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What is Property?

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I have proved,--at too great length, perhaps,--both by the spirit
of the laws which regard property as the basis of society, and by
political economy, that inequality of conditions is justified
neither by priority of occupation nor superiority of talent,
service, industry, and capacity. But, although equality of
conditions is a necessary consequence of natural right, of
liberty, of the laws of production, of the capacity of physical
nature, and of the principle of society itself,--it does not
prevent the social sentiment from stepping over the boundaries of
DEBT and CREDIT. The fields of benevolence and love extend
far beyond; and when economy has adjusted its balance, the mind
begins to benefit by its own justice, and the heart expands in
the boundlessness of its affection.

The social sentiment then takes on a new character, which varies
with different persons. In the strong, it becomes the pleasure
of generosity; among equals, frank and cordial friendship; in the
weak, the pleasure of admiration and gratitude.

The man who is superior in strength, skill, or courage, knows
that he owes all that he is to society, without which he could
not exist. He knows that, in treating him precisely as it does
the lowest of its members, society discharges its whole duty
towards him. But he does not underrate his faculties; he is no
less conscious of his power and greatness; and it is this
voluntary reverence which he pays to humanity, this avowal that
he is but an instrument of Nature,--who is alone worthy of glory
and worship,--it is, I say, this simultaneous confession of the
heart and the mind, this genuine adoration of the Great Being,
that distinguishes and elevates man, and lifts him to a degree of
social morality to which the beast is powerless to attain.
Hercules destroying the monsters and punishing brigands for the
safety of Greece, Orpheus teaching the rough and wild
Pelasgians,--neither of them putting a price upon their
services,--there we see the noblest creations of poetry, the
loftiest expression of justice and virtue.

The joys of self-sacrifice are ineffable.

If I were to compare human society to the old Greek tragedies, I
should say that the phalanx of noble minds and lofty souls dances
the strophe, and the humble multitude the antistrophe.
Burdened with painful and disagreeable tasks, but rendered
omnipotent by their number and the harmonic arrangement of their
functions, the latter execute what the others plan. Guided by
them, they owe them nothing; they honor them, however, and lavish
upon them praise and approbation.

Gratitude fills people with adoration and enthusiasm.

But equality delights my heart. Benevolence degenerates into
tyranny, and admiration into servility. Friendship is the
daughter of equality. O my friends! may I live in your midst
without emulation, and without glory; let equality bring us
together, and fate assign us our places. May I die without
knowing to whom among you I owe the most esteem!

Friendship is precious to the hearts of the children of men.

Generosity, gratitude (I mean here only that gratitude which is
born of admiration of a superior power), and friendship are three
distinct shades of a single sentiment which I will call
equite, or SOCIAL PROPORTIONALITY.[1] Equite does not
change justice: but, always taking equite for the base, it
superadds esteem, and thereby forms in man a third degree of
sociability. Equite makes it at once our duty and our pleasure
to aid the weak who have need of us, and to make them our equals;
to pay to the strong a just tribute of gratitude and honor,
without enslaving ourselves to them; to cherish our neighbors,
friends, and equals, for that which we receive from them, even by
right of exchange. Equite is sociability raised to its ideal
by reason and justice; its commonest manifestation is URBANITY
or POLITENESS, which, among certain nations, sums up in a
single word nearly all the social duties.

[1] I mean here by equite what the Latins called
humanitas,--that is, the kind of sociability which is peculiar
to man. Humanity, gentle and courteous to all, knows how to
distinguish ranks, virtues, and capacities without injury to any.

It is the just distribution of social sympathy and universal

Now, this feeling is unknown among the beasts, who love and cling
to each other, and show their preferences, but who cannot
conceive of esteem, and who are incapable of generosity,
admiration, or politeness.

This feeling does not spring from intelligence, which calculates,
computes, and balances, but does not love; which sees, but does
not feel. As justice is the product of social instinct and
reflection combined, so equite is a product of justice and
taste combined--that is, of our powers of judging and of

This product--the third and last degree of human sociability--is
determined by our complex mode of association; in which
inequality, or rather the divergence of faculties, and the
speciality of functions--tending of themselves to isolate
laborers--demand a more active sociability.

That is why the force which oppresses while protecting is
execrable; why the silly ignorance which views with the same
eye the marvels of art, and the products of the rudest industry,
excites unutterable contempt; why proud mediocrity, which glories
in saying, "I have paid you--I owe you nothing," is especially

SOCIABILITY, JUSTICE, EQUITE--such, in its triplicity, is the
exact definition of the instinctive faculty which leads us into
communication with our fellows, and whose physical manifestation
is expressed by the formula: EQUALITY IN NATURAL WEALTH, AND

These three degrees of sociability support and imply each other.

Equite cannot exist without justice; society without justice is
a solecism. If, in order to reward talent, I take from one to
give to another, in unjustly stripping the first, I do not esteem
his talent as I ought; if, in society, I award more to myself
than to my associate, we are not really associated. Justice is
sociability as manifested in the division of material things,
susceptible of weight and measure; equite is justice
accompanied by admiration and esteem,--things which cannot be

From this several inferences may be drawn.

1. Though we are free to grant our esteem to one more than to
another, and in all possible degrees, yet we should give no one
more than his proportion of the common wealth; because the duty
of justice, being imposed upon us before that of equite, must
always take precedence of it. The woman honored by the ancients,
who, when forced by a tyrant to choose between the death of her
brother and that of her husband, sacrificed the latter on the
ground that she could find another husband but not another
brother,--that woman, I say, in obeying her sense of equite,
failed in point of justice, and did a bad deed, because conjugal
association is a closer relation than fraternal association,
and because the life of our neighbor is not our property.

By the same principle, inequality of wages cannot be admitted by
law on the ground of inequality of talents; because the just
distribution of wealth is the function of economy,--not of

Finally, as regards donations, wills, and inheritance, society,
careful both of the personal affections and its own rights, must
never permit love and partiality to destroy justice. And, though
it is pleasant to think that the son, who has been long
associated with his father in business, is more capable than any
one else of carrying it on; and that the citizen, who is
surprised in the midst of his task by death, is best fitted, in
consequence of his natural taste for his occupation, to designate
his successor; and though the heir should be allowed the right of
choice in case of more than one inheritance,--nevertheless,
society can tolerate no concentration of capital and industry for
the benefit of a single man, no monopoly of labor, no

[1] Justice and equite never have been understood.

"Suppose that some spoils, taken from the enemy, and equal to
twelve, are to be divided between Achilles and Ajax. If the two
persons were equal, their respective shares would be
arithmetically equal: Achilles would have six, Ajax six. And if
we should carry out this arithmetical equality, Thersites would
be entitled to as much as Achilles, which would be unjust in the
extreme. To avoid this injustice, the worth of the persons
should be estimated, and the spoils divided accordingly. Suppose
that the worth of Achilles is double that of Ajax: the former's
share is eight, the latter four. There is no arithmetical
equality, but a proportional equality. It is this comparison of
merits, rationum, that Aristotle calls distributive justice.
It is a geometrical proportion."--Toullier: French Law
according to the Code.

Are Achilles and Ajax associated, or are they not? Settle that,
and you settle the whole question. If Achilles and Ajax, instead
of being associated, are themselves in the service of Agamemnon
who pays them, there is no objection to Aristotle's method. The
slave-owner, who controls his slaves, may give a double allowance
of brandy to him who does double work. That is the law of
despotism; the right of slavery.

But if Achilles and Ajax are associated, they are equals. What
matters it that Achilles has a strength of four, while that of
Ajax is only two? The latter may always answer that he is free;
that if Achilles has a strength of four, five could kill him;
finally, that in doing personal service he incurs as great a risk
as Achilles. The same argument applies to Thersites. If he is
unable to fight, let him be cook, purveyor, or butler. If he is
good for nothing, put him in the hospital. In no case wrong him,
or impose upon him laws.

Man must live in one of two states: either in society, or out of
it. In society, conditions are necessarily equal, except in the
degree of esteem and consideration which each one may receive.
Out of society, man is so much raw material, a capitalized tool,
and often an incommodious and useless piece of furniture.

2. Equite, justice, and society, can exist only between
individuals of the same species. They form no part of the
relations of different races to each other,--for instance, of the
wolf to the goat, of the goat to man, of man to God, much less of
God to man. The attribution of justice, equity, and love to the
Supreme Being is pure anthropomorphism; and the adjectives just,
merciful, pitiful, and the like, should be stricken from our
litanies. God can be regarded as just, equitable, and good, only
to another God. Now, God has no associate; consequently, he
cannot experience social affections,--such as goodness, equite,
and justice. Is the shepherd said to be just to his sheep and
his dogs? No: and if he saw fit to shear as much wool from a
lamb six months old, as from a ram of two years; or, if he
required as much work from a young dog as from an old one,--they
would say, not that he was unjust, but that he was foolish.
Between man and beast there is no society, though there may be
affection. Man loves the animals as THINGS,--as SENTIENT
THINGS, if you will,--but not as PERSONS. Philosophy, after
having eliminated from the idea of God the passions ascribed to
him by superstition, will then be obliged to eliminate also the
virtues which our liberal piety awards to him.[1]

[1] Between woman and man there may exist love, passion, ties of
custom, and the like; but there is no real society. Man and
woman are not companions. The difference of the sexes places a
barrier between them, like that placed between animals by a
difference of race. Consequently, far from advocating what is
now called the emancipation of woman, I should incline, rather,
if there were no other alternative, to exclude her from society.

The rights of woman and her relations with man are yet to be
determined Matrimonial legislation, like civil legislation, is a
matter for the future to settle.

If God should come down to earth, and dwell among us, we could
not love him unless he became like us; nor give him any thing
unless he produced something; nor listen to him unless he proved
us mistaken; nor worship him unless he manifested his power. All
the laws of our nature, affectional, economical, and
intellectual, would prevent us from treating him as we treat our
fellow-men,--that is, according to reason, justice, and equite.

I infer from this that, if God should wish ever to put himself
into immediate communication with man, he would have to become a

Now, if kings are images of God, and executors of his will, they
cannot receive love, wealth, obedience, and glory from us, unless
they consent to labor and associate with us--produce as much as
they consume, reason with their subjects, and do wonderful
things. Still more; if, as some pretend, kings are public
functionaries, the love which is due them is measured by their
personal amiability; our obligation to obey them, by the wisdom
of their commands; and their civil list, by the total social
production divided by the number of citizens.

