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What is Property?

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than house-rent or farm-rent, whose rates may rise or fall
according to the fluctuations in the market; and in that case,
what inducement has the capitalist to invest his money in the
State? When, then, you force the fund-holder to submit to a
diminution of interest, you make him bankrupt to the extent of
the diminution; and since, in consequence of the conversion, an
equally profitable investment becomes impossible, you depreciate
his property.

That such a measure may be justly executed, it must be
generalized; that is, the law which provides for it must decree
also that interest on sums lent on deposit or on mortgage
throughout the realm, as well as house and farm-rents, shall be
reduced to three per cent. This simultaneous reduction of all
kinds of income would be not a whit more difficult to accomplish
than the proposed conversion; and, further, it would offer the
advantage of forestalling at one blow all objections to it, at
the same time that it would insure a just assessment of the land-
tax. See! If at the moment of conversion a piece of real estate
yields an income of one thousand francs, after the new law takes
effect it will yield only six hundred francs. Now, allowing the
tax to be an aliquot part--one-fourth for example--of the income
derived from each piece of property, it is clear on the one hand
that the proprietor would not, in order to lighten his share of
the tax, underestimate the value of his property; since, house
and farm-rents being fixed by the value of the capital, and
the latter being measured by the tax, to depreciate his real
estate would be to reduce his revenue. On the other hand, it is
equally evident that the same proprietors could not overestimate
the value of their property, in order to increase their incomes
beyond the limits of the law, since the tenants and farmers, with
their old leases in their hands, would enter a protest.

Such, sir, must be the result sooner or later of the conversion
which has been so long demanded; otherwise, the financial
operation of which we are speaking would be a crying injustice,
unless intended as a stepping-stone. This last motive seems the
most plausible one; for in spite of the clamors of interested
parties, and the flagrant violation of certain rights, the public
conscience is bound to fulfil its desire, and is no more affected
when charged with attacking property, than when listening to the
complaints of the bondholders. In this case, instinctive justice
belies legal justice.

Who has not heard of the inextricable confusion into which the
Chamber of Deputies was thrown last year, while discussing the
question of colonial and native sugars? Did they leave these two
industries to themselves? The native manufacturer was ruined by
the colonist. To maintain the beet-root, the cane had to be
taxed. To protect the property of the one, it became necessary
to violate the property of the other. The most remarkable
feature of this business was precisely that to which the least
attention was paid; namely, that, in one way or another, property
had to be violated. Did they impose on each industry a
proportional tax, so as to preserve a balance in the market?
They created a maximum PRICE for each variety of sugar; and, as
this maximum PRICE was not the same, they attacked property in
two ways,--on the one hand, interfering with the liberty of
trade; on the other, disregarding the equality of proprietors.
Did they suppress the beet-root by granting an indemnity to the
manufacturer? They sacrificed the property of the tax-payer.
Finally, did they prefer to cultivate the two varieties of sugar
at the nation's expense, just as different varieties of tobacco
are cultivated? They abolished, so far as the sugar industry was
concerned, the right of property. This last course, being the
most social, would have been certainly the best; but, if property
is the necessary basis of civilization, how is this deep-seated
antagonism to be explained?[1]

[1] "What is Property?" Chap. IV., Ninth Proposition.

Not satisfied with the power of dispossessing a citizen on the
ground of public utility, they want also to dispossess him on the
ground of PRIVATE UTILITY. For a long time, a revision of the
law concerning mortgages was clamored for; a process was
demanded, in behalf of all kinds of credit and in the interest of
even the debtors themselves, which would render the expropriation
of real estate as prompt, as easy, and as effective as that which
follows a commercial protest. The Chamber of Deputies, in the
early part of this year, 1841, discussed this project, and the
law was passed almost unanimously. There is nothing more just,
nothing more reasonable, nothing more philosophical apparently,
than the motives which gave rise to this reform.

I. Formerly, the small proprietor whose obligation had arrived at
maturity, and who found himself unable to meet it, had to employ
all that he had left, after being released from his debt, in
defraying the legal costs. Henceforth, the promptness of
expropriation will save him from total ruin. 2. The difficulties
in the way of payment arrested credit, and prevented the
employment of capital in agricultural enterprises. This cause of
distrust no longer existing, capitalists will find new markets,
agriculture will rapidly develop, and farmers will be the first
to enjoy the benefit of the new law. 3. Finally, it was
iniquitous and absurd, that, on account of a protested note, a
poor manufacturer should see in twenty-four hours his business
arrested, his labor suspended, his merchandise seized, his
machinery sold at auction, and finally himself led off to prison,
while two years were sometimes necessary to expropriate the most
miserable piece of real estate.

These arguments, and others besides, you clearly stated, sir, in
your first lectures of this academic year.

But, when stating these excellent arguments, did you ask
yourself, sir, whither would tend such a transformation of our
system of mortgages? . . . To monetize, if I may say so, landed
property; to accumulate it within portfolios; to separate the
laborer from the soil, man from Nature; to make him a wanderer
over the face of the earth; to eradicate from his heart every
trace of family feeling, national pride, and love of country; to
isolate him more and more; to render him indifferent to all
around him; to concentrate his love upon one object,--money; and,
finally, by the dishonest practices of usury, to monopolize the
land to the profit of a financial aristocracy,--a worthy
auxiliary of that industrial feudality whose pernicious influence
we begin to feel so bitterly. Thus, little by little, the
subordination of the laborer to the idler, the restoration of
abolished castes, and the distinction between patrician and
plebeian, would be effected; thus, thanks to the new privileges
granted to the property of the capitalists, that of the small and
intermediate proprietors would gradually disappear, and with it
the whole class of free and honest laborers. This certainly is
not my plan for the abolition of property. Far from
mobilizing the soil, I would, if possible, immobilize even the
functions of pure intelligence, so that society might be the
fulfilment of the intentions of Nature, who gave us our first
possession, the land. For, if the instrument or capital of
production is the mark of the laborer, it is also his pedestal,
his support, his country, and, as the Psalmist says, THE PLACE

[1] _Tu cognovisti sessionem meam et resurrectionem meam_.
Psalm 139.

Let us examine more closely still the inevitable and approaching
result of the last law concerning judicial sales and mortgages.
Under the system of competition which is killing us, and whose
necessary expression is a plundering and tyrannical government,
the farmer will need always capital in order to repair his
losses, and will be forced to contract loans. Always depending
upon the future for the payment of his debts, he will be deceived
in his hope, and surprised by maturity. For what is there more
prompt, more unexpected, more abbreviatory of space and time,
than the maturity of an obligation? I address this question to
all whom this pitiless Nemesis pursues, and even troubles in
their dreams. Now, under the new law, the expropriation of a
debtor will be effected a hundred times more rapidly; then, also,
spoliation will be a hundred times surer, and the free laborer
will pass a hundred times sooner from his present condition to
that of a serf attached to the soil. Formerly, the length of
time required to effect the seizure curbed the usurer's avidity,
gave the borrower an opportunity to recover himself, and gave
rise to a transaction between him and his creditor which might
result finally in a complete release. Now, the debtor's sentence
is irrevocable: he has but a few days of grace.

And what advantages are promised by this law as an offset
to this sword of Damocles, suspended by a single hair over
the head of the unfortunate husbandman? The expenses of seizure
will be much less, it is said; but will the interest on the
borrowed capital be less exorbitant? For, after all, it is
interest which impoverishes the peasant and leads to his
expropriation. That the law may be in harmony with its
principle, that it may be truly inspired by that spirit of
justice for which it is commended, it must--while facilitating
expropriation--lower the legal price of money. Otherwise, the
reform concerning mortgages is but a trap set for small
proprietors,--a legislative trick.

Lower interest on money! But, as we have just seen, that is to
limit property. Here, sir, you shall make your own defence.
More than once, in your learned lectures, I have heard you
deplore the precipitancy of the Chambers, who, without previous
study and without profound knowledge of the subject, voted almost
unanimously to maintain the statutes and privileges of the Bank.
Now these privileges, these statutes, this vote of the Chambers,
mean simply this,--that the market price of specie, at five or
six per cent., is not too high, and that the conditions of
exchange, discount, and circulation, which generally double this
interest, are none too severe. So the government thinks. M.
Blanqui--a professor of political economy, paid by the State--
maintains the contrary, and pretends to demonstrate, by decisive
arguments, the necessity of a reform. Who, then, best
understands the interests of property,--the State, or M. Blanqui?

If specie could be borrowed at half the present rate, the
revenues from all sorts of property would soon be reduced one-
half also. For example: when it costs less to build a house than
to hire one, when it is cheaper to clear a field than to procure
one already cleared, competition inevitably leads to a
reduction of house and farm-rents, since the surest way to
depreciate active capital is to increase its amount. But it is a
law of political economy that an increase of production augments
the mass of available capital, consequently tends to raise wages,
and finally to annihilate interest. Then, proprietors are
interested in maintaining the statutes and privileges of the
Bank; then, a reform in this matter would compromise the right of
increase; then, the peers and deputies are better informed than
Professor Blanqui.

But these same deputies,--so jealous of their privileges whenever
the equalizing effects of a reform are within their intellectual
horizon,--what did they do a few days before they passed the law
concerning judicial sales? They formed a conspiracy against
property! Their law to regulate the labor of children in
factories will, without doubt, prevent the manufacturer from
compelling a child to labor more than so many hours a day; but it
will not force him to increase the pay of the child, nor that of
its father. To-day, in the interest of health, we diminish the
subsistence of the poor; to-morrow it will be necessary to
protect them by fixing their MINIMUM wages. But to fix their
minimum wages is to compel the proprietor, is to force the master
to accept his workman as an associate, which interferes with
freedom and makes mutual insurance obligatory. Once entered upon
this path, we never shall stop. Little by little the government
will become manufacturer, commission-merchant, and retail dealer.

It will be the sole proprietor. Why, at all epochs, have the
ministers of State been so reluctant to meddle with the question
of wages? Why have they always refused to interfere between the
master and the workman? Because they knew the touchy and jealous
nature of property, and, regarding it as the principle of all
civilization, felt that to meddle with it would be to
unsettle the very foundations of society. Sad condition of the
proprietary regime,--one of inability to exercise charity
without violating justice![1]

[1] The emperor Nicholas has just compelled all the
manufacturers in his empire to maintain, at their own expense,
within their establishments, small hospitals for the reception of
sick workmen,--the number of beds in each being proportional to
the number of laborers in the factory. "You profit by man's
labor," the Czar could have said to his proprietors; "you shall
be responsible for man's life." M. Blanqui has said that such a
measure could not succeed in France. It would be an attack upon
property,--a thing hardly conceivable even in Russia, Scythia, or
among the Cossacks; but among us, the oldest sons of
civilization! . . . I fear very much that this quality of age
may prove in the end a mark of decrepitude.

