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What is Property?

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the ox and the ass, is a part of the live-stock; a price is set
upon his head; he is a tool without a conscience, a chattel
without personality, an impeccable, irresponsible being, who has
neither rights nor duties.

Why did his condition improve?

"In good season . . ." [when ?] "the serf began to be regarded as
a man; and, as such, the law of the Visigoths, under the
influence of Christian ideas, punished with fine or banishment
any one who maimed or killed him."

Always Christianity, always religion, though we should like to
speak of the laws only. Did the philanthropy of the Visigoths
make its first appearance before or after the preaching of the
Gospel? This point must be cleared up.

"After the conquest, the serfs were scattered over the large
estates of the Barbarians, each having his house, his lot, and
his peculium, in return for which he paid rent and performed
service. They were rarely separated from their homes when their
land was sold; they and all that they had became the property of
the purchaser. The law favored this realization of the serf, in
not allowing him to be sold out of the country."

What inspired this law, destructive not only of slavery, but of
property itself? For, if the master cannot drive from his domain
the slave whom he has once established there, it follows that the
slave is proprietor, as well as the master.

"The Barbarians," again says M. Laboulaye, "were the first to
recognize the slave's rights of family and property,--two rights
which are incompatible with slavery."

But was this recognition the necessary result of the mode of
servitude in vogue among the Germanic nations previous to their
conversion to Christianity, or was it the immediate effect of
that spirit of justice infused with religion, by which the
seignior was forced to respect in the serf a soul equal to his
own, a brother in Jesus Christ, purified by the same baptism, and
redeemed by the same sacrifice of the Son of God in the form of
man? For we must not close our eyes to the fact that, though the
Barbarian morals and the ignorance and carelessness of the
seigniors, who busied themselves mainly with wars and battles,
paying little or no attention to agriculture, may have been great
aids in the emancipation of the serfs, still the vital principle
of this emancipation was essentially Christian. Suppose that the
Barbarians had remained Pagans in the midst of a Pagan world. As
they did not change the Gospel, so they would not have changed
the polytheistic customs; slavery would have remained what it
was; they would have continued to kill the slaves who were
desirous of liberty, family, and property; whole nations would
have been reduced to the condition of Helots; nothing would have
changed upon the terrestrial stage, except the actors. The
Barbarians were less selfish, less imperious, less dissolute, and
less cruel than the Romans. Such was the nature upon which,
after the fall of the empire and the renovation of society,
Christianity was to act. But this nature, grounded as in former
times upon slavery and war, would, by its own energy, have
produced nothing but war and slavery.

"GRADUALLY the serfs obtained the privilege of being judged by
the same standard as their masters. . . ."

When, how, and by what title did they obtain this privilege?

GRADUALLY their duties were regulated."

Whence came the regulations? Who had the authority to introduce

"The master took a part of the labor of the serf,--three days,
for instance,--and left the rest to him. As for Sunday, that
belonged to God."

And what established Sunday, if not religion? Whence I infer,
that the same power which took it upon itself to suspend
hostilities and to lighten the duties of the serf was also
that which regulated the judiciary and created a sort of law
for the slave.

But this law itself, on what did it bear?--what was its
principle?--what was the philosophy of the councils and popes
with reference to this matter? The reply to all these questions,
coming from me alone, would be distrusted. The authority of M.
Laboulaye shall give credence to my words. This holy philosophy,
to which the slaves were indebted for every thing, this
invocation of the Gospel, was an anathema against property.

The proprietors of small freeholds, that is, the freemen of the
middle class, had fallen, in consequence of the tyranny of the
nobles, into a worse condition than that of the tenants and
serfs. "The expenses of war weighed less heavily upon the serf
than upon the freeman; and, as for legal protection, the
seigniorial court, where the serf was judged by his peers, was
far preferable to the cantonal assembly. It was better to have a
noble for a seignior than for a judge."

So it is better to-day to have a man of large capital for an
associate than for a rival. The honest tenant--the laborer who
earns weekly a moderate but constant salary--is more to be envied
than the independent but small farmer, or the poor licensed

At that time, all were either seigniors or serfs, oppressors or
oppressed. "Then, under the protection of convents, or of the
seigniorial turret, new societies were formed, which silently
spread over the soil made fertile by their hands, and which
derived their power from the annihilation of the free classes
whom they enlisted in their behalf. As tenants, these men
acquired, from generation to generation, sacred rights over the
soil which they cultivated in the interest of lazy and pillaging
masters. As fast as the social tempest abated, it became
necessary to respect the union and heritage of these villeins,
who by their labor had truly prescribed the soil for their own

I ask how prescription could take effect where a contrary title
and possession already existed? M. Laboulaye is a lawyer.
Where, then, did he ever see the labor of the slave and the
cultivation by the tenant prescribe the soil for their own
profit, to the detriment of a recognized master daily acting as a
proprietor? Let us not disguise matters. As fast as the tenants
and the serfs grew rich, they wished to be independent and free;
they commenced to associate, unfurl their municipal banners,
raise belfries, fortify their towns, and refuse to pay their
seigniorial dues. In doing these things they were perfectly
right; for, in fact, their condition was intolerable. But in
law--I mean in Roman and Napoleonic law--their refusal to obey
and pay tribute to their masters was illegitimate.

Now, this imperceptible usurpation of property by the commonalty
was inspired by religion.

The seignior had attached the serf to the soil; religion granted
the serf rights over the soil. The seignior imposed duties upon
the serf; religion fixed their limits. The seignior could kill
the serf with impunity, could deprive him of his wife, violate
his daughter, pillage his house, and rob him of his savings;
religion checked his invasions: it excommunicated the seignior.
Religion was the real cause of the ruin of feudal property. Why
should it not be bold enough to-day to resolutely condemn
capitalistic property? Since the middle ages, there has been no
change in social economy except in its forms; its relations
remain unaltered.

The only result of the emancipation of the serfs was that
property changed hands; or, rather, that new proprietors were
created. Sooner or later the extension of privilege, far
from curing the evil, was to operate to the disadvantage of the
plebeians. Nevertheless, the new social organization did not
meet with the same end in all places. In Lombardy, for example,
where the people rapidly growing rich through commerce and
industry soon conquered the authorities, even to the exclusion of
the nobles,--first, the nobility became poor and degraded, and
were forced, in order to live and maintain their credit, to gain
admission to the guilds; then, the ordinary subalternization of
property leading to inequality of fortunes, to wealth and
poverty, to jealousies and hatreds, the cities passed rapidly
from the rankest democracy under the yoke of a few ambitious
leaders. Such was the fate of most of the Lombardic cities,--
Genoa, Florence, Bologna, Milan, Pisa, &c,.--which afterwards
changed rulers frequently, but which have never since risen in
favor of liberty. The people can easily escape from the tyranny
of despots, but they do not know how to throw off the effects of
their own despotism; just as we avoid the assassin's steel, while
we succumb to a constitutional malady. As soon as a nation
becomes proprietor, either it must perish, or a foreign invasion
must force it again to begin its evolutionary round.[1]

[1] The spirit of despotism and monopoly which animated the
communes has not escaped the attention of historians. "The
formation of the commoners' associations," says Meyer, "did not
spring from the true spirit of liberty, but from the desire for
exemption from the charges of the seigniors, from individual
interests, and jealousy of the welfare of others. . . . Each
commune or corporation opposed the creation of every other; and
this spirit increased to such an extent that the King of England,
Henry V., having established a university at Caen, in 1432, the
city and university of Paris opposed the registration of the

"The communes once organized, the kings treated them as superior
vassals. Now, just as the under vassal had no communication with
the king except through the direct vassal, so also the
commoners could enter no complaints except through the commune.

"Like causes produce like effects. Each commune became a small
and separate State, governed by a few citizens, who sought to
extend their authority over the others; who, in their turn,
revenged themselves upon the unfortunate inhabitants who had not
the right of citizenship. Feudalism in unemancipated countries,
and oligarchy in the communes, made nearly the same ravages.
There were sub-associations, fraternities, tradesmen's
associations in the communes, and colleges in the universities.
The oppression was so great, that it was no rare thing to see the
inhabitants of a commune demanding its suppression. . . ."--
Meyer: Judicial Institutions of Europe.

In France, the Revolution was much more gradual. The communes,
in taking refuge under the protection of the kings, had found
them masters rather than protectors. Their liberty had long
since been lost, or, rather, their emancipation had been
suspended, when feudalism received its death-blow at the hand of
Richelieu. Then liberty halted; the prince of the feudatories
held sole and undivided sway. The nobles, the clergy, the
commoners, the parliaments, every thing in short except a few
seeming privileges, were controlled by the king; who, like his
early predecessors, consumed regularly, and nearly always in
advance, the revenues of his domain,--and that domain was France.

Finally, '89 arrived; liberty resumed its march; a century and a
half had been required to wear out the last form of feudal

The French Revolution may be defined as _the substitution of real
right for personal right;_ that is to say, in the days of
feudalism, the value of property depended upon the standing of
the proprietor, while, after the Revolution, the regard for the
man was proportional to his property. Now, we have seen from
what has been said in the preceding pages, that this recognition
of the right of laborers had been the constant aim of the serfs
and communes, the secret motive of their
efforts. The movement of '89 was only the last stage of
that long insurrection. But it seems to me that we have not paid
sufficient attention to the fact that the Revolution of 1789,
instigated by the same causes, animated by the same spirit,
triumphing by the same struggles, was consummated in Italy four
centuries ago. Italy was the first to sound the signal of war
against feudalism; France has followed; Spain and England are
beginning to move; the rest still sleep. If a grand example
should be given to the world, the day of trial would be much

Note the following summary of the revolutions of property, from
the days of the Roman Empire down to the present time:--

1. Fifth century.-- Barbarian invasions; division of the lands
of the empire into independent portions or freeholds.

2. From the fifth to the eighth century.--Gradual concentration
of freeholds, or transformation of the small freeholds into
fiefs, feuds, tenures, &c. Large properties, small possessions.
Charlemagne (771-814) decrees that all freeholds are dependent
upon the king of France.

