, all manufacturers in
short, have a right to the products in return for the implements which
they furnish; and if land is an implement of production,--why does not
this implement entitle its proprietor, be his claim real or imaginary,
to a portion of the products; as in the case of the manufacturers of
ploughs and wagons?

REPLY.--Here we touch the heart of the question, the mystery of
property; which we must clear up, if we would understand any thing of
the strange effects of the right of increase.

He who manufactures or repairs the farmer's tools receives the price
ONCE, either at the time of delivery, or in several payments; and when
this price is once paid to the manufacturer, the tools which he has
delivered belong to him no more. Never does he claim double payment for
the same tool, or the same job of repairs. If he annually shares in the
products of the farmer, it is owing to the fact that he annually makes
something for the farmer.

The proprietor, on the contrary, does not yield his implement; eternally
he is paid for it, eternally he keeps it.

In fact, the rent received by the proprietor is not intended to defray
the expense of maintaining and repairing the implement; this expense is
charged to the borrower, and does not concern the proprietor except as
he is interested in the preservation of the article. If he takes it upon
himself to attend to the repairs, he takes care that the money which he
expends for this purpose is repaid.

This rent does not represent the product of the implement, since of
itself the implement produces nothing; we have just proved this, and we
shall prove it more clearly still by its consequences.

Finally, this rent does not represent the participation of the
proprietor in the production; since this participation could consist,
like that of the blacksmith and the wheelwright, only in the surrender
of the whole or a part of his implement, in which case he would cease
to be its proprietor, which would involve a contradiction of the idea of

Then, between the proprietor and his tenant there is no exchange either
of values or services; then, as our axiom says, farm-rent is real
increase,--an extortion based solely upon fraud and violence on the
one hand, and weakness and ignorance upon the other. PRODUCTS say
the economists, ARE BOUGHT ONLY BY PRODUCTS. This maxim is property's
condemnation. The proprietor, producing neither by his own labor nor by
his implement, and receiving products in exchange for nothing, is either
a parasite or a thief. Then, if property can exist only as a right,
property is impossible.

COROLLARIES.--1. The republican constitution of 1793, which defined
property as "the right to enjoy the fruit of one's labor," was grossly
mistaken. It should have said, "Property is the right to enjoy and
dispose at will of another's goods,--the fruit of another's industry and

2. Every possessor of lands, houses, furniture, machinery, tools, money,
&c., who lends a thing for a price exceeding the cost of repairs (the
repairs being charged to the lender, and representing products which he
exchanges for other products), is guilty of swindling and extortion. In
short, all rent received (nominally as damages, but really as payment
for a loan) is an act of property,--a robbery.

HISTORICAL COMMENT.--The tax which a victorious nation levies upon a
conquered nation is genuine farm-rent. The seigniorial rights abolished
by the Revolution of 1789,--tithes, mortmain, statute-labor, &c.,--were
different forms of the rights of property; and they who under the titles
of nobles, seigneurs, prebendaries, &c. enjoyed these rights, were
neither more nor less than proprietors. To defend property to-day is to
condemn the Revolution.


Property is impossible because wherever it exists Production costs more
than it is worth.

The preceding proposition was legislative in its nature; this one
is economical. It serves to prove that property, which originates in
violence, results in waste.

"Production," says Say, "is exchange on a large scale. To render the
exchange productive the value of the whole amount of service must be
balanced by the value of the product. If this condition is not
complied with, the exchange is unequal; the producer gives more than he

Now, value being necessarily based upon utility, it follows that every
useless product is necessarily valueless,--that it cannot be exchanged;
and, consequently, that it cannot be given in payment for productive

Then, though production may equal consumption, it never can exceed it;
for there is no real production save where there is a production of
utility, and there is no utility save where there is a possibility of
consumption. Thus, so much of every product as is rendered by
excessive abundance inconsumable, becomes useless, valueless,
unexchangeable,--consequently, unfit to be given in payment for any
thing whatever, and is no longer a product.

Consumption, on the other hand, to be legitimate,--to be true
consumption,--must be reproductive of utility; for, if it is
unproductive, the products which it destroys are cancelled
values--things produced at a pure loss; a state of things which causes
products to depreciate in value. Man has the power to destroy, but he
consumes only that which he reproduces. Under a right system of economy,
there is then an equation between production and consumption.

These points established, let us suppose a community of one thousand
families, enclosed in a territory of a given circumference, and deprived
of foreign intercourse. Let this community represent the human race,
which, scattered over the face of the earth, is really isolated. In
fact, the difference between a community and the human race being only
a numerical one, the economical results will be absolutely the same in
each case.

Suppose, then, that these thousand families, devoting themselves
exclusively to wheat-culture, are obliged to pay to one hundred
individuals, chosen from the mass, an annual revenue of ten per cent. on
their product. It is clear that, in such a case, the right of increase
is equivalent to a tax levied in advance upon social production. Of what
use is this tax?

It cannot be levied to supply the community with provisions, for between
that and farm-rent there is nothing in common; nor to pay for services
and products,--for the proprietors, laboring like the others, have
labored only for themselves. Finally, this tax is of no use to its
recipients who, having harvested wheat enough for their own consumption,
and not being able in a society without commerce and manufactures to
procure any thing else in exchange for it, thereby lose the advantage of
their income.

In such a society, one-tenth of the product being inconsumable,
one-tenth of the labor goes unpaid--production costs more than it is

Now, change three hundred of our wheat-producers into artisans of all
kinds: one hundred gardeners and wine-growers, sixty shoemakers
and tailors, fifty carpenters and blacksmiths, eighty of various
professions, and, that nothing may be lacking, seven school-masters,
one mayor, one judge, and one priest; each industry furnishes the whole
community with its special product. Now, the total production being one
thousand, each laborer's consumption is one; namely, wheat, meat,
and grain, 0.7; wine and vegetables, 0.1; shoes and clothing, 0.06;
iron-work and furniture, 0.05; sundries, 0.08; instruction, 0.007;
administration, 0.002; mass, 0.001, Total 1.

But the community owes a revenue of ten per cent.; and it matters little
whether the farmers alone pay it, or all the laborers are responsible
for it,--the result is the same. The farmer raises the price of his
products in proportion to his share of the debt; the other laborers
follow his example. Then, after some fluctuations, equilibrium is
established, and all pay nearly the same amount of the revenue. It
would be a grave error to assume that in a nation none but farmers pay
farm-rent--the whole nation pays it.

I say, then, that by this tax of ten per cent. each laborer's
consumption is reduced as follows: wheat, 0.63; wine and vegetables,
0.09; clothing and shoes, 0.054; furniture and iron-work, 0.045; other
products, 0.072; schooling, 0.0063; administration, 0.0018; mass,
0.0009. Total 0.9.

The laborer has produced 1; he consumes only 0.9. He loses, then,
one-tenth of the price of his labor; his production still costs
more than it is worth. On the other hand, the tenth received by the
proprietors is no less a waste; for, being laborers themselves, they,
like the others, possess in the nine-tenths of their product the
wherewithal to live: they want for nothing. Why should they wish their
proportion of bread, wine, meat, clothes, shelter, &c., to be doubled,
if they can neither consume nor exchange them? Then farm-rent, with
them as with the rest of the laborers, is a waste, and perishes in their
hands. Extend the hypothesis, increase the number and variety of the
products, you still have the same result.

Hitherto, we have considered the proprietor as taking part in the
production, not only (as Say says) by the use of his instrument, but in
an effective manner and by the labor of his hands. Now, it is easy to
see that, under such circumstances, property will never exist. What

The proprietor--an essentially libidinous animal, without virtue or
shame--is not satisfied with an orderly and disciplined life. He loves
property, because it enables him to do at leisure what he pleases and
when he pleases. Having obtained the means of life, he gives himself up
to trivialities and indolence; he enjoys, he fritters away his time, he
goes in quest of curiosities and novel sensations. Property--to enjoy
itself--has to abandon ordinary life, and busy itself in luxurious
occupations and unclean enjoyments.

Instead of giving up a farm-rent, which is perishing in their hands,
and thus lightening the labor of the community, our hundred proprietors
prefer to rest. In consequence of this withdrawal,--the absolute
production being diminished by one hundred, while the consumption
remains the same,--production and consumption seem to balance. But,
in the first place, since the proprietors no longer labor, their
consumption is, according to economical principles, unproductive;
consequently, the previous condition of the community--when the labor of
one hundred was rewarded by no products--is superseded by one in which
the products of one hundred are consumed without labor. The deficit
is always the same, whichever the column of the account in which it is
expressed. Either the maxims of political economy are false, or else
property, which contradicts them, is impossible.

The economists--regarding all unproductive consumption as an evil, as
a robbery of the human race--never fail to exhort proprietors to
moderation, labor, and economy; they preach to them the necessity of
making themselves useful, of remunerating production for that which they
receive from it; they launch the most terrible curses against luxury and
laziness. Very beautiful morality, surely; it is a pity that it lacks
common sense. The proprietor who labors, or, as the economists say,
WHO MAKES HIMSELF USEFUL, is paid for this labor and utility; is he,
therefore, any the less idle as concerns the property which he does not
use, and from which he receives an income? His condition, whatever he
may do, is an unproductive and FELONIOUS one; he cannot cease to waste
and destroy without ceasing to be a proprietor.

But this is only the least of the evils which property engenders.

Society has to maintain some idle people, whether or no. It will always
have the blind, the maimed, the insane, and the idiotic. It can easily
support a few sluggards. At this point, the impossibilities thicken and
become complicated.


Property is impossible, because, with a given capital, Production is
proportional to labor, not to property.

To pay a farm-rent of one hundred at the rate of ten per cent. of the
product, the product must be one thousand; that the product may be one
thousand, a force of one thousand laborers is needed. It follows,
that in granting a furlough, as we have just done, to our one hundred
laborer-proprietors, all of whom had an equal right to lead the life
of men of income,--we have placed ourselves in a position where we are
unable to pay their revenues. In fact, the productive power, which at
first was one thousand, being now but nine hundred, the production is
also reduced to nine hundred, one-tenth of which is ninety. Either,
then, ten proprietors out of the one hundred cannot be paid,--provided
the remaining ninety are to get the whole amount of their farm-rent,--or
else all must consent to a decrease of ten per cent. For it is not for
the laborer, who has been wanting in no particular, who has produced as
in the past, to suffer by the withdrawal of the proprietor. The
latter must take the consequences of his own idleness. But, then, the
proprietor becomes poorer for the very reason that he wishes to enjoy;
by exercising his right, he loses it; so that property seems to decrease
and vanish in proportion as we try to lay hold of it,--the more we
pursue it, the more it eludes our grasp. What sort of a right is that
which is governed by numerical relations, and which an arithmetical
calculation can destroy?

The laborer-proprietor received, first, as laborer, 0.9 in wages;
second, as proprietor, 1 in farm-rent. He said to himself, "My farm-rent
is sufficient; I have enough and to spare without my labor." And thus
it is that the income upon which he calculated gets diminished by
one-tenth,--he at the same time not even suspecting the cause of this
diminution. By taking part in the production, he was himself the creator
of this tenth which has vanished; and while he thought to labor only for
himself, he unwittingly suffered a loss in exchanging his products, by
which he was made to pay to himself one-tenth of his own farm-rent. Like
every one else, he produced 1, and received but 0.9

If, instead of nine hundred laborers, there had been but five hundred,
the whole amount of farm-rent would have been reduced to fifty; if there
had been but one hundred, it would have fallen to ten. We may posit,
then, the following axiom as a law of proprietary economy: INCREASE MUST

_ _This first result will lead us to another more surprising still.
Its effect is to deliver us at one blow from all the evils of property,
without abolishing it, without wronging proprietors, and by a highly
conservative process.

We have just proved that, if the farm-rent in a community of one
thousand laborers is one hundred, that of nine hundred would be ninety,
that of eight hundred, eighty, that of one hundred, ten, &c. So that, in
a community where there was but one laborer, the farm-rent would be but
0.1; no matter how great the extent and value of the land appropriated.

Guided by this principle, let us try to ascertain the maximum increase
of all property whatever.

What is, essentially, a farm-lease? It is a contract by which the
proprietor yields to a tenant possession of his land, in consideration
of a portion of that which it yields him, the proprietor. If, in
consequence of an increase in his household, the tenant becomes ten
times as strong as the proprietor, he will produce ten times as
much. Would the proprietor in such a case be justified in raising the
farm-rent tenfold? His right is not, The more you produce, the more I
demand. It is, The more I sacrifice, the more I demand. The increase
in the tenant's household, the number of hands at his disposal, the
resources of his industry,--all these serve to increase production, but
bear no relation to the proprietor. His claims are to be measured by his
own productive capacity, not that of others. Property is the right of
increase, not a poll-tax. How could a man, hardly capable of cultivating
even a few acres by himself, demand of a community, on the ground of its
use of ten thousand acres of his property, ten thousand times as much
as he is incapable of producing from one acre? Why should the price of a
loan be governed by the skill and strength of the borrower, rather than
by the utility sacrificed by the proprietor? We must recognize, then,
this second economical law: INCREASE IS MEASURED BY A FRACTION OF THE

Now, this production, what is it? In other words, What can the lord and
master of a piece of land justly claim to have sacrificed in lending it
to a tenant?

The productive capacity of a proprietor, like that of any laborer, being
one, the product which he sacrifices in surrendering his land is also
one. If, then, the rate of increase is ten per cent., the maximum
increase is 0.1.

But we have seen that, whenever a proprietor withdraws from production,
the amount of products is lessened by 1. Then the increase which accrues
to him, being equal to 0.1 while he remains among the laborers, will be
equal after his withdrawal, by the law of the decrease of farm-rent,
to 0.09. Thus we are led to this final formula: THE MAXIMUM INCOME OF
(some number being agreed upon to express this product). THE DIMINUTION

Thus the maximum income of an idle proprietor, or of one who labors in
his own behalf outside of the community, figured at ten per cent. on an
average production of one thousand francs per laborer, would be ninety
francs. If, then, there are in France one million proprietors with an
income of one thousand francs each, which they consume unproductively,
instead of the one thousand millions which are paid them annually, they
are entitled in strict justice, and by the most accurate calculation, to
ninety millions only.

It is something of a reduction, to take nine hundred and ten millions
from the burdens which weigh so heavily upon the laboring class!
Nevertheless, the account is not finished, and the laborer is still
ignorant of the full extent of his rights.

What is the right of increase when confined within just limits? A
recognition of the right of occupancy. But since all have an equal right
of occupancy, every man is by the same title a proprietor. Every man has
a right to an income equal to a fraction of his product. If, then,
the laborer is obliged by the right of property to pay a rent to the
proprietor, the proprietor is obliged by the same right to pay the same
amount of rent to the laborer; and, since their rights balance each
other, the difference between them is zero.

_Scholium_.--If farm-rent is only a fraction of the supposed product of
the proprietor, whatever the amount and value of the property, the same
is true in the case of a large number of small and distinct proprietors.
For, although one man may use the property of each separately, he cannot
use the property of all at the same time.

To sum up. The right of increase, which can exist only within very
narrow limits, defined by the laws of production, is annihilated by
the right of occupancy. Now, without the right of increase, there is no
property. Then property is impossible.


Property is impossible, because it is Homicide.

If the right of increase could be subjected to the laws of reason and
justice, it would be reduced to an indemnity or reward whose MAXIMUM
never could exceed, for a single laborer, a certain fraction of that
which he is capable of producing. This we have just shown. But why
should the right of increase--let us not fear to call it by its right
name, the right of robbery--be governed by reason, with which it has
nothing in common? The proprietor is not content with the increase
allotted him by good sense and the nature of things: he demands ten
times, a hundred times, a thousand times, a million times as much. By
his own labor, his property would yield him a product equal only to
one; and he demands of society, no longer a right proportional to his
productive capacity, but a per capita tax. He taxes his fellows in
proportion to their strength, their number, and their industry. A son
is born to a farmer. "Good!" says the proprietor; "one more chance
for increase!" By what process has farm-rent been thus changed into
a poll-tax? Why have our jurists and our theologians failed, with all
their shrewdness, to check the extension of the right of increase?

The proprietor, having estimated from his own productive capacity the
number of laborers which his property will accommodate, divides it
into as many portions, and says: "Each one shall yield me revenue."
To increase his income, he has only to divide his property. Instead
of reckoning the interest due him on his labor, he reckons it on his
capital; and, by this substitution, the same property, which in the
hands of its owner is capable of yielding only one, is worth to him
ten, a hundred, a thousand, a million. Consequently, he has only to hold
himself in readiness to register the names of the laborers who apply to
him--his task consists in drafting leases and receipts.

Not satisfied with the lightness of his duties, the proprietor does not
intend to bear even the deficit resulting from his idleness; he throws
it upon the shoulders of the producer, of whom he always demands the
same reward. When the farm-rent of a piece of land is once raised to its
highest point, the proprietor never lowers it; high prices, the scarcity
of labor, the disadvantages of the season, even pestilence itself, have
no effect upon him--why should he suffer from hard times when he does
not labor?

Here commences a new series of phenomena.

Say--who reasons with marvellous clearness whenever he assails taxation,
but who is blind to the fact that the proprietor, as well as the
tax-gatherer, steals from the tenant, and in the same manner--says in
his second letter to Malthus:--

"If the collector of taxes and those who employ him consume one-sixth
of the products, they thereby compel the producers to feed, clothe, and
support themselves on five-sixths of what they produce. They admit this,
but say at the same time that it is possible for each one to live on
five-sixths of what he produces.

"I admit that, if they insist upon it; but I ask if they believe that the
producer would live as well, in case they demanded of him, instead of
one-sixth, two-sixths, or one-third, of their products? No; but he would
still live. Then I ask whether he would still live, in case they should
rob him of two-thirds,... then three-quarters? But I hear no reply."

If the master of the French economists had been less blinded by his
proprietary prejudices, he would have seen that farm-rent has precisely
the same effect.

Take a family of peasants composed of six persons,--father, mother, and
four children,--living in the country, and cultivating a small piece of
ground. Let us suppose that by hard labor they manage, as the saying is,
to make both ends meet; that, having lodged, warmed, clothed, and fed
themselves, they are clear of debt, but have laid up nothing. Taking the
years together, they contrive to live. If the year is prosperous, the
father drinks a little more wine, the daughters buy themselves a dress,
the sons a hat; they eat a little cheese, and, occasionally, some meat.
I say that these people are on the road to wreck and ruin.

For, by the third corollary of our axiom, they owe to themselves the
interest on their own capital. Estimating this capital at only eight
thousand francs at two and a half per cent., there is an annual interest
of two hundred francs to be paid. If, then, these two hundred francs,
instead of being subtracted from the gross product to be saved and
capitalized, are consumed, there is an annual deficit of two hundred
francs in the family assets; so that at the end of forty years these
good people, without suspecting it, will have eaten up their property
and become bankrupt!

This result seems ridiculous--it is a sad reality.

The conscription comes. What is the conscription? An act of property
exercised over families by the government without warning--a robbery
of men and money. The peasants do not like to part with their sons,--in
that I do not think them wrong. It is hard for a young man of twenty
to gain any thing by life in the barracks; unless he is depraved, he
detests it. You can generally judge of a soldier's morality by his
hatred of his uniform. Unfortunate wretches or worthless scamps,--such
is the make-up of the French army. This ought not to be the case,--but
so it is. Question a hundred thousand men, and not one will contradict
my assertion.

Our peasant, in redeeming his two conscripted sons, expends four
thousand francs, which he borrows for that purpose; the interest on
this, at five per cent., is two hundred francs;--a sum equal to that
referred to above. If, up to this time, the production of the family,
constantly balanced by its consumption, has been one thousand two
hundred francs, or two hundred francs per persons--in order to pay this
interest, either the six laborers must produce as much as seven, or must
consume as little as five.

Curtail consumption they cannot--how can they curtail necessity? To
produce more is impossible; they can work neither harder nor longer.
Shall they take a middle course, and consume five and a half while
producing six and a half? They would soon find that with the stomach
there is no compromise--that beyond a certain degree of abstinence it
is impossible to go--that strict necessity can be curtailed but little
without injury to the health; and, as for increasing the product,--there
comes a storm, a drought, an epizootic, and all the hopes of the farmer
are dashed. In short, the rent will not be paid, the interest will
accumulate, the farm will be seized, and the possessor ejected.

Thus a family, which lived in prosperity while it abstained from
exercising the right of property, falls into misery as soon as the
exercise of this right becomes a necessity. Property requires of the
husbandman the double power of enlarging his land, and fertilizing it by
a simple command. While a man is simply possessor of the land, he finds
in it means of subsistence; as soon as he pretends to proprietorship,
it suffices him no longer. Being able to produce only that which
he consumes, the fruit of his labor is his recompense for his
trouble--nothing is left for the instrument.

Required to pay what he cannot produce,--such is the condition of the
tenant after the proprietor has retired from social production in order
to speculate upon the labor of others by new methods.

Let us now return to our first hypothesis.

The nine hundred laborers, sure that their future production will equal
that of the past, are quite surprised, after paying their farm-rent, to
find themselves poorer by one-tenth than they were the previous year.
In fact, this tenth--which was formerly produced and paid by the
proprietor-laborer who then took part in the production, and paid part
of the--public expenses--now has not been produced, and has been paid.
It must then have been taken from the producer's consumption. To
choke this inexplicable deficit, the laborer borrows, confident of
his intention and ability to return,--a confidence which is shaken the
following year by a new loan, PLUS the interest on the first. From whom
does he borrow? From the proprietor. The proprietor lends his surplus to
the laborer; and this surplus, which he ought to return, becomes--being
lent at interest--a new source of profit to him. Then debts increase
indefinitely; the proprietor makes advances to the producer who never
returns them; and the latter, constantly robbed and constantly borrowing
from the robbers, ends in bankruptcy, defrauded of all that he had.

Suppose that the proprietor--who needs his tenant to furnish him with
an income--then releases him from his debts. He will thus do a very
benevolent deed, which will procure for him a recommendation in the
curate's prayers; while the poor tenant, overwhelmed by this unstinted
charity, and taught by his catechism to pray for his benefactors, will
promise to redouble his energy, and suffer new hardships that he may
discharge his debt to so kind a master.

This time he takes precautionary measures; he raises the price of
grains. The manufacturer does the same with his products. The reaction
comes, and, after some fluctuation, the farm-rent--which the tenant
thought to put upon the manufacturer's shoulders--becomes nearly
balanced. So that, while he is congratulating himself upon his success,
he finds himself again impoverished, but to an extent somewhat smaller
than before. For the rise having been general, the proprietor suffers
with the rest; so that the laborers, instead of being poorer by
one-tenth, lose only nine-hundredths. But always it is a debt which
necessitates a loan, the payment of interest, economy, and fasting.
Fasting for the nine-hundredths which ought not to be paid, and are
paid; fasting for the redemption of debts; fasting to pay the interest
on them. Let the crop fail, and the fasting becomes starvation. They
say, "IT IS NECESSARY TO WORK MORE." That means, obviously, that IT IS
NECESSARY TO PRODUCE MORE. By what conditions is production effected? By
the combined action of labor, capital, and land. As for the labor, the
tenant undertakes to furnish it; but capital is formed only by economy.
Now, if the tenant could accumulate any thing, he would pay his debts.
But granting that he has plenty of capital, of what use would it be to
him if the extent of the land which he cultivates always remained the
same? He needs to enlarge his farm.

Will it be said, finally, that he must work harder and to better
advantage? But, in our estimation of farm-rent, we have assumed the
highest possible average of production. Were it not the highest, the
proprietor would increase the farm-rent. Is not this the way in which
the large landed proprietors have gradually raised their rents, as
fast as they have ascertained by the increase in population and
the development of industry how much society can produce from their
property? The proprietor is a foreigner to society; but, like the
vulture, his eyes fixed upon his prey, he holds himself ready to pounce
upon and devour it.

The facts to which we have called attention, in a community of one
thousand persons, are reproduced on a large scale in every nation
and wherever human beings live, but with infinite variations and in
innumerable forms, which it is no part of my intention to describe.

In fine, property--after having robbed the laborer by usury--murders him
slowly by starvation. Now, without robbery and murder, property cannot
exist; with robbery and murder, it soon dies for want of support.
Therefore it is impossible.


Property is impossible, because, if it exists, Society devours itself.

When the ass is too heavily loaded, he lies down; man always moves on.
Upon this indomitable courage, the proprietor--well knowing that it
exists--bases his hopes of speculation. The free laborer produces ten;
for me, thinks the proprietor, he will produce twelve.

Indeed,--before consenting to the confiscation of his fields, before
bidding farewell to the paternal roof,--the peasant, whose story we have
just told, makes a desperate effort; he leases new land; he will sow
one-third more; and, taking half of this new product for himself, he
will harvest an additional sixth, and thereby pay his rent. What an
evil! To add one-sixth to his production, the farmer must add, not
one-sixth, but two-sixths to his labor. At such a price, he pays a
farm-rent which in God's eyes he does not owe.

The tenant's example is followed by the manufacturer. The former tills
more land, and dispossesses his neighbors; the latter lowers the price
of his merchandise, and endeavors to monopolize its manufacture and
sale, and to crush out his competitors. To satisfy property, the laborer
must first produce beyond his needs. Then, he must produce beyond his
strength; for, by the withdrawal of laborers who become proprietors, the
one always follows from the other. But to produce beyond his strength
and needs, he must invade the production of another, and consequently
diminish the number of producers. Thus the proprietor--after having
lessened production by stepping outside--lessens it still further by
encouraging the monopoly of labor. Let us calculate it.

The laborer's deficit, after paying his rent, being, as we have seen,
one-tenth, he tries to increase his production by this amount. He sees
no way of accomplishing this save by increasing his labor: this also he
does. The discontent of the proprietors who have not received the full
amount of their rent; the advantageous offers and promises made them by
other farmers, whom they suppose more diligent, more industrious, and
more reliable; the secret plots and intrigues,--all these give rise to a
movement for the re-division of labor, and the elimination of a certain
number of producers. Out of nine hundred, ninety will be ejected, that
the production of the others may be increased one-tenth. But will
the total product be increased? Not in the least: there will be eight
hundred and ten laborers producing as nine hundred, while, to accomplish
their purpose, they would have to produce as one thousand. Now, it
having been proved that farm-rent is proportional to the landed capital
instead of to labor, and that it never diminishes, the debts must
continue as in the past, while the labor has increased. Here, then, we
have a society which is continually decimating itself, and which
would destroy itself, did not the periodical occurrence of failures,
bankruptcies, and political and economical catastrophes re-establish
equilibrium, and distract attention from the real causes of the
universal distress.

The monopoly of land and capital is followed by economical processes
which also result in throwing laborers out of employment. Interest being
a constant burden upon the shoulders of the farmer and the manufacturer,
they exclaim, each speaking for himself, "I should have the means
wherewith to pay my rent and interest, had I not to pay so many hands."
Then those admirable inventions, intended to assure the easy and speedy
performance of labor, become so many infernal machines which kill
laborers by thousands.

"A few years ago, the Countess of Strafford ejected fifteen thousand
persons from her estate, who, as tenants, added to its value. This act
of private administration was repeated in 1820, by another large Scotch
proprietor, towards six hundred tenants and their families."--Tissot: on
Suicide and Revolt.

_ _The author whom I quote, and who has written eloquent words
concerning the revolutionary spirit which prevails in modern society,
does not say whether he would have disapproved of a revolt on the part
of these exiles. For myself, I avow boldly that in my eyes it would
have been the first of rights, and the holiest of duties; and all that I
desire to-day is that my profession of faith be understood.

Society devours itself,--1. By the violent and periodical sacrifice
of laborers: this we have just seen, and shall see again; 2. By the
stoppage of the producer's consumption caused by property. These two
modes of suicide are at first simultaneous; but soon the first is given
additional force by the second, famine uniting with usury to render
labor at once more necessary and more scarce.

By the principles of commerce and political economy, that an industrial
enterprise may be successful, its product must furnish,--1. The interest
on the capital employed; 2. Means for the preservation of this capital;
3. The wages of all the employees and contractors. Further, as large a
profit as possible must be realized.

The financial shrewdness and rapacity of property is worthy of
admiration. Each different name which increase takes affords the
proprietor an opportunity to receive it,--1. In the form of interest; 2.
In the form of profit. For, it says, a part of the income derived
from manufactures consists of interest on the capital employed. If
one hundred thousand francs have been invested in a manufacturing
enterprise, and in a year's time five thousand francs have been received
therefrom in addition to the expenses, there has been no profit, but
only interest on the capital. Now, the proprietor is not a man to labor
for nothing. Like the lion in the fable, he gets paid in each of his
capacities; so that, after he has been served, nothing is left for his

         _Ego primam tollo, nominor quia leo.
          Secundam quia sum fortis tribuctis mihi.
          Tum quia plus valeo, me sequetur tertia.
          Malo adficietur, si quis quartam tetigerit._

I know nothing prettier than this fable.

          "I am the contractor.  I take the first share.
           I am the laborer, I take the second.
           I am the capitalist, I take the third.
           I am the proprietor, I take the whole."

In four lines, Phaedrus has summed up all the forms of property.

I say that this interest, all the more then this profit, is impossible.

What are laborers in relation to each other? So many members of a large
industrial society, to each of whom is assigned a certain portion of
the general production, by the principle of the division of labor and
functions. Suppose, first, that this society is composed of but three
individuals,--a cattle-raiser, a tanner, and a shoemaker. The social
industry, then, is that of shoemaking. If I should ask what ought to be
each producer's share of the social product, the first schoolboy whom I
should meet would answer, by a rule of commerce and association, that it
should be one-third. But it is not our duty here to balance the rights
of laborers conventionally associated: we have to prove that, whether
associated or not, our three workers are obliged to act as if they
were; that, whether they will or no, they are associated by the force of
things, by mathematical necessity.

Three processes are required in the manufacture of shoes,--the rearing
of cattle, the preparation of their hides, and the cutting and sewing.
If the hide, on leaving the farmer's stable, is worth one, it is worth
two on leaving the tanner's pit, and three on leaving the shoemaker's
shop. Each laborer has produced a portion of the utility; so that, by
adding all these portions together, we get the value of the article. To
obtain any quantity whatever of this article, each producer must pay,
then, first for his own labor, and second for the labor of the other
producers. Thus, to obtain as many shoes as can be made from ten hides,
the farmer will give thirty raw hides, and the tanner twenty tanned
hides. For, the shoes that are made from ten hides are worth thirty raw
hides, in consequence of the extra labor bestowed upon them; just
as twenty tanned hides are worth thirty raw hides, on account of
the tanner's labor. But if the shoemaker demands thirty-three in the
farmer's product, or twenty-two in the tanner's, for ten in his own,
there will be no exchange; for, if there were, the farmer and the
tanner, after having paid the shoemaker ten for his labor, would have to
pay eleven for that which they had themselves sold for ten,--which, of
course, would be impossible. [18]

Well, this is precisely what happens whenever an emolument of any kind
is received; be it called revenue, farm-rent, interest, or profit. In
the little community of which we are speaking, if the shoemaker--in
order to procure tools, buy a stock of leather, and support himself
until he receives something from his investment--borrows money at
interest, it is clear that to pay this interest he will have to make a
profit off the tanner and the farmer. But as this profit is impossible
unless fraud is used, the interest will fall back upon the shoulders of
the unfortunate shoemaker, and ruin him.

I have imagined a case of unnatural simplicity. There is no human
society but sustains more than three vocations. The most uncivilized
society supports numerous industries; to-day, the number of industrial
functions (I mean by industrial functions all useful functions) exceeds,
perhaps, a thousand. However numerous the occupations, the economic law

_ _The economists cannot be ignorant of this rudimentary principle
of their pretended science: why, then, do they so obstinately defend
property, and inequality of wages, and the legitimacy of usury, and the
honesty of profit,--all of which contradict the economic law, and make
exchange impossible? A contractor pays one hundred thousand francs
for raw material, fifty thousand francs in wages, and then expects to
receive a product of two hundred thousand francs,--that is, expects to
make a profit on the material and on the labor of his employees; but
if the laborers and the purveyor of the material cannot, with their
combined wages, repurchase that which they have produced for the
contractor, how can they live? I will develop my question. Here details
become necessary.

If the workingman receives for his labor an average of three francs per
day, his employer (in order to gain any thing beyond his own salary, if
only interest on his capital) must sell the day's labor of his employee,
in the form of merchandise, for more than three francs. The workingman
cannot, then, repurchase that which he has produced for his master.
It is thus with all trades whatsoever. The tailor, the hatter, the
cabinet-maker, the blacksmith, the tanner, the mason, the jeweller,
the printer, the clerk, &c., even to the farmer and wine-grower, cannot
repurchase their products; since, producing for a master who in one form
or another makes a profit, they are obliged to pay more for their own
labor than they get for it.

In France, twenty millions of laborers, engaged in all the branches of
science, art, and industry, produce every thing which is useful to man.
Their annual wages amount, it is estimated to twenty thousand millions;
but, in consequence of the right of property, and the multifarious forms
of increase, premiums, tithes, interests, fines, profits, farm-rents,
house-rents, revenues, emoluments of every nature and description, their
products are estimated by the proprietors and employers at twenty-five
thousand millions. What does that signify? That the laborers, who are
obliged to repurchase these products in order to live, must either pay
five for that which they produced for four, or fast one day in five.

If there is an economist in France able to show that this calculation is
false, I summon him to appear; and I promise to retract all that I have
wrongfully and wickedly uttered in my attacks upon property.

Let us now look at the results of this profit.

If the wages of the workingmen were the same in all pursuits, the
deficit caused by the proprietor's tax would be felt equally everywhere;
but also the cause of the evil would be so apparent, that it would soon
be discovered and suppressed. But, as there is the same inequality of
wages (from that of the scavenger up to that of the minister of state)
as of property, robbery continually rebounds from the stronger to the
weaker; so that, since the laborer finds his hardships increase as he
descends in the social scale, the lowest class of people are literally
stripped naked and eaten alive by the others.

The laboring people can buy neither the cloth which they weave, nor the
furniture which they manufacture, nor the metal which they forge, nor
the jewels which they cut, nor the prints which they engrave. They can
procure neither the wheat which they plant, nor the wine which they
grow, nor the flesh of the animals which they raise. They are allowed
neither to dwell in the houses which they build, nor to attend the
plays which their labor supports, nor to enjoy the rest which their body
requires. And why? Because the right of increase does not permit these
things to be sold at the cost-price, which is all that laborers can
afford to pay. On the signs of those magnificent warehouses which he in
his poverty admires, the laborer reads in large letters: "This is thy
work, and thou shalt not have it." _Sic vos non vobis_!

Every manufacturer who employs one thousand laborers, and gains from
them daily one sou each, is slowly pushing them into a state of misery.
Every man who makes a profit has entered into a conspiracy with famine.
But the whole nation has not even this labor, by means of which property
starves it. And why? Because the workers are forced by the insufficiency
of their wages to monopolize labor; and because, before being destroyed
by dearth, they destroy each other by competition. Let us pursue this
truth no further.

If the laborer's wages will not purchase his product, it follows
that the product is not made for the producer. For whom, then, is it
intended? For the richer consumer; that is, for only a fraction of
society. But when the whole society labors, it produces for the whole
society. If, then, only a part of society consumes, sooner or later a
part of society will be idle. Now, idleness is death, as well for the
laborer as for the proprietor.

This conclusion is inevitable.

The most distressing spectacle imaginable is the sight of producers
resisting and struggling against this mathematical necessity, this power
of figures to which their prejudices blind them.

If one hundred thousand printers can furnish reading-matter enough for
thirty-four millions of men, and if the price of books is so high that
only one-third of that number can afford to buy them, it is clear that
these one hundred thousand printers will produce three times as much as
the booksellers can sell. That the products of the laborers may never
exceed the demands of the consumers, the laborers must either rest two
days out of three, or, separating into three groups, relieve each other
three times a week, month, or quarter; that is, during two-thirds of
their life they must not live. But industry, under the influence of
property, does not proceed with such regularity. It endeavors to
produce a great deal in a short time, because the greater the amount of
products, and the shorter the time of production, the less each product
costs. As soon as a demand begins to be felt, the factories fill up, and
everybody goes to work. Then business is lively, and both governors and
governed rejoice. But the more they work to-day, the more idle will they
be hereafter; the more they laugh, the more they shall weep. Under
the rule of property, the flowers of industry are woven into none but
funeral wreaths. The laborer digs his own grave.

If the factory stops running, the manufacturer has to pay interest on
his capital the same as before. He naturally tries, then, to continue
production by lessening expenses. Then comes the lowering of wages; the
introduction of machinery; the employment of women and children to do
the work of men; bad workmen, and wretched work. They still produce,
because the decreased cost creates a larger market; but they do not
produce long, because, the cheapness being due to the quantity and
rapidity of production, the productive power tends more than ever to
outstrip consumption. It is when laborers, whose wages are scarcely
sufficient to support them from one day to another, are thrown out of
work, that the consequences of the principle of property become most
frightful. They have not been able to economize, they have made no
savings, they have accumulated no capital whatever to support them even
one day more. Today the factory is closed. To-morrow the people starve
in the streets. Day after tomorrow they will either die in the hospital,
or eat in the jail.

And still new misfortunes come to complicate this terrible situation. In
consequence of the cessation of business, and the extreme cheapness of
merchandise, the manufacturer finds it impossible to pay the interest
on his borrowed capital; whereupon his frightened creditors hasten to
withdraw their funds. Production is suspended, and labor comes to a
standstill. Then people are astonished to see capital desert commerce,
and throw itself upon the Stock Exchange; and I once heard M. Blanqui
bitterly lamenting the blind ignorance of capitalists. The cause of
this movement of capital is very simple; but for that very reason an
economist could not understand it, or rather must not explain it. The
cause lies solely in COMPETITION.

I mean by competition, not only the rivalry between two parties engaged
in the same business, but the general and simultaneous effort of all
kinds of business to get ahead of each other. This effort is to-day
so strong, that the price of merchandise scarcely covers the cost of
production and distribution; so that, the wages of all laborers being
lessened, nothing remains, not even interest for the capitalists.

The primary cause of commercial and industrial stagnations is, then,
interest on capital,--that interest which the ancients with one accord
branded with the name of usury, whenever it was paid for the use
of money, but which they did not dare to condemn in the forms of
house-rent, farm-rent, or profit: as if the nature of the thing lent
could ever warrant a charge for the lending; that is, robbery.

In proportion to the increase received by the capitalist will be the
frequency and intensity of commercial crises,--the first being given, we
always can determine the two others; and vice versa. Do you wish to know
the regulator of a society? Ascertain the amount of active capital; that
is, the capital bearing interest, and the legal rate of this interest.
The course of events will be a series of overturns, whose number and
violence will be proportional to the activity of capital.

In 1839, the number of failures in Paris alone was one thousand and
sixty-four. This proportion was kept up in the early months of 1840;
and, as I write these lines, the crisis is not yet ended. It is said,
further, that the number of houses which have wound up their business
is greater than the number of declared failures. By this flood, we may
judge of the waterspout's power of suction.

The decimation of society is now imperceptible and permanent, now
periodical and violent; it depends upon the course which property takes.
In a country where the property is pretty evenly distributed, and where
little business is done,--the rights and claims of each being balanced
by those of others,--the power of invasion is destroyed. There--it may
be truly said--property does not exist, since the right of increase is
scarcely exercised at all. The condition of the laborers--as regards
security of life--is almost the same as if absolute equality prevailed
among them. They are deprived of all the advantages of full and free
association, but their existence is not endangered in the least. With
the exception of a few isolated victims of the right of property--of
this misfortune whose primary cause no one perceives--the society
appears to rest calmly in the bosom of this sort of equality. But have a
care; it is balanced on the edge of a sword: at the slightest shock, it
will fall and meet with death!

Ordinarily, the whirlpool of property localizes itself. On the one hand,
farm-rent stops at a certain point; on the other, in consequence of
competition and over-production, the price of manufactured goods does
not rise,--so that the condition of the peasant varies but little, and
depends mainly on the seasons. The devouring action of property bears,
then, principally upon business. We commonly say COMMERCIAL CRISES, not
AGRICULTURAL CRISES; because, while the farmer is eaten up slowly by the
right of increase, the manufacturer is swallowed at a single mouthful.
This leads to the cessation of business, the destruction of fortunes,
and the inactivity of the working people; who die one after another on
the highways, and in the hospitals, prisons, and galleys.

To sum up this proposition:--

Property sells products to the laborer for more than it pays him for
them; therefore it is impossible.


I. Certain reformers, and even the most of the publicists--who, though
belonging to no particular school, busy themselves in devising means for
the amelioration of the lot of the poorer and more numerous class--lay
much stress now-a-days on a better organization of labor. The disciples
of Fourier, especially, never stop shouting, "ON TO THE PHALANX!"
declaiming in the same breath against the foolishness and absurdity of
other sects.

They consist of half-a-dozen incomparable geniuses who have discovered
who weep over the blindness of France, who refuses to believe in this
astonishing arithmetic.[1]

[1] Fourier, having to multiply a whole number by a fraction,
never failed, they say, to obtain a product much greater than the
multiplicand. He affirmed that under his system of harmony the mercury
would solidify when the temperature was above zero. He might as well
have said that the Harmonians would make burning ice. I once asked an
intelligent phalansterian what he thought of such physics. "I do not
know," he answered; "but I believe." And yet the same man disbelieved in
the doctrine of the Real Presence.

In fact, the Fourierists proclaim themselves, on the one hand, defenders
of property, of the right of increase, which they have thus formulated:
hand, they wish the workingman to come into the enjoyment of all
the wealth of society; that is,--abridging the expression,--into the
undivided enjoyment of his own product. Is not this like saying to the
workingman, "Labor, you shall have three francs per day; you shall live
on fifty-five sous; you shall give the rest to the proprietor, and thus
you will consume three francs"?

If the above speech is not an exact epitome of Charles Fourier's system,
I will subscribe to the whole phalansterian folly with a pen dipped in
my own blood.

Of what use is it to reform industry and agriculture,--of what use,
indeed, to labor at all,--if property is maintained, and labor can never
meet its expenses? Without the abolition of property, the organization
of labor is neither more nor less than a delusion. If production should
be quadrupled,--a thing which does not seem to me at all impossible,--it
would be labor lost: if the additional product was not consumed, it
would be of no value, and the proprietor would decline to receive it as
interest; if it was consumed, all the disadvantages of property would
reappear. It must be confessed that the theory of passional attraction
is gravely at fault in this particular, and that Fourier, when he tried
to harmonize the PASSION for property,--a bad passion, whatever he may
say to the contrary,--blocked his own chariot-wheels.