And, sir, this fatal consequence which necessity forces upon the
State is no mere imagination. Even now the legislative power is
asked, no longer simply to regulate the government of factories,
but to create factories itself. Listen to the millions of voices
shouting on all hands for THE ORGANISATION OF LABOR, THE
CREATION OF NATIONAL WORKSHOPS! The whole laboring class is
agitated: it has its journals, organs, and representatives. To
guarantee labor to the workingman, to balance production with
sale, to harmonize industrial proprietors, it advocates to-day--
as a sovereign remedy--one sole head, one national wardenship,
one huge manufacturing company. For, sir, all this is included
in the idea of national workshops. On this subject I wish to
quote, as proof, the views of an illustrious economist, a
brilliant mind, a progressive intellect, an enthusiastic soul, a
true patriot, and yet an official defender of the right of

[1] Course of M. Blanqui. Lecture of Nov. 27,1840.

The honorable professor of the Conservatory proposes then,--


But, to keep the peasant in his village, his residence there must
be made endurable: to be just to all, the proletaire of the
country must be treated as well as the proletaire of the city.
Reform is needed, then, on farms as well as in factories; and,
when the government enters the workshop, the government must
seize the plough! What becomes, during this progressive
invasion, of independent cultivation, exclusive domain, property?


The object of this measure would be to secure to laborers their
subsistence, and to proprietors their profits, while obliging the
latter to sacrifice from motives of prudence, if for no other
reason, a portion of their income. Now, I say, that this
portion, in the long run, would swell until at last there would
be an equality of enjoyment between the proletaire and the
proprietor. For, as we have had occasion to remark several times
already, the interest of the capitalist--in other words the
increase of the idler--tends, on account of the power of labor,
the multiplication of products and exchanges, to continually
diminish, and, by constant reduction, to disappear. So that, in
the society proposed by M. Blanqui, equality would not be
realized at first, but would exist potentially; since property,
though outwardly seeming to be industrial feudality, being no
longer a principle of exclusion and encroachment, but only a
privilege of division, would not be slow, thanks to the
intellectual and political emancipation of the proletariat, in
passing into absolute equality,--as absolute at least as any
thing can be on this earth.

I omit, for the sake of brevity, the numerous considerations
which the professor adduces in support of what he calls, too
modestly in my opinion, his Utopia. They would serve only
to prove beyond all question that, of all the charlatans of
radicalism who fatigue the public ear, no one approaches, for
depth and clearness of thought, the audacious M. Blanqui.


But, sir, the stoppage of private industry is the result of over-
production, and insufficient markets. If, then, production
continues in the national workshops, how will the crisis be
terminated? Undoubtedly, by the general depreciation of
merchandise, and, in the last analysis, by the conversion of
private workshops into national workshops. On the other hand,
the government will need capital with which to pay its workmen;
now, how will this capital be obtained? By taxation. And upon
what will the tax be levied? Upon property. Then you will have
proprietary industry sustaining against itself, and at its own
expense, another industry with which it cannot compete. What,
think you, will become, in this fatal circle, of the possibility
of profit,--in a word, of property?

Thank Heaven! equality of conditions is taught in the public
schools; let us fear revolutions no longer. The most implacable
enemy of property could not, if he wished to destroy it, go to
work in a wiser and more effective way. Courage, then,
ministers, deputies, economists! make haste to seize this
glorious initiative; let the watchwords of equality, uttered from
the heights of science and power, be repeated in the midst of the
people; let them thrill the breasts of the proletaires, and carry
dismay into the ranks of the last representatives of privilege!

The tendency of society in favor of compelling proprietors
to support national workshops and public manufactories is so
strong that for several years, under the name of ELECTORAL
REFORM, it has been exclusively the question of the day. What
is, after all, this electoral reform which the people grasp at,
as if it were a bait, and which so many ambitious persons either
call for or denounce? It is the acknowledgment of the right of
the masses to a voice in the assessment of taxes, and the making
of the laws; which laws, aiming always at the protection of
material interests, affect, in a greater or less degree, all
questions of taxation or wages. Now the people, instructed long
since by their journals, their dramas,[1] and their songs,[2]
know to-day that taxation, to be equitably divided, must be
graduated, and must be borne mainly by the rich,--that it must be
levied upon luxuries, &c. And be sure that the people, once in
the majority in the Chamber, will not fail to apply these
lessons. Already we have a minister of public works. National
workshops will follow; and soon, as a consequence, the excess of
the proprietor's revenue over the workingman's wages will be
swallowed up in the coffers of the laborers of the State. Do you
not see that in this way property is gradually reduced, as
nobility was formerly, to a nominal title, to a distinction
purely honorary in its nature?

[1] In "Mazaniello," the Neapolitan fisherman demands, amid the
applause of the galleries, that a tax be levied upon luxuries.

[2] _Seme le champ, proletaire;
C'est l l'oisif qui recoltera_.

Either the electoral reform will fail to accomplish that which is
hoped from it, and will disappoint its innumerable partisans, or
else it will inevitably result in a transformation of the
absolute right under which we live into a right of possession;
that is, that while, at present, property makes the elector,
after this reform is accomplished, the citizen, the
producer will be the possessor.[1] Consequently, the radicals
are right in saying that the electoral reform is in their eyes
only a means; but, when they are silent as to the end, they show
either profound ignorance, or useless dissimulation. There
should be no secrets or reservations from peoples and powers. He
disgraces himself and fails in respect for his fellows, who, in
publishing his opinions, employs evasion and cunning. Before the
people act, they need to know the whole truth. Unhappy he who
shall dare to trifle with them! For the people are credulous,
but they are strong. Let us tell them, then, that this reform
which is proposed is only a means,--a means often tried, and
hitherto without effect,--but that the logical object of the
electoral reform is equality of fortunes; and that this equality
itself is only a new means having in view the superior and
definitive object of the salvation of society, the restoration of
morals and religion, and the revival of poetry and art.

[1] "In some countries, the enjoyment of certain political
rights depends upon the amount of property. But, in these same
countries, property is expressive, rather than attributive, of
the qualifications necessary to the exercise of these rights. It
is rather a conjectural proof than the cause of these
qualifications."--Rossi: Treatise on Penal Law.

This assertion of M. Rossi is not borne out by history. Property
is the cause of the electoral right, not as a PRESUMPTION OF
CAPACITY,--an idea which never prevailed until lately, and which
is extremely absurd,--but as a GUARANTEE OF DEVOTION TO THE
ESTABLISHED ORDER. The electoral body is a league of those
interested in the maintenance of property, against those not
interested. There are thousands of documents, even official
documents, to prove this, if necessary. For the rest, the
present system is only a continuation of the municipal system,
which, in the middle ages, sprang up in connection with
feudalism,--an oppressive, mischief-making system, full of petty
passions and base intrigues.

It would be an abuse of the reader's patience to insist further
upon the tendency of our time towards equality. There are,
moreover, so many people who denounce the present age,
that nothing is gained by exposing to their view the
popular, scientific, and representative tendencies of the nation.

Prompt to recognize the accuracy of the inferences drawn from
observation, they confine themselves to a general censure of the
facts, and an absolute denial of their legitimacy. "What
wonder," they say, "that this atmosphere of equality intoxicates
us, considering all that has been said and done during the past
ten years! . . . Do you not see that society is dissolving, that
a spirit of infatuation is carrying us away? All these hopes of
regeneration are but forebodings of death; your songs of triumph
are like the prayers of the departing, your trumpet peals
announce the baptism of a dying man. Civilization is falling in
ruin: _Imus, imus, praecipites_!"

Such people deny God. I might content myself with the reply that
the spirit of 1830 was the result of the maintenance of the
violated charter; that this charter arose from the Revolution of
'89; that '89 implies the States-General's right of remonstrance,
and the enfranchisement of the communes; that the communes
suppose feudalism, which in its turn supposes invasion, Roman
law, Christianity, &c.

But it is necessary to look further. We must penetrate to the
very heart of ancient institutions, plunge into the social
depths, and uncover this indestructible leaven of equality which
the God of justice breathed into our souls, and which manifests
itself in all our works.

Labor is man's contemporary; it is a duty, since it is a
condition of existence: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat
bread." It is more than a duty, it is a mission: "God put the
man into the garden to dress it." I add that labor is the cause
and means of equality.

Cast away upon a desert island two men: one large, strong, and
active; the other weak, timid, and domestic. The latter
will die of hunger; while the other, a skilful hunter, an
expert fisherman, and an indefatigable husbandman, will overstock
himself with provisions. What greater inequality, in this state
of Nature so dear to the heart of Jean Jacques, could be
imagined! But let these two men meet and associate themselves:
the second immediately attends to the cooking, takes charge of
the household affairs, and sees to the provisions, beds, and
clothes; provided the stronger does not abuse his superiority by
enslaving and ill-treating his companion, their social condition
will be perfectly equal. Thus, through exchange of services, the
inequalities of Nature neutralize each other, talents associate,
and forces balance. Violence and inertia are found only among
the poor and the aristocratic. And in that lies the philosophy
of political economy, the mystery of human brotherhood. _Hic est
sapientia_. Let us pass from the hypothetical state of pure
Nature into civilization.

The proprietor of the soil, who produces, I will suppose with the
economists, by lending his instrument, receives at the foundation
of a society so many bushels of grain for each acre of arable
land. As long as labor is weak, and the variety of its products
small, the proprietor is powerful in comparison with the
laborers; he has ten times, one hundred times, the portion of an
honest man. But let labor, by multiplying its inventions,
multiply its enjoyments and wants, and the proprietor, if he
wishes to enjoy the new products, will be obliged to reduce his
income every day; and since the first products tend rather to
depreciate than to rise in value,--in consequence of the
continual addition of the new ones, which may be regarded as
supplements of the first ones,--it follows that the idle
proprietor grows poor as fast as public prosperity increases.
"Incomes" (I like to quote you, sir, because it is
impossible to give too good an authority for these
elementary principles of economy, and because I cannot express
them better myself), "incomes," you have said, "tend to disappear
as capital increases. He who possesses to-day an income of
twenty thousand pounds is not nearly as rich as he who possessed
the same amount fifty years ago. The time is coming when all
property will be a burden to the idle, and will necessarily pass
into the hands of the able and industrious.[1] . . ."

[1] Lecture of December 22.

In order to live as a proprietor, or to consume without
producing, it is necessary, then, to live upon the labor of
another; in other words, it is necessary to kill the laborer. It
is upon this principle that proprietors of those varieties of
capital which are of primary necessity increase their farm-rents
as fast as industry develops, much more careful of their
privileges in that respect, than those economists who, in order
to strengthen property, advocate a reduction of interest. But
the crime is unavailing: labor and production increase; soon the
proprietor will be forced to labor, and then property is lost.

