Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

What is Property?

Part 9 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.0 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

and the judge threatens me. Oh, the power of language!

[1] M. Leroux has been highly praised in a review for having
defended property. I do not know whether the industrious
encyclopedist is pleased with the praise, but I know very well
that in his place I should mourn for reason and for truth.

"Le National," on the other hand, has laughed at M. Leroux and
his ideas on property, charging him with TAUTOLOGY and
CHILDISHNESS. "Le National" does not wish to understand. Is
it necessary to remind this journal that it has no right to
deride a dogmatic philosopher, because it is without a doctrine
itself? From its foundation, "Le National" has been a nursery of
intriguers and renegades. From time to time it takes care to
warn its readers. Instead of lamenting over all its defections,
the democratic sheet would do better to lay the blame on itself,
and confess the shallowness of its theories. When will this
organ of popular interests and the electoral reform cease to hire
sceptics and spread doubt? I will wager, without going further,
that M. Leon Durocher, the critic of M. Leroux, is an anonymous
or pseudonymous editor of some bourgeois, or even aristocratic,

The economists, questioned in their turn, propose to associate
capital and labor. You know, sir, what that means. If we follow
out the doctrine, we soon find that it ends in an absorption of
property, not by the community, but by a general and indissoluble
commandite, so that the condition of the proprietor would
differ from that of the workingman only in receiving larger
wages. This system, with some peculiar additions and
embellishments, is the idea of the phalanstery. But it is clear
that, if inequality of conditions is one of the attributes of
property, it is not the whole of property. That which makes
property a DELIGHTFUL THING, as some philosopher (I know not
who) has said, is the power to dispose at will, not only of one's
own goods, but of their specific nature; to use them at pleasure;
to confine and enclose them; to excommunicate mankind, as M.
Pierre Leroux says; in short, to make such use of them as
passion, interest, or even caprice, may suggest. What is the
possession of money, a share in an agricultural or industrial
enterprise, or a government-bond coupon, in comparison with the
infinite charm of being master of one's house and grounds, under
one's vine and fig-tree? "_Beati possidentes_!" says an author
quoted by M. Troplong. Seriously, can that be applied to a man
of income, who has no other possession under the sun than the
market, and in his pocket his money? As well maintain that a
trough is a coward. A nice method of reform! They never cease
to condemn the thirst for gold, and the growing individualism of
the century; and yet, most inconceivable of contradictions, they
prepare to turn all kinds of property into one,--property in

I must say something further of a theory of property lately put
forth with some ado: I mean the theory of M. Considerant.

The Fourierists are not men who examine a doctrine in order to
ascertain whether it conflicts with their system. On the
contrary, it is their custom to exult and sing songs of triumph
whenever an adversary passes without perceiving or noticing them.

These gentlemen want direct refutations, in order that, if they
are beaten, they may have, at least, the selfish consolation of
having been spoken of. Well, let their wish be gratified.

M. Considerant makes the most lofty pretensions to logic. His
method of procedure is always that of MAJOR, MINOR, AND
CONCLUSION. He would willingly write upon his hat,
"_Argumentator in barbara_." But M. Considerant is too
intelligent and quick-witted to be a good logician, as is proved
by the fact that he appears to have taken the syllogism for

The syllogism, as everybody knows who is interested in
philosophical curiosities, is the first and perpetual sophism of
the human mind,--the favorite tool of falsehood, the stumbling-
block of science, the advocate of crime. The syllogism has
produced all the evils which the fabulist so eloquently
condemned, and has done nothing good or useful: it is as devoid
of truth as of justice. We might apply to it these words of
Scripture: "_Celui qui met en lui sa confiance, perira_."
Consequently, the best philosophers long since condemned it; so
that now none but the enemies of reason wish to make the
syllogism its weapon.

M. Considerant, then, has built his theory of property upon a
syllogism. Would he be disposed to stake the system of Fourier
upon his arguments, as I am ready to risk the whole doctrine of
equality upon my refutation of that system? Such a duel
would be quite in keeping with the warlike and chivalric tastes
of M. Considerant, and the public would profit by it; for, one of
the two adversaries falling, no more would be said about him, and
there would be one grumbler less in the world.

The theory of M. Considerant has this remarkable feature, that,
in attempting to satisfy at the same time the claims of both
laborers and proprietors, it infringes alike upon the rights of
the former and the privileges of the latter. In the first place,
the author lays it down as a principle: "1. That the use of the
land belongs to each member of the race; that it is a natural and
imprescriptible right, similar in all respects to the right to
the air and the sunshine. 2. That the right to labor is equally
fundamental, natural, and imprescriptible." I have shown that
the recognition of this double right would be the death of
property. I denounce M. Considerant to the proprietors!

But M. Considerant maintains that the right to labor creates the
right of property, and this is the way he reasons:--

Major Premise.--"Every man legitimately possesses the thing
which his labor, his skill,--or, in more general terms, his
action,--has created."

To which M. Considerant adds, by way of comment: "Indeed, the
land not having been created by man, it follows from the
fundamental principle of property, that the land, being given to
the race in common, can in no wise be the exclusive and
legitimate property of such and such individuals, who were not
the creators of this value."

If I am not mistaken, there is no one to whom this proposition,
at first sight and in its entirety, does not seem utterly
irrefutable. Reader, distrust the syllogism.

First, I observe that the words LEGITIMATELY POSSESSES signify
to the author's mind is LEGITIMATE PROPRIETOR;_ otherwise
the argument, being intended to prove the legitimacyof property,
would have no meaning. I might here raise the question of the
difference between property and possession, and call upon M.
Considerant, before going further, to define the one and the
other; but I pass on.

This first proposition is doubly false. 1. In that it asserts
the act of CREATION to be the only basis of property. 2. In
that it regards this act as sufficient in all cases to authorize
the right of property.