Thus, jurisprudence, political economy, and psychology agree in
admitting the law of equality. Right and duty--
the due reward of talent and labor--the outbursts of love
and enthusiasm,--all are regulated in advance by an invariable
standard; all depend upon number and balance. Equality of
conditions is the law of society, and universal solidarity is the
ratification of this law.

Equality of conditions has never been realized, thanks to our
passions and our ignorance; but our opposition to this law has
made it all the more a necessity. To that fact history bears
perpetual testimony, and the course of events reveals it to us.
Society advances from equation to equation. To the eyes of the
economist, the revolutions of empires seem now like the reduction
of algebraical quantities, which are inter-deducible; now like
the discovery of unknown quantities, induced by the inevitable
influence of time. Figures are the providence of history.
Undoubtedly there are other elements in human progress; but in
the multitude of hidden causes which agitate nations, there is
none more powerful or constant, none less obscure, than the
periodical explosions of the proletariat against property.
Property, acting by exclusion and encroachment, while population
was increasing, has been the life-principle and definitive cause
of all revolutions. Religious wars, and wars of conquest, when
they have stopped short of the extermination of races, have been
only accidental disturbances, soon repaired by the mathematical
progression of the life of nations. The downfall and death of
societies are due to the power of accumulation possessed by

In the middle ages, take Florence,--a republic of merchants and
brokers, always rent by its well-known factions, the Guelphs and
Ghibellines, who were, after all, only the people and the
proprietors fighting against each other,--Florence, ruled by
bankers, and borne down at last by the weight of her
debts;[1] in ancient times, take Rome, preyed upon from its birth
by usury, flourishing, nevertheless, as long as the known world
furnished its terrible proletaires with LABOR stained with
blood by civil war at every interval of rest, and dying of
exhaustion when the people lost, together with their former
energy, their last spark of moral sense; Carthage, a commercial
and financial city, continually divided by internal competition;
Tyre, Sidon, Jerusalem, Nineveh, Babylon, ruined, in turn, by
commercial rivalry and, as we now express it, by panics in the
market,--do not these famous examples show clearly enough the
fate which awaits modern nations, unless the people, unless
France, with a sudden burst of her powerful voice, proclaims in
thunder-tones the abolition of the regime of property?

[1] "The strong-box of Cosmo de Medici was the grave of
Florentine liberty," said M. Michelet to the College of France.

Here my task should end. I have proved the right of the poor; I
have shown the usurpation of the rich. I demand justice; it is
not my business to execute the sentence. If it should be
argued--in order to prolong for a few years an illegitimate
privilege--that it is not enough to demonstrate equality, that it
is necessary also to organize it, and above all to establish it
peacefully, I might reply: The welfare of the oppressed is of
more importance than official composure. Equality of conditions
is a natural law upon which public economy and jurisprudence are
based. The right to labor, and the principle of equal
distribution of wealth, cannot give way to the anxieties of
power. It is not for the proletaire to reconcile the
contradictions of the codes, still less to suffer for the errors
of the government. On the contrary, it is the duty of the civil
and administrative power to reconstruct itself on the basis of
political equality. An evil, when known, should be condemned and
destroyed. The legislator cannot plead ignorance as an excuse
for upholding a glaring iniquity. Restitution should not be
delayed. Justice, justice! recognition of right! reinstatement
of the proletaire!--when these results are accomplished, then,
judges and consuls, you may attend to your police, and provide a
government for the Republic!

For the rest, I do not think that a single one of my readers
accuses me of knowing how to destroy, but of not knowing how to
construct. In demonstrating the principle of equality, I have
laid the foundation of the social structure I have done more. I
have given an example of the true method of solving political and
legislative problems. Of the science itself, I confess that I
know nothing more than its principle; and I know of no one at
present who can boast of having penetrated deeper. Many people
cry, "Come to me, and I will teach you the truth!" These people
mistake for the truth their cherished opinion and ardent
conviction, which is usually any thing but the truth. The
science of society--like all human sciences--will be for ever
incomplete. The depth and variety of the questions which it
embraces are infinite. We hardly know the A B C of this science,
as is proved by the fact that we have not yet emerged from the
period of systems, and have not ceased to put the authority of
the majority in the place of facts. A certain philological
society decided linguistic questions by a plurality of votes.
Our parliamentary debates--were their results less pernicious--
would be even more ridiculous. The task of the true publicist,
in the age in which we live, is to close the mouths of quacks and
charlatans, and to teach the public to demand demonstrations,
instead of being contented with symbols and programmes.
Before talking of the science itself, it is necessary to
ascertain its object, and discover its method and principle. The
ground must be cleared of the prejudices which encumber it. Such
is the mission of the nineteenth century.

For my part, I have sworn fidelity to my work of demolition, and
I will not cease to pursue the truth through the ruins and
rubbish. I hate to see a thing half done; and it will be
believed without any assurance of mine, that, having dared to
raise my hand against the Holy Ark, I shall not rest contented
with the removal of the cover. The mysteries of the sanctuary of
iniquity must be unveiled, the tables of the old alliance broken,
and all the objects of the ancient faith thrown in a heap to the
swine. A charter has been given to us,--a resume of political
science, the monument of twenty legislatures. A code has been
written,--the pride of a conqueror, and the summary of ancient
wisdom. Well! of this charter and this code not one article
shall be left standing upon another! The time has come for the
wise to choose their course, and prepare for reconstruction.

But, since a destroyed error necessarily implies a counter-truth,
I will not finish this treatise without solving the first problem
of political science,--that which receives the attention of all



% 1.--Of the Causes of our Mistakes. The Origin of Property.

The true form of human society cannot be determined until the
following question has been solved:--

Property not being our natural condition, how did it gain a
foothold? Why has the social instinct, so trustworthy among
the animals, erred in the case of man? Why is man, who was born
for society, not yet associated?

I have said that human society is COMPLEX in its nature.
Though this expression is inaccurate, the fact to which it refers
is none the less true; namely, the classification of talents and
capacities. But who does not see that these talents and
capacities, owing to their infinite variety, give rise to an
infinite variety of wills, and that the character, the
inclinations, and--if I may venture to use the expression--the
form of the ego, are necessarily changed; so that in the order
of liberty, as in the order of intelligence, there are as many
types as individuals, as many characters as heads, whose tastes,
fancies, and propensities, being modified by dissimilar ideas,
must necessarily conflict? Man, by his nature and his instinct,
is predestined to society; but his personality, ever varying, is
adverse to it.

In societies of animals, all the members do exactly the same
things. The same genius directs them; the same will animates
them. A society of beasts is a collection of atoms, round,
hooked, cubical, or triangular, but always perfectly identical.
These personalities do not vary, and we might say that a single
ego governs them all. The labors which animals perform,
whether alone or in society, are exact reproductions of their
character. Just as the swarm of bees is composed of individual
bees, alike in nature and equal in value, so the honeycomb is
formed of individual cells, constantly and invariably repeated.

But man's intelligence, fitted for his social destiny and his
personal needs, is of a very different composition, and therefore
gives rise to a wonderful variety of human wills. In the bee,
the will is constant and uniform, because the instinct which
guides it is invariable, and constitutes the animal's whole life
and nature. In man, talent varies, and the mind wavers;
consequently, his will is multiform and vague. He seeks society,
but dislikes constraint and monotony; he is an imitator, but fond
of his own ideas, and passionately in love with his works.

If, like the bees, every man were born possessed of talent,
perfect knowledge of certain kinds, and, in a word, an innate
acquaintance with the functions he has to perform, but destitute
of reflective and reasoning faculties, society would organize
itself. We should see one man plowing a field, another building
houses; this one forging metals, that one cutting clothes; and
still others storing the products, and superintending their
distribution. Each one, without inquiring as to the object of
his labor, and without troubling himself about the extent of his
task, would obey orders, bring his product, receive his salary,
and would then rest for a time; keeping meanwhile no accounts,
envious of nobody, and satisfied with the distributor, who never
would be unjust to any one. Kings would govern, but would not
reign; for to reign is to be a _proprietor a l'engrais_, as
Bonaparte said: and having no commands to give, since all would
be at their posts, they would serve rather as rallying centres
than as authorities or counsellors. It would be a state of
ordered communism, but not a society entered into deliberately
and freely.

But man acquires skill only by observation and experiment. He
reflects, then, since to observe and experiment is to reflect; he
reasons, since he cannot help reasoning. In reflecting, he
becomes deluded; in reasoning, he makes mistakes, and, thinking
himself right, persists in them. He is wedded to his opinions;
he esteems himself, and despises others. Consequently, he
isolates himself; for he could not submit to the majority
without renouncing his will and his reason,--that is, without
disowning himself, which is impossible. And this isolation, this
intellectual egotism, this individuality of opinion, lasts until
the truth is demonstrated to him by observation and experience.
A final illustration will make these facts still clearer.

If to the blind but convergent and harmonious instincts of a
swarm of bees should be suddenly added reflection and judgment,
the little society could not long exist. In the first place, the
bees would not fail to try some new industrial process; for
instance, that of making their cells round or square. All sorts
of systems and inventions would be tried, until long experience,
aided by geometry, should show them that the hexagonal shape is
the best. Then insurrections would occur. The drones would be
told to provide for themselves, and the queens to labor; jealousy
would spread among the laborers; discords would burst forth; soon
each one would want to produce on his own account; and finally
the hive would be abandoned, and the bees would perish. Evil
would be introduced into the honey-producing republic by the
power of reflection,--the very faculty which ought to constitute
its glory.