The proprietor is a man who, having absolute control of an
instrument of production, claims the right to enjoy the product
of the instrument without using it himself. To this end he lends
it; and we have just seen that from this loan the laborer derives
a power of exchange, which sooner or later will destroy the right
of increase. In the first place, the proprietor is obliged to
allow the laborer a portion of the product, for without it the
laborer could not live. Soon the latter, through the development
of his industry, finds a means of regaining the greater portion
of that which he gives to the proprietor; so that at last, the
objects of enjoyment increasing continually, while the income of
the idler remains the same, the proprietor, having exhausted his
resources, begins to think of going to work himself. Then the
victory of the producer is certain. Labor commences to tip the
balance towards its own side, and commerce leads to equilibrium.

Man's instinct cannot err; as, in liberty, exchange of functions
leads inevitably to equality among men, so commerce--or exchange
of products, which is identical with exchange of functions--is a
new cause of equality. As long as the proprietor does not labor,
however small his income, he enjoys a privilege; the laborer's
welfare may be equal to his, but equality of conditions does not
exist. But as soon as the proprietor becomes a producer,--since
he can exchange his special product only with his tenant or his
_commandite_,--sooner or later this tenant, this _exploited_ man,
if violence is not done him, will make a profit out of the
proprietor, and will oblige him to restore--in the exchange of
their respective products--the interest on his capital. So that,
balancing one injustice by another, the contracting parties will
be equal. Labor and exchange, when liberty prevails, lead, then,
to equality of fortunes; mutuality of services neutralizes
privilege. That is why despots in all ages and countries have
assumed control of commerce; they wished to prevent the labor of
their subjects from becoming an obstacle to the rapacity of

Up to this point, all takes place in the natural order; there is
no premeditation, no artifice. The whole proceeding is governed
by the laws of necessity alone. Proprietors and laborers act
only in obedience to their wants. Thus, the exercise of the
right of increase, the art of robbing the producer, depends--
during this first period of civilization-- upon physical
violence, murder, and war.

But at this point a gigantic and complicated conspiracy is
hatched against the capitalists. The weapon of the
EXPLOITERS is met by the EXPLOITED with the instrument of
commerce,--a marvellous invention, denounced at its origin by the
moralists who favored property, but inspired without doubt by the
genius of labor, by the Minerva of the proletaires.

The principal cause of the evil lay in the accumulation and
immobility of capital of all sorts,--an immobility which
prevented labor, enslaved and subalternized by haughty idleness,
from ever acquiring it. The necessity was felt of dividing and
mobilizing wealth, of rendering it portable, of making it pass
from the hands of the possessor into those of the worker. Labor
invented MONEY. Afterwards, this invention was revived and
developed by the BILL OF EXCHANGE and the BANK. For all
these things are substantially the same, and proceed from the
same mind. The first man who conceived the idea of representing
a value by a shell, a precious stone, or a certain weight of
metal, was the real inventor of the Bank. What is a piece of
money, in fact? It is a bill of exchange written upon solid and
durable material, and carrying with it its own redemption. By
this means, oppressed equality was enabled to laugh at the
efforts of the proprietors, and the balance of justice was
adjusted for the first time in the tradesman's shop. The trap
was cunningly set, and accomplished its purpose so thoroughly
that in idle hands money became only dissolving wealth, a false
symbol, a shadow of riches. An excellent economist and profound
philosopher was that miser who took as his motto, "WHEN A GUINEA
IS EXCHANGED, IT EVAPORATES." So it may be said, "When real
estate is converted into money, it is lost." This explains the
constant fact of history, that the nobles--the unproductive
proprietors of the soil--have every where been dispossessed by
industrial and commercial plebeians. Such was especially
the case in the formation of the Italian republics, born, during
the middle ages, of the impoverishment of the seigniors. I will
not pursue the interesting considerations which this matter
suggests; I could only repeat the testimony of historians, and
present economical demonstrations in an altered form.

The greatest enemy of the landed and industrial aristocracy to-
day, the incessant promoter of equality of fortunes, is the
BANKER. Through him immense plains are divided, mountains
change their positions, forests are grown upon the public
squares, one hemisphere produces for another, and every corner of
the globe has its usufructuaries. By means of the Bank new
wealth is continually created, the use of which (soon becoming
indispensable to selfishness) wrests the dormant capital from the
hands of the jealous proprietor. The banker is at once the most
potent creator of wealth, and the main distributor of the
products of art and Nature. And yet, by the strangest antinomy,
this same banker is the most relentless collector of profits,
increase, and usury ever inspired by the demon of property. The
importance of the services which he renders leads us to endure,
though not without complaint, the taxes which he imposes.
Nevertheless, since nothing can avoid its providential mission,
since nothing which exists can escape the end for which it exists
the banker (the modern Croesus) must some day become the restorer
of equality. And following in your footsteps, sir, I have
already given the reason; namely, that profit decreases as
capital multiplies, since an increase of capital--calling for
more laborers, without whom it remains unproductive--always
causes an increase of wages. Whence it follows that the Bank,
to-day the suction-pump of wealth, is destined to become the
steward of the human race.

The phrase EQUALITY OF FORTUNES chafes people, as if it
referred to a condition of the other world, unknown here below.
There are some persons, radicals as well as moderates, whom the
very mention of this idea fills with indignation. Let, then,
these silly aristocrats abolish mercantile societies and
insurance companies, which are founded by prudence for mutual
assistance. For all these social facts, so spontaneous and free
from all levelling intentions, are the legitimate fruits of the
instinct of equality.

When the legislator makes a law, properly speaking he does not
MAKE it,--he does not CREATE it: he DESCRIBES it. In
legislating upon the moral, civil, and political relations of
citizens, he does not express an arbitrary notion: he states the
general idea,--the higher principle which governs the matter
which he is considering; in a word, he is the proclaimer, not the
inventor, of the law. So, when two or more men form among
themselves, by synallagmatic contract, an industrial or an
insurance association, they recognize that their interests,
formerly isolated by a false spirit of selfishness and
independence, are firmly connected by their inner natures, and by
the mutuality of their relations. They do not really bind
themselves by an act of their private will: they swear to conform
henceforth to a previously existing social law hitherto
disregarded by them. And this is proved by the fact that these
same men, could they avoid association, would not associate.
Before they can be induced to unite their interests, they must
acquire full knowledge of the dangers of competition and
isolation; hence the experience of evil is the only thing which
leads them into society.

Now I say that, to establish equality among men, it is only
necessary to generalize the principle upon which insurance,
agricultural, and commercial associations are based. I say
that competition, isolation of interests, monopoly,
privilege, accumulation of capital, exclusive enjoyment,
subordination of functions, individual production, the right of
profit or increase, the exploitation of man by man, and, to sum
up all these species under one head, that PROPERTY is the
principal cause of misery and crime. And, for having arrived at
this offensive and anti-proprietary conclusion, I am an abhorred
monster; radicals and conservatives alike point me out as a fit
subject for prosecution; the academies shower their censures upon
me; the most worthy people regard me as mad; and those are
excessively tolerant who content themselves with the assertion
that I am a fool. Oh, unhappy the writer who publishes the truth
otherwise than as a performance of a duty! If he has counted
upon the applause of the crowd; if he has supposed that avarice
and self-interest would forget themselves in admiration of him;
if he has neglected to encase himself within three thicknesses of
brass,--he will fail, as he ought, in his selfish undertaking.
The unjust criticisms, the sad disappointments, the despair of
his mistaken ambition, will kill him.

But, if I am no longer permitted to express my own personal
opinion concerning this interesting question of social
equilibrium, let me, at least, make known the thought of my
masters, and develop the doctrines advocated in the name of the

It never has been my intention, sir, in spite of the vigorous
censure which you, in behalf of your academy, have pronounced
upon the doctrine of equality of fortunes, to contradict and cope
with you. In listening to you, I have felt my inferiority too
keenly to permit me to enter upon such a discussion. And then,--
if it must be said,--however different your language is from
mine, we believe in the same principles; you share all my
opinions. I do not mean to insinuate thereby, sir, that you have
(to use the phraseology of the schools) an ESOTERIC and an
EXOTERIC doctrine,--that, secretly believing in equality, you
defend property only from motives of prudence and by command. I
am not rash enough to regard you as my colleague in my
revolutionary projects; and I esteem you too highly, moreover, to
suspect you of dissimulation. I only mean that the truths which
methodical investigation and laborious metaphysical speculation
have painfully demonstrated to me, a profound acquaintance with
political economy and a long experience reveal to you. While I
have reached my belief in equality by long reflection, and almost
in spite of my desires, you hold yours, sir, with all the zeal of
faith,--with all the spontaneity of genius. That is why your
course of lectures at the Conservatory is a perpetual war upon
property and inequality of fortunes; that is why your most
learned investigations, your most ingenious analyses, and your
innumerable observations always conclude in a formula of progress
and equality; that is why, finally, you are never more admired
and applauded than at those moments of inspiration when, borne
upon the wings of science, you ascend to those lofty truths which
cause plebeian hearts to beat with enthusiasm, and which chill
with horror men whose intentions are evil. How many times, from
the place where I eagerly drank in your eloquent words, have I
inwardly thanked Heaven for exempting you from the judgment
passed by St. Paul upon the philosophers of his time,--"They have
known the truth, and have not made it known"! How many times
have I rejoiced at finding my own justification in each of your
discourses! No, no; I neither wish nor ask for any thing which
you do not teach yourself. I appeal to your numerous audience;
let it belie me if, in commenting upon you, I pervert your

A disciple of Say, what in your eyes is more anti-social than the
custom-houses; or, as you correctly call them, the barriers
erected by monopoly between nations? What is more annoying, more
unjust, or more absurd, than this prohibitory system which
compels us to pay forty sous in France for that which in England
or Belgium would bring us but fifteen? It is the custom-house,
you once said,[1] which arrests the development of civilization
by preventing the specialization of industries; it is the custom-
house which enriches a hundred monopolists by impoverishing
millions of citizens; it is the custom-house which produces
famine in the midst of abundance, which makes labor sterile by
prohibiting exchange, and which stifles production in a mortal
embrace. It is the custom-house which renders nations jealous
of, and hostile to, each other; four-fifths of the wars of all
ages were caused originally by the custom-house. And then, at
the highest pitch of your enthusiasm, you shouted: "Yes, if to
put an end to this hateful system, it should become necessary for
me to shed the last drop of my blood, I would joyfully spring
into the gap, asking only time enough to give thanks to God for
having judged me worthy of martyrdom!"