3. From the eighth to the tenth century.--The relation between
the crown and the superior dependents is broken; the latter
becoming freeholders, while the smaller dependents cease to
recognize the king, and adhere to the nearest suzerain. Feudal

4. Twelfth century.--Movement of the serfs towards liberty;
emancipation of the communes.

5. Thirteenth century.--Abolition of personal right, and of the
feudal system in Italy. Italian Republics.

6. Seventeenth century.--Abolition of feudalism in France
during Richelieu's ministry. Despotism.

7. 1789.--Abolition of all privileges of birth, caste, provinces,
and corporations; equality of persons and of rights. French

8. 1830.--The principle of concentration inherent in individual
property is REMARKED. Development of the idea of association.

The more we reflect upon this series of transformations and
changes, the more clearly we see that they were necessary in
their principle, in their manifestations, and in their result.

It was necessary that inexperienced conquerors, eager for
liberty, should divide the Roman Empire into a multitude of
estates, as free and independent as themselves.

It was necessary that these men, who liked war even better than
liberty, should submit to their leaders; and, as the freehold
represented the man, that property should violate property.

It was necessary that, under the rule of a nobility always idle
when not fighting, there should grow up a body of laborers, who,
by the power of production, and by the division and circulation
of wealth, would gradually gain control over commerce, industry,
and a portion of the land, and who, having become rich, would
aspire to power and authority also.

It was necessary, finally, that liberty and equality of rights
having been achieved, and individual property still existing,
attended by robbery, poverty, social inequality, and oppression,
there should be an inquiry into the cause of this evil, and an
idea of universal association formed, whereby, on condition of
labor, all interests should be protected and consolidated.

"Evil, when carried too far," says a learned jurist, "cures
itself; and the political innovation which aims to increase the
power of the State, finally succumbs to the effects of its own
work. The Germans, to secure their independence, chose chiefs;
and soon they were oppressed by their kings and noblemen. The
monarchs surrounded themselves with volunteers, in order to
control the freemen; and they found themselves dependent upon
their proud vassals. The _missi dominici_ were sent into the
provinces to maintain the power of the emperors, and to protect
the people from the oppressions of the noblemen; and not only did
they usurp the imperial power to a great extent, but they dealt
more severely with the inhabitants. The freemen became vassals,
in order to get rid of military service and court duty; and they
were immediately involved in all the personal quarrels of their
seigniors, and compelled to do jury duty in their courts. . . .
The kings protected the cities and the communes, in the hope of
freeing them from the yoke of the grand vassals, and of rendering
their own power more absolute; and those same communes have, in
several European countries, procured the establishment of a
constitutional power, are now holding royalty in check, and are
giving rise to a universal desire for political reform."--Meyer:
Judicial Institutions of Europe.

In recapitulation.

What was feudalism? A confederation of the grand seign iors
against the villeins, and against the king.[1] What is
constitutional government? A confederation of the bourgeoisie
against the laborers, and against the king.[2]

[1] Feudalism was, in spirit and in its providential destiny, a
long protest of the human personality against the monkish
communism with which Europe, in the middle ages, was overrun.
After the orgies of Pagan selfishness, society--carried to the
opposite extreme by the Christian religion--risked its life by
unlimited self-denial and absolute indifference to the pleasures
of the world. Feudalism was the balance-weight which saved
Europe from the combined influence of the religious communities
and the Manlchean sects which had sprung up since the fourth
century under different names and in different countries. Modern
civilization is indebted to feudalism for the definitive
establishment of the person, of marriage, of the family, and of
country. (See, on this subject, Guizot, "History of Civilization
in Europe.")

[2] This was made evident in July, 1830, and the years which
followed it, when the electoral bourgeoisie effected a
revolution in order to get control over the king, and suppressed
the emeutes in order to restrain the people. The bourgeoisie,
through the jury, the magistracy, its position in the army, and
its municipal despotism, governs both royalty and the people. It
is the bourgeoisie which, more than any other class, is
conservative and retrogressive. It is the bourgeoisie which
makes and unmakes ministries. It is the bourgeoisie which has
destroyed the influence of the Upper Chamber, and which will
dethrone the King whenever he shall become unsatisfactory to it.
It is to please the bourgeoisie that royalty makes itself
unpopular. It is the bourgeoisie which is troubled at the hopes
of the people, and which hinders reform. The journals of the
bourgeoisie are the ones which preach morality and religion to
us, while reserving scepticism and indifference for themselves;
which attack personal government, and favor the denial of the
electoral privilege to those who have no property. The
bourgeoisie will accept any thing rather than the emancipation
of the proletariat. As soon as it thinks its privileges
threatened, it will unite with royalty; and who does not know
that at this very moment these two antagonists have suspended
their quarrels? . . . It has been a question of property.

How did feudalism end? In the union of the communes and the
royal authority. How will the bourgeoisie aristocracy end? In
the union of the proletariat and the sovereign power.

What was the immediate result of the struggle of the communes and
the king against the seigniors? The monarchical unity of Louis
XIV. What will be the result of the struggle of the proletariat
and the sovereign power combined against the bourgeoisie? The
absolute unity of the nation and the government.

It remains to be seen whether the nation, one and supreme, will
be represented in its executive and central power by ONE, by
FIVE, by ONE HUNDRED, or ONE THOUSAND; that is, it remains
to be seen, whether the royalty of the barricades intends to
maintain itself by the people, or without the people, and whether
Louis Philippe wishes his reign to be the most famous in all

I have made this statement as brief, but at the same time as
accurate as I could, neglecting facts and details, that I
might give the more attention to the economical relations of
society. For the study of history is like the study of the human
organism; just as the latter has its system, its organs, and its
functions, which can be treated separately, so the former has its
ensemble, its instruments, and its causes. Of course I do not
pretend that the principle of property is a complete resume of
all the social forces; but, as in that wonderful machine which we
call our body, the harmony of the whole allows us to draw a
general conclusion from the consideration of a single function or
organ, so, in discussing historical causes, I have been able to
reason with absolute accuracy from a single order of facts,
certain as I was of the perfect correlation which exists between
this special order and universal history. As is the property of
a nation, so is its family, its marriage, its religion, its civil
and military organization, and its legislative and judicial
institutions. History, viewed from this standpoint, is a grand
and sublime psychological study.

Well, sir, in writing against property, have I done more than
quote the language of history? I have said to modern society,--
the daughter and heiress of all preceding societies,--_Age guod
agis:_ complete the task which for six thousand years you have
been executing under the inspiration and by the command of God;
hasten to finish your journey; turn neither to the right nor the
left, but follow the road which lies before you. You seek
reason, law, unity, and discipline; but hereafter you can find
them only by stripping off the veils of your infancy, and ceasing
to follow instinct as a guide. Awaken your sleeping conscience;
open your eyes to the pure light of reflection and science;
behold the phantom which troubled your dreams, and so long kept
you in a state of unutterable anguish. Know thyself, O
long-deluded society[1] know thy enemy! . . . And I have
denounced property.

We often hear the defenders of the right of domain quote in
defence of their views the testimony of nations and ages. We can
judge, from what has just been said, how far this historical
argument conforms to the real facts and the conclusions of

To complete this apology, I must examine the various theories.

Neither politics, nor legislation, nor history, can be explained
and understood, without a positive theory which defines their
elements, and discovers their laws; in short, without a
philosophy. Now, the two principal schools, which to this day
divide the attention of the world, do not satisfy this condition.

The first, essentially PRACTICAL in its character, confined to
a statement of facts, and buried in learning, cares very little
by what laws humanity develops itself. To it these laws are the
secret of the Almighty, which no one can fathom without a
commission from on high. In applying the facts of history to
government, this school does not reason; it does not anticipate;
it makes no comparison of the past with the present, in order to
predict the future. In its opinion, the lessons of experience
teach us only to repeat old errors, and its whole philosophy
consists in perpetually retracing the tracks of antiquity,
instead of going straight ahead forever in the direction in which
they point.

The second school may be called either FATALISTIC or
PANTHEISTIC. To it the movements of empires and the
revolutions of humanity are the manifestations, the incarnations,
of the Almighty. The human race, identified with the divine
essence, wheels in a circle of appearances, informations,
and destructions, which necessarily excludes the idea of absolute
truth, and destroys providence and liberty.

Corresponding to these two schools of history, there are two
schools of jurisprudence, similarly opposed, and possessed of the
same peculiarities.

1. The practical and conventional school, to which the law is
always a creation of the legislator, an expression of his will, a
privilege which he condescends to grant,--in short, a gratuitous
affirmation to be regarded as judicious and legitimate, no matter
what it declares.

2. The fatalistic and pantheistic school, sometimes called the
historical school, which opposes the despotism of the first, and
maintains that law, like literature and religion, is always the
expression of society,--its manifestation, its form, the external
realization of its mobile spirit and its ever-changing

Each of these schools, denying the absolute, rejects thereby all
positive and a priori philosophy.

Now, it is evident that the theories of these two schools,
whatever view we take of them, are utterly unsatisfactory: for,
opposed, they form no dilemma,--that is, if one is false, it does
not follow that the other is true; and, united, they do not
constitute the truth, since they disregard the absolute, without
which there is no truth. They are respectively a THESIS and an
ANTITHESIS. There remains to be found, then, a SYNTHESIS,
which, predicating the absolute, justifies the will of the
legislator, explains the variations of the law, annihilates the
theory of the circular movement of humanity, and demonstrates its

The legists, by the very nature of their studies and in spite of
their obstinate prejudices, have been led irresistibly to
suspect that the absolute in the science of law is not as
chimerical as is commonly supposed; and this suspicion arose from
their comparison of the various relations which legislators have
been called upon to regulate.

M. Laboulaye, the laureate of the Institute, begins his "History
of Property" with these words:--

"While the law of contract, which regulates only the mutual
interests of men, has not varied for centuries (except in certain
forms which relate more to the proof than to the character of the
obligation), the civil law of property, which regulates the
mutual relations of citizens, has undergone several radical
changes, and has kept pace in its variations with all the
vicissitudes of society. The law of contract, which holds
essentially to those principles of eternal justice which are
engraven upon the depths of the human heart, is the immutable
element of jurisprudence, and, in a certain sense, its
philosophy. Property, on the contrary, is the variable element
of jurisprudence, its history, its policy."

Marvellous! There is in law, and consequently in politics,
something variable and something invariable. The invariable
element is obligation, the bond of justice, duty; the variable
element is property,--that is, the external form of law, the
subject-matter of the contract. Whence it follows that the law
can modify, change, reform, and judge property. Reconcile that,
if you can, with the idea of an eternal, absolute, permanent, and
indefectible right.