The absurdity of the phalansterian economy is so gross, that many people
suspect Fourier, in spite of all the homage paid by him to proprietors,
of having been a secret enemy of property. This opinion might be
supported by plausible arguments; still it is not mine. Charlatanism
was too important a part for such a man to play, and sincerity too
insignificant a one. I would rather think Fourier ignorant (which is
generally admitted) than disingenuous. As for his disciples, before they
can formulate any opinion of their own, they must declare once for
all, unequivocally and with no mental reservation, whether they mean to
maintain property or not, and what they mean by their famous motto,--"To
each according to his capital, his labor, and his skill."

II. But, some half-converted proprietor will observe, "Would it not be
possible, by suppressing the bank, incomes, farm-rent, house-rent, usury
of all kinds, and finally property itself, to proportion products to
capacities? That was St. Simon's idea; it was also Fourier's; it is the
desire of the human conscience; and no decent person would dare maintain
that a minister of state should live no better than a peasant."

O Midas! your ears are long! What! will you never understand that
disparity of wages and the right of increase are one and the same?
Certainly, St. Simon, Fourier, and their respective flocks committed
a serious blunder in attempting to unite, the one, inequality and
communism; the other, inequality and property: but you, a man of
figures, a man of economy,--you, who know by heart your LOGARITHMIC
tables,--how can you make so stupid a mistake?

Does not political economy itself teach you that the product of a man,
whatever be his individual capacity, is never worth more than his labor,
and that a man's labor is worth no more than his consumption? You remind
me of that great constitution-framer, poor Pinheiro-Ferreira, the Sieyes
of the nineteenth century, who, dividing the citizens of a nation into
twelve classes,--or, if you prefer, into twelve grades,--assigned to
some a salary of one hundred thousand francs each; to others, eighty
thousand; then twenty-five thousand, fifteen thousand, ten thousand,
&c., down to one thousand five hundred, and one thousand francs, the
minimum allowance of a citizen. Pinheiro loved distinctions, and could
no more conceive of a State without great dignitaries than of an army
without drum-majors; and as he also loved, or thought he loved, liberty,
equality, and fraternity, he combined the good and the evil of our old
society in an eclectic philosophy which he embodied in a constitution.
Excellent Pinheiro! Liberty even to passive submission, fraternity
even to identity of language, equality even in the jury-box and at the
guillotine,--such was his ideal republic. Unappreciated genius, of whom
the present century was unworthy, but whom the future will avenge!

Listen, proprietor. Inequality of talent exists in fact; in right it is
not admissible, it goes for nothing, it is not thought of. One Newton in
a century is equal to thirty millions of men; the psychologist admires
the rarity of so fine a genius, the legislator sees only the rarity
of the function. Now, rarity of function bestows no privilege upon the
functionary; and that for several reasons, all equally forcible.

1. Rarity of genius was not, in the Creator's design, a motive to compel
society to go down on its knees before the man of superior talents,
but a providential means for the performance of all functions to the
greatest advantage of all.

2. Talent is a creation of society rather than a gift of Nature; it
is an accumulated capital, of which the receiver is only the guardian.
Without society,--without the education and powerful assistance which
it furnishes,--the finest nature would be inferior to the most ordinary
capacities in the very respect in which it ought to shine. The more
extensive a man's knowledge, the more luxuriant his imagination, the
more versatile his talent,--the more costly has his education been, the
more remarkable and numerous were his teachers and his models, and the
greater is his debt. The farmer produces from the time that he leaves
his cradle until he enters his grave: the fruits of art and science
are late and scarce; frequently the tree dies before the fruit ripens.
Society, in cultivating talent, makes a sacrifice to hope.

3. Capacities have no common standard of comparison: the conditions of
development being equal, inequality of talent is simply speciality of

4. Inequality of wages, like the right of increase, is economically
impossible. Take the most favorable case,--that where each laborer
has furnished his maximum production; that there may be an equitable
distribution of products, the share of each must be equal to the
quotient of the total production divided by the number of laborers. This
done, what remains wherewith to pay the higher wages? Nothing whatever.

Will it be said that all laborers should be taxed? But, then, their
consumption will not be equal to their production, their wages will not
pay for their productive service, they will not be able to repurchase
their product, and we shall once more be afflicted with all the
calamities of property. I do not speak of the injustice done to
the defrauded laborer, of rivalry, of excited ambition, and burning
hatred,--these may all be important considerations, but they do not hit
the point.

On the one hand, each laborer's task being short and easy, and the means
for its successful accomplishment being equal in all cases, how could
there be large and small producers? On the other hand, all functions
being equal, either on account of the actual equivalence of talents
and capacities, or on account of social co-operation, how could a
functionary claim a salary proportional to the worth of his genius?

But, what do I say? In equality wages are always proportional to
talents. What is the economical meaning of wages? The reproductive
consumption of the laborer. The very act by which the laborer produces
constitutes, then, this consumption, exactly equal to his production,
of which we are speaking. When the astronomer produces observations, the
poet verses, or the savant experiments, they consume instruments, books,
travels, &c., &c.; now, if society supplies this consumption, what more
can the astronomer, the savant, or the poet demand? We must conclude,
then, that in equality, and only in equality, St. Simon's adage--TO
RESULTS--finds its full and complete application.

III. The great evil--the horrible and ever-present evil--arising from
property, is that, while property exists, population, however reduced,
is, and always must be, over-abundant. Complaints have been made in
all ages of the excess of population; in all ages property has been
embarrassed by the presence of pauperism, not perceiving that it caused
it. Further,--nothing is more curious than the diversity of the plans
proposed for its extermination. Their atrocity is equalled only by their

The ancients made a practice of abandoning their children. The wholesale
and retail slaughter of slaves, civil and foreign wars, also lent their
aid. In Rome (where property held full sway), these three means were
employed so effectively, and for so long a time, that finally the empire
found itself without inhabitants. When the barbarians arrived, nobody
was to be found; the fields were no longer cultivated; grass grew in the
streets of the Italian cities.

In China, from time immemorial, upon famine alone has devolved the task
of sweeping away the poor. The people living almost exclusively upon
rice, if an accident causes the crop to fail, in a few days hunger kills
the inhabitants by myriads; and the Chinese historian records in the
annals of the empire, that in such a year of such an emperor twenty,
thirty, fifty, one hundred thousand inhabitants died of starvation.
Then they bury the dead, and recommence the production of children until
another famine leads to the same result. Such appears to have been, in
all ages, the Confucian economy.

I borrow the following facts from a modern economist:--

"Since the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, England has been
preyed upon by pauperism. At that time beggars were punished by law."
Nevertheless, she had not one-fourth as large a population as she has

"Edward prohibits alms-giving, on pain of imprisonment.... The laws of
1547 and 1656 prescribe a like punishment, in case of a second offence.
Elizabeth orders that each parish shall support its own paupers. But
what is a pauper? Charles II. decides that an UNDISPUTED residence of
forty days constitutes a settlement in a parish; but, if disputed, the
new-comer is forced to pack off. James II. modifies this decision,
which is again modified by William. In the midst of trials, reports, and
modifications, pauperism increases, and the workingman languishes and

"The poor-tax in 1774 exceeded forty millions of francs; in 1783-4-5,
it averaged fifty-three millions; 1813, more than a hundred and
eighty-seven millions five hundred thousand francs; 1816, two hundred
and fifty millions; in 1817, it is estimated at three hundred and
seventeen millions.

"In 1821, the number of paupers enrolled upon the parish lists was
estimated at four millions, nearly one-third of the population.

"FRANCE. In 1544, Francis I. establishes a compulsory tax in behalf of
the poor. In 1566 and 1586, the same principle is applied to the whole

"Under Louis XIV., forty thousand paupers infested the capital [as many
in proportion as to-day]. Mendicity was punished severely. In 1740,
the Parliament of Paris re-establishes within its own jurisdiction the
compulsory assessment.

"The Constituent Assembly, frightened at the extent of the evil and the
difficulty of curing it, ordains the _statu quo_.

"The Convention proclaims assistance of the poor to be a NATIONAL DEBT.
Its law remains unexecuted.

"Napoleon also wishes to remedy the evil: his idea is imprisonment. 'In
that way,' said he, 'I shall protect the rich from the importunity
of beggars, and shall relieve them of the disgusting sight of abject
poverty.'" O wonderful man!

From these facts, which I might multiply still farther, two things are
to be inferred,--the one, that pauperism is independent of population;
the other, that all attempts hitherto made at its extermination have
proved abortive.

Catholicism founds hospitals and convents, and commands charity; that
is, she encourages mendicity. That is the extent of her insight as
voiced by her priests.

The secular power of Christian nations now orders taxes on the rich,
now banishment and imprisonment for the poor; that is, on the one hand,
violation of the right of property, and, on the other, civil death and

The modern economists--thinking that pauperism is caused by the excess
of population, exclusively--have devoted themselves to devising checks.
Some wish to prohibit the poor from marrying; thus,--having denounced
religious celibacy,--they propose compulsory celibacy, which will
inevitably become licentious celibacy.

Others do not approve this method, which they deem too violent; and
which, they say, deprives the poor man of THE ONLY PLEASURE WHICH HE
KNOWS IN THIS WORLD. They would simply recommend him to be PRUDENT. This
opinion is held by Malthus, Sismondi, Say, Droz, Duchatel, &c. But if
the poor are to be PRUDENT, the rich must set the example. Why should
the marriageable age of the latter be fixed at eighteen years, while
that of the former is postponed until thirty?

Again, they would do well to explain clearly what they mean by this
matrimonial prudence which they so urgently recommend to the laborer;
for here equivocation is especially dangerous, and I suspect that
the economists are not thoroughly understood. "Some half-enlightened
ecclesiastics are alarmed when they hear prudence in marriage advised;
they fear that the divine injunction--INCREASE AND MULTIPLY--is to be
set aside. To be logical, they must anathematize bachelors." (J. Droz:
Political Economy.)

M. Droz is too honest a man, and too little of a theologian, to see why
these casuists are so alarmed; and this chaste ignorance is the very
best evidence of the purity of his heart. Religion never has encouraged
early marriages; and the kind of PRUDENCE which it condemns is that
described in this Latin sentence from Sanchez,--_An licet ob metum
liberorum semen extra vas ejicere_?

Destutt de Tracy seems to dislike prudence in either form. He says: "I
confess that I no more share the desire of the moralists to diminish
and restrain our pleasures, than that of the politicians to increase
our procreative powers, and accelerate reproduction." He believes, then,
that we should love and marry when and as we please. Widespread misery
results from love and marriage, but this our philosopher does not heed.
True to the dogma of the necessity of evil, to evil he looks for the
solution of all problems. He adds: "The multiplication of men continuing
in all classes of society, the surplus members of the upper classes are
supported by the lower classes, and those of the latter are destroyed
by poverty." This philosophy has few avowed partisans; but it has over
every other the indisputable advantage of demonstration in practice. Not
long since France heard it advocated in the Chamber of Deputies, in the
course of the discussion on the electoral reform,--POVERTY WILL ALWAYS
EXIST. That is the political aphorism with which the minister of state
ground to powder the arguments of M. Arago. POVERTY WILL ALWAYS EXIST!
Yes, so long as property does.

The Fourierists--INVENTORS of so many marvellous contrivances--could
not, in this field, belie their character. They invented four methods of
checking increase of population at will.

1. THE VIGOR OF WOMEN. On this point they are contradicted by
experience; for, although vigorous women may be less likely to conceive,
nevertheless they give birth to the healthiest children; so that the
advantage of maternity is on their side.

2. INTEGRAL EXERCISE, or the equal development of all the physical
powers. If this development is equal, how is the power of reproduction

3. THE GASTRONOMIC REGIME; or, in plain English, the philosophy of the
belly. The Fourierists say, that abundance of rich food renders
women sterile; just as too much sap--while enhancing the beauty of
flowers--destroys their reproductive capacity. But the analogy is a
false one. Flowers become sterile when the stamens--or male organs--are
changed into petals, as may be seen by inspecting a rose; and when
through excessive dampness the pollen loses its fertilizing power.
Then,--in order that the gastronomic regime may produce the results
claimed for it,--not only must the females be fattened, but the males
must be rendered impotent.

4. PHANEROGAMIC MORALITY, or public concubinage. I know not why the
phalansterians use Greek words to convey ideas which can be expressed so
clearly in French. This method--like the preceding one--is copied from
civilized customs. Fourier, himself, cites the example of prostitutes
as a proof. Now we have no certain knowledge yet of the facts which he
quotes. So states Parent Duchatelet in his work on "Prostitution."

From all the information which I have been able to gather, I find that
all the remedies for pauperism and fecundity--sanctioned by universal
practice, philosophy, political economy, and the latest reformers--may
be summed up in the following list: masturbation, onanism, [19]
sodomy, tribadie, polyandry, [20] prostitution, castration, continence,
abortion, and infanticide. [21]

All these methods being proved inadequate, there remains proscription.

Unfortunately, proscription, while decreasing the number of the poor,
increases their proportion. If the interest charged by the proprietor
upon the product is equal only to one-twentieth of the product (by law
it is equal to one-twentieth of the capital), it follows that twenty
laborers produce for nineteen only; because there is one among them,
called proprietor, who eats the share of two. Suppose that the twentieth
laborer--the poor one--is killed: the production of the following year
will be diminished one-twentieth; consequently the nineteenth will have
to yield his portion, and perish. For, since it is not one-twentieth
of the product of nineteen which must be paid to the proprietor, but
one-twentieth of the product of twenty (see third proposition), each
surviving laborer must sacrifice one-twentieth PLUS one four-hundredth
of his product; in other words, one man out of nineteen must be killed.
Therefore, while property exists, the more poor people we kill, the more
there are born in proportion.

Malthus, who proved so clearly that population increases in geometrical
progression, while production increases only in arithmetical
progression, did not notice this PAUPERIZING power of property. Had he
observed this, he would have understood that, before trying to check
reproduction, the right of increase should be abolished; because,
wherever that right is tolerated, there are always too many inhabitants,
whatever the extent or fertility of the soil.

It will be asked, perhaps, how I would maintain a balance between
population and production; for sooner or later this problem must be
solved. The reader will pardon me, if I do not give my method here. For,
in my opinion, it is useless to say a thing unless we prove it. Now, to
explain my method fully would require no less than a formal treatise.
It is a thing so simple and so vast, so common and so extraordinary,
so true and so misunderstood, so sacred and so profane, that to name it
without developing and proving it would serve only to excite contempt
and incredulity. One thing at a time. Let us establish equality, and
this remedy will soon appear; for truths follow each other, just as
crimes and errors do.


Property is impossible, because it is the Mother of Tyranny.

What is government? Government is public economy, the supreme
administrative power over public works and national possessions.

Now, the nation is like a vast society in which all the citizens are
stockholders. Each one has a deliberative voice in the assembly; and,
if the shares are equal, has one vote at his disposal. But, under the
regime of property, there is great inequality between the shares of
the stockholders; therefore, one may have several hundred votes, while
another has only one. If, for example, I enjoy an income of one million;
that is, if I am the proprietor of a fortune of thirty or forty millions
well invested, and if this fortune constitutes 1/30000 of the national
capital,--it is clear that the public administration of my property
would form 1/30000 of the duties of the government; and, if the nation
had a population of thirty-four millions, that I should have as many
votes as one thousand one hundred and thirty-three simple stockholders.

Thus, when M. Arago demands the right of suffrage for all members of the
National Guard, he is perfectly right; since every citizen is enrolled
for at least one national share, which entitles him to one vote. But the
illustrious orator ought at the same time to demand that each elector
shall have as many votes as he has shares; as is the case in commercial
associations. For to do otherwise is to pretend that the nation has a
right to dispose of the property of individuals without consulting them;
which is contrary to the right of property. In a country where property
exists, equality of electoral rights is a violation of property.

Now, if each citizen's sovereignty must and ought to be proportional to
his property, it follows that the small stock holders are at the mercy
of the larger ones; who will, as soon as they choose, make slaves of
the former, marry them at pleasure, take from them their wives,
castrate their sons, prostitute their daughters, throw the aged to the
sharks,--and finally will be forced to serve themselves in the same way,
unless they prefer to tax themselves for the support of their servants.
In such a condition is Great Britain to-day. John Bull--caring little
for liberty, equality, or dignity--prefers to serve and beg. But you,
bonhomme Jacques?

Property is incompatible with political and civil equality; then
property is impossible.

HISTORICAL COMMENTS.--1. When the vote of the third estate was doubled
by the States-General of 1789, property was grossly violated. The
nobility and the clergy possessed three-fourths of the soil of France;
they should have controlled three-fourths of the votes in the national
representation. To double the vote of the third estate was just, it is
said, since the people paid nearly all the taxes. This argument would
be sound, if there were nothing to be voted upon but taxes. But it was a
question at that time of reforming the government and the constitution;
consequently, the doubling of the vote of the third estate was a
usurpation, and an attack on property.

2. If the present representatives of the radical opposition should
come into power, they would work a reform by which every National Guard
should be an elector, and every elector eligible for office,--an attack
on property.

They would lower the rate of interest on public funds,--an attack on

They would, in the interest of the public, pass laws to regulate the
exportation of cattle and wheat,--an attack on property.

They would alter the assessment of taxes,--an attack on property.

They would educate the people gratuitously,--a conspiracy against

They would organize labor; that is, they would guarantee labor to the
workingman, and give him a share in the profits,--the abolition of

Now, these same radicals are zealous defenders of property,--a radical
proof that they know not what they do, nor what they wish.

3. Since property is the grand cause of privilege and despotism, the
form of the republican oath should be changed. Instead of, "I swear
hatred to royalty," henceforth the new member of a secret society should
say, "I swear hatred to property."


_Property is impossible, because, in consuming its Receipts, it loses
them; in hoarding them, it nullifies them; and in using them as Capital,
it turns them against Production_.

I. If, with the economists, we consider the laborer as a living machine,
we must regard the wages paid to him as the amount necessary to support
this machine, and keep it in repair. The head of a manufacturing
establishment--who employs laborers at three, five, ten, and
fifteen francs per day, and who charges twenty francs for his
superintendence--does not regard his disbursements as losses, because
he knows they will return to him in the form of products. Consequently,

What is the proprietor? He is a machine which does not work; or, which
working for its own pleasure, and only when it sees fit, produces

What is it to consume as a proprietor? It is to consume without
working, to consume without reproducing. For, once more, that which the
proprietor consumes as a laborer comes back to him; he does not give his
labor in exchange for his property, since, if he did, he would thereby
cease to be a proprietor. In consuming as a laborer, the proprietor
gains, or at least does not lose, since he recovers that which he
consumes; in consuming as a proprietor, he impoverishes himself. To
enjoy property, then, it is necessary to destroy it; to be a real
proprietor, one must cease to be a proprietor.

The laborer who consumes his wages is a machine which destroys and
reproduces; the proprietor who consumes his income is a bottomless
gulf,--sand which we water, a stone which we sow. So true is this,
that the proprietor--neither wishing nor knowing how to produce, and
perceiving that as fast as he uses his property he destroys it for
ever--has taken the precaution to make some one produce in his place.
That is what political economy, speaking in the name of eternal justice,
AS A TYRANT. He, the proprietor, produce!... The robber might say, as
well: "I produce."

The consumption of the proprietor has been styled luxury, in opposition
to USEFUL consumption. From what has just been said, we see that great
luxury can prevail in a nation which is not rich,--that poverty even
increases with luxury, and vice versa. The economists (so much credit
must be given them, at least) have caused such a horror of luxury,
that to-day a very large number of proprietors--not to say almost
all--ashamed of their idleness--labor, economize, and capitalize. They
have jumped from the frying-pan into the fire.

I cannot repeat it too often: the proprietor who thinks to deserve
his income by working, and who receives wages for his labor, is a
functionary who gets paid twice; that is the only difference between an
idle proprietor and a laboring proprietor. By his labor, the proprietor
produces his wages only--not his income. And since his condition enables
him to engage in the most lucrative pursuits, it may be said that the
proprietor's labor harms society more than it helps it. Whatever the
proprietor does, the consumption of his income is an actual loss, which
his salaried functions neither repair nor justify; and which would
annihilate property, were it not continually replenished by outside

II. Then, the proprietor who consumes annihilates the product: he does
much worse if he lays it up. The things which he lays by pass into
another world; nothing more is seen of them, not even the _caput
mortuum_,--the smoke. If we had some means of transportation by which
to travel to the moon, and if the proprietors should be seized with a
sudden fancy to carry their savings thither, at the end of a certain
time our terraqueous planet would be transported by them to its

The proprietor who lays up products will neither allow others to enjoy
them, nor enjoy them himself; for him there is neither possession nor
property. Like the miser, he broods over his treasures: he does not use
them. He may feast his eyes upon them; he may lie down with them; he
may sleep with them in his arms: all very fine, but coins do not
breed coins. No real property without enjoyment; no enjoyment without
consumption; no consumption without loss of property,--such is the
inflexible necessity to which God's judgment compels the proprietor to
bend. A curse upon property!

III. The proprietor who, instead of consuming his income, uses it as
capital, turns it against production, and thereby makes it impossible
for him to exercise his right. For the more he increases the amount of
interest to be paid upon it, the more he is compelled to diminish wages.
Now, the more he diminishes wages,--that is, the less he devotes to
the maintenance and repair of the machines,--the more he diminishes
the quantity of labor; and with the quantity of labor the quantity of
product, and with the quantity of product the very source of his income.
This is clearly shown by the following example:--

Take an estate consisting of arable land, meadows, and vineyards,
containing the dwellings of the owner and the tenant; and worth,
together with the farming implements, one hundred thousand francs, the
rate of increase being three per cent. If, instead of consuming his
revenue, the proprietor uses it, not in enlarging but in beautifying his
estate, can he annually demand of his tenant an additional ninety francs
on account of the three thousand francs which he has thus added to
his capital? Certainly not; for on such conditions the tenant, though
producing no more than before, would soon be obliged to labor for
nothing,--what do I say? to actually suffer loss in order to hold his

In fact, revenue can increase only as productive soil increases: it
is useless to build walls of marble, and work with plows of gold. But,
since it is impossible to go on acquiring for ever, to add estate to
estate, to CONTINUE ONE'S POSSESSIONS, as the Latins said; and since,
moreover, the proprietor always has means wherewith to capitalize,--it
follows that the exercise of his right finally becomes impossible.

Well, in spite of this impossibility, property capitalizes, and in
capitalizing increases its revenue; and, without stopping to look at the
particular cases which occur in commerce, manufacturing operations,
and banking, I will cite a graver fact,--one which directly affects all
citizens. I mean the indefinite increase of the budget.

The taxes increase every year. It would be difficult to tell in which
department of the government the expenses increase; for who can boast
of any knowledge as to the budget? On this point, the ablest financiers
continually disagree. What is to be thought, I ask, of the science of
government, when its professors cannot understand one another's figures?
Whatever be the immediate causes of this growth of the budget, it is
certain that taxation increases at a rate which causes everybody to
despair. Everybody sees it, everybody acknowledges it; but nobody
seems to understand the primary cause.[1] Now, I say that it cannot be
otherwise,--that it is necessary and inevitable.

[1] "The financial situation of the English government was shown up
in the House of Lords during the session of January 23. It is not
an encouraging one. For several years the expenses have exceeded the
receipts, and the Minister has been able to re-establish the balance
only by loans renewed annually. The combined deficits of the years 1838
and 1839 amount to forty-seven million five hundred thousand francs. In
1840, the excess of expenses over receipts is expected to be twenty-two
million five hundred thousand francs. Attention was called to these
figures by Lord Ripon. Lord Melbourne replied: 'The noble earl unhappily
was right in declaring that the public expenses continually increase,
and with him I must say that there is no room for hope that they can be
diminished or met in any way.'"--National: January 26, 1840.

A nation is the tenant of a rich proprietor called the GOVERNMENT,
to whom it pays, for the use of the soil, a farm-rent called a tax.
Whenever the government makes war, loses or gains a battle, changes the
outfit of its army, erects a monu-ment, digs a canal, opens a road,
or builds a railway, it borrows money, on which the tax-payers pay
interest; that is, the government, without adding to its productive
capacity, increases its active capital,--in a word, capitalizes after
the manner of the proprietor of whom I have just spoken.

Now, when a governmental loan is once contracted, and the interest is
once stipulated, the budget cannot be reduced. For, to accomplish that,
either the capitalists must relinquish their interest, which would
involve an abandonment of property; or the government must go into
bankruptcy, which would be a fraudulent denial of the political
principle; or it must pay the debt, which would require another loan;
or it must reduce expenses, which is impossible, since the loan
was contracted for the sole reason that the ordinary receipts
were insufficient; or the money expended by the government must be
reproductive, which requires an increase of productive capacity,--a
condition excluded by our hypothesis; or, finally, the tax-payers must
submit to a new tax in order to pay the debt,--an impossible thing. For,
if this new tax were levied upon all citizens alike, half, or even more,
of the citizens would be unable to pay it; if the rich had to bear the
whole, it would be a forced contribution,--an invasion of property.
Long financial experience has shown that the method of loans, though
exceedingly dangerous, is much surer, more convenient, and less costly
than any other method; consequently the government borrows,--that is,
goes on capitalizing,--and increases the budget.

Then, a budget, instead of ever diminishing, must necessarily and
continually increase. It is astonishing that the economists, with all
their learning, have failed to perceive a fact so simple and so evident.
If they have perceived it, why have they neglected to condemn it?

HISTORICAL COMMENT.--Much interest is felt at present in a financial
operation which is expected to result in a reduction of the budget.
It is proposed to change the present rate of increase, five per cent.
Laying aside the politico-legal question to deal only with the financial
question,--is it not true that, when five per cent. is changed to four
per cent., it will then be necessary, for the same reasons, to change
four to three; then three to two, then two to one, and finally to sweep
away increase altogether? But that would be the advent of equality of
conditions and the abolition of property. Now it seems to me, that an
intelligent nation should voluntarily meet an inevitable revolution
half way, instead of suffering itself to be dragged after the car of
inflexible necessity.


Property is impossible, because its power of Accumulation is infinite,
and is exercised only over finite quantities.

If men, living in equality, should grant to one of their number the
exclusive right of property; and this sole proprietor should lend one
hundred francs to the human race at compound interest, payable to his
descendants twenty-four generations hence,--at the end of six hundred
years this sum of one hundred francs, at five per cent., would amount to
107,854,010,777,600 francs; two thousand six hundred and ninety-six
and one-third times the capital of France (supposing her capital to be
40,000,000,000), or more than twenty times the value of the terrestrial

Suppose that a man, in the reign of St. Louis, had borrowed one hundred
francs, and had refused,--he and his heirs after him,--to return it.
Even though it were known that the said heirs were not the rightful
possessors, and that prescription had been interrupted always at the
right moment,--nevertheless, by our laws, the last heir would be obliged
to return the one hundred francs with interest, and interest on the
interest; which in all would amount, as we have seen, to nearly one
hundred and eight thousand billions.

Every day, fortunes are growing in our midst much more rapidly than
this. The preceding example supposed the interest equal to one-twentieth
of the capital,--it often equals one-tenth, one-fifth, one-half of the
capital; and sometimes the capital itself.

The Fourierists--irreconcilable enemies of equality, whose partisans
they regard as SHARKS--intend, by quadrupling production, to satisfy
all the demands of capital, labor, and skill. But, should production
be multiplied by four, ten, or even one hundred, property would
soon absorb, by its power of accumulation and the effects of its
capitalization, both products and capital, and the land, and even the
laborers. Is the phalanstery to be prohibited from capitalizing and
lending at interest? Let it explain, then, what it means by property.

I will carry these calculations no farther. They are capable of infinite
variation, upon which it would be puerile for me to insist. I only ask
by what standard judges, called upon to decide a suit for possession,
fix the interest? And, developing the question, I ask,--

Did the legislator, in introducing into the Republic the principle
of property, weigh all the consequences? Did he know the law of the
possible? If he knew it, why is it not in the Code? Why is so much
latitude allowed to the proprietor in accumulating property and
charging interest,--to the judge in recognizing and fixing the domain of
property,--to the State in its power to levy new taxes continually? At
what point is the nation justified in repudiating the budget, the tenant
his farm-rent, and the manufacturer the interest on his capital? How
far may the idler take advantage of the laborer? Where does the right
of spoliation begin, and where does it end? When may the producer say
to the proprietor, "I owe you nothing more"? When is property satisfied?
When must it cease to steal?

If the legislator did know the law of the possible, and disregarded it,
what must be thought of his justice? If he did not know it, what must
be thought of his wisdom? Either wicked or foolish, how can we recognize
his authority?

If our charters and our codes are based upon an absurd hypothesis,
what is taught in the law-schools? What does a judgment of the Court
of Appeal amount to? About what do our Chambers deliberate? What is
POLITICS? What is our definition of a STATESMAN? What is the meaning of

If all our institutions are based upon an error in calculation, does it
not follow that these institutions are so many shams? And if the entire
social structure is built upon this absolute impossibility of property,
is it not true that the government under which we live is a chimera, and
our present society a utopia?


Property is impossible, because it is powerless against Property.

I. By the third corollary of our axiom, interest tells against the
proprietor as well as the stranger. This economical principle is
universally admitted. Nothing simpler at first blush; yet, nothing more
absurd, more contradictory in terms, or more absolutely impossible.

The manufacturer, it is said, pays himself the rent on his house and
capital. HE PAYS HIMSELF; that is, he gets paid by the public who buy
his products. For, suppose the manufacturer, who seems to make this
profit on his property, wishes also to make it on his merchandise, can
he then pay himself one franc for that which cost him ninety centimes,
and make money by the operation? No: such a transaction would transfer
the merchant's money from his right hand to his left, but without any
profit whatever.

Now, that which is true of a single individual trading with himself is
true also of the whole business world. Form a chain of ten, fifteen,
twenty producers; as many as you wish. If the producer A makes a
profit out of the producer B. B's loss must, according to economical
principles, be made up by C, C's by D; and so on through to Z.

But by whom will Z be paid for the loss caused him by the profit charged
by A in the beginning? BY THE CONSUMER, replies Say. Contemptible
equivocation! Is this consumer any other, then, than A, B. C, D, &c.,
or Z? By whom will Z be paid? If he is paid by A, no one makes a profit;
consequently, there is no property. If, on the contrary, Z bears the
burden himself, he ceases to be a member of society; since it refuses
him the right of property and profit, which it grants to the other

Since, then, a nation, like universal humanity, is a vast industrial
association which cannot act outside of itself, it is clear that no man
can enrich himself without impoverishing another. For, in order that the
right of property, the right of increase, may be respected in the
case of A, it must be denied to Z; thus we see how equality of rights,
separated from equality of conditions, may be a truth. The iniquity of
political economy in this respect is flagrant. "When I, a manufacturer,
purchase the labor of a workingman, I do not include his wages in the
net product of my business; on the contrary, I deduct them. But the
workingman includes them in his net product.... "(Say: Political

That means that all which the workingman gains is NET PRODUCT; but that
only that part of the manufacturer's gains is NET PRODUCT, which remains
after deducting his wages. But why is the right of profit confined to
the manufacturer? Why is this right, which is at bottom the right of
property itself, denied to the workingman? In the terms of economical
science, the workingman is capital. Now, all capital, beyond the cost
of its maintenance and repair, must bear interest. This the proprietor
takes care to get, both for his capital and for himself. Why is the
workingman prohibited from charging a like interest for his capital,
which is himself?

Property, then, is inequality of rights; for, if it were not inequality
of rights, it would be equality of goods,--in other words, it would not
exist. Now, the charter guarantees to all equality of rights. Then, by
the charter, property is impossible.

II. Is A, the proprietor of an estate, entitled by the fact of his
proprietorship to take possession of the field belonging to B. his
neighbor? "No," reply the proprietors; "but what has that to do with
the right of property?" That I shall show you by a series of similar

Has C, a hatter, the right to force D, his neighbor and also a hatter,
to close his shop, and cease his business? Not the least in the world.

But C wishes to make a profit of one franc on every hat, while D is
content with fifty centimes. It is evident that D's moderation is
injurious to C's extravagant claims. Has the latter a right to prevent D
from selling? Certainly not.

Since D is at liberty to sell his hats fifty centimes cheaper than C if
he chooses, C in his turn is free to reduce his price one franc. Now, D
is poor, while C is rich; so that at the end of two or three years D is
ruined by this intolerable competition, and C has complete control of
the market. Can the proprietor D get any redress from the proprietor C?
Can he bring a suit against him to recover his business and property?
No; for D could have done the same thing, had he been the richer of the

On the same ground, the large proprietor A may say to the small
proprietor B: "Sell me your field, otherwise you shall not sell your
wheat,"--and that without doing him the least wrong, or giving him
ground for complaint. So that A can devour B if he likes, for the very
reason that A is stronger than B. Consequently, it is not the right of
property which enables A and C to rob B and D, but the right of might.
By the right of property, neither the two neighbors A and B, nor the two
merchants C and D, could harm each other. They could neither dispossess
nor destroy one another, nor gain at one another's expense. The power of
invasion lies in superior strength.

But it is superior strength also which enables the manufacturer
to reduce the wages of his employees, and the rich merchant and
well-stocked proprietor to sell their products for what they please. The
manufacturer says to the laborer, "You are as free to go elsewhere
with your services as I am to receive them. I offer you so much." The
merchant says to the customer, "Take it or leave it; you are master of
your money, as I am of my goods. I want so much." Who will yield? The

Therefore, without force, property is powerless against property, since
without force it has no power to increase; therefore, without force,
property is null and void.

HISTORICAL COMMENT.--The struggle between colonial and native sugars
furnishes us a striking example of this impossibility of property. Leave
these two industries to themselves, and the native manufacturer will
be ruined by the colonist. To maintain the beet-root, the cane must be
taxed: to protect the property of the one, it is necessary to injure the
property of the other. The most remarkable feature of this business is
precisely that to which the least attention is paid; namely, that, in
one way or another, property has to be violated. Impose on each industry
a proportional tax, so as to preserve a balance in the market, and you
create a MAXIMUM PRICE,--you attack property in two ways. On the one
hand, your tax interferes with the liberty of trade; on the other, it
does not recognize equality of proprietors. Indemnify the beet-root, you
violate the property of the tax-payer. Cultivate the two varieties of
sugar at the nation's expense, just as different varieties of tobacco
are cultivated,--you abolish one species of property. This last course
would be the simpler and better one; but, to induce the nations to adopt
it, requires such a co-operation of able minds and generous hearts as is
at present out of the question.

Competition, sometimes called liberty of trade,--in a word, property
in exchange,--will be for a long time the basis of our commercial
legislation; which, from the economical point of view, embraces all
civil laws and all government. Now, what is competition? A duel in a
closed field, where arms are the test of right.

"Who is the liar,--the accused or the accuser?" said our barbarous
ancestors. "Let them fight it out," replied the still more barbarous
judge; "the stronger is right."

Which of us two shall sell spices to our neighbor? "Let each offer them
for sale," cries the economist; "the sharper, or the more cunning, is
the more honest man, and the better merchant."

Such is the exact spirit of the Code Napoleon.


Property is impossible, because it is the Negation of equality.

The development of this proposition will be the resume of the preceding

1. It is a principle of economical justice, that PRODUCTS ARE BOUGHT
ONLY BY PRODUCTS. Property, being capable of defence only on the ground
that it produces utility, is, since it produces nothing, for ever

2. It is an economical law, that LABOR MUST BE BALANCED BY PRODUCT. It
is a fact that, with property, production costs more than it is worth.

Property, requiring income to be always proportional to capital without
regard to labor, does not recognize this relation of equality between
effect and cause.

4 and 5. Like the insect which spins its silk, the laborer never
produces for himself alone. Property, demanding a double product and
unable to obtain it, robs the laborer, and kills him.

6. Nature has given to every man but one mind, one heart, one will.
Property, granting to one individual a plurality of votes, supposes him
to have a plurality of minds.

7. All consumption which is not reproductive of utility is destruction.
Property, whether it consumes or hoards or capitalizes, is productive of
INUTILITY,--the cause of sterility and death.

8. The satisfaction of a natural right always gives rise to an equation;
in other words, the right to a thing is necessarily balanced by the
possession of the thing. Thus, between the right to liberty and the
condition of a free man there is a balance, an equation; between the
right to be a father and paternity, an equation; between the right to
security and the social guarantee, an equation. But between the right
of increase and the receipt of this increase there is never an equation;
for every new increase carries with it the right to another, the latter
to a third, and so on for ever. Property, never being able to accomplish
its object, is a right against Nature and against reason.

9. Finally, property is not self-existent. An extraneous cause--either
FORCE or FRAUD--is necessary to its life and action. In other
words, property is not equal to property: it is a negation--a



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.

The philosophers 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

But, as yet, no one has proposed this question:--


If, hitherto, any one had dared to maintain the latter alternative, his
arguments would have seemed scandalous, blasphemous, and 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 of

Man is a rational and social animal--{GREEK ' c g}--said Aristotle. This
definition is worth more than all which have been given since. I do not
except even M. de Bonald's celebrated definition,--MAN IS AN INTELLECT
SERVED BY ORGANS--a definition which has the 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.

Man, then, 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

What are 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 the question.

"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. RUGHT 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

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 his enemy.

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 race.

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

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 faculty, 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

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 justice.

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.

The second degree of sociability is justice, which may be defined as the
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 conversion 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 producer.

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. [22]

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.

By this 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

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.

Sociability 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

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 the occupant.

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.

This double 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 to danger.

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

A judge 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 to the 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 of another.

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 understanding.

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 at 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 social instinct 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 the animals.

% 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

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 independent.

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.

Society, 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

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; and when 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.

Generosity, 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 equite, or SOCIAL
PROPORTIONALITY. [23] Equite does not change justice: but, always taking
equite for the base, it superadds esteem, and thereby forms in man a
third degree of sociability. Equite 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. Equite 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 word nearly all the social

It is the just distribution of social sympathy and universal love.

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, or politeness.

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 equite 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.

SOCIABILITY, JUSTICE, EQUITE--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

These three degrees of sociability support and imply each other.

Equite 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; equite
is justice accompanied by admiration and esteem,--things which cannot be

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 equite, 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
equite, 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. [24]

"Suppose 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.

Are 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.

But 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.

Man 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.

2. Equite, 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, equite, 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 to
him. [25]

The 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.

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 equite.

I infer from this that, if God should wish ever to put himself into
immediate communication with man, he would have to become a man.

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 law.

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; [26] 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 regime 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

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

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 resume of political science,
the monument of twenty legislatures. A code has been 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

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 all minds.



% 1.--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

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, are necessarily 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

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.

If, like 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

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 its glory.

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.

"According 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.

"We 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 same manner that ordinary and
accidental sensations commonly do. It is a sort of dream, or vision,
which always follows them and in all which relates to instinct they may
be regarded as somnambulists."--F. Cuvier: Introduction to the Animal

Intelligence 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
OURSELVES. This lacks clearness, and requires an explanation.

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
I shall endeavour to interpret, by developing to the best of my ability
the laconism of the philosophical naturalist.

The intelligence 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;[1] 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 soul aspires.

[1] "The 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."

All that 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 intelligence. Instinct is the source of
passion and enthusiasm; it is intelligence which causes crime and

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 other.

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

Property, 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. Little by little this communism--negative
as long as man does not produce--tends to become positive and organic
through the development of labor 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:

Communism--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. When 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 human association.

% 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 Commune!

Communism 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.

The Latin words for robber are _fur_ and _latro;_ the former taken from
the Greek {GREEK m }, from {GREEK m }, Latin _fero_, I carry away; the
latter from {GREEK 'i }, I play the part of a brigand, which is derived
from {GREEK i }, Latin _lateo_, I conceal myself. The Greeks have also
{GREEK ncg }, from {GREEK ncg }, I filch, whose radical consonants are
the same as those of {GREEK ' cg }, 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
to him.

The Hebrews 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_), thou shalt 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 disciple Ananias.

The etymology 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 origin 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

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_," [27]
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.

This second 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,

Let them now accuse the law of being materialistic and atheistic.

We rob,--12. By usury.

This species 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 the 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! [28]

But what, then, is usury? Nothing is more amusing than to see these
INSTRUCTORS OF NATIONS hesitate between the authority of the Gospel,
which, they say, NEVER CAN HAVE SPOKEN IN VAIN, and the authority of
economical demonstrations. 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; and, what is more curious
still, Salmasius ADMITTED HIS ERROR. Instead of inferring from this
doctrine of Salmasius that all increase is illegitimate, and proceeding
straight on to the demonstration of Gospel equality, they arrived at
just the opposite conclusion; namely, that since everybody 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, that the commandment of Jesus Christ is an ILLUSION, and
amounts to NOTHING, which is an impious conclusion.

If this memoir had appeared in the time of Bossuet, that great
theologian would have PROVED by scripture, the 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
burned, and the author imprisoned.

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 very

We rob,--14. By commerce, when the profit of the merchant exceeds his
legitimate salary.

Everybody knows the definition of commerce--THE ART OF BUYING FOR THREE
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:--

Justice, 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; equite 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, {GREEK ' eg }, and consequently
the best, {GREEK ' eg }, 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, {GREEK g e  }, 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 the conquered by the
conqueror; and the whole numerous family of taxes, duties, monarchical
prerogatives, house-rents, farm-rents, &c.; in one word,--property.

Force was followed by artifice, the second manifestation of justice,
which was detested by the ancient heroes, who, not excelling 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 be," says 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 the word 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.

From artifice 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

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

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 themselves,... and the people,
undeceived, but still religious and merciful, will begin to think. [29]

One 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 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?

"You are 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

"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 the weakest.

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.

"The 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 that he 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 condition 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 special condition,
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.

Sociable 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 unfinished tasks.

From time 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.

Man, in 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,--man 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.

By means 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.

ANARCHY,--the absence of a master, of a sovereign, [30]--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
advanced among us are those who wish the greatest possible number of
sovereigns,--their most ardent wish is for the royalty of the National
Guard. Soon, 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

The nation is the guardian of the law--the nation is the EXECUTIVE
POWER. 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. [31]

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.

Now, property 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, and 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.

Communism seeks EQUALITY and LAW. Property, born of the sovereignty of
the reason, and the sense of personal merit, wishes above all things

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

1. That 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, when provided with equal means,--in
no way violates justice and equite.

2. That LAW, resulting from the knowledge of facts, and consequently
based upon necessity itself, never clashes with independence.

3. That 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.

4. That 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.

This third form of society, the synthesis of communism and property, we
will call LIBERTY. [32]

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."

Man's social nature becoming JUSTICE through reflection, EQUITE 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

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 against society.

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

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 remodelling.