[1] Lecture of Jan. 15, 1841.

And, at that solemn moment, I said to myself: "Place in every
department of France such a professor as that, and the revolution
is avoided."

But, sir, by this magnificent theory of liberty of commerce you
render military glory impossible,--you leave nothing for
diplomacy to do; you even take away the desire for conquest,
while abolishing profit altogether. What matters it, indeed,
who restores Constantinople, Alexandria, and Saint Jean
d'Acre, if the Syrians, Egyptians, and Turks are free to choose
their masters; free to exchange their products with whom they
please? Why should Europe get into such a turmoil over this
petty Sultan and his old Pasha, if it is only a question whether
we or the English shall civilize the Orient,--shall instruct
Egypt and Syria in the European arts, and shall teach them to
construct machines, dig canals, and build railroads? For, if to
national independence free trade is added, the foreign influence
of these two countries is thereafter exerted only through a
voluntary relationship of producer to producer, or apprentice to

Alone among European powers, France cheerfully accepted the task
of civilizing the Orient, and began an invasion which was quite
apostolic in its character,--so joyful and high-minded do noble
thoughts render our nation! But diplomatic rivalry, national
selfishness, English avarice, and Russian ambition stood in her
way. To consummate a long-meditated usurpation, it was necessary
to crush a too generous ally: the robbers of the Holy Alliance
formed a league against dauntless and blameless France.
Consequently, at the news of this famous treaty, there arose
among us a chorus of curses upon the principle of property, which
at that time was acting under the hypocritical formulas of the
old political system. The last hour of property seemed to have
struck by the side of Syria; from the Alps to the ocean, from the
Rhine to the Pyrenees, the popular conscience was aroused. All
France sang songs of war, and the coalition turned pale at the
sound of these shuddering cries: "War upon the autocrat, who
wishes to be proprietor of the old world! War upon the English
perjurer, the devourer of India, the poisoner of China, the
tyrant of Ireland, and the eternal enemy of France! War
upon the allies who have conspired against liberty and equality!
War! war! war upon property!"

By the counsel of Providence the emancipation of the nations is
postponed. France is to conquer, not by arms, but by example.
Universal reason does not yet understand this grand equation,
which, commencing with the abolition of slavery, and advancing
over the ruins of aristocracies and thrones, must end in equality
of rights and fortunes; but the day is not far off when the
knowledge of this truth will be as common as that of equality of
origin. Already it seems to be understood that the Oriental
question is only a question of custom-houses. Is it, then, so
difficult for public opinion to generalize this idea, and to
comprehend, finally, that if the suppression of custom-houses
involves the abolition of national property, it involves also, as
a consequence, the abolition of individual property?

In fact, if we suppress the custom-houses, the alliance of the
nations is declared by that very act; their solidarity is
recognized, and their equality proclaimed. If we suppress the
custom-houses, the principle of association will not be slow in
reaching from the State to the province, from the province to the
city, and from the city to the workshop. But, then, what becomes
of the privileges of authors and artists? Of what use are the
patents for invention, imagination, amelioration, and
improvement? When our deputies write a law of literary property
by the side of a law which opens a large breach in the custom-
house they contradict themselves, indeed, and pull down with one
hand what they build up with the other. Without the custom-
house. literary property does not exist, and the hopes of our
starving authors are frustrated. For, certainly you do not
expect, with the good man Fourier, that literary property will
exercise itself in China to the profit of a French writer;
and that an ode of Lamartine, sold by privilege all over the
world, will bring in millions to its author! The poet's work is
peculiar to the climate in which he lives; every where else the
reproduction of his works, having no market value, should be
frank and free. But what! will it be necessary for nations to
put themselves under mutual surveillance for the sake of verses,
statues, and elixirs? We shall always have, then, an excise, a
city-toll, rights of entrance and transit, custom-houses finally;
and then, as a reaction against privilege, smuggling.

Smuggling! That word reminds me of one of the most horrible
forms of property. "Smuggling," you have said, sir,[1] "is an
offence of political creation; it is the exercise of natural
liberty, defined as a crime in certain cases by the will of the
sovereign. The smuggler is a gallant man,--a man of spirit, who
gaily busies himself in procuring for his neighbor, at a very low
price, a jewel, a shawl, or any other object of necessity or
luxury, which domestic monopoly renders excessively dear." Then,
to a very poetical monograph of the smuggler, you add this dismal
conclusion,--that the smuggler belongs to the family of Mandrin,
and that the galleys should be his home!

[1] Lecture of Jan. 15, 1841.

But, sir, you have not called attention to the horrible
exploitation which is carried on in this way in the name of

It is said,--and I give this report only as an hypothesis and an
illustration, for I do not believe it,--it is said that the
present minister of finances owes his fortune to smuggling. M.
Humann, of Strasbourg, sent out of France, it is said, enormous
quantities of sugar, for which he received the
bounty on exportation promised by the State; then, smuggling
this sugar back again, he exported it anew, receiving the bounty
on exportation a second time, and so on. Notice, sir, that I do
not state this as a fact; I give it only as it is told, not
endorsing or even believing it. My sole design is to fix the
idea in the mind by an example. If I believed that a minister
had committed such a crime, that is, if I had personal and
authentic knowledge that he had, I would denounce M. Humann, the
minister of finances, to the Chamber of Deputies, and would
loudly demand his expulsion from the ministry.

But that which is undoubtedly false of M. Humann is true of many
others, as rich and no less honorable than he. Smuggling,
organized on a large scale by the eaters of human flesh, is
carried on to the profit of a few pashas at the risk and peril of
their imprudent victims. The inactive proprietor offers his
merchandise for sale; the actual smuggler risks his liberty, his
honor, and his life. If success crowns the enterprise, the
courageous servant gets paid for his journey; the profit goes to
the coward. If fortune or treachery delivers the instrument of
this execrable traffic into the hands of the custom-house
officer, the master-smuggler suffers a loss which a more
fortunate voyage will soon repair. The agent, pronounced a
scoundrel, is thrown into prison in company with robbers; while
his glorious patron, a juror, elector, deputy, or minister, makes
laws concerning expropriation, monopoly, and custom-houses!

I promised, at the beginning of this letter, that no attack on
property should escape my pen, my only object being to justify
myself before the public by a general recrimination. But I could
not refrain from branding so odious a mode of exploitation, and I
trust that this short digression will be pardoned. Property
does not avenge, I hope, the injuries which smuggling suffers.

The conspiracy against property is general; it is flagrant; it
takes possession of all minds, and inspires all our laws; it lies
at the bottom of all theories. Here the proletaire pursues
property in the street, there the legislator lays an interdict
upon it; now, a professor of political economy or of industrial
legislation,[1] paid to defend it, undermines it with redoubled
blows; at another--time, an academy calls it in question,[2] or
inquires as to the progress of its demolition.[3] To-day there
is not an idea, not an opinion, not a sect, which does not dream
of muzzling property. None confess it, because none are yet
conscious of it; there are too few minds capable of grasping
spontaneously this ensemble of causes and effects, of
principles and consequences, by which I try to demonstrate the
approaching disappearance of property; on the other hand, the
ideas that are generally formed of this right are too divergent
and too loosely determined to allow an admission, so soon, of the
contrary theory. Thus, in the middle and lower ranks of
literature and philosophy, no less than among the common people,
it is thought that, when property is abolished, no one will be
able to enjoy the fruit of his labor; that no one will have any
thing peculiar to himself, and that tyrannical communism will be
established on the ruins of family and liberty!--chimeras, which
are to support for a little while longer the cause of privilege.

[1] MM. Blanqui and Wolowski.

[2] Subject proposed by the Fourth Class of the Institute, the
Academy of Moral and Political Sciences: "What would be the
effect upon the working-class of the organization of labor,
according to the modern ideas of association?"

[3] Subject proposed by the Academy of Besancon: "The
economical and moral consequences in France, up to the present
time, and those which seem likely to appear in future, of the law
concerning the equal division of hereditary property between the

But, before determining precisely the idea of property, before
seeking amid the contradictions of systems for the common element
which must form the basis of the new right, let us cast a rapid
glance at the changes which, at the various periods of history,
property has undergone. The political forms of nations are the
expression of their beliefs. The mobility of these forms, their
modification and their destruction, are solemn experiences which
show us the value of ideas, and gradually eliminate from the
infinite variety of customs the absolute, eternal, and immutable
truth. Now, we shall see that every political institution tends,
necessarily, and on pain of death, to equalize conditions; that
every where and always equality of fortunes (like equality of
rights) has been the social aim, whether the plebeian classes
have endeavored to rise to political power by means of property,
or whether--rulers already--they have used political power to
overthrow property. We shall see, in short, by the progress of
society, that the consummation of justice lies in the extinction
of individual domain.

For the sake of brevity, I will disregard the testimony of
ecclesiastical history and Christian theology: this subject
deserves a separate treatise, and I propose hereafter to return
to it. Moses and Jesus Christ proscribed, under the names of
usury and inequality,[1] all sorts of profit and increase. The
church itself, in its purest teachings, has always condemned
property; and when I attacked, not only the authority of the
church, but also its infidelity to justice, I did it to the glory
of religion. I wanted to provoke a peremptory
reply, and to pave the way for Christianity's triumph, in
spite of the innumerable attacks of which it is at present the
object. I hoped that an apologist would arise forthwith, and,
taking his stand upon the Scriptures, the Fathers, the canons,
and the councils and constitutions of the Popes, would
demonstrate that the church always has maintained the doctrine of
equality, and would attribute to temporary necessity the
contradictions of its discipline. Such a labor would serve the
cause of religion as well as that of equality. We must know,
sooner or later, whether Christianity is to be regenerated in the
church or out of it, and whether this church accepts the
reproaches cast upon it of hatred to liberty and antipathy to
progress. Until then we will suspend judgment, and content
ourselves with placing before the clergy the teachings of

[1] {GREEK, ?n n `},--greater property. The Vulgate
translates it avaritia.

When Lycurgus undertook to make laws for Sparta, in what
condition did he find this republic? On this point all
historians agree. The people and the nobles were at war. The
city was in a confused state, and divided by two parties,--the
party of the poor, and the party of the rich. Hardly escaped
from the barbarism of the heroic ages, society was rapidly
declining. The proletariat made war upon property, which, in its
turn, oppressed the proletariat. What did Lycurgus do? His
first measure was one of general security, at the very idea of
which our legislators would tremble. He abolished all debts;
then, employing by turns persuasion and force, he induced the
nobles to renounce their privileges, and re-established equality.