Thus, moral evil, or, in this case, disorder in society, is
naturally explained by our power of reflection. The mother of
poverty, crime, insurrection, and war was inequality of
conditions; which was the daughter of property, which was born of
selfishness, which was engendered by private opinion, which
descended in a direct line from the autocracy of reason. Man, in
his infancy, is neither criminal nor barbarous, but ignorant and
inexperienced. Endowed with imperious instincts which are under
the control of his reasoning faculty, at first he reflects but
little, and reasons inaccurately; then, benefiting by his
mistakes, he rectifies his ideas, and perfects his reason. In
the first place, it is the savage sacrificing all his possessions
for a trinket, and then repenting and weeping; it is Esau selling
his birthright for a mess of pottage, and afterwards wishing to
cancel the bargain; it is the civilized workman laboring in
insecurity, and continually demanding that his wages be
increased, neither he nor his employer understanding that, in the
absence of equality, any salary, however large, is always
insufficient. Then it is Naboth dying to defend his inheritance;
Cato tearing out his entrails that he might not be enslaved;
Socrates drinking the fatal cup in defence of liberty of thought;
it is the third estate of '89 reclaiming its liberty: soon it
will be the people demanding equality of wages and an equal
division of the means of production.

Man is born a social being,--that is, he seeks equality and
justice in all his relations, but he loves independence and
praise. The difficulty of satisfying these various desires at
the same time is the primary cause of the despotism of the will,
and the appropriation which results from it. On the other hand,
man always needs a market for his products; unable to compare
values of different kinds, he is satisfied to judge
approximately, according to his passion and caprice; and he
engages in dishonest commerce, which always results in wealth and
poverty. Thus, the greatest evils which man suffers arise from
the misuse of his social nature, of this same justice of which he
is so proud, and which he applies with such deplorable ignorance.

The practice of justice is a science which, when once discovered
and diffused, will sooner or later put an end to social disorder,
by teaching us our rights and duties.

This progressive and painful education of our instinct, this slow
and imperceptible transformation of our spontaneous
perceptions into deliberate knowledge, does not take place
among the animals, whose instincts remain fixed, and never become

"According to Frederic Cuvier, who has so clearly distinguished
between instinct and intelligence in animals, `instinct is a
natural and inherent faculty, like feeling, irritability, or
intelligence. The wolf and the fox who recognize the traps in
which they have been caught, and who avoid them; the dog and the
horse, who understand the meaning of several of our words, and
who obey us,--thereby show _intelligence_. The dog who hides the
remains of his dinner, the bee who constructs his cell, the bird
who builds his nest, act only from _instinct_. Even man has
instincts: it is a special instinct which leads the new-born
child to suck. But, in man, almost every thing is accomplished
by intelligence; and intelligence supplements instinct. The
opposite is true of animals: their instinct is given them as a
supplement to their intelligence.'"--Flourens: Analytical
Summary of the Observations of F. Cuvier.

"We can form a clear idea of instinct only by admitting that
animals have in their _sensorium_, images or innate and constant
sensations, which influence their actions in the same manner that
ordinary and accidental sensations commonly do. It is a sort of
dream, or vision, which always follows them and in all which
relates to instinct they may be regarded as somnambulists."--F.
Cuvier: Introduction to the Animal Kingdom.

Intelligence and instinct being common, then, though in different
degrees, to animals and man, what is the distinguishing
characteristic of the latter? According to F. Cuvier, it is
and requires an explanation.

If we grant intelligence to animals, we must also grant them, in
some degree, reflection; for, the first cannot exist without the
second, as F. Cuvier himself has proved by numerous examples.
But notice that the learned observer defines the kind of
reflection which distinguishes us from the animals as the POWER
interpret, by developing to the best of my ability the
laconism of the philosophical naturalist.

The intelligence acquired by animals never modifies the
operations which they perform by instinct: it is given them only
as a provision against unexpected accidents which might disturb
these operations. In man, on the contrary, instinctive action is
constantly changing into deliberate action. Thus, man is social
by instinct, and is every day becoming social by reflection and
choice. At first, he formed his words by instinct;[1] he was a
poet by inspiration: to-day, he makes grammar a science, and
poetry an art. His conception of God and a future life is
spontaneous and instinctive, and his expressions of this
conception have been, by turns, monstrous, eccentric, beautiful,
comforting, and terrible. All these different creeds, at which
the frivolous irreligion of the eighteenth century mocked, are
modes of expression of the religious sentiment. Some day, man
will explain to himself the character of the God whom he believes
in, and the nature of that other world to which his soul aspires.

[1] "The problem of the origin of language is solved by the
distinction made by Frederic Cuvier between instinct and
intelligence. Language is not a premeditated, arbitrary, or
conventional device; nor is it communicated or revealed to us by
God. Language is an instinctive and unpremeditated creation of
man, as the hive is of the bee. In this sense, it may be said
that language is not the work of man, since it is not the work of
his mind. Further, the mechanism of language seems more
wonderful and ingenious when it is not regarded as the result of
reflection. This fact is one of the most curious and
indisputable which philology has observed. See, among other
works, a Latin essay by F. G. Bergmann (Strasbourg, 1839), in
which the learned author explains how the phonetic germ is born
of sensation; how language passes through three successive stages
of development; why man, endowed at birth with the instinctive
faculty of creating a language, loses this faculty as fast as his
mind develops; and that the study of languages is real natural
history,--in fact, a science. France possesses to-day several
philologists of the first rank, endowed with rare talents and
deep philosophic insight,--modest savants developing a science
almost without the knowledge of the public; devoting themselves
to studies which are scornfully looked down upon, and seeming to
shun applause as much as others seek it."

All that he does from instinct man despises; or, if he admires
it, it is as Nature's work, not as his own. This explains the
obscurity which surrounds the names of early inventors; it
explains also our indifference to religious matters, and the
ridicule heaped upon religious customs. Man esteems only the
products of reflection and of reason. The most wonderful works
of instinct are, in his eyes, only lucky GOD-SENDS; he reserves
the name DISCOVERY--I had almost said creation--for the works
of intelligence. Instinct is the source of passion and
enthusiasm; it is intelligence which causes crime and virtue.

In developing his intelligence, man makes use of not only his own
observations, but also those of others. He keeps an account of
his experience, and preserves the record; so that the race, as
well as the individual, becomes more and more intelligent. The
animals do not transmit their knowledge; that which each
individual accumulates dies with him.

It is not enough, then, to say that we are distinguished from the
animals by reflection, unless we mean thereby the CONSTANT
governed by instinct, he is unconscious of his acts. He never
would deceive himself, and never would be troubled by errors,
evils, and disorder, if, like the animals, instinct were his only
guide. But the Creator has endowed us with reflection, to the
end that our instinct might become intelligence; and since this
reflection and resulting knowledge pass through various stages,
it happens that in the beginning our instinct is opposed, rather
than guided, by reflection; consequently, that our power of
thought leads us to act in opposition to our nature and our end;
that, deceiving ourselves, we do and suffer evil, until
instinct which points us towards good, and reflection which makes
us stumble into evil, are replaced by the science of good and
evil, which invariably causes us to seek the one and avoid the

Thus, evil--or error and its consequences--is the firstborn son
of the union of two opposing faculties, instinct and reflection;
good, or truth, must inevitably be the second child. Or, to
again employ the figure, evil is the product of incest between
adverse powers; good will sooner or later be the legitimate child
of their holy and mysterious union.

Property, born of the reasoning faculty, intrenches itself behind
comparisons. But, just as reflection and reason are subsequent
to spontaneity, observation to sensation, and experience to
instinct, so property is subsequent to communism. Communism--or
association in a simple form--is the necessary object and
original aspiration of the social nature, the spontaneous
movement by which it manifests and establishes itself. It is the
first phase of human civilization. In this state of society,--
which the jurists have called NEGATIVE COMMUNISM--man draws
near to man, and shares with him the fruits of the field and the
milk and flesh of animals. Little by little this communism--
negative as long as man does not produce--tends to become
positive and organic through the development of labor and
industry. But it is then that the sovereignty of thought, and
the terrible faculty of reasoning logically or illogically, teach
man that, if equality is the sine qua non of society, communism
is the first species of slavery.
To express this idea by an Hegelian formula, I will say:

Communism--the first expression of the social nature--is the
first term of social development,--the THESIS; property, the
reverse of communism, is the second term,--the ANTITHESIS.
When we have discovered the third term, the SYNTHESIS, we
shall have the required solution. Now, this synthesis
necessarily results from the correction of the thesis by the
antithesis. Therefore it is necessary, by a final examination of
their characteristics, to eliminate those features which are
hostile to sociability. The union of the two remainders will
give us the true form of human association.

% 2.--Characteristics of Communism and of Property.

I. I ought not to conceal the fact that property and communism
have been considered always the only possible forms of society.
This deplorable error has been the life of property. The
disadvantages of communism are so obvious that its critics never
have needed to employ much eloquence to thoroughly disgust men
with it. The irreparability of the injustice which it causes,
the violence which it does to attractions and repulsions, the
yoke of iron which it fastens upon the will, the moral torture to
which it subjects the conscience, the debilitating effect which
it has upon society; and, to sum it all up, the pious and stupid
uniformity which it enforces upon the free, active, reasoning,
unsubmissive personality of man, have shocked common sense, and
condemned communism by an irrevocable decree.

The authorities and examples cited in its favor disprove it. The
communistic republic of Plato involved slavery; that of Lycurgus
employed Helots, whose duty it was to produce for their masters,
thus enabling the latter to devote themselves exclusively to
athletic sports and to war. Even J. J. Rousseau--confounding
communism and equality--has said somewhere that, without slavery,
he did not think equality of conditions possible. The
communities of the early Church did not last the first century
out, and soon degenerated into monasteries. In those of the
Jesuits of Paraguay, the condition of the blacks is said by
all travellers to be as miserable as that of slaves; and it is a
fact that the good Fathers were obliged to surround themselves
with ditches and walls to prevent their new converts from
escaping. The followers of Baboeuf--guided by a lofty horror of
property rather than by any definite belief--were ruined by
exaggeration of their principles; the St. Simonians, lumping
communism and inequality, passed away like a masquerade. The
greatest danger to which society is exposed to-day is that of
another shipwreck on this rock.

Singularly enough, systematic communism--the deliberate negation
of property--is conceived under the direct influence of the
proprietary prejudice; and property is the basis of all
communistic theories.