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." [33]

Liberty is essentially an organizing force. To insure equality between
men and peace among nations, agriculture and industry, 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. [34]

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

I. Individual POSSESSION [35] is 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.

VIII. Men 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!





PARIS, April 1, 1841.


Before resuming my "Inquiries into Government and Property," it is
fitting, for the satisfaction of some worthy people, and also in the
interest of order, that I should make to you a plain, straightforward
explanation. In a much-governed State, no one would be allowed to
attack the external form of the society, and the groundwork of its
institutions, until he had established his right to do so,--first, by
his morality; second, by his capacity; and, third, by the purity of
his intentions. Any one who, wishing to publish a treatise upon the
constitution of the country, could not satisfy this threefold condition,
would be obliged to procure the endorsement of a responsible patron
possessing the requisite qualifications.

But we Frenchmen have the liberty of the press. This grand right--the
sword of thought, which elevates the virtuous citizen to the rank of
legislator, and makes the malicious citizen an agent of discord--frees
us from all preliminary responsibility to the law; but it does not
release us from our internal obligation to render a public account
of our sentiments and thoughts. I have used, in all its fulness, and
concerning an important question, the right which the charter grants
us. I come to-day, sir, to submit my conscience to your judgment, and my
feeble insight to your discriminating reason. You have criticised in a
kindly spirit--I had almost said with partiality for the writer--a work
which teaches a doctrine that you thought it your duty to condemn. "The
Academy of Moral and Political Sciences," said you in your report, "can
accept the conclusions of the author only as far as it likes." I venture
to hope, sir, that, after you have read this letter, if your prudence
still restrains you, your fairness will induce you to do me justice.

SHOULD BE EQUAL IN THEIR CONDITIONS,--such is the thesis which I
maintained and developed in a memoir bearing the title, "What is
Property? or, An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government."

The idea of social equality, even in individual fortunes, has in all
ages besieged, like a vague presentiment, the human imagination. Poets
have sung of it in their hymns; philosophers have dreamed of it in their
Utopias; priests teach it, but only for the spiritual world. The people,
governed by it, never have had faith in it; and the civil power is never
more disturbed than by the fables of the age of gold and the reign
of Astrea. A year ago, however, this idea received a scientific
demonstration, which has not yet been satisfactorily answered, and,
permit me to add, never will be. This demonstration, owing to its
slightly impassioned style, its method of reasoning,--which was so
at variance with that employed by the generally recognized
authorities,--and the importance and novelty of its conclusions, was of
a nature to cause some alarm; and might have been dangerous, had it not
been--as you, sir, so well said--a sealed letter, so far as the general
public was concerned, addressed only to men of intelligence. I was
glad to see that through its metaphysical dress you recognized the wise
foresight of the author; and I thank you for it. May God grant that my
intentions, which are wholly peaceful, may never be charged upon me as

Like a stone thrown into a mass of serpents, the First Memoir on
Property excited intense animosity, and aroused the passions of many.
But, while some wished the author and his work to be publicly denounced,
others found in them simply the solution of the fundamental problems of
society; a few even basing evil speculations upon the new light which
they had obtained. It was not to be expected that a system of inductions
abstractly gathered together, and still more abstractly expressed, would
be understood with equal accuracy in its ensemble and in each of its

To find the law of equality, no longer in charity and self-sacrifice
(which are not binding in their nature), but in justice; to base
equality of functions upon equality of persons; to determine the
absolute principle of exchange; to neutralize the inequality of
individual faculties by collective force; to establish an equation
between property and robbery; to change the law of succession without
destroying the principle; to maintain the human personality in a
system of absolute association, and to save liberty from the chains
of communism; to synthetize the monarchical and democratic forms of
government; to reverse the division of powers; to give the executive
power to the nation, and to make legislation a positive, fixed,
and absolute science,--what a series of paradoxes! what a string of
delusions! if I may not say, what a chain of truths! But it is not
my purpose here to pass upon the theory of the right of possession. I
discuss no dogmas. My only object is to justify my views, and to show
that, in writing as I did, I not only exercised a right, but performed a

Yes, I have attacked property, and shall attack it again; but, sir,
before demanding that I shall make the amende honorable for having
obeyed my conscience and spoken the exact truth, condescend, I beg of
you, to cast a glance at the events which are happening around us; look
at our deputies, our magistrates, our philosophers, our ministers, our
professors, and our publicists; examine their methods of dealing with
the matter of property; count up with me the restrictions placed upon
it every day in the name of the public welfare; measure the breaches
already made; estimate those which society thinks of making hereafter;
add the ideas concerning property held by all theories in common;
interrogate history, and then tell me what will be left, half a century
hence, of this old right of property; and, thus perceiving that I have
so many accomplices, you will immediately declare me innocent.

What is the law of expropriation on the ground of public utility, which
everybody favors, and which is even thought too lenient? [36]

A flagrant violation of the right of property. Society indemnifies,
it is said, the dispossessed proprietor; but does it return to him the
traditional associations, the poetic charm, and the family pride which
accompany property? Naboth, and the miller of Sans-Souci, would have
protested against French law, as they protested against the caprice of
their kings. "It is the field of our fathers," they would have cried,
"and we will not sell it!" Among the ancients, the refusal of the
individual limited the powers of the State. The Roman law bowed to
the will of the citizen, and an emperor--Commodus, if I remember
rightly--abandoned the project of enlarging the forum out of respect for
the rights of the occupants who refused to abdicate. Property is a
real right, _jus_ _in re_,--a right inherent in the thing, and whose
principle lies in the external manifestation of man's will. Man leaves
his imprint, stamps his character, upon the objects of his handiwork.
This plastic force of man, as the modern jurists say, is the seal which,
set upon matter, makes it holy. Whoever lays hands upon it, against the
proprietor's will, does violence to the latter's personality. And yet,
when an administrative committee saw fit to declare that public utility
required it, property had to give way to the general will. Soon, in
the name of public utility, methods of cultivation and conditions of
enjoyment will be prescribed; inspectors of agriculture and manufactures
will be appointed; property will be taken away from unskilful hands,
and entrusted to laborers who are more deserving of it; and a general
superintendence of production will be established. It is not two years
since I saw a proprietor destroy a forest more than five hundred acres
in extent. If public utility had interfered, that forest--the only one
for miles around--would still be standing.

But, it is said, expropriation on the ground of public utility is only
an exception which confirms the principle, and bears testimony in
favor of the right. Very well; but from this exception we will pass to
another, from that to a third, and so on from exceptions to exceptions,
until we have reduced the rule to a pure abstraction.

How many supporters do you think, sir, can be claimed for the project
of the conversion of the public funds? I venture to say that everybody
favors it, except the fund-holders. Now, this so-called conversion is
an extensive expropriation, and in this case with no indemnity whatever.
The public funds are so much real estate, the income from which the
proprietor counts upon with perfect safety, and which owes its value
to the tacit promise of the government to pay interest upon it at the
established rate, until the fund-holder applies for redemption. For,
if the income is liable to diminution, it is less profitable than
house-rent or farm-rent, whose rates may rise or fall according to the
fluctuations in the market; and in that case, what inducement has the
capitalist to invest his money in the State? When, then, you force the
fund-holder to submit to a diminution of interest, you make him bankrupt
to the extent of the diminution; and since, in consequence of the
conversion, an equally profitable investment becomes impossible, you
depreciate his property.

That such a measure may be justly executed, it must be generalized; that
is, the law which provides for it must decree also that interest on sums
lent on deposit or on mortgage throughout the realm, as well as house
and farm-rents, shall be reduced to three per cent. This simultaneous
reduction of all kinds of income would be not a whit more difficult to
accomplish than the proposed conversion; and, further, it would offer
the advantage of forestalling at one blow all objections to it, at the
same time that it would insure a just assessment of the land-tax. See!
If at the moment of conversion a piece of real estate yields an income
of one thousand francs, after the new law takes effect it will yield
only six hundred francs. Now, allowing the tax to be an aliquot
part--one-fourth for example--of the income derived from each piece of
property, it is clear on the one hand that the proprietor would not, in
order to lighten his share of the tax, underestimate the value of his
property; since, house and farm-rents being fixed by the value of the
capital, and the latter being measured by the tax, to depreciate his
real estate would be to reduce his revenue. On the other hand, it is
equally evident that the same proprietors could not overestimate the
value of their property, in order to increase their incomes beyond the
limits of the law, since the tenants and farmers, with their old leases
in their hands, would enter a protest.

Such, sir, must be the result sooner or later of the conversion which
has been so long demanded; otherwise, the financial operation of which
we are speaking would be a crying injustice, unless intended as a
stepping-stone. This last motive seems the most plausible one; for in
spite of the clamors of interested parties, and the flagrant violation
of certain rights, the public conscience is bound to fulfil its desire,
and is no more affected when charged with attacking property, than
when listening to the complaints of the bondholders. In this case,
instinctive justice belies legal justice.

Who has not heard of the inextricable confusion into which the Chamber
of Deputies was thrown last year, while discussing the question of
colonial and native sugars? Did they leave these two industries to
themselves? The native manufacturer was ruined by the colonist. To
maintain the beet-root, the cane had to be taxed. To protect the
property of the one, it became necessary to violate the property of the
other. The most remarkable feature of this business was precisely that
to which the least attention was paid; namely, that, in one way or
another, property had to be violated. Did they impose on each industry
a proportional tax, so as to preserve a balance in the market? They
created a maximum PRICE for each variety of sugar; and, as this maximum
PRICE was not the same, they attacked property in two ways,--on the one
hand, interfering with the liberty of trade; on the other, disregarding
the equality of proprietors. Did they suppress the beet-root by granting
an indemnity to the manufacturer? They sacrificed the property of the
tax-payer. Finally, did they prefer to cultivate the two varieties of
sugar at the nation's expense, just as different varieties of tobacco
are cultivated? They abolished, so far as the sugar industry was
concerned, the right of property. This last course, being the most
social, would have been certainly the best; but, if property is the
necessary basis of civilization, how is this deep-seated antagonism to
be explained? [37]

Not satisfied with the power of dispossessing a citizen on the ground
of public utility, they want also to dispossess him on the ground of
PRIVATE UTILITY. For a long time, a revision of the law concerning
mortgages was clamored for; a process was demanded, in behalf of all
kinds of credit and in the interest of even the debtors themselves,
which would render the expropriation of real estate as prompt, as easy,
and as effective as that which follows a commercial protest. The Chamber
of Deputies, in the early part of this year, 1841, discussed this
project, and the law was passed almost unanimously. There is nothing
more just, nothing more reasonable, nothing more philosophical
apparently, than the motives which gave rise to this reform.

I. Formerly, the small proprietor whose obligation had arrived at
maturity, and who found himself unable to meet it, had to employ all
that he had left, after being released from his debt, in defraying the
legal costs. Henceforth, the promptness of expropriation will save him
from total ruin. 2. The difficulties in the way of payment arrested
credit, and prevented the employment of capital in agricultural
enterprises. This cause of distrust no longer existing, capitalists will
find new markets, agriculture will rapidly develop, and farmers will
be the first to enjoy the benefit of the new law. 3. Finally, it was
iniquitous and absurd, that, on account of a protested note, a poor
manufacturer should see in twenty-four hours his business arrested, his
labor suspended, his merchandise seized, his machinery sold at auction,
and finally himself led off to prison, while two years were sometimes
necessary to expropriate the most miserable piece of real estate.

These arguments, and others besides, you clearly stated, sir, in your
first lectures of this academic year.

But, when stating these excellent arguments, did you ask yourself, sir,
whither would tend such a transformation of our system of mortgages?...
To monetize, if I may say so, landed property; to accumulate it within
portfolios; to separate the laborer from the soil, man from Nature; to
make him a wanderer over the face of the earth; to eradicate from
his heart every trace of family feeling, national pride, and love of
country; to isolate him more and more; to render him indifferent to
all around him; to concentrate his love upon one object,--money; and,
finally, by the dishonest practices of usury, to monopolize the land
to the profit of a financial aristocracy,--a worthy auxiliary of that
industrial feudality whose pernicious influence we begin to feel so
bitterly. Thus, little by little, the subordination of the laborer to
the idler, the restoration of abolished castes, and the distinction
between patrician and plebeian, would be effected; thus, thanks to the
new privileges granted to the property of the capitalists, that of the
small and intermediate proprietors would gradually disappear, and with
it the whole class of free and honest laborers. This certainly is not
my plan for the abolition of property. Far from mobilizing the soil, I
would, if possible, immobilize even the functions of pure intelligence,
so that society might be the fulfilment of the intentions of Nature,
who gave us our first possession, the land. For, if the instrument
or capital of production is the mark of the laborer, it is also his
pedestal, his support, his country, and, as the Psalmist says, THE PLACE

Let us examine more closely still the inevitable and approaching result
of the last law concerning judicial sales and mortgages. Under
the system of competition which is killing us, and whose necessary
expression is a plundering and tyrannical government, the farmer will
need always capital in order to repair his losses, and will be forced to
contract loans. Always depending upon the future for the payment of his
debts, he will be deceived in his hope, and surprised by maturity. For
what is there more prompt, more unexpected, more abbreviatory of space
and time, than the maturity of an obligation? I address this question
to all whom this pitiless Nemesis pursues, and even troubles in their
dreams. Now, under the new law, the expropriation of a debtor will be
effected a hundred times more rapidly; then, also, spoliation will be
a hundred times surer, and the free laborer will pass a hundred times
sooner from his present condition to that of a serf attached to the
soil. Formerly, the length of time required to effect the seizure
curbed the usurer's avidity, gave the borrower an opportunity to recover
himself, and gave rise to a transaction between him and his creditor
which might result finally in a complete release. Now, the debtor's
sentence is irrevocable: he has but a few days of grace.

And what advantages are promised by this law as an offset to this sword
of Damocles, suspended by a single hair over the head of the unfortunate
husbandman? The expenses of seizure will be much less, it is said; but
will the interest on the borrowed capital be less exorbitant? For, after
all, it is interest which impoverishes the peasant and leads to his
expropriation. That the law may be in harmony with its principle, that
it may be truly inspired by that spirit of justice for which it is
commended, it must--while facilitating expropriation--lower the legal
price of money. Otherwise, the reform concerning mortgages is but a trap
set for small proprietors,--a legislative trick.

Lower interest on money! But, as we have just seen, that is to limit
property. Here, sir, you shall make your own defence. More than once, in
your learned lectures, I have heard you deplore the precipitancy of the
Chambers, who, without previous study and without profound knowledge
of the subject, voted almost unanimously to maintain the statutes and
privileges of the Bank. Now these privileges, these statutes, this vote
of the Chambers, mean simply this,--that the market price of specie,
at five or six per cent., is not too high, and that the conditions
of exchange, discount, and circulation, which generally double this
interest, are none too severe. So the government thinks. M. Blanqui--a
professor of political economy, paid by the State--maintains the
contrary, and pretends to demonstrate, by decisive arguments, the
necessity of a reform. Who, then, best understands the interests of
property,--the State, or M. Blanqui?

If specie could be borrowed at half the present rate, the revenues from
all sorts of property would soon be reduced one-half also. For example:
when it costs less to build a house than to hire one, when it is cheaper
to clear a field than to procure one already cleared, competition
inevitably leads to a reduction of house and farm-rents, since the
surest way to depreciate active capital is to increase its amount. But
it is a law of political economy that an increase of production augments
the mass of available capital, consequently tends to raise wages, and
finally to annihilate interest. Then, proprietors are interested in
maintaining the statutes and privileges of the Bank; then, a reform in
this matter would compromise the right of increase; then, the peers and
deputies are better informed than Professor Blanqui.

But these same deputies,--so jealous of their privileges whenever
the equalizing effects of a reform are within their intellectual
horizon,--what did they do a few days before they passed the law
concerning judicial sales? They formed a conspiracy against property!
Their law to regulate the labor of children in factories will, without
doubt, prevent the manufacturer from compelling a child to labor more
than so many hours a day; but it will not force him to increase the pay
of the child, nor that of its father. To-day, in the interest of health,
we diminish the subsistence of the poor; to-morrow it will be necessary
to protect them by fixing their MINIMUM wages. But to fix their minimum
wages is to compel the proprietor, is to force the master to accept his
workman as an associate, which interferes with freedom and makes mutual
insurance obligatory. Once entered upon this path, we never shall
stop. Little by little the government will become manufacturer,
commission-merchant, and retail dealer.

It will be the sole proprietor. Why, at all epochs, have the ministers
of State been so reluctant to meddle with the question of wages?
Why have they always refused to interfere between the master and the
workman? Because they knew the touchy and jealous nature of property,
and, regarding it as the principle of all civilization, felt that to
meddle with it would be to unsettle the very foundations of society.
Sad condition of the proprietary regime,--one of inability to exercise
charity without violating justice! [39]

And, sir, this fatal consequence which necessity forces upon the State
is no mere imagination. Even now the legislative power is asked, no
longer simply to regulate the government of factories, but to create
factories itself. Listen to the millions of voices shouting on all hands
The whole laboring class is agitated: it has its journals, organs,
and representatives. To guarantee labor to the workingman, to balance
production with sale, to harmonize industrial proprietors, it advocates
to-day--as a sovereign remedy--one sole head, one national wardenship,
one huge manufacturing company. For, sir, all this is included in the
idea of national workshops. On this subject I wish to quote, as proof,
the views of an illustrious economist, a brilliant mind, a progressive
intellect, an enthusiastic soul, a true patriot, and yet an official
defender of the right of property. [40]

The honorable professor of the Conservatory proposes then,--


But, to keep the peasant in his village, his residence there must be
made endurable: to be just to all, the proletaire of the country must be
treated as well as the proletaire of the city. Reform is needed, then,
on farms as well as in factories; and, when the government enters the
workshop, the government must seize the plough! What becomes, during
this progressive invasion, of independent cultivation, exclusive domain,


The object of this measure would be to secure to laborers their
subsistence, and to proprietors their profits, while obliging the latter
to sacrifice from motives of prudence, if for no other reason, a portion
of their income. Now, I say, that this portion, in the long run, would
swell until at last there would be an equality of enjoyment between the
proletaire and the proprietor. For, as we have had occasion to remark
several times already, the interest of the capitalist--in other words
the increase of the idler--tends, on account of the power of labor, the
multiplication of products and exchanges, to continually diminish, and,
by constant reduction, to disappear. So that, in the society proposed
by M. Blanqui, equality would not be realized at first, but would exist
potentially; since property, though outwardly seeming to be industrial
feudality, being no longer a principle of exclusion and encroachment,
but only a privilege of division, would not be slow, thanks to the
intellectual and political emancipation of the proletariat, in passing
into absolute equality,--as absolute at least as any thing can be on
this earth.

I omit, for the sake of brevity, the numerous considerations which
the professor adduces in support of what he calls, too modestly in my
opinion, his Utopia. They would serve only to prove beyond all question
that, of all the charlatans of radicalism who fatigue the public ear,
no one approaches, for depth and clearness of thought, the audacious M.


But, sir, the stoppage of private industry is the result of
over-production, and insufficient markets. If, then, production
continues in the national workshops, how will the crisis be terminated?
Undoubtedly, by the general depreciation of merchandise, and, in the
last analysis, by the conversion of private workshops into national
workshops. On the other hand, the government will need capital with
which to pay its workmen; now, how will this capital be obtained? By
taxation. And upon what will the tax be levied? Upon property. Then you
will have proprietary industry sustaining against itself, and at its own
expense, another industry with which it cannot compete. What, think you,
will become, in this fatal circle, of the possibility of profit,--in a
word, of property?

Thank Heaven! equality of conditions is taught in the public schools;
let us fear revolutions no longer. The most implacable enemy of property
could not, if he wished to destroy it, go to work in a wiser and more
effective way. Courage, then, ministers, deputies, economists! make
haste to seize this glorious initiative; let the watchwords of equality,
uttered from the heights of science and power, be repeated in the midst
of the people; let them thrill the breasts of the proletaires, and carry
dismay into the ranks of the last representatives of privilege!

The tendency of society in favor of compelling proprietors to support
national workshops and public manufactories is so strong that for
several years, under the name of ELECTORAL REFORM, it has been
exclusively the question of the day. What is, after all, this electoral
reform which the people grasp at, as if it were a bait, and which
so many ambitious persons either call for or denounce? It is the
acknowledgment of the right of the masses to a voice in the assessment
of taxes, and the making of the laws; which laws, aiming always at the
protection of material interests, affect, in a greater or less degree,
all questions of taxation or wages. Now the people, instructed long
since by their journals, their dramas, [41] and their songs, [42] know
to-day that taxation, to be equitably divided, must be graduated, and
must be borne mainly by the rich,--that it must be levied upon luxuries,
&c. And be sure that the people, once in the majority in the Chamber,
will not fail to apply these lessons. Already we have a minister
of public works. National workshops will follow; and soon, as
a consequence, the excess of the proprietor's revenue over the
workingman's wages will be swallowed up in the coffers of the laborers
of the State. Do you not see that in this way property is gradually
reduced, as nobility was formerly, to a nominal title, to a distinction
purely honorary in its nature?

Either the electoral reform will fail to accomplish that which is hoped
from it, and will disappoint its innumerable partisans, or else it will
inevitably result in a transformation of the absolute right under which
we live into a right of possession; that is, that while, at present,
property makes the elector, after this reform is accomplished, the
citizen, the producer will be the possessor. [43] Consequently, the
radicals are right in saying that the electoral reform is in their eyes
only a means; but, when they are silent as to the end, they show either
profound ignorance, or useless dissimulation. There should be no secrets
or reservations from peoples and powers. He disgraces himself and fails
in respect for his fellows, who, in publishing his opinions, employs
evasion and cunning. Before the people act, they need to know the whole
truth. Unhappy he who shall dare to trifle with them! For the people are
credulous, but they are strong. Let us tell them, then, that this reform
which is proposed is only a means,--a means often tried, and hitherto
without effect,--but that the logical object of the electoral reform is
equality of fortunes; and that this equality itself is only a new means
having in view the superior and definitive object of the salvation of
society, the restoration of morals and religion, and the revival of
poetry and art.

This assertion of M. Rossi is not borne out by history. Property is the
cause of the electoral right, not as a PRESUMPTION OF CAPACITY,--an idea
which never prevailed until lately, and which is extremely absurd,--but
is a league of those interested in the maintenance of property, against
those not interested. There are thousands of documents, even official
documents, to prove this, if necessary. For the rest, the present system
is only a continuation of the municipal system, which, in the
middle ages, sprang up in connection with feudalism,--an oppressive,
mischief-making system, full of petty passions and base intrigues.

It would be an abuse of the reader's patience to insist further upon
the tendency of our time towards equality. There are, moreover, so many
people who denounce the present age, that nothing is gained by exposing
to their view the popular, scientific, and representative tendencies of
the nation.

Prompt to recognize the accuracy of the inferences drawn from
observation, they confine themselves to a general censure of the facts,
and an absolute denial of their legitimacy. "What wonder," they say,
"that this atmosphere of equality intoxicates us, considering all that
has been said and done during the past ten years!... Do you not see that
society is dissolving, that a spirit of infatuation is carrying us away?
All these hopes of regeneration are but forebodings of death; your songs
of triumph are like the prayers of the departing, your trumpet peals
announce the baptism of a dying man. Civilization is falling in ruin:
_Imus, imus, praecipites_!"

Such people deny God. I might content myself with the reply that
the spirit of 1830 was the result of the maintenance of the violated
charter; that this charter arose from the Revolution of '89; that
'89 implies the States-General's right of remonstrance, and the
enfranchisement of the communes; that the communes suppose feudalism,
which in its turn supposes invasion, Roman law, Christianity, &c.

But it is necessary to look further. We must penetrate to the very heart
of ancient institutions, plunge into the social depths, and uncover this
indestructible leaven of equality which the God of justice breathed into
our souls, and which manifests itself in all our works.

Labor is man's contemporary; it is a duty, since it is a condition of
existence: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." It is more
than a duty, it is a mission: "God put the man into the garden to dress
it." I add that labor is the cause and means of equality.

Cast away upon a desert island two men: one large, strong, and active;
the other weak, timid, and domestic. The latter will die of hunger;
while the other, a skilful hunter, an expert fisherman, and an
indefatigable husbandman, will overstock himself with provisions. What
greater inequality, in this state of Nature so dear to the heart of Jean
Jacques, could be imagined! But let these two men meet and associate
themselves: the second immediately attends to the cooking, takes charge
of the household affairs, and sees to the provisions, beds, and clothes;
provided the stronger does not abuse his superiority by enslaving and
ill-treating his companion, their social condition will be perfectly
equal. Thus, through exchange of services, the inequalities of Nature
neutralize each other, talents associate, and forces balance. Violence
and inertia are found only among the poor and the aristocratic. And
in that lies the philosophy of political economy, the mystery of human
brotherhood. _Hic est sapientia_. Let us pass from the hypothetical
state of pure Nature into civilization.

The proprietor of the soil, who produces, I will suppose with the
economists, by lending his instrument, receives at the foundation of a
society so many bushels of grain for each acre of arable land. As long
as labor is weak, and the variety of its products small, the proprietor
is powerful in comparison with the laborers; he has ten times,
one hundred times, the portion of an honest man. But let labor, by
multiplying its inventions, multiply its enjoyments and wants, and the
proprietor, if he wishes to enjoy the new products, will be obliged to
reduce his income every day; and since the first products tend rather
to depreciate than to rise in value,--in consequence of the continual
addition of the new ones, which may be regarded as supplements of the
first ones,--it follows that the idle proprietor grows poor as fast
as public prosperity increases. "Incomes" (I like to quote you, sir,
because it is impossible to give too good an authority for these
elementary principles of economy, and because I cannot express them
better myself), "incomes," you have said, "tend to disappear as capital
increases. He who possesses to-day an income of twenty thousand pounds
is not nearly as rich as he who possessed the same amount fifty years
ago. The time is coming when all property will be a burden to the idle,
and will necessarily pass into the hands of the able and industrious.

In order to live as a proprietor, or to consume without producing, it is
necessary, then, to live upon the labor of another; in other words,
it is necessary to kill the laborer. It is upon this principle that
proprietors of those varieties of capital which are of primary necessity
increase their farm-rents as fast as industry develops, much more
careful of their privileges in that respect, than those economists who,
in order to strengthen property, advocate a reduction of interest.
But the crime is unavailing: labor and production increase; soon the
proprietor will be forced to labor, and then property is lost.

The proprietor is a man who, having absolute control of an instrument
of production, claims the right to enjoy the product of the instrument
without using it himself. To this end he lends it; and we have just
seen that from this loan the laborer derives a power of exchange, which
sooner or later will destroy the right of increase. In the first place,
the proprietor is obliged to allow the laborer a portion of the product,
for without it the laborer could not live. Soon the latter, through
the development of his industry, finds a means of regaining the greater
portion of that which he gives to the proprietor; so that at last, the
objects of enjoyment increasing continually, while the income of the
idler remains the same, the proprietor, having exhausted his resources,
begins to think of going to work himself. Then the victory of the
producer is certain. Labor commences to tip the balance towards its own
side, and commerce leads to equilibrium.

Man's instinct cannot err; as, in liberty, exchange of functions leads
inevitably to equality among men, so commerce--or exchange of products,
which is identical with exchange of functions--is a new cause of
equality. As long as the proprietor does not labor, however small his
income, he enjoys a privilege; the laborer's welfare may be equal to
his, but equality of conditions does not exist. But as soon as the
proprietor becomes a producer,--since he can exchange his special
product only with his tenant or his _commandite_,--sooner or later this
tenant, this _exploited_ man, if violence is not done him, will make
a profit out of the proprietor, and will oblige him to restore--in the
exchange of their respective products--the interest on his capital. So
that, balancing one injustice by another, the contracting parties will
be equal. Labor and exchange, when liberty prevails, lead, then, to
equality of fortunes; mutuality of services neutralizes privilege.
That is why despots in all ages and countries have assumed control
of commerce; they wished to prevent the labor of their subjects from
becoming an obstacle to the rapacity of tyrants.

Up to this point, all takes place in the natural order; there is no
premeditation, no artifice. The whole proceeding is governed by the laws
of necessity alone. Proprietors and laborers act only in obedience to
their wants. Thus, the exercise of the right of increase, the art
of robbing the producer, depends--during this first period of
civilization--upon physical violence, murder, and war.

But at this point a gigantic and complicated conspiracy is hatched
against the capitalists. The weapon of the EXPLOITERS is met by the
EXPLOITED with the instrument of commerce,--a marvellous invention,
denounced at its origin by the moralists who favored property, but
inspired without doubt by the genius of labor, by the Minerva of the

The principal cause of the evil lay in the accumulation and immobility
of capital of all sorts,--an immobility which prevented labor, enslaved
and subalternized by haughty idleness, from ever acquiring it. The
necessity was felt of dividing and mobilizing wealth, of rendering it
portable, of making it pass from the hands of the possessor into those
of the worker. Labor invented MONEY. Afterwards, this invention was
revived and developed by the BILL OF EXCHANGE and the BANK. For all
these things are substantially the same, and proceed from the same mind.
The first man who conceived the idea of representing a value by a shell,
a precious stone, or a certain weight of metal, was the real inventor
of the Bank. What is a piece of money, in fact? It is a bill of exchange
written upon solid and durable material, and carrying with it its own
redemption. By this means, oppressed equality was enabled to laugh at
the efforts of the proprietors, and the balance of justice was adjusted
for the first time in the tradesman's shop. The trap was cunningly set,
and accomplished its purpose so thoroughly that in idle hands money
became only dissolving wealth, a false symbol, a shadow of riches. An
excellent economist and profound philosopher was that miser who took
be said, "When real estate is converted into money, it is lost." This
explains the constant fact of history, that the nobles--the unproductive
proprietors of the soil--have every where been dispossessed by
industrial and commercial plebeians. Such was especially the case in the
formation of the Italian republics, born, during the middle ages, of
the impoverishment of the seigniors. I will not pursue the interesting
considerations which this matter suggests; I could only repeat the
testimony of historians, and present economical demonstrations in an
altered form.

The greatest enemy of the landed and industrial aristocracy to-day, the
incessant promoter of equality of fortunes, is the BANKER. Through him
immense plains are divided, mountains change their positions, forests
are grown upon the public squares, one hemisphere produces for another,
and every corner of the globe has its usufructuaries. By means of the
Bank new wealth is continually created, the use of which (soon becoming
indispensable to selfishness) wrests the dormant capital from the hands
of the jealous proprietor. The banker is at once the most potent creator
of wealth, and the main distributor of the products of art and Nature.
And yet, by the strangest antinomy, this same banker is the most
relentless collector of profits, increase, and usury ever inspired by
the demon of property. The importance of the services which he renders
leads us to endure, though not without complaint, the taxes which he
imposes. Nevertheless, since nothing can avoid its providential mission,
since nothing which exists can escape the end for which it exists
the banker (the modern Croesus) must some day become the restorer of
equality. And following in your footsteps, sir, I have already given the
reason; namely, that profit decreases as capital multiplies, since an
increase of capital--calling for more laborers, without whom it remains
unproductive--always causes an increase of wages. Whence it follows that
the Bank, to-day the suction-pump of wealth, is destined to become the
steward of the human race.

The phrase EQUALITY OF FORTUNES chafes people, as if it referred to
a condition of the other world, unknown here below. There are some
persons, radicals as well as moderates, whom the very mention of this
idea fills with indignation. Let, then, these silly aristocrats abolish
mercantile societies and insurance companies, which are founded
by prudence for mutual assistance. For all these social facts, so
spontaneous and free from all levelling intentions, are the legitimate
fruits of the instinct of equality.

When the legislator makes a law, properly speaking he does not MAKE
it,--he does not CREATE it: he DESCRIBES it. In legislating upon the
moral, civil, and political relations of citizens, he does not express
an arbitrary notion: he states the general idea,--the higher principle
which governs the matter which he is considering; in a word, he is the
proclaimer, not the inventor, of the law. So, when two or more men
form among themselves, by synallagmatic contract, an industrial or an
insurance association, they recognize that their interests, formerly
isolated by a false spirit of selfishness and independence, are
firmly connected by their inner natures, and by the mutuality of their
relations. They do not really bind themselves by an act of their private
will: they swear to conform henceforth to a previously existing social
law hitherto disregarded by them. And this is proved by the fact that
these same men, could they avoid association, would not associate.
Before they can be induced to unite their interests, they must acquire
full knowledge of the dangers of competition and isolation; hence the
experience of evil is the only thing which leads them into society.

Now I say that, to establish equality among men, it is only necessary
to generalize the principle upon which insurance, agricultural, and
commercial associations are based. I say that competition, isolation
of interests, monopoly, privilege, accumulation of capital, exclusive
enjoyment, subordination of functions, individual production, the right
of profit or increase, the exploitation of man by man, and, to sum up
all these species under one head, that PROPERTY is the principal cause
of misery and crime. And, for having arrived at this offensive and
anti-proprietary conclusion, I am an abhorred monster; radicals and
conservatives alike point me out as a fit subject for prosecution; the
academies shower their censures upon me; the most worthy people regard
me as mad; and those are excessively tolerant who content themselves
with the assertion that I am a fool. Oh, unhappy the writer who
publishes the truth otherwise than as a performance of a duty! If he has
counted upon the applause of the crowd; if he has supposed that avarice
and self-interest would forget themselves in admiration of him; if he
has neglected to encase himself within three thicknesses of brass,--he
will fail, as he ought, in his selfish undertaking. The unjust
criticisms, the sad disappointments, the despair of his mistaken
ambition, will kill him.

But, if I am no longer permitted to express my own personal opinion
concerning this interesting question of social equilibrium, let me, at
least, make known the thought of my masters, and develop the doctrines
advocated in the name of the government.

It never has been my intention, sir, in spite of the vigorous censure
which you, in behalf of your academy, have pronounced upon the doctrine
of equality of fortunes, to contradict and cope with you. In listening
to you, I have felt my inferiority too keenly to permit me to enter upon
such a discussion. And then,--if it must be said,--however different
your language is from mine, we believe in the same principles; you share
all my opinions. I do not mean to insinuate thereby, sir, that you have
(to use the phraseology of the schools) an ESOTERIC and an EXOTERIC
doctrine,--that, secretly believing in equality, you defend property
only from motives of prudence and by command. I am not rash enough to
regard you as my colleague in my revolutionary projects; and I esteem
you too highly, moreover, to suspect you of dissimulation. I only
mean that the truths which methodical investigation and laborious
metaphysical speculation have painfully demonstrated to me, a profound
acquaintance with political economy and a long experience reveal to
you. While I have reached my belief in equality by long reflection, and
almost in spite of my desires, you hold yours, sir, with all the zeal of
faith,--with all the spontaneity of genius. That is why your course
of lectures at the Conservatory is a perpetual war upon property and
inequality of fortunes; that is why your most learned investigations,
your most ingenious analyses, and your innumerable observations always
conclude in a formula of progress and equality; that is why, finally,
you are never more admired and applauded than at those moments of
inspiration when, borne upon the wings of science, you ascend to those
lofty truths which cause plebeian hearts to beat with enthusiasm, and
which chill with horror men whose intentions are evil. How many times,
from the place where I eagerly drank in your eloquent words, have I
inwardly thanked Heaven for exempting you from the judgment passed by
St. Paul upon the philosophers of his time,--"They have known the truth,
and have not made it known"! How many times have I rejoiced at finding
my own justification in each of your discourses! No, no; I neither wish
nor ask for any thing which you do not teach yourself. I appeal to your
numerous audience; let it belie me if, in commenting upon you, I pervert
your meaning.

A disciple of Say, what in your eyes is more anti-social than the
custom-houses; or, as you correctly call them, the barriers erected by
monopoly between nations? What is more annoying, more unjust, or more
absurd, than this prohibitory system which compels us to pay forty
sous in France for that which in England or Belgium would bring us but
fifteen? It is the custom-house, you once said, [45] which arrests
the development of civilization by preventing the specialization of
industries; it is the custom-house which enriches a hundred monopolists
by impoverishing millions of citizens; it is the custom-house which
produces famine in the midst of abundance, which makes labor sterile by
prohibiting exchange, and which stifles production in a mortal embrace.
It is the custom-house which renders nations jealous of, and hostile to,
each other; four-fifths of the wars of all ages were caused originally
by the custom-house. And then, at the highest pitch of your enthusiasm,
you shouted: "Yes, if to put an end to this hateful system, it should
become necessary for me to shed the last drop of my blood, I would
joyfully spring into the gap, asking only time enough to give thanks to
God for having judged me worthy of martyrdom!"

And, at that solemn moment, I said to myself: "Place in every department
of France such a professor as that, and the revolution is avoided."

But, sir, by this magnificent theory of liberty of commerce you render
military glory impossible,--you leave nothing for diplomacy to do;
you even take away the desire for conquest, while abolishing profit
altogether. What matters it, indeed, who restores Constantinople,
Alexandria, and Saint Jean d'Acre, if the Syrians, Egyptians, and Turks
are free to choose their masters; free to exchange their products with
whom they please? Why should Europe get into such a turmoil over this
petty Sultan and his old Pasha, if it is only a question whether we or
the English shall civilize the Orient,--shall instruct Egypt and Syria
in the European arts, and shall teach them to construct machines, dig
canals, and build railroads? For, if to national independence free trade
is added, the foreign influence of these two countries is thereafter
exerted only through a voluntary relationship of producer to producer,
or apprentice to journeyman.

Alone among European powers, France cheerfully accepted the task of
civilizing the Orient, and began an invasion which was quite apostolic
in its character,--so joyful and high-minded do noble thoughts render
our nation! But diplomatic rivalry, national selfishness, English
avarice, and Russian ambition stood in her way. To consummate a
long-meditated usurpation, it was necessary to crush a too generous
ally: the robbers of the Holy Alliance formed a league against dauntless
and blameless France. Consequently, at the news of this famous treaty,
there arose among us a chorus of curses upon the principle of property,
which at that time was acting under the hypocritical formulas of the old
political system. The last hour of property seemed to have struck by
the side of Syria; from the Alps to the ocean, from the Rhine to the
Pyrenees, the popular conscience was aroused. All France sang songs
of war, and the coalition turned pale at the sound of these shuddering
cries: "War upon the autocrat, who wishes to be proprietor of the
old world! War upon the English perjurer, the devourer of India, the
poisoner of China, the tyrant of Ireland, and the eternal enemy of
France! War upon the allies who have conspired against liberty and
equality! War! war! war upon property!"

By the counsel of Providence the emancipation of the nations is
postponed. France is to conquer, not by arms, but by example. Universal
reason does not yet understand this grand equation, which, commencing
with the abolition of slavery, and advancing over the ruins of
aristocracies and thrones, must end in equality of rights and fortunes;
but the day is not far off when the knowledge of this truth will be as
common as that of equality of origin. Already it seems to be understood
that the Oriental question is only a question of custom-houses. Is it,
then, so difficult for public opinion to generalize this idea, and to
comprehend, finally, that if the suppression of custom-houses involves
the abolition of national property, it involves also, as a consequence,
the abolition of individual property?

In fact, if we suppress the custom-houses, the alliance of the nations
is declared by that very act; their solidarity is recognized, and their
equality proclaimed. If we suppress the custom-houses, the principle of
association will not be slow in reaching from the State to the province,
from the province to the city, and from the city to the workshop. But,
then, what becomes of the privileges of authors and artists? Of what
use are the patents for invention, imagination, amelioration, and
improvement? When our deputies write a law of literary property by
the side of a law which opens a large breach in the custom-house they
contradict themselves, indeed, and pull down with one hand what they
build up with the other. Without the custom-house, literary property
does not exist, and the hopes of our starving authors are frustrated.
For, certainly you do not expect, with the good man Fourier, that
literary property will exercise itself in China to the profit of a
French writer; and that an ode of Lamartine, sold by privilege all over
the world, will bring in millions to its author! The poet's work
is peculiar to the climate in which he lives; every where else the
reproduction of his works, having no market value, should be frank and
free. But what! will it be necessary for nations to put themselves under
mutual surveillance for the sake of verses, statues, and elixirs? We
shall always have, then, an excise, a city-toll, rights of entrance
and transit, custom-houses finally; and then, as a reaction against
privilege, smuggling.

Smuggling! That word reminds me of one of the most horrible forms
of property. "Smuggling," you have said, sir, [46] "is an offence of
political creation; it is the exercise of natural liberty, defined as a
crime in certain cases by the will of the sovereign. The smuggler is a
gallant man,--a man of spirit, who gaily busies himself in procuring for
his neighbor, at a very low price, a jewel, a shawl, or any other object
of necessity or luxury, which domestic monopoly renders excessively
dear." Then, to a very poetical monograph of the smuggler, you add this
dismal conclusion,--that the smuggler belongs to the family of Mandrin,
and that the galleys should be his home!

But, sir, you have not called attention to the horrible exploitation
which is carried on in this way in the name of property.

It is said,--and I give this report only as an hypothesis and an
illustration, for I do not believe it,--it is said that the present
minister of finances owes his fortune to smuggling. M. Humann, of
Strasbourg, sent out of France, it is said, enormous quantities of
sugar, for which he received the bounty on exportation promised by
the State; then, smuggling this sugar back again, he exported it anew,
receiving the bounty on exportation a second time, and so on. Notice,
sir, that I do not state this as a fact; I give it only as it is told,
not endorsing or even believing it. My sole design is to fix the idea in
the mind by an example. If I believed that a minister had committed such
a crime, that is, if I had personal and authentic knowledge that he had,
I would denounce M. Humann, the minister of finances, to the Chamber of
Deputies, and would loudly demand his expulsion from the ministry.

But that which is undoubtedly false of M. Humann is true of many others,
as rich and no less honorable than he. Smuggling, organized on a large
scale by the eaters of human flesh, is carried on to the profit of a few
pashas at the risk and peril of their imprudent victims. The inactive
proprietor offers his merchandise for sale; the actual smuggler risks
his liberty, his honor, and his life. If success crowns the enterprise,
the courageous servant gets paid for his journey; the profit goes to
the coward. If fortune or treachery delivers the instrument of this
execrable traffic into the hands of the custom-house officer, the
master-smuggler suffers a loss which a more fortunate voyage will soon
repair. The agent, pronounced a scoundrel, is thrown into prison in
company with robbers; while his glorious patron, a juror, elector,
deputy, or minister, makes laws concerning expropriation, monopoly, and

I promised, at the beginning of this letter, that no attack on property
should escape my pen, my only object being to justify myself before the
public by a general recrimination. But I could not refrain from branding
so odious a mode of exploitation, and I trust that this short digression
will be pardoned. Property does not avenge, I hope, the injuries which
smuggling suffers.