However, M. Laboulaye is in perfect accord with himself when he
adds, "Possession of the soil rests solely upon force until
society takes it in hand, and espouses the cause of the
possessor;"[1] and, a little farther, "The right of property is
not natural, but social. The laws not only protect
property: they give it birth," &c. Now, that which the law has
made the law can unmake; especially since, according to M.
Laboulaye,--an avowed partisan of the historical or pantheistic
school,--the law is not absolute, is not an idea, but a form.

[1] The same opinion was recently expressed from the tribune by
one of our most honorable Deputies, M. Gauguier. "Nature," said
he, "has not endowed man with landed property." Changing the
adjective LANDED, which designates only a species into
CAPITALISTIC, which denotes the genus,--M. Gauguier made an
egalitaire profession of faith.

But why is it that property is variable, and, unlike obligation,
incapable of definition and settlement? Before affirming,
somewhat boldly without doubt, that in right there are no
absolute principles (the most dangerous, most immoral, most
tyrannical--in a word, most anti-social--assertion imaginable),
it was proper that the right of property should be subjected to a
thorough examination, in order to put in evidence its variable,
arbitrary, and contingent elements, and those which are eternal,
legitimate, and absolute; then, this operation performed, it
became easy to account for the laws, and to correct all the

Now, this examination of property I claim to have made, and in
the fullest detail; but, either from the public's lack of
interest in an unrecommended and unattractive pamphlet, or--which
is more probable--from the weakness of exposition and want of
genius which characterize the work, the First Memoir on Property
passed unnoticed; scarcely would a few communists, having turned
its leaves, deign to brand it with their disapprobation. You
alone, sir, in spite of the disfavor which I showed for your
economical predecessors in too severe a criticism of them,--you
alone have judged me justly; and although I cannot accept, at
least literally, your first judgment, yet it is to you alone that
I appeal from a decision too equivocal to be regarded as final.

It not being my intention to enter at present into a discussion
of principles, I shall content myself with estimating, from the
point of view of this simple and intelligible absolute, the
theories of property which our generation has produced.

The most exact idea of property is given us by the Roman law,
faithfully followed in this particular by the ancient legists.
It is the absolute, exclusive, autocratic domain of a man over a
thing,--a domain which begins by USUCAPTION, is maintained by
POSSESSION, and finally, by the aid of PRESCRIPTION, finds
its sanction in the civil law; a domain which so identifies the
man with the thing, that the proprietor can say, "He who uses my
field, virtually compels me to labor for him; therefore he owes
me compensation."

I pass in silence the secondary modes by which property can be
acquired,--_tradition, sale, exchange, inheritance_, &c.,--which
have nothing in common with the origin of property.

Accordingly, Pothier said THE DOMAIN OF PROPERTY, and not
simply PROPERTY. And the most learned writers on
jurisprudence--in imitation of the Roman praetor who recognized a
distinguished between the DOMAIN and the right of USUFRUCT,
USE, and HABITATION, which, reduced to its natural limits, is
the very expression of justice; and which is, in my opinion, to
supplant domanial property, and finally form the basis of all

But, sir, admire the clumsiness of systems, or rather the
fatality of logic! While the Roman law and all the savants
inspired by it teach that property in its origin is the right of
first occupancy sanctioned by law, the modern legists,
dissatisfied with this brutal definition, claim that property is
based upon LABOR. Immediately they infer that he who no longer
labors, but makes another labor in his stead, loses his right to
the earnings of the latter. It is by virtue of this
principle that the serfs of the middle ages claimed a legal
right to property, and consequently to the enjoyment of political
rights; that the clergy were despoiled in '89 of their immense
estates, and were granted a pension in exchange; that at the
restoration the liberal deputies opposed the indemnity of one
billion francs. "The nation," said they, "has acquired by
twenty-five years of labor and possession the property which the
emigrants forfeited by abandonment and long idleness: why should
the nobles be treated with more favor than the priests?"[1]

[1] A professor of comparative legislation, M. Lerminier, has
gone still farther. He has dared to say that the nation took
from the clergy all their possessions, not because of IDLENESS,
but because of UNWORTHINESS. "You have civilized the world,"
cries this apostle of equality, speaking to the priests; "and for
that reason your possessions were given you. In your hands they
were at once an instrument and a reward. But you do not now
deserve them, for you long since ceased to civilize any thing
whatever. . . ."

This position is quite in harmony with my principles, and I
heartily applaud the indignation of M. Lerminier; but I do not
know that a proprietor was ever deprived of his property because
UNWORTHY; and as reasonable, social, and even useful as the
thing may seem, it is quite contrary to the uses and customs of

All usurpations, not born of war, have been caused and supported
by labor. All modern history proves this, from the end of the
Roman empire down to the present day. And as if to give a sort
of legal sanction to these usurpations, the doctrine of labor,
subversive of property, is professed at great length in the Roman
law under the name of PRESCRIPTION.

The man who cultivates, it has been said, makes the land his own;
consequently, no more property. This was clearly seen by the old
jurists, who have not failed to denounce this novelty; while on
the other hand the young school hoots at the absurdity of the
first-occupant theory. Others have presented themselves,
pretending to reconcile the two opinions by uniting them. They
have failed, like all the _juste-milieux_ of the world, and are
laughed at for their eclecticism. At present, the alarm is in
the camp of the old doctrine; from all sides pour IN DEFENCES OF
one of which, giving the lie to the rest, inflicts a fresh wound
upon property.

Consider, indeed, the inextricable embarrassments, the
contradictions, the absurdities, the incredible nonsense, in
which the bold defenders of property so lightly involve
themselves. I choose the eclectics, because, those killed, the
others cannot survive.

M. Troplong, jurist, passes for a philosopher in the eyes of the
editors of "Le Droit." I tell the gentlemen of "Le Droit" that,
in the judgment of philosophers, M. Troplong is only an advocate;
and I prove my assertion.

M. Troplong is a defender of progress. "The words of the code,"
says he, "are fruitful sap with which the classic works of the
eighteenth century overflow. To wish to suppress them . . . is
to violate the law of progress, and to forget that a science
which moves is a science which grows."[1]

[1] "Treatise on Prescription."

Now, the only mutable and progressive portion of law, as we have
already seen, is that which concerns property. If, then, you ask
what reforms are to be introduced into the right of property? M.
Troplong makes no reply; what progress is to be hoped for? no
reply; what is to be the destiny of property in case of universal
association? no reply; what is the absolute and what the
contingent, what the true and what the false, in property? no
reply. M. Troplong favors quiescence and _in statu quo_ in
regard to property. What could be more unphilosophical in a
progressive philosopher?

Nevertheless, M. Troplong has thought about these things. "There
are," he says, "many weak points and antiquated ideas in the
doctrines of modern authors concerning property: witness the
works of MM. Toullier and Duranton." The doctrine of M. Troplong
promises, then, strong points, advanced and progressive ideas.
Let us see; let us examine:--

"Man, placed in the presence of matter, is conscious of a power
over it, which has been given to him to satisfy the needs of his
being. King of inanimate or unintelligent nature, he feels that
he has a right to modify it, govern it, and fit it for his use.
There it is, the subject of property, which is legitimate only
when exercised over things, never when over persons."

M. Troplong is so little of a philosopher, that he does not even
know the import of the philosophical terms which he makes a show
of using. He says of matter that it is the SUBJECT of
property; he should have said the OBJECT. M. Troplong uses the
language of the anatomists, who apply the term SUBJECT to the
human matter used in their experiments.

This error of our author is repeated farther on: "Liberty, which
overcomes matter, the subject of property, &c." The SUBJECT of
property is man; its OBJECT is matter. But even this is but a
slight mortification; directly we shall have some crucifixions.

Thus, according to the passage just quoted, it is in the
conscience and personality of man that the principle of property
must be sought. Is there any thing new in this doctrine?
Apparently it never has occurred to those who, since the days of
Cicero and Aristotle, and earlier, have maintained that THINGS
BELONG TO THE FIRST OCCUPANT, that occupation may be
exercised by beings devoid of conscience and personality.
The human personality, though it may be the principle or the
subject of property, as matter is the object, is not the
CONDITION. Now, it is this condition which we most need to
know. So far, M. Troplong tells us no more than his masters, and
the figures with which he adorns his style add nothing to the old

Property, then, implies three terms: The subject, the object,
and the condition. There is no difficulty in regard to the first
two terms. As to the third, the condition of property down to
this day, for the Greek as for the Barbarian, has been that of
first occupancy. What now would you have it, progressive doctor?

"When man lays hands for the first time upon an object without a
master, he performs an act which, among individuals, is of the
greatest importance. The thing thus seized and occupied
participates, so to speak, in the personality of him who holds
it. It becomes sacred, like himself. It is impossible to take
it without doing violence to his liberty, or to remove it without
rashly invading his person. Diogenes did but express this truth
of intuition, when he said: `Stand out of my light!'"

Very good! but would the prince of cynics, the very personal and
very haughty Diogenes, have had the right to charge another
cynic, as rent for this same place in the sunshine, a bone for
twenty-four hours of possession? It is that which constitutes
the proprietor; it is that which you fail to justify. In
reasoning from the human personality and individuality to the
right of property, you unconsciously construct a syllogism in
which the conclusion includes more than the premises, contrary to
the rules laid down by Aristotle. The individuality of the human
person proves INDIVIDUAL POSSESSION, originally called
_proprietas_, in opposition to collective possession, _communio_.

It gives birth to the distinction between THINE and
MINE, true signs of equality, not, by any means, of
subordination. "From equivocation to equivocation," says M.
Michelet,[1] "property would crawl to the end of the world; man
could not limit it, were not he himself its limit. Where they
clash, there will be its frontier." In short, individuality of
being destroys the hypothesis of communism, but it does not for
that reason give birth to domain,--that domain by virtue of which
the holder of a thing exercises over the person who takes his
place a right of prestation and suzerainty, that has always been
identified with property itself.

[1] "Origin of French Law."

Further, that he whose legitimately acquired possession injures
nobody cannot be nonsuited without flagrant injustice, is a
truth, not of INTUITION, as M. Troplong says, but of INWARD
SENSATION,[1] which has nothing to do with property.