And, in the first place, if man may be proprietor of the game
which he does not create, but which he KILLS; of the fruits
which he does not create, but which he GATHERS; of the
vegetables which he does not create, but which he PLANTS; of
the animals which he does not create, but which he REARS,--it
is conceivable that men may in like manner become proprietors of
the land which they do not create, but which they clear and
fertilize. The act of creation, then, is not NECESSARY to the
acquisition of the right of property. I say further, that this
act alone is not always sufficient, and I prove it by the second
premise of M. Considerant:--

Minor Premise.--"Suppose that on an isolated island, on the
soil of a nation, or over the whole face of the earth (the extent
of the scene of action does not affect our judgment of the
facts), a generation of human beings devotes itself for the first
time to industry, agriculture, manufactures, &c. This
generation, by its labor, intelligence, and activity, creates
products, develops values which did not exist on the uncultivated
land. Is it not perfectly clear that the property of this
industrious generation will stand on a basis of right, if the
value or wealth produced by the activity of all be distributed
among the producers, according to each one's assistance in the
creation of the general wealth? That is unquestionable."

That is quite questionable. For this value or wealth,
PRODUCED BY THE ACTIVITY OF ALL, is by the very fact of
its creation COLLECTIVE wealth, the use of which, like that of
the land, may be divided, but which as property remains
UNDIVIDED. And why this undivided ownership? Because the
society which creates is itself indivisible,--a permanent unit,
incapable of reduction to fractions. And it is this unity of
society which makes the land common property, and which, as M.
Considerant says, renders its use imprescriptible in the case of
every individual. Suppose, indeed, that at a given time the soil
should be equally divided; the very next moment this division, if
it allowed the right of property, would become illegitimate.
Should there be the slightest irregularity in the method of
transfer, men, members of society, imprescriptible possessors of
the land, might be deprived at one blow of property, possession,
and the means of production. In short, property in capital is
indivisible, and consequently inalienable, not necessarily when
the capital is UNCREATED, but when it is COMMON or

I confirm this theory against M. Considerant, by the third term
of his syllogism:--

Conclusion.--"The results of the labor performed by this
generation are divisible into two classes, between which it is
important clearly to distinguish. The first class includes the
products of the soil which belong to this first generation in its
usufructuary capacity, augmented, improved and refined by its
labor and industry. These products consist either of objects of
consumption or instruments of labor. It is clear that these
products are the legitimate property of those who have created
them by their activity. . . . Second class.--Not only has this
generation created the products just mentioned (objects of
consumption and instruments of labor), but it has also added to
the original value of the soil by cultivation, by the erection of
buildings, by all the labor producing permanent results, which it
has performed. This additional value evidently constitutes a
product--a value created by the activity of the first generation;
and if, BY ANY MEANS WHATEVER, the ownership of this value be
distributed among the members of society equitably,--that
is, in proportion to the labor which each has performed,--each
will legitimately possess the portion which he receives. He may
then dispose of this legitimate and private property as he sees
fit,--exchange it, give it away, or transfer it; and no other
individual, or collection of other individuals,--that is,
society,--can lay any claim to these values."

Thus, by the distribution of collective capital, to the use of
which each associate, either in his own right or in right of his
authors, has an imprescriptible and undivided title, there will
be in the phalanstery, as in the France of 1841, the poor and the
rich; some men who, to live in luxury, have only, as Figaro says,
to take the trouble to be born, and others for whom the fortune
of life is but an opportunity for long-continued poverty; idlers
with large incomes, and workers whose fortune is always in the
future; some privileged by birth and caste, and others pariahs
whose sole civil and political rights are THE RIGHT TO LABOR,
AND THE RIGHT TO LAND. For we must not be deceived; in the
phalanstery every thing will be as it is to-day, an object of
property,--machines, inventions, thought, books, the products of
art, of agriculture, and of industry; animals, houses, fences,
vineyards, pastures, forests, fields,--every thing, in short,
except the UNCULTIVATED LAND. Now, would you like to know what
uncultivated land is worth, according to the advocates of
property? "A square league hardly suffices for the support of a
savage," says M. Charles Comte. Estimating the wretched
subsistence of this savage at three hundred francs per year, we
find that the square league necessary to his life is, relatively
to him, faithfully represented by a rent of fifteen francs. In
France there are twenty-eight thousand square leagues, the total
rent of which, by this estimate, would be four hundred and twenty
thousand francs, which, when divided among nearly thirty-four
millions of people, would give each an INCOME OF A CENTIME AND A
QUARTER. That is the new right which the great genius of
Fourier has invented IN BEHALF OF THE FRENCH PEOPLE, and with
which his first disciple hopes to reform the world. I denounce
M. Considerant to the proletariat!

If the theory of M. Considerant would at least really guarantee
this property which he cherishes so jealously, I might pardon him
the flaws in his syllogism, certainly the best one he ever made
in his life. But, no: that which M. Considerant takes for
property is only a privilege of extra pay. In Fourier's system,
neither the created capital nor the increased value of the soil
are divided and appropriated in any effective manner: the
instruments of labor, whether created or not, remain in the hands
of the phalanx; the pretended proprietor can touch only the
income. He is permitted neither to realize his share of the
stock, nor to possess it exclusively, nor to administer it,
whatever it be. The cashier throws him his dividend; and then,
proprietor, eat the whole if you can!

The system of Fourier would not suit the proprietors, since it
takes away the most delightful feature of property,--the free
disposition of one's goods. It would please the communists no
better, since it involves unequal conditions. It is repugnant to
the friends of free association and equality, in consequence of
its tendency to wipe out human character and individuality by
suppressing possession, family, and country,--the threefold
expression of the human personality.

Of all our active publicists, none seem to me more fertile in
resources, richer in imagination, more luxuriant and varied in
style, than M. Considerant. Nevertheless, I doubt if he will
undertake to reestablish his theory of property. If he has this
courage, this is what I would say to him: "Before writing your
reply, consider well your plan of action; do not scour the
country; have recourse to none of your ordinary expedients;
no complaints of civilization; no sarcasms upon equality; no
glorification of the phalanstery. Leave Fourier and the departed
in peace, and endeavor only to re-adjust the pieces of your
syllogism. To this end, you ought, first, to analyze closely
each proposition of your adversary; second, to show the error,
either by a direct refutation, or by proving the converse; third,
to oppose argument to argument, so that, objection and reply
meeting face to face, the stronger may break down the weaker, and
shiver it to atoms. By that method only can you boast of having
conquered, and compel me to regard you as an honest reasoner, and
a good artillery-man."