The conspiracy against property is general; it is flagrant; it takes
possession of all minds, and inspires all our laws; it lies at the
bottom of all theories. Here the proletaire pursues property in the
street, there the legislator lays an interdict upon it; now, a professor
of political economy or of industrial legislation, [47] paid to defend
it, undermines it with redoubled blows; at another--time, an academy
calls it in question, [48] or inquires as to the progress of its
demolition. [49] To-day there is not an idea, not an opinion, not
a sect, which does not dream of muzzling property. None confess it,
because none are yet conscious of it; there are too few minds capable
of grasping spontaneously this ensemble of causes and effects,
of principles and consequences, by which I try to demonstrate the
approaching disappearance of property; on the other hand, the ideas that
are generally formed of this right are too divergent and too loosely
determined to allow an admission, so soon, of the contrary theory. Thus,
in the middle and lower ranks of literature and philosophy, no less than
among the common people, it is thought that, when property is abolished,
no one will be able to enjoy the fruit of his labor; that no one will
have any thing peculiar to himself, and that tyrannical communism will
be established on the ruins of family and liberty!--chimeras, which are
to support for a little while longer the cause of privilege.

But, before determining precisely the idea of property, before seeking
amid the contradictions of systems for the common element which must
form the basis of the new right, let us cast a rapid glance at
the changes which, at the various periods of history, property has
undergone. The political forms of nations are the expression of their
beliefs. The mobility of these forms, their modification and their
destruction, are solemn experiences which show us the value of ideas,
and gradually eliminate from the infinite variety of customs the
absolute, eternal, and immutable truth. Now, we shall see that every
political institution tends, necessarily, and on pain of death, to
equalize conditions; that every where and always equality of fortunes
(like equality of rights) has been the social aim, whether the plebeian
classes have endeavored to rise to political power by means of property,
or whether--rulers already--they have used political power to overthrow
property. We shall see, in short, by the progress of society, that the
consummation of justice lies in the extinction of individual domain.

For the sake of brevity, I will disregard the testimony of
ecclesiastical history and Christian theology: this subject deserves a
separate treatise, and I propose hereafter to return to it. Moses and
Jesus Christ proscribed, under the names of usury and inequality, [50]
all sorts of profit and increase. The church itself, in its purest
teachings, has always condemned property; and when I attacked, not only
the authority of the church, but also its infidelity to justice, I did
it to the glory of religion. I wanted to provoke a peremptory reply, and
to pave the way for Christianity's triumph, in spite of the innumerable
attacks of which it is at present the object. I hoped that an apologist
would arise forthwith, and, taking his stand upon the Scriptures, the
Fathers, the canons, and the councils and constitutions of the Popes,
would demonstrate that the church always has maintained the doctrine of
equality, and would attribute to temporary necessity the contradictions
of its discipline. Such a labor would serve the cause of religion
as well as that of equality. We must know, sooner or later, whether
Christianity is to be regenerated in the church or out of it, and
whether this church accepts the reproaches cast upon it of hatred to
liberty and antipathy to progress. Until then we will suspend judgment,
and content ourselves with placing before the clergy the teachings of

When Lycurgus undertook to make laws for Sparta, in what condition did
he find this republic? On this point all historians agree. The people
and the nobles were at war. The city was in a confused state, and
divided by two parties,--the party of the poor, and the party of the
rich. Hardly escaped from the barbarism of the heroic ages, society was
rapidly declining. The proletariat made war upon property, which, in its
turn, oppressed the proletariat. What did Lycurgus do? His first measure
was one of general security, at the very idea of which our legislators
would tremble. He abolished all debts; then, employing by turns
persuasion and force, he induced the nobles to renounce their
privileges, and re-established equality.

Lycurgus, in a word, hunted property out of Lacedaemon, seeing no other
way to harmonize liberty, equality, and law. I certainly should not wish
France to follow the example of Sparta; but it is remarkable that the
most ancient of Greek legislators, thoroughly acquainted with the nature
and needs of the people, more capable than any one else of appreciating
the legitimacy of the obligations which he, in the exercise of his
absolute authority, cancelled; who had compared the legislative
systems of his time, and whose wisdom an oracle had proclaimed,--it
is remarkable, I say, that Lycurgus should have judged the right of
property incompatible with free institutions, and should have thought it
his duty to preface his legislation by a coup d'etat which destroyed all
distinctions of fortune.

Lycurgus understood perfectly that the luxury, the love of enjoyments,
and the inequality of fortunes, which property engenders, are the bane
of society; unfortunately the means which he employed to preserve his
republic were suggested to him by false notions of political economy,
and by a superficial knowledge of the human heart. Accordingly,
property, which this legislator wrongly confounded with wealth,
reentered the city together with the swarm of evils which he was
endeavoring to banish; and this time Sparta was hopelessly corrupted.

"The introduction of wealth," says M. Pastoret, "was one of the
principal causes of the misfortunes which they experienced. Against
these, however, the laws had taken extraordinary precautions, the best
among which was the inculcation of morals which tended to suppress

The best of all precautions would have been the anticipation of desire
by satisfaction. Possession is the sovereign remedy for cupidity,
a remedy which would have been the less perilous to Sparta because
fortunes there were almost equal, and conditions were nearly alike. As a
general thing, fasting and abstinence are bad teachers of moderation.

"There was a law," says M. Pastoret again, "to prohibit the rich from
wearing better clothing than the poor, from eating more delicate food,
and from owning elegant furniture, vases, carpets, fine houses," &c.
Lycurgus hoped, then, to maintain equality by rendering wealth useless.
How much wiser he would have been if, in accordance with his military
discipline, he had organized industry and taught the people to procure
by their own labor the things which he tried in vain to deprive them of.
In that case, enjoying happy thoughts and pleasant feelings, the citizen
would have known no other desire than that with which the legislator
endeavored to inspire him,--love of honor and glory, the triumphs of
talent and virtue.

"Gold and all kinds of ornaments were forbidden the women." Absurd.
After the death of Lycurgus, his institutions became corrupted; and four
centuries before the Christian era not a vestige remained of the former
simplicity. Luxury and the thirst for gold were early developed among
the Spartans in a degree as intense as might have been expected from
their enforced poverty and their inexperience in the arts. Historians
have accused Pausanias, Lysander, Agesilaus, and others of having
corrupted the morals of their country by the introduction of wealth
obtained in war. It is a slander. The morals of the Spartans necessarily
grew corrupt as soon as the Lacedaemonian poverty came in contact with
Persian luxury and Athenian elegance. Lycurgus, then, made a fatal
mistake in attempting to inspire generosity and modesty by enforcing
vain and proud simplicity.

"Lycurgus was not frightened at idleness! A Lacedemonian, happening to
be in Athens (where idleness was forbidden) during the punishment of
a citizen who had been found guilty, asked to see the Athenian thus
condemned for having exercised the rights of a free man.... It was one
of the principles of Lycurguss, acted upon for several centuries, that
free men should not follow lucrative professions.... The women disdained
domestic labor; they did not spin their wool themselves, as did the
other Greeks [they did not, then, read Homer!]; they left their slaves
to make their clothing for them."--Pastoret: History of Legislation.

Could any thing be more contradictory? Lycurgus proscribed property
among the citizens, and founded the means of subsistence on the worst
form of property,--on property obtained by force. What wonder, after
that, that a lazy city, where no industry was carried on, became a den
of avarice? The Spartans succumbed the more easily to the allurements of
luxury and Asiatic voluptuousness, being placed entirely at their mercy
by their own coarseness. The same thing happened to the Romans, when
military success took them out of Italy,--a thing which the author
of the prosopopoeia of Fabricius could not explain. It is not the
cultivation of the arts which corrupts morals, but their degradation,
induced by inactive and luxurious opulence. The instinct of property
is to make the industry of Daedalus, as well as the talent of Phidias,
subservient to its own fantastic whims and disgraceful pleasures.
Property, not wealth, ruined the Spartans.

When Solon appeared, the anarchy caused by property was at its height
in the Athenian republic. "The inhabitants of Attica were divided
among themselves as to the form of government. Those who lived on the
mountains (the poor) preferred the popular form; those of the plain
(the middle class), the oligarchs; those by the sea coast, a mixture
of oligarchy and democracy. Other dissensions were arising from the
inequality of fortunes. The mutual antagonism of the rich and poor had
become so violent, that the one-man power seemed the only safe-guard
against the revolution with which the republic was threatened."
(Pastoret: History of Legislation.)

Quarrels between the rich and the poor, which seldom occur in
monarchies, because a well established power suppresses dissensions,
seem to be the life of popular governments. Aristotle had noticed this.
The oppression of wealth submitted to agrarian laws, or to excessive
taxation; the hatred of the lower classes for the upper class, which
is exposed always to libellous charges made in hopes of
confiscation,--these were the features of the Athenian government which
were especially revolting to Aristotle, and which caused him to favor
a limited monarchy. Aristotle, if he had lived in our day, would have
supported the constitutional government. But, with all deference to the
Stagirite, a government which sacrifices the life of the proletaire to
that of the proprietor is quite as irrational as one which supports the
former by robbing the latter; neither of them deserve the support of a
free man, much less of a philosopher.

Solon followed the example of Lycurgus. He celebrated his legislative
inauguration by the abolition of debts,--that is, by bankruptcy. In
other words, Solon wound up the governmental machine for a longer or
shorter time depending upon the rate of interest. Consequently, when the
spring relaxed and the chain became unwound, the republic had either
to perish, or to recover itself by a second bankruptcy. This singular
policy was pursued by all the ancients. After the captivity of Babylon,
Nehemiah, the chief of the Jewish nation, abolished debts; Lycurgus
abolished debts; Solon abolished debts; the Roman people, after the
expulsion of the kings until the accession of the Caesars, struggled
with the Senate for the abolition of debts. Afterwards, towards the
end of the republic, and long after the establishment of the empire,
agriculture being abandoned, and the provinces becoming depopulated
in consequence of the excessive rates of interest, the emperors freely
granted the lands to whoever would cultivate them,--that is, they
abolished debts. No one, except Lycurgus, who went to the other extreme,
ever perceived that the great point was, not to release debtors by a
coup d'etat, but to prevent the contraction of debts in future.

On the contrary, the most democratic governments were always exclusively
based upon individual property; so that the social element of all these
republics was war between the citizens.

Solon decreed that a census should be taken of all fortunes, regulated
political rights by the result, granted to the larger proprietors more
influence, established the balance of powers,--in a word, inserted in
the constitution the most active leaven of discord; as if, instead of a
legislator chosen by the people, he had been their greatest enemy. Is
it not, indeed, the height of imprudence to grant equality of political
rights to men of unequal conditions? If a manufacturer, uniting all
his workmen in a joint-stock company, should give to each of them a
consultative and deliberative voice,--that is, should make all of them
masters,--would this equality of mastership secure continued inequality
of wages? That is the whole political system of Solon, reduced to its
simplest expression.

"In giving property a just preponderance," says M. Pastoret, "Solon
repaired, as far as he was able, his first official act,--the abolition
of debts.... He thought he owed it to public peace to make this great
sacrifice of acquired rights and natural equity. But the violation of
individual property and written contracts is a bad preface to a public

In fact, such violations are always cruelly punished. In '89 and '93,
the possessions of the nobility and the clergy were confiscated, the
clever proletaires were enriched; and to-day the latter, having become
aristocrats, are making us pay dearly for our fathers' robbery. What,
therefore, is to be done now? It is not for us to violate right, but to
restore it. Now, it would be a violation of justice to dispossess some
and endow others, and then stop there. We must gradually lower the rate
of interest, organize industry, associate laborers and their functions,
and take a census of the large fortunes, not for the purpose of granting
privileges, but that we may effect their redemption by settling a
life-annuity upon their proprietors. We must apply on a large scale the
principle of collective production, give the State eminent domain over
all capital! make each producer responsible, abolish the custom-house,
and transform every profession and trade into a public function. Thereby
large fortunes will vanish without confiscation or violence; individual
possession will establish itself, without communism, under the
inspection of the republic; and equality of conditions will no longer
depend simply on the will of citizens.

Of the authors who have written upon the Romans, Bossuet and Montesquieu
occupy prominent positions in the first rank; the first being generally
regarded as the father of the philosophy of history, and the second as
the most profound writer upon law and politics. Nevertheless, it could
be shown that these two great writers, each of them imbued with the
prejudices of their century and their cloth, have left the question of
the causes of the rise and fall of the Romans precisely where they found

Bossuet is admirable as long as he confines himself to description:
witness, among other passages, the picture which he has given us
of Greece before the Persian War, and which seems to have inspired
"Telemachus;" the parallel between Athens and Sparta, drawn twenty
times since Bossuet; the description of the character and morals of
the ancient Romans; and, finally, the sublime peroration which ends the
"Discourse on Universal History." But when the famous historian deals
with causes, his philosophy is at fault.

"The tribunes always favored the division of captured lands, or the
proceeds of their sale, among the citizens. The Senate steadfastly
opposed those laws which were damaging to the State, and wanted the
price of lands to be awarded to the public treasury."

Thus, according to Bossuet, the first and greatest wrong of civil wars
was inflicted upon the people, who, dying of hunger, demanded that the
lands, which they had shed their blood to conquer, should be given to
them for cultivation. The patricians, who bought them to deliver to
their slaves, had more regard for justice and the public interests.
How little affects the opinions of men! If the roles of Cicero and the
Gracchi had been inverted, Bossuet, whose sympathies were aroused by the
eloquence of the great orator more than by the clamors of the tribunes,
would have viewed the agrarian laws in quite a different light. He
then would have understood that the interest of the treasury was only
a pretext; that, when the captured lands were put up at auction, the
patricians hastened to buy them, in order to profit by the revenues from
them,--certain, moreover, that the price paid would come back to them
sooner or later, in exchange either for supplies furnished by them to
the republic, or for the subsistence of the multitude, who could buy
only of them, and whose services at one time, and poverty at another,
were rewarded by the State. For a State does not hoard; on the contrary,
the public funds always return to the people. If, then, a certain number
of men are the sole dealers in articles of primary necessity, it follows
that the public treasury, in passing and repassing through their hands,
deposits and accumulates real property there.

When Menenius related to the people his fable of the limbs and the
stomach, if any one had remarked to this story-teller that the stomach
freely gives to the limbs the nourishment which it freely receives, but
that the patricians gave to the plebeians only for cash, and lent to
them only at usury, he undoubtedly would have silenced the wily senator,
and saved the people from a great imposition. The Conscript Fathers
were fathers only of their own line. As for the common people, they were
regarded as an impure race, exploitable, taxable, and workable at the
discretion and mercy of their masters.

As a general thing, Bossuet shows little regard for the people. His
monarchical and theological instincts know nothing but authority,
obedience, and alms-giving, under the name of charity.

This unfortunate disposition constantly leads him to mistake symptoms
for causes; and his depth, which is so much admired, is borrowed from
his authors, and amounts to very little, after all.

When he says, for instance, that "the dissensions in the republic, and
finally its fall, were caused by the jealousies of its citizens, and
their love of liberty carried to an extreme and intolerable extent," are
we not tempted to ask him what caused those JEALOUSIES?--what inspired
the people with that LOVE OF LIBERTY, EXTREME AND INTOLERABLE? It would
be useless to reply, The corruption of morals; the disregard for the
ancient poverty; the debaucheries, luxury, and class jealousies; the
seditious character of the Gracchi, &c. Why did the morals become
corrupt, and whence arose those eternal dissensions between the
patricians and the plebeians?

In Rome, as in all other places, the dissension between the rich and
the poor was not caused directly by the desire for wealth (people, as
a general thing, do not covet that which they deem it illegitimate to
acquire), but by a natural instinct of the plebeians, which led them to
seek the cause of their adversity in the constitution of the republic.
So we are doing to-day; instead of altering our public economy, we
demand an electoral reform. The Roman people wished to return to the
social compact; they asked for reforms, and demanded a revision of
the laws, and a creation of new magistracies. The patricians, who had
nothing to complain of, opposed every innovation. Wealth always has been
conservative. Nevertheless, the people overcame the resistance of the
Senate; the electoral right was greatly extended; the privileges of
the plebeians were increased,--they had their representatives, their
tribunes, and their consuls; but, notwithstanding these reforms, the
republic could not be saved. When all political expedients had been
exhausted, when civil war had depleted the population, when the Caesars
had thrown their bloody mantle over the cancer which was consuming the
empire,--inasmuch as accumulated property always was respected, and
since the fire never stopped, the nation had to perish in the flames.
The imperial power was a compromise which protected the property of the
rich, and nourished the proletaires with wheat from Africa and Sicily:
a double error, which destroyed the aristocrats by plethora and
the commoners by famine. At last there was but one real proprietor
left,--the emperor,--whose dependent, flatterer, parasite, or slave,
each citizen became; and when this proprietor was ruined, those who
gathered the crumbs from under his table, and laughed when he cracked
his jokes, perished also.

Montesquieu succeeded no better than Bossuet in fathoming the causes of
the Roman decline; indeed, it may be said that the president has only
developed the ideas of the bishop. If the Romans had been more moderate
in their conquests, more just to their allies, more humane to the
vanquished; if the nobles had been less covetous, the emperors less
lawless, the people less violent, and all classes less corrupt; if...
&c.,--perhaps the dignity of the empire might have been preserved, and
Rome might have retained the sceptre of the world! That is all that can
be gathered from the teachings of Montesquieu. But the truth of history
does not lie there; the destinies of the world are not dependent upon
such trivial causes. The passions of men, like the contingencies of time
and the varieties of climate, serve to maintain the forces which move
humanity and produce all historical changes; but they do not explain
them. The grain of sand of which Pascal speaks would have caused the
death of one man only, had not prior action ordered the events of which
this death was the precursor.

Montesquieu has read extensively; he knows Roman history thoroughly, is
perfectly well acquainted with the people of whom he speaks, and sees
very clearly why they were able to conquer their rivals and govern the
world. While reading him we admire the Romans, but we do not like them;
we witness their triumphs without pleasure, and we watch their fall
without sorrow. Montesquieu's work, like the works of all French
writers, is skilfully composed,--spirited, witty, and filled with wise
observations. He pleases, interests, instructs, but leads to little
reflection; he does not conquer by depth of thought; he does not exalt
the mind by elevated reason or earnest feeling. In vain should we search
his writings for knowledge of antiquity, the character of primitive
society, or a description of the heroic ages, whose morals and
prejudices lived until the last days of the republic. Vico, painting the
Romans with their horrible traits, represents them as excusable, because
he shows that all their conduct was governed by preexisting ideas and
customs, and that they were informed, so to speak, by a superior genius
of which they were unconscious; in Montesquieu, the Roman atrocity
revolts, but is not explained. Therefore, as a writer, Montesquieu
brings greater credit upon French literature; as a philosopher, Vico
bears away the palm.

Originally, property in Rome was national, not private. Numa was
the first to establish individual property by distributing the lands
captured by Romulus. What was the dividend of this distribution effected
by Numa? What conditions were imposed upon individuals, what powers
reserved to the State? None whatever. Inequality of fortunes, absolute
abdication by the republic of its right of eminent domain over the
property of citizens,--such were the first results of the division of
Numa, who justly may be regarded as the originator of Roman revolutions.
He it was who instituted the worship of the god Terminus,--the guardian
of private possession, and one of the most ancient gods of Italy. It
was Numa who placed property under the protection of Jupiter; who,
in imitation of the Etrurians, wished to make priests of the
land-surveyors; who invented a liturgy for cadastral operations, and
ceremonies of consecration for the marking of boundaries,--who, in
short, made a religion of property. [51] All these fancies would have
been more beneficial than dangerous, if the holy king had not forgotten
one essential thing; namely, to fix the amount that each citizen could
possess, and on what conditions he could possess it. For, since it is
the essence of property to continually increase by accession and profit,
and since the lender will take advantage of every opportunity to apply
this principle inherent in property, it follows that properties tend, by
means of their natural energy and the religious respect which protects
them, to absorb each other, and fortunes to increase or diminish to an
indefinite extent,--a process which necessarily results in the ruin
of the people, and the fall of the republic. Roman history is but the
development of this law.

Scarcely had the Tarquins been banished from Rome and the monarchy
abolished, when quarrels commenced between the orders. In the year
494 B.C., the secession of the commonalty to the Mons Sacer led to the
establishment of the tribunate. Of what did the plebeians complain?
That they were poor, exhausted by the interest which they paid to the
proprietors,--_foeneratoribus;_ that the republic, administered for the
benefit of the nobles, did nothing for the people; that, delivered over
to the mercy of their creditors, who could sell them and their children,
and having neither hearth nor home, they were refused the means of
subsistence, while the rate of interest was kept at its highest point,
&c. For five centuries, the sole policy of the Senate was to evade
these just complaints; and, notwithstanding the energy of the tribunes,
notwithstanding the eloquence of the Gracchi, the violence of Marius,
and the triumph of Caesar, this execrable policy succeeded only too
well. The Senate always temporized; the measures proposed by the
tribunes might be good, but they were inopportune. It admitted that
something should be done; but first it was necessary that the people
should resume the performance of their duties, because the Senate could
not yield to violence, and force must be employed only by the law. If
the people--out of respect for legality--took this beautiful advice, the
Senate conjured up a difficulty; the reform was postponed, and that was
the end of it. On the contrary, if the demands of the proletaires became
too pressing, it declared a foreign war, and neighboring nations were
deprived of their liberty, to maintain the Roman aristocracy.

But the toils of war were only a halt for the plebeians in their onward
march towards pauperism. The lands confiscated from the conquered
nations were immediately added to the domain of the State, to the ager
publicus; and, as such, cultivated for the benefit of the treasury; or,
as was more often the case, they were sold at auction. None of them were
granted to the proletaires, who, unlike the patricians and knights, were
not supplied by the victory with the means of buying them. War never
enriched the soldier; the extensive plundering has been done always by
the generals. The vans of Augereau, and of twenty others, are famous in
our armies; but no one ever heard of a private getting rich. Nothing was
more common in Rome than charges of peculation, extortion, embezzlement,
and brigandage, carried on in the provinces at the head of armies, and
in other public capacities. All these charges were quieted by intrigue,
bribery of the judges, or desistance of the accuser. The culprit was
allowed always in the end to enjoy his spoils in peace; his son was only
the more respected on account of his father's crimes. And, in fact, it
could not be otherwise. What would become of us, if every deputy, peer,
or public functionary should be called upon to show his title to his

"The patricians arrogated the exclusive enjoyment of the ager publicus;
and, like the feudal seigniors, granted some portions of their lands to
their dependants,--a wholly precarious concession, revocable at the will
of the grantor. The plebeians, on the contrary, were entitled to the
enjoyment of only a little pasture-land left to them in common:
an utterly unjust state of things, since, in consequence of it,
taxation--_census_--weighed more heavily upon the poor than upon the
rich. The patrician, in fact, always exempted himself from the tithe
which he owed as the price and as the acknowledgment of the concession
of domain; and, on the other hand, paid no taxes on his POSSESSIONS,
if, as there is good reason to believe, only citizens' property was
taxed."--Laboulaye: History of Property.

In order thoroughly to understand the preceding quotation, we must know
that the estates of CITIZENS--that is, estates independent of the public
domain, whether they were obtained in the division of Numa, or had since
been sold by the questors--were alone regarded as PROPERTY; upon these
a tax, or _cense_, was imposed. On the contrary, the estates obtained
by concessions of the public domain, of the ager publicus (for which a
light rent was paid), were called POSSESSIONS. Thus, among the Romans,
there was a RIGHT OF PROPERTY and a RIGHT OF POSSESSION regulating the
administration of all estates. Now, what did the proletaires wish? That
the jus possessionis--the simple right of possession--should be extended
to them at the expense, as is evident, not of private property, but of
the public domain,--agri publici. The proletaires, in short, demanded
that they should be tenants of the land which they had conquered. This
demand, the patricians in their avarice never would accede to. Buying
as much of this land as they could, they afterwards found means of
obtaining the rest as POSSESSIONS. Upon this land they employed their
slaves. The people, who could not buy, on account of the competition
of the rich, nor hire, because--cultivating with their own hands--they
could not promise a rent equal to the revenue which the land would
yield when cultivated by slaves, were always deprived of possession and

Civil wars relieved, to some extent, the sufferings of the multitude.
"The people enrolled themselves under the banners of the ambitious, in
order to obtain by force that which the law refused them,--property. A
colony was the reward of a victorious legion. But it was no longer
the ager publicus only; it was all Italy that lay at the mercy of the
legions. The ager publicus disappeared almost entirely,... but the
cause of the evil--accumulated property--became more potent than ever."
(Laboulaye: History of Property.)

The author whom I quote does not tell us why this division of
territory which followed civil wars did not arrest the encroachments of
accumulated property; the omission is easily supplied. Land is not
the only requisite for cultivation; a working-stock is also
necessary,--animals, tools, harnesses, a house, an advance, &c. Where
did the colonists, discharged by the dictator who rewarded them, obtain
these things? From the purse of the usurers; that is, of the patricians,
to whom all these lands finally returned, in consequence of the rapid
increase of usury, and the seizure of estates. Sallust, in his account
of the conspiracy of Catiline, tells us of this fact. The conspirators
were old soldiers of Sylla, who, as a reward for their services, had
received from him lands in Cisalpine Gaul, Tuscany, and other parts of
the peninsula Less than twenty years had elapsed since these colonists,
free of debt, had left the service and commenced farming; and already
they were crippled by usury, and almost ruined. The poverty caused
by the exactions of creditors was the life of this conspiracy which
well-nigh inflamed all Italy, and which, with a worthier chief and
fairer means, possibly would have succeeded. In Rome, the mass of the
people were favorable to the conspirators--_cuncta plebes Catilinae
incepta probabat;_ the allies were weary of the patricians' robberies;
deputies from the Allobroges (the Savoyards) had come to Rome to appeal
to the Senate in behalf of their fellow-citizens involved in debt; in
short, the complaint against the large proprietors was universal. "We
call men and gods to witness," said the soldiers of Catiline, who were
Roman citizens with not a slave among them, "that we have taken arms
neither against the country, nor to attack any one, but in defence of
our lives and liberties. Wretched, poor, most of us deprived of country,
all of us of fame and fortune, by the violence and cruelty of usurers,
we have no rights, no property, no liberty." [52]

The bad reputation of Catiline, and his atrocious designs, the
imprudence of his accomplices, the treason of several, the strategy
of Cicero, the angry outbursts of Cato, and the terror of the
Senate, baffled this enterprise, which, in furnishing a precedent for
expeditions against the rich, would perhaps have saved the republic, and
given peace to the world. But Rome could not evade her destiny; the end
of her expiations had not come. A nation never was known to anticipate
its punishment by a sudden and unexpected conversion. Now, the
long-continued crimes of the Eternal City could not be atoned for by
the massacre of a few hundred patricians. Catiline came to stay divine
vengeance; therefore his conspiracy failed.

The encroachment of large proprietors upon small proprietors, by the aid
of usury, farm-rent, and profits of all sorts, was common throughout the
empire. The most honest citizens invested their money at high rates of
interest. [53] Cato, Cicero, Brutus, all the stoics so noted for
their frugality, _viri frugi_,--Seneca, the teacher of virtue,--levied
enormous taxes in the provinces, under the name of usury; and it is
something remarkable, that the last defenders of the republic, the proud
Pompeys, were all usurious aristocrats, and oppressors of the poor.
But the battle of Pharsalus, having killed men only, without touching
institutions, the encroachments of the large domains became every day
more active. Ever since the birth of Christianity, the Fathers have
opposed this invasion with all their might. Their writings are filled
with burning curses upon this crime of usury, of which Christians are
not always innocent.

St. Cyprian complains of certain bishops of his time, who, absorbed in
disgraceful stock-jobbing operations, abandoned their churches, and went
about the provinces appropriating lands by artifice and fraud, while
lending money and piling up interests upon interests. [54] Why, in the
midst of this passion for accumulation, did not the possession of the
public land, like private property, become concentrated in a few hands?

By law, the domain of the State was inalienable, and consequently
possession was always revocable; but the edict of the praetor continued
it indefinitely, so that finally the possessions of the patricians were
transformed into absolute property, though the name, possessions,
was still applied to them. This conversion, instigated by senatorial
avarice; owed its accomplishment to the most deplorable and indiscreet
policy. If, in the time of Tiberius Gracchus, who wished to limit each
citizen's possession of the ager publicus to five hundred acres, the
amount of this possession had been fixed at as much as one family could
cultivate, and granted on the express condition that the possessor
should cultivate it himself, and should lease it to no one, the empire
never would have been desolated by large estates; and possession,
instead of increasing property, would have absorbed it. On what, then,
depended the establishment and maintenance of equality in conditions
and fortunes? On a more equitable division of the ager publicus, a wiser
distribution of the right of possession.

I insist upon this point, which is of the utmost importance, because
it gives us an opportunity to examine the history of this individual
possession, of which I said so much in my first memoir, and which so few
of my readers seem to have understood. The Roman republic--having, as
it did, the power to dispose absolutely of its territory, and to impose
conditions upon possessors--was nearer to liberty and equality than any
nation has been since. If the Senate had been intelligent and just,--if,
at the time of the retreat to the Mons Sacer, instead of the ridiculous
farce enacted by Menenius Agrippa, a solemn renunciation of the right
to acquire had been made by each citizen on attaining his share of
possessions,--the republic, based upon equality of possessions and the
duty of labor, would not, in attaining its wealth, have degenerated
in morals; Fabricius would have enjoyed the arts without controlling
artists; and the conquests of the ancient Romans would have been the
means of spreading civilization, instead of the series of murders and
robberies that they were.

But property, having unlimited power to amass and to lease, was daily
increased by the addition of new possessions. From the time of Nero, six
individuals were the sole proprietors of one-half of Roman Africa. In
the fifth century, the wealthy families had incomes of no less than
two millions: some possessed as many as twenty thousand slaves. All
the authors who have written upon the causes of the fall of the Roman
republic concur.

M. Giraud of Aix [55] quotes the testimony of Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch,
Olympiodorus, and Photius. Under Vespasian and Titus, Pliny, the
naturalist, exclaimed: "Large estates have ruined Italy, and are ruining
the provinces."

But it never has been understood that the extension of property was
effected then, as it is to-day, under the aegis of the law, and by
virtue of the constitution. When the Senate sold captured lands at
auction, it was in the interest of the treasury and of public welfare.
When the patricians bought up possessions and property, they realized
the purpose of the Senate's decrees; when they lent at high rates of
interest, they took advantage of a legal privilege. "Property," said the
lender, "is the right to enjoy even to the extent of abuse, _jus utendi
et abutendi_; that is, the right to lend at interest,--to lease, to
acquire, and then to lease and lend again." But property is also the
right to exchange, to transfer, and to sell. If, then, the social
condition is such that the proprietor, ruined by usury, may be compelled
to sell his possession, the means of his subsistence, he will sell
it; and, thanks to the law, accumulated property--devouring and
anthropophagous property--will be established.[56]

The immediate and secondary cause of the decline of the Romans
was, then, the internal dissensions between the two orders of the
republic,--the patricians and the plebeians,--dissensions which gave
rise to civil wars, proscriptions, and loss of liberty, and finally led
to the empire; but the primary and mediate cause of their decline was
the establishment by Numa of the institution of property.

I end with an extract from a work which I have quoted several times
already, and which has recently received a prize from the Academy of
Moral and Political Sciences:--

"The concentration of property," says M. Laboulaye, "while causing
extreme poverty, forced the emperors to feed and amuse the people, that
they might forget their misery. _Panem et circenses:_ that was the Roman
law in regard to the poor; a dire and perhaps a necessary evil wherever
a landed aristocracy exists.

"To feed these hungry mouths, grain was brought from Africa and the
provinces, and distributed gratuitously among the needy. In the time of
Caesar, three hundred and twenty thousand people were thus fed. Augustus
saw that such a measure led directly to the destruction of husbandry;
but to abolish these distributions was to put a weapon within the reach
of the first aspirant for power.

"The emperor shrank at the thought.

"While grain was gratuitous, agriculture was impossible. Tillage gave
way to pasturage, another cause of depopulation, even among slaves.

"Finally, luxury, carried further and further every day, covered the
soil of Italy with elegant villas, which occupied whole cantons. Gardens
and groves replaced the fields, and the free population fled to the
towns. Husbandry disappeared almost entirely, and with husbandry the
husbandman. Africa furnished the wheat, and Greece the wine. Tiberius
complained bitterly of this evil, which placed the lives of the Roman
people at the mercy of the winds and waves: that was his anxiety. One
day later, and three hundred thousand starving men walked the streets of
Rome: that was a revolution.

"This decline of Italy and the provinces did not stop. After the
reign of Nero, depopulation commenced in towns as noted as Antium and
Tarentum. Under the reign of Pertinax, there was so much desert land
that the emperor abandoned it, even that which belonged to the treasury,
to whoever would cultivate it, besides exempting the farmers from
taxation for a period of ten years. Senators were compelled to invest
one-third of their fortunes in real estate in Italy; but this measure
served only to increase the evil which they wished to cure. To force
the rich to possess in Italy was to increase the large estates which
had ruined the country. And must I say, finally, that Aurelian wished to
send the captives into the desert lands of Etruria, and that Valentinian
was forced to settle the Alamanni on the fertile banks of the Po?"

If the reader, in running through this book, should complain of meeting
with nothing but quotations from other works, extracts from journals
and public lectures, comments upon laws, and interpretations of them, I
would remind him that the very object of this memoir is to establish the
conformity of my opinion concerning property with that universally held;
that, far from aiming at a paradox, it has been my main study to follow
the advice of the world; and, finally, that my sole pretension is to
clearly formulate the general belief. I cannot repeat it too often,--and
I confess it with pride,--I teach absolutely nothing that is new; and I
should regard the doctrine which I advocate as radically erroneous, if a
single witness should testify against it.

Let us now trace the revolutions in property among the Barbarians.

As long as the German tribes dwelt in their forests, it did not occur
to them to divide and appropriate the soil. The land was held in common:
each individual could plow, sow, and reap. But, when the empire was once
invaded, they bethought themselves of sharing the land, just as
they shared spoils after a victory. "Hence," says M. Laboulaye, "the
expressions _sortes Burgundiorum Gothorum_ and {GREEK, ' k }; hence the
German words _allod_, allodium, and _loos_, lot, which are used in all
modern languages to designate the gifts of chance."

Allodial property, at least with the mass of coparceners, was originally
held, then, in equal shares; for all of the prizes were equal, or, at
least, equivalent. This property, like that of the Romans, was wholly
individual, independent, exclusive, transferable, and consequently
susceptible of accumulation and invasion. But, instead of its being, as
was the case among the Romans, the large estate which, through
increase and usury, subordinated and absorbed the small one, among
the Barbarians--fonder of war than of wealth, more eager to dispose
of persons than to appropriate things--it was the warrior who, through
superiority of arms, enslaved his adversary. The Roman wanted matter;
the Barbarian wanted man. Consequently, in the feudal ages, rents were
almost nothing,--simply a hare, a partridge, a pie, a few pints of wine
brought by a little girl, or a Maypole set up within the suzerain's
reach. In return, the vassal or incumbent had to follow the seignior
to battle (a thing which happened almost every day), and equip and feed
himself at his own expense. "This spirit of the German tribes--this
spirit of companionship and association--governed the territory as it
governed individuals. The lands, like the men, were secured to a chief
or seignior by a bond of mutual protection and fidelity. This subjection
was the labor of the German epoch which gave birth to feudalism. By fair
means or foul, every proprietor who could not be a chief was forced to
be a vassal." (Laboulaye: History of Property.)

By fair means or foul, every mechanic who cannot be a master has to be
a journeyman; every proprietor who is not an invader will be invaded;
every producer who cannot, by the exploitation of other men, furnish
products at less than their proper value, will lose his labor.
Corporations and masterships, which are hated so bitterly, but which
will reappear if we are not careful, are the necessary results of
the principle of competition which is inherent in property; their
organization was patterned formerly after that of the feudal hierarchy,
which was the result of the subordination of men and possessions.

The times which paved the way for the advent of feudalism and the
reappearance of large proprietors were times of carnage and the most
frightful anarchy. Never before had murder and violence made such havoc
with the human race. The tenth century, among others, if my memory
serves me rightly, was called the CENTURY OF IRON. His property, his
life, and the honor of his wife and children always in danger the
small proprietor made haste to do homage to his seignior, and to
bestow something on the church of his freehold, that he might receive
protection and security.

"Both facts and laws bear witness that from the sixth to the tenth
century the proprietors of small freeholds were gradually plundered,
or reduced by the encroachments of large proprietors and counts to the
condition of either vassals or tributaries. The Capitularies are full
of repressive provisions; but the incessant reiteration of these
threats only shows the perseverance of the evil and the impotency of the
government. Oppression, moreover, varies but little in its methods. The
complaints of the free proprietors, and the groans of the plebeians
at the time of the Gracchi, were one and the same. It is said that,
whenever a poor man refused to give his estate to the bishop, the
curate, the count, the judge, or the centurion, these immediately sought
an opportunity to ruin him. They made him serve in the army until,
completely ruined, he was induced, by fair means or foul, to give up his
freehold."--Laboulaye: History of Property.

How many small proprietors and manufacturers have not been ruined by
large ones through chicanery, law-suits, and competition? Strategy,
violence, and usury,--such are the proprietor's methods of plundering
the laborer.

Thus we see property, at all ages and in all its forms, oscillating by
virtue of its principle between two opposite terms,--extreme division
and extreme accumulation.

Property, at its first term, is almost null. Reduced to personal
exploitation, it is property only potentially. At its second term, it
exists in its perfection; then it is truly property.

When property is widely distributed, society thrives, progresses, grows,
and rises quickly to the zenith of its power. Thus, the Jews, after
leaving Babylon with Esdras and Nehemiah, soon became richer and more
powerful than they had been under their kings. Sparta was in a strong
and prosperous condition during the two or three centuries which
followed the death of Lycurgus. The best days of Athens were those of
the Persian war; Rome, whose inhabitants were divided from the beginning
into two classes,--the exploiters and the exploited,--knew no such thing
as peace.

When property is concentrated, society, abusing itself, polluted, so
to speak, grows corrupt, wears itself out--how shall I express this
horrible idea?--plunges into long-continued and fatal luxury.

When feudalism was established, society had to die of the same disease
which killed it under the Caesars,--I mean accumulated property. But
humanity, created for an immortal destiny, is deathless; the revolutions
which disturb it are purifying crises, invariably followed by more
vigorous health. In the fifth century, the invasion of the Barbarians
partially restored the world to a state of natural equality. In the
twelfth century, a new spirit pervading all society gave the slave his
rights, and through justice breathed new life into the heart of nations.
It has been said, and often repeated, that Christianity regenerated the
world. That is true; but it seems to me that there is a mistake in
the date. Christianity had no influence upon Roman society; when the
Barbarians came, that society had disappeared. For such is God's curse
upon property; every political organization based upon the exploitation
of man, shall perish: slave-labor is death to the race of tyrants. The
patrician families became extinct, as the feudal families did, and as
all aristocracies must.

It was in the middle ages, when a reactionary movement was beginning
to secretly undermine accumulated property, that the influence of
Christianity was first exercised to its full extent.

The destruction of feudalism, the conversion of the serf into the
commoner, the emancipation of the communes, and the admission of the
Third Estate to political power, were deeds accomplished by Christianity
exclusively. I say Christianity, not ecclesiasticism; for the priests
and bishops were themselves large proprietors, and as such often
persecuted the villeins. Without the Christianity of the middle ages,
the existence of modern society could not be explained, and would not be

The truth of this assertion is shown by the very facts which M.
Laboulaye quotes, although this author inclines to the opposite opinion.

Now, we did not commence to love God and to think of our salvation until
after the promulgation of the Gospel.

1. Slavery among the Romans.--"The Roman slave was, in the eyes of
the law, only a thing,--no more than an ox or a horse. He had neither
property, family, nor personality; he was defenceless against his
master's cruelty, folly, or cupidity. 'Sell your oxen that are past
use,' said Cato, 'sell your calves, your lambs, your wool, your hides,
your old ploughs, your old iron, your old slave, and your sick slave,
and all that is of no use to you.' When no market could be found for the
slaves that were worn out by sickness or old age, they were abandoned to
starvation. Claudius was the first defender of this shameful practice."

"Discharge your old workman," says the economist of the proprietary
school; "turn off that sick domestic, that toothless and worn-out
servant. Put away the unserviceable beauty; to the hospital with the
useless mouths!"

"The condition of these wretched beings improved but little under the
emperors; and the best that can be said of the goodness of Antoninus
is that he prohibited intolerable cruelty, as an ABUSE OF PROPERTY.
_Expedit enim reipublicae ne quis re re sua male utatur_, says Gaius.

"As soon as the Church met in council, it launched an anathema against
the masters who had exercised over their slaves this terrible right of
life and death. Were not the slaves, thanks to the right of sanctuary
and to their poverty, the dearest proteges of religion? Constantine, who
embodied in the laws the grand ideas of Christianity, valued the life of
a slave as highly as that of a freeman, and declared the master, who had
intentionally brought death upon his slave, guilty of murder. Between
this law and that of Antoninus there is a complete revolution in moral
ideas: the slave was a thing; religion has made him a man."

Note the last words: "Between the law of the Gospel and that of
Antoninus there is a complete revolution in moral ideas: the slave was
a thing; religion has made him a man." The moral revolution which
transformed the slave into a citizen was effected, then, by Christianity
before the Barbarians set foot upon the soil of the empire. We have
only to trace the progress of this MORAL revolution in the PERSONNEL
of society. "But," M. Laboulaye rightly says, "it did not change the
condition of men in a moment, any more than that of things; between
slavery and liberty there was an abyss which could not be filled in a
day; the transitional step was servitude."

Now, what was servitude? In what did it differ from Roman slavery, and
whence came this difference? Let the same author answer.

2. Of servitude.--"I see, in the lord's manor, slaves charged with
domestic duties. Some are employed in the personal service of the
master; others are charged with household cares. The women spin the
wool; the men grind the grain, make the bread, or practise, in the
interest of the seignior, what little they know of the industrial arts.
The master punishes them when he chooses, kills them with impunity, and
sells them and theirs like so many cattle. The slave has no personality,
and consequently no _wehrgeld_ [59] peculiar to himself: he is a thing.
The _wehrgeld_ belongs to the master as a compensation for the loss of
his property. Whether the slave is killed or stolen, the indemnity does
not change, for the injury is the same; but the indemnity increases or
diminishes according to the value of the serf. In all these particulars
Germanic slavery and Roman servitude are alike."

This similarity is worthy of notice. Slavery is always the same, whether
in a Roman villa or on a Barbarian farm. The man, like the ox and the
ass, is a part of the live-stock; a price is set upon his head; he is a
tool without a conscience, a chattel without personality, an impeccable,
irresponsible being, who has neither rights nor duties.