Lycurgus, in a word, hunted property out of Lacedaemon, seeing no
other way to harmonize liberty, equality, and law. I certainly
should not wish France to follow the example of Sparta; but it is
remarkable that the most ancient of Greek legislators,
thoroughly acquainted with the nature and needs of the
people, more capable than any one else of appreciating the
legitimacy of the obligations which he, in the exercise of his
absolute authority, cancelled; who had compared the legislative
systems of his time, and whose wisdom an oracle had proclaimed,--
it is remarkable, I say, that Lycurgus should have judged the
right of property incompatible with free institutions, and should
have thought it his duty to preface his legislation by a coup
d'etat which destroyed all distinctions of fortune.

Lycurgus understood perfectly that the luxury, the love of
enjoyments, and the inequality of fortunes, which property
engenders, are the bane of society; unfortunately the means which
he employed to preserve his republic were suggested to him by
false notions of political economy, and by a superficial
knowledge of the human heart. Accordingly, property, which this
legislator wrongly confounded with wealth, reentered the city
together with the swarm of evils which he was endeavoring to
banish; and this time Sparta was hopelessly corrupted.

"The introduction of wealth," says M. Pastoret, "was one of the
principal causes of the misfortunes which they experienced.
Against these, however, the laws had taken extraordinary
precautions, the best among which was the inculcation of morals
which tended to suppress desire."

The best of all precautions would have been the anticipation of
desire by satisfaction. Possession is the sovereign remedy for
cupidity, a remedy which would have been the less perilous to
Sparta because fortunes there were almost equal, and conditions
were nearly alike. As a general thing, fasting and abstinence
are bad teachers of moderation.

"There was a law," says M. Pastoret again, "to prohibit the
rich from wearing better clothing than the poor, from eating more
delicate food, and from owning elegant furniture, vases, carpets,
fine houses," &c. Lycurgus hoped, then, to maintain equality by
rendering wealth useless. How much wiser he would have been if,
in accordance with his military discipline, he had organized
industry and taught the people to procure by their own labor the
things which he tried in vain to deprive them of. In that case,
enjoying happy thoughts and pleasant feelings, the citizen would
have known no other desire than that with which the legislator
endeavored to inspire him,--love of honor and glory, the triumphs
of talent and virtue.

"Gold and all kinds of ornaments were forbidden the women."
Absurd. After the death of Lycurgus, his institutions became
corrupted; and four centuries before the Christian era not a
vestige remained of the former simplicity. Luxury and the thirst
for gold were early developed among the Spartans in a degree as
intense as might have been expected from their enforced poverty
and their inexperience in the arts. Historians have accused
Pausanias, Lysander, Agesilaus, and others of having corrupted
the morals of their country by the introduction of wealth
obtained in war. It is a slander. The morals of the Spartans
necessarily grew corrupt as soon as the Lacedaemonian poverty
came in contact with Persian luxury and Athenian elegance.
Lycurgus, then, made a fatal mistake in attempting to inspire
generosity and modesty by enforcing vain and proud simplicity.

"Lycurgus was not frightened at idleness! A Lacedemonian,
happening to be in Athens (where idleness was forbidden) during
the punishment of a citizen who had been found guilty, asked to
see the Athenian thus condemned for having exercised the rights
of a free man. . . . It was one of the principles of Lycurguss,
acted upon for several centuries, that free men should not follow
lucrative professions. . . . The women disdained domestic
labor; they did not spin their wool themselves, as did the other
Greeks [they did not, then, read Homer!]; they left their slaves
to make their clothing for them."--Pastoret: History of

Could any thing be more contradictory? Lycurgus proscribed
property among the citizens, and founded the means of subsistence
on the worst form of property,--on property obtained by force.
What wonder, after that, that a lazy city, where no industry was
carried on, became a den of avarice? The Spartans succumbed the
more easily to the allurements of luxury and Asiatic
voluptuousness, being placed entirely at their mercy by their own
coarseness. The same thing happened to the Romans, when military
success took them out of Italy,--a thing which the author of the
prosopopoeia of Fabricius could not explain. It is not the
cultivation of the arts which corrupts morals, but their
degradation, induced by inactive and luxurious opulence. The
instinct of property is to make the industry of Daedalus, as well
as the talent of Phidias, subservient to its own fantastic whims
and disgraceful pleasures. Property, not wealth, ruined the

When Solon appeared, the anarchy caused by property was at its
height in the Athenian republic. "The inhabitants of Attica were
divided among themselves as to the form of government. Those who
lived on the mountains (the poor) preferred the popular form;
those of the plain (the middle class), the oligarchs; those by
the sea coast, a mixture of oligarchy and democracy. Other
dissensions were arising from the inequality of fortunes. The
mutual antagonism of the rich and poor had become so violent,
that the one-man power seemed the only safe-guard against the
revolution with which the republic was threatened." (Pastoret:
History of Legislation.)

Quarrels between the rich and the poor, which seldom occur in
monarchies, because a well established power suppresses
dissensions, seem to be the life of popular governments.
Aristotle had noticed this. The oppression of wealth submitted
to agrarian laws, or to excessive taxation; the hatred of the
lower classes for the upper class, which is exposed always to
libellous charges made in hopes of confiscation,--these were the
features of the Athenian government which were especially
revolting to Aristotle, and which caused him to favor a limited
monarchy. Aristotle, if he had lived in our day, would have
supported the constitutional government. But, with all deference
to the Stagirite, a government which sacrifices the life of the
proletaire to that of the proprietor is quite as irrational as
one which supports the former by robbing the latter; neither of
them deserve the support of a free man, much less of a

Solon followed the example of Lycurgus. He celebrated his
legislative inauguration by the abolition of debts,--that is, by
bankruptcy. In other words, Solon wound up the governmental
machine for a longer or shorter time depending upon the rate of
interest. Consequently, when the spring relaxed and the chain
became unwound, the republic had either to perish, or to recover
itself by a second bankruptcy. This singular policy was pursued
by all the ancients. After the captivity of Babylon, Nehemiah,
the chief of the Jewish nation, abolished debts; Lycurgus
abolished debts; Solon abolished debts; the Roman people, after
the expulsion of the kings until the accession of the Caesars,
struggled with the Senate for the abolition of debts.
Afterwards, towards the end of the republic, and long after the
establishment of the empire, agriculture being abandoned, and the
provinces becoming depopulated in consequence of the excessive
rates of interest, the emperors freely granted the lands to
whoever would cultivate them,--that is, they abolished debts. No
one, except Lycurgus, who went to the other extreme, ever
perceived that the great point was, not to release debtors by a
coup d'etat, but to prevent the contraction of debts in future.

On the contrary, the most democratic governments were always
exclusively based upon individual property; so that the social
element of all these republics was war between the citizens.

Solon decreed that a census should be taken of all fortunes,
regulated political rights by the result, granted to the larger
proprietors more influence, established the balance of powers,--
in a word, inserted in the constitution the most active leaven of
discord; as if, instead of a legislator chosen by the people, he
had been their greatest enemy. Is it not, indeed, the height of
imprudence to grant equality of political rights to men of
unequal conditions? If a manufacturer, uniting all his workmen
in a joint-stock company, should give to each of them a
consultative and deliberative voice,--that is, should make all of
them masters,--would this equality of mastership secure continued
inequality of wages? That is the whole political system of
Solon, reduced to its simplest expression.

"In giving property a just preponderance," says M. Pastoret,
"Solon repaired, as far as he was able, his first official act,--
the abolition of debts. . . . He thought he owed it to public
peace to make this great sacrifice of acquired rights and natural
equity. But the violation of individual property and written
contracts is a bad preface to a public code."

In fact, such violations are always cruelly punished. In '89 and
'93, the possessions of the nobility and the clergy were
confiscated, the clever proletaires were enriched; and to-day the
latter, having become aristocrats, are making us pay dearly
for our fathers' robbery. What, therefore, is to be done now?
It is not for us to violate right, but to restore it. Now, it
would be a violation of justice to dispossess some and endow
others, and then stop there. We must gradually lower the rate of
interest, organize industry, associate laborers and their
functions, and take a census of the large fortunes, not for the
purpose of granting privileges, but that we may effect their
redemption by settling a life-annuity upon their proprietors. We
must apply on a large scale the principle of collective
production, give the State eminent domain over all capital! make
each producer responsible, abolish the custom-house, and
transform every profession and trade into a public function.
Thereby large fortunes will vanish without confiscation or
violence; individual possession will establish itself, without
communism, under the inspection of the republic; and equality of
conditions will no longer depend simply on the will of citizens.

Of the authors who have written upon the Romans, Bossuet and
Montesquieu occupy prominent positions in the first rank; the
first being generally regarded as the father of the philosophy of
history, and the second as the most profound writer upon law and
politics. Nevertheless, it could be shown that these two great
writers, each of them imbued with the prejudices of their century
and their cloth, have left the question of the causes of the rise
and fall of the Romans precisely where they found it.

Bossuet is admirable as long as he confines himself to
description: witness, among other passages, the picture which he
has given us of Greece before the Persian War, and which seems to
have inspired "Telemachus;" the parallel between Athens and
Sparta, drawn twenty times since Bossuet; the description of the
character and morals of the ancient Romans; and, finally,
the sublime peroration which ends the "Discourse on Universal
History." But when the famous historian deals with causes, his
philosophy is at fault.

"The tribunes always favored the division of captured lands, or
the proceeds of their sale, among the citizens. The Senate
steadfastly opposed those laws which were damaging to the State,
and wanted the price of lands to be awarded to the public

Thus, according to Bossuet, the first and greatest wrong of civil
wars was inflicted upon the people, who, dying of hunger,
demanded that the lands, which they had shed their blood to
conquer, should be given to them for cultivation. The
patricians, who bought them to deliver to their slaves, had more
regard for justice and the public interests. How little affects
the opinions of men! If the roles of Cicero and the Gracchi
had been inverted, Bossuet, whose sympathies were aroused by the
eloquence of the great orator more than by the clamors of the
tribunes, would have viewed the agrarian laws in quite a
different light. He then would have understood that the interest
of the treasury was only a pretext; that, when the captured lands
were put up at auction, the patricians hastened to buy them, in
order to profit by the revenues from them,--certain, moreover,
that the price paid would come back to them sooner or later, in
exchange either for supplies furnished by them to the republic,
or for the subsistence of the multitude, who could buy only of
them, and whose services at one time, and poverty at another,
were rewarded by the State. For a State does not hoard; on the
contrary, the public funds always return to the people. If,
then, a certain number of men are the sole dealers in articles of
primary necessity, it follows that the public treasury, in
passing and repassing through their hands, deposits and
accumulates real property there.