I should have no excuse for tarrying longer with these
phalansterian crotchets, if the obligation which I have imposed
upon myself of making a clean sweep, and the necessity of
vindicating my dignity as a writer, did not prevent me from
passing in silence the reproach uttered against me by a
correspondent of "La Phalange." "We have seen but lately," says
this journalist,[1] "that M. Proudhon, enthusiast as he has been
for the science created by Fourier, is, or will be, an enthusiast
for any thing else whatsoever."

[1] "Impartial," of Besancon.

If ever sectarians had the right to reproach another for changes
in his beliefs, this right certainly does not belong to the
disciples of Fourier, who are always so eager to administer the
phalansterian baptism to the deserters of all parties. But why
regard it as a crime, if they are sincere? Of what consequence
is the constancy or inconstancy of an individual to the truth
which is always the same? It is better to enlighten men's minds
than to teach them to be obstinate in their prejudices. Do we
not know that man is frail and fickle, that his heart is full of
delusions, and that his lips are a distillery of falsehood?
_Omnis homo meudax_. Whether we will or no, we all serve for a
time as instruments of this truth, whose kingdom comes every day.

God alone is immutable, because he is eternal.

That is the reply which, as a general rule, an honest man is
entitled always to make, and which I ought perhaps to be content
to offer as an excuse; for I am no better than my fathers. But,
in a century of doubt and apostasy like ours, when it is of
importance to set the small and the weak an example of strength
and honesty of utterance, I must not suffer my character as a
public assailant of property to be dishonored. I must render an
account of my old opinions.

Examining myself, therefore, upon this charge of Fourierism, and
endeavoring to refresh my memory, I find that, having been
connected with the Fourierists in my studies and my friendships,
it is possible that, without knowing it, I have been one of
Fourier's partisans. Jerome Lalande placed Napoleon and Jesus
Christ in his catalogue of atheists. The Fourierists resemble
this astronomer: if a man happens to find fault with the existing
civilization, and to admit the truth of a few of their
criticisms, they straightway enlist him, willy-nilly, in their
school. Nevertheless, I do not deny that I have been a
Fourierist; for, since they say it, of course it may be so. But,
sir, that of which my ex-associates are ignorant, and which
doubtless will astonish you, is that I have been many other
things,--in religion, by turns a Protestant, a Papist, an Arian
and Semi-Arian, a Manichean, a Gnostic, an Adamite even and a
Pre-Adamite, a Sceptic, a Pelagian, a Socinian, an Anti-
Trinitarian, and a Neo-Christian;[1] in philosophy and politics,
an Idealist, a Pantheist, a Platonist, a Cartesian, an Eclectic
(that is, a sort of _juste-milieu_), a Monarchist, an Aristocrat,
a Constitutionalist, a follower of Babeuf, and a Communist. I
have wandered through a whole encyclopaedia of systems. Do you
think it surprising, sir, that, among them all, I was for a short
time a Fourierist?

[1] The Arians deny the divinity of Christ. The Semi-Arians
differ from the Arians only by a few subtle distinctions. M.
Pierre Leroux, who regards Jesus as a man, but claims that the
Spirit of God was infused into him, is a true Semi-Arian.

The Manicheans admit two co-existent and eternal principles,--God
and matter, spirit and flesh, light and darkness, good and evil;
but, unlike the Phalansterians, who pretend to reconcile the two,
the Manicheans make war upon matter, and labor with all their
might for the destruction of the flesh, by condemning marriage
and forbidding reproduction,--which does not prevent them,
however, from indulging in all the carnal pleasures which the
intensest lust can conceive of. In this last particular, the
tendency of the Fourieristic morality is quite Manichean.

The Gnostics do not differ from the early Christians. As their
name indicates, they regarded themselves as inspired. Fourier,
who held peculiar ideas concerning the visions of somnambulists,
and who believed in the possibility of developing the magnetic
power to such an extent as to enable us to commune with invisible
beings, might, if he were living, pass also for a Gnostic.

The Adamites attend mass entirely naked, from motives of
chastity. Jean Jacques Rousseau, who took the sleep of the
senses for chastity, and who saw in modesty only a refinement of
pleasure, inclined towards Adamism. I know such a sect, whose
members usually celebrate their mysteries in the costume of Venus
coming from the bath.

The Pre-Adamites believe that men existed before the first man.
I once met a Pre-Adamite. True, he was deaf and a Fourierist.

The Pelagians deny grace, and attribute all the merit of good
works to liberty. The Fourierists, who teach that man's nature
and passions are good, are reversed Pelagians; they give all to
grace, and nothing to liberty.

The Socinians, deists in all other respects, admit an original
revelation. Many people are Socinians to-day, who do not suspect
it, and who regard their opinions as new.

The Neo-Christians are those simpletons who admire Christianity
because it has produced bells and cathedrals. Base in soul,
corrupt in heart, dissolute in mind and senses, the Neo-
Christians seek especially after the external form, and admire
religion, as they love women, for its physical beauty. They
believe in a coming revelation, as well as a transfiguration of
Catholicism. They will sing masses at the grand spectacle in the

For my part, I am not at all surprised, although at present
I have no recollection of it. One thing is sure,--that my
superstition and credulity reached their height at the very
period of my life which my critics reproachfully assign as the
date of my Fourieristic beliefs. Now I hold quite other views.
My mind no longer admits that which is demonstrated by
syllogisms, analogies, or metaphors, which are the methods of the
phalanstery, but demands a process of generalization and
induction which excludes error. Of my past OPINIONSS I retain
absolutely none. I have acquired some KNOWLEDGE. I no longer
BELIEVE. I either KNOW, or am IGNORANT. In a word, in seeking
for the reason of things, I saw that I was a RATIONALIST.

Undoubtedly, it would have been simpler to begin where I have
ended. But then, if such is the law of the human mind; if all
society, for six thousand years, has done nothing but fall into
error; if all mankind are still buried in the darkness of faith,
deceived by their prejudices and passions, guided only by the
instinct of their leaders; if my accusers, themselves, are not
free from sectarianism (for they call themselves
FOURIERISTS),--am I alone inexcusable for having, in my inner
self, at the secret tribunal of my conscience, begun anew the
journey of our poor humanity?