The members of a community, it is true, have no private property;
but the community is proprietor, and proprietor not only of the
goods, but of the persons and wills. In consequence of this
principle of absolute property, labor, which should be only a
condition imposed upon man by Nature, becomes in all communities
a human commandment, and therefore odious. Passive obedience,
irreconcilable with a reflecting will, is strictly enforced.
Fidelity to regulations, which are always defective, however wise
they may be thought, allows of no complaint. Life, talent, and
all the human faculties are the property of the State, which has
the right to use them as it pleases for the common good. Private
associations are sternly prohibited, in spite of the likes and
dislikes of different natures, because to tolerate them would be
to introduce small communities within the large one, and
consequently private property; the strong work for the weak,
although this ought to be left to benevolence, and not enforced,
advised, or enjoined; the industrious work for the lazy,
although this is unjust; the clever work for the foolish,
although this is absurd; and, finally, man--casting aside his
personality, his spontaneity, his genius, and his affections--
humbly annihilates himself at the feet of the majestic and
inflexible Commune!

Communism is inequality, but not as property is. Property is the
exploitation of the weak by the strong. Communism is the
exploitation of the strong by the weak. In property, inequality
of conditions is the result of force, under whatever name it be
disguised: physical and mental force; force of events, chance,
FORTUNE; force of accumulated property, &c. In communism,
inequality springs from placing mediocrity on a level with
excellence. This damaging equation is repellent to the
conscience, and causes merit to complain; for, although it may be
the duty of the strong to aid the weak, they prefer to do it out
of generosity,--they never will endure a comparison. Give them
equal opportunities of labor, and equal wages, but never allow
their jealousy to be awakened by mutual suspicion of
unfaithfulness in the performance of the common task.

Communism is oppression and slavery. Man is very willing to obey
the law of duty, serve his country, and oblige his friends; but
he wishes to labor when he pleases, where he pleases, and as much
as he pleases. He wishes to dispose of his own time, to be
governed only by necessity, to choose his friendships, his
recreation, and his discipline; to act from judgment, not by
command; to sacrifice himself through selfishness, not through
servile obligation. Communism is essentially opposed to the free
exercise of our faculties, to our noblest desires, to our deepest
feelings. Any plan which could be devised for reconciling it
with the demands of the individual reason and will would end only
in changing the thing while preserving the name. Now, if we
are honest truth-seekers, we shall avoid disputes about words.

Thus, communism violates the sovereignty of the conscience, and
equality: the first, by restricting spontaneity of mind and
heart, and freedom of thought and action; the second, by placing
labor and laziness, skill and stupidity, and even vice and virtue
on an equality in point of comfort. For the rest, if property is
impossible on account of the desire to accumulate, communism
would soon become so through the desire to shirk.

II. Property, in its turn, violates equality by the rights of
exclusion and increase, and freedom by despotism. The former
effect of property having been sufficiently developed in the last
three chapters, I will content myself here with establishing by a
final comparison, its perfect identity with robbery.

The Latin words for robber are _fur_ and _latro;_ the former
taken from the Greek {GREEK m }, from {GREEK m }, Latin
_fero_, I carry away; the latter from {GREEK `i }, I play the
part of a brigand, which is derived from {GREEK i }, Latin
_lateo_, I conceal myself. The Greeks have also {GREEK ncg },
from {GREEK ncg }, I filch, whose radical consonants are the
same as those of {GREEK ` cg }, I cover, I conceal. Thus, in
these languages, the idea of a robber is that of a man who
conceals, carries away, or diverts, in any manner whatever, a
thing which does not belong to him.

The Hebrews expressed the same idea by the word _gannab_,--
robber,--from the verb _ganab_, which means to put away, to turn
aside: _lo thi-gnob (Decalogue: Eighth Commandment_), thou shalt
not steal,--that is, thou shalt not hold back, thou shalt not put
away any thing for thyself. That is the act of a man who, on
entering into a society into which he agrees to bring all
that he has, secretly reserves a portion, as did the celebrated
disciple Ananias.

The etymology of the French verb _voler_ is still more
significant. _Voler_, or _faire la vole_ (from the Latin _vola_,
palm of the hand), means to take all the tricks in a game of
ombre; so that _le voleur_, the robber, is the capitalist who
takes all, who gets the lion's share. Probably this verb _voler_
had its origin in the professional slang of thieves, whence it
has passed into common use, and, consequently into the
phraseology of the law.

Robbery is committed in a variety of ways, which have been very
cleverly distinguished and classified by legislators according to
their heinousness or merit, to the end that some robbers may be
honored, while others are punished.

We rob,--1. By murder on the highway; 2. Alone, or in a band; 3.
By breaking into buildings, or scaling walls; 4. By abstraction;
5. By fraudulent bankruptcy; 6. By forgery of the handwriting of
public officials or private individuals; 7. By manufacture of
counterfeit money.

This species includes all robbers who practise their profession
with no other aid than force and open fraud. Bandits, brigands,
pirates, rovers by land and sea,--these names were gloried in by
the ancient heroes, who thought their profession as noble as it
was lucrative. Nimrod, Theseus, Jason and his Argonauts;
Jephthah, David, Cacus, Romulus, Clovis and all his Merovingian
descendants; Robert Guiscard, Tancred de Hauteville, Bohemond,
and most of the Norman heroes,-- were brigands and robbers. The
heroic character of the robber is expressed in this line from
Horace, in reference to Achilles,--

_"Jura neget sibi nata, nihil non arroget armis_,"[1]
and by this sentence from the dying words of Jacob (Gen.
xlviii.), which the Jews apply to David, and the Christians to
their Christ: _Manus ejus contra omnes_. In our day, the
robber--the warrior of the ancients--is pursued with the utmost
vigor. His profession, in the language of the code, entails
ignominious and corporal penalties, from imprisonment to the
scaffold. A sad change in opinions here below!

[1] "My right is my lance and my buckler." General de Brossard
said, like Achilles: "I get wine, gold, and women with my lance
and my buckler."

We rob,--8. By cheating; 9. By swindling; 10. By abuse of trust;
11. By games and lotteries.

This second species was encouraged by the laws of Lycurgus, in
order to sharpen the wits of the young. It is the kind practised
by Ulysses, Solon, and Sinon; by the ancient and modern Jews,
from Jacob down to Deutz; and by the Bohemians, the Arabs, and
all savage tribes. Under Louis XIII. and Louis XIV., it was not
considered dishonorable to cheat at play. To do so was a part of
the game; and many worthy people did not scruple to correct the
caprice of Fortune by dexterous jugglery. To-day even, and in
all countries, it is thought a mark of merit among peasants,
merchants, and shopkeepers to KNOW HOW TO MAKE A BARGAIN,--that
is, to deceive one's man. This is so universally accepted, that
the cheated party takes no offence. It is known with what
reluctance our government resolved upon the abolition of
lotteries. It felt that it was dealing a stab thereby at
property. The pickpocket, the blackleg, and the charlatan make
especial use of their dexterity of hand, their subtlety of mind,
the magic power of their eloquence, and their great fertility of
invention. Sometimes they offer bait to cupidity. Therefore the
penal code--which much prefers intelligence to muscular vigor--
has made, of the four varieties mentioned above, a second
category, liable only to correctional, not to Ignominious,

Let them now accuse the law of being materialistic and atheistic.

We rob,--12. By usury.

This species of robbery, so odious and so severely punished since
the publication of the Gospel, is the connecting link between
forbidden and authorized robbery. Owing to its ambiguous nature,
it has given rise to a multitude of contradictions in the laws
and in morals,--contradictions which have been very cleverly
turned to account by lawyers, financiers, and merchants. Thus
the usurer, who lends on mortgage at ten, twelve, and fifteen per
cent., is heavily fined when detected; while the banker, who
receives the same interest (not, it is true, upon a loan, but in
the way of exchange or discount,--that is, of sale), is protected
by royal privilege. But the distinction between the banker and
the usurer is a purely nominal one. Like the usurer, who lends
on property, real or personal, the banker lends on business
paper; like the usurer, he takes his interest in advance; like
the usurer, he can recover from the borrower if the property is
destroyed (that is, if the note is not redeemed),--a circumstance
which makes him a money-lender, not a money-seller. But the
banker lends for a short time only, while the usurer's loan may
be for one, two, three, or more years. Now, a difference in the
duration of the loan, or the form of the act, does not alter the
nature of the transaction. As for the capitalists who invest
their money, either with the State or in commercial operations,
at three, four, and five per cent.,--that is, who lend on usury
at a little lower rate than the bankers and usurers,--they are
the flower of society, the cream of honesty! Moderation in
robbery is the height of virtue![1]

[1] It would be interesting and profitable to review the authors
who have written on usury, or, to use the gentler expression
which some prefer, lendingat interest. The theologians always
have opposed usury; but, since they have admitted always the
legitimacy of rent, and since rent is evidently identical with
interest, they have lost themselves in a labyrinth of subtle
distinctions, and have finally reached a pass where they do not
know what to think of usury. The Church--the teacher of
morality, so jealous and so proud of the purity of her doctrine--
has always been ignorant of the real nature of property and
usury. She even has proclaimed through her pontiffs the most
deplorable errors. _Non potest mutuum_, said Benedict XIV.,
_locationi ullo pacto comparari_. "Rent," says Bossuet, "is as
far from usury as heaven is from the earth." How, on{sic} such a
doctrine, condemn lending at interest? how justify the Gospel,
which expressly forbids usury? The difficulty of theologians is
a very serious one. Unable to refute the economical
demonstrations, which rightly assimilate interest to rent, they
no longer dare to condemn interest, and they can say only that
there must be such a thing as usury, since the Gospel forbids it.

But what, then, is usury? Nothing is more amusing than to see
these INSTRUCTORS OF NATIONS hesitate between the authority of
the Gospel, which, they say, NEVER CAN HAVE SPOKEN IN VAIN, and
the authority of economical demonstrations. Nothing, to my mind,
is more creditable to the Gospel than this old infidelity of its
pretended teachers. Salmasius, having assimilated interest to
rent, was REFUTED by Grotius, Pufendorf, Burlamaqui, Wolf, and
Heineccius; and, what is more curious still, Salmasius ADMITTED
HIS ERROR. Instead of inferring from this doctrine of Salmasius
that all increase is illegitimate, and proceeding straight on to
the demonstration of Gospel equality, they arrived at just the
opposite conclusion; namely, that since everybody acknowledges
that rent is permissible, if we allow that interest does not
differ from rent, there is nothing left which can be called
usury. and, consequently, that the commandment of Jesus Christ
is an ILLUSION, and amounts to NOTHING, which is an impious

If this memoir had appeared in the time of Bossuet, that great
theologian would have PROVED by scripture, the fathers,
traditions, councils, and popes, that property exists by Divine
right, while usury is an invention of the devil; and the
heretical work would have been burned, and the author

We rob,--13. By farm-rent, house-rent, and leases of all kinds.