[1] To honor one's parents, to be grateful to one's benefactors,
to neither kill nor steal,--truths of inward sensation. To obey
God rather than men, to render to each that which is his; the
whole is greater than a part, a straight line is the shortest
road from one point to another,--truths of intuition. All are a
priori but the first are felt by the conscience, and imply only
a simple act of the soul; the second are perceived by the reason,
and imply comparison and relation. In short, the former are
sentiments, the latter are ideas.

M. Troplong admits, then, occupancy as a condition of property.
In that, he is in accord with the Roman law, in accord with MM.
Toullier and Duranton; but in his opinion this condition is not
the only one, and it is in this particular that his doctrine goes
beyond theirs.

"But, however exclusive the right arising from sole occupancy,
does it not become still more so, when man has moulded matter by
his labor; when he has deposited in it a portion of himself, re-
creating it by his industry, and setting upon it the seal of his
intelligence and activity? Of all conquests, that is the most
legitimate, for it is the price of labor.

He who should deprive a man of the thing thus remodelled,
thus humanized, would invade the man himself, and would inflict
the deepest wounds upon his liberty."

I pass over the very beautiful explanations in which M. Troplong,
discussing labor and industry, displays the whole wealth of his
eloquence. M. Troplong is not only a philosopher, he is an
AND THE PASSIONS. I might make sad work of his rhetoric, should
I undertake to dissect it; but I confine myself for the present
to his philosophy.

If M. Troplong had only known how to think and reflect, before
abandoning the original fact of occupancy and plunging into the
theory of labor, he would have asked himself: "What is it to
occupy?" And he would have discovered that OCCUPANCY is only a
generic term by which all modes of possession are expressed,--
seizure, station, immanence, habitation, cultivation, use,
consumption, &c.; that labor, consequently, is but one of a
thousand forms of occupancy. He would have understood, finally,
that the right of possession which is born of labor is governed
by the same general laws as that which results from the simple
seizure of things. What kind of a legist is he who declaims when
he ought to reason, who continually mistakes his metaphors for
legal axioms, and who does not so much as know how to obtain a
universal by induction, and form a category?

If labor is identical with occupancy, the only benefit which it
secures to the laborer is the right of individual possession of
the object of his labor; if it differs from occupancy, it gives
birth to a right equal only to itself,--that is, a right which
begins, continues, and ends, with the labor of the occupant. It
is for this reason, in the words of the law, that one cannot
acquire a just title to a thing by labor alone. He must also
hold it for a year and a day, in order to be regarded as its
possessor; and possess it twenty or thirty years, in order to
become its proprietor.

These preliminaries established, M. Troplong's whole structure
falls of its own weight, and the inferences, which he attempts to
draw, vanish.

"Property once acquired by occupation and labor, it naturally
preserves itself, not only by the same means, but also by the
refusal of the holder to abdicate; for from the very fact that it
has risen to the height of a right, it is its nature to
perpetuate itself and to last for an indefinite period. . . .
Rights, considered from an ideal point of view, are imperishable
and eternal; and time, which affects only the contingent, can no
more disturb them than it can injure God himself." It is
astonishing that our author, in speaking of the IDEAL, TIME,
and ETERNITY, did not work into his sentence the DIVINE WINGS
of Plato,--so fashionable to-day in philosophical works.

With the exception of falsehood, I hate nonsense more than any
thing else in the world. PROPERTY ONCE ACQUIRED! Good, if it
is acquired; but, as it is not acquired, it cannot be preserved.
RIGHTS ARE ETERNAL! Yes, in the sight of God, like the
archetypal ideas of the Platonists. But, on the earth, rights
exist only in the presence of a subject, an object, and a
condition. Take away one of these three things, and rights no
longer exist. Thus, individual possession ceases at the death of
the subject, upon the destruction of the object, or in case of
exchange or abandonment.

Let us admit, however, with M. Troplong, that property is an
absolute and eternal right, which cannot be destroyed save by the
deed and at the will of the proprietor. What are the
consequences which immediately follow from this position?

To show the justice and utility of prescription, M. Troplong
supposes the case of a bona fide possessor whom a proprietor,
long since forgotten or even unknown, is attempting to eject from
his possession. "At the start, the error of the possessor was
excusable but not irreparable. Pursuing its course and growing
old by degrees, it has so completely clothed itself in the colors
of truth, it has spoken so loudly the language of right, it has
involved so many confiding interests, that it fairly may be asked
whether it would not cause greater confusion to go back to the
reality than to sanction the fictions which it (an error, without
doubt) has sown on its way? Well, yes; it must be confessed,
without hesitation, that the remedy would prove worse than the
disease, and that its application would lead to the most
outrageous injustice."

How long since utility became a principle of law? When the
Athenians, by the advice of Aristides, rejected a proposition
eminently advantageous to their republic, but also utterly
unjust, they showed finer moral perception and greater clearness
of intellect than M. Troplong. Property is an eternal right,
independent of time, indestructible except by the act and at the
will of the proprietor; and here this right is taken from the
proprietor, and on what ground? Good God! on the ground of
ABSENCE! Is it not true that legists are governed by caprice
in giving and taking away rights? When it pleases these
gentlemen, idleness, unworthiness, or absence can invalidate a
right which, under quite similar circumstances, labor, residence,
and virtue are inadequate to obtain. Do not be astonished that
legists reject the absolute. Their good pleasure is law, and
their disordered imaginations are the real cause of the
EVOLUTIONS in jurisprudence.

"If the nominal proprietor should plead ignorance, his claim
would be none the more valid. Indeed, his ignorance might arise
from inexcusable carelessness, etc."

What! in order to legitimate dispossession through prescription,
you suppose faults in the proprietor! You blame his absence,--
which may have been involuntary; his neglect,--not knowing what
caused it; his carelessness,--a gratuitous supposition of your
own! It is absurd. One very simple observation suffices to
annihilate this theory. Society, which, they tell us, makes an
exception in the interest of order in favor of the possessor as
against the old proprietor, owes the latter an indemnity; since
the privilege of prescription is nothing but expropriation for
the sake of public utility.

But here is something stronger:--

"In society a place cannot remain vacant with impunity. A new
man arises in place of the old one who disappears or goes away;
he brings here his existence, becomes entirely absorbed, and
devotes himself to this post which he finds abandoned. Shall the
deserter, then, dispute the honor of the victory with the soldier
who fights with the sweat standing on his brow, and bears the
burden of the day, in behalf of a cause which he deems just?"

When the tongue of an advocate once gets in motion, who can tell
where it will stop? M. Troplong admits and justifies usurpation
in case of the ABSENCE of the proprietor, and on a mere
presumption of his CARELESSNESS. But when the neglect is
authenticated; when the abandonment is solemnly and voluntarily
set forth in a contract in the presence of a magistrate; when the
proprietor dares to say, "I cease to labor, but I still claim a
share of the product,"--then the absentee's right of property is
protected; the usurpation of the possessor would be criminal;
farm-rent is the reward of idleness. Where is, I do not say
the consistency, but, the honesty of this law?

Prescription is a result of the civil law, a creation of the
legislator. Why has not the legislator fixed the conditions
differently?--why, instead of twenty and thirty years, is not a
single year sufficient to prescribe?--why are not voluntary
absence and confessed idleness as good grounds for dispossession
as involuntary absence, ignorance, or apathy?

But in vain should we ask M. Troplong, the philosopher, to tell
us the ground of prescription. Concerning the code, M. Troplong
does not reason. "The interpreter," he says, "must take things
as they are, society as it exists, laws as they are made: that is
the only sensible starting-point." Well, then, write no more
books; cease to reproach your predecessors--who, like you, have
aimed only at interpretation of the law--for having remained in
the rear; talk no more of philosophy and progress, for the lie
sticks in your throat.

M. Troplong denies the reality of the right of possession; he
denies that possession has ever existed as a principle of
society; and he quotes M. de Savigny, who holds precisely the
opposite position, and whom he is content to leave unanswered.
At one time, M. Troplong asserts that possession and property are
CONTEMPORANEOUS, and that they exist AT THE SAME TIME, which
implies that the RIGHT of property is based on the FACT of
possession,--a conclusion which is evidently absurd; at another,
PROPERTY,--an assertion which is contradicted by the customs of
many nations which cultivate the land without appropriating it;
by the Roman law, which distinguished so clearly between
POSSESSION and PROPERTY; and by our code itself, which makes
possession for twenty or thirty years the condition of property.
Finally, M. Troplong goes so far as to maintain that the
Roman maxim, _Nihil comune habet proprietas cum possessione_--
which contains so striking an allusion to the possession of the
_ager publicus_, and which, sooner or later, will be again
accepted without qualification--expresses in French law only a
judicial axiom, a simple rule forbidding the union of an _action
possessoire_ with an _action petitoire_,--an opinion as
retrogressive as it is unphilosophical.

In treating of _actions possessoires_, M. Troplong is so
unfortunate or awkward that he mutilates economy through failure
to grasp its meaning "Just as property," he writes, "gave rise to
the action for revendication, so possession--the _jus
possessionis_--was the cause of possessory interdicts. . . .
There were two kinds of interdicts,--the interdict _recuperandae
possessionis_, and the interdict _retinendae possessionis_,--
which correspond to our _complainte en cas de saisine et
nouvelete_. There is also a third,--_adipiscendae
possessionis_,--of which the Roman law-books speak in connection
with the two others. But, in reality, this interdict is not
possessory: for he who wishes to acquire possession by this means
does not possess, and has not possessed; and yet acquired
possession is the condition of possessory interdicts." Why is
not an action to acquire possession equally conceivable with an
action to be reinstated in possession? When the Roman plebeians
demanded a division of the conquered territory; when the
proletaires of Lyons took for their motto, _Vivre en travaillant,
ou mourir en combattant_ (to live working, or die fighting); when
the most enlightened of the modern economists claim for every man
the right to labor and to live,--they only propose this
interdict, _adipiscendae possessionis_, which embarrasses M.
Troplong so seriously. And what is my object in pleading against
property, if not to obtain possession? How is it that M.
Troplong--the legist, the orator, the philosopher--does not see
that logically this interdict must be admitted, since it is the
necessary complement of the two others, and the three united form
an indivisible trinity,--to RECOVER, to MAINTAIN, to
ACQUIRE? To break this series is to create a blank, destroy
the natural synthesis of things, and follow the example of the
geometrician who tried to conceive of a solid with only two
dimensions. But it is not astonishing that M. Troplong rejects
the third class of _actions possessoires_, when we consider that
he rejects possession itself. He is so completely controlled by
his prejudices in this respect, that he is unconsciously led, not
to unite (that would be horrible in his eyes), but to identify
the _action possessoire_ with the _action petitoire_. This could
be easily proved, were it not too tedious to plunge into these
metaphysical obscurities.