Why did his condition improve?

"In good season..." [when?] "the serf began to be regarded as a man;
and, as such, the law of the Visigoths, under the influence of Christian
ideas, punished with fine or banishment any one who maimed or killed

Always Christianity, always religion, though we should like to speak
of the laws only. Did the philanthropy of the Visigoths make its first
appearance before or after the preaching of the Gospel? This point must
be cleared up.

"After the conquest, the serfs were scattered over the large estates
of the Barbarians, each having his house, his lot, and his peculium, in
return for which he paid rent and performed service. They were rarely
separated from their homes when their land was sold; they and all that
they had became the property of the purchaser. The law favored this
realization of the serf, in not allowing him to be sold out of the

What inspired this law, destructive not only of slavery, but of property
itself? For, if the master cannot drive from his domain the slave whom
he has once established there, it follows that the slave is proprietor,
as well as the master.

"The Barbarians," again says M. Laboulaye, "were the first to recognize
the slave's rights of family and property,--two rights which are
incompatible with slavery."

But was this recognition the necessary result of the mode of servitude
in vogue among the Germanic nations previous to their conversion to
Christianity, or was it the immediate effect of that spirit of justice
infused with religion, by which the seignior was forced to respect in
the serf a soul equal to his own, a brother in Jesus Christ, purified by
the same baptism, and redeemed by the same sacrifice of the Son of God
in the form of man? For we must not close our eyes to the fact that,
though the Barbarian morals and the ignorance and carelessness of the
seigniors, who busied themselves mainly with wars and battles, paying
little or no attention to agriculture, may have been great aids in
the emancipation of the serfs, still the vital principle of this
emancipation was essentially Christian. Suppose that the Barbarians had
remained Pagans in the midst of a Pagan world. As they did not change
the Gospel, so they would not have changed the polytheistic customs;
slavery would have remained what it was; they would have continued to
kill the slaves who were desirous of liberty, family, and property;
whole nations would have been reduced to the condition of Helots;
nothing would have changed upon the terrestrial stage, except the
actors. The Barbarians were less selfish, less imperious, less
dissolute, and less cruel than the Romans. Such was the nature upon
which, after the fall of the empire and the renovation of society,
Christianity was to act. But this nature, grounded as in former times
upon slavery and war, would, by its own energy, have produced nothing
but war and slavery.

"GRADUALLY the serfs obtained the privilege of being judged by the same
standard as their masters...."

When, how, and by what title did they obtain this privilege?

"GRADUALLY their duties were regulated."

Whence came the regulations? Who had the authority to introduce them?

"The master took a part of the labor of the serf,--three days, for
instance,--and left the rest to him. As for Sunday, that belonged to

And what established Sunday, if not religion? Whence I infer, that
the same power which took it upon itself to suspend hostilities and
to lighten the duties of the serf was also that which regulated the
judiciary and created a sort of law for the slave.

But this law itself, on what did it bear?--what was its principle?--what
was the philosophy of the councils and popes with reference to this
matter? The reply to all these questions, coming from me alone, would
be distrusted. The authority of M. Laboulaye shall give credence to my
words. This holy philosophy, to which the slaves were indebted for every
thing, this invocation of the Gospel, was an anathema against property.

The proprietors of small freeholds, that is, the freemen of the middle
class, had fallen, in consequence of the tyranny of the nobles, into a
worse condition than that of the tenants and serfs. "The expenses of war
weighed less heavily upon the serf than upon the freeman; and, as for
legal protection, the seigniorial court, where the serf was judged by
his peers, was far preferable to the cantonal assembly. It was better to
have a noble for a seignior than for a judge."

So it is better to-day to have a man of large capital for an associate
than for a rival. The honest tenant--the laborer who earns weekly a
moderate but constant salary--is more to be envied than the independent
but small farmer, or the poor licensed mechanic.

At that time, all were either seigniors or serfs, oppressors or
oppressed. "Then, under the protection of convents, or of the
seigniorial turret, new societies were formed, which silently spread
over the soil made fertile by their hands, and which derived their power
from the annihilation of the free classes whom they enlisted in their
behalf. As tenants, these men acquired, from generation to generation,
sacred rights over the soil which they cultivated in the interest of
lazy and pillaging masters. As fast as the social tempest abated, it
became necessary to respect the union and heritage of these villeins,
who by their labor had truly prescribed the soil for their own profit."

I ask how prescription could take effect where a contrary title and
possession already existed? M. Laboulaye is a lawyer. Where, then, did
he ever see the labor of the slave and the cultivation by the tenant
prescribe the soil for their own profit, to the detriment of a
recognized master daily acting as a proprietor? Let us not disguise
matters. As fast as the tenants and the serfs grew rich, they wished
to be independent and free; they commenced to associate, unfurl their
municipal banners, raise belfries, fortify their towns, and refuse to
pay their seigniorial dues. In doing these things they were perfectly
right; for, in fact, their condition was intolerable. But in law--I mean
in Roman and Napoleonic law--their refusal to obey and pay tribute to
their masters was illegitimate.

Now, this imperceptible usurpation of property by the commonalty was
inspired by religion.

The seignior had attached the serf to the soil; religion granted the
serf rights over the soil. The seignior imposed duties upon the serf;
religion fixed their limits. The seignior could kill the serf with
impunity, could deprive him of his wife, violate his daughter, pillage
his house, and rob him of his savings; religion checked his invasions:
it excommunicated the seignior. Religion was the real cause of the
ruin of feudal property. Why should it not be bold enough to-day to
resolutely condemn capitalistic property? Since the middle ages, there
has been no change in social economy except in its forms; its relations
remain unaltered.

The only result of the emancipation of the serfs was that property
changed hands; or, rather, that new proprietors were created. Sooner
or later the extension of privilege, far from curing the evil, was to
operate to the disadvantage of the plebeians. Nevertheless, the new
social organization did not meet with the same end in all places. In
Lombardy, for example, where the people rapidly growing rich through
commerce and industry soon conquered the authorities, even to the
exclusion of the nobles,--first, the nobility became poor and degraded,
and were forced, in order to live and maintain their credit, to gain
admission to the guilds; then, the ordinary subalternization of property
leading to inequality of fortunes, to wealth and poverty, to jealousies
and hatreds, the cities passed rapidly from the rankest democracy under
the yoke of a few ambitious leaders. Such was the fate of most of the
Lombardic cities,--Genoa, Florence, Bologna, Milan, Pisa, &c,.--which
afterwards changed rulers frequently, but which have never since risen
in favor of liberty. The people can easily escape from the tyranny of
despots, but they do not know how to throw off the effects of their own
despotism; just as we avoid the assassin's steel, while we succumb to a
constitutional malady. As soon as a nation becomes proprietor, either
it must perish, or a foreign invasion must force it again to begin its
evolutionary round. [59]

"The communes once organized, the kings treated them as superior
vassals. Now, just as the under vassal had no communication with the
king except through the direct vassal, so also the commoners could enter
no complaints except through the commune.

"Like causes produce like effects. Each commune became a small and
separate State, governed by a few citizens, who sought to extend their
authority over the others; who, in their turn, revenged themselves
upon the unfortunate inhabitants who had not the right of citizenship.
Feudalism in unemancipated countries, and oligarchy in the communes,
made nearly the same ravages. There were sub-associations, fraternities,
tradesmen's associations in the communes, and colleges in the
universities. The oppression was so great, that it was no rare thing to
see the inhabitants of a commune demanding its suppression...."--Meyer:
Judicial Institutions of Europe.

In France, the Revolution was much more gradual. The communes, in taking
refuge under the protection of the kings, had found them masters rather
than protectors. Their liberty had long since been lost, or, rather,
their emancipation had been suspended, when feudalism received its
death-blow at the hand of Richelieu. Then liberty halted; the prince of
the feudatories held sole and undivided sway. The nobles, the clergy,
the commoners, the parliaments, every thing in short except a few
seeming privileges, were controlled by the king; who, like his early
predecessors, consumed regularly, and nearly always in advance, the
revenues of his domain,--and that domain was France.

Finally, '89 arrived; liberty resumed its march; a century and a
half had been required to wear out the last form of feudal

The French Revolution may be defined as _the substitution of real right
for personal right;_ that is to say, in the days of feudalism, the value
of property depended upon the standing of the proprietor, while, after
the Revolution, the regard for the man was proportional to his property.
Now, we have seen from what has been said in the preceding pages, that
this recognition of the right of laborers had been the constant aim of
the serfs and communes, the secret motive of their efforts. The movement
of '89 was only the last stage of that long insurrection. But it seems
to me that we have not paid sufficient attention to the fact that the
Revolution of 1789, instigated by the same causes, animated by the same
spirit, triumphing by the same struggles, was consummated in Italy four
centuries ago. Italy was the first to sound the signal of war against
feudalism; France has followed; Spain and England are beginning to move;
the rest still sleep. If a grand example should be given to the world,
the day of trial would be much abridged.

Note the following summary of the revolutions of property, from the days
of the Roman Empire down to the present time:--

1. Fifth century.--Barbarian invasions; division of the lands of the
empire into independent portions or freeholds.

2. From the fifth to the eighth century.--Gradual concentration of
freeholds, or transformation of the small freeholds into fiefs, feuds,
tenures, &c. Large properties, small possessions. Charlemagne (771-814)
decrees that all freeholds are dependent upon the king of France.

3. From the eighth to the tenth century.--The relation between the crown
and the superior dependents is broken; the latter becoming freeholders,
while the smaller dependents cease to recognize the king, and adhere to
the nearest suzerain. Feudal system.

4. Twelfth century.--Movement of the serfs towards liberty; emancipation
of the communes.

5. Thirteenth century.--Abolition of personal right, and of the feudal
system in Italy. Italian Republics.

6. Seventeenth century.--Abolition of feudalism in France during
Richelieu's ministry. Despotism.

7. 1789.--Abolition of all privileges of birth, caste, provinces, and
corporations; equality of persons and of rights. French democracy.

8. 1830.--The principle of concentration inherent in individual property
is REMARKED. Development of the idea of association.

The more we reflect upon this series of transformations and changes,
the more clearly we see that they were necessary in their principle, in
their manifestations, and in their result.

It was necessary that inexperienced conquerors, eager for liberty,
should divide the Roman Empire into a multitude of estates, as free and
independent as themselves.

It was necessary that these men, who liked war even better than liberty,
should submit to their leaders; and, as the freehold represented the
man, that property should violate property.

It was necessary that, under the rule of a nobility always idle when not
fighting, there should grow up a body of laborers, who, by the power
of production, and by the division and circulation of wealth, would
gradually gain control over commerce, industry, and a portion of the
land, and who, having become rich, would aspire to power and authority

It was necessary, finally, that liberty and equality of rights having
been achieved, and individual property still existing, attended by
robbery, poverty, social inequality, and oppression, there should be
an inquiry into the cause of this evil, and an idea of universal
association formed, whereby, on condition of labor, all interests should
be protected and consolidated.

"Evil, when carried too far," says a learned jurist, "cures itself; and
the political innovation which aims to increase the power of the State,
finally succumbs to the effects of its own work. The Germans, to secure
their independence, chose chiefs; and soon they were oppressed by their
kings and noblemen. The monarchs surrounded themselves with volunteers,
in order to control the freemen; and they found themselves dependent
upon their proud vassals. The _missi dominici_ were sent into the
provinces to maintain the power of the emperors, and to protect the
people from the oppressions of the noblemen; and not only did they usurp
the imperial power to a great extent, but they dealt more severely with
the inhabitants. The freemen became vassals, in order to get rid of
military service and court duty; and they were immediately involved in
all the personal quarrels of their seigniors, and compelled to do
jury duty in their courts.... The kings protected the cities and
the communes, in the hope of freeing them from the yoke of the grand
vassals, and of rendering their own power more absolute; and those same
communes have, in several European countries, procured the establishment
of a constitutional power, are now holding royalty in check, and
are giving rise to a universal desire for political reform."--Meyer:
Judicial Institutions of Europe.

In recapitulation.

What was feudalism? A confederation of the grand seign iors against the
villeins, and against the king. [60] What is constitutional government?
A confederation of the bourgeoisie against the laborers, and against the
king. [61]

How did feudalism end? In the union of the communes and the royal
authority. How will the bourgeoisie aristocracy end? In the union of the
proletariat and the sovereign power.

What was the immediate result of the struggle of the communes and the
king against the seigniors? The monarchical unity of Louis XIV. What
will be the result of the struggle of the proletariat and the sovereign
power combined against the bourgeoisie? The absolute unity of the nation
and the government.

It remains to be seen whether the nation, one and supreme, will be
represented in its executive and central power by ONE, by FIVE, by ONE
HUNDRED, or ONE THOUSAND; that is, it remains to be seen, whether the
royalty of the barricades intends to maintain itself by the people, or
without the people, and whether Louis Philippe wishes his reign to be
the most famous in all history.

I have made this statement as brief, but at the same time as accurate
as I could, neglecting facts and details, that I might give the more
attention to the economical relations of society. For the study of
history is like the study of the human organism; just as the latter
has its system, its organs, and its functions, which can be treated
separately, so the former has its ensemble, its instruments, and its
causes. Of course I do not pretend that the principle of property is
a complete resume of all the social forces; but, as in that wonderful
machine which we call our body, the harmony of the whole allows us to
draw a general conclusion from the consideration of a single function or
organ, so, in discussing historical causes, I have been able to reason
with absolute accuracy from a single order of facts, certain as I was
of the perfect correlation which exists between this special order and
universal history. As is the property of a nation, so is its family,
its marriage, its religion, its civil and military organization, and
its legislative and judicial institutions. History, viewed from this
standpoint, is a grand and sublime psychological study.

Well, sir, in writing against property, have I done more than quote the
language of history? I have said to modern society,--the daughter and
heiress of all preceding societies,--_Age guod agis:_ complete the
task which for six thousand years you have been executing under the
inspiration and by the command of God; hasten to finish your journey;
turn neither to the right nor the left, but follow the road which lies
before you. You seek reason, law, unity, and discipline; but hereafter
you can find them only by stripping off the veils of your infancy, and
ceasing to follow instinct as a guide. Awaken your sleeping conscience;
open your eyes to the pure light of reflection and science; behold the
phantom which troubled your dreams, and so long kept you in a state of
unutterable anguish. Know thyself, O long-deluded society[1] know thy
enemy!... And I have denounced property.

We often hear the defenders of the right of domain quote in defence of
their views the testimony of nations and ages. We can judge, from what
has just been said, how far this historical argument conforms to the
real facts and the conclusions of science.

To complete this apology, I must examine the various theories.

Neither politics, nor legislation, nor history, can be explained and
understood, without a positive theory which defines their elements,
and discovers their laws; in short, without a philosophy. Now, the two
principal schools, which to this day divide the attention of the world,
do not satisfy this condition.

The first, essentially PRACTICAL in its character, confined to a
statement of facts, and buried in learning, cares very little by what
laws humanity develops itself. To it these laws are the secret of the
Almighty, which no one can fathom without a commission from on high.
In applying the facts of history to government, this school does not
reason; it does not anticipate; it makes no comparison of the past with
the present, in order to predict the future. In its opinion, the
lessons of experience teach us only to repeat old errors, and its whole
philosophy consists in perpetually retracing the tracks of antiquity,
instead of going straight ahead forever in the direction in which they

The second school may be called either FATALISTIC or PANTHEISTIC. To
it the movements of empires and the revolutions of humanity are the
manifestations, the incarnations, of the Almighty. The human race,
identified with the divine essence, wheels in a circle of appearances,
informations, and destructions, which necessarily excludes the idea of
absolute truth, and destroys providence and liberty.

Corresponding to these two schools of history, there are two schools
of jurisprudence, similarly opposed, and possessed of the same

1. The practical and conventional school, to which the law is always a
creation of the legislator, an expression of his will, a privilege
which he condescends to grant,--in short, a gratuitous affirmation to be
regarded as judicious and legitimate, no matter what it declares.

2. The fatalistic and pantheistic school, sometimes called the
historical school, which opposes the despotism of the first, and
maintains that law, like literature and religion, is always the
expression of society,--its manifestation, its form, the external
realization of its mobile spirit and its ever-changing inspirations.

Each of these schools, denying the absolute, rejects thereby all
positive and a priori philosophy.

Now, it is evident that the theories of these two schools, whatever view
we take of them, are utterly unsatisfactory: for, opposed, they form no
dilemma,--that is, if one is false, it does not follow that the other
is true; and, united, they do not constitute the truth, since they
disregard the absolute, without which there is no truth. They are
respectively a THESIS and an ANTITHESIS. There remains to be found,
then, a SYNTHESIS, which, predicating the absolute, justifies the will
of the legislator, explains the variations of the law, annihilates
the theory of the circular movement of humanity, and demonstrates its

The legists, by the very nature of their studies and in spite of their
obstinate prejudices, have been led irresistibly to suspect that the
absolute in the science of law is not as chimerical as is commonly
supposed; and this suspicion arose from their comparison of the various
relations which legislators have been called upon to regulate.

M. Laboulaye, the laureate of the Institute, begins his "History of
Property" with these words:--

"While the law of contract, which regulates only the mutual interests of
men, has not varied for centuries (except in certain forms which relate
more to the proof than to the character of the obligation), the civil
law of property, which regulates the mutual relations of citizens, has
undergone several radical changes, and has kept pace in its variations
with all the vicissitudes of society. The law of contract, which holds
essentially to those principles of eternal justice which are engraven
upon the depths of the human heart, is the immutable element of
jurisprudence, and, in a certain sense, its philosophy. Property, on
the contrary, is the variable element of jurisprudence, its history, its

Marvellous! There is in law, and consequently in politics, something
variable and something invariable. The invariable element is obligation,
the bond of justice, duty; the variable element is property,--that is,
the external form of law, the subject-matter of the contract. Whence
it follows that the law can modify, change, reform, and judge property.
Reconcile that, if you can, with the idea of an eternal, absolute,
permanent, and indefectible right.

However, M. Laboulaye is in perfect accord with himself when he adds,
"Possession of the soil rests solely upon force until society takes it
in hand, and espouses the cause of the possessor;" [62] and, a little
farther, "The right of property is not natural, but social. The laws not
only protect property: they give it birth," &c. Now, that which the
law has made the law can unmake; especially since, according to
M. Laboulaye,--an avowed partisan of the historical or pantheistic
school,--the law is not absolute, is not an idea, but a form.

But why is it that property is variable, and, unlike obligation,
incapable of definition and settlement? Before affirming, somewhat
boldly without doubt, that in right there are no absolute principles
(the most dangerous, most immoral, most tyrannical--in a word, most
anti-social--assertion imaginable), it was proper that the right of
property should be subjected to a thorough examination, in order to put
in evidence its variable, arbitrary, and contingent elements, and
those which are eternal, legitimate, and absolute; then, this operation
performed, it became easy to account for the laws, and to correct all
the codes.

Now, this examination of property I claim to have made, and in the
fullest detail; but, either from the public's lack of interest in
an unrecommended and unattractive pamphlet, or--which is more
probable--from the weakness of exposition and want of genius which
characterize the work, the First Memoir on Property passed unnoticed;
scarcely would a few communists, having turned its leaves, deign to
brand it with their disapprobation. You alone, sir, in spite of the
disfavor which I showed for your economical predecessors in too severe
a criticism of them,--you alone have judged me justly; and although I
cannot accept, at least literally, your first judgment, yet it is to
you alone that I appeal from a decision too equivocal to be regarded as

It not being my intention to enter at present into a discussion of
principles, I shall content myself with estimating, from the point of
view of this simple and intelligible absolute, the theories of property
which our generation has produced.

The most exact idea of property is given us by the Roman law, faithfully
followed in this particular by the ancient legists. It is the absolute,
exclusive, autocratic domain of a man over a thing,--a domain which
begins by USUCAPTION, is maintained by POSSESSION, and finally, by the
aid of PRESCRIPTION, finds its sanction in the civil law; a domain which
so identifies the man with the thing, that the proprietor can say, "He
who uses my field, virtually compels me to labor for him; therefore he
owes me compensation."

I pass in silence the secondary modes by which property can be
acquired,--_tradition, sale, exchange, inheritance_, &c.,--which have
nothing in common with the origin of property.

Accordingly, Pothier said THE DOMAIN OF PROPERTY, and not simply
PROPERTY. And the most learned writers on jurisprudence--in imitation
of the Roman praetor who recognized a RIGHT OF PROPERTY and a RIGHT
OF POSSESSION--have carefully distinguished between the DOMAIN and the
right of USUFRUCT, USE, and HABITATION, which, reduced to its natural
limits, is the very expression of justice; and which is, in my opinion,
to supplant domanial property, and finally form the basis of all

But, sir, admire the clumsiness of systems, or rather the fatality of
logic! While the Roman law and all the savants inspired by it teach that
property in its origin is the right of first occupancy sanctioned by
law, the modern legists, dissatisfied with this brutal definition, claim
that property is based upon LABOR. Immediately they infer that he who no
longer labors, but makes another labor in his stead, loses his right to
the earnings of the latter. It is by virtue of this principle that
the serfs of the middle ages claimed a legal right to property, and
consequently to the enjoyment of political rights; that the clergy were
despoiled in '89 of their immense estates, and were granted a pension
in exchange; that at the restoration the liberal deputies opposed the
indemnity of one billion francs. "The nation," said they, "has acquired
by twenty-five years of labor and possession the property which the
emigrants forfeited by abandonment and long idleness: why should the
nobles be treated with more favor than the priests?" [63]

This position is quite in harmony with my principles, and I heartily
applaud the indignation of M. Lerminier; but I do not know that a
proprietor was ever deprived of his property because UNWORTHY; and as
reasonable, social, and even useful as the thing may seem, it is quite
contrary to the uses and customs of property.

All usurpations, not born of war, have been caused and supported by
labor. All modern history proves this, from the end of the Roman empire
down to the present day. And as if to give a sort of legal sanction to
these usurpations, the doctrine of labor, subversive of property,
is professed at great length in the Roman law under the name of

The man who cultivates, it has been said, makes the land his own;
consequently, no more property. This was clearly seen by the old
jurists, who have not failed to denounce this novelty; while on the
other hand the young school hoots at the absurdity of the first-occupant
theory. Others have presented themselves, pretending to reconcile
the two opinions by uniting them. They have failed, like all the
_juste-milieux_ of the world, and are laughed at for their eclecticism.
At present, the alarm is in the camp of the old doctrine; from all sides
PROPERTY, each one of which, giving the lie to the rest, inflicts a
fresh wound upon property.

Consider, indeed, the inextricable embarrassments, the contradictions,
the absurdities, the incredible nonsense, in which the bold defenders of
property so lightly involve themselves. I choose the eclectics, because,
those killed, the others cannot survive.

M. Troplong, jurist, passes for a philosopher in the eyes of the editors
of "Le Droit." I tell the gentlemen of "Le Droit" that, in the judgment
of philosophers, M. Troplong is only an advocate; and I prove my

M. Troplong is a defender of progress. "The words of the code," says he,
"are fruitful sap with which the classic works of the eighteenth century
overflow. To wish to suppress them... is to violate the law of progress,
and to forget that a science which moves is a science which grows." [64]

Now, the only mutable and progressive portion of law, as we have already
seen, is that which concerns property. If, then, you ask what reforms
are to be introduced into the right of property? M. Troplong makes no
reply; what progress is to be hoped for? no reply; what is to be the
destiny of property in case of universal association? no reply; what is
the absolute and what the contingent, what the true and what the false,
in property? no reply. M. Troplong favors quiescence and _in statu
quo_ in regard to property. What could be more unphilosophical in a
progressive philosopher?

Nevertheless, M. Troplong has thought about these things. "There are,"
he says, "many weak points and antiquated ideas in the doctrines of
modern authors concerning property: witness the works of MM. Toullier
and Duranton." The doctrine of M. Troplong promises, then, strong
points, advanced and progressive ideas. Let us see; let us examine:--

"Man, placed in the presence of matter, is conscious of a power over it,
which has been given to him to satisfy the needs of his being. King
of inanimate or unintelligent nature, he feels that he has a right to
modify it, govern it, and fit it for his use. There it is, the subject
of property, which is legitimate only when exercised over things, never
when over persons."

M. Troplong is so little of a philosopher, that he does not even know
the import of the philosophical terms which he makes a show of using. He
says of matter that it is the SUBJECT of property; he should have said
the OBJECT. M. Troplong uses the language of the anatomists, who apply
the term SUBJECT to the human matter used in their experiments.

This error of our author is repeated farther on: "Liberty, which
overcomes matter, the subject of property, &c." The SUBJECT of
property is man; its OBJECT is matter. But even this is but a slight
mortification; directly we shall have some crucifixions.

Thus, according to the passage just quoted, it is in the conscience and
personality of man that the principle of property must be sought. Is
there any thing new in this doctrine? Apparently it never has occurred
to those who, since the days of Cicero and Aristotle, and earlier, have
maintained that THINGS BELONG TO THE FIRST OCCUPANT, that occupation may
be exercised by beings devoid of conscience and personality. The human
personality, though it may be the principle or the subject of property,
as matter is the object, is not the CONDITION. Now, it is this condition
which we most need to know. So far, M. Troplong tells us no more than
his masters, and the figures with which he adorns his style add nothing
to the old idea.

Property, then, implies three terms: The subject, the object, and the
condition. There is no difficulty in regard to the first two terms. As
to the third, the condition of property down to this day, for the Greek
as for the Barbarian, has been that of first occupancy. What now would
you have it, progressive doctor?

"When man lays hands for the first time upon an object without a
master, he performs an act which, among individuals, is of the greatest
importance. The thing thus seized and occupied participates, so to
speak, in the personality of him who holds it. It becomes sacred, like
himself. It is impossible to take it without doing violence to his
liberty, or to remove it without rashly invading his person. Diogenes
did but express this truth of intuition, when he said: 'Stand out of my

Very good! but would the prince of cynics, the very personal and very
haughty Diogenes, have had the right to charge another cynic, as rent
for this same place in the sunshine, a bone for twenty-four hours of
possession? It is that which constitutes the proprietor; it is that
which you fail to justify. In reasoning from the human personality and
individuality to the right of property, you unconsciously construct
a syllogism in which the conclusion includes more than the premises,
contrary to the rules laid down by Aristotle. The individuality of
the human person proves INDIVIDUAL POSSESSION, originally called
_proprietas_, in opposition to collective possession, _communio_.

It gives birth to the distinction between THINE and MINE, true signs
of equality, not, by any means, of subordination. "From equivocation to
equivocation," says M. Michelet, [65] "property would crawl to the end
of the world; man could not limit it, were not he himself its limit.
Where they clash, there will be its frontier." In short, individuality
of being destroys the hypothesis of communism, but it does not for that
reason give birth to domain,--that domain by virtue of which the holder
of a thing exercises over the person who takes his place a right of
prestation and suzerainty, that has always been identified with property

Further, that he whose legitimately acquired possession injures nobody
cannot be nonsuited without flagrant injustice, is a truth, not of
INTUITION, as M. Troplong says, but of INWARD SENSATION, [66] which has
nothing to do with property.

M. Troplong admits, then, occupancy as a condition of property. In that,
he is in accord with the Roman law, in accord with MM. Toullier and
Duranton; but in his opinion this condition is not the only one, and it
is in this particular that his doctrine goes beyond theirs.

"But, however exclusive the right arising from sole occupancy, does it
not become still more so, when man has moulded matter by his labor;
when he has deposited in it a portion of himself, re-creating it by his
industry, and setting upon it the seal of his intelligence and activity?
Of all conquests, that is the most legitimate, for it is the price of

"He who should deprive a man of the thing thus remodelled, thus
humanized, would invade the man himself, and would inflict the deepest
wounds upon his liberty."

I pass over the very beautiful explanations in which M. Troplong,
discussing labor and industry, displays the whole wealth of his
eloquence. M. Troplong is not only a philosopher, he is an orator, an
might make sad work of his rhetoric, should I undertake to dissect it;
but I confine myself for the present to his philosophy.

If M. Troplong had only known how to think and reflect, before
abandoning the original fact of occupancy and plunging into the theory
of labor, he would have asked himself: "What is it to occupy?" And he
would have discovered that OCCUPANCY is only a generic term by which
all modes of possession are expressed,--seizure, station, immanence,
habitation, cultivation, use, consumption, &c.; that labor,
consequently, is but one of a thousand forms of occupancy. He would have
understood, finally, that the right of possession which is born of labor
is governed by the same general laws as that which results from the
simple seizure of things. What kind of a legist is he who declaims when
he ought to reason, who continually mistakes his metaphors for legal
axioms, and who does not so much as know how to obtain a universal by
induction, and form a category?

If labor is identical with occupancy, the only benefit which it secures
to the laborer is the right of individual possession of the object of
his labor; if it differs from occupancy, it gives birth to a right equal
only to itself,--that is, a right which begins, continues, and ends,
with the labor of the occupant. It is for this reason, in the words of
the law, that one cannot acquire a just title to a thing by labor alone.
He must also hold it for a year and a day, in order to be regarded as
its possessor; and possess it twenty or thirty years, in order to become
its proprietor.

These preliminaries established, M. Troplong's whole structure falls of
its own weight, and the inferences, which he attempts to draw, vanish.

"Property once acquired by occupation and labor, it naturally preserves
itself, not only by the same means, but also by the refusal of the
holder to abdicate; for from the very fact that it has risen to the
height of a right, it is its nature to perpetuate itself and to last for
an indefinite period.... Rights, considered from an ideal point of
view, are imperishable and eternal; and time, which affects only the
contingent, can no more disturb them than it can injure God himself."
It is astonishing that our author, in speaking of the IDEAL, TIME, and
ETERNITY, did not work into his sentence the DIVINE WINGS of Plato,--so
fashionable to-day in philosophical works.

With the exception of falsehood, I hate nonsense more than any thing
else in the world. PROPERTY ONCE ACQUIRED! Good, if it is acquired; but,
as it is not acquired, it cannot be preserved. RIGHTS ARE ETERNAL! Yes,
in the sight of God, like the archetypal ideas of the Platonists. But,
on the earth, rights exist only in the presence of a subject, an object,
and a condition. Take away one of these three things, and rights no
longer exist. Thus, individual possession ceases at the death of the
subject, upon the destruction of the object, or in case of exchange or

Let us admit, however, with M. Troplong, that property is an absolute
and eternal right, which cannot be destroyed save by the deed and at
the will of the proprietor. What are the consequences which immediately
follow from this position?

To show the justice and utility of prescription, M. Troplong supposes
the case of a bona fide possessor whom a proprietor, long since
forgotten or even unknown, is attempting to eject from his possession.
"At the start, the error of the possessor was excusable but not
irreparable. Pursuing its course and growing old by degrees, it has
so completely clothed itself in the colors of truth, it has spoken
so loudly the language of right, it has involved so many confiding
interests, that it fairly may be asked whether it would not cause
greater confusion to go back to the reality than to sanction the
fictions which it (an error, without doubt) has sown on its way? Well,
yes; it must be confessed, without hesitation, that the remedy would
prove worse than the disease, and that its application would lead to the
most outrageous injustice."

How long since utility became a principle of law? When the Athenians, by
the advice of Aristides, rejected a proposition eminently advantageous
to their republic, but also utterly unjust, they showed finer moral
perception and greater clearness of intellect than M. Troplong. Property
is an eternal right, independent of time, indestructible except by the
act and at the will of the proprietor; and here this right is taken from
the proprietor, and on what ground? Good God! on the ground of ABSENCE!
Is it not true that legists are governed by caprice in giving and taking
away rights? When it pleases these gentlemen, idleness, unworthiness, or
absence can invalidate a right which, under quite similar circumstances,
labor, residence, and virtue are inadequate to obtain. Do not be
astonished that legists reject the absolute. Their good pleasure is law,
and their disordered imaginations are the real cause of the EVOLUTIONS
in jurisprudence.

"If the nominal proprietor should plead ignorance, his claim would be
none the more valid. Indeed, his ignorance might arise from inexcusable
carelessness, etc."

What! in order to legitimate dispossession through prescription, you
suppose faults in the proprietor! You blame his absence,--which may
have been involuntary; his neglect,--not knowing what caused it; his
carelessness,--a gratuitous supposition of your own! It is absurd. One
very simple observation suffices to annihilate this theory. Society,
which, they tell us, makes an exception in the interest of order in
favor of the possessor as against the old proprietor, owes the latter
an indemnity; since the privilege of prescription is nothing but
expropriation for the sake of public utility.

But here is something stronger:--

"In society a place cannot remain vacant with impunity. A new man arises
in place of the old one who disappears or goes away; he brings here his
existence, becomes entirely absorbed, and devotes himself to this post
which he finds abandoned. Shall the deserter, then, dispute the honor of
the victory with the soldier who fights with the sweat standing on his
brow, and bears the burden of the day, in behalf of a cause which he
deems just?"

When the tongue of an advocate once gets in motion, who can tell where
it will stop? M. Troplong admits and justifies usurpation in case of
the ABSENCE of the proprietor, and on a mere presumption of his
CARELESSNESS. But when the neglect is authenticated; when the
abandonment is solemnly and voluntarily set forth in a contract in the
presence of a magistrate; when the proprietor dares to say, "I cease to
labor, but I still claim a share of the product,"--then the absentee's
right of property is protected; the usurpation of the possessor would
be criminal; farm-rent is the reward of idleness. Where is, I do not say
the consistency, but, the honesty of this law?

Prescription is a result of the civil law, a creation of the legislator.
Why has not the legislator fixed the conditions differently?--why,
instead of twenty and thirty years, is not a single year sufficient to
prescribe?--why are not voluntary absence and confessed idleness as good
grounds for dispossession as involuntary absence, ignorance, or apathy?

But in vain should we ask M. Troplong, the philosopher, to tell us
the ground of prescription. Concerning the code, M. Troplong does not
reason. "The interpreter," he says, "must take things as they are,
society as it exists, laws as they are made: that is the only sensible
starting-point." Well, then, write no more books; cease to reproach your
predecessors--who, like you, have aimed only at interpretation of the
law--for having remained in the rear; talk no more of philosophy and
progress, for the lie sticks in your throat.

M. Troplong denies the reality of the right of possession; he denies
that possession has ever existed as a principle of society; and he
quotes M. de Savigny, who holds precisely the opposite position, and
whom he is content to leave unanswered. At one time, M. Troplong asserts
that possession and property are CONTEMPORANEOUS, and that they exist AT
THE SAME TIME, which implies that the RIGHT of property is based on the
FACT of possession,--a conclusion which is evidently absurd; at
another, he denies that possession HAD ANY HISTORICAL EXISTENCE PRIOR
TO PROPERTY,--an assertion which is contradicted by the customs of many
nations which cultivate the land without appropriating it; by the Roman
law, which distinguished so clearly between POSSESSION and PROPERTY; and
by our code itself, which makes possession for twenty or thirty years
the condition of property. Finally, M. Troplong goes so far as to
maintain that the Roman maxim, _Nihil comune habet proprietas cum
possessione_--which contains so striking an allusion to the possession
of the _ager publicus_, and which, sooner or later, will be again
accepted without qualification--expresses in French law only a judicial
axiom, a simple rule forbidding the union of an _action possessoire_
with an _action petitoire_,--an opinion as retrogressive as it is

In treating of _actions possessoires_, M. Troplong is so unfortunate or
awkward that he mutilates economy through failure to grasp its
meaning "Just as property," he writes, "gave rise to the action for
revendication, so possession--the _jus possessionis_--was the cause
of possessory interdicts.... There were two kinds of interdicts,--the
interdict _recuperandae possessionis_, and the interdict _retinendae
possessionis_,--which correspond to our _complainte en cas de saisine
et nouvelete_. There is also a third,--_adipiscendae possessionis_,--of
which the Roman law-books speak in connection with the two others.
But, in reality, this interdict is not possessory: for he who wishes
to acquire possession by this means does not possess, and has not
possessed; and yet acquired possession is the condition of possessory
interdicts." Why is not an action to acquire possession equally
conceivable with an action to be reinstated in possession? When the
Roman plebeians demanded a division of the conquered territory; when
the proletaires of Lyons took for their motto, _Vivre en travaillant, ou
mourir en combattant_ (to live working, or die fighting); when the most
enlightened of the modern economists claim for every man the right to
labor and to live,--they only propose this interdict, _adipiscendae
possessionis_, which embarrasses M. Troplong so seriously. And what is
my object in pleading against property, if not to obtain possession? How
is it that M. Troplong--the legist, the orator, the philosopher--does
not see that logically this interdict must be admitted, since it is the
necessary complement of the two others, and the three united form an
indivisible trinity,--to RECOVER, to MAINTAIN, to ACQUIRE? To break this
series is to create a blank, destroy the natural synthesis of things,
and follow the example of the geometrician who tried to conceive of
a solid with only two dimensions. But it is not astonishing that M.
Troplong rejects the third class of _actions possessoires_, when
we consider that he rejects possession itself. He is so completely
controlled by his prejudices in this respect, that he is unconsciously
led, not to unite (that would be horrible in his eyes), but to identify
the _action possessoire_ with the _action petitoire_. This could be
easily proved, were it not too tedious to plunge into these metaphysical

As an interpreter of the law, M. Troplong is no more successful than
as a philosopher. One specimen of his skill in this direction, and I am
done with him:--

Code of Civil Procedure, Art. 23: "_Actions possessoires_ are only when
commenced within the year of trouble by those who have held possession
for at least a year by an irrevocable title."

M. Troplong's comments:--

"Ought we to maintain--as Duparc, Poullain, and Lanjuinais would have
us--the rule _spoliatus ante omnia restituendus_, when an individual,
who is neither proprietor nor annual possessor, is expelled by a third
party, who has no right to the estate? I think not. Art. 23 of the
Code is general: it absolutely requires that the plaintiff in _actions
possessoires_ shall have been in peaceable possession for a year at
least. That is the invariable principle: it can in no case be modified.
And why should it be set aside? The plaintiff had no seisin; he had no
privileged possession; he had only a temporary occupancy, insufficient
to warrant in his favor the presumption of property, which renders the
annual possession so valuable. Well! this _ae facto_ occupancy he has
lost; another is invested with it: possession is in the hands of this
new-comer. Now, is not this a case for the application of the principle,
_In_ _pari causa possesser potior habetur_? Should not the actual
possessor be preferred to the evicted possessor? Can he not meet the
complaint of his adversary by saying to him: 'Prove that you were an
annual possessor before me, for you are the plaintiff. As far as I am
concerned, it is not for me to tell you how I possess, nor how long
I have possessed. _Possideo quia possideo_. I have no other reply, no
other defence. When you have shown that your action is admissible, then
we will see whether you are entitled to lift the veil which hides the
origin of my possession.'"

And this is what is honored with the name of jurisprudence and
philosophy,--the restoration of force. What! when I have "moulded matter
by my labor" [I quote M. Troplong]; when I have "deposited in it a
portion of myself" [M. Troplong]; when I have "re-created it by
my industry, and set upon it the seal of my intelligence" [M.
Troplong],--on the ground that I have not possessed it for a year, a
stranger may dispossess me, and the law offers me no protection! And if
M. Troplong is my judge, M. Troplong will condemn me! And if I resist
my adversary,--if, for this bit of mud which I may call MY FIELD, and
of which they wish to rob me, a war breaks out between the two
competitors,--the legislator will gravely wait until the stronger,
having killed the other, has had possession for a year! No, no, Monsieur
Troplong! you do not understand the words of the law; for I prefer
to call in question your intelligence rather than the justice of the
legislator. You are mistaken in your application of the principle, _In
pari causa possessor potior habetur:_ the actuality of possession here
refers to him who possessed at the time when the difficulty arose, not
to him who possesses at the time of the complaint. And when the code
prohibits the reception of _actions possessoires_, in cases where the
possession is not of a year's duration, it simply means that if, before
a year has elapsed, the holder relinquishes possession, and ceases
actually to occupy _in propria persona_, he cannot avail himself of an
_action possessoire_ against his successor. In a word, the code treats
possession of less than a year as it ought to treat all possession,
however long it has existed,--that is, the condition of property ought
to be, not merely seisin for a year, but perpetual seisin.

I will not pursue this analysis farther. When an author bases two
volumes of quibbles on foundations so uncertain, it may be boldly
declared that his work, whatever the amount of learning displayed in it,
is a mess of nonsense unworthy a critic's attention.

At this point, sir, I seem to hear you reproaching me for this conceited
dogmatism, this lawless arrogance, which respects nothing, claims a
monopoly of justice and good sense, and assumes to put in the pillory
any one who dares to maintain an opinion contrary to its own. This
fault, they tell me, more odious than any other in an author, was too
prominent a characteristic of my First Memoir, and I should do well to
correct it.

It is important to the success of my defence, that I should vindicate
myself from this reproach; and since, while perceiving in myself other
faults of a different character, I still adhere in this particular to
my disputatious style, it is right that I should give my reasons for my
conduct. I act, not from inclination, but from necessity.

I say, then, that I treat my authors as I do for two reasons: a REASON
OF RIGHT, and a REASON OF INTENTION; both peremptory.

1. Reason of right. When I preach equality of fortunes, I do not advance
an opinion more or less probable, a utopia more or less ingenious, an
idea conceived within my brain by means of imagination only. I lay down
an absolute truth, concerning which hesitation is impossible, modesty
superfluous, and doubt ridiculous.

But, do you ask, what assures me that that which I utter is true?

What assures me, sir? The logical and metaphysical processes which I
use, the correctness of which I have demonstrated by a priori reasoning;
the fact that I possess an infallible method of investigation and
verification with which my authors are unacquainted; and finally, the
fact that for all matters relating to property and justice I have found
a formula which explains all legislative variations, and furnishes a
key for all problems. Now, is there so much as a shadow of method in M.
Toullier, M. Troplong, and this swarm of insipid commentators, almost
as devoid of reason and moral sense as the code itself? Do you give the
name of method to an alphabetical, chronological, analogical, or merely
nominal classification of subjects? Do you give the name of method
to these lists of paragraphs gathered under an arbitrary head, these
sophistical vagaries, this mass of contradictory quotations and
opinions, this nauseous style, this spasmodic rhetoric, models of which
are so common at the bar, though seldom found elsewhere? Do you take for
philosophy this twaddle, this intolerable pettifoggery adorned with a
few scholastic trimmings? No, no! a writer who respects himself, never
will consent to enter the balance with these manipulators of law,
misnamed JURISTS; and for my part I object to a comparison.

2. Reason of intention. As far as I am permitted to divulge this secret,
I am a conspirator in an immense revolution, terrible to charlatans and
despots, to all exploiters of the poor and credulous, to all salaried
idlers, dealers in political panaceas and parables, tyrants in a word of
thought and of opinion. I labor to stir up the reason of individuals to
insurrection against the reason of authorities.