When Menenius related to the people his fable of the limbs and
the stomach, if any one had remarked to this story-teller that
the stomach freely gives to the limbs the nourishment which it
freely receives, but that the patricians gave to the plebeians
only for cash, and lent to them only at usury, he undoubtedly
would have silenced the wily senator, and saved the people from a
great imposition. The Conscript Fathers were fathers only of
their own line. As for the common people, they were regarded as
an impure race, exploitable, taxable, and workable at the
discretion and mercy of their masters.

As a general thing, Bossuet shows little regard for the people.
His monarchical and theological instincts know nothing but
authority, obedience, and alms-giving, under the name of charity.

This unfortunate disposition constantly leads him to mistake
symptoms for causes; and his depth, which is so much admired, is
borrowed from his authors, and amounts to very little, after all.

When he says, for instance, that "the dissensions in the
republic, and finally its fall, were caused by the jealousies of
its citizens, and their love of liberty carried to an extreme and
intolerable extent," are we not tempted to ask him what caused
those JEALOUSIES?--what inspired the people with that lOVE OF
LIBERTY, EXTREME AND INTOLERABLE? It would be useless to reply,
The corruption of morals; the disregard for the ancient poverty;
the debaucheries, luxury, and class jealousies; the seditious
character of the Gracchi, &c. Why did the morals become corrupt,
and whence arose those eternal dissensions between the patricians
and the plebeians?

In Rome, as in all other places, the dissension between the rich
and the poor was not caused directly by the desire for wealth
(people, as a general thing, do not covet that which they deem it
illegitimate to acquire), but by a natural instinct of the
plebeians, which led them to seek the cause of their adversity in
the constitution of the republic. So we are doing to-day;
instead of altering our public economy, we demand an electoral
reform. The Roman people wished to return to the social compact;
they asked for reforms, and demanded a revision of the laws, and
a creation of new magistracies. The patricians, who had nothing
to complain of, opposed every innovation. Wealth always has been
conservative. Nevertheless, the people overcame the resistance
of the Senate; the electoral right was greatly extended; the
privileges of the plebeians were increased,--they had their
representatives, their tribunes, and their consuls; but,
notwithstanding these reforms, the republic could not be saved.
When all political expedients had been exhausted, when civil war
had depleted the population, when the Caesars had thrown their
bloody mantle over the cancer which was consuming the empire,--
inasmuch as accumulated property always was respected, and since
the fire never stopped, the nation had to perish in the flames.
The imperial power was a compromise which protected the property
of the rich, and nourished the proletaires with wheat from Africa
and Sicily: a double error, which destroyed the aristocrats by
plethora and the commoners by famine. At last there was but one
real proprietor left,--the emperor,--whose dependent, flatterer,
parasite, or slave, each citizen became; and when this proprietor
was ruined, those who gathered the crumbs from under his table,
and laughed when he cracked his jokes, perished also.

Montesquieu succeeded no better than Bossuet in fathoming the
causes of the Roman decline; indeed, it may be said that the
president has only developed the ideas of the bishop. If the
Romans had been more moderate in their conquests, more just to
their allies, more humane to the vanquished; if the nobles
had been less covetous, the emperors less lawless, the people
less violent, and all classes less corrupt; if . . . &c.,--
perhaps the dignity of the empire might have been preserved, and
Rome might have retained the sceptre of the world! That is all
that can be gathered from the teachings of Montesquieu. But the
truth of history does not lie there; the destinies of the world
are not dependent upon such trivial causes. The passions of men,
like the contingencies of time and the varieties of climate,
serve to maintain the forces which move humanity and produce all
historical changes; but they do not explain them. The grain of
sand of which Pascal speaks would have caused the death of one
man only, had not prior action ordered the events of which this
death was the precursor.

Montesquieu has read extensively; he knows Roman history
thoroughly, is perfectly well acquainted with the people of whom
he speaks, and sees very clearly why they were able to conquer
their rivals and govern the world. While reading him we admire
the Romans, but we do not like them; we witness their triumphs
without pleasure, and we watch their fall without sorrow.
Montesquieu's work, like the works of all French writers, is
skilfully composed,--spirited, witty, and filled with wise
observations. He pleases, interests, instructs, but leads to
little reflection; he does not conquer by depth of thought; he
does not exalt the mind by elevated reason or earnest feeling.
In vain should we search his writings for knowledge of antiquity,
the character of primitive society, or a description of the
heroic ages, whose morals and prejudices lived until the last
days of the republic. Vico, painting the Romans with their
horrible traits, represents them as excusable, because he shows
that all their conduct was governed by preexisting ideas and
customs, and that they were informed, so to speak, by a
superior genius of which they were unconscious; in Montesquieu,
the Roman atrocity revolts, but is not explained. Therefore, as
a writer, Montesquieu brings greater credit upon French
literature; as a philosopher, Vico bears away the palm.

Originally, property in Rome was national, not private. Numa was
the first to establish individual property by distributing the
lands captured by Romulus. What was the dividend of this
distribution effected by Numa? What conditions were imposed upon
individuals, what powers reserved to the State? None whatever.
Inequality of fortunes, absolute abdication by the republic of
its right of eminent domain over the property of citizens,--such
were the first results of the division of Numa, who justly may be
regarded as the originator of Roman revolutions. He it was who
instituted the worship of the god Terminus,--the guardian of
private possession, and one of the most ancient gods of Italy.
It was Numa who placed property under the protection of Jupiter;
who, in imitation of the Etrurians, wished to make priests of the
land-surveyors; who invented a liturgy for cadastral operations,
and ceremonies of consecration for the marking of boundaries,--
who, in short, made a religion of property.[1] All these fancies
would have been more beneficial than dangerous, if the holy king
had not forgotten one essential thing; namely, to fix the amount
that each citizen could possess, and on what conditions he could
possess it. For, since it is the essence of property to
continually increase by accession and profit, and since the
lender will take advantage of every opportunity to apply this
principle inherent in property, it follows that properties tend,
by means of their natural energy and the religious respect which
protects them, to absorb each other, and fortunes to increase or
diminish to an indefinite extent,--a process which necessarily
results in the ruin of the people, and the fall of the republic.
Roman history is but the development of this law.

[1] Similar or analogous customs have existed among all nations.
Consult, among other works, "Origin of French Law," by M.
Michelet; and "Antiquities of German Law," by Grimm.

Scarcely had the Tarquins been banished from Rome and the
monarchy abolished, when quarrels commenced between the orders.
In the year 494 B.C., the secession of the commonalty to the Mons
Sacer led to the establishment of the tribunate. Of what did the
plebeians complain? That they were poor, exhausted by the
interest which they paid to the proprietors,--_foeneratoribus;_
that the republic, administered for the benefit of the nobles,
did nothing for the people; that, delivered over to the mercy of
their creditors, who could sell them and their children, and
having neither hearth nor home, they were refused the means of
subsistence, while the rate of interest was kept at its highest
point, &c. For five centuries, the sole policy of the Senate was
to evade these just complaints; and, notwithstanding the energy
of the tribunes, notwithstanding the eloquence of the Gracchi,
the violence of Marius, and the triumph of Caesar, this execrable
policy succeeded only too well. The Senate always temporized;
the measures proposed by the tribunes might be good, but they
were inopportune. It admitted that something should be done; but
first it was necessary that the people should resume the
performance of their duties, because the Senate could not yield
to violence, and force must be employed only by the law. If the
people--out of respect for legality--took this beautiful advice,
the Senate conjured up a difficulty; the reform was postponed,
and that was the end of it. On the contrary, if the demands of
the proletaires became too pressing, it declared a foreign
war, and neighboring nations were deprived of their liberty, to
maintain the Roman aristocracy.

But the toils of war were only a halt for the plebeians in their
onward march towards pauperism. The lands confiscated from the
conquered nations were immediately added to the domain of the
State, to the ager publicus; and, as such, cultivated for the
benefit of the treasury; or, as was more often the case, they
were sold at auction. None of them were granted to the
proletaires, who, unlike the patricians and knights, were not
supplied by the victory with the means of buying them. War never
enriched the soldier; the extensive plundering has been done
always by the generals. The vans of Augereau, and of twenty
others, are famous in our armies; but no one ever heard of a
private getting rich. Nothing was more common in Rome than
charges of peculation, extortion, embezzlement, and brigandage,
carried on in the provinces at the head of armies, and in other
public capacities. All these charges were quieted by intrigue,
bribery of the judges, or desistance of the accuser. The culprit
was allowed always in the end to enjoy his spoils in peace; his
son was only the more respected on account of his father's
crimes. And, in fact, it could not be otherwise. What would
become of us, if every deputy, peer, or public functionary should
be called upon to show his title to his fortune!

"The patricians arrogated the exclusive enjoyment of the ager
publicus; and, like the feudal seigniors, granted some portions
of their lands to their dependants,--a wholly precarious
concession, revocable at the will of the grantor. The plebeians,
on the contrary, were entitled to the enjoyment of only a little
pasture-land left to them in common: an utterly unjust state of
things, since, in consequence of it, taxation--_census_--weighed
more heavily upon the poor than upon the rich. The patrician, in
fact, always exempted himself from the tithe which he owed
as the price and as the acknowledgment of the concession of
domain; and, on the other hand, paid no taxes on his
POSSESSIONS, if, as there is good reason to believe, only
citizens' property was taxed."--Laboulaye: History of Property.

In order thoroughly to understand the preceding quotation, we
must know that the estates of CITIZENS--that is, estates
independent of the public domain, whether they were obtained in
the division of Numa, or had since been sold by the questors--
were alone regarded as PROPERTY; upon these a tax, or _cense_,
was imposed. On the contrary, the estates obtained by
concessions of the public domain, of the ager publicus (for
which a light rent was paid), were called POSSESSIONS. Thus,
among the Romans, there was a RIGHT OF PROPERTY and a RIGHT OF
POSSESSION regulating the administration of all estates. Now,
what did the proletaires wish? That the jus possessionis--the
simple right of possession--should be extended to them at the
expense, as is evident, not of private property, but of the
public domain,--agri publici. The proletaires, in short,
demanded that they should be tenants of the land which they had
conquered. This demand, the patricians in their avarice never
would accede to. Buying as much of this land as they could, they
afterwards found means of obtaining the rest as POSSESSIONS.
Upon this land they employed their slaves. The people, who could
not buy, on account of the competition of the rich, nor hire,
because--cultivating with their own hands--they could not promise
a rent equal to the revenue which the land would yield when
cultivated by slaves, were always deprived of possession and

Civil wars relieved, to some extent, the sufferings of the
multitude. "The people enrolled themselves under the banners of
the ambitious, in order to obtain by force that which the
law refused them,--property. A colony was the reward of a
victorious legion. But it was no longer the ager publicus
only; it was all Italy that lay at the mercy of the legions. The
ager publicus disappeared almost entirely, . . . but the cause
of the evil--accumulated property--became more potent than ever."
(Laboulaye: History of Property.)