As an interpreter of the law, M. Troplong is no more successful
than as a philosopher. One specimen of his skill in this
direction, and I am done with him:--

Code of Civil Procedure, Art. 23: "_Actions possessoires_ are
only when commenced within the year of trouble by those who have
held possession for at least a year by an irrevocable title."

M. Troplong's comments:--

"Ought we to maintain--as Duparc, Poullain, and Lanjuinais would
have us--the rule _spoliatus ante omnia restituendus_, when an
individual, who is neither proprietor nor annual possessor, is
expelled by a third party, who has no right to the estate? I
think not. Art. 23 of the Code is general: it absolutely
requires that the plaintiff in _actions possessoires_ shall have
been in peaceable possession for a year at least. That is the
invariable principle: it can in no case be modified. And why
should it be set aside? The plaintiff had no seisin; he had no
privileged possession; he had only a temporary occupancy,
insufficient to warrant in his favor the presumption of property,
which renders the annual possession so valuable. Well! this _ae
facto_ occupancy he has lost; another is invested with it:
possession is in the hands of this new-comer. Now, is not this a
case for the application of the principle, _In_ _pari causa
possesser potior habetur_? Should not the actual possessor be
preferred to the evicted possessor? Can he not meet the
complaint of his adversary by saying to him: `Prove that you
were an annual possessor before me, for you are the plaintiff.
As far as I am concerned, it is not for me to tell you how I
possess, nor how long I have possessed. _Possideo quia
possideo_. I have no other reply, no other defence. When you
have shown that your action is admissible, then we will see
whether you are entitled to lift the veil which hides the origin
of my possession.'"

And this is what is honored with the name of jurisprudence and
philosophy,--the restoration of force. What! when I have
"moulded matter by my labor" [I quote M. Troplong]; when I have
"deposited in it a portion of myself" [M. Troplong]; when I have
"re-created it by my industry, and set upon it the seal of my
intelligence" [M. Troplong],--on the ground that I have not
possessed it for a year, a stranger may dispossess me, and the
law offers me no protection! And if M. Troplong is my judge, M.
Troplong will condemn me! And if I resist my adversary,--if, for
this bit of mud which I may call MY FIELD, and of which they
wish to rob me, a war breaks out between the two competitors,--
the legislator will gravely wait until the stronger, having
killed the other, has had possession for a year! No, no,
Monsieur Troplong! you do not understand the words of the law;
for I prefer to call in question your intelligence rather than
the justice of the legislator. You are mistaken in your
application of the principle, _In pari causa possessor potior
habetur:_ the actuality of possession here refers to him who
possessed at the time when the difficulty arose, not to him who
possesses at the time of the complaint. And when the code
prohibits the reception of _actions possessoires_, in cases where
the possession is not of a year's duration, it simply means that
if, before a year has elapsed, the holder relinquishes
possession, and ceases actually to occupy _in propria persona_,
he cannot avail himself of an _action possessoire_ against his
successor. In a word, the code treats possession of less than a
year as it ought to treat all possession, however long it has
existed,--that is, the condition of property ought to be, not
merely seisin for a year, but perpetual seisin.

I will not pursue this analysis farther. When an author bases
two volumes of quibbles on foundations so uncertain, it may be
boldly declared that his work, whatever the amount of learning
displayed in it, is a mess of nonsense unworthy a critic's

At this point, sir, I seem to hear you reproaching me for this
conceited dogmatism, this lawless arrogance, which respects
nothing, claims a monopoly of justice and good sense, and assumes
to put in the pillory any one who dares to maintain an opinion
contrary to its own. This fault, they tell me, more odious than
any other in an author, was too prominent a characteristic of my
First Memoir, and I should do well to correct it.

It is important to the success of my defence, that I should
vindicate myself from this reproach; and since, while perceiving
in myself other faults of a different character, I still adhere
in this particular to my disputatious style, it is right that I
should give my reasons for my conduct. I act, not from
inclination, but from necessity.

I say, then, that I treat my authors as I do for two reasons: a
REASON OF RIGHT, and a REASON OF INTENTION; both peremptory.

1. Reason of right. When I preach equality of fortunes, I do not
advance an opinion more or less probable, a utopia more or less
ingenious, an idea conceived within my brain by means of
imagination only. I lay down an absolute truth, concerning
which hesitation is impossible, modesty superfluous, and doubt

But, do you ask, what assures me that that which I utter is true?

What assures me, sir? The logical and metaphysical processes
which I use, the correctness of which I have demonstrated by a
priori reasoning; the fact that I possess an infallible method
of investigation and verification with which my authors are
unacquainted; and finally, the fact that for all matters relating
to property and justice I have found a formula which explains all
legislative variations, and furnishes a key for all problems.
Now, is there so much as a shadow of method in M. Toullier, M.
Troplong, and this swarm of insipid commentators, almost as
devoid of reason and moral sense as the code itself? Do you give
the name of method to an alphabetical, chronological, analogical,
or merely nominal classification of subjects? Do you give the
name of method to these lists of paragraphs gathered under an
arbitrary head, these sophistical vagaries, this mass of
contradictory quotations and opinions, this nauseous style, this
spasmodic rhetoric, models of which are so common at the bar,
though seldom found elsewhere? Do you take for philosophy this
twaddle, this intolerable pettifoggery adorned with a few
scholastic trimmings? No, no! a writer who respects himself,
never will consent to enter the balance with these manipulators
of law, misnamed JURISTS; and for my part I object to a

2. Reason of intention. As far as I am permitted to divulge this
secret, I am a conspirator in an immense revolution, terrible to
charlatans and despots, to all exploiters of the poor and
credulous, to all salaried idlers, dealers in political panaceas
and parables, tyrants in a word of thought and of opinion. I
labor to stir up the reason of individuals to insurrection
against the reason of authorities.

According to the laws of the society of which I am a member, all
the evils which afflict humanity arise from faith in external
teachings and submission to authority. And not to go outside of
our own century, is it not true, for instance, that France is
plundered, scoffed at, and tyrannized over, because she speaks in
masses, and not by heads? The French people are penned up in
three or four flocks, receiving their signal from a chief,
responding to the voice of a leader, and thinking just as he
says. A certain journal, it is said, has fifty thousand
subscribers; assuming six readers to every subscriber, we have
three hundred thousand sheep browsing and bleating at the same
cratch. Apply this calculation to the whole periodical press,
and you find that, in our free and intelligent France, there are
two millions of creatures receiving every morning from the
journals spiritual pasturage. Two millions! In other words, the
entire nation allows a score of little fellows to lead it by the

By no means, sir, do I deny to journalists talent, science, love
of truth, patriotism, and what you please. They are very worthy
and intelligent people, whom I undoubtedly should wish to
resemble, had I the honor to know them. That of which I
complain, and that which has made me a conspirator, is that,
instead of enlightening us, these gentlemen command us, impose
upon us articles of faith, and that without demonstration or
verification. When, for example, I ask why these fortifications
of Paris, which, in former times, under the influence of certain
prejudices, and by means of a concurrence of extraordinary
circumstances supposed for the sake of the argument to have
existed, may perhaps have served to protect us, but which it is
doubtful whether our descendants will ever use,--when I ask, I
say, on what grounds they assimilate the future to a hypothetical
past, they reply that M. Thiers, who has a great mind, has
written upon this subject a report of admirable elegance and
marvellous clearness. At this I become angry, and reply that M.
Thiers does not know what he is talking about. Why, having
wanted no detached forts seven years ago, do we want them to-day?

"Oh! damn it," they say, "the difference is great; the first
forts were too near to us; with these we cannot be bombarded."
You cannot be bombarded; but you can be blockaded, and will be,
if you stir. What! to obtain blockade forts from the Parisians,
it has sufficed to prejudice them against bombardment forts! And
they thought to outwit the government! Oh, the sovereignty of
the people! . . .

"Damn it! M. Thiers, who is wiser than you, says that it would be
absurd to suppose a government making war upon citizens, and
maintaining itself by force and in spite of the will of the
people. That would be absurd!" Perhaps so: such a thing has
happened more than once, and may happen again. Besides, when
despotism is strong, it appears almost legitimate. However that
may be, they lied in 1833, and they lie again in 1841,--those who
threaten us with the bomb-shell. And then, if M. Thiers is so
well assured of the intentions of the government, why does he not
wish the forts to be built before the circuit is extended? Why
this air of suspicion of the government, unless an intrigue has
been planned between the government and M. Thiers?

"Damn it! we do not wish to be again invaded. If Paris had been
fortified in 1815, Napoleon would not have been conquered!" But
I tell you that Napoleon was not conquered, but sold; and that
if, in 1815, Paris had had fortifications, it would have been
with them as with the thirty thousand men of Grouchy, who were
misled during the battle. It is still easier to surrender forts
than to lead soldiers. Would the selfish and the cowardly
ever lack reasons for yielding to the enemy?

"But do you not see that the absolutist courts are provoked at
our fortifications?--a proof that they do not think as you do."
You believe that; and, for my part, I believe that in reality
they are quite at ease about the matter; and, if they appear to
tease our ministers, they do so only to give the latter an
opportunity to decline. The absolutist courts are always on
better terms with our constitutional monarchy, than our monarchy
with us. Does not M. Guizot say that France needs to be defended
within as well as without? Within! against whom? Against
France. O Parisians! it is but six months since you demanded
war, and now you want only barricades. Why should the allies
fear your doctrines, when you cannot even control
yourselves? . . . How could you sustain a siege, when you weep
over the absence of an actress?

"But, finally, do you not understand that, by the rules of modern
warfare, the capital of a country is always the objective point
of its assailants? Suppose our army defeated on the Rhine,
France invaded, and defenceless Paris falling into the hands of
the enemy. It would be the death of the administrative power;
without a head it could not live. The capital taken, the nation
must submit. What do you say to that?"

