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.



% 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.

% 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.

[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.

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 themselves.--Translator.

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

"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 position.

"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

"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

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

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

"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 Hebrew.

"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
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

"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

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 society.

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

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

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

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 francs.

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

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

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 chamber.

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

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

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 Congress."

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 memoir:--

"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 expired.'

"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
NUMEROUS AND POORER 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,[1] if it did
not reveal the astonishing success, at least bore witness to the
thoroughness, of my labors.

[1] "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.

"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

"In 1838, the Academy of Besancon proposed the following

"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

"In a Christian tongue you asked, gentlemen, what was the true
system of society. A competitor[1] 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.

[1] "The Utility of the Celebration of Sunday," &c. By P. J.
Proudhon. Besancon, 1839, 12mo; 2d edition, Paris, 1841, 18mo.

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

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

"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 property?

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

"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 success!

"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.'[1]

[1] Charron, on "Wisdom," Chapter xviii.

"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
"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

"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 Academy.

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 ignorant.

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.[1] 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.

[1] 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 competitors.

"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

"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

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

_Adversus hostem aeterna auctertas esto._

Against the enemy, revendication is eternal.


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 revolutions!

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.[1] My mission is written in these words of the law:
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?

[1] In Greek, {GREEK e ncg } examiner; a philosopher whose
business is to seek the truth.

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

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 dawn?

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

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 constitution.

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

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