The author of the "Provincial Letters" entertained the honest
Christians of the seventeenth century at the expense of Escobar,
the Jesuit, and the contract Mohatra." The contract
Mohatra," said Escobar, "is a contract by which goods are
bought, at a high price and on credit, to be again sold at the
same moment to the same person, cash down, and at a
lower price." Escobar found a way to justify this kind of
usury. Pascal and all the Jansenists laughed at him. But what
would the satirical Pascal, the learned Nicole, and the
invincible Arnaud have said, if Father Antoine Escobar de
Valladolid had answered them thus: "A lease is a contract by
which real estate is bought, at a high price and on credit, to be
again sold, at the expiration of a certain time, to the same
person, at a lower price; only, to simplify the transaction, the
buyer is content to pay the difference between the first sale and
the second. Either deny the identity of the lease and the
contract Mohatra, and then I will annihilate you in a moment;
or, if you admit the similarity, admit also the soundness of my
doctrine: otherwise you proscribe both interest and rent at one

In reply to this overwhelming argument of the Jesuit, the sire of
Montalte would have sounded the tocsin, and would have shouted
that society was in peril,--that the Jesuits were sapping its
very foundations.

We rob,--14. By commerce, when the profit of the merchant exceeds
his legitimate salary.

Everybody knows the definition of commerce--THE ART OF BUYING
THAT WHICH IS WORTH THREE. Between commerce thus defined and
_vol a l'americaine_, the only difference is in the relative
proportion of the values exchanged,--in short, in the amount of
the profit.

We rob,--15. By making profit on our product, by accepting
sinecures, and by exacting exorbitant wages.

The farmer, who sells a certain amount of corn to the consumer,
and who during the measurement thrusts his hand into the bushel
and takes out a handful of grains, robs; the professor, whose
lectures are paid for by the State, and who through the
intervention of a bookseller sells them to the public a second
time, robs; the sinecurist, who receives an enormous product in
exchange for his vanity, robs; the functionary, the laborer,
whatever he may be, who produces only one and gets paid four, one
hundred, or one thousand, robs; the publisher of this book, and
I, its author,--we rob, by charging for it twice as much as it is

In recapitulation:--

Justice, after passing through the state of negative communism,
called by the ancient poets the AGE OF GOLD, commences as the
right of the strongest. In a society which is trying to organize
itself, inequality of faculties calls up the idea of merit;
equite suggests the plan of proportioning not only esteem, but
also material comforts, to personal merit; and since the highest
and almost the only merit then recognized is physical strength,
the strongest, {GREEK ` eg }, and consequently the best, {GREEK
` eg }, is entitled to the largest share; and if it is refused
him, he very naturally takes it by force. From this to the
assumption of the right of property in all things, it is but one

Such was justice in the heroic age, preserved, at least by
tradition, among the Greeks and Romans down to the last days of
their republics. Plato, in the "Gorgias," introduces a character
named Callicles, who spiritedly defends the right of the
strongest, which Socrates, the advocate of equality, {GREEK g
e }, seriously refutes. It is related of the great Pompey,
that he blushed easily, and, nevertheless, these words once
escaped his lips: "Why should I respect the laws, when I have
arms in my hand?" This shows him to have been a man in whom the
moral sense and ambition were struggling for the mastery, and who
sought to justify his violence by the motto of the hero and the

From the right of the strongest springs the exploitation of man
by man, or bondage; usury, or the tribute levied upon the
conquered by the conqueror; and the whole numerous family of
taxes, duties, monarchical prerogatives, house-rents, farm-rents,
&c.; in one word,--property.

Force was followed by artifice, the second manifestation of
justice, which was detested by the ancient heroes, who, not
excelling in that direction, were heavy losers by it. Force was
still employed, but mental force instead of physical. Skill in
deceiving an enemy by treacherous propositions seemed deserving
of reward; nevertheless, the strong always prided themselves upon
their honesty. In those days, oaths were observed and promises
kept according to the letter rather than the spirit: _Uti lingua
nuncupassit, ita jus esto_,--"As the tongue has spoken, so must
the right be," says the law of the Twelve Tables. Artifice, or
rather perfidy, was the main element in the politics of ancient
Rome. Among other examples, Vico cites the following, also
quoted by Montesquieu: The Romans had guaranteed to the
Carthaginians the preservation of their goods and their CITY,--
intentionally using the word civitas, that is, the society, the
State; the Carthaginians, on the contrary, understood them to
mean the material city, urbs, and accordingly began to rebuild
their walls. They were immediately attacked on account of their
violation of the treaty, by the Romans, who, acting upon the old
heroic idea of right, did not imagine that, in taking advantage
of an equivocation to surprise their enemies, they were waging
unjust war.

From artifice sprang the profits of manufactures, commerce, and
banking, mercantile frauds, and pretensions which are honored
with the beautiful names of TALENT and GENIUS, but which
ought to be regarded as the last degree of knavery and deception;
and, finally, all sorts of social inequalities.

In those forms of robbery which are prohibited by law, force and
artifice are employed alone and undisguised; in the authorized
forms, they conceal themselves within a useful product, which
they use as a tool to plunder their victim.

The direct use of violence and stratagem was early and
universally condemned; but no nation has yet got rid of that kind
of robbery which acts through talent, labor, and possession, and
which is the source of all the dilemmas of casuistry and the
innumerable contradictions of jurisprudence.

The right of force and the right of artifice--glorified by the
rhapsodists in the poems of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey"--
inspired the legislation of the Greeks and Romans, from which
they passed into our morals and codes. Christianity has not
changed at all. The Gospel should not be blamed, because the
priests, as stupid as the legists, have been unable either to
expound or to understand it. The ignorance of councils and popes
upon all questions of morality is equal to that of the market-
place and the money-changers; and it is this utter ignorance of
right, justice, and society, which is killing the Church, and
discrediting its teachings for ever. The infidelity of the Roman
church and other Christian churches is flagrant; all have
disregarded the precept of Jesus; all have erred in moral and
doctrinal points; all are guilty of teaching false and absurd
dogmas, which lead straight to wickedness and murder. Let it ask
pardon of God and men,--this church which called itself
infallible, and which has grown so corrupt in morals; let its
reformed sisters humble themselves, . . . and the people,
undeceived, but still religious and merciful, will begin to

[1] "I preach the Gospel, I live by the Gospel," said the
Apostle; meaning thereby that he lived by his labor. The
Catholic clergy prefer to live by property. The struggles in the
communes of the middle ages between the priests and bishops and
the large proprietors and seigneurs are famous. The papal
excommunications fulminated in defence of ecclesiastical revenues
are no less so. Even to-day, the official organs of the Gallican
clergy still maintain that the pay received by the clergy is not
a salary, but an indemnity for goods of which they were once
proprietors, and which were taken from them in '89 by the Third
Estate. The clergy prefer to live by the right of increase
rather than by labor.

One of the main causes of Ireland's poverty to-day is the immense
revenues of the English clergy. So heretics and orthodox--
Protestants and Papists--cannot reproach each other. All have
strayed from the path of justice; all have disobeyed the eighth
commandment of the Decalogue: "Thou shalt not steal."

The development of right has followed the same order, in its
various expressions, that property has in its forms. Every where
we see justice driving robbery before it and confining it within
narrower and narrower limits. Hitherto the victories of justice
over injustice, and of equality over inequality, have been won by
instinct and the simple force of things; but the final triumph of
our social nature will be due to our reason, or else we shall
fall back into feudal chaos. Either this glorious height is
reserved for our intelligence, or this miserable depth for our

The second effect of property is despotism. Now, since despotism
is inseparably connected with the idea of legitimate authority,
in explaining the natural causes of the first, the principle of
the second will appear.

What is to be the form of government in the future? hear some of
my younger readers reply: "Why, how can you ask such a question?

You are a republican." "A republican! Yes; but that word
specifies nothing. _Res publica;_ that is, the public thing.
Now, whoever is interested in public affairs--no matter under
what form of government--may call himself a republican. Even
kings are republicans."--

"Well! you are a democrat?"--"No."--"What! you would have a
monarchy."--"No."--"A constitutionalist?"--"God forbid!"--"You
are then an aristocrat?"--"Not at all."--"You want a mixed
government?"--"Still less."--"What are you, then?"--"I am an

"Oh! I understand you; you speak satirically. This is a hit at
the government."--"By no means. I have just given you my serious
and well-considered profession of faith. Although a firm friend
of order, I am (in the full force of the term) an anarchist.
Listen to me."

In all species of sociable animals, "the weakness of the young is
the principle of their obedience to the old, who are strong; and
from habit, which is a kind of conscience with them, the power
remains with the oldest, although he finally becomes the weakest.

Whenever the society is under the control of a chief, this chief
is almost always the oldest of the troop. I say almost always,
because the established order may be disturbed by violent
outbreaks. Then the authority passes to another; and, having
been re-established by force, it is again maintained by habit.
Wild horses go in herds: they have a chief who marches at their
head, whom they confidently follow, and who gives the signal for
flight or battle.

"The sheep which we have raised follows us, but it follows in
company with the flock in the midst of which it was born. It
regards man AS THE CHIEF OF ITS FLOCK. . . . Man is regarded
by domestic animals as a member of theIr society. All that he
has to do is to get himself accepted by them as an associate: he
soon becomes their chief, in consequence of his superior
intelligence. He does not, then, change the NATURAL CONDITION
of these animals, as Buffon has said. On the contrary, he uses
this natural condition to his own advantage; in other words, he
finds SOCIABLE animals, and renders them DOMESTIC by becoming
their associate and chief. Thus, the DOMESTICITY of animals is
only a special condition, a simple modification, a definitive
consequence of their SOCIABILITY. All domestic animals are by
nature sociable animals." . . .--Flourens: Summary of the
Observations of F. Cuvier.