According to the laws of the society of which I am a member, all the
evils which afflict humanity arise from faith in external teachings and
submission to authority. And not to go outside of our own century, is
it not true, for instance, that France is plundered, scoffed at, and
tyrannized over, because she speaks in masses, and not by heads? The
French people are penned up in three or four flocks, receiving their
signal from a chief, responding to the voice of a leader, and thinking
just as he says. A certain journal, it is said, has fifty thousand
subscribers; assuming six readers to every subscriber, we have three
hundred thousand sheep browsing and bleating at the same cratch. Apply
this calculation to the whole periodical press, and you find that, in
our free and intelligent France, there are two millions of creatures
receiving every morning from the journals spiritual pasturage. Two
millions! In other words, the entire nation allows a score of little
fellows to lead it by the nose.

By no means, sir, do I deny to journalists talent, science, love
of truth, patriotism, and what you please. They are very worthy and
intelligent people, whom I undoubtedly should wish to resemble, had I
the honor to know them. That of which I complain, and that which has
made me a conspirator, is that, instead of enlightening us, these
gentlemen command us, impose upon us articles of faith, and that without
demonstration or verification. When, for example, I ask why these
fortifications of Paris, which, in former times, under the influence
of certain prejudices, and by means of a concurrence of extraordinary
circumstances supposed for the sake of the argument to have existed, may
perhaps have served to protect us, but which it is doubtful whether
our descendants will ever use,--when I ask, I say, on what grounds they
assimilate the future to a hypothetical past, they reply that M.
Thiers, who has a great mind, has written upon this subject a report of
admirable elegance and marvellous clearness. At this I become angry, and
reply that M. Thiers does not know what he is talking about. Why, having
wanted no detached forts seven years ago, do we want them to-day?

"Oh! damn it," they say, "the difference is great; the first forts
were too near to us; with these we cannot be bombarded." You cannot be
bombarded; but you can be blockaded, and will be, if you stir. What! to
obtain blockade forts from the Parisians, it has sufficed to prejudice
them against bombardment forts! And they thought to outwit the
government! Oh, the sovereignty of the people!...

"Damn it! M. Thiers, who is wiser than you, says that it would be absurd
to suppose a government making war upon citizens, and maintaining itself
by force and in spite of the will of the people. That would be absurd!"
Perhaps so: such a thing has happened more than once, and may happen
again. Besides, when despotism is strong, it appears almost legitimate.
However that may be, they lied in 1833, and they lie again in
1841,--those who threaten us with the bomb-shell. And then, if M. Thiers
is so well assured of the intentions of the government, why does he not
wish the forts to be built before the circuit is extended? Why this
air of suspicion of the government, unless an intrigue has been planned
between the government and M. Thiers?

"Damn it! we do not wish to be again invaded. If Paris had been
fortified in 1815, Napoleon would not have been conquered!" But I tell
you that Napoleon was not conquered, but sold; and that if, in 1815,
Paris had had fortifications, it would have been with them as with the
thirty thousand men of Grouchy, who were misled during the battle. It is
still easier to surrender forts than to lead soldiers. Would the selfish
and the cowardly ever lack reasons for yielding to the enemy?

"But do you not see that the absolutist courts are provoked at our
fortifications?--a proof that they do not think as you do." You believe
that; and, for my part, I believe that in reality they are quite at ease
about the matter; and, if they appear to tease our ministers, they do so
only to give the latter an opportunity to decline. The absolutist courts
are always on better terms with our constitutional monarchy, than
our monarchy with us. Does not M. Guizot say that France needs to
be defended within as well as without? Within! against whom? Against
France. O Parisians! it is but six months since you demanded war, and
now you want only barricades. Why should the allies fear your doctrines,
when you cannot even control yourselves?... How could you sustain a
siege, when you weep over the absence of an actress?

"But, finally, do you not understand that, by the rules of modern
warfare, the capital of a country is always the objective point of its
assailants? Suppose our army defeated on the Rhine, France invaded, and
defenceless Paris falling into the hands of the enemy. It would be the
death of the administrative power; without a head it could not live. The
capital taken, the nation must submit. What do you say to that?"

The reply is very simple. Why is society constituted in such a way that
the destiny of the country depends upon the safety of the capital?
Why, in case our territory be invaded and Paris besieged, cannot the
legislative, executive, and military powers act outside of Paris? Why
this localization of all the vital forces of France?... Do not cry out
upon decentralization. This hackneyed reproach would discredit only
your own intelligence and sincerity. It is not a question of
decentralization; it is your political fetichism which I attack. Why
should the national unity be attached to a certain place, to certain
functionaries, to certain bayonets? Why should the Place Maubert and the
Palace of the Tuileries be the palladium of France?

Now let me make an hypothesis.

Suppose it were written in the charter, "In case the country be again
invaded, and Paris forced to surrender, the government being annihilated
and the national assembly dissolved, the electoral colleges shall
reassemble spontaneously and without other official notice, for the
purpose of appointing new deputies, who shall organize a provisional
government at Orleans.

"If Orleans succumbs, the government shall reconstruct itself in the same
way at Lyons; then at Bordeaux, then at Bayonne, until all France be
captured or the enemy driven from the land. For the government may
perish, but the nation never dies. The king, the peers, and the deputies
massacred, VIVE LA FRANCE!"

Do you not think that such an addition to the charter would be a better
safeguard for the liberty and integrity of the country than walls and
bastions around Paris? Well, then! do henceforth for administration,
industry, science, literature, and art that which the charter ought
to prescribe for the central government and common defence. Instead of
endeavoring to render Paris impregnable, try rather to render the loss
of Paris an insignificant matter. Instead of accumulating about one
point academies, faculties, schools, and political, administrative,
and judicial centres; instead of arresting intellectual development
and weakening public spirit in the provinces by this fatal
agglomeration,--can you not, without destroying unity, distribute social
functions among places as well as among persons? Such a system--in
allowing each province to participate in political power and action, and
in balancing industry, intelligence, and strength in all parts of the
country--would equally secure, against enemies at home and enemies
abroad, the liberty of the people and the stability of the government.

Discriminate, then, between the centralization of functions and the
concentration of organs; between political unity and its material

"Oh! that is plausible; but it is impossible!"--which means that the
city of Paris does not intend to surrender its privileges, and that
there it is still a question of property.

Idle talk! The country, in a state of panic which has been cleverly
worked upon, has asked for fortifications. I dare to affirm that it
has abdicated its sovereignty. All parties are to blame for this
suicide,--the conservatives, by their acquiescence in the plans of the
government; the friends of the dynasty, because they wish no opposition
to that which pleases them, and because a popular revolution would
annihilate them; the democrats, because they hope to rule in their turn.
[67] That which all rejoice at having obtained is a means of future
repression. As for the defence of the country, they are not troubled
about that. The idea of tyranny dwells in the minds of all, and brings
together into one conspiracy all forms of selfishness. We wish the
regeneration of society, but we subordinate this desire to our ideas
and convenience. That our approaching marriage may take place, that our
business may succeed, that our opinions may triumph, we postpone reform.
Intolerance and selfishness lead us to put fetters upon liberty; and,
because we cannot wish all that God wishes, we would, if it rested with
us, stay the course of destiny rather than sacrifice our own interests
and self-love. Is not this an instance where the words of Solomon
apply,--"_L'iniquite a menti a elle-meme_"?

It is said that on this question of the fortification of Paris the staff
of "Le National" are not agreed. This would prove, if proof were needed,
that a journal may blunder and falsify, without entitling any one to
accuse its editors. A journal is a metaphysical being, for which no one
is really responsible, and which owes its existence solely to mutual
concessions. This idea ought to frighten those worthy citizens who,
because they borrow their opinions from a journal, imagine that they
belong to a political party, and who have not the faintest suspicion
that they are really without a head.

For this reason, sir, I have enlisted in a desperate war against
every form of authority over the multitude. Advance sentinel of the
proletariat, I cross bayonets with the celebrities of the day, as
well as with spies and charlatans. Well, when I am fighting with an
illustrious adversary, must I stop at the end of every phrase, like
an orator in the tribune, to say "the learned author," "the eloquent
writer," "the profound publicist," and a hundred other platitudes with
which it is fashionable to mock people? These civilities seem to me no
less insulting to the man attacked than dishonorable to the aggressor.
But when, rebuking an author, I say to him, "Citizen, your doctrine is
absurd, and, if to prove my assertion is an offence against you, I
am guilty of it," immediately the listener opens his ears; he is all
attention; and, if I do not succeed in convincing him, at least I give
his thought an impulse, and set him the wholesome example of doubt and
free examination.

Then do not think, sir, that, in tripping up the philosophy of your very
learned and very estimable confrere, M. Troplong, I fail to appreciate
his talent as a writer (in my opinion, he has too much for a jurist);
nor his knowledge, though it is too closely confined to the letter of
the law, and the reading of old books. In these particulars, M. Troplong
offends on the side of excess rather than deficiency. Further, do not
believe that I am actuated by any personal animosity towards him, or
that I have the slightest desire to wound his self-love. I know M.
Troplong only by his "Treatise on Prescription," which I wish he had not
written; and as for my critics, neither M. Troplong, nor any of those
whose opinion I value, will ever read me. Once more, my only object is
to prove, as far as I am able, to this unhappy French nation, that
those who make the laws, as well as those who interpret them, are not
infallible organs of general, impersonal, and absolute reason.

I had resolved to submit to a systematic criticism the semi-official
defence of the right of property recently put forth by M. Wolowski,
your colleague at the Conservatory. With this view, I had commenced
to collect the documents necessary for each of his lectures, but, soon
perceiving that the ideas of the professor were incoherent, that his
arguments contradicted each other, that one affirmation was sure to be
overthrown by another, and that in M. Wolowski's lucubrations the
good was always mingled with the bad, and being by nature a little
suspicious, it suddenly occurred to me that M. Wolowski was an advocate
of equality in disguise, thrown in spite of himself into the position
in which the patriarch Jacob pictures one of his sons,--_inter
duas clitellas_, between two stools, as the proverb says. In more
parliamentary language, I saw clearly that M. Wolowski was placed
between his profound convictions on the one hand and his official duties
on the other, and that, in order to maintain his position, he had to
assume a certain slant. Then I experienced great pain at seeing the
reserve, the circumlocution, the figures, and the irony to which
a professor of legislation, whose duty it is to teach dogmas with
clearness and precision, was forced to resort; and I fell to cursing
the society in which an honest man is not allowed to say frankly what he
thinks. Never, sir, have you conceived of such torture: I seemed to be
witnessing the martyrdom of a mind. I am going to give you an idea of
these astonishing meetings, or rather of these scenes of sorrow.

Monday, Nov. 20, 1840.--The professor declares, in brief,--1. That the
right of property is not founded upon occupation, but upon the impress
of man; 2. That every man has a natural and inalienable right to the use
of matter.

Now, if matter can be appropriated, and if, notwithstanding, all
men retain an inalienable right to the use of this matter, what is
property?--and if matter can be appropriated only by labor, how long
is this appropriation to continue?--questions that will confuse and
confound all jurists whatsoever.

Then M. Wolowski cites his authorities. Great God! what witnesses he
brings forward! First, M. Troplong, the great metaphysician, whom we
have discussed; then, M. Louis Blanc, editor of the "Revue du Progres,"
who came near being tried by jury for publishing his "Organization of
Labor," and who escaped from the clutches of the public prosecutor only
by a juggler's trick; [68] Corinne,--I mean Madame de Stael,--who, in
an ode, making a poetical comparison of the land with the waves, of the
furrow of a plough with the wake of a vessel, says "that property exists
only where man has left his trace," which makes property dependent
upon the solidity of the elements; Rousseau, the apostle of liberty and
equality, but who, according to M. Wolowski, attacked property only AS
A JOKE, and in order to point a paradox; Robespierre, who prohibited
a division of the land, because he regarded such a measure as a
rejuvenescence of property, and who, while awaiting the definitive
organization of the republic, placed all property in the care?? of
the people,--that is, transferred the right of eminent domain from the
individual to society; Babeuf, who wanted property for the nation, and
communism for the citizens; M. Considerant, who favors a division of
landed property into shares,--that is, who wishes to render property
nominal and fictitious: the whole being intermingled with jokes and
witticisms (intended undoubtedly to lead people away from the HORNETS'
NESTS) at the expense of the adversaries of the right of property!

November 26.--M. Wolowski supposes this objection: Land, like
water, air, and light, is necessary to life, therefore it cannot
be appropriated; and he replies: The importance of landed property
diminishes as the power of industry increases.

Good! this importance DIMINISHES, but it does not DISAPPEAR; and this,
of itself, shows landed property to be illegitimate. Here M. Wolowski
pretends to think that the opponents of property refer only to property
in land, while they merely take it as a term of comparison; and, in
showing with wonderful clearness the absurdity of the position in which
he places them, he finds a way of drawing the attention of his hearers
to another subject without being false to the truth which it is his
office to contradict.

"Property," says M. Wolowski, "is that which distinguishes man from the
animals." That may be; but are we to regard this as a compliment or a

"Mahomet," says M. Wolowski, "decreed property." And so did Genghis
Khan, and Tamerlane, and all the ravagers of nations. What sort of
legislators were they?

"Property has been in existence ever since the origin of the human
race." Yes, and so has slavery, and despotism also; and likewise
polygamy and idolatry. But what does this antiquity show?

The members of the Council of the State--M. Portalis at their head--did
not raise, in their discussion of the Code, the question of the
legitimacy of property. "Their silence," says M. Wolowski, "is a
precedent in favor of this right." I may regard this reply as personally
addressed to me, since the observation belongs to me. I reply, "As long
as an opinion is universally admitted, the universality of belief serves
of itself as argument and proof. When this same opinion is attacked,
the former faith proves nothing; we must resort to reason. Ignorance,
however old and pardonable it may be, never outweighs reason."

Property has its abuses, M. Wolowski confesses. "But," he says, "these
abuses gradually disappear. To-day their cause is known. They all arise
from a false theory of property. In principle, property is inviolable,
but it can and must be checked and disciplined." Such are the
conclusions of the professor.

When one thus remains in the clouds, he need not fear to equivocate.
Nevertheless, I would like him to define these ABUSES of property, to
show their cause, to explain this true theory from which no abuse is to
spring; in short, to tell me how, without destroying property, it can
be governed for the greatest good of all. "Our civil code," says M.
Wolowski, in speaking of this subject, "leaves much to be desired." I
think it leaves every thing undone.

Finally, M. Wolowski opposes, on the one hand, the concentration of
capital, and the absorption which results therefrom; and, on the other,
he objects to the extreme division of the land. Now I think that I have
demonstrated in my First Memoir, that large accumulation and minute
division are the first two terms of an economical trinity,--a THESIS and
an ANTITHESIS. But, while M. Wolowski says nothing of the third term,
the SYNTHESIS, and thus leaves the inference in suspense, I have shown
that this third term is ASSOCIATION, which is the annihilation of

November 30.--LITERARY PROPERTY. M. Wolowski grants that it is just to
recognize the rights of talent (which is not in the least hostile to
equality); but he seriously objects to perpetual and absolute property
in the works of genius, to the profit of the authors' heirs. His main
argument is, that society has a right of collective production over
every creation of the mind. Now, it is precisely this principle of
collective power that I developed in my "Inquiries into Property and
Government," and on which I have established the complete edifice of
a new social organization. M. Wolowski is, as far as I know, the first
jurist who has made a legislative application of this economical law.
Only, while I have extended the principle of collective power to every
sort of product, M. Wolowski, more prudent than it is my nature to be,
confines it to neutral ground. So, that that which I am bold enough
to say of the whole, he is contented to affirm of a part, leaving
the intelligent hearer to fill up the void for himself. However, his
arguments are keen and close. One feels that the professor, finding
himself more at ease with one aspect of property, has given the rein to
his intellect, and is rushing on towards liberty.

1. Absolute literary property would hinder the activity of other men,
and obstruct the development of humanity. It would be the death of
progress; it would be suicide. What would have happened if the
first inventions,--the plough, the level, the saw, &c.,--had been

Such is the first proposition of M. Wolowski.

I reply: Absolute property in land and tools hinders human activity, and
obstructs progress and the free development of man.

What happened in Rome, and in all the ancient nations? What occurred
in the middle ages? What do we see to-day in England, in consequence of
absolute property in the sources of production?

The suicide of humanity.

2. Real and personal property is in harmony with the social interest.
In consequence of literary property, social and individual interests are
perpetually in conflict.

The statement of this proposition contains a rhetorical figure, common
with those who do not enjoy full and complete liberty of speech. This
figure is the _anti-phrasis_ or _contre-verite_. It consists, according
to Dumarsais and the best humanists, in saying one thing while meaning
another. M. Wolowski's proposition, naturally expressed, would read as
follows: "Just as real and personal property is essentially hostile to
society, so, in consequence of literary property, social and individual
interests are perpetually in conflict."

3. M. de Montalembert, in the Chamber of Peers, vehemently protested
against the assimilation of authors to inventors of machinery; an
assimilation which he claimed to be injurious to the former. M. Wolowski
replies, that the rights of authors, without machinery, would be nil;
that, without paper-mills, type foundries, and printing-offices,
there could be no sale of verse and prose; that many a mechanical
invention,--the compass, for instance, the telescope, or the
steam-engine,--is quite as valuable as a book.

Prior to M. Montalembert, M. Charles Comte had laughed at the inference
in favor of mechanical inventions, which logical minds never fail to
draw from the privileges granted to authors. "He," says M. Comte, "who
first conceived and executed the idea of transforming a piece of wood
into a pair of sabots, or an animal's hide into a pair of sandals, would
thereby have acquired an exclusive right to make shoes for the human
race!" Undoubtedly, under the system of property. For, in fact, this
pair of sabots, over which you make so merry, is the creation of the
shoemaker, the work of his genius, the expression of his thought; to him
it is his poem, quite as much as "Le Roi s'amuse," is M. Victor Hugo's
drama. Justice for all alike. If you refuse a patent to a perfecter of
boots, refuse also a privilege to a maker of rhymes.

4. That which gives importance to a book is a fact external to the
author and his work. Without the intelligence of society, without its
development, and a certain community of ideas, passions, and interests
between it and the authors, the works of the latter would be worth
nothing. The exchangeable value of a book is due even more to the SOCIAL
CONDITION than to the talent displayed in it.

Indeed, it seems as if I were copying my own words. This proposition
of M. Wolowski contains a special expression of a general and absolute
idea, one of the strongest and most conclusive against the right of
property. Why do artists, like mechanics, find the means to live?
Because society has made the fine arts, like the rudest industries,
objects of consumption and exchange, governed consequently by all the
laws of commerce and political economy. Now, the first of these laws is
the equipoise of functions; that is, the equality of associates.

5. M. Wolowski indulges in sarcasm against the petitioners for literary
property. "There are authors," he says, "who crave the privileges of
authors, and who for that purpose point out the power of the melodrama.
They speak of the niece of Corneille, begging at the door of a theatre
which the works of her uncle had enriched.... To satisfy the avarice of
literary people, it would be necessary to create literary majorats, and
make a whole code of exceptions."

I like this virtuous irony. But M. Wolowski has by no means exhausted
the difficulties which the question involves. And first, is it just that
MM. Cousin, Guizot, Villemain, Damiron, and company, paid by the State
for delivering lectures, should be paid a second time through the
booksellers?--that I, who have the right to report their lectures,
should not have the right to print them? Is it just that MM. Noel and
Chapsal, overseers of the University, should use their influence in
selling their selections from literature to the youth whose studies they
are instructed to superintend in consideration of a salary? And, if
that is not just, is it not proper to refuse literary property to every
author holding public offices, and receiving pensions or sinecures?

Again, shall the privilege of the author extend to irreligious and
immoral works, calculated only to corrupt the heart, and obscure the
understanding? To grant this privilege is to sanction immorality by law;
to refuse it is to censure the author. And since it is impossible, in
the present imperfect state of society, to prevent all violations of the
moral law, it will be necessary to open a license-office for books as
well as morals. But, then, three-fourths of our literary people will
be obliged to register; and, recognized thenceforth on their own
declaration as PROSTITUTES, they will necessarily belong to the public.
We pay toll to the prostitute; we do not endow her.

Finally, shall plagiarism be classed with forgery? If you reply "Yes,"
you appropriate in advance all the subjects of which books treat; if
you say "No," you leave the whole matter to the decision of the judge.
Except in the case of a clandestine reprint, how will he distinguish
forgery from quotation, imitation, plagiarism, or even coincidence? A
savant spends two years in calculating a table of logarithms to nine
or ten decimals. He prints it. A fortnight after his book is selling
at half-price; it is impossible to tell whether this result is due to
forgery or competition. What shall the court do? In case of doubt, shall
it award the property to the first occupant? As well decide the question
by lot.

These, however, are trifling considerations; but do we see that, in
granting a perpetual privilege to authors and their heirs, we really
strike a fatal blow at their interests? We think to make booksellers
dependent upon authors,--a delusion. The booksellers will unite against
works, and their proprietors. Against works, by refusing to push their
sale, by replacing them with poor imitations, by reproducing them in
a hundred indirect ways; and no one knows how far the science of
plagiarism, and skilful imitation may be carried. Against proprietors.
Are we ignorant of the fact, that a demand for a dozen copies enables a
bookseller to sell a thousand; that with an edition of five hundred he
can supply a kingdom for thirty years? What will the poor authors do in
the presence of this omnipotent union of booksellers? I will tell them
what they will do. They will enter the employ of those whom they now
treat as pirates; and, to secure an advantage, they will become wage
laborers. A fit reward for ignoble avarice, and insatiable pride. [69]

Contradictions of contradictions! "Genius is the great leveller of the
world," cries M. de Lamartine; "then genius should be a proprietor.
Literary property is the fortune of democracy." This unfortunate
poet thinks himself profound when he is only puffed up. His eloquence
consists solely in coupling ideas which clash with each other: ROUND
GUNIUS {???}, and FORTUNE, LEVELING and PROPERTY. Let us tell him, in
reply, that his mind is a dark luminary; that each of his discourses is
a disordered harmony; and that all his successes, whether in verse or
prose, are due to the use of the extraordinary in the treatment of the
most ordinary subjects.

"Le National," in reply to the report of M. Lamartine, endeavors to
prove that literary property is of quite a different nature from landed
property; as if the nature of the right of property depended on the
object to which it is applied, and not on the mode of its exercise and
the condition of its existence. But the main object of "Le National"
is to please a class of proprietors whom an extension of the right of
property vexes: that is why "Le National" opposes literary property.
Will it tell us, once for all, whether it is for equality or against it?

6. OBJECTION.--Property in occupied land passes to the heirs of the
occupant. "Why," say the authors, "should not the work of genius pass
in like manner to the heirs of the man of genius?" M. Wolowski's reply:
"Because the labor of the first occupant is continued by his heirs,
while the heirs of an author neither change nor add to his works. In
landed property, the continuance of labor explains the continuance of
the right."

Yes, when the labor is continued; but if the labor is not continued,
the right ceases. Thus is the right of possession, founded on personal
labor, recognized by M. Wolowski.

M. Wolowski decides in favor of granting to authors property in their
works for a certain number of years, dating from the day of their first

The succeeding lectures on patents on inventions were no less
instructive, although intermingled with shocking contradictions inserted
with a view to make the useful truths more palatable. The necessity
for brevity compels me to terminate this examination here, not without

Thus, of two eclectic jurists, who attempt a defence of property, one
is entangled in a set of dogmas without principle or method, and is
constantly talking nonsense; and the other designedly abandons the
cause of property, in order to present under the same name the theory
of individual possession. Was I wrong in claiming that confusion reigned
among legists, and ought I to be legally prosecuted for having said
that their science henceforth stood convicted of falsehood, its glory

The ordinary resources of the law no longer sufficing, philosophy,
political economy, and the framers of systems have been consulted. All
the oracles appealed to have been discouraging.

The philosophers are no clearer to-day than at the time of the eclectic
efflorescence; nevertheless, through their mystical apothegms, we
FRATERNITY, which are certainly not reassuring to proprietors. One of
these philosophers, M. Pierre Leroux, has written two large books, in
which he claims to show by all religious, legislative, and philosophical
systems that, since men are responsible to each other, equality of
conditions is the final law of society. It is true that this philosopher
admits a kind of property; but as he leaves us to imagine what property
would become in presence of equality, we may boldly class him with the
opponents of the right of increase.

I must here declare freely--in order that I may not be suspected of
secret connivance, which is foreign to my nature--that M. Leroux has
my full sympathy. Not that I am a believer in his quasi-Pythagorean
philosophy (upon this subject I should have more than one observation to
submit to him, provided a veteran covered with stripes would not despise
the remarks of a conscript); not that I feel bound to this author by any
special consideration for his opposition to property. In my opinion, M.
Leroux could, and even ought to, state his position more explicitly and
logically. But I like, I admire, in M. Leroux, the antagonist of our
philosophical demigods, the demolisher of usurped reputations, the
pitiless critic of every thing that is respected because of its
antiquity. Such is the reason for my high esteem of M. Leroux; such
would be the principle of the only literary association which, in this
century of coteries, I should care to form. We need men who, like
M. Leroux, call in question social principles,--not to diffuse doubt
concerning them, but to make them doubly sure; men who excite the mind
by bold negations, and make the conscience tremble by doctrines of
annihilation. Where is the man who does not shudder on hearing M. Leroux
exclaim, "There is neither a paradise nor a hell; the wicked will not
be punished, nor the good rewarded. Mortals! cease to hope and fear; you
revolve in a circle of appearances; humanity is an immortal tree, whose
branches, withering one after another, feed with their debris the root
which is always young!" Where is the man who, on hearing this desolate
confession of faith, does not demand with terror, "Is it then true that
I am only an aggregate of elements organized by an unknown force, an
idea realized for a few moments, a form which passes and disappears? Is
it true that my mind is only a harmony, and my soul a vortex? What is
the ego? what is God? what is the sanction of society?"

In former times, M. Leroux would have been regarded as a great culprit,
worthy only (like Vanini) of death and universal execration. To-day, M.
Leroux is fulfilling a mission of salvation, for which, whatever he
may say, he will be rewarded. Like those gloomy invalids who are always
talking of their approaching death, and who faint when the doctor's
opinion confirms their pretence, our materialistic society is agitated
and loses countenance while listening to this startling decree of the
philosopher, "Thou shalt die!" Honor then to M. Leroux, who has revealed
to us the cowardice of the Epicureans; to M. Leroux, who renders new
philosophical solutions necessary! Honor to the anti-eclectic, to the
apostle of equality!

In his work on "Humanity," M. Leroux commences by positing the necessity
of property: "You wish to abolish property; but do you not see that
thereby you would annihilate man and even the name of man?... You wish
to abolish property; but could you live without a body? I will not tell
you that it is necessary to support this body;... I will tell you that
this body is itself a species of property."

In order clearly to understand the doctrine of M. Leroux, it must be
borne in mind that there are three necessary and primitive forms of
society,--communism, property, and that which to-day we properly call
association. M. Leroux rejects in the first place communism, and combats
it with all his might. Man is a personal and free being, and therefore
needs a sphere of independence and individual activity. M. Leroux
emphasizes this in adding: "You wish neither family, nor country, nor
property; therefore no more fathers, no more sons, no more brothers.
Here you are, related to no being in time, and therefore without a name;
here you are, alone in the midst of a billion of men who to-day inhabit
the earth. How do you expect me to distinguish you in space in the midst
of this multitude?"

If man is indistinguishable, he is nothing. Now, he can be
distinguished, individualized, only through a devotion of certain things
to his use,--such as his body, his faculties, and the tools which he
uses. "Hence," says M. Leroux, "the necessity of appropriation;" in
short, property.

But property on what condition? Here M. Leroux, after having condemned
communism, denounces in its turn the right of domain. His whole doctrine
can be summed up in this single proposition,--_Man may be made by
property a slave or a despot by turns_.

That posited, if we ask M. Leroux to tell us under what system of
property man will be neither a slave nor a despot, but free, just, and
a citizen, M. Leroux replies in the third volume of his work on

"There are three ways of destroying man's communion with his fellows and
with the universe:... 1. By separating man in time; 2. by separating him
in space; 3. by dividing the land, or, in general terms, the instruments
of production; by attaching men to things, by subordinating man to
property, by making man a proprietor."

This language, it must be confessed, savors a little too strongly of the
metaphysical heights which the author frequents, and of the school of
M. Cousin. Nevertheless, it can be seen, clearly enough it seems to me,
that M. Leroux opposes the exclusive appropriation of the instruments of
production; only he calls this non-appropriation of the instruments of
production a NEW METHOD of establishing property, while I, in accordance
with all precedent, call it a destruction of property. In fact, without
the appropriation of instruments, property is nothing.

"Hitherto, we have confined ourselves to pointing out and combating the
despotic features of property, by considering property alone. We have
failed to see that the despotism of property is a correlative of the
division of the human race;... that property, instead of being organized
in such a way as to facilitate the unlimited communion of man with his
fellows and with the universe, has been, on the contrary, turned against
this communion."

Let us translate this into commercial phraseology. In order to destroy
despotism and the inequality of conditions, men must cease from
competition and must associate their interests. Let employer and
employed (now enemies and rivals) become associates.

Now, ask any manufacturer, merchant, or capitalist, whether he would
consider himself a proprietor if he were to share his revenue and
profits with this mass of wage-laborers whom it is proposed to make his

"Family, property, and country are finite things, which ought to be
organized with a view to the infinite. For man is a finite being,
who aspires to the infinite. To him, absolute finiteness is evil. The
infinite is his aim, the indefinite his right."

Few of my readers would understand these hierophantic words, were I to
leave them unexplained. M. Leroux means, by this magnificent formula,
that humanity is a single immense society, which, in its collective
unity, represents the infinite; that every nation, every tribe, every
commune, and every citizen are, in different degrees, fragments or
finite members of the infinite society, the evil in which results
solely from individualism and privilege,--in other words, from the
subordination of the infinite to the finite; finally, that, to attain
humanity's end and aim, each part has a right to an indefinitely
progressive development.

"All the evils which afflict the human race arise from caste. The family
is a blessing; the family caste (the nobility) is an evil. Country is
a blessing; the country caste (supreme, domineering, conquering) is an
evil; property (individual possession) is a blessing; the property
caste (the domain of property of Pothier, Toullier, Troplong, &c.) is an

Thus, according to M. Leroux, there is property and property,--the one
good, the other bad. Now, as it is proper to call different things by
different names, if we keep the name "property" for the former, we must
call the latter robbery, rapine, brigandage. If, on the contrary, we
reserve the name "property" for the latter, we must designate the former
by the term POSSESSION, or some other equivalent; otherwise we should be
troubled with an unpleasant synonymy.

What a blessing it would be if philosophers, daring for once to say all
that they think, would speak the language of ordinary mortals! Nations
and rulers would derive much greater profit from their lectures, and,
applying the same names to the same ideas, would come, perhaps, to
understand each other. I boldly declare that, in regard to property, I
hold no other opinion than that of M. Leroux; but, if I should adopt the
style of the philosopher, and repeat after him, "Property is a blessing,
but the property caste--the _statu quo_ of property--is an evil," I
should be extolled as a genius by all the bachelors who write for the
reviews. [70] If, on the contrary, I prefer the classic language of Rome
and the civil code, and say accordingly, "Possession is a blessing, but
property is robbery," immediately the aforesaid bachelors raise a hue
and cry against the monster, and the judge threatens me. Oh, the power
of language!

"Le National," on the other hand, has laughed at M. Leroux and his ideas
on property, charging him with TAUTOLOGY and CHILDISHNESS. "Le National"
does not wish to understand. Is it necessary to remind this journal that
it has no right to deride a dogmatic philosopher, because it is without
a doctrine itself? From its foundation, "Le National" has been a nursery
of intriguers and renegades. From time to time it takes care to warn its
readers. Instead of lamenting over all its defections, the democratic
sheet would do better to lay the blame on itself, and confess the
shallowness of its theories. When will this organ of popular interests
and the electoral reform cease to hire sceptics and spread doubt? I will
wager, without going further, that M. Leon Durocher, the critic of M.
Leroux, is an anonymous or pseudonymous editor of some bourgeois, or
even aristocratic, journal.

The economists, questioned in their turn, propose to associate capital
and labor. You know, sir, what that means. If we follow out the
doctrine, we soon find that it ends in an absorption of property, not by
the community, but by a general and indissoluble commandite, so that
the condition of the proprietor would differ from that of the workingman
only in receiving larger wages. This system, with some peculiar
additions and embellishments, is the idea of the phalanstery. But it
is clear that, if inequality of conditions is one of the attributes of
property, it is not the whole of property. That which makes property a
DELIGHTFUL THING, as some philosopher (I know not who) has said, is
the power to dispose at will, not only of one's own goods, but of their
specific nature; to use them at pleasure; to confine and enclose them;
to excommunicate mankind, as M. Pierre Leroux says; in short, to make
such use of them as passion, interest, or even caprice, may suggest.
What is the possession of money, a share in an agricultural or
industrial enterprise, or a government-bond coupon, in comparison with
the infinite charm of being master of one's house and grounds, under
one's vine and fig-tree? "_Beati possidentes_!" says an author quoted by
M. Troplong. Seriously, can that be applied to a man of income, who has
no other possession under the sun than the market, and in his pocket
his money? As well maintain that a trough is a coward. A nice method of
reform! They never cease to condemn the thirst for gold, and the
growing individualism of the century; and yet, most inconceivable
of contradictions, they prepare to turn all kinds of property into
one,--property in coin.

I must say something further of a theory of property lately put forth
with some ado: I mean the theory of M. Considerant.

The Fourierists are not men who examine a doctrine in order to ascertain
whether it conflicts with their system. On the contrary, it is their
custom to exult and sing songs of triumph whenever an adversary passes
without perceiving or noticing them.

These gentlemen want direct refutations, in order that, if they are
beaten, they may have, at least, the selfish consolation of having been
spoken of. Well, let their wish be gratified.

M. Considerant makes the most lofty pretensions to logic. His method
of procedure is always that of MAJOR, MINOR, AND CONCLUSION. He would
willingly write upon his hat, "_Argumentator in barbara_." But M.
Considerant is too intelligent and quick-witted to be a good logician,
as is proved by the fact that he appears to have taken the syllogism for

The syllogism, as everybody knows who is interested in philosophical
curiosities, is the first and perpetual sophism of the human mind,--the
favorite tool of falsehood, the stumbling-block of science, the advocate
of crime. The syllogism has produced all the evils which the fabulist
so eloquently condemned, and has done nothing good or useful: it is
as devoid of truth as of justice. We might apply to it these words of
Scripture: "_Celui qui met en lui sa confiance, perira_." Consequently,
the best philosophers long since condemned it; so that now none but the
enemies of reason wish to make the syllogism its weapon.

M. Considerant, then, has built his theory of property upon a syllogism.
Would he be disposed to stake the system of Fourier upon his arguments,
as I am ready to risk the whole doctrine of equality upon my refutation
of that system? Such a duel would be quite in keeping with the warlike
and chivalric tastes of M. Considerant, and the public would profit by
it; for, one of the two adversaries falling, no more would be said about
him, and there would be one grumbler less in the world.

The theory of M. Considerant has this remarkable feature, that, in
attempting to satisfy at the same time the claims of both laborers and
proprietors, it infringes alike upon the rights of the former and the
privileges of the latter. In the first place, the author lays it down as
a principle: "1. That the use of the land belongs to each member of the
race; that it is a natural and imprescriptible right, similar in all
respects to the right to the air and the sunshine. 2. That the right
to labor is equally fundamental, natural, and imprescriptible." I have
shown that the recognition of this double right would be the death of
property. I denounce M. Considerant to the proprietors!

But M. Considerant maintains that the right to labor creates the right
of property, and this is the way he reasons:--

Major Premise.--"Every man legitimately possesses the thing which his
labor, his skill,--or, in more general terms, his action,--has created."

To which M. Considerant adds, by way of comment: "Indeed, the land not
having been created by man, it follows from the fundamental principle
of property, that the land, being given to the race in common, can in
no wise be the exclusive and legitimate property of such and such
individuals, who were not the creators of this value."

If I am not mistaken, there is no one to whom this proposition, at first
sight and in its entirety, does not seem utterly irrefutable. Reader,
distrust the syllogism.

First, I observe that the words LEGITIMATELY POSSESSES signify to the
author's mind is _LEGITIMATE PROPRIETOR;_ otherwise the argument, being
intended to prove the legitimacy of property, would have no meaning. I
might here raise the question of the difference between property and
possession, and call upon M. Considerant, before going further, to
define the one and the other; but I pass on.

This first proposition is doubly false. 1. In that it asserts the act
of CREATION to be the only basis of property. 2. In that it regards this
act as sufficient in all cases to authorize the right of property.

And, in the first place, if man may be proprietor of the game which he
does not create, but which he KILLS; of the fruits which he does not
create, but which he GATHERS; of the vegetables which he does not
create, but which he PLANTS; of the animals which he does not create,
but which he REARS,--it is conceivable that men may in like manner
become proprietors of the land which they do not create, but which they
clear and fertilize. The act of creation, then, is not NECESSARY to the
acquisition of the right of property. I say further, that this act alone
is not always sufficient, and I prove it by the second premise of M.

Minor Premise.--"Suppose that on an isolated island, on the soil of a
nation, or over the whole face of the earth (the extent of the scene of
action does not affect our judgment of the facts), a generation of
human beings devotes itself for the first time to industry, agriculture,
manufactures, &c. This generation, by its labor, intelligence, and
activity, creates products, develops values which did not exist on the
uncultivated land. Is it not perfectly clear that the property of this
industrious generation will stand on a basis of right, if the value
or wealth produced by the activity of all be distributed among the
producers, according to each one's assistance in the creation of the
general wealth? That is unquestionable."

That is quite questionable. For this value or wealth, PRODUCED BY THE
ACTIVITY OF ALL, is by the very fact of its creation COLLECTIVE wealth,
the use of which, like that of the land, may be divided, but which as
property remains UNDIVIDED. And why this undivided ownership? Because
the society which creates is itself indivisible,--a permanent unit,
incapable of reduction to fractions. And it is this unity of society
which makes the land common property, and which, as M. Considerant
says, renders its use imprescriptible in the case of every individual.
Suppose, indeed, that at a given time the soil should be equally
divided; the very next moment this division, if it allowed the right
of property, would become illegitimate. Should there be the slightest
irregularity in the method of transfer, men, members of society,
imprescriptible possessors of the land, might be deprived at one blow of
property, possession, and the means of production. In short, property
in capital is indivisible, and consequently inalienable, not necessarily
when the capital is UNCREATED, but when it is COMMON or COLLECTIVE.

I confirm this theory against M. Considerant, by the third term of his

Conclusion.--"The results of the labor performed by this generation are
divisible into two classes, between which it is important clearly to
distinguish. The first class includes the products of the soil which
belong to this first generation in its usufructuary capacity, augmented,
improved and refined by its labor and industry. These products consist
either of objects of consumption or instruments of labor. It is clear
that these products are the legitimate property of those who have
created them by their activity.... Second class.--Not only has this
generation created the products just mentioned (objects of consumption
and instruments of labor), but it has also added to the original value
of the soil by cultivation, by the erection of buildings, by all
the labor producing permanent results, which it has performed. This
additional value evidently constitutes a product--a value created by
the activity of the first generation; and if, BY ANY MEANS WHATEVER,
the ownership of this value be distributed among the members of
society equitably,--that is, in proportion to the labor which each
has performed,--each will legitimately possess the portion which he
receives. He may then dispose of this legitimate and private property
as he sees fit,--exchange it, give it away, or transfer it; and no other
individual, or collection of other individuals,--that is, society,--can
lay any claim to these values."

Thus, by the distribution of collective capital, to the use of which
each associate, either in his own right or in right of his authors,
has an imprescriptible and undivided title, there will be in the
phalanstery, as in the France of 1841, the poor and the rich; some men
who, to live in luxury, have only, as Figaro says, to take the
trouble to be born, and others for whom the fortune of life is but an
opportunity for long-continued poverty; idlers with large incomes, and
workers whose fortune is always in the future; some privileged by birth
and caste, and others pariahs whose sole civil and political rights are
THE RIGHT TO LABOR, AND THE RIGHT TO LAND. For we must not be deceived;
in the phalanstery every thing will be as it is to-day, an object of
property,--machines, inventions, thought, books, the products of art,
of agriculture, and of industry; animals, houses, fences, vineyards,
pastures, forests, fields,--every thing, in short, except the
UNCULTIVATED LAND. Now, would you like to know what uncultivated land is
worth, according to the advocates of property? "A square league hardly
suffices for the support of a savage," says M. Charles Comte. Estimating
the wretched subsistence of this savage at three hundred francs
per year, we find that the square league necessary to his life is,
relatively to him, faithfully represented by a rent of fifteen francs.
In France there are twenty-eight thousand square leagues, the total rent
of which, by this estimate, would be four hundred and twenty thousand
francs, which, when divided among nearly thirty-four millions of people,
would give each an INCOME OF A CENTIME AND A QUARTER. That is the new
right which the great genius of Fourier has invented IN BEHALF OF THE
FRENCH PEOPLE, and with which his first disciple hopes to reform the
world. I denounce M. Considerant to the proletariat!

If the theory of M. Considerant would at least really guarantee this
property which he cherishes so jealously, I might pardon him the flaws
in his syllogism, certainly the best one he ever made in his life. But,
no: that which M. Considerant takes for property is only a privilege
of extra pay. In Fourier's system, neither the created capital nor
the increased value of the soil are divided and appropriated in any
effective manner: the instruments of labor, whether created or not,
remain in the hands of the phalanx; the pretended proprietor can touch
only the income. He is permitted neither to realize his share of the
stock, nor to possess it exclusively, nor to administer it, whatever it
be. The cashier throws him his dividend; and then, proprietor, eat the
whole if you can!

The system of Fourier would not suit the proprietors, since it takes
away the most delightful feature of property,--the free disposition of
one's goods. It would please the communists no better, since it involves
unequal conditions. It is repugnant to the friends of free association
and equality, in consequence of its tendency to wipe out human character
and individuality by suppressing possession, family, and country,--the
threefold expression of the human personality.