The reply is very simple. Why is society constituted in such a
way that the destiny of the country depends upon the safety of
the capital? Why, in case our territory be invaded and Paris
besieged, cannot the legislative, executive, and military powers
act outside of Paris? Why this localization of all the vital
forces of France? . . . Do not cry out upon decentralization.
This hackneyed reproach would discredit only your own
intelligence and sincerity. It is not a question of
decentralization; it is your political fetichism which I attack.
Why should the national unity be attached to a certain place, to
certain functionaries, to certain bayonets? Why should the Place
Maubert and the Palace of the Tuileries be the palladium of

Now let me make an hypothesis.

Suppose it were written in the charter, "In case the country be
again invaded, and Paris forced to surrender, the government
being annihilated and the national assembly dissolved, the
electoral colleges shall reassemble spontaneously and without
other official notice, for the purpose of appointing new
deputies, who shall organize a provisional government at Orleans.

If Orleans succumbs, the government shall reconstruct itself in
the same way at Lyons; then at Bordeaux, then at Bayonne, until
all France be captured or the enemy driven from the land. For
the government may perish, but the nation never dies. The king,
the peers, and the deputies massacred, VIVE LA FRANCE!"

Do you not think that such an addition to the charter would be a
better safeguard for the liberty and integrity of the country
than walls and bastions around Paris? Well, then! do henceforth
for administration, industry, science, literature, and art that
which the charter ought to prescribe for the central government
and common defence. Instead of endeavoring to render Paris
impregnable, try rather to render the loss of Paris an
insignificant matter. Instead of accumulating about one point
academies, faculties, schools, and political, administrative, and
judicial centres; instead of arresting intellectual development
and weakening public spirit in the provinces by this fatal
agglomeration,--can you not, without destroying unity, distribute
social functions among places as well as among persons?
Such a system--in allowing each province to participate in
political power and action, and in balancing industry,
intelligence, and strength in all parts of the country--would
equally secure, against enemies at home and enemies abroad, the
liberty of the people and the stability of the government.

Discriminate, then, between the centralization of functions and
the concentration of organs; between political unity and its
material symbol.

"Oh! that is plausible; but it is impossible!"--which means that
the city of Paris does not intend to surrender its privileges,
and that there it is still a question of property.

Idle talk! The country, in a state of panic which has been
cleverly worked upon, has asked for fortifications. I dare to
affirm that it has abdicated its sovereignty. All parties are to
blame for this suicide,--the conservatives, by their acquiescence
in the plans of the government; the friends of the dynasty,
because they wish no opposition to that which pleases them, and
because a popular revolution would annihilate them; the
democrats, because they hope to rule in their turn.[1] That
which all rejoice at having obtained is a means of future
repression. As for the defence of the country, they are not
troubled about that. The idea of tyranny dwells in
the minds of all, and brings together into one conspiracy all
forms of selfishness. We wish the regeneration of society, but
we subordinate this desire to our ideas and convenience. That
our approaching marriage may take place, that our business may
succeed, that our opinions may triumph, we postpone reform.
Intolerance and selfishness lead us to put fetters upon liberty;
and, because we cannot wish all that God wishes, we would, if it
rested with us, stay the course of destiny rather than sacrifice
our own interests and self-love. Is not this an instance where
the words of Solomon apply,--"_L'iniquite a menti a elle-meme_"?

[1] Armand Carrel would have favored the fortification of the
capital. "Le National" has said, again and again, placing the
name of its old editor by the side of the names of Napoleon and
Vauban. What signifies this exhumation of an anti-popular
politician? It signifies that Armand Carrel wished to make
government an individual and irremovable, but elective, property,
and that he wished this property to be elected, not by the
people, but by the army. The political system of Carrel was
simply a reorganization of the pretorian guards. Carrel also
hated the _pequins_. That which he deplored in the revolution of
July was not, they say, the insurrection of the people, but the
victory of the people over the soldiers. That is the reason why
Carrel, after 1830, would never support the patriots. "Do you
answer me with a few regiments?" he asked. Armand Carrel
regarded the army--the military power--as the basis of law and
government. This man undoubtedly had a moral sense within him,
but he surely had no sense of justice. Were he still in this
world, I declare it boldly, liberty would have no greater enemy
than Carrel.

It is said that on this question of the fortification of Paris
the staff of "Le National" are not agreed. This would prove, if
proof were needed, that a journal may blunder and falsify,
without entitling any one to accuse its editors. A journal is a
metaphysical being, for which no one is really responsible, and
which owes its existence solely to mutual concessions. This idea
ought to frighten those worthy citizens who, because they borrow
their opinions from a journal, imagine that they belong to a
political party, and who have not the faintest suspicion that
they are really without a head.

For this reason, sir, I have enlisted in a desperate war against
every form of authority over the multitude. Advance sentinel of
the proletariat, I cross bayonets with the celebrities of the
day, as well as with spies and charlatans. Well, when I am
fighting with an illustrious adversary, must I stop at the end of
every phrase, like an orator in the tribune, to say "the learned
author," "the eloquent writer," "the profound publicist," and a
hundred other platitudes with which it is fashionable to mock
people? These civilities seem to me no less insulting to the man
attacked than dishonorable to the aggressor. But when, rebuking
an author, I say to him, "Citizen, your doctrine is absurd, and,
if to prove my assertion is an offence against you, I am guilty
of it," immediately the listener opens his ears; he is all
attention; and, if I do not succeed in convincing him, at least I
give his thought an impulse, and set him the wholesome example of
doubt and free examination.

Then do not think, sir, that, in tripping up the philosophy of
your very learned and very estimable confrere, M. Troplong, I
fail to appreciate his talent as a writer (in my opinion, he has
too much for a jurist); nor his knowledge, though it is too
closely confined to the letter of the law, and the reading of old
books. In these particulars, M. Troplong offends on the side of
excess rather than deficiency. Further, do not believe that I am
actuated by any personal animosity towards him, or that I have
the slightest desire to wound his self-love. I know M. Troplong
only by his "Treatise on Prescription," which I wish he had not
written; and as for my critics, neither M. Troplong, nor any of
those whose opinion I value, will ever read me. Once more, my
only object is to prove, as far as I am able, to this unhappy
French nation, that those who make the laws, as well as those who
interpret them, are not infallible organs of general, impersonal,
and absolute reason.

I had resolved to submit to a systematic criticism the semi-
official defence of the right of property recently put forth by
M. Wolowski, your colleague at the Conservatory. With this view,
I had commenced to collect the documents necessary for each of
his lectures, but, soon perceiving that the ideas of the
professor were incoherent, that his arguments contradicted each
other, that one affirmation was sure to be overthrown by another,
and that in M. Wolowski's lucubrations the good was always
mingled with the bad, and being by nature a little suspicious, it
suddenly occurred to me that M. Wolowski was an advocate of
equality in disguise, thrown in spite of himself into the
position in which the patriarch Jacob pictures one of his sons,--
_inter duas clitellas_, between two stools, as the proverb says.
In more parliamentary language, I saw clearly that M. Wolowski
was placed between his profound convictions on the one hand and
his official duties on the other, and that, in order to maintain
his position, he had to assume a certain slant. Then I
experienced great pain at seeing the reserve, the circumlocution,
the figures, and the irony to which a professor of legislation,
whose duty it is to teach dogmas with clearness and precision,
was forced to resort; and I fell to cursing the society in which
an honest man is not allowed to say frankly what he thinks.
Never, sir, have you conceived of such torture: I seemed to be
witnessing the martyrdom of a mind. I am going to give you an
idea of these astonishing meetings, or rather of these scenes of

Monday, Nov. 20, 1840.--The professor declares, in brief,--1.
That the right of property is not founded upon occupation, but
upon the impress of man; 2. That every man has a natural and
inalienable right to the use of matter.

Now, if matter can be appropriated, and if, notwithstanding, all
men retain an inalienable right to the use of this matter, what
is property?--and if matter can be appropriated only by labor,
how long is this appropriation to continue?--questions that will
confuse and confound all jurists whatsoever.

Then M. Wolowski cites his authorities. Great God! what
witnesses he brings forward! First, M. Troplong, the great
metaphysician, whom we have discussed; then, M. Louis Blanc,
editor of the "Revue du Progres," who came near being tried
by jury for publishing his "Organization of Labor," and who
escaped from the clutches of the public prosecutor only by a
juggler's trick;[1] Corinne,--I mean Madame de Stael,--who, in an
ode, making a poetical comparison of the land with the waves, of
the furrow of a plough with the wake of a vessel, says "that
property exists only where man has left his trace," which makes
property dependent upon the solidity of the elements; Rousseau,
the apostle of liberty and equality, but who, according to M.
Wolowski, attacked property only AS A JOKE, and in order to
point a paradox; Robespierre, who prohibited a division of the
land, because he regarded such a measure as a rejuvenescence of
property, and who, while awaiting the definitive organization of
the republic, placed all property in the care?? of the people,--
that is, transferred the right of eminent domain from the
individual to society; Babeuf, who wanted property for the
nation, and communism for the citizens; M. Considerant, who
favors a division of landed property into shares,--that is, who
wishes to render property nominal and fictitious: the whole being
intermingled with jokes and witticisms (intended undoubtedly to
lead people away from the HORNETS' NESTS) at the expense of the
adversaries of the right of property!

[1] In a very short article, which was read by M. Wolowski, M.
Louis Blanc declares, in substance, that he is not a communist
(which I easily believe); that one must be a fool to attack
property (but he does not say why); and that it is very necessary
to guard against confounding property with its abuses. When
Voltaire overthrew Christianity, he repeatedly avowed that he had
no spite against religion, but only against its abuses.

November 26.--M. Wolowski supposes this objection: Land, like
water, air, and light, is necessary to life, therefore it cannot
be appropriated; and he replies: The importance of landed
property diminishes as the power of industry increases.

Good! this importance DIMINISHES, but it does not DISAPPEAR;
and this, of itself, shows landed property to be illegitimate.
Here M. Wolowski pretends to think that the opponents of property
refer only to property in land, while they merely take it as a
term of comparison; and, in showing with wonderful clearness the
absurdity of the position in which he places them, he finds a way
of drawing the attention of his hearers to another subject
without being false to the truth which it is his office to

"Property," says M. Wolowski, "is that which distinguishes man
from the animals." That may be; but are we to regard this as a
compliment or a satire?