I would by no means, then, deny my errors; but, sir, that which
distinguishes me from those who rush into print is the fact that,
though my thoughts have varied much, my writings do not vary.
To-day, even, and on a multitude of questions, I am beset by a
thousand extravagant and contradictory opinions; but my opinions
I do not print, for the public has nothing to do with them.
Before addressing my fellow-men, I wait until light breaks in
upon the chaos of my ideas, in order that what I may say may be,
not the whole truth (no man can know that), but nothing but the

This singular disposition of my mind to first identify itself
with a system in order to better understand it, and then to
reflect upon it in order to test its legitimacy, is the very
thing which disgusted me with Fourier, and ruined in my esteem
the societary school. To be a faithful Fourierist, in fact, one
must abandon his reason and accept every thing from a master,--
doctrine, interpretation, and application. M. Considerant, whose
excessive intolerance anathematizes all who do not abide by his
sovereign decisions, has no other conception of Fourierism. Has
he not been appointed Fourier's vicar on earth and pope of a
Church which, unfortunately for its apostles, will never be of
this world? Passive belief is the theological virtue of all
sectarians, especially of the Fourierists.

Now, this is what happened to me. While trying to demonstrate by
argument the religion of which I had become a follower in
studying Fourier, I suddenly perceived that by reasoning I was
becoming incredulous; that on each article of the creed my reason
and my faith were at variance, and that my six weeks' labor was
wholly lost. I saw that the Fourierists--in spite of their
inexhaustible gabble, and their extravagant pretension to decide
in all things--were neither savants, nor logicians, nor even
believers; that they were SCIENTIFIC QUACKS, who were led more
by their self-love than their conscience to labor for the triumph
of their sect, and to whom all means were good that would reach
that end. I then understood why to the Epicureans they promised
women, wine, music, and a sea of luxury; to the rigorists,
maintenance of marriage, purity of morals, and temperance; to
laborers, high wages; to proprietors, large incomes; to
philosophers, solutions the secret of which Fourier alone
possessed; to priests, a costly religion and magnificent
festivals; to savants, knowledge of an unimaginable
nature; to each, indeed, that which he most desired. In the
beginning, this seemed to me droll; in the end, I regarded it as
the height of impudence. No, sir; no one yet knows of the
foolishness and infamy which the phalansterian system contains.
That is a subject which I mean to treat as soon as I have
balanced my accounts with property.[1]

[1] It should be understood that the above refers only to the
moral and political doctrines of Fourier,--doctrines which, like
all philosophical and religious systems, have their root and
_raison d'existence_ in society itself, and for this reason
deserve to be examined. The peculiar speculations of Fourier and
his sect concerning cosmogony, geology, natural history,
physiology, and psychology, I leave to the attention of those who
would think it their duty to seriously refute the fables of Blue
Beard and the Ass's Skin.

It is rumored that the Fourierists think of leaving France and
going to the new world to found a phalanstery. When a house
threatens to fall, the rats scamper away; that is because they
are rats. Men do better; they rebuild it. Not long since, the
St. Simonians, despairing of their country which paid no heed to
them, proudly shook the dust from their feet, and started for the
Orient to fight the battle of free woman. Pride, wilfulness, mad
selfishness! True charity, like true faith, does not worry,
never despairs; it seeks neither its own glory, nor its interest,
nor empire; it does every thing for all, speaks with indulgence
to the reason and the will, and desires to conquer only by
persuasion and sacrifice. Remain in France, Fourierists, if the
progress of humanity is the only thing which you have at heart!
There is more to do here than in the new world. Otherwise, go!
you are nothing but liars and hypocrites!

The foregoing statement by no means embraces all the political
elements, all the opinions and tendencies, which threaten the
future of property; but it ought to satisfy any
one who knows how to classify facts, and to deduce their law
or the idea which governs them. Existing society seems abandoned
to the demon of falsehood and discord; and it is this sad sight
which grieves so deeply many distinguished minds who lived too
long in a former age to be able to understand ours. Now, while
the short-sighted spectator begins to despair of humanity, and,
distracted and cursing that of which he is ignorant, plunges into
scepticism and fatalism, the true observer, certain of the spirit
which governs the world, seeks to comprehend and fathom
Providence. The memoir on "Property," published last year by the
pensioner of the Academy of Besancon, is simply a study of this

The time has come for me to relate the history of this unlucky
treatise, which has already caused me so much chagrin, and made
me so unpopular; but which was on my part so involuntary and
unpremeditated, that I would dare to affirm that there is not an
economist, not a philosopher, not a jurist, who is not a hundred
times guiltier than I. There is something so singular in the way
in which I was led to attack property, that if, on hearing my sad
story, you persist, sir, in your blame, I hope at least you will
be forced to pity me.

I never have pretended to be a great politician; far from that, I
always have felt for controversies of a political nature the
greatest aversion; and if, in my "Essay on Property," I have
sometimes ridiculed our politicians, believe, sir, that I was
governed much less by my pride in the little that I know, than by
my vivid consciousness of their ignorance and excessive vanity.
Relying more on Providence than on men; not suspecting at first
that politics, like every other science, contained an absolute
truth; agreeing equally well with Bossuet and Jean Jacques,--I
accepted with resignation my share of human misery, and contented
myself with praying to God for good deputies, upright
ministers, and an honest king. By taste as well as by discretion
and lack of confidence in my powers, I was slowly pursuing some
commonplace studies in philology, mingled with a little
metaphysics, when I suddenly fell upon the greatest problem that
ever has occupied philosophical minds: I mean the criterion of

Those of my readers who are unacquainted with the philosophical
terminology will be glad to be told in a few words what this
criterion is, which plays so great a part in my work.