Of all our active publicists, none seem to me more fertile in resources,
richer in imagination, more luxuriant and varied in style, than M.
Considerant. Nevertheless, I doubt if he will undertake to reestablish
his theory of property. If he has this courage, this is what I would say
to him: "Before writing your reply, consider well your plan of action;
do not scour the country; have recourse to none of your ordinary
expedients; no complaints of civilization; no sarcasms upon equality;
no glorification of the phalanstery. Leave Fourier and the departed in
peace, and endeavor only to re-adjust the pieces of your syllogism. To
this end, you ought, first, to analyze closely each proposition of your
adversary; second, to show the error, either by a direct refutation, or
by proving the converse; third, to oppose argument to argument, so that,
objection and reply meeting face to face, the stronger may break down
the weaker, and shiver it to atoms. By that method only can you boast of
having conquered, and compel me to regard you as an honest reasoner, and
a good artillery-man."

I should have no excuse for tarrying longer with these phalansterian
crotchets, if the obligation which I have imposed upon myself of making
a clean sweep, and the necessity of vindicating my dignity as a writer,
did not prevent me from passing in silence the reproach uttered against
me by a correspondent of "La Phalange." "We have seen but lately," says
this journalist, [71] "that M. Proudhon, enthusiast as he has been for
the science created by Fourier, is, or will be, an enthusiast for any
thing else whatsoever."

If ever sectarians had the right to reproach another for changes in
his beliefs, this right certainly does not belong to the disciples of
Fourier, who are always so eager to administer the phalansterian baptism
to the deserters of all parties. But why regard it as a crime, if they
are sincere? Of what consequence is the constancy or inconstancy of
an individual to the truth which is always the same? It is better
to enlighten men's minds than to teach them to be obstinate in their
prejudices. Do we not know that man is frail and fickle, that his heart
is full of delusions, and that his lips are a distillery of falsehood?
_Omnis homo meudax_. Whether we will or no, we all serve for a time as
instruments of this truth, whose kingdom comes every day.

God alone is immutable, because he is eternal.

That is the reply which, as a general rule, an honest man is entitled
always to make, and which I ought perhaps to be content to offer as an
excuse; for I am no better than my fathers. But, in a century of doubt
and apostasy like ours, when it is of importance to set the small and
the weak an example of strength and honesty of utterance, I must not
suffer my character as a public assailant of property to be dishonored.
I must render an account of my old opinions.

Examining myself, therefore, upon this charge of Fourierism, and
endeavoring to refresh my memory, I find that, having been connected
with the Fourierists in my studies and my friendships, it is possible
that, without knowing it, I have been one of Fourier's partisans. Jerome
Lalande placed Napoleon and Jesus Christ in his catalogue of atheists.
The Fourierists resemble this astronomer: if a man happens to find fault
with the existing civilization, and to admit the truth of a few of their
criticisms, they straightway enlist him, willy-nilly, in their school.
Nevertheless, I do not deny that I have been a Fourierist; for,
since they say it, of course it may be so. But, sir, that of which my
ex-associates are ignorant, and which doubtless will astonish you, is
that I have been many other things,--in religion, by turns a Protestant,
a Papist, an Arian and Semi-Arian, a Manichean, a Gnostic, an
Adamite even and a Pre-Adamite, a Sceptic, a Pelagian, a Socinian, an
Anti-Trinitarian, and a Neo-Christian; [72] in philosophy and politics,
an Idealist, a Pantheist, a Platonist, a Cartesian, an Eclectic
(that is, a sort of _juste-milieu_), a Monarchist, an Aristocrat,
a Constitutionalist, a follower of Babeuf, and a Communist. I have
wandered through a whole encyclopaedia of systems. Do you think
it surprising, sir, that, among them all, I was for a short time a

For my part, I am not at all surprised, although at present I have
no recollection of it. One thing is sure,--that my superstition and
credulity reached their height at the very period of my life which my
critics reproachfully assign as the date of my Fourieristic beliefs.
Now I hold quite other views. My mind no longer admits that which is
demonstrated by syllogisms, analogies, or metaphors, which are the
methods of the phalanstery, but demands a process of generalization and
induction which excludes error. Of my past OPINIONSS I retain absolutely
none. I have acquired some KNOWLEDGE. I no longer BELIEVE. I either
KNOW, or am IGNORANT. In a word, in seeking for the reason of things, I
saw that I was a RATIONALIST.

Undoubtedly, it would have been simpler to begin where I have ended.
But then, if such is the law of the human mind; if all society, for six
thousand years, has done nothing but fall into error; if all mankind are
still buried in the darkness of faith, deceived by their prejudices and
passions, guided only by the instinct of their leaders; if my accusers,
themselves, are not free from sectarianism (for they call themselves
FOURIERISTS),--am I alone inexcusable for having, in my inner self, at
the secret tribunal of my conscience, begun anew the journey of our poor

I would by no means, then, deny my errors; but, sir, that which
distinguishes me from those who rush into print is the fact that, though
my thoughts have varied much, my writings do not vary. To-day, even, and
on a multitude of questions, I am beset by a thousand extravagant and
contradictory opinions; but my opinions I do not print, for the public
has nothing to do with them. Before addressing my fellow-men, I wait
until light breaks in upon the chaos of my ideas, in order that what I
may say may be, not the whole truth (no man can know that), but nothing
but the truth.

This singular disposition of my mind to first identify itself with a
system in order to better understand it, and then to reflect upon it in
order to test its legitimacy, is the very thing which disgusted me with
Fourier, and ruined in my esteem the societary school. To be a faithful
Fourierist, in fact, one must abandon his reason and accept every
thing from a master,--doctrine, interpretation, and application. M.
Considerant, whose excessive intolerance anathematizes all who do not
abide by his sovereign decisions, has no other conception of Fourierism.
Has he not been appointed Fourier's vicar on earth and pope of a Church
which, unfortunately for its apostles, will never be of this world?
Passive belief is the theological virtue of all sectarians, especially
of the Fourierists.

Now, this is what happened to me. While trying to demonstrate by
argument the religion of which I had become a follower in studying
Fourier, I suddenly perceived that by reasoning I was becoming
incredulous; that on each article of the creed my reason and my faith
were at variance, and that my six weeks' labor was wholly lost. I saw
that the Fourierists--in spite of their inexhaustible gabble, and their
extravagant pretension to decide in all things--were neither savants,
nor logicians, nor even believers; that they were SCIENTIFIC QUACKS, who
were led more by their self-love than their conscience to labor for the
triumph of their sect, and to whom all means were good that would reach
that end. I then understood why to the Epicureans they promised women,
wine, music, and a sea of luxury; to the rigorists, maintenance of
marriage, purity of morals, and temperance; to laborers, high wages;
to proprietors, large incomes; to philosophers, solutions the secret
of which Fourier alone possessed; to priests, a costly religion and
magnificent festivals; to savants, knowledge of an unimaginable nature;
to each, indeed, that which he most desired. In the beginning,
this seemed to me droll; in the end, I regarded it as the height of
impudence. No, sir; no one yet knows of the foolishness and infamy which
the phalansterian system contains. That is a subject which I mean to
treat as soon as I have balanced my accounts with property. [73]

It is rumored that the Fourierists think of leaving France and going to
the new world to found a phalanstery. When a house threatens to fall,
the rats scamper away; that is because they are rats. Men do better;
they rebuild it. Not long since, the St. Simonians, despairing of their
country which paid no heed to them, proudly shook the dust from their
feet, and started for the Orient to fight the battle of free woman.
Pride, wilfulness, mad selfishness! True charity, like true faith,
does not worry, never despairs; it seeks neither its own glory, nor
its interest, nor empire; it does every thing for all, speaks with
indulgence to the reason and the will, and desires to conquer only by
persuasion and sacrifice. Remain in France, Fourierists, if the progress
of humanity is the only thing which you have at heart! There is more to
do here than in the new world. Otherwise, go! you are nothing but liars
and hypocrites!

The foregoing statement by no means embraces all the political elements,
all the opinions and tendencies, which threaten the future of property;
but it ought to satisfy any one who knows how to classify facts, and to
deduce their law or the idea which governs them. Existing society seems
abandoned to the demon of falsehood and discord; and it is this sad
sight which grieves so deeply many distinguished minds who lived too
long in a former age to be able to understand ours. Now, while the
short-sighted spectator begins to despair of humanity, and, distracted
and cursing that of which he is ignorant, plunges into scepticism and
fatalism, the true observer, certain of the spirit which governs
the world, seeks to comprehend and fathom Providence. The memoir on
"Property," published last year by the pensioner of the Academy of
Besancon, is simply a study of this nature.

The time has come for me to relate the history of this unlucky treatise,
which has already caused me so much chagrin, and made me so unpopular;
but which was on my part so involuntary and unpremeditated, that I would
dare to affirm that there is not an economist, not a philosopher, not a
jurist, who is not a hundred times guiltier than I. There is something
so singular in the way in which I was led to attack property, that if,
on hearing my sad story, you persist, sir, in your blame, I hope at
least you will be forced to pity me.

I never have pretended to be a great politician; far from that, I always
have felt for controversies of a political nature the greatest aversion;
and if, in my "Essay on Property," I have sometimes ridiculed our
politicians, believe, sir, that I was governed much less by my pride
in the little that I know, than by my vivid consciousness of their
ignorance and excessive vanity. Relying more on Providence than on
men; not suspecting at first that politics, like every other science,
contained an absolute truth; agreeing equally well with Bossuet and
Jean Jacques,--I accepted with resignation my share of human misery,
and contented myself with praying to God for good deputies, upright
ministers, and an honest king. By taste as well as by discretion and
lack of confidence in my powers, I was slowly pursuing some commonplace
studies in philology, mingled with a little metaphysics, when I suddenly
fell upon the greatest problem that ever has occupied philosophical
minds: I mean the criterion of certainty.

Those of my readers who are unacquainted with the philosophical
terminology will be glad to be told in a few words what this criterion
is, which plays so great a part in my work.

The criterion of certainty, according to the philosophers, will be,
when discovered, an infallible method of establishing the truth of an
opinion, a judgment, a theory, or a system, in nearly the same way as
gold is recognized by the touchstone, as iron approaches the magnet,
or, better still, as we verify a mathematical operation by applying
the PROOF. TIME has hitherto served as a sort of criterion for society.
Thus, the primitive men--having observed that they were not all equal
in strength, beauty, and labor--judged, and rightly, that certain ones
among them were called by nature to the performance of simple and common
functions; but they concluded, and this is where their error lay, that
these same individuals of duller intellect, more restricted genius, and
weaker personality, were predestined to SERVE the others; that is, to
labor while the latter rested, and to have no other will than theirs:
and from this idea of a natural subordination among men sprang
domesticity, which, voluntarily accepted at first, was imperceptibly
converted into horrible slavery. Time, making this error more palpable,
has brought about justice. Nations have learned at their own cost that
the subjection of man to man is a false idea, an erroneous theory,
pernicious alike to master and to slave. And yet such a social system
has stood several thousand years, and has been defended by celebrated
philosophers; even to-day, under somewhat mitigated forms, sophists of
every description uphold and extol it. But experience is bringing it to
an end.

Time, then, is the criterion of societies; thus looked at, history is
the demonstration of the errors of humanity by the argument _reductio ad

Now, the criterion sought for by metaphysicians would have the advantage
of discriminating at once between the true and the false in every
opinion; so that in politics, religion, and morals, for example, the
true and the useful being immediately recognized, we should no longer
need to await the sorrowful experience of time. Evidently such a secret
would be death to the sophists,--that cursed brood, who, under different
names, excite the curiosity of nations, and, owing to the difficulty
of separating the truth from the error in their artistically woven
theories, lead them into fatal ventures, disturb their peace, and fill
them with such extraordinary prejudice.

Up to this day, the criterion of certainty remains a mystery; this is
owing to the multitude of criteria that have been successively proposed.
Some have taken for an absolute and definite criterion the testimony
of the senses; others intuition; these evidence; those argument. M.
Lamennais affirms that there is no other criterion than universal
reason. Before him, M. de Bonald thought he had discovered it in
language. Quite recently, M. Buchez has proposed morality; and, to
harmonize them all, the eclectics have said that it was absurd to seek
for an absolute criterion, since there were as many criteria as special
orders of knowledge.

Of all these hypotheses it may be observed, That the testimony of the
senses is not a criterion, because the senses, relating us only to
phenomena, furnish us with no ideas; that intuition needs external
confirmation or objective certainty; that evidence requires proof, and
argument verification; that universal reason has been wrong many a time;
that language serves equally well to express the true or the false; that
morality, like all the rest, needs demonstration and rule; and finally,
that the eclectic idea is the least reasonable of all, since it is of no
use to say that there are several criteria if we cannot point out one.
I very much fear that it will be with the criterion as with the
philosopher's stone; that it will finally be abandoned, not only as
insolvable, but as chimerical. Consequently, I entertain no hopes of
having found it; nevertheless, I am not sure that some one more skilful
will not discover it.

Be it as it may with regard to a criterion or criteria, there are
methods of demonstration which, when applied to certain subjects,
may lead to the discovery of unknown truths, bring to light relations
hitherto unsuspected, and lift a paradox to the highest degree of
certainty. In such a case, it is not by its novelty, nor even by its
content, that a system should be judged, but by its method. The critic,
then, should follow the example of the Supreme Court, which, in the
cases which come before it, never examines the facts, but only the form
of procedure. Now, what is the form of procedure? A method.

I then looked to see what philosophy, in the absence of a criterion, had
accomplished by the aid of special methods, and I must say that I
could not discover--in spite of the loudly-proclaimed pretensions
of some--that it had produced any thing of real value; and, at last,
wearied with the philosophical twaddle, I resolved to make a new search
for the criterion. I confess it, to my shame, this folly lasted for two
years, and I am not yet entirely rid of it. It was like seeking a needle
in a haystack. I might have learned Chinese or Arabic in the time that I
have lost in considering and reconsidering syllogisms, in rising to
the summit of an induction as to the top of a ladder, in inserting
a proposition between the horns of a dilemma, in decomposing,
distinguishing, separating, denying, affirming, admitting, as if I could
pass abstractions through a sieve.

I selected justice as the subject-matter of my experiments.
Finally, after a thousand decompositions, recompositions, and double
compositions, I found at the bottom of my analytical crucible, not the
criterion of certainty, but a metaphysico-economico-political treatise,
whose conclusions were such that I did not care to present them in a
more artistic or, if you will, more intelligible form. The effect which
this work produced upon all classes of minds gave me an idea of the
spirit of our age, and did not cause me to regret the prudent and
scientific obscurity of my style. How happens it that to-day I am
obliged to defend my intentions, when my conduct bears the evident
impress of such lofty morality?

You have read my work, sir, and you know the gist of my tedious and
scholastic lucubrations. Considering the revolutions of humanity,
the vicissitudes of empires, the transformations of property, and the
innumerable forms of justice and of right, I asked, "Are the evils which
afflict us inherent in our condition as men, or do they arise only from
an error? This inequality of fortunes which all admit to be the cause of
society's embarrassments, is it, as some assert, the effect of Nature;
or, in the division of the products of labor and the soil, may there not
have been some error in calculation? Does each laborer receive all that
is due him, and only that which is due him? In short, in the present
conditions of labor, wages, and exchange, is no one wronged?--are the
accounts well kept?--is the social balance accurate?"

Then I commenced a most laborious investigation. It was necessary to
arrange informal notes, to discuss contradictory titles, to reply to
captious allegations, to refute absurd pretensions, and to describe
fictitious debts, dishonest transactions, and fraudulent accounts. In
order to triumph over quibblers, I had to deny the authority of custom,
to examine the arguments of legislators, and to oppose science with
science itself. Finally, all these operations completed, I had to give a
judicial decision.

I therefore declared, my hand upon my heart, before God and men, that
the causes of social inequality are three in number: 1. GRATUITOUS

And since this threefold method of extortion is the very essence of the
domain of property, I denied the legitimacy of property, and proclaimed
its identity with robbery.

That is my only offence. I have reasoned upon property; I have searched
for the criterion of justice; I have demonstrated, not the possibility,
but the necessity, of equality of fortunes; I have allowed myself no
attack upon persons, no assault upon the government, of which I, more
than any one else, am a provisional adherent. If I have sometimes
used the word PROPRIETOR, I have used it as the abstract name of a
metaphysical being, whose reality breathes in every individual,--not
alone in a privileged few.

Nevertheless, I acknowledge--for I wish my confession to be
sincere--that the general tone of my book has been bitterly censured.
They complain of an atmosphere of passion and invective unworthy of
an honest man, and quite out of place in the treatment of so grave a

If this reproach is well founded (which it is impossible for me either
to deny or admit, because in my own cause I cannot be judge),--if, I
say, I deserve this charge, I can only humble myself and acknowledge
myself guilty of an involuntary wrong; the only excuse that I could
offer being of such a nature that it ought not to be communicated to the
public. All that I can say is, that I understand better than any one how
the anger which injustice causes may render an author harsh and violent
in his criticisms. When, after twenty years of labor, a man still finds
himself on the brink of starvation, and then suddenly discovers in
an equivocation, an error in calculation, the cause of the evil which
torments him in common with so many millions of his fellows, he can
scarcely restrain a cry of sorrow and dismay.

But, sir, though pride be offended by my rudeness, it is not to pride
that I apologize, but to the proletaires, to the simple-minded, whom I
perhaps have scandalized. My angry dialectics may have produced a bad
effect on some peaceable minds. Some poor workingman--more affected
by my sarcasm than by the strength of my arguments--may, perhaps, have
concluded that property is the result of a perpetual Machiavelianism on
the part of the governors against the governed,--a deplorable error of
which my book itself is the best refutation. I devoted two chapters to
showing how property springs from human personality and the comparison
of individuals. Then I explained its perpetual limitation; and,
following out the same idea, I predicted its approaching disappearance.
How, then, could the editors of the "Revue Democratique," after
having borrowed from me nearly the whole substance of their economical
articles, dare to say: "The holders of the soil, and other productive
capital, are more or less wilful accomplices in a vast robbery, they
being the exclusive receivers and sharers of the stolen goods"?

The proprietors WILFULLY guilty of the crime of robbery! Never did
that homicidal phrase escape my pen; never did my heart conceive the
frightful thought. Thank Heaven! I know not how to calumniate my kind;
and I have too strong a desire to seek for the reason of things to be
willing to believe in criminal conspiracies. The millionnaire is no more
tainted by property than the journeyman who works for thirty sous per
day. On both sides the error is equal, as well as the intention. The
effect is also the same, though positive in the former, and negative
in the latter. I accused property; I did not denounce the proprietors,
which would have been absurd: and I am sorry that there are among us
wills so perverse and minds so shattered that they care for only so much
of the truth as will aid them in their evil designs. Such is the
only regret which I feel on account of my indignation, which, though
expressed perhaps too bitterly, was at least honest, and legitimate in
its source.

However, what did I do in this essay which I voluntarily submitted
to the Academy of Moral Sciences? Seeking a fixed axiom amid social
uncertainties, I traced back to one fundamental question all the
secondary questions over which, at present, so keen and diversified
a conflict is raging This question was the right of property. Then,
comparing all existing theories with each other, and extracting from
them that which is common to them all, I endeavored to discover that
element in the idea of property which is necessary, immutable, and
absolute; and asserted, after authentic verification, that this idea
idea was the result of our revolutionary movements,--the culminating
point towards which all opinions, gradually divesting themselves of
their contradictory elements, converge. And I tried to demonstrate
this by the spirit of the laws, by political economy, by psychology and

A Father of the Church, finishing a learned exposition of the Catholic
doctrine, cried, in the enthusiasm of his faith, _"Domine, si error est,
a te decepti sumus_ (if my religion is false, God is to blame)." I, as
well as this theologian, can say, "If equality is a fable, God, through
whom we act and think and are; God, who governs society by eternal laws,
who rewards just nations, and punishes proprietors,--God alone is the
author of evil; God has lied. The fault lies not with me."

But, if I am mistaken in my inferences, I should be shown my error, and
led out of it. It is surely worth the trouble, and I think I deserve
this honor. There is no ground for proscription.

For, in the words of that member of the Convention who did not like
the guillotine, _to kill is not to reply_. Until then, I persist in
regarding my work as useful, social, full of instruction for public
officials,--worthy, in short, of reward and encouragement.

For there is one truth of which I am profoundly convinced,--nations
live by absolute ideas, not by approximate and partial conceptions;
therefore, men are needed who define principles, or at least test them
in the fire of controversy. Such is the law,--the idea first, the pure
idea, the understanding of the laws of God, the theory: practice follows
with slow steps, cautious, attentive to the succession of events; sure
to seize, towards this eternal meridian, the indications of supreme

The co-operation of theory and practice produces in humanity the
realization of order,--the absolute truth. [74]

All of us, as long as we live, are called, each in proportion to his
strength, to this sublime work. The only duty which it imposes upon
us is to refrain from appropriating the truth to ourselves, either by
concealing it, or by accommodating it to the temper of the century,
or by using it for our own interests. This principle of conscience, so
grand and so simple, has always been present in my thought.

Consider, in fact, sir, that which I might have done, but did not wish
to do. I reason on the most honorable hypothesis. What hindered me from
concealing, for some years to come, the abstract theory of the equality
of fortunes, and, at the same time, from criticising constitutions and
codes; from showing the absolute and the contingent, the immutable and
the ephemeral, the eternal and the transitory, in laws present and past;
from constructing a new system of legislation, and establishing on
a solid foundation this social edifice, ever destroyed and as often
rebuilt? Might I not, taking up the definitions of casuists, have
clearly shown the cause of their contradictions and uncertainties, and
supplied, at the same time, the inadequacies of their conclusions? Might
I not have confirmed this labor by a vast historical exposition, in
which the principle of exclusion, and of the accumulation of property,
the appropriation of collective wealth, and the radical vice in
exchanges, would have figured as the constant causes of tyranny, war,
and revolution?

"It should have been done," you say. Do not doubt, sir, that such a task
would have required more patience than genius. With the principles of
social economy which I have analyzed, I would have had only to break
the ground, and follow the furrow. The critic of laws finds nothing more
difficult than to determine justice: the labor alone would have been
longer. Oh, if I had pursued this glittering prospect, and, like the
man of the burning bush, with inspired countenance and deep and solemn
voice, had presented myself some day with new tables, there would have
been found fools to admire, boobies to applaud, and cowards to offer me
the dictatorship; for, in the way of popular infatuations, nothing is

But, sir, after this monument of insolence and pride, what should I have
deserved in your opinion, at the tribunal of God, and in the judgment of
free men? Death, sir, and eternal reprobation!

I therefore spoke the truth as soon as I saw it, waiting only long
enough to give it proper expression. I pointed out error in order
that each might reform himself, and render his labors more useful. I
announced the existence of a new political element, in order that
my associates in reform, developing it in concert, might arrive more
promptly at that unity of principles which alone can assure to society
a better day. I expected to receive, if not for my book, at least for
my commendable conduct, a small republican ovation. And, behold!
journalists denounce me, academicians curse me, political adventurers
(great God!) think to make themselves tolerable by protesting that they
are not like me! I give the formula by which the whole social edifice
may be scientifically reconstructed, and the strongest minds reproach
me for being able only to destroy. The rest despise me, because I am
unknown. When the "Essay on Property" fell into the reformatory camp,
some asked: "Who has spoken? Is it Arago? Is it Lamennais? Michel de
Bourges or Garnier-Pages?"

And when they heard the name of a new man: "We do not know him,"
they would reply. Thus, the monopoly of thought, property in reason,
oppresses the proletariat as well as the _bourgeoisie_. The worship of
the infamous prevails even on the steps of the tabernacle.

But what am I saying? May evil befall me, if I blame the poor creatures!
Oh! let us not despise those generous souls, who in the excitement of
their patriotism are always prompt to identify the voice of their
chiefs with the truth. Let us encourage rather their simple credulity,
enlighten complacently and tenderly their precious sincerity, and
reserve our shafts for those vain-glorious spirits who are always
admiring their genius, and, in different tongues, caressing the people
in order to govern them.

These considerations alone oblige me to reply to the strange and
superficial conclusions of the "Journal du Peuple" (issue of Oct. 11,
1840), on the question of property. I leave, therefore, the journalist
to address myself only to his readers. I hope that the self-love of the
writer will not be offended, if, in the presence of the masses, I ignore
an individual.

You say, proletaires of the "Peuple," "For the very reason that men and
things exist, there always will be men who will possess things; nothing,
therefore, can destroy property."

In speaking thus, you unconsciously argue exactly after the manner of
M. Cousin, who always reasons from _possession_ to PROPERTY. This
coincidence, however, does not surprise me. M. Cousin is a philosopher
of much mind, and you, proletaires, have still more. Certainly it is
honorable, even for a philosopher, to be your companion in error.

Originally, the word PROPERTY was synonymous with PROPER or INDIVIDUAL
POSSESSION. It designated each individual's special right to the use of
a thing. But when this right of use, inert (if I may say so) as it
was with regard to the other usufructuaries, became active and
paramount,--that is, when the usufructuary converted his right to
personally use the thing into the right to use it by his neighbor's
labor,--then property changed its nature, and its idea became complex.
The legists knew this very well, but instead of opposing, as they ought,
this accumulation of profits, they accepted and sanctioned the whole.
And as the right of farm-rent necessarily implies the right of use,--in
other words, as the right to cultivate land by the labor of a slave
supposes one's power to cultivate it himself, according to the principle
that the greater includes the less,--the name property was reserved
to designate this double right, and that of possession was adopted to
designate the right of use.

Whence property came to be called the perfect right, the right of
domain, the eminent right, the heroic or _quiritaire_ right,--in Latin,
_jus perfectum, jus optimum, jus quiritarium, jus dominii_,--while
possession became assimilated to farm-rent.

Now, that individual possession exists of right, or, better,
from natural necessity, all philosophers admit, and can easily e
demonstrated; but when, in imitation of M. Cousin, we assume it to be
the basis of the domain of property, we fall into the sophism called
_sophisma amphiboliae vel ambiguitatis_, which consists in changing the
meaning by a verbal equivocation.

People often think themselves very profound, because, by the aid of
expressions of extreme generality, they appear to rise to the height
of absolute ideas, and thus deceive inexperienced minds; and, what
is worse, this is commonly called EXAMINING ABSTRACTIONS. But the
abstraction formed by the comparison of identical facts is one thing,
while that which is deduced from different acceptations of the same term
is quite another. The first gives the universal idea, the axiom, the
law; the second indicates the order of generation of ideas. All
our errors arise from the constant confusion of these two kinds of
abstractions. In this particular, languages and philosophies are alike
deficient. The less common an idiom is, and the more obscure its
terms, the more prolific is it as a source of error: a philosopher is
sophistical in proportion to his ignorance of any method of neutralizing
this imperfection in language. If the art of correcting the errors of
speech by scientific methods is ever discovered, then philosophy will
have found its criterion of certainty.

Now, then, the difference between property and possession being well
established, and it being settled that the former, for the reasons
which I have just given, must necessarily disappear, is it best, for the
slight advantage of restoring an etymology, to retain the word PROPERTY?
My opinion is that it would be very unwise to do so, and I will tell
why. I quote from the "Journal du Peuple:"--

"To the legislative power belongs the right to regulate property, to
prescribe the conditions of acquiring, possessing, and transmitting
it... It cannot be denied that inheritance, assessment, commerce,
industry, labor, and wages require the most important modifications."

You wish, proletaires, to REGULATE PROPERTY; that is, you wish to
destroy it and reduce it to the right of possession. For to regulate
property without the consent of the proprietors is to deny the right
OF DOMAIN; to associate employees with proprietors is to destroy
the EMINENT right; to suppress or even reduce farm-rent, house-rent,
revenue, and increase generally, is to annihilate PERFECT property. Why,
then, while laboring with such laudable enthusiasm for the establishment
of equality, should you retain an expression whose equivocal meaning
will always be an obstacle in the way of your success?

There you have the first reason--a wholly philosophical one--for
rejecting not only the thing, but the name, property. Here now is the
political, the highest reason.

Every social revolution--M. Cousin will tell you--is effected only by
the realization of an idea, either political, moral, or religious. When
Alexander conquered Asia, his idea was to avenge Greek liberty against
the insults of Oriental despotism; when Marius and Caesar overthrew
the Roman patricians, their idea was to give bread to the people;
when Christianity revolutionized the world, its idea was to emancipate
mankind, and to substitute the worship of one God for the deities of
Epicurus and Homer; when France rose in '89, her idea was liberty and
equality before the law. There has been no true revolution, says M.
Cousin, with out its idea; so that where an idea does not exist, or even
fails of a formal expression, revolution is impossible. There are mobs,
conspirators, rioters, regicides. There are no revolutionists. Society,
devoid of ideas, twists and tosses about, and dies in the midst of its
fruitless labor.

Nevertheless, you all feel that a revolution is to come, and that you
alone can accomplish it. What, then, is the idea which governs you,
proletaires of the nineteenth century?--for really I cannot call you
revolutionists. What do you think?--what do you believe?--what do you
want? Be guarded in your reply. I have read faithfully your favorite
journals, your most esteemed authors. I find everywhere only vain and
puerile _entites_; nowhere do I discover an idea.

I will explain the meaning of this word _entite_,--new, without doubt,
to most of you.

By _entite_ is generally understood a substance which the imagination
grasps, but which is incognizable by the senses and the reason. Thus the
SOPORIFIC POWER of opium, of which Sganarelle speaks, and the PECCANT
HUMORS of ancient medicine, are _entites_. The _entite_ is the
support of those who do not wish to confess their ignorance. It
is incomprehensible; or, as St. Paul says, the _argumentum non
apparentium_. In philosophy, the _entite_ is often only a repetition of
words which add nothing to the thought.

For example, when M. Pierre Leroux--who says so many excellent things,
but who is too fond, in my opinion, of his Platonic formulas--assures us
that the evils of humanity are due to our IGNORANCE OF LIFE, M. Pierre
Leroux utters an _entite;_ for it is evident that if we are evil it is
because we do not know how to live; but the knowledge of this fact is of
no value to us.

When M. Edgar Quinet declares that France suffers and declines because
there is an ANTAGONISM of men and of interests, he declares an _entite;_
for the problem is to discover the cause of this antagonism.

When M. Lamennais, in thunder tones, preaches self-sacrifice and love,
he proclaims two _entites_; for we need to know on what conditions
self-sacrifice and love can spring up and exist.

So also, proletaires, when you talk of LIBERTY, PROGRESS, and THE
SOVEREIGNTY OF THE PEOPLE, you make of these naturally intelligible
things so many _entites_ in space: for, on the one hand, we need a new
definition of liberty, since that of '89 no longer suffices; and, on the
other, we must know in what direction society should proceed in order to
be in progress. As for the sovereignty of the people, that is a
grosser _entite_ than the sovereignty of reason; it is the _entite_
of _entites_. In fact, since sovereignty can no more be conceived
of outside of the people than outside of reason, it remains to be
ascertained who, among the people, shall exercise the sovereignty; and,
among so many minds, which shall be the sovereigns. To say that the
people should elect their representatives is to say that the people
should recognize their sovereigns, which does not remove the difficulty
at all.

But suppose that, equal by birth, equal before the law, equal in
personality, equal in social functions, you wish also to be equal in

Suppose that, perceiving all the mutual relations of men, whether
they produce or exchange or consume, to be relations of commutative
justice,--in a word, social relations; suppose, I say, that, perceiving
this, you wish to give this natural society a legal existence, and to
establish the fact by law,--

I say that then you need a clear, positive, and exact expression of your
whole idea,--that is, an expression which states at once the principle,
the means, and the end; and I add that that expression is ASSOCIATION.

And since the association of the human race dates, at least rightfully,
from the beginning of the world, and has gradually established and
perfected itself by successively divesting itself of its negative
elements, slavery, nobility, despotism, aristocracy, and feudalism,--I
say that, to eliminate the last negation of society, to formulate the
last revolutionary idea, you must change your old rallying-cries, NO

But I know what astonishes you, poor souls, blasted by the wind of
poverty, and crushed by your patrons' pride: it is EQUALITY, whose
consequences frighten you. How, you have said in your journal,--how can
we "dream of a level which, being unnatural, is therefore unjust? How
shall we pay the day's labor of a Cormenin or a Lamennais?"

Plebeians, listen! When, after the battle of Salamis, the Athenians
assembled to award the prizes for courage, after the ballots had been
collected, it was found that each combatant had one vote for the first
prize, and Themistocles all the votes for the second. The people of
Minerva were crowned by their own hands. Truly heroic souls! all were
worthy of the olive-branch, since all had ventured to claim it for
themselves. Antiquity praised this sublime spirit. Learn, proletaires,
to esteem yourselves, and to respect your dignity. You wish to be
free, and you know not how to be citizens. Now, whoever says "citizens"
necessarily says equals.

If I should call myself Lamennais or Cormenin, and some journal,
speaking of me, should burst forth with these hyperboles, INCOMPARABLE
like it, and should complain,--first, because such eulogies are never
deserved; and, second, because they furnish a bad example. But I wish,
in order to reconcile you to equality, to measure for you the
greatest literary personage of our century. Do not accuse me of envy,
proletaires, if I, a defender of equality, estimate at their proper
value talents which are universally admired, and which I, better than
any one, know how to recognize. A dwarf can always measure a giant: all
that he needs is a yardstick.

You have seen the pretentious announcements of "L'Esquisse d'une
Philosophie," and you have admired the work on trust; for either you
have not read it, or, if you have, you are incapable of judging it.
Acquaint yourselves, then, with this speculation more brilliant than
sound; and, while admiring the enthusiasm of the author, cease to pity
those useful labors which only habit and the great number of the
persons engaged in them render contemptible. I shall be brief; for,
notwithstanding the importance of the subject and the genius of the
author, what I have to say is of but little moment.

M. Lamennais starts with the existence of God. How does he demonstrate
it? By Cicero's argument,--that is, by the consent of the human race.
There is nothing new in that. We have still to find out whether the
belief of the human race is legitimate; or, as Kant says, whether
our subjective certainty of the existence of God corresponds with the
objective truth. This, however, does not trouble M. Lamennais. He says
that, if the human race believes, it is because it has a reason for

Then, having pronounced the name of God, M. Lamennais sings a hymn; and
that is his demonstration!

This first hypothesis admitted, M. Lamennais follows it with a second;
namely, that there are three persons in God. But, while Christianity
teaches the dogma of the Trinity only on the authority of revelation, M.
Lamennais pretends to arrive at it by the sole force of argument; and he
does not perceive that his pretended demonstration is, from beginning to
end, anthropomorphism,--that is, an ascription of the faculties of the
human mind and the powers of nature to the Divine substance. New songs,
new hymns!

God and the Trinity thus DEMONSTRATED, the philosopher passes to the
creation,--a third hypothesis, in which M. Lamennais, always eloquent,
varied, and sublime, DEMONSTRATES that God made the world neither of
nothing, nor of something, nor of himself; that he was free in creating,
but that nevertheless he could not but create; that there is in matter
a matter which is not matter; that the archetypal ideas of the world are
separated from each other, in the Divine mind, by a division which is
obscure and unintelligible, and yet substantial and real, which involves
intelligibility, &c. We meet with like contradictions concerning the
origin of evil. To explain this problem,--one of the profoundest in
philosophy,--M. Lamennais at one time denies evil, at another makes God
the author of evil, and at still another seeks outside of God a
first cause which is not God,--an amalgam of _entites_ more or less
incoherent, borrowed from Plato, Proclus, Spinoza, I might say even from
all philosophers.

Having thus established his trinity of hypotheses, M. Lamennais
deduces therefrom, by a badly connected chain of analogies, his whole
philosophy. And it is here especially that we notice the syncretism
which is peculiar to him. The theory of M. Lamennais embraces all
systems, and supports all opinions. Are you a materialist? Suppress,
as useless _entites_, the three persons in God; then, starting directly
from heat, light, and electro-magnetism,--which, according to the
author, are the three original fluids, the three primary external
manifestations of Will, Intelligence, and Love,--you have a
materialistic and atheistic cosmogony. On the contrary, are you wedded
to spiritualism? With the theory of the immateriality of the body, you
are able to see everywhere nothing but spirits. Finally, if you incline
to pantheism, you will be satisfied by M. Lamennais, who formally
teaches that the world is not an EMANATION from Divinity,--which is pure
pantheism,--but a FLOW of Divinity.

I do not pretend, however, to deny that "L'Esquisse" contains some
excellent things; but, by the author's declaration, these things are not
original with him; it is the system which is his. That is undoubtedly
the reason why M. Lamennais speaks so contemptuously of his predecessors
in philosophy, and disdains to quote his originals. He thinks that,
since "L'Esquisse" contains all true philosophy, the world will lose
nothing when the names and works of the old philosophers perish. M.
Lamennais, who renders glory to God in beautiful songs, does not know
how as well to render justice to his fellows. His fatal fault is this
appropriation of knowledge, which the theologians call the PHILOSOPHICAL
SIN, or the SIN AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST--a sin which will not damn you,
proletaires, nor me either.

In short, "L'Esquisse," judged as a system, and divested of all which
its author borrows from previous systems, is a commonplace work, whose
method consists in constantly explaining the known by the unknown, and
in giving entites for abstractions, and tautologies for proofs. Its
whole theodicy is a work not of genius but of imagination, a patching up
of neo-Platonic ideas. The psychological portion amounts to nothing,
M. Lamennais openly ridiculing labors of this character, without which,
however, metaphysics is impossible. The book, which treats of logic
and its methods, is weak, vague, and shallow. Finally, we find in the
physical and physiological speculations which M. Lamennais deduces
from his trinitarian cosmogony grave errors, the preconceived design of
accommodating facts to theory, and the substitution in almost every case
of hypothesis for reality. The third volume on industry and art is the
most interesting to read, and the best. It is true that M. Lamennais
can boast of nothing but his style. As a philosopher, he has added not a
single idea to those which existed before him.

Why, then, this excessive mediocrity of M. Lamennais considered as
a thinker, a mediocrity which disclosed itself at the time of the
publication of the "Essai sur l'Indifference!"? It is because (remember
this well, proletaires!) Nature makes no man truly complete, and because
the development of certain faculties almost always excludes an equal
development of the opposite faculties; it is because M. Lamennais
is preeminently a poet, a man of feeling and sentiment. Look at his
style,--exuberant, sonorous, picturesque, vehement, full of exaggeration
and invective,--and hold it for certain that no man possessed of such
a style was ever a true metaphysician. This wealth of expression and
illustration, which everybody admires, becomes in M Lamennais the
incurable cause of his philosophical impotence. His flow of language,
and his sensitive nature misleading his imagination, he thinks that
he is reasoning when he is only repeating himself, and readily takes a
description for a logical deduction. Hence his horror of positive ideas,
his feeble powers of analysis, his pronounced taste for indefinite
analogies, verbal abstractions, hypothetical generalities, in short, all
sorts of entites.

Further, the entire life of M. Lamennais is conclusive proof of
his anti-philosophical genius. Devout even to mysticism, an ardent
ultramontane, an intolerant theocrat, he at first feels the double
influence of the religious reaction and the literary theories which
marked the beginning of this century, and falls back to the middle ages
and Gregory VII.; then, suddenly becoming a progressive Christian and a
democrat, he gradually leans towards rationalism, and finally falls into
deism. At present, everybody waits at the trap-door. As for me, though I
would not swear to it, I am inclined to think that M. Lamennais, already
taken with scepticism, will die in a state of indifference. He owes
to individual reason and methodical doubt this expiation of his early

It has been pretended that M. Lamennais, preaching now a theocracy, now
universal democracy, has been always consistent; that, under different
names, he has sought invariably one and the same thing,--unity. Pitiful
excuse for an author surprised in the very act of contradiction! What
would be thought of a man who, by turns a servant of despotism under
Louis XVI, a demagogue with Robespierre, a courtier of the Emperor,
a bigot during fifteen years of the Restoration, a conservative
since 1830, should dare to say that he ever had wished for but one
thing,--public order? Would he be regarded as any the less a renegade
from all parties? Public order, unity, the world's welfare, social
harmony, the union of the nations,--concerning each of these things
there is no possible difference of opinion. Everybody wishes them;
the character of the publicist depends only upon the means by which
he proposes to arrive at them. But why look to M. Lamennais for a
steadfastness of opinion, which he himself repudiates? Has he not said,
"The mind has no law; that which I believe to-day, I did not believe
yesterday; I do not know that I shall believe it to-morrow"?

No; there is no real superiority among men, since all talents and
capacities are combined never in one individual. This man has the power
of thought, that one imagination and style, still another industrial and
commercial capacity. By our very nature and education, we possess only
special aptitudes which are limited and confined, and which become
consequently more necessary as they gain in depth and strength.
Capacities are to each other as functions and persons; who would dare
to classify them in ranks? The finest genius is, by the laws of his
existence and development, the most dependent upon the society which
creates him. Who would dare to make a god of the glorious child?

"It is not strength which makes the man," said a Hercules of the
market-place to the admiring crowd; "it is character." That man, who
had only his muscles, held force in contempt. The lesson is a good one,
proletaires; we should profit by it. It is not talent (which is also a
force), it is not knowledge, it is not beauty which makes the man. It is
heart, courage, will, virtue. Now, if we are equal in that which makes
us men, how can the accidental distribution of secondary faculties
detract from our manhood?

Remember that privilege is naturally and inevitably the lot of the weak;
and do not be misled by the fame which accompanies certain talents
whose greatest merit consists in their rarity, and a long and toilsome
apprenticeship. It is easier for M. Lamennais to recite a philippic, or
sing a humanitarian ode after the Platonic fashion, than to discover a
single useful truth; it is easier for an economist to apply the laws of
production and distribution than to write ten lines in the style of M.
Lamennais; it is easier for both to speak than to act. You, then, who
put your hands to the work, who alone truly create, why do you wish me
to admit your inferiority? But, what am I saying?

Yes, you are inferior, for you lack virtue and will! Ready for labor and
for battle, you have, when liberty and equality are in question, neither
courage nor character!

In the preface to his pamphlet on "Le Pays et le Gouvernement," as well
as in his defence before the jury, M. Lamennais frankly declared
himself an advocate of property. Out of regard for the author and his
misfortune, I shall abstain from characterizing this declaration, and
from examining these two sorrowful performances. M. Lamennais seems to
be only the tool of a quasi-radical party, which flatters him in order
to use him, without respect for a glorious, but hence forth powerless,
old age. What means this profession of faith? From the first number of
"L'Avenir" to "L'Esquisse d'une Philosophie," M. Lamennais always
favors equality, association, and even a sort of vague and indefinite
communism. M. Lamennais, in recognizing the right of property, gives the
lie to his past career, and renounces his most generous tendencies. Can
it, then, be true that in this man, who has been too roughly treated,
but who is also too easily flattered, strength of talent has already
outlived strength of will?