Sociable animals follow their chief by INSTINCT; but take
notice of the fact (which F. Cuvier omitted to state), that
the function of the chief is altogether one of
INTELLIGENCE. The chief does not teach the others to
associate, to unite under his lead, to reproduce their kind, to
take to flight, or to defend themselves. Concerning each of
these particulars, his subordinates are as well informed as he.
But it is the chief who, by his accumulated experience, provides
against accidents; he it is whose private intelligence
supplements, in difficult situations, the general instinct; he it
is who deliberates, decides, and leads; he it is, in short, whose
enlightened prudence regulates the public routine for the
greatest good of all.

Man (naturally a sociable being) naturally follows a chief.
Originally, the chief is the father, the patriarch, the elder; in
other words, the good and wise man, whose functions,
consequently, are exclusively of a reflective and intellectual
nature. The human race--like all other races of sociable
animals--has its instincts, its innate faculties, its general
ideas, and its categories of sentiment and reason. Its chiefs,
legislators, or kings have devised nothing, supposed nothing,
imagined nothing. They have only guided society by their
accumulated experience, always however in conformity with
opinions and beliefs.

Those philosophers who (carrying into morals and into history
their gloomy and factious whims) affirm that the human race had
originally neither chiefs nor kings, know nothing of the nature
of man. Royalty, and absolute royalty, is--as truly and more
truly than democracy--a primitive form of government. Perceiving
that, in the remotest ages, crowns and kingships were worn by
heroes, brigands, and knight-errants, they confound the two
things,--royalty and despotism. But royalty dates from the
creation of man; it existed in the age of negative communism.
Ancient heroism (and the despotism which it engendered)
commenced only with the first manifestation of the idea of
justice; that is, with the reign of force. As soon as the
strongest, in the comparison of merits, was decided to be the
best, the oldest had to abandon his position, and royalty became

The spontaneous, instinctive, and--so to speak--physiological
origin of royalty gives it, in the beginning, a superhuman
character. The nations connected it with the gods, from whom
they said the first kings descended. This notion was the origin
of the divine genealogies of royal families, the incarnations of
gods, and the messianic fables. From it sprang the doctrine of
divine right, which is still championed by a few singular

Royalty was at first elective, because--at a time when man
produced but little and possessed nothing--property was too weak
to establish the principle of heredity, and secure to the son the
throne of his father; but as soon as fields were cleared, and
cities built, each function was, like every thing else,
appropriated, and hereditary kingships and priesthoods were the
result. The principle of heredity was carried into even the most
ordinary professions,--a circumstance which led to class
distinctions, pride of station, and abjection of the common
people, and which confirms my assertion, concerning the principle
of patrimonial succession, that it is a method suggested by
Nature of filling vacancies in business, and completing
unfinished tasks.

From time to time, ambition caused usurpers, or SUPPLANTERS of
kings, to start up; and, in consequence, some were called kings
by right, or legitimate kings, and others TYRANTS. But we must
not let these names deceive us. There have been execrable kings,
and very tolerable tyrants. Royalty may always be good, when it
is the only possible form of government; legitimate it is
never. Neither heredity, nor election, nor universal suffrage,
nor the excellence of the sovereign, nor the consecration of
religion and of time, can make royalty legitimate. Whatever form
it takes,--monarchic, oligarchic, or democratic,--royalty, or the
government of man by man, is illegitimate and absurd.

Man, in order to procure as speedily as possible the most
thorough satisfaction of his wants, seeks RULE. In the
beginning, this rule is to him living, visible, and tangible. It
is his father, his master, his king. The more ignorant man is,
the more obedient he is, and the more absolute is his confidence
in his guide. But, it being a law of man's nature to conform to
rule,--that is, to discover it by his powers of reflection and
reason,--man reasons upon the commands of his chiefs. Now, such
reasoning as that is a protest against authority,--a beginning of
disobedience. At the moment that man inquires into the motives
which govern the will of his sovereign,--at that moment man
revolts. If he obeys no longer because the king commands, but
because the king demonstrates the wisdom of his commands, it may
be said that henceforth he will recognize no authority, and that
he has become his own king. Unhappy he who shall dare to command
him, and shall offer, as his authority, only the vote of the
majority; for, sooner or later, the minority will become the
majority, and this imprudent despot will be overthrown, and all
his laws annihilated.

In proportion as society becomes enlightened, royal authority
diminishes. That is a fact to which all history bears witness.
At the birth of nations, men reflect and reason in vain. Without
methods, without principles, not knowing how to use their reason,
they cannot judge of the justice of their conclusions. Then the
authority of kings is immense, no knowledge having been
acquired with which to contradict it. But, little by little,
experience produces habits, which develop into customs; then the
customs are formulated in maxims, laid down as principles,--in
short, transformed into laws, to which the king, the living law,
has to bow. There comes a time when customs and laws are so
numerous that the will of the prince is, so to speak, entwined by
the public will; and that, on taking the crown, he is obliged to
swear that he will govern in conformity with established customs
and usages; and that he is but the executive power of a society
whose laws are made independently of him.

Up to this point, all is done instinctively, and, as it were,
unconsciously; but see where this movement must end.

By means of self-instruction and the acquisition of ideas, man
finally acquires the idea of SCIENCE,--that is, of a system of
knowledge in harmony with the reality of things, and inferred
from observation. He searches for the science, or the system, of
inanimate bodies,--the system of organic bodies, the system of
the human mind, and the system of the universe: why should he not
also search for the system of society? But, having reached this
height, he comprehends that political truth, or the science of
politics, exists quite independently of the will of sovereigns,
the opinion of majorities, and popular beliefs,--that kings,
ministers, magistrates, and nations, as wills, have no connection
with the science, and are worthy of no consideration. He
comprehends, at the same time, that, if man is born a sociable
being, the authority of his father over him ceases on the day
when, his mind being formed and his education finished, he
becomes the associate of his father; that his true chief and his
king is the demonstrated truth; that politics is a science, not a
stratagem; and that the function of the legislator is reduced, in
the last analysis, to the methodical search for truth.

Thus, in a given society, the authority of man over man is
inversely proportional to the stage of intellectual development
which that society has reached; and the probable duration of that
authority can be calculated from the more or less general desire
for a true government,--that is, for a scientific government.
And just as the right of force and the right of artifice retreat
before the steady advance of justice, and must finally be
extinguished in equality, so the sovereignty of the will yields
to the sovereignty of the reason, and must at last be lost in
scientific socialism. Property and royalty have been crumbling
to pieces ever since the world began. As man seeks justice in
equality, so society seeks order in anarchy.

ANARCHY,--the absence of a master, of a sovereign,[1]--such is
the form of government to which we are every day approximating,
and which our accustomed habit of taking man for our rule, and
his will for law, leads us to regard as the height of disorder
and the expression of chaos. The story is told, that a citizen
of Paris in the seventeenth century having heard it said that in
Venice there was no king, the good man could not recover from his
astonishment, and nearly died from laughter at the mere mention
of so ridiculous a thing. So strong is our prejudice. As long
as we live, we want a chief or chiefs; and at this very moment I
hold in my hand a brochure, whose author--a zealous communist--
dreams, like a second Marat, of the dictatorship. The most
advanced among us are those who wish the greatest possible number
of sovereigns,--their most ardent wish is for the royalty of the
National Guard. Soon, undoubtedly, some one, jealous
of the citizen militia, will say, "Everybody is king." But,
when he has spoken, I will say, in my turn, "Nobody is king; we
are, whether we will or no, associated." Every question of
domestic politics must be decided by departmental statistics;
every question of foreign politics is an affair of international
statistics. The science of government rightly belongs to one of
the sections of the Academy of Sciences, whose permanent
secretary is necessarily prime minister; and, since every citizen
may address a memoir to the Academy, every citizen is a
legislator. But, as the opinion of no one is of any value until
its truth has been proven, no one can substitute his will for
reason,--nobody is king.

[1] The meaning ordinarily attached to the word "anarchy" is
absence of principle, absence of rule; consequently, it has been
regarded as synonymous with "disorder."

All questions of legislation and politics are matters of science,
not of opinion. The legislative power belongs only to the
reason, methodically recognized and demonstrated. To attribute
to any power whatever the right of veto or of sanction, is the
last degree of tyranny. Justice and legality are two things as
independent of our approval as is mathematical truth. To compel,
they need only to be known; to be known, they need only to be
considered and studied. What, then, is the nation, if it is not
the sovereign,--if it is not the source of the legislative power?

The nation is the guardian of the law--the nation is the
EXECUTIVE POWER. Every citizen may assert: "This is true;
that is just; "but his opinion controls no one but himself. That
the truth which he proclaims may become a law, it must be
recognized. Now, what is it to recognize a law? It is to verify
a mathematical or a metaphysical calculation; it is to repeat an
experiment, to observe a phenomenon, to establish a fact. Only
the nation has the right to say, "Be it known and decreed."

I confess that this is an overturning of received ideas, and that
I seem to be attempting to revolutionize our political
system; but I beg the reader to consider that, having begun
with a paradox, I must, if I reason correctly, meet with
paradoxes at every step, and must end with paradoxes. For the
rest, I do not see how the liberty of citizens would be
endangered by entrusting to their hands, instead of the pen of
the legislator, the sword of the law. The executive power,
belonging properly to the will, cannot be confided to too many
proxies. That is the true sovereignty of the nation.[1]

[1] If such ideas are ever forced into the minds of the people,
it will be by representative government and the tyranny of
talkers. Once science, thought, and speech were characterized by
the same expression. To designate a thoughtful and a learned
man, they said, "a man quick to speak and powerful in discourse.
"For a long time, speech has been abstractly distinguished from
science and reason. Gradually, this abstraction is becoming
realized, as the logicians say, in society; so that we have to-
day savants of many kinds who talk but little, and TALKERS
who are not even savants in the science of speech. Thus a
philosopher is no longer a savant: he is a talker. Legislators
and poets were once profound and sublime characters: now they are
talkers. A talker is a sonorous bell, whom the least shock
suffices to set in perpetual motion. With the talker, the flow
of speech is always directly proportional to the poverty of
thought. Talkers govern the world; they stun us, they bore us,
they worry us, they suck our blood, and laugh at us. As for the
savants, they keep silence: if they wish to say a word, they
are cut short. Let them write.