The criterion of certainty, according to the philosophers, will
be, when discovered, an infallible method of establishing the
truth of an opinion, a judgment, a theory, or a system, in nearly
the same way as gold is recognized by the touchstone, as iron
approaches the magnet, or, better still, as we verify a
mathematical operation by applying the PROOF. TIME has
hitherto served as a sort of criterion for society. Thus, the
primitive men--having observed that they were not all equal in
strength, beauty, and labor--judged, and rightly, that certain
ones among them were called by nature to the performance of
simple and common functions; but they concluded, and this is
where their error lay, that these same individuals of duller
intellect, more restricted genius, and weaker personality, were
predestined to SERVE the others; that is, to labor while the
latter rested, and to have no other will than theirs: and from
this idea of a natural subordination among men sprang
domesticity, which, voluntarily accepted at first, was
imperceptibly converted into horrible slavery. Time, making this
error more palpable, has brought about justice. Nations have
learned at their own cost that the subjection of man to man is a
false idea, an erroneous theory, pernicious alike to master and
to slave. And yet such a social system has stood several
thousand years, and has been defended by celebrated philosophers;
even to-day, under somewhat mitigated forms, sophists of every
description uphold and extol it. But experience is bringing it
to an end.

Time, then, is the criterion of societies; thus looked at,
history is the demonstration of the errors of humanity by the
argument _reductio ad absurdum_.

Now, the criterion sought for by metaphysicians would have the
advantage of discriminating at once between the true and the
false in every opinion; so that in politics, religion, and
morals, for example, the true and the useful being immediately
recognized, we should no longer need to await the sorrowful
experience of time. Evidently such a secret would be death to
the sophists,--that cursed brood, who, under different names,
excite the curiosity of nations, and, owing to the difficulty of
separating the truth from the error in their artistically woven
theories, lead them into fatal ventures, disturb their peace, and
fill them with such extraordinary prejudice.

Up to this day, the criterion of certainty remains a mystery;
this is owing to the multitude of criteria that have been
successively proposed. Some have taken for an absolute and
definite criterion the testimony of the senses; others
intuition; these evidence; those argument. M. Lamennais affirms
that there is no other criterion than universal reason. Before
him, M. de Bonald thought he had discovered it in language.
Quite recently, M. Buchez has proposed morality; and, to
harmonize them all, the eclectics have said that it was absurd to
seek for an absolute criterion, since there were as many
criteria as special orders of knowledge.

Of all these hypotheses it may be observed, That the testimony of
the senses is not a criterion, because the senses, relating us
only to phenomena, furnish us with no ideas; that intuition
needs external confirmation or objective certainty; that evidence
requires proof, and argument verification; that universal reason
has been wrong many a time; that language serves equally well to
express the true or the false; that morality, like all the rest,
needs demonstration and rule; and finally, that the eclectic idea
is the least reasonable of all, since it is of no use to say that
there are several criteria if we cannot point out one. I very
much fear that it will be with the criterion as with the
philosopher's stone; that it will finally be abandoned, not only
as insolvable, but as chimerical. Consequently, I entertain no
hopes of having found it; nevertheless, I am not sure that some
one more skilful will not discover it.

Be it as it may with regard to a criterion or criteria, there
are methods of demonstration which, when applied to certain
subjects, may lead to the discovery of unknown truths, bring to
light relations hitherto unsuspected, and lift a paradox to the
highest degree of certainty. In such a case, it is not by its
novelty, nor even by its content, that a system should be judged,
but by its method. The critic, then, should follow the example
of the Supreme Court, which, in the cases which come before it,
never examines the facts, but only the form of procedure. Now,
what is the form of procedure? A method.

I then looked to see what philosophy, in the absence of a
criterion, had accomplished by the aid of special methods, and
I must say that I could not discover--in spite of the loudly-
proclaimed pretensions of some--that it had produced any thing of
real value; and, at last, wearied with the philosophical twaddle,
I resolved to make a new search for the criterion. I confess
it, to my shame, this folly lasted for two years, and I am not
yet entirely rid of it. It was like seeking a needle in a
haystack. I might have learned Chinese or Arabic in the
time that I have lost in considering and reconsidering
syllogisms, in rising to the summit of an induction as to the top
of a ladder, in inserting a proposition between the horns of a
dilemma, in decomposing, distinguishing, separating, denying,
affirming, admitting, as if I could pass abstractions through a

I selected justice as the subject-matter of my experiments.
Finally, after a thousand decompositions, recompositions, and
double compositions, I found at the bottom of my analytical
crucible, not the criterion of certainty, but a metaphysico-
economico-political treatise, whose conclusions were such that I
did not care to present them in a more artistic or, if you will,
more intelligible form. The effect which this work produced upon
all classes of minds gave me an idea of the spirit of our age,
and did not cause me to regret the prudent and scientific
obscurity of my style. How happens it that to-day I am obliged
to defend my intentions, when my conduct bears the evident
impress of such lofty morality?

You have read my work, sir, and you know the gist of my tedious
and scholastic lucubrations. Considering the revolutions of
humanity, the vicissitudes of empires, the transformations of
property, and the innumerable forms of justice and of right, I
asked, "Are the evils which afflict us inherent in our condition
as men, or do they arise only from an error? This inequality of
fortunes which all admit to be the cause of society's
embarrassments, is it, as some assert, the effect of Nature; or,
in the division of the products of labor and the soil, may there
not have been some error in calculation? Does each laborer
receive all that is due him, and only that which is due him? In
short, in the present conditions of labor, wages, and exchange,
is no one wronged?--are the accounts well kept?--is the social
balance accurate?"

Then I commenced a most laborious investigation. It was
necessary to arrange informal notes, to discuss contradictory
titles, to reply to captious allegations, to refute absurd
pretensions, and to describe fictitious debts, dishonest
transactions, and fraudulent accounts. In order to triumph over
quibblers, I had to deny the authority of custom, to examine the
arguments of legislators, and to oppose science with science
itself. Finally, all these operations completed, I had to give a
judicial decision.

I therefore declared, my hand upon my heart, before God and men,
that the causes of social inequality are three in number: 1.

And since this threefold method of extortion is the very essence
of the domain of property, I denied the legitimacy of property,
and proclaimed its identity with robbery.

That is my only offence. I have reasoned upon property; I have
searched for the criterion of justice; I have demonstrated, not
the possibility, but the necessity, of equality of fortunes; I
have allowed myself no attack upon persons, no assault upon the
government, of which I, more than any one else, am a provisional
adherent. If I have sometimes used the word PROPRIETOR, I have
used it as the abstract name of a metaphysical being, whose
reality breathes in every individual,--not alone in a privileged

Nevertheless, I acknowledge--for I wish my confession to be
sincere--that the general tone of my book has been bitterly
censured. They complain of an atmosphere of passion and
invective unworthy of an honest man, and quite out of place in
the treatment of so grave a subject.