The author whom I quote does not tell us why this division of
territory which followed civil wars did not arrest the
encroachments of accumulated property; the omission is easily
supplied. Land is not the only requisite for cultivation; a
working-stock is also necessary,--animals, tools, harnesses, a
house, an advance, &c. Where did the colonists, discharged by
the dictator who rewarded them, obtain these things? From the
purse of the usurers; that is, of the patricians, to whom all
these lands finally returned, in consequence of the rapid
increase of usury, and the seizure of estates. Sallust, in his
account of the conspiracy of Catiline, tells us of this fact.
The conspirators were old soldiers of Sylla, who, as a reward for
their services, had received from him lands in Cisalpine Gaul,
Tuscany, and other parts of the peninsula Less than twenty years
had elapsed since these colonists, free of debt, had left the
service and commenced farming; and already they were crippled by
usury, and almost ruined. The poverty caused by the exactions of
creditors was the life of this conspiracy which well-nigh
inflamed all Italy, and which, with a worthier chief and fairer
means, possibly would have succeeded. In Rome, the mass of the
people were favorable to the conspirators--_cuncta plebes
Catilinae incepta probabat;_ the allies were weary of the
patricians' robberies; deputies from the Allobroges (the
Savoyards) had come to Rome to appeal to the Senate in behalf of
their fellow-citizens involved in debt; in short, the complaint
against the large proprietors was universal. "We call men
and gods to witness," said the soldiers of Catiline, who were
Roman citizens with not a slave among them, "that we have taken
arms neither against the country, nor to attack any one, but in
defence of our lives and liberties. Wretched, poor, most of us
deprived of country, all of us of fame and fortune, by the
violence and cruelty of usurers, we have no rights, no property,
no liberty."[1]

{NOTE: footnote needs spell-checked}
[1] _Dees hominesque testamur, nos arma neque contra patriam
cepisse neque quo periculum aliis faceremus, sed uti corpora
nostra ab injuria tuta forent, qui miseri, egentes, violentia
atque crudelitate foeneraterum, plerique patriae, sed omncsfarna
atque fortunis expertes sumus; neque cuiquam nostrum licuit, more
majorum, lege uti, neque, amisso patrimonio, libferum corpus
habere._--Sallus: Bellum Catilinarium.

The bad reputation of Catiline, and his atrocious designs, the
imprudence of his accomplices, the treason of several, the
strategy of Cicero, the angry outbursts of Cato, and the terror
of the Senate, baffled this enterprise, which, in furnishing a
precedent for expeditions against the rich, would perhaps have
saved the republic, and given peace to the world. But Rome could
not evade her destiny; the end of her expiations had not come. A
nation never was known to anticipate its punishment by a sudden
and unexpected conversion. Now, the long-continued crimes of the
Eternal City could not be atoned for by the massacre of a few
hundred patricians. Catiline came to stay divine vengeance;
therefore his conspiracy failed.

The encroachment of large proprietors upon small proprietors, by
the aid of usury, farm-rent, and profits of all sorts, was common
throughout the empire. The most honest citizens invested their
money at high rates of interest.[1] Cato, Cicero, Brutus, all
the stoics so noted for their frugality, _viri frugi_,--
Seneca, the teacher of virtue,--levied enormous taxes in the
provinces, under the name of usury; and it is something
remarkable, that the last defenders of the republic, the proud
Pompeys, were all usurious aristocrats, and oppressors of the
poor. But the battle of Pharsalus, having killed men only,
without touching institutions, the encroachments of the large
domains became every day more active. Ever since the birth of
Christianity, the Fathers have opposed this invasion with all
their might. Their writings are filled with burning curses upon
this crime of usury, of which Christians are not always innocent.

[1] Fifty, sixty, and eighty per cent.--Course of M. Blanqui.

St. Cyprian complains of certain bishops of his time, who,
absorbed in disgraceful stock-jobbing operations, abandoned their
churches, and went about the provinces appropriating lands by
artifice and fraud, while lending money and piling up interests
upon interests.[1] Why, in the midst of this passion for
accumulation, did not the possession of the public land, like
private property, become concentrated in a few hands?

{NOTE: footnote needs spell-checked}
[1] _Episcopi plurimi, quos et hortamento esse oportet caeteris
et exemplo, divina prouratione contempta, procuratores rerum
saeularium fieri, derelicta cathedra, plebe leserta, per alienas
provincias oberrantes, negotiationis quaestuosae nundinas au
uucu-, pari, esurientibus in ecclesia fratribus habere argentum
largitur velle, fundos insidi.sis fraudibus rapere, usuris
multiplicantibus faenus augere._--Cyprian: De Lapsis.

{NOTE: what does [2]refer to? This is at bottom of pg 341 in MS}
[2] In this passage, St. Cyprian alludes to lending on mortgages
and to compound interest.

By law, the domain of the State was inalienable, and consequently
possession was always revocable; but the edict of the praetor
continued it indefinitely, so that finally the possessions of the
patricians were transformed into absolute property, though the
name, possessions, was still applied to them. This conversion,
instigated by senatorial avarice; owed its accomplishment to the
most deplorable and indiscreet policy. If, in the time of
Tiberius Gracchus, who wished to limit each citizen's possession
of the ager publicus to five hundred acres, the amount of this
possession had been fixed at as much as one family could
cultivate, and granted on the express condition that the
possessor should cultivate it himself, and should lease
it to no one, the empire never would have been desolated by large
estates; and possession, instead of increasing property, would
have absorbed it. On what, then, depended the establishment and
maintenance of equality in conditions and fortunes? On a more
equitable division of the ager publicus, a wiser distribution
of the right of possession.

I insist upon this point, which is of the utmost importance,
because it gives us an opportunity to examine the history of this
individual possession, of which I said so much in my first
memoir, and which so few of my readers seem to have understood.
The Roman republic--having, as it did, the power to dispose
absolutely of its territory, and to impose conditions upon
possessors--was nearer to liberty and equality than any nation
has been since. If the Senate had been intelligent and just,--
if, at the time of the retreat to the Mons Sacer, instead of the
ridiculous farce enacted by Menenius Agrippa, a solemn
renunciation of the right to acquire had been made by each
citizen on attaining his share of possessions,--the republic,
based upon equality of possessions and the duty of labor, would
not, in attaining its wealth, have degenerated in morals;
Fabricius would have enjoyed the arts without controlling
artists; and the conquests of the ancient Romans would have been
the means of spreading civilization, instead of the series of
murders and robberies that they were.

But property, having unlimited power to amass and to lease, was
daily increased by the addition of new possessions. From the
time of Nero, six individuals were the sole proprietors of one-
half of Roman Africa. In the fifth century, the wealthy
families had incomes of no less than two millions: some possessed
as many as twenty thousand slaves. All the authors who have
written upon the causes of the fall of the Roman republic concur.

M. Giraud of Aix[1] quotes the testimony of Cicero, Seneca,
Plutarch, Olympiodorus, and Photius. Under Vespasian and Titus,
Pliny, the naturalist, exclaimed: "Large estates have ruined
Italy, and are ruining the provinces."

[1] "Inquiries concerning Property among the Romans."

But it never has been understood that the extension of property
was effected then, as it is to-day, under the aegis of the law,
and by virtue of the constitution. When the Senate sold captured
lands at auction, it was in the interest of the treasury and of
public welfare. When the patricians bought up possessions and
property, they realized the purpose of the Senate's decrees; when
they lent at high rates of interest, they took advantage of a
legal privilege. "Property," said the lender, "is the right to
enjoy even to the extent of abuse, _jus utendi et abutendi_; that
is, the right to lend at interest,--to lease, to acquire, and
then to lease and lend again." But property is also the right to
exchange, to transfer, and to sell. If, then, the social
condition is such that the proprietor, ruined by usury, may be
compelled to sell his possession, the means of his subsistence,
he will sell it; and, thanks to the law, accumulated property--
devouring and anthropophagous property--will be established.[1]

[1] "Its acquisitive nature works rapidly in the sleep of the
law. It is ready, at the word, to absorb every thing. Witness
the famous equivocation about the ox-hide which, when cut up into
thongs, was large enough to enclose the site of Carthage. . . .
The legend has reappeared several times since Dido. . . . Such
is the love of man for the land. Limited by tombs, measured by
the members of the human body, by the thumb, the foot, and the
arm, it harmonizes, as far as possible, with the very proportions
of man. Nor is be satisfied yet: he calls Heaven to witness that
it is his; he tries to or his land, to give it the form of
heaven. . . . In his titanic intoxication, he describes property
in the very terms which he employs in describing the
Almighty--_fundus_ _optimus maximus_. . . . He shall make it his
couch, and they shall be separated no more,--{GREEK, ` nf g

h g g ."}--Michelet:Origin of French Law.

The immediate and secondary cause of the decline of the Romans
was, then, the internal dissensions between the two orders of the
republic,--the patricians and the plebeians,--dissensions which
gave rise to civil wars, proscriptions, and loss of liberty, and
finally led to the empire; but the primary and mediate cause of
their decline was the establishment by Numa of the institution of

I end with an extract from a work which I have quoted several
times already, and which has recently received a prize from the
Academy of Moral and Political Sciences:--

"The concentration of property," says M. Laboulaye, "while
causing extreme poverty, forced the emperors to feed and amuse
the people, that they might forget their misery. _Panem et
circenses:_ that was the Roman law in regard to the poor; a dire
and perhaps a necessary evil wherever a landed aristocracy

"To feed these hungry mouths, grain was brought from Africa and
the provinces, and distributed gratuitously among the needy. In
the time of Caesar, three hundred and twenty thousand people were
thus fed. Augustus saw that such a measure led directly to the
destruction of husbandry; but to abolish these distributions was
to put a weapon within the reach of the first aspirant for power.

The emperor shrank at the thought.

"While grain was gratuitous, agriculture was impossible. Tillage
gave way to pasturage, another cause of depopulation, even among

"Finally, luxury, carried further and further every day, covered
the soil of Italy with elegant villas, which occupied whole
cantons. Gardens and groves replaced the fields, and the free
population fled to the towns. Husbandry disappeared almost
entirely, and with husbandry the husbandman. Africa furnished
the wheat, and Greece the wine. Tiberius complained bitterly of
this evil, which placed the lives of the Roman people at the
mercy of the winds and waves: that was his anxiety. One day
later, and three hundred thousand starving men walked the
streets of Rome: that was a revolution.