The proprietor, the robber, the hero, the sovereign--for all
these titles are synonymous--imposes his will as law, and suffers
neither contradiction nor control; that is, he pretends to be the
legislative and the executive power at once. Accordingly, the
substitution of the scientific and true law for the royal will is
accomplished only by a terrible struggle; and this constant
substitution is, after property, the most potent element in
history, the most prolific source of political disturbances.
Examples are too numerous and too striking to require

Now, property necessarily engenders despotism,--the government of
caprice, the reign of libidinous pleasure. That is so
clearly the essence of property that, to be convinced of it,
one need but remember what it is, and observe what happens around
him. Property is the right to USE and ABUSE. If, then,
government is economy,--if its object is production and
consumption, and the distribution of labor and products,--how is
government possible while property exists? And if goods are
property, why should not the proprietors be kings, and despotic
kings--kings in proportion to their _facultes bonitaires_? And
if each proprietor is sovereign lord within the sphere of his
property, absolute king throughout his own domain, how could a
government of proprietors be any thing but chaos and confusion?

% 3.--Determination of the third form of Society. Conclusion.

Then, no government, no public economy, no administration, is
possible, which is based upon property.

Communism seeks EQUALITY and LAW. Property, born of the
sovereignty of the reason, and the sense of personal merit,
wishes above all things INDEPENDENCE and PROPORTIONALITY.

But communism, mistaking uniformity for law, and levelism for
equality, becomes tyrannical and unjust. Property, by its
despotism and encroachments, soon proves itself oppressive and

The objects of communism and property are good--their results are
bad. And why? Because both are exclusive, and each disregards
two elements of society. Communism rejects independence and
proportionality; property does not satisfy equality and law.

Now, if we imagine a society based upon these four principles,--
equality, law, independence, and proportionality,--we find:--

1. That EQUALITY, consisting only in EQUALITY OF CONDITIONS,
that is, OF MEANS, and not in EQUALITY OF COMFORT,--
which it is the business of the laborers to achieve for
themselves, when provided with equal means,--in no way violates
justice and equite.

2. That LAW, resulting from the knowledge of facts, and
consequently based upon necessity itself, never clashes with

3. That individual INDEPENDENCE, or the autonomy of the private
reason, originating in the difference in talents and capacities,
can exist without danger within the limits of the law.

4. That PROPORTIONALITY, being admitted only in the sphere of
intelligence and sentiment, and not as regards material objects,
may be observed without violating justice or social equality.

This third form of society, the synthesis of communism and
property, we will call LIBERTY.[1]

[1] _libertas, librare, libratio, libra_,--liberty, to liberate,
libration, balance (pound),--words which have a common
derivation. Liberty is the balance of rights and duties. To
make a man free is to balance him with others,--that is, to put
him or their level.

In determining the nature of liberty, we do not unite communism
and property indiscriminately; such a process would be absurd
eclecticism. We search by analysis for those elements in each
which are true, and in harmony with the laws of Nature and
society, disregarding the rest altogether; and the result gives
us an adequate expression of the natural form of human society,--
in one word, liberty.

Liberty is equality, because liberty exists only in society; and
in the absence of equality there is no society.

Liberty is anarchy, because it does not admit the government of
the will, but only the authority of the law; that is, of

Liberty is infinite variety, because it respects all wills within
the limits of the law.

Liberty is proportionality, because it allows the utmost latitude
to the ambition for merit, and the emulation of glory.

We can now say, in the words of M. Cousin: "Our principle is
true; it is good, it is social; let us not fear to push it to its

Man's social nature becoming JUSTICE through reflection,
EQUITE through the classification of capacities, and having
LIBERTY for its formula, is the true basis of morality,--the
principle and regulator of all our actions. This is the
universal motor, which philosophy is searching for, which
religion strengthens, which egotism supplants, and whose place
pure reason never can fill. DUTY and RIGHT are born of
NEED, which, when considered in connection with others, is a
RIGHT, and when considered in connection with ourselves, a

We need to eat and sleep. It is our right to procure those
things which are necessary to rest and nourishment. It is our
duty to use them when Nature requires it.

We need to labor in order to live. To do so is both our right
and our duty.

We need to love our wives and children. It is our duty to
protect and support them. It is our right to be loved in
preference to all others. Conjugal fidelity is justice.
Adultery is high treason against society.

We need to exchange our products for other products. It is our
right that this exchange should be one of equivalents; and since
we consume before we produce, it would be our duty, if we could
control the matter, to see to it that our last product shall
follow our last consumption. Suicide is fraudulent bankruptcy.

We need to live our lives according to the dictates of our
reason. It is our right to maintain our freedom. It is our duty
to respect that of others.

We need to be appreciated by our fellows. It is our duty to
deserve their praise. It is our right to be judged by our works.

Liberty is not opposed to the rights of succession and bequest.
It contents itself with preventing violations of equality.
"Choose," it tells us, "between two legacies, but do not take
them both." All our legislation concerning transmissions,
entailments, adoptions, and, if I may venture to use such a word,
COADJUTORERIES, requires remodelling.

Liberty favors emulation, instead of destroying it. In social
equality, emulation consists in accomplishing under like
conditions; it is its own reward. No one suffers by the victory.

Liberty applauds self-sacrifice, and honors it with its votes,
but it can dispense with it. Justice alone suffices to maintain
the social equilibrium. Self-sacrifice is an act of
supererogation. Happy, however, the man who can say, "I
sacrifice myself."[1]

[1] In a monthly publication, the first number of which has just
appeared under the name of "L'Egalitaire," self-sacrifice is laid
down as a principle of equality. This is a confusion of ideas.
Self-sacrifice, taken alone, is the last degree of inequality.
To seek equality in self-sacrifice is to confess that equality is
against nature. Equality must be based upon justice, upon strict
right, upon the principles invoked by the proprietor himself;
otherwise it will never exist. Self-sacrifice is superior to
justice; but it cannot be imposed as law, because it is of such a
nature as to admit of no reward. It is, indeed, desirable that
everybody shall recognize the necessity of self-sacrifice, and
the idea of "L'Egalitaire" is an excellent example.
Unfortunately, it can have no effect. What would you reply,
indeed, to a man who should say to you, "I do not want to
sacrifice myself"? Is he to be compelled to do so? When self-
sacrifice is forced, it becomes oppression, slavery, the
exploitation of man by man. Thus have the proletaires sacrificed
themselves to property.

Liberty is essentially an organizing force. To insure equality
between men and peace among nations, agriculture and industry,
and the centres of education, business, and storage, must be
distributed according to the climate and the geographical
position of the country, the nature of the products, the
character and natural talents of the inhabitants, &c., in
proportions so just, so wise, so harmonious, that in no place
shall there ever be either an excess or a lack of population,
consumption, and products. There commences the science of public
and private right, the true political economy. It is for the
writers on jurisprudence, henceforth unembarrassed by the false
principle of property, to describe the new laws, and bring peace
upon earth. Knowledge and genius they do not lack; the
foundation is now laid for them.[1]

[1] The disciples of Fourier have long seemed to me the most
advanced of all modern socialists, and almost the only ones
worthy of the name. If they had understood the nature of their
task, spoken to the people, awakened their sympathies, and kept
silence when they did not understand; if they had made less
extravagant pretensions, and had shown more respect for public
intelligence,--perhaps the reform would now, thanks to them, be
in progress. But why are these earnest reformers continually
bowing to power and wealth,--that is, to all that is anti-
reformatory? How, in a thinking age, can they fail to see that
the world must be converted by DEMONSTRATION, not by myths and
allegories? Why do they, the deadly enemies of civilization,
borrow from it, nevertheless, its most pernicious fruits,--
property, inequality of fortune and rank, gluttony, concubinage,
prostitution, what do I know? theurgy, magic, and sorcery? Why
these endless denunciations of morality, metaphysics, and
psychology, when the abuse of these sciences, which they do not
understand, constitutes their whole system? Why this mania for
deifying a man whose principal merit consisted in talking
nonsense about things whose names, even, he did not know, in the
strongest language ever put upon paper? Whoever admits the
infallibility of a man becomes thereby incapable of instructing
others. Whoever denies his own reason will soon proscribe free
thought. The phalansterians would not fail to do it if they had
the power. Let them condescend to reason, let them proceed
systematically, let them give us demonstrations instead of
revelations, and we will listen willingly. Then let them
organize manufactures, agriculture, and commerce; let them make
labor attractive, and the most humble functions honorable, and
our praise shall be theirs. Above all, let them throw off that
Illuminism which gives them the appearance of impostors or dupes,
rather than believers and apostles.

I have accomplished my task; property is conquered, never again
to arise. Wherever this work is read and discussed, there will
be deposited the germ of death to property; there, sooner or
later, privilege and servitude will disappear, and the despotism
of will will give place to the reign of reason. What sophisms,
indeed, what prejudices (however obstinate) can stand before the
simplicity of the following propositions:--

I. Individual POSSESSION[1] is the condition of social life;
five thousand years of property demonstrate it. PROPERTY is
the suicide of society. Possession is a right; property is
against right. Suppress property while maintaining possession,
and, by this simple modification of the principle, you will
revolutionize law, government, economy, and institutions; you
will drive evil from the face of the earth.

[1] Individual possession is no obstacle to extensive
cultivation and unity of exploitation. If I have not spoken of
the drawbacks arising from small estates, it is because I thought
it useless to repeat what so many others have said, and what by
this time all the world must know. But I am surprised that the
economists, who have so clearly shown the disadvantages of spade-
husbandry, have failed to see that it is caused entirely by
property; above all, that they have not perceived that their plan
for mobilizing the soil is a first step towards the abolition of

II. All having an equal right of occupancy, possession varies
with the number of possessors; property cannot establish itself.

III. The effect of labor being the same for all, property is lost
in the common prosperity.

IV. All human labor being the result of collective force, all
property becomes, in consequence, collective and unitary. To
speak more exactly, labor destroys property.

V. Every capacity for labor being, like every instrument of
labor, an accumulated capital, and a collective property,
inequality of wages and fortunes (on the ground of inequality of
capacities) is, therefore, injustice and robbery.