If this reproach is well founded (which it is impossible for me
either to deny or admit, because in my own cause I cannot be
judge),--if, I say, I deserve this charge, I can only humble
myself and acknowledge myself guilty of an involuntary wrong; the
only excuse that I could offer being of such a nature that it
ought not to be communicated to the public. All that I can say
is, that I understand better than any one how the anger which
injustice causes may render an author harsh and violent in his
criticisms. When, after twenty years of labor, a man still finds
himself on the brink of starvation, and then suddenly discovers
in an equivocation, an error in calculation, the cause of the
evil which torments him in common with so many millions of his
fellows, he can scarcely restrain a cry of sorrow and dismay.

But, sir, though pride be offended by my rudeness, it is not to
pride that I apologize, but to the proletaires, to the simple-
minded, whom I perhaps have scandalized. My angry dialectics may
have produced a bad effect on some peaceable minds. Some poor
workingman--more affected by my sarcasm than by the strength of
my arguments--may, perhaps, have concluded that property is the
result of a perpetual Machiavelianism on the part of the
governors against the governed,--a deplorable error of which my
book itself is the best refutation. I devoted two chapters to
showing how property springs from human personality and the
comparison of individuals. Then I explained its perpetual
limitation; and, following out the same idea, I predicted its
approaching disappearance. How, then, could the editors of the
"Revue Democratique," after having borrowed from me nearly the
whole substance of their economical articles, dare to say: "The
holders of the soil, and other productive capital, are more or
less wilful accomplices in a vast robbery, they being the
exclusive receivers and sharers of the stolen goods"?

The proprietors WILFULLY guilty of the crime of robbery!
Never did that homicidal phrase escape my pen; never did my
heart conceive the frightful thought. Thank Heaven! I know not
how to calumniate my kind; and I have too strong a desire to seek
for the reason of things to be willing to believe in criminal
conspiracies. The millionnaire is no more tainted by property
than the journeyman who works for thirty sous per day. On both
sides the error is equal, as well as the intention. The effect
is also the same, though positive in the former, and negative in
the latter. I accused property; I did not denounce the
proprietors, which would have been absurd: and I am sorry that
there are among us wills so perverse and minds so shattered that
they care for only so much of the truth as will aid them in their
evil designs. Such is the only regret which I feel on account of
my indignation, which, though expressed perhaps too bitterly, was
at least honest, and legitimate in its source.

However, what did I do in this essay which I voluntarily
submitted to the Academy of Moral Sciences? Seeking a fixed
axiom amid social uncertainties, I traced back to one fundamental
question all the secondary questions over which, at present, so
keen and diversified a conflict is raging This question was the
right of property. Then, comparing all existing theories with
each other, and extracting from them that which is common to them
all, I endeavored to discover that element in the idea of
property which is necessary, immutable, and absolute; and
asserted, after authentic verification, that this idea is
further, that this idea was the result of our revolutionary
movements,--the culminating point towards which all opinions,
gradually divesting themselves of their contradictory
elements, converge. And I tried to demonstrate this by the
spirit of the laws, by political economy, by psychology and

A Father of the Church, finishing a learned exposition of the
Catholic doctrine, cried, in the enthusiasm of his faith,
_"Domine, si error est, a te decepti sumus_ (if my religion is
false, God is to blame)." I, as well as this theologian, can
say, "If equality is a fable, God, through whom we act and think
and are; God, who governs society by eternal laws, who rewards
just nations, and punishes proprietors,--God alone is the author
of evil; God has lied. The fault lies not with me."

But, if I am mistaken in my inferences, I should be shown my
error, and led out of it. It is surely worth the trouble, and I
think I deserve this honor. There is no ground for proscription.

For, in the words of that member of the Convention who did not
like the guillotine, _to kill is not to reply_. Until then, I
persist in regarding my work as useful, social, full of
instruction for public officials,--worthy, in short, of reward
and encouragement.

For there is one truth of which I am profoundly convinced,--
nations live by absolute ideas, not by approximate and partial
conceptions; therefore, men are needed who define principles, or
at least test them in the fire of controversy. Such is the
law,--the idea first, the pure idea, the understanding of the
laws of God, the theory: practice follows with slow steps,
cautious, attentive to the succession of events; sure to seize,
towards this eternal meridian, the indications of supreme reason.

The co-operation of theory and practice produces in humanity the
realization of order,--the absolute truth.[1]

[1] A writer for the radical press, M. Louis Raybaud, said, in
the preface to his "Studies of Contemporary Reformers:" "Who
does not know that morality is relative? Aside from a few grand
sentiments which are strikingly instinctive, the measure of human
acts varies with nations and climates, and only civilization--the
progressive education of the race--can lead to a universal
morality. . . . The absolute escapes our contingent and finite
nature; the absolute is the secret of God." God keep from evil
M. Louis Raybaud! But I cannot help remarking that all political
apostates begin by the negation of the absolute, which is really
the negation of truth. What can a writer, who professes
scepticism, have in common with radical views? What has he to
say to his readers? What judgment is he entitled to pass upon
contemporary reformers? M. Raybaud thought it would seem wise to
repeat an old impertinence of the legist, and that may serve him
for an excuse. We all have these weaknesses. But I am surprised
that a man of so much intelligence as M. Raybaud, who STUDIES
SYSTEMS, fails to see the very thing he ought first to
recognize,--namely, that systems are the progress of the mind
towards the absolute.

All of us, as long as we live, are called, each in proportion to
his strength, to this sublime work. The only duty which it
imposes upon us is to refrain from appropriating the truth to
ourselves, either by concealing it, or by accommodating it to the
temper of the century, or by using it for our own interests.
This principle of conscience, so grand and so simple, has always
been present in my thought.