"This decline of Italy and the provinces did not stop. After the
reign of Nero, depopulation commenced in towns as noted as Antium
and Tarentum. Under the reign of Pertinax, there was so much
desert land that the emperor abandoned it, even that which
belonged to the treasury, to whoever would cultivate it, besides
exempting the farmers from taxation for a period of ten years.
Senators were compelled to invest one-third of their fortunes in
real estate in Italy; but this measure served only to increase
the evil which they wished to cure. To force the rich to possess
in Italy was to increase the large estates which had ruined the
country. And must I say, finally, that Aurelian wished to send
the captives into the desert lands of Etruria, and that
Valentinian was forced to settle the Alamanni on the fertile
banks of the Po?"

If the reader, in running through this book, should complain of
meeting with nothing but quotations from other works, extracts
from journals and public lectures, comments upon laws, and
interpretations of them, I would remind him that the very object
of this memoir is to establish the conformity of my opinion
concerning property with that universally held; that, far from
aiming at a paradox, it has been my main study to follow the
advice of the world; and, finally, that my sole pretension is to
clearly formulate the general belief. I cannot repeat it too
often,--and I confess it with pride,--I teach absolutely nothing
that is new; and I should regard the doctrine which I advocate as
radically erroneous, if a single witness should testify against

Let us now trace the revolutions in property among the

As long as the German tribes dwelt in their forests, it did not
occur to them to divide and appropriate the soil. The land was
held in common: each individual could plow, sow, and reap. But,
when the empire was once invaded, they bethought themselves of
sharing the land, just as they shared spoils after a
victory. "Hence," says M. Laboulaye, "the expressions _sortes
Burgundiorum Gothorum_ and {GREEK, ` k }; hence the
German words _allod_, allodium, and _loos_, lot, which are used
in all modern languages to designate the gifts of chance."

Allodial property, at least with the mass of coparceners, was
originally held, then, in equal shares; for all of the prizes
were equal, or, at least, equivalent. This property, like that
of the Romans, was wholly individual, independent, exclusive,
transferable, and consequently susceptible of accumulation and
invasion. But, instead of its being, as was the case among the
Romans, the large estate which, through increase and usury,
subordinated and absorbed the small one, among the Barbarians--
fonder of war than of wealth, more eager to dispose of persons
than to appropriate things--it was the warrior who, through
superiority of arms, enslaved his adversary. The Roman wanted
matter; the Barbarian wanted man. Consequently, in the feudal
ages, rents were almost nothing,--simply a hare, a partridge, a
pie, a few pints of wine brought by a little girl, or a Maypole
set up within the suzerain's reach. In return, the vassal or
incumbent had to follow the seignior to battle (a thing which
happened almost every day), and equip and feed himself at his own
expense. "This spirit of the German tribes--this spirit of
companionship and association--governed the territory as it
governed individuals. The lands, like the men, were secured to a
chief or seignior by a bond of mutual protection and fidelity.
This subjection was the labor of the German epoch which gave
birth to feudalism. By fair means or foul, every proprietor who
could not be a chief was forced to be a vassal." (Laboulaye:
History of Property.)

By fair means or foul, every mechanic who cannot be a master
has to be a journeyman; every proprietor who is not an invader
will be invaded; every producer who cannot, by the exploitation
of other men, furnish products at less than their proper value,
will lose his labor. Corporations and masterships, which are
hated so bitterly, but which will reappear if we are not careful,
are the necessary results of the principle of competition which
is inherent in property; their organization was patterned
formerly after that of the feudal hierarchy, which was the result
of the subordination of men and possessions.

The times which paved the way for the advent of feudalism and the
reappearance of large proprietors were times of carnage and the
most frightful anarchy. Never before had murder and violence
made such havoc with the human race. The tenth century, among
others, if my memory serves me rightly, was called the CENTURY
OF IRON. His property, his life, and the honor of his wife and
children always in danger the small proprietor made haste to do
homage to his seignior, and to bestow something on the church of
his freehold, that he might receive protection and security.

"Both facts and laws bear witness that from the sixth to the
tenth century the proprietors of small freeholds were gradually
plundered, or reduced by the encroachments of large proprietors
and counts to the condition of either vassals or tributaries.
The Capitularies are full of repressive provisions; but the
incessant reiteration of these threats only shows the
perseverance of the evil and the impotency of the government.
Oppression, moreover, varies but little in its methods. The
complaints of the free proprietors, and the groans of the
plebeians at the time of the Gracchi, were one and the same. It
is said that, whenever a poor man refused to give his estate to
the bishop, the curate, the count, the judge, or the centurion,
these immediately sought an opportunity to ruin him. They made
him serve in the army until, completely ruined, he was induced,
by fair means or foul, to give up his freehold."--Laboulaye:
History of Property.

How many small proprietors and manufacturers have not been ruined
by large ones through chicanery, law-suits, and competition?
Strategy, violence, and usury,--such are the proprietor's methods
of plundering the laborer.

Thus we see property, at all ages and in all its forms,
oscillating by virtue of its principle between two opposite
terms,--extreme division and extreme accumulation.

Property, at its first term, is almost null. Reduced to personal
exploitation, it is property only potentially. At its second
term, it exists in its perfection; then it is truly property.

When property is widely distributed, society thrives, progresses,
grows, and rises quickly to the zenith of its power. Thus, the
Jews, after leaving Babylon with Esdras and Nehemiah, soon became
richer and more powerful than they had been under their kings.
Sparta was in a strong and prosperous condition during the two or
three centuries which followed the death of Lycurgus. The best
days of Athens were those of the Persian war; Rome, whose
inhabitants were divided from the beginning into two classes,--
the exploiters and the exploited,--knew no such thing as peace.

When property is concentrated, society, abusing itself, polluted,
so to speak, grows corrupt, wears itself out--how shall I express
this horrible idea?--plunges into long-continued and fatal

When feudalism was established, society had to die of the same
disease which killed it under the Caesars,--I mean accumulated
property. But humanity, created for an immortal destiny, is
deathless; the revolutions which disturb it are purifying crises,
invariably followed by more vigorous health. In the fifth
century, the invasion of the Barbarians partially restored the
world to a state of natural equality. In the twelfth
century, a new spirit pervading all society gave the slave his
rights, and through justice breathed new life into the heart of
nations. It has been said, and often repeated, that Christianity
regenerated the world. That is true; but it seems to me that
there is a mistake in the date. Christianity had no influence
upon Roman society; when the Barbarians came, that society had
disappeared. For such is God's curse upon property; every
political organization based upon the exploitation of man .
shall perish: slave-labor is death to the race of tyrants. The
patrician families became extinct, as the feudal families did,
and as all aristocracies must.

It was in the middle ages, when a reactionary movement was
beginning to secretly undermine accumulated property, that the
influence of Christianity was first exercised to its full extent.

The destruction of feudalism, the conversion of the serf into the
commoner, the emancipation of the communes, and the admission of
the Third Estate to political power, were deeds accomplished by
Christianity exclusively. I say Christianity, not
ecclesiasticism; for the priests and bishops were themselves
large proprietors, and as such often persecuted the villeins.
Without the Christianity of the middle ages, the existence of
modern society could not be explained, and would not be possible.

The truth of this assertion is shown by the very facts which M.
Laboulaye quotes, although this author inclines to the opposite

[1] M. Guizot denies that Christianity alone is entitled to the
glory of the abolition of slavery. "To this end," he says, "many
causes were necessary,--the evolution of other ideas and other
principles of civilization." So general an assertion cannot be
refuted. Some of these ideas and causes should have been pointed
out, that we might judge whether their source was not wholly
Christian, or whether at least the Christian spirit had not
penetrated and thus fructified them. Most of the emancipation
charters begin with these words: "For the love of God and the
salvation of my soul."

Now, we did not commence to love God and to think of our
salvation until after the promulgation of the Gospel.

1. Slavery among the Romans.--"The Roman slave was, in the eyes
of the law, only a thing,--no more than an ox or a horse. He had
neither property, family, nor personality; he was defenceless
against his master's cruelty, folly, or cupidity. `Sell your
oxen that are past use,' said Cato, `sell your calves, your
lambs, your wool, your hides, your old ploughs, your old iron,
your old slave, and your sick slave, and all that is of no use to
you.' When no market could be found for the slaves that were
worn out by sickness or old age, they were abandoned to
starvation. Claudius was the first defender of this shameful

"Discharge your old workman," says the economist of the
proprietary school; "turn off that sick domestic, that toothless
and worn-out servant. Put away the unserviceable beauty; to the
hospital with the useless mouths!"

"The condition of these wretched beings improved but little under
the emperors; and the best that can be said of the goodness of
Antoninus is that he prohibited intolerable cruelty, as an ABUSE
OF PROPERTY. _Expedit enim reipublicae ne quis re re sua male
utatur_, says Gaius.

"As soon as the Church met in council, it launched an anathema
against the masters who had exercised over their slaves this
terrible right of life and death. Were not the slaves, thanks to
the right of sanctuary and to their poverty, the dearest proteges
of religion? Constantine, who embodied in the laws
the grand ideas of Christianity, valued the life of a slave as
highly as that of a freeman, and declared the master, who had
intentionally brought death upon his slave, guilty of murder.
Between this law and that of Antoninus there is a complete
revolution in moral ideas: the slave was a thing; religion has
made him a man."

Note the last words: "Between the law of the Gospel and that of
Antoninus there is a complete revolution in moral ideas: the
slave was a thing; religion has made him a man." The moral
revolution which transformed the slave into a
citizen was effected, then, by Christianity before the
Barbarians set foot upon the soil of the empire. We have only to
trace the progress of this MORAL revolution in the PERSONNEL
of society. "But," M. Laboulaye rightly says, "it did not change
the condition of men in a moment, any more than that of things;
between slavery and liberty there was an abyss which could not be
filled in a day; the transitional step was servitude."

Now, what was servitude? In what did it differ from Roman
slavery, and whence came this difference? Let the same author

2. Of servitude.--"I see, in the lord's manor, slaves charged
with domestic duties. Some are employed in the personal service
of the master; others are charged with household cares. The
women spin the wool; the men grind the grain, make the bread, or
practise, in the interest of the seignior, what little they know
of the industrial arts. The master punishes them when he
chooses, kills them with impunity, and sells them and theirs like
so many cattle. The slave has no personality, and consequently
no _wehrgeld_[1] peculiar to himself: he is a thing. The
_wehrgeld_ belongs to the master as a compensation for the loss
of his property. Whether the slave is killed or stolen, the
indemnity does not change, for the injury is the same; but the
indemnity increases or diminishes according to the value of the
serf. In all these particulars Germanic slavery and Roman
servitude are alike."

[1] _Weregild_,--the fine paid for the murder of a man. So much
for a count, so much for a baron, so much for a freeman, so much
for a priest; for a slave, nothing. His value was restored to
the proprietor.

This similarity is worthy of notice. Slavery is always the same,
whether in a Roman villa or on a Barbarian farm. The man, like

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