VI. The necessary conditions of commerce are the liberty of the
contracting parties and the equivalence of the products
exchanged. Now, value being expressed by the amount of time and
outlay which each product costs, and liberty being inviolable,
the wages of laborers (like their rights and duties) should be

VII. Products are bought only by products. Now, the condition of
all exchange being equivalence of products, profit is impossible
and unjust. Observe this elementary principle of economy, and
pauperism, luxury, oppression, vice, crime, and hunger will
disappear from our midst.

VIII. Men are associated by the physical and mathematical law of
production, before they are voluntarily associated by choice.
Therefore, equality of conditions is demanded by justice; that
is, by strict social law: esteem, friendship, gratitude,
admiration, all fall within the domain of EQUITABLE or

IX. Free association, liberty--whose sole function is to maintain
equality in the means of production and equivalence in
exchanges--is the only possible, the only just, the only true
form of society.

X. Politics is the science of liberty. The government of man by
man (under whatever name it be disguised) is oppression. Society
finds its highest perfection in the union of order with anarchy.

The old civilization has run its race; a new sun is rising, and
will soon renew the face of the earth. Let the present
generation perish, let the old prevaricators die in the desert!
the holy earth shall not cover their bones. Young man,
exasperated by the corruption of the age, and absorbed in your
zeal for justice!--if your country is dear to you, and if you
have the interests of humanity at heart, have the courage to
espouse the cause of liberty! Cast off your old selfishness, and
plunge into the rising flood of popular equality! There your
regenerate soul will acquire new life and vigor; your enervated
genius will recover unconquerable energy; and your heart, perhaps
already withered, will be rejuvenated! Every thing will wear a
different look to your illuminated vision; new sentiments will
engender new ideas within you; religion, morality, poetry, art,
language will appear before you in nobler and fairer forms; and
thenceforth, sure of your faith, and thoughtfully enthusiastic,
you will hail the dawn of universal regeneration!

And you, sad victims of an odious law!--you, whom a jesting world
despoils and outrages!--you, whose labor has always been
fruitless, and whose rest has been without hope,--take courage!
your tears are numbered! The fathers have sown in affliction,
the children shall reap in rejoicings!

O God of liberty! God of equality! Thou who didst place in my
heart the sentiment of justice, before my reason could comprehend
it, hear my ardent prayer! Thou hast dictated all that I have
written; Thou hast shaped my thought; Thou hast directed my
studies; Thou hast weaned my mind from curiosity and my heart
from attachment, that I might publish Thy truth to the master and
the slave. I have spoken with what force and talent Thou hast
given me: it is Thine to finish the work. Thou knowest whether I
seek my welfare or Thy glory, O God of liberty! Ah! perish my
memory, and let humanity be free! Let me see from my obscurity
the people at last instructed; let noble teachers enlighten them;
let generous spirits guide them! Abridge, if possible, the
time of our trial; stifle pride and avarice in equality;
annihilate this love of glory which enslaves us; teach these poor
children that in the bosom of liberty there are neither heroes
nor great men! Inspire the powerful man, the rich man, him whose
name my lips shall never pronounce in Thy presence, with a horror
of his crimes; let him be the first to apply for admission to the
redeemed society; let the promptness of his repentance be the
ground of his forgiveness! Then, great and small, wise and
foolish, rich and poor, will unite in an ineffable fraternity;
and, singing in unison a new hymn, will rebuild Thy altar, O God
of liberty and equality!








PARIS, April 1, 1841.
Before resuming my "Inquiries into Government and Property," it
is fitting, for the satisfaction of some worthy people, and also
in the interest of order, that I should make to you a plain,
straightforward explanation. In a much-governed State, no one
would be allowed to attack the external form of the society, and
the groundwork of its institutions, until he had established his
right to do so,--first, by his morality; second, by his capacity;
and, third, by the purity of his intentions. Any one who,
wishing to publish a treatise upon the constitution of the
country, could not satisfy this threefold condition, would be
obliged to procure the endorsement of a responsible patron
possessing the requisite qualifications.

But we Frenchmen have the liberty of the press. This grand
right--the sword of thought, which elevates the virtuous citizen
to the rank of legislator, and makes the malicious citizen an
agent of discord--frees us from all preliminary responsibility to
the law; but it does not release us from our internal obligation
to render a public account of our sentiments and thoughts. I
have used, in all its fulness, and concerning an important
question, the right which the charter grants us. I come to-day,
sir, to submit my conscience to your judgment, and my feeble
insight to your discriminating reason. You have criticised in a
kindly spirit--I had almost said with partiality for the writer--
a work which teaches a doctrine that you thought it your duty to
condemn. "The Academy of Moral and Political Sciences," said you
in your report, "can accept the conclusions of the author only as
far as it likes." I venture to hope, sir, that, after you have
read this letter, if your prudence still restrains you, your
fairness will induce you to do me justice.

which I maintained and developed in a memoir bearing the title,
"What is Property? or, An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and
of Government."

The idea of social equality, even in individual fortunes, has in
all ages besieged, like a vague presentiment, the human
imagination. Poets have sung of it in their hymns; philosophers
have dreamed of it in their Utopias; priests teach it, but only
for the spiritual world. The people, governed by it, never have
had faith in it; and the civil power is never more disturbed than
by the fables of the age of gold and the reign of Astrea. A year
ago, however, this idea received a scientific demonstration,
which has not yet been satisfactorily answered, and, permit me to
add, never will be. This demonstration, owing to its slightly
impassioned style, its method of reasoning,--which was so at
variance with that employed by the generally recognized
authorities,--and the importance and novelty of its conclusions,
was of a nature to cause some alarm; and might have been
dangerous, had it not been--as you, sir, so well said--a sealed
letter, so far as the general public was concerned,
addressed only to men of intelligence. I was glad to see that
through its metaphysical dress you recognized the wise foresight
of the author; and I thank you for it. May God grant that my
intentions, which are wholly peaceful, may never be charged upon
me as treasonable!

Like a stone thrown into a mass of serpents, the First Memoir on
Property excited intense animosity, and aroused the passions of
many. But, while some wished the author and his work to be
publicly denounced, others found in them simply the solution of
the fundamental problems of society; a few even basing evil
speculations upon the new light which they had obtained. It was
not to be expected that a system of inductions abstractly
gathered together, and still more abstractly expressed, would be
understood with equal accuracy in its ensemble and in each of
its parts.

To find the law of equality, no longer in charity and self-
sacrifice (which are not binding in their nature), but in
justice; to base equality of functions upon equality of persons;
to determine the absolute principle of exchange; to neutralize
the inequality of individual faculties by collective force; to
establish an equation between property and robbery; to change the
law of succession without destroying the principle; to maintain
the human personality in a system of absolute association, and to
save liberty from the chains of communism; to synthetize the
monarchical and democratic forms of government; to reverse the
division of powers; to give the executive power to the nation,
and to make legislation a positive, fixed, and absolute
science,--what a series of paradoxes! what a string of delusions!
if I may not say, what a chain of truths! But it is not my
purpose here to pass upon the theory of the right of possession.
I discuss no dogmas. My only object is to justify my views, and
to show that, in writing as I did, I not only exercised a
right, but performed a duty.

Yes, I have attacked property, and shall attack it again; but,
sir, before demanding that I shall make the amende honorable
for having obeyed my conscience and spoken the exact truth,
condescend, I beg of you, to cast a glance at the events which
are happening around us; look at our deputies, our magistrates,
our philosophers, our ministers, our professors, and our
publicists; examine their methods of dealing with the matter of
property; count up with me the restrictions placed upon it every
day in the name of the public welfare; measure the breaches
already made; estimate those which society thinks of making
hereafter; add the ideas concerning property held by all theories
in common; interrogate history, and then tell me what will be
left, half a century hence, of this old right of property; and,
thus perceiving that I have so many accomplices, you will
immediately declare me innocent.

What is the law of expropriation on the ground of public utility,
which everybody favors, and which is even thought too lenient?[1]

[1] In the Chamber of Deputies, during the session of the fifth
of January, 1841, M. Dufaure moved to renew the expropriation
bill, on the ground of public utility.

A flagrant violation of the right of property. Society
indemnifies, it is said, the dispossessed proprietor; but does it
return to him the traditional associations, the poetic charm, and
the family pride which accompany property? Naboth, and the
miller of Sans-Souci, would have protested against French law, as
they protested against the caprice of their kings. "It is the
field of our fathers," they would have cried, "and we will not
sell it!" Among the ancients, the refusal of the individual
limited the powers of the State. The Roman law bowed to the will
of the citizen, and an emperor--Commodus, if I remember
rightly--abandoned the project of enlarging the forum out of
respect for the rights of the occupants who refused to abdicate.
Property is a real right, _jus_ _in re_,--a right inherent in the
thing, and whose principle lies in the external manifestation of
man's will. Man leaves his imprint, stamps his character, upon
the objects of his handiwork. This plastic force of man, as the
modern jurists say, is the seal which, set upon matter, makes it
holy. Whoever lays hands upon it, against the proprietor's will,
does violence to the latter's personality. And yet, when an
administrative committee saw fit to declare that public utility
required it, property had to give way to the general will. Soon,
in the name of public utility, methods of cultivation and
conditions of enjoyment will be prescribed; inspectors of
agriculture and manufactures will be appointed; property will be
taken away from unskilful hands, and entrusted to laborers who
are more deserving of it; and a general superintendence of
production will be established. It is not two years since I saw
a proprietor destroy a forest more than five hundred acres in
extent. If public utility had interfered, that forest--the only
one for miles around--would still be standing.

But, it is said, expropriation on the ground of public utility is
only an exception which confirms the principle, and bears
testimony in favor of the right. Very well; but from this
exception we will pass to another, from that to a third, and so
on from exceptions to exceptions, until we have reduced the rule
to a pure abstraction.

How many supporters do you think, sir, can be claimed for the
project of the conversion of the public funds? I venture to say
that everybody favors it, except the fund-holders. Now,
this so-called conversion is an extensive expropriation, and in
this case with no indemnity whatever. The public funds are so
much real estate, the income from which the proprietor counts
upon with perfect safety, and which owes its value to the tacit
promise of the government to pay interest upon it at the
established rate, until the fund-holder applies for redemption.
For, if the income is liable to diminution, it is less profitable

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