It is said that M. Lamennais has rejected the offers of several of his
friends to try to procure for him a commutation of his sentence. M.
Lamennais prefers to serve out his time. May not this affectation of a
false stoicism come from the same source as his recognition of the right
of property? The Huron, when taken prisoner, hurls insults and threats
at his conqueror,--that is the heroism of the savage; the martyr
prays for his executioners, and is willing to receive from them his
life,--that is the heroism of the Christian. Why has the apostle of love
become an apostle of anger and revenge? Has, then, the translator of
"L'Imitation" forgotten that he who offends charity cannot honor virtue?
Galileo, retracting on his knees before the tribunal of the inquisition
his heresy in regard to the movement of the earth, and recovering at
that price his liberty, seems to me a hundred times grander than
M. Lamennais. What! if we suffer for truth and justice, must we, in
retaliation, thrust our persecutors outside the pale of human society;
and, when sentenced to an unjust punishment, must we decline exemption
if it is offered to us, because it pleases a few base satellites to call
it a pardon? Such is not the wisdom of Christianity. But I forgot that
in the presence of M. Lamennais this name is no longer pronounced. May
the prophet of "L'Avenir" be soon restored to liberty and his friends;
but, above all, may he henceforth derive his inspiration only from his
genius and his heart!

O proletaires, proletaires! how long are you to be victimized by this
spirit of revenge and implacable hatred which your false friends kindle,
and which, perhaps, has done more harm to the development of reformatory
ideas than the corruption, ignorance, and malice of the government?
Believe me, at the present time everybody is to blame. In fact, in
intention, or in example, all are found wanting; and you have no right
to accuse any one. The king himself (God forgive me! I do not like to
justify a king),--the king himself is, like his predecessors, only the
personification of an idea, and an idea, proletaires, which possesses
you yet. His greatest wrong consists in wishing for its complete
realization, while you wish it realized only partially,--consequently,
in being logical in his government; while you, in your complaints, are
not at all so. You clamor for a second regicide. He that is without sin
among you,--let him cast at the prince of property the first stone!

How successful you would have been if, in order to influence men,
you had appealed to the self-love of men,--if, in order to alter
the constitution and the law, you had placed yourselves within the
constitution and the law! Fifty thousand laws, they say, make up our
political and civil codes. Of these fifty thousand laws, twenty-five
thousand are for you, twenty-five thousand against you. Is it not clear
that your duty is to oppose the former to the latter, and thus, by the
argument of contradiction, drive privilege into its last ditch? This
method of action is henceforth the only useful one, being the only moral
and rational one.

For my part, if I had the ear of this nation, to which I am attached by
birth and predilection, with no intention of playing the leading part
in the future republic, I would instruct the laboring masses to
conquer property through institutions and judicial pleadings; to seek
auxiliaries and accomplices in the highest ranks of society, and to ruin
all privileged classes by taking advantage of their common desire for
power and popularity.

The petition for the electoral reform has already received two hundred
thousand signatures, and the illustrious Arago threatens us with a
million. Surely, that will be well done; but from this million of
citizens, who are as willing to vote for an emperor as for equality,
could we not select ten thousand signatures--I mean bona fide
signatures--whose authors can read, write, cipher, and even think
a little, and whom we could invite, after due perusal and verbal
explanation, to sign such a petition as the following:--


"MONSIEUR LE MINISTRE,--On the day when a royal ordinance, decreeing
the establishment of model national workshops, shall appear in the
'Moniteur,' the undersigned, to the number of TEN THOUSAND, will repair
to the Palace of the Tuileries, and there, with all the power of their
lungs, will shout, 'Long live Louis Philippe!'

"On the day when the 'Moniteur' shall inform the public that this
petition is refused, the undersigned, to the number of TEN THOUSAND,
will say secretly in their hearts, 'Down with Louis Philippe!'"

If I am not mistaken, such a petition would have some effect. [75] The
pleasure of a popular ovation would be well worth the sacrifice of a few
millions. They sow so much to reap unpopularity! Then, if the nation,
its hopes of 1830 restored, should feel it its duty to keep its
promise,--and it would keep it, for the word of the nation is, like that
of God, sacred,--if, I say, the nation, reconciled by this act with
the public-spirited monarchy, should bear to the foot of the throne its
cheers and its vows, and should at that solemn moment choose me to speak
in its name, the following would be the substance of my speech:--

"SIRE,--This is what the nation wishes to say to your Majesty:--

"O King! you see what it costs to gain the applause of the citizens.
Would you like us henceforth to take for our motto: 'Let us help the
King, the King will help us'? Do you wish the people to cry: 'THE KING
AND THE FRENCH NATION'? Then abandon these grasping bankers, these
quarrelsome lawyers, these miserable bourgeois, these infamous writers,
these dishonored men. All these, Sire, hate you, and continue to support
you only because they fear us. Finish the work of our kings; wipe out
aristocracy and privilege; consult with these faithful proletaires, with
the nation, which alone can honor a sovereign and sincerely shout, 'Long
live the king!'"

The rest of what I have to say, sir, is for you alone; others would
not understand me. You are, I perceive, a republican as well as an
economist, and your patriotism revolts at the very idea of addressing
to the authorities a petition in which the government of Louis Philippe
should be tacitly recognized. "National workshops! it were well to have
such institutions established," you think; "but patriotic hearts never
will accept them from an aristocratic ministry, nor by the courtesy of a
king." Already, undoubtedly, your old prejudices have returned, and you
now regard me only as a sophist, as ready to flatter the powers that
be as to dishonor, by pushing them to an extreme, the principles of
equality and universal fraternity.

What shall I say to you?... That I should so lightly compromise the
future of my theories, either this clever sophistry which is attributed
to me must be at bottom a very trifling affair, or else my convictions
must be so firm that they deprive me of free-will.

But, not to insist further on the necessity of a compromise between the
executive power and the people, it seems to me, sir, that, in doubting
my patriotism, you reason very capriciously, and that your judgments
are exceedingly rash. You, sir, ostensibly defending government and
property, are allowed to be a republican, reformer, phalansterian, any
thing you wish; I, on the contrary, demanding distinctly enough a slight
reform in public economy, am foreordained a conservative, and likewise
a friend of the dynasty. I cannot explain myself more clearly. So firm
a believer am I in the philosophy of accomplished facts and the _statu
quo_ of governmental forms that, instead of destroying that which
exists and beginning over again the past, I prefer to render every thing
legitimate by correcting it. It is true that the corrections which I
propose, though respecting the form, tend to finally change the nature
of the things corrected. Who denies it? But it is precisely that which
constitutes my system of _statu quo_. I make no war upon symbols,
figures, or phantoms. I respect scarecrows, and bow before bugbears. I
ask, on the one hand, that property be left as it is, but that interest
on all kinds of capital be gradually lowered and finally abolished; on
the other hand, that the charter be maintained in its present shape, but
that method be introduced into administration and politics. That is all.
Nevertheless, submitting to all that is, though not satisfied with it, I
endeavor to conform to the established order, and to render unto Caesar
the things that are Caesar's. Is it thought, for instance, that I love
property?... Very well; I am myself a proprietor and do homage to the
right of increase, as is proved by the fact that I have creditors to
whom I faithfully pay, every year, a large amount of interest. The same
with politics. Since we are a monarchy, I would cry, "LONG LIVE THE
KING," rather than suffer death; which does not prevent me, however,
from demanding that the irremovable, inviolable, and hereditary
representative of the nation shall act with the proletaires against the
privileged classes; in a word, that the king shall become the leader of
the radical party. Thereby we proletaires would gain every thing; and I
am sure that, at this price, Louis Philippe might secure to his family
the perpetual presidency of the republic. And this is why I think so.

If there existed in France but one great functional inequality, the duty
of the functionary being, from one end of the year to the other, to hold
full court of savants, artists, soldiers, deputies, inspectors, &c.,
it is evident that the expenses of the presidency then would be the
national expenses; and that, through the reversion of the civil list to
the mass of consumers, the great inequality of which I speak would form
an exact equation with the whole nation. Of this no economist needs a
demonstration. Consequently, there would be no more fear of cliques,
courtiers, and appanages, since no new inequality could be established.
The king, as king, would have friends (unheard-of thing), but no family.
His relatives or kinsmen,--_agnats et cognats_,--if they were fools,
would be nothing to him; and in no case, with the exception of the heir
apparent, would they have, even in court, more privileges than others.
No more nepotism, no more favor, no more baseness. No one would go
to court save when duty required, or when called by an honorable
distinction; and as all conditions would be equal and all functions
equally honored, there would be no other emulation than that of merit
and virtue. I wish the king of the French could say without shame,
"My brother the gardener, my sister-in-law the milk-maid, my son the
prince-royal, and my son the blacksmith." His daughter might well be an
artist. That would be beautiful, sir; that would be royal; no one but a
buffoon could fail to understand it.

In this way, I have come to think that the forms of royalty may be
made to harmonize with the requirements of equality, and have given
a monarchical form to my republican spirit. I have seen that France
contains by no means as many democrats as is generally supposed, and
I have compromised with the monarchy. I do not say, however, that, if
France wanted a republic, I could not accommodate myself equally well,
and perhaps better. By nature, I hate all signs of distinction, crosses
of honor, gold lace, liveries, costumes, honorary titles, &c., and,
above all, parades. If I had my way, no general should be distinguished
from a soldier, nor a peer of France from a peasant. Why have I never
taken part in a review? for I am happy to say, sir, that I am a national
guard; I have nothing else in the world but that. Because the review is
always held at a place which I do not like, and because they have fools
for officers whom I am compelled to obey. You see,--and this is not the
best of my history,--that, in spite of my conservative opinions, my life
is a perpetual sacrifice to the republic.

Nevertheless, I doubt if such simplicity would be agreeable to French
vanity, to that inordinate love of distinction and flattery which makes
our nation the most frivolous in the world. M. Lamartine, in his grand
"Meditation on Bonaparte," calls the French A NATION OF BRUTUSES. We are
merely a nation of Narcissuses. Previous to '89, we had the aristocracy
of blood; then every bourgeois looked down upon the commonalty, and
wished to be a nobleman. Afterwards, distinction was based on wealth,
and the bourgeoisie jealous of the nobility, and proud of their money,
used 1830 to promote, not liberty by any means, but the aristocracy
of wealth. When, through the force of events, and the natural laws of
society, for the development of which France offers such free play,
equality shall be established in functions and fortunes, then the beaux
and the belles, the savants and the artists, will form new classes.
There is a universal and innate desire in this Gallic country for fame
and glory. We must have distinctions, be they what they may,--nobility,
wealth, talent, beauty, or dress. I suspect MM. Arage and Garnier-Pages
of having aristocratic manners, and I picture to myself our great
journalists, in their columns so friendly to the people, administering
rough kicks to the compositors in their printing offices.

"This man," once said "Le National" in speaking of Carrel, "whom we
had proclaimed FIRST CONSUL!... Is it not true that the monarchical
principle still lives in the hearts of our democrats, and that they
want universal suffrage in order to make themselves kings? Since "Le
National" prides itself on holding more fixed opinions than "Le Journal
des Debats," I presume that, Armand Carrel being dead, M. Armand Marrast
is now first consul, and M. Garnier-Pages second consul. In every thing
the deputy must give way to the journalist. I do not speak of M.
Arago, whom I believe to be, in spite of calumny, too learned for the
consulship. Be it so. Though we have consuls, our position is not much
altered. I am ready to yield my share of sovereignty to MM. Armand
Marrast and Garnier-Pages, the appointed consuls, provided they will
swear on entering upon the duties of their office, to abolish property
and not be haughty.

Forever promises! Forever oaths! Why should the people trust in
tribunes, when kings perjure themselves? Alas! truth and honesty are no
longer, as in the days of King John, in the mouth of princes. A whole
senate has been convicted of felony, and, the interest of the governors
always being, for some mysterious reason, opposed to the interest of the
governed, parliaments follow each other while the nation dies of hunger.
No, no! No more protectors, no more emperors, no more consuls. Better
manage our affairs ourselves than through agents. Better associate our
industries than beg from monopolies; and, since the republic cannot
dispense with virtues, we should labor for our reform.

This, therefore, is my line of conduct. I preach emancipation to the
proletaires; association to the laborers; equality to the wealthy. I
push forward the revolution by all means in my power,--the tongue,
the pen, the press, by action, and example. My life is a continual

Yes, I am a reformer; I say it as I think it, in good faith, and that I
may be no longer reproached for my vanity. I wish to convert the world.
Very likely this fancy springs from an enthusiastic pride which may have
turned to delirium; but it will be admitted at least that I have plenty
of company, and that my madness is not monomania. At the present day,
everybody wishes to be reckoned among the lunatics of Beranger. To say
nothing of the Babeufs, the Marats, and the Robespierres, who swarm in
our streets and workshops, all the great reformers of antiquity live
again in the most illustrious personages of our time. One is Jesus
Christ, another Moses, a third Mahomet; this is Orpheus, that Plato,
or Pythagoras. Gregory VII., himself, has risen from the grave together
with the evangelists and the apostles; and it may turn out that even I
am that slave who, having escaped from his master's house, was forthwith
made a bishop and a reformer by St. Paul. As for the virgins and holy
women, they are expected daily; at present, we have only Aspasias and

Now, as in all diseases, the diagnostic varies according to the
temperament, so my madness has its peculiar aspects and distinguishing

Reformers, as a general thing, are jealous of their role; they suffer no
rivals, they want no partners; they have disciples, but no co-laborers.
It is my desire, on the contrary, to communicate my enthusiasm, and to
make it, as far as I can, epidemic. I wish that all were, like myself,
reformers, in order that there might be no more sects; and that Christs,
Anti-Christs, and false Christs might be forced to understand and agree
with each other.

Again, every reformer is a magician, or at least desires to become one.
Thus Moses, Jesus Christ, and the apostles, proved their mission by
miracles. Mahomet ridiculed miracles after having endeavored to perform
them. Fourier, more cunning, promises us wonders when the globe shall
be covered with phalansteries. For myself, I have as great a horror
of miracles as of authorities, and aim only at logic. That is why I
continually search after the criterion of certainty. I work for the
reformation of ideas. Little matters it that they find me dry and
austere. I mean to conquer by a bold struggle, or die in the attempt;
and whoever shall come to the defence of property, I swear that I
will force him to argue like M. Considerant, or philosophize like M.

Finally,--and it is here that I differ most from my compeers,--I do not
believe it necessary, in order to reach equality, to turn every thing
topsy-turvy. To maintain that nothing but an overturn can lead to reform
is, in my judgment, to construct a syllogism, and to look for the truth
in the regions of the unknown. Now, I am for generalization, induction,
and progress. I regard general disappropriation as impossible: attacked
from that point, the problem of universal association seems to me
insolvable. Property is like the dragon which Hercules killed: to
destroy it, it must be taken, not by the head, but by the tail,--that
is, by profit and interest.

I stop. I have said enough to satisfy any one who can read and
understand. The surest way by which the government can baffle intrigues
and break up parties is to take possession of science, and point out to
the nation, at an already appreciable distance, the rising oriflamme of
equality; to say to those politicians of the tribune and the press, for
whose fruitless quarrels we pay so dearly, "You are rushing forward,
blind as you are, to the abolition of property; but the government
marches with its eyes open. You hasten the future by unprincipled and
insincere controversy; but the government, which knows this future,
leads you thither by a happy and peaceful transition. The present
generation will not pass away before France, the guide and model of
civilized nations, has regained her rank and legitimate influence."

But, alas! the government itself,--who shall enlighten it? Who can
induce it to accept this doctrine of equality, whose terrible but
decisive formula the most generous minds hardly dare to acknowledge?...
I feel my whole being tremble when I think that the testimony of
three men--yes, of three men who make it their business to teach and
define--would suffice to give full play to public opinion, to change
beliefs, and to fix destinies. Will not the three men be found?...

May we hope, or not? What must we think of those who govern us? In the
world of sorrow in which the proletaire moves, and where nothing is
known of the intentions of power, it must be said that despair prevails.
But you, sir,--you, who by function belong to the official world; you,
in whom the people recognize one of their noblest friends, and
property its most prudent adversary,--what say you of our deputies, our
ministers, our king? Do you believe that the authorities are friendly
to us? Then let the government declare its position; let it print its
profession of faith in equality, and I am dumb. Otherwise, I shall
continue the war; and the more obstinacy and malice is shown, the
oftener will I redouble my energy and audacity. I have said before, and
I repeat it,--I have sworn, not on the dagger and the death's-head, amid
the horrors of a catacomb, and in the presence of men besmeared with
blood; but I have sworn on my conscience to pursue property, to grant it
neither peace nor truce, until I see it everywhere execrated. I have not
yet published half the things that I have to say concerning the right of
domain, nor the best things. Let the knights of property, if there are
any who fight otherwise than by retreating, be prepared every day for
a new demonstration and accusation; let them enter the arena armed with
reason and knowledge, not wrapped up in sophisms, for justice will be

"To become enlightened, we must have liberty. That alone suffices;
but it must be the liberty to use the reason in regard to all public

"And yet we hear on every hand authorities of all kinds and degrees
crying: 'Do not reason!'

"If a distinction is wanted, here is one:--

"The PUBLIC use of the reason always should be free, but the PRIVATE
use ought always to be rigidly restricted. By public use, I mean the
scientific, literary use; by private, that which may be taken advantage
of by civil officials and public functionaries. Since the governmental
machinery must be kept in motion, in order to preserve unity and attain
our object, we must not reason; we must obey. But the same individual
who is bound, from this point of view, to passive obedience, has the
right to speak in his capacity of citizen and scholar. He can make an
appeal to the public, submit to it his observations on events which
occur around him and in the ranks above him, taking care, however, to
avoid offences which are punishable.

"Reason, then, as much as you like; only, obey."--Kant: Fragment on the
Liberty of Thought and of the Press. Tissot's Translation.

These words of the great philosopher outline for me my duty. I have
delayed the reprint of the work entitled "What is Property?" in order
that I might lift the discussion to the philosophical height from which
ridiculous clamor has dragged it down; and that, by a new presentation
of the question, I might dissipate the fears of good citizens. I now
reenter upon the public use of my reason, and give truth full swing. The
second edition of the First Memoir on Property will immediately follow
the publication of this letter. Before issuing any thing further, I
shall await the observations of my critics, and the co-operation of the
friends of the people and of equality.

Hitherto, I have spoken in my own name, and on my own personal
responsibility. It was my duty. I was endeavoring to call attention to
principles which antiquity could not discover, because it knew nothing
of the science which reveals them,--political economy. I have, then,
testified as to FACTS; in short, I have been a WITNESS. Now my role
changes. It remains for me to deduce the practical consequences of the
facts proclaimed. The position of PUBLIC PROSECUTOR is the only one
which I am henceforth fitted to fill, and I shall sum up the case in the
name of the PEOPLE.

I am, sir, with all the consideration that I owe to your talent and your

Your very humble and most obedient servant,


Pensioner of the Academy of Besancon.

P.S. During the session of April 2, the Chamber of Deputies rejected,
by a very large majority, the literary-property bill, BECAUSE IT DID NOT
UNDERSTAND IT. Nevertheless, literary property is only a special form of
the right of property, which everybody claims to understand. Let us hope
that this legislative precedent will not be fruitless for the cause of
equality. The consequence of the vote of the Chamber is the abolition
of capitalistic property,--property incomprehensible, contradictory,
impossible, and absurd.


[Footnote 1: In the French edition of Proudhon's works, the above sketch
of his life is prefixed to the first volume of his correspondence, but
the translator prefers to insert it here as the best method of
introducing the author to the American public.]

[Footnote 2: "An Inquiry into Grammatical Classifications." By P. J.
Proudhon. A treatise which received honorable mention from the Academy
of Inscriptions, May 4, 1839. Out of print.]

[Footnote 3: "The Utility of the Celebration of Sunday," &c. By P. J.
Proudhon. Besancon, 1839, 12mo; 2d edition, Paris, 1841, 18mo.]

[Footnote 4: Charron, on "Wisdom," Chapter xviii.]

[Footnote 5: M. Vivien, Minister of Justice, before commencing
proceedings against the "Memoir upon Property," asked the opinion of M.
Blanqui; and it was on the strength of the observations of this
honorable academician that he spared a book which had already excited
the indignation of the magistrates. M. Vivien is not the only official
to whom I have been indebted, since my first publication, for assistance
and protection; but such generosity in the political arena is so rare
that one may acknowledge it graciously and freely. I have always
thought, for my part, that bad institutions made bad magistrates; just
as the cowardice and hypocrisy of certain bodies results solely from the
spirit which governs them. Why, for instance, in spite of the virtues
and talents for which they are so noted, are the academies generally
centres of intellectual repression, stupidity, and base intrigue? That
question ought to be proposed by an academy: there would be no lack of

[Footnote 6: In Greek, {GREEK e ncg } examiner; a philosopher whose
business is to seek the truth.]

[Footnote 7: Religion, laws, marriage, were the privileges of freemen,
and, in the beginning, of nobles only. Dii majorum gentium--gods of the
patrician families; jus gentium--right of nations; that is, of families
or nobles. The slave and the plebeian had no families; their children
were treated as the offspring of animals. BEASTS they were born, BEASTS
they must live.]

[Footnote 8: If the chief of the executive power is responsible, so must
the deputies be also. It is astonishing that this idea has never
occurred to any one; it might be made the subject of an interesting
essay. But I declare that I would not, for all the world, maintain it;
the people are yet much too logical for me to furnish them with

[Footnote 9: See De Tocqueville, "Democracy in the United States;" and
Michel Chevalier, "Letters on North America." Plutarch tells us, "Life
of Pericles," that in Athens honest people were obliged to conceal
themselves while studying, fearing they would be regarded as aspirants
for office.]

[Footnote 10: "Sovereignty," according to Toullier, "is human
omnipotence." A materialistic definition: if sovereignty is any thing,
it is a RIGHT not a FORCE or a faculty. And what is human omnipotence?]

[Footnote 11: The Proudhon here referred to is J. B. V. Proudhon; a
distinguished French jurist, and distant relative of the Translator.]

[Footnote 12: Here, especially, the simplicity of our ancestors appears
in all its rudeness. After having made first cousins heirs, where there
were no legitimate children, they could not so divide the property
between two different branches as to prevent the simultaneous existence
of extreme wealth and extreme poverty in the same family. For example:--
James, dying, leaves two sons, Peter and John, heirs of his fortune:
James's property is divided equally between them. But Peter has only one
daughter, while John, his brother, leaves six sons. It is clear that, to
be true to the principle of equality, and at the same time to that of
heredity, the two estates must be divided in seven equal portions among
the children of Peter and John; for otherwise a stranger might marry
Peter's daughter, and by this alliance half of the property of James,
the grandfather, would be transferred to another family, which is
contrary to the principle of heredity. Furthermore, John's children
would be poor on account of their number, while their cousin, being an
only child, would be rich, which is contrary to the principle of
equality. If we extend this combined application of two principles
apparently opposed to each other, we shall become convinced that the
right of succession, which is assailed with so little wisdom in our day,
is no obstacle to the maintenance of equality.]

[Footnote 13: _Zeus klesios_.]

[Footnote 14: Giraud, "Investigations into the Right of Property among
the Romans."]

[Footnote 15: Precarious, from precor, "I pray;" because the act of
concession expressly signified that the lord, in answer to the prayers
of his men or slaves, had granted them permission to labor.]

[Footnote 16: I cannot conceive how any one dares to justify the
inequality of conditions, by pointing to the base inclinations and
propensities of certain men. Whence comes this shameful degradation of
heart and mind to which so many fall victims, if not from the misery and
abjection into which property plunges them?]

[Footnote 17: How many citizens are needed to support a professor of
philosophy?--Thirty-five millions. How many for an economist?--Two
billions. And for a literary man, who is neither a savant, nor an
artist, nor a philosopher, nor an economist, and who writes newspaper

[Footnote 18: There is an error in the author's calculation here; but
the translator, feeling sure that the reader will understand Proudhon's
meaning, prefers not to alter his figures.--Translator.]

[Footnote 19: _Hoc inter se differunt onanismus et manuspratio, nempe
quod haec a solitario exercetur, ille autem a duobus reciprocatur,
masculo scilicet et faemina. Porro foedam hanc onanismi venerem ludentes
uxoria mariti habent nunc omnigm suavissimam_]

[Footnote 20: Polyandry,--plurality of husbands.]

[Footnote 21: Infanticide has just been publicly advocated in England,
in a pamphlet written by a disciple of Malthus. He proposes an ANNUAL
MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS in all families containing more children than
the law allows; and he asks that a magnificent cemetery, adorned with
statues, groves, fountains, and flowers, be set apart as a special
burying-place for the superfluous children. Mothers would resort to this
delightful spot to dream of the happiness of these little angels, and
would return, quite comforted, to give birth to others, to be buried in
their turn.]

[Footnote 22: To perform an act of benevolence towards one's neighbor is
called, in Hebrew, to do justice; in Greek, to take compassion or pity
({GREEK n n f e },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, caprice.]

[Footnote 23: I mean here by equite 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.]

[Footnote 24: Justice and equite never have been understood.]

[Footnote 25: Between 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.]

[Footnote 26: "The strong-box of Cosmo de Medici was the grave of
Florentine liberty," said M. Michelet to the College of France.]

[Footnote 27: "My right is my lance and my buckler." General de Brossard
said, like Achilles: "I get wine, gold, and women with my lance and my

[Footnote 28: It 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 proclaimed 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
there must be such a thing as usury, since the Gospel forbids it.]

[Footnote 29: "I 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.]

[Footnote 30: The meaning ordinarily attached to the word "anarchy" is
absence of principle, absence of rule; consequently, it has been
regarded as synonymous with "disorder."]

[Footnote 31: If 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.]

[Footnote 32: _libertas, 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

[Footnote 33: In 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.]

[Footnote 34: The 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.]

[Footnote 35: 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.]

[Footnote 36: In the Chamber of Deputies, during the session of the
fifth of January, 1841, M. Dufaure moved to renew the expropriation
bill, on the ground of public utility.]

[Footnote 37: "What is Property?" Chap. IV., Ninth Proposition.]

[Footnote 38: _Tu cognovisti sessionem meam et resurrectionem meam_.
Psalm 139.]

[Footnote 39: The emperor Nicholas has just compelled all the
manufacturers in his empire to maintain, at their own expense, within
their establishments, small hospitals for the reception of sick
workmen,--the number of beds in each being proportional to the number of
laborers in the factory. "You profit by man's labor," the Czar could
have said to his proprietors; "you shall be responsible for man's life."
M. Blanqui has said that such a measure could not succeed in France. It
would be an attack upon property,--a thing hardly conceivable even in
Russia, Scythia, or among the Cossacks; but among us, the oldest sons of
civilization!... I fear very much that this quality of age may prove in
the end a mark of decrepitude.]

[Footnote 40: Course of M. Blanqui. Lecture of Nov. 27,1840.]

[Footnote 41: In "Mazaniello," the Neapolitan fisherman demands, amid
the applause of the galleries, that a tax be levied upon luxuries.]

[Footnote 42:               _Seme le champ, proletaire; C'est l l'oisif
qui recoltera_.]

[Footnote 43: "In some countries, the enjoyment of certain political
rights depends upon the amount of property. But, in these same
countries, property is expressive, rather than attributive, of the
qualifications necessary to the exercise of these rights. It is rather a
conjectural proof than the cause of these qualifications."--Rossi:
Treatise on Penal Law.]

[Footnote 44: Lecture of December 22.]

[Footnote 45: Lecture of Jan. 15, 1841.]

[Footnote 46: Lecture of Jan. 15, 1841.]

[Footnote 47: MM. Blanqui and Wolowski.]

[Footnote 48: Subject proposed by the Fourth Class of the Institute, the
Academy of Moral and Political Sciences: "What would be the effect upon
the working-class of the organization of labor, according to the modern
ideas of association?"]

[Footnote 49: Subject proposed by the Academy of Besancon: "The
economical and moral consequences in France, up to the present time, and
those which seem likely to appear in future, of the law concerning the
equal division of hereditary property between the children."]

[Footnote 50: {GREEK, ?n n '},--greater property. The Vulgate translates
it avaritia.]

[Footnote 51: Similar or analogous customs have existed among all
nations. Consult, among other works, "Origin of French Law," by M.
Michelet; and "Antiquities of German Law," by Grimm.]

[Footnote 52: _Dees hominesque testamur, nos arma neque contra patriam
cepisse neque quo periculum aliis faceremus, sed uti corpora nostra ab
injuria tuta forent, qui miseri, egentes, violentia atque crudelitate
foeneraterum, plerique patriae, sed omncsfarna atque fortunis expertes
sumus; neque cuiquam nostrum licuit, more majorum, lege uti, neque,
amisso patrimonio, libferum corpus habere._--Sallus: Bellum

[Footnote 53: Fifty, sixty, and eighty per cent.--Course of M. Blanqui.]

[Footnote 54: _Episcopi plurimi, quos et hortamento esse oportet
caeteris et exemplo, divina prouratione contempta, procuratores rerum
saeularium fieri, derelicta cathedra, plebe leserta, per alienas
provincias oberrantes, negotiationis quaestuosae nundinas au uucu-,
pari, esurientibus in ecclesia fratribus habere argentum largitur velle,
fundos insidi.sis fraudibus rapere, usuris multiplicantibus faenus
augere._--Cyprian: De Lapsis. {--NOTE: what does this refer to? This is
at bottom of pg 341 in MS} In this passage, St. Cyprian alludes to
lending on mortgages and to compound interest.]

[Footnote 55: "Inquiries concerning Property among the Romans."]

[Footnote 56: "Its acquisitive nature works rapidly in the sleep of the
law. It is ready, at the word, to absorb every thing. Witness the famous
equivocation about the ox-hide which, when cut up into thongs, was large
enough to enclose the site of Carthage.... The legend has reappeared
several times since Dido.... Such is the love of man for the land.
Limited by tombs, measured by the members of the human body, by the
thumb, the foot, and the arm, it harmonizes, as far as possible, with
the very proportions of man. Nor is he satisfied yet: he calls Heaven to
witness that it is his; he tries to or his land, to give it the form of
heaven.... In his titanic intoxication, he describes property in the
very terms which he employs in describing the Almighty--_fundus_
_optimus maximus_.... He shall make it his couch, and they shall be
separated no more,--{GREEK, ' nf g h g g."}--Michelet:Origin of French

[Footnote 57: M. Guizot denies that Christianity alone is entitled to
the glory of the abolition of slavery. "To this end," he says, "many
causes were necessary,--the evolution of other ideas and other
principles of civilization." So general an assertion cannot be refuted.
Some of these ideas and causes should have been pointed out, that we
might judge whether their source was not wholly Christian, or whether at
least the Christian spirit had not penetrated and thus fructified them.
Most of the emancipation charters begin with these words: "For the love
of God and the salvation of my soul."]

[Footnote 58: _Weregild_,--the fine paid for the murder of a man. So
much for a count, so much for a baron, so much for a freeman, so much
for a priest; for a slave, nothing. His value was restored to the

[Footnote 59: The spirit of despotism and monopoly which animated the
communes has not escaped the attention of historians. "The formation of
the commoners' associations," says Meyer, "did not spring from the true
spirit of liberty, but from the desire for exemption from the charges of
the seigniors, from individual interests, and jealousy of the welfare of
others.... Each commune or corporation opposed the creation of every
other; and this spirit increased to such an extent that the King of
England, Henry V., having established a university at Caen, in 1432, the
city and university of Paris opposed the registration of the edict."]

[Footnote 60: Feudalism was, in spirit and in its providential destiny,
a long protest of the human personality against the monkish communism
with which Europe, in the middle ages, was overrun. After the orgies of
Pagan selfishness, society--carried to the opposite extreme by the
Christian religion--risked its life by unlimited self-denial and
absolute indifference to the pleasures of the world. Feudalism was the
balance-weight which saved Europe from the combined influence of the
religious communities and the Manlchean sects which had sprung up since
the fourth century under different names and in different countries.
Modern civilization is indebted to feudalism for the definitive
establishment of the person, of marriage, of the family, and of country.
(See, on this subject, Guizot, "History of Civilization in Europe.")]

[Footnote 61: This was made evident in July, 1830, and the years which
followed it, when the electoral bourgeoisie effected a revolution in
order to get control over the king, and suppressed the emeutes in order
to restrain the people. The bourgeoisie, through the jury, the
magistracy, its position in the army, and its municipal despotism,
governs both royalty and the people. It is the bourgeoisie which, more
than any other class, is conservative and retrogressive. It is the
bourgeoisie which makes and unmakes ministries. It is the bourgeoisie
which has destroyed the influence of the Upper Chamber, and which will
dethrone the King whenever he shall become unsatisfactory to it. It is
to please the bourgeoisie that royalty makes itself unpopular. It is the
bourgeoisie which is troubled at the hopes of the people, and which
hinders reform. The journals of the bourgeoisie are the ones which
preach morality and religion to us, while reserving scepticism and
indifference for themselves; which attack personal government, and favor
the denial of the electoral privilege to those who have no property. The
bourgeoisie will accept any thing rather than the emancipation of the
proletariat. As soon as it thinks its privileges threatened, it will
unite with royalty; and who does not know that at this very moment these
two antagonists have suspended their quarrels?... It has been a question
of property.]

[Footnote 62: The same opinion was recently expressed from the tribune
by one of our most honorable Deputies, M. Gauguier. "Nature," said he,
"has not endowed man with landed property." Changing the adjective
LANDED, which designates only a species into CAPITALISTIC, which denotes
the genus,--M. Gauguier made an egalitaire profession of faith.]

[Footnote 63: A professor of comparative legislation, M. Lerminier, has
gone still farther. He has dared to say that the nation took from the
clergy all their possessions, not because of IDLENESS, but because of
UNWORTHINESS. "You have civilized the world," cries this apostle of
equality, speaking to the priests; "and for that reason your possessions
were given you. In your hands they were at once an instrument and a
reward. But you do not now deserve them, for you long since ceased to
civilize any thing whatever...."]

[Footnote 64: "Treatise on Prescription."]

[Footnote 65: "Origin of French Law."]

[Footnote 66: To honor one's parents, to be grateful to one's
benefactors, to neither kill nor steal,--truths of inward sensation. To
obey God rather than men, to render to each that which is his; the whole
is greater than a part, a straight line is the shortest road from one
point to another,--truths of intuition. All are a priori but the first
are felt by the conscience, and imply only a simple act of the soul; the
second are perceived by the reason, and imply comparison and relation.
In short, the former are sentiments, the latter are ideas.]

[Footnote 67: Armand Carrel would have favored the fortification of the
capital. "Le National" has said, again and again, placing the name of
its old editor by the side of the names of Napoleon and Vauban. What
signifies this exhumation of an anti-popular politician? It signifies
that Armand Carrel wished to make government an individual and
irremovable, but elective, property, and that he wished this property to
be elected, not by the people, but by the army. The political system of
Carrel was simply a reorganization of the pretorian guards. Carrel also
hated the _pequins_. That which he deplored in the revolution of July
was not, they say, the insurrection of the people, but the victory of
the people over the soldiers. That is the reason why Carrel, after 1830,
would never support the patriots. "Do you answer me with a few
regiments?" he asked. Armand Carrel regarded the army--the military
power--as the basis of law and government. This man undoubtedly had a
moral sense within him, but he surely had no sense of justice. Were he
still in this world, I declare it boldly, liberty would have no greater
enemy than Carrel.]

[Footnote 68: In a very short article, which was read by M. Wolowski, M.
Louis Blanc declares, in substance, that he is not a communist (which I
easily believe); that one must be a fool to attack property (but he does
not say why); and that it is very necessary to guard against confounding
property with its abuses. When Voltaire overthrew Christianity, he
repeatedly avowed that he had no spite against religion, but only
against its abuses.]

[Footnote 69: The property fever is at its height among writers and
artists, and it is curious to see the complacency with which our
legislators and men of letters cherish this devouring passion. An artist
sells a picture, and then, the merchandise delivered, assumes to prevent
the purchaser from selling engravings, under the pretext that he, the
painter, in selling the original, has not sold his DESIGN. A dispute
arises between the amateur and the artist in regard to both the fact and
the law. M. Villemain, the Minister of Public Instruction, being
consulted as to this particular case, finds that the painter is right;
only the property in the design should have been specially reserved in
the contract: so that, in reality, M. Villemain recognizes in the artist
a power to surrender his work and prevent its communication; thus
contradicting the legal axiom, One CANNOT GIVE AND KEEP AT THE SAME
TIME. A strange reasoner is M. Villemain! An ambiguous principle leads
to a false conclusion. Instead of rejecting the principle, M. Villemain
hastens to admit the conclusion. With him the _reductio ad absurdum_ is
a convincing argument. Thus he is made official defender of literary
property, sure of being understood and sustained by a set of loafers,
the disgrace of literature and the plague of public morals. Why, then,
does M. Villemain feel so strong an interest in setting himself up as
the chief of the literary classes, in playing for their benefit the role
of Trissotin in the councils of the State, and in becoming the
accomplice and associate of a band of profligates,--_soi-disant_ men of
letters,--who for more than ten years have labored with such deplorable
success to ruin public spirit, and corrupt the heart by warping the

[Footnote 70: M. Leroux has been highly praised in a review for having
defended property. I do not know whether the industrious encyclopedist
is pleased with the praise, but I know very well that in his place I
should mourn for reason and for truth.]

[Footnote 71: "Impartial," of Besancon.]

[Footnote 72: The Arians deny the divinity of Christ. The Semi-Arians
differ from the Arians only by a few subtle distinctions. M. Pierre
Leroux, who regards Jesus as a man, but claims that the Spirit of God
was infused into him, is a true Semi-Arian.

The Manicheans admit two co-existent and eternal principles,--God and
matter, spirit and flesh, light and darkness, good and evil; but, unlike
the Phalansterians, who pretend to reconcile the two, the Manicheans
make war upon matter, and labor with all their might for the destruction
of the flesh, by condemning marriage and forbidding reproduction,--which
does not prevent them, however, from indulging in all the carnal
pleasures which the intensest lust can conceive of. In this last
particular, the tendency of the Fourieristic morality is quite

The Gnostics do not differ from the early Christians. As their name
indicates, they regarded themselves as inspired. Fourier, who held
peculiar ideas concerning the visions of somnambulists, and who believed
in the possibility of developing the magnetic power to such an extent as
to enable us to commune with invisible beings, might, if he were living,
pass also for a Gnostic.

The Adamites attend mass entirely naked, from motives of chastity. Jean
Jacques Rousseau, who took the sleep of the senses for chastity, and who
saw in modesty only a refinement of pleasure, inclined towards Adamism.
I know such a sect, whose members usually celebrate their mysteries in
the costume of Venus coming from the bath.

The Pre-Adamites believe that men existed before the first man. I once
met a Pre-Adamite. True, he was deaf and a Fourierist.

The Pelagians deny grace, and attribute all the merit of good works to
liberty. The Fourierists, who teach that man's nature and passions are
good, are reversed Pelagians; they give all to grace, and nothing to

The Socinians, deists in all other respects, admit an original
revelation. Many people are Socinians to-day, who do not suspect it, and
who regard their opinions as new.

The Neo-Christians are those simpletons who admire Christianity because
it has produced bells and cathedrals. Base in soul, corrupt in heart,
dissolute in mind and senses, the Neo-Christians seek especially after
the external form, and admire religion, as they love women, for its
physical beauty. They believe in a coming revelation, as well as a
transfiguration of Catholicism. They will sing masses at the grand
spectacle in the phalanstery.]

[Footnote 73: It should be understood that the above refers only to the
moral and political doctrines of Fourier,--doctrines which, like all
philosophical and religious systems, have their root and _raison
d'existence_ in society itself, and for this reason deserve to be
examined. The peculiar speculations of Fourier and his sect concerning
cosmogony, geology, natural history, physiology, and psychology, I leave
to the attention of those who would think it their duty to seriously
refute the fables of Blue Beard and the Ass's Skin.]

[Footnote 74: A writer for the radical press, M. Louis Raybaud, said, in
the preface to his "Studies of Contemporary Reformers:" "Who does not
know that morality is relative? Aside from a few grand sentiments which
are strikingly instinctive, the measure of human acts varies with
nations and climates, and only civilization--the progressive education
of the race--can lead to a universal morality.... The absolute escapes
our contingent and finite nature; the absolute is the secret of God."
God keep from evil M. Louis Raybaud! But I cannot help remarking that
all political apostates begin by the negation of the absolute, which is
really the negation of truth. What can a writer, who professes
scepticism, have in common with radical views? What has he to say to his
readers? What judgment is he entitled to pass upon contemporary
reformers? M. Raybaud thought it would seem wise to repeat an old
impertinence of the legist, and that may serve him for an excuse. We all
have these weaknesses. But I am surprised that a man of so much
intelligence as M. Raybaud, who STUDIES SYSTEMS, fails to see the very
thing he ought first to recognize,--namely, that systems are the
progress of the mind towards the absolute.]

[Footnote 75: The electoral reform, it is continually asserted, is not
an END, but a MEANS. Undoubtedly; but what, then, is the end? Why not
furnish an unequivocal explanation of its object? How can the people
choose their representatives, unless they know in advance the purpose
for which they choose them, and the object of the commission which they
entrust to them? But, it is said, the very business of those chosen by
the people is to find out the object of the reform. That is a quibble.
What is to hinder these persons, who are to be elected in future, from
first seeking for this object, and then, when they have found it, from
communicating it to the people? The reformers have well said, that,
while the object of the electoral reform remains in the least
indefinite, it will be only a means of transferring power from the hands
of petty tyrants to the hands of other tyrants. We know already how a
nation may be oppressed by being led to believe that it is obeying only
its own laws. The history of universal suffrage, among all nations, is
the history of the restrictions of liberty by and in the name of the
multitude. Still, if the electoral reform, in its present shape, were
rational, practical, acceptable to clean consciences and upright minds,
perhaps one might be excused, though ignorant of its object, for
supporting it. But, no; the text of the petition determines nothing,
makes no distinctions, requires no conditions, no guarantee; it
establishes the right without the duty. "Every Frenchman is a voter, and
eligible to office." As well say: "Every bayonet is intelligent, every
savage is civilized, every slave is free." In its vague generality, the
reformatory petition is the weakest of abstractions, or the highest form
of political treason. Consequently, the enlightened patriots distrust
and despise each other. The most radical writer of the time,--he whose
economical and social theories are, without comparison, the most
advanced,--M. Leroux, has taken a bold stand against universal suffrage
and democratic government, and has written an exceedingly keen criticism
of J. J. Rousseau. That is undoubtedly the reason why M. Leroux is no
longer the philosopher of "Le National." That journal, like Napoleon,
does not like men of ideas. Nevertheless, "Le National" ought to know
that he who fights against ideas will perish by ideas.]

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Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.