Consider, in fact, sir, that which I might have done, but did not
wish to do. I reason on the most honorable hypothesis. What
hindered me from concealing, for some years to come, the abstract
theory of the equality of fortunes, and, at the same time, from
criticising constitutions and codes; from showing the absolute
and the contingent, the immutable and the ephemeral, the eternal
and the transitory, in laws present and past; from constructing a
new system of legislation, and establishing on a solid foundation
this social edifice, ever destroyed and as often rebuilt? Might
I not, taking up the definitions of casuists, have clearly shown
the cause of their contradictions and uncertainties, and
supplied, at the same time, the inadequacies of their
conclusions? Might I not have confirmed this labor by a vast
historical exposition, in which the principle of exclusion, and
of the accumulation of property, the appropriation of collective
wealth, and the radical vice in exchanges, would have figured as
the constant causes of tyranny, war, and revolution?

"It should have been done," you say. Do not doubt, sir, that
such a task would have required more patience than genius. With
the principles of social economy which I have analyzed, I would
have had only to break the ground, and follow the furrow. The
critic of laws finds nothing more difficult than to determine
justice: the labor alone would have been longer. Oh, if I had
pursued this glittering prospect, and, like the man of the
burning bush, with inspired countenance and deep and solemn
voice, had presented myself some day with new tables, there would
have been found fools to admire, boobies to applaud, and cowards
to offer me the dictatorship; for, in the way of popular
infatuations, nothing is impossible.

But, sir, after this monument of insolence and pride, what should
I have deserved in your opinion, at the tribunal of God, and in
the judgment of free men? Death, sir, and eternal reprobation!

I therefore spoke the truth as soon as I saw it, waiting only
long enough to give it proper expression. I pointed out error in
order that each might reform himself, and render his labors more
useful. I announced the existence of a new political element, in
order that my associates in reform, developing it in concert,
might arrive more promptly at that unity of principles which
alone can assure to society a better day. I expected to receive,
if not for my book, at least for my commendable conduct, a small
republican ovation. And, behold! journalists denounce me,
academicians curse me, political adventurers (great God!)
think to make themselves tolerable by protesting that they are
not like me! I give the formula by which the whole social
edifice may be scientifically reconstructed, and the strongest
minds reproach me for being able only to destroy. The rest
despise me, because I am unknown. When the "Essay on Property"
fell into the reformatory camp, some asked: "Who has spoken? Is
it Arago? Is it Lamennais? Michel de Bourges or Garnier-Pages?"

And when they heard the name of a new man: "We do not know him,"
they would reply. Thus, the monopoly of thought, property in
reason, oppresses the proletariat as well as the _bourgeoisie_.
The worship of the infamous prevails even on the steps of the

But what am I saying? May evil befall me, if I blame the poor
creatures! Oh! let us not despise those generous souls, who in
the excitement of their patriotism are always prompt to identify
the voice of their chiefs with the truth. Let us encourage
rather their simple credulity, enlighten complacently and
tenderly their precious sincerity, and reserve our shafts for
those vain-glorious spirits who are always admiring their genius,
and, in different tongues, caressing the people in order to
govern them.

These considerations alone oblige me to reply to the strange and
superficial conclusions of the "Journal du Peuple" (issue of Oct.
11, 1840), on the question of property. I leave, therefore, the
journalist to address myself only to his readers. I hope that
the self-love of the writer will not be offended, if, in the
presence of the masses, I ignore an individual.

You say, proletaires of the "Peuple," "For the very reason that
men and things exist, there always will be men who will possess
things; nothing, therefore, can destroy property."

In speaking thus, you unconsciously argue exactly after the
manner of M. Cousin, who always reasons from _possession_ to
PROPERTY. This coincidence, however, does not surprise me. M.
Cousin is a philosopher of much mind, and you, proletaires, have
still more. Certainly it is honorable, even for a philosopher,
to be your companion in error.

Originally, the word PROPERTY was synonymous with PROPER or
INDIVIDUAL POSSESSION. It designated each individual's special
right to the use of a thing. But when this right of use, inert
(if I may say so) as it was with regard to the other
usufructuaries, became active and paramount,--that is, when the
usufructuary converted his right to personally use the thing into
the right to use it by his neighbor's labor,--then property
changed its nature, and its idea became complex. The legists
knew this very well, but instead of opposing, as they ought, this
accumulation of profits, they accepted and sanctioned the whole.
And as the right of farm-rent necessarily implies the right
of use,--in other words, as the right to cultivate land by the
labor of a slave supposes one's power to cultivate it himself,
according to the principle that the greater includes the less,--
the name property was reserved to designate this double right,
and that of possession was adopted to designate the right of use.

Whence property came to be called the perfect right, the right of
domain, the eminent right, the heroic or _quiritaire_ right,--in
Latin, _jus perfectum, jus optimum, jus quiritarium, jus
dominii_,--while possession became assimilated to farm-rent.

Now, that individual possession exists of right, or, better, from
natural necessity, all philosophers admit, and can easily e
demonstrated; but when, in imitation of M. Cousin, we assume it
to be the basis of the domain of property, we fall into the
sophism called _sophisma amphiboliae vel ambiguitatis_, which
consists in changing the meaning by a verbal equivocation.

People often think themselves very profound, because, by the aid
of expressions of extreme generality, they appear to rise to the
height of absolute ideas, and thus deceive inexperienced minds;
and, what is worse, this is commonly called EXAMINING
ABSTRACTIONS. But the abstraction formed by the comparison of
identical facts is one thing, while that which is deduced from
different acceptations of the same term is quite another. The
first gives the universal idea, the axiom, the law; the second
indicates the order of generation of ideas. All our errors arise
from the constant confusion of these two kinds of abstractions.
In this particular, languages and philosophies are alike
deficient. The less common an idiom is, and the more obscure its
terms, the more prolific is it as a source of error: a
philosopher is sophistical in proportion to his ignorance of any
method of neutralizing this imperfection in language. If the art
of correcting the errors of speech by scientific methods is ever
discovered, then philosophy will have found its criterion of

Now, then, the difference between property and possession being
well established, and it being settled that the former, for the
reasons which I have just given, must necessarily disappear, is
it best, for the slight advantage of restoring an etymology, to
retain the word PROPERTY? My opinion is that it would be very
unwise to do so, and I will tell why. I quote from the "Journal
du Peuple:"--

"To the legislative power belongs the right to regulate property,
to prescribe the conditions of acquiring, possessing, and
transmitting it. . . It cannot be denied that inheritance,
assessment, commerce, industry, labor, and wages require the most
important modifications."