"Mahomet," says M. Wolowski, "decreed property." And so did
Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane, and all the ravagers of nations.
What sort of legislators were they?

"Property has been in existence ever since the origin of the
human race." Yes, and so has slavery, and despotism also; and
likewise polygamy and idolatry. But what does this antiquity

The members of the Council of the State--M. Portalis at their
head--did not raise, in their discussion of the Code, the
question of the legitimacy of property. "Their silence," says M.
Wolowski, "is a precedent in favor of this right." I may regard
this reply as personally addressed to me, since the observation
belongs to me. I reply, "As long as an opinion is universally
admitted, the universality of belief serves of itself as argument
and proof. When this same opinion is attacked, the former faith
proves nothing; we must resort to reason. Ignorance, however old
and pardonable it may be, never outweighs reason."

Property has its abuses, M. Wolowski confesses. "But," he says,
"these abuses gradually disappear. To-day their cause is known.
They all arise from a false theory of property. In principle,
property is inviolable, but it can and must be checked and
disciplined." Such are the conclusions of the professor.

When one thus remains in the clouds, he need not fear to
equivocate. Nevertheless, I would like him to define these
ABUSES of property, to show their cause, to explain this true
theory from which no abuse is to spring; in short, to tell me
how, without destroying property, it can be governed for the
greatest good of all. "Our civil code," says M. Wolowski, in
speaking of this subject, "leaves much to be desired." I think
it leaves every thing undone.

Finally, M. Wolowski opposes, on the one hand, the concentration
of capital, and the absorption which results therefrom; and, on
the other, he objects to the extreme division of the land. Now I
think that I have demonstrated in my First Memoir, that large
accumulation and minute division are the first two terms of an
economical trinity,--a THESIS and an ANTITHESIS. But, while
M. Wolowski says nothing of the third term, the SYNTHESIS, and
thus leaves the inference in suspense, I have shown that this
third term is ASSOCIATION, which is the annihilation of property.

November 30.--LITERARY PROPERTY. M. Wolowski grants that it is
just to recognize the rights of talent (which is not in the least
hostile to equality); but he seriously objects to perpetual and
absolute property in the works of genius, to the profit of the
authors' heirs. His main argument is, that society has a right
of collective production over every creation of the mind. Now,
it is precisely this principle of collective power that I
developed in my "Inquiries into Property and Government,"
and on which I have established the complete edifice of a new
social organization. M. Wolowski is, as far as I know, the first
jurist who has made a legislative application of this economical
law. Only, while I have extended the principle of collective
power to every sort of product, M. Wolowski, more prudent than it
is my nature to be, confines it to neutral ground. So, that that
which I am bold enough to say of the whole, he is contented to
affirm of a part, leaving the intelligent hearer to fill up the
void for himself. However, his arguments are keen and close.
One feels that the professor, finding himself more at ease with
one aspect of property, has given the rein to his intellect, and
is rushing on towards liberty.

1. Absolute literary property would hinder the activity of other
men, and obstruct the development of humanity. It would be the
death of progress; it would be suicide. What would have happened
if the first inventions,--the plough, the level, the saw, &c.,--
had been appropriated?

Such is the first proposition of M. Wolowski.

I reply: Absolute property in land and tools hinders human
activity, and obstructs progress and the free development of man.

What happened in Rome, and in all the ancient nations? What
occurred in the middle ages? What do we see to-day in England,
in consequence of absolute property in the sources of production?

The suicide of humanity.

2. Real and personal property is in harmony with the social
interest. In consequence of literary property, social and
individual interests are perpetually in conflict.

The statement of this proposition contains a rhetorical figure,
common with those who do not enjoy full and complete liberty of
speech. This figure is the _anti-phrasis_ or
_contre-verite_. It consists, according to Dumarsais and the
best humanists, in saying one thing while meaning another.
M. Wolowski's proposition, naturally expressed, would read as
follows: "Just as real and personal property is essentially
hostile to society, so, in consequence of literary property,
social and individual interests are perpetually in conflict."

3. M. de Montalembert, in the Chamber of Peers, vehemently
protested against the assimilation of authors to inventors of
machinery; an assimilation which he claimed to be injurious to
the former. M. Wolowski replies, that the rights of authors,
without machinery, would be nil; that, without paper-mills, type
foundries, and printing-offices, there could be no sale of verse
and prose; that many a mechanical invention,--the compass, for
instance, the telescope, or the steam-engine,--is quite as
valuable as a book.

Prior to M. Montalembert, M. Charles Comte had laughed at the
inference in favor of mechanical inventions, which logical minds
never fail to draw from the privileges granted to authors. "He,"
says M. Comte, "who first conceived and executed the idea of
transforming a piece of wood into a pair of sabots, or an
animal's hide into a pair of sandals, would thereby have acquired
an exclusive right to make shoes for the human race!"
Undoubtedly, under the system of property. For, in fact, this
pair of sabots, over which you make so merry, is the creation
of the shoemaker, the work of his genius, the expression of his
thought; to him it is his poem, quite as much as "Le Roi
s'amuse," is M. Victor Hugo's drama. Justice for all alike. If
you refuse a patent to a perfecter of boots, refuse also a
privilege to a maker of rhymes.

4. That which gives importance to a book is a fact external to
the author and his work. Without the intelligence of society,
without its development, and a certain community of ideas,
passions, and interests between it and the authors, the
works of the latter would be worth nothing. The exchangeable
value of a book is due even more to the SOCIAL CONDITION than
to the talent displayed in it.

Indeed, it seems as if I were copying my own words. This
proposition of M. Wolowski contains a special expression of a
general and absolute idea, one of the strongest and most
conclusive against the right of property. Why do artists, like
mechanics, find the means to live? Because society has made the
fine arts, like the rudest industries, objects of consumption and
exchange, governed consequently by all the laws of commerce and
political economy. Now, the first of these laws is the equipoise
of functions; that is, the equality of associates.

5. M. Wolowski indulges in sarcasm against the petitioners for
literary property. "There are authors," he says, "who crave the
privileges of authors, and who for that purpose point out the
power of the melodrama. They speak of the niece of Corneille,
begging at the door of a theatre which the works of her uncle had
enriched. . . . To satisfy the avarice of literary people, it
would be necessary to create literary majorats, and make a whole
code of exceptions."

I like this virtuous irony. But M. Wolowski has by no means
exhausted the difficulties which the question involves. And
first, is it just that MM. Cousin, Guizot, Villemain, Damiron,
and company, paid by the State for delivering lectures, should be
paid a second time through the booksellers?--that I, who have the
right to report their lectures, should not have the right to
print them? Is it just that MM. Noel and Chapsal, overseers of
the University, should use their influence in selling their
selections from literature to the youth whose studies they are
instructed to superintend in consideration of a salary? And, if
that is not just, is it not proper to refuse literary
property to every author holding public offices, and receiving
pensions or sinecures?

Again, shall the privilege of the author extend to irreligious
and immoral works, calculated only to corrupt the heart, and
obscure the understanding? To grant this privilege is to
sanction immorality by law; to refuse it is to censure the
author. And since it is impossible, in the present imperfect
state of society, to prevent all violations of the moral law, it
will be necessary to open a license-office for books as well as
morals. But, then, three-fourths of our literary people will be
obliged to register; and, recognized thenceforth on their own
declaration as PROSTITUTES, they will necessarily belong to the
public. We pay toll to the prostitute; we do not endow her.

Finally, shall plagiarism be classed with forgery? If you reply
"Yes," you appropriate in advance all the subjects of which books
treat; if you say "No," you leave the whole matter to the
decision of the judge. Except in the case of a clandestine
reprint, how will he distinguish forgery from quotation,
imitation, plagiarism, or even coincidence? A savant spends
two years in calculating a table of logarithms to nine or ten
decimals. He prints it. A fortnight after his book is selling
at half-price; it is impossible to tell whether this result is
due to forgery or competition. What shall the court do? In case
of doubt, shall it award the property to the first occupant? As
well decide the question by lot.

These, however, are trifling considerations; but do we see that,
in granting a perpetual privilege to authors and their heirs, we
really strike a fatal blow at their interests? We think to make
booksellers dependent upon authors,--a delusion. The booksellers
will unite against works, and their proprietors. Against works,
by refusing to push their sale, by replacing them with poor
imitations, by reproducing them in a hundred indirect ways;
and no one knows how far the science of plagiarism, and skilful
imitation may be carried. Against proprietors. Are we ignorant
of the fact, that a demand for a dozen copies enables a
bookseller to sell a thousand; that with an edition of five
hundred he can supply a kingdom for thirty years? What will the
poor authors do in the presence of this omnipotent union of
booksellers? I will tell them what they will do. They will
enter the employ of those whom they now treat as pirates; and, to
secure an advantage, they will become wage laborers. A fit
reward for ignoble avarice, and insatiable pride.[1]

[1] The property fever is at its height among writers and
artists, and it is curious to see the complacency with which our
legislators and men of letters cherish this devouring passion.
An artist sells a picture, and then, the merchandise delivered,
assumes to prevent the purchaser from selling engravings, under
the pretext that he, the painter, in selling the original, has
not sold his DESIGN. A dispute arises between the amateur and
the artist in regard to both the fact and the law. M. Villemain,
the Minister of Public Instruction, being consulted as to this
particular case, finds that the painter is right; only the
property in the design should have been specially reserved in the
contract: so that, in reality, M. Villemain recognizes in the
artist a power to surrender his work and prevent its
communication; thus contradicting the legal axiom, One CANNOT
GIVE AND KEEP AT THE SAME TIME. A strange reasoner is M.
Villemain! An ambiguous principle leads to a false conclusion.
Instead of rejecting the principle, M. Villemain hastens to admit
the conclusion. With him the _reductio ad absurdum_ is a
convincing argument. Thus he is made official defender of
literary property, sure of being understood and sustained by a
set of loafers, the disgrace of literature and the plague of
public morals. Why, then, does M. Villemain feel so strong an
interest in setting himself up as the chief of the literary
classes, in playing for their benefit the role of Trissotin
in the councils of the State, and in becoming the accomplice and
associate of a band of profligates,--_soi-disant_ men of
letters,--who for more than ten years have labored with such
deplorable success to ruin public spirit, and corrupt the heart
by warping the mind?

Contradictions of contradictions!" Genius is the great leveller
of the world," cries M. de Lamartine; "then genius should be a
proprietor. Literary property is the fortune of democracy."
This unfortunate poet thinks himself profound when he is only
puffed up. His eloquence consists solely in coupling ideas which
clash with each other: ROUND SQUARE, DARK SUN, FALLEN ANGEL,
LEVELING and PROPERTY. Let us tell him, in reply, that his mind
is a dark luminary; that each of his discourses is a disordered
harmony; and that all his successes, whether in verse or prose,
are due to the use of the extraordinary in the treatment of the
most ordinary subjects.

"Le National," in reply to the report of M. Lamartine, endeavors
to prove that literary property is of quite a different nature
from landed property; as if the nature of the right of property
depended on the object to which it is applied, and not on the
mode of its exercise and the condition of its existence. But the
main object of "Le National" is to please a class of proprietors
whom an extension of the right of property vexes: that is why "Le
National" opposes literary property. Will it tell us, once for
all, whether it is for equality or against it?

6. OBJECTION.--Property in occupied land passes to the heirs of
the occupant. "Why," say the authors, "should not the work of
genius pass in like manner to the heirs of the man of genius?"
M. Wolowski's reply: "Because the labor of the first occupant is
continued by his heirs, while the heirs of an author neither
change nor add to his works. In landed property, the continuance
of labor explains the continuance of the right."

Yes, when the labor is continued; but if the labor is not
continued, the right ceases. Thus is the right of possession,
founded on personal labor, recognized by M. Wolowski.

M. Wolowski decides in favor of granting to authors property in
their works for a certain number of years, dating from the day of
their first publication.

The succeeding lectures on patents on inventions were no less
instructive, although intermingled with shocking contradictions
inserted with a view to make the useful truths more palatable.
The necessity for brevity compels me to terminate this
examination here, not without regret.

Thus, of two eclectic jurists, who attempt a defence of
property, one is entangled in a set of dogmas without
principle or method, and is constantly talking nonsense; and the
other designedly abandons the cause of property, in order to
present under the same name the theory of individual possession.
Was I wrong in claiming that confusion reigned among legists, and
ought I to be legally prosecuted for having said that their
science henceforth stood convicted of falsehood, its glory

The ordinary resources of the law no longer sufficing,
philosophy, political economy, and the framers of systems have
been consulted. All the oracles appealed to have been

The philosophers are no clearer to-day than at the time of the
eclectic efflorescence; nevertheless, through their mystical
apothegms, we can distinguish the words PROGRESS, UNITY,
reassuring to proprietors. One of these philosophers, M. Pierre
Leroux, has written two large books, in which he claims to show
by all religious, legislative, and philosophical systems that,
since men are responsible to each other, equality of conditions
is the final law of society. It is true that this philosopher
admits a kind of property; but as he leaves us to imagine what
property would become in presence of equality, we may boldly
class him with the opponents of the right of increase.

I must here declare freely--in order that I may not be suspected
of secret connivance, which is foreign to my nature--that M.
Leroux has my full sympathy. Not that I am a believer in his
quasi-Pythagorean philosophy (upon this subject I should have
more than one observation to submit to him, provided a veteran
covered with stripes would not despise the remarks of a
conscript); not that I feel bound to this author by any
special consideration for his opposition to property. In my
opinion, M. Leroux could, and even ought to, state his position
more explicitly and logically. But I like, I admire, in M.
Leroux, the antagonist of our philosophical demigods, the
demolisher of usurped reputations, the pitiless critic of every
thing that is respected because of its antiquity. Such is the
reason for my high esteem of M. Leroux; such would be the
principle of the only literary association which, in this century
of coteries, I should care to form. We need men who, like M.
Leroux, call in question social principles,--not to diffuse doubt
concerning them, but to make them doubly sure; men who excite the
mind by bold negations, and make the conscience tremble by
doctrines of annihilation. Where is the man who does not shudder
on hearing M. Leroux exclaim, "There is neither a paradise nor a
hell; the wicked will not be punished, nor the good rewarded.
Mortals! cease to hope and fear; you revolve in a circle of
appearances; humanity is an immortal tree, whose branches,
withering one after another, feed with their debris the root
which is always young!" Where is the man who, on hearing this
desolate confession of faith, does not demand with terror, "Is it
then true that I am only an aggregate of elements organized by an
unknown force, an idea realized for a few moments, a form which
passes and disappears? Is it true that my mind is only a
harmony, and my soul a vortex? What is the ego? what is God?
what is the sanction of society?"

In former times, M. Leroux would have been regarded as a great
culprit, worthy only (like Vanini) of death and universal
execration. To-day, M. Leroux is fulfilling a mission of
salvation, for which, whatever he may say, he will be rewarded.
Like those gloomy invalids who are always talking of their
approaching death, and who faint when the doctor's opinion
confirms their pretence, our materialistic society is agitated
and loses countenance while listening to this startling decree of
the philosopher, "Thou shalt die!" Honor then to M. Leroux, who
has revealed to us the cowardice of the Epicureans; to M. Leroux,
who renders new philosophical solutions necessary! Honor to the
anti-eclectic, to the apostle of equality!

In his work on "Humanity," M. Leroux commences by positing the
necessity of property: "You wish to abolish property; but do you
not see that thereby you would annihilate man and even the name
of man? . . . You wish to abolish property; but could you live
without a body? I will not tell you that it is necessary to
support this body; . . . I will tell you that this body is itself
a species of property."

In order clearly to understand the doctrine of M. Leroux, it must
be borne in mind that there are three necessary and primitive
forms of society,--communism, property, and that which to-day we
properly call association. M. Leroux rejects in the first place
communism, and combats it with all his might. Man is a personal
and free being, and therefore needs a sphere of independence and
individual activity. M. Leroux emphasizes this in adding: "You
wish neither family, nor country, nor property; therefore no more
fathers, no more sons, no more brothers. Here you are, related
to no being in time, and therefore without a name; here you are,
alone in the midst of a billion of men who to-day inhabit the
earth. How do you expect me to distinguish you in space in the
midst of this multitude?"

If man is indistinguishable, he is nothing. Now, he can be
distinguished, individualized, only through a devotion of certain
things to his use,--such as his body, his faculties, and the
tools which he uses. "Hence," says M. Leroux, "the necessity of
appropriation;" in short, property.

But property on what condition? Here M. Leroux, after having
condemned communism, denounces in its turn the right of domain.
His whole doctrine can be summed up in this single proposition,--
_Man may be made by property a slave or a despot by turns_.

That posited, if we ask M. Leroux to tell us under what system of
property man will be neither a slave nor a despot, but free,
just, and a citizen, M. Leroux replies in the third volume of his
work on "Humanity:"--

"There are three ways of destroying man's communion with his
fellows and with the universe: . . . 1. By separating man in
time; 2. by separating him in space; 3. by dividing the land, or,
in general terms, the instruments of production; by attaching men
to things, by subordinating man to property, by making man a

This language, it must be confessed, savors a little too strongly
of the metaphysical heights which the author frequents, and of
the school of M. Cousin. Nevertheless, it can be seen, clearly
enough it seems to me, that M. Leroux opposes the exclusive
appropriation of the instruments of production; only he calls
this non-appropriation of the instruments of production a NEW
METHOD of establishing property, while I, in accordance with all
precedent, call it a destruction of property. In fact, without
the appropriation of instruments, property is nothing.

"Hitherto. we have confined ourselves to pointing out and
combating the despotic features of property, by considering
property alone. We have failed to see that the despotism of
property is a correlative of the division of the human
race; . . . that property, instead of being organized in such a
way as to facilitate the unlimited communion of man with his
fellows and with the universe, has been, on the contrary, turned
against this communion."

Let us translate this into commercial phraseology. In order to
destroy despotism and the inequality of conditions, men must
cease from competition and must associate their interests. Let
employer and employed (now enemies and rivals) become associates.

Now, ask any manufacturer, merchant, or capitalist, whether he
would consider himself a proprietor if he were to share his
revenue and profits with this mass of wage-laborers whom it is
proposed to make his associates.

"Family, property, and country are finite things, which ought to
be organized with a view to the infinite. For man is a finite
being, who aspires to the infinite. To him, absolute finiteness
is evil. The infinite is his aim, the indefinite his right."

Few of my readers would understand these hierophantic words, were
I to leave them unexplained. M. Leroux means, by this
magnificent formula, that humanity is a single immense society,
which, in its collective unity, represents the infinite; that
every nation, every tribe, every commune, and every citizen are,
in different degrees, fragments or finite members of the infinite
society, the evil in which results solely from individualism and
privilege,--in other words, from the subordination of the
infinite to the finite; finally, that, to attain humanity's end
and aim, each part has a right to an indefinitely progressive

"All the evils which afflict the human race arise from caste.
The family is a blessing; the family caste (the nobility) is an
evil. Country is a blessing; the country caste (supreme,
domineering, conquering) is an evil; property (individual
possession) is a blessing; the property caste (the domain of
property of Pothier, Toullier, Troplong, &c.) is an evil."

Thus, according to M. Leroux, there is property and property,--
the one good, the other bad. Now, as it is proper to call
different things by different names, if we keep the name
"property" for the former, we must call the latter robbery,
rapine, brigandage. If, on the contrary, we reserve the name
"property" for the latter, we must designate the former by the
term POSSESSION, or some other equivalent; otherwise we should
be troubled with an unpleasant synonymy.

What a blessing it would be if philosophers, daring for once to
say all that they think, would speak the language of ordinary
mortals! Nations and rulers would derive much greater profit
from their lectures, and, applying the same names to the same
ideas, would come, perhaps, to understand each other. I boldly
declare that, in regard to property, I hold no other opinion than
that of M. Leroux; but, if I should adopt the style of the
philosopher, and repeat after him, "Property is a blessing, but
the property caste--the _statu quo_ of property--is an evil," I
should be extolled as a genius by all the bachelors who write for
the reviews.[1] If, on the contrary, I prefer the classic
language of Rome and the civil code, and say accordingly,
"Possession is a blessing, but property is robbery," immediately
the aforesaid bachelors raise a hue and cry against the monster,

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