You wish, proletaires, to REGULATE PROPERTY; that is, you wish
to destroy it and reduce it to the right of possession. For to
regulate property without the consent of the proprietors is
to deny the right OF DOMAIN; to associate employees with
proprietors is to destroy the EMINENT right; to suppress or
even reduce farm-rent, house-rent, revenue, and increase
generally, is to annihilate PERFECT property. Why, then, while
laboring with such laudable enthusiasm for the establishment of
equality, should you retain an expression whose equivocal meaning
will always be an obstacle in the way of your success?

There you have the first reason--a wholly philosophical one--for
rejecting not only the thing, but the name, property. Here now
is the political, the highest reason.

Every social revolution--M. Cousin will tell you--is effected
only by the realization of an idea, either political, moral, or
religious. When Alexander conquered Asia, his idea was to avenge
Greek liberty against the insults of Oriental despotism; when
Marius and Caesar overthrew the Roman patricians, their idea was
to give bread to the people; when Christianity revolutionized the
world, its idea was to emancipate mankind, and to substitute the
worship of one God for the deities of Epicurus and Homer; when
France rose in '89, her idea was liberty and equality before the
law. There has been no true revolution, says M. Cousin, with out
its idea; so that where an idea does not exist, or even fails of
a formal expression, revolution is impossible. There are mobs,
conspirators, rioters, regicides. There are no revolutionists.
Society, devoid of ideas, twists and tosses about, and dies in
the midst of its fruitless labor.

Nevertheless, you all feel that a revolution is to come, and that
you alone can accomplish it. What, then, is the idea which
governs you, proletaires of the nineteenth century?--for really I
cannot call you revolutionists. What do you think?--what do you
believe?--what do you want? Be guarded in your reply. I
have read faithfully your favorite journals, your most esteemed
authors. I find everywhere only vain and puerile _entites_;
nowhere do I discover an idea.

I will explain the meaning of this word _entite_,--new, without
doubt, to most of you.

By _entite_ is generally understood a substance which the
imagination grasps, but which is incognizable by the senses and
the reason. Thus the SOPORIFIC POWER of opium, of which
Sganarelle speaks, and the PECCANT HUMORS of ancient medicine,
are _entites_. The _entite_ is the support of those who do not
wish to confess their ignorance. It is incomprehensible; or, as
St. Paul says, the _argumentum non apparentium_. In philosophy,
the _entite_ is often only a repetition of words which add
nothing to the thought.

For example, when M. Pierre Leroux--who says so many excellent
things, but who is too fond, in my opinion, of his Platonic
formulas--assures us that the evils of humanity are due to our
IGNORANCE OF LIFE, M. Pierre Leroux utters an _entite;_ for it
is evident that if we are evil it is because we do not know how
to live; but the knowledge of this fact is of no value to us.

When M. Edgar Quinet declares that France suffers and declines
because there is an ANTAGONISM of men and of interests, he
declares an _entite;_ for the problem is to discover the cause of
this antagonism.

When M. Lamennais, in thunder tones, preaches self-sacrifice and
love, he proclaims two _entites_; for we need to know on what
conditions self-sacrifice and love can spring up and exist.

So also, proletaires, when you talk of LIBERTY, PROGRESS, and
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE PEOPLE, you make of these naturally
intelligible things so many _entites_ in space: for, on the one
hand, we need a new definition of liberty, since that of '89
no longer suffices; and, on the other, we must know in what
direction society should proceed in order to be in progress. As
for the sovereignty of the people, that is a grosser _entite_
than the sovereignty of reason; it is the _entite_ of _entites_.
In fact, since sovereignty can no more be conceived of outside of
the people than outside of reason, it remains to be ascertained
who, among the people, shall exercise the sovereignty; and, among
so many minds, which shall be the sovereigns. To say that the
people should elect their representatives is to say that the
people should recognize their sovereigns, which does not remove
the difficulty at all.

But suppose that, equal by birth, equal before the law, equal in
personality, equal in social functions, you wish also to be equal
in conditions.

Suppose that, perceiving all the mutual relations of men, whether
they produce or exchange or consume, to be relations of
commutative justice,--in a word, social relations; suppose, I
say, that, perceiving this, you wish to give this natural society
a legal existence, and to establish the fact by law,--

I say that then you need a clear, positive, and exact expression
of your whole idea,--that is, an expression which states at once
the principle, the means, and the end; and I add that that
expression is ASSOCIATION.

And since the association of the human race dates, at least
rightfully, from the beginning of the world, and has gradually
established and perfected itself by successively divesting itself
of its negative elements, slavery, nobility, despotism,
aristocracy, and feudalism,--I say that, to eliminate the last
negation of society, to formulate the last revolutionary idea,
you must change your old rallying-cries, NO MORE ABSOLUTISM,

But I know what astonishes you, poor souls, blasted by the wind
of poverty, and crushed by your patrons' pride: it is EQUALITY,
whose consequences frighten you. How, you have said in your
journal,--how can we "dream of a level which, being unnatural, is
therefore unjust? How shall we pay the day's labor of a Cormenin
or a Lamennais?"

Plebeians, listen! When, after the battle of Salamis, the
Athenians assembled to award the prizes for courage, after the
ballots had been collected, it was found that each combatant had
one vote for the first prize, and Themistocles all the votes for
the second. The people of Minerva were crowned by their own
hands. Truly heroic souls! all were worthy of the olive-branch,
since all had ventured to claim it for themselves. Antiquity
praised this sublime spirit. Learn, proletaires, to esteem
yourselves, and to respect your dignity. You wish to be free,
and you know not how to be citizens. Now, whoever says
"citizens" necessarily says equals.

If I should call myself Lamennais or Cormenin, and some journal,
speaking of me, should burst forth with these hyperboles,
CHARACTER, I should not like it, and should complain,--first,
because such eulogies are never deserved; and, second, because
they furnish a bad example. But I wish, in order to reconcile
you to equality, to measure for you the greatest literary
personage of our century. Do not accuse me of envy, proletaires,
if I, a defender of equality, estimate at their proper value
talents which are universally admired, and which I, better than
any one, know how to recognize. A dwarf can always measure a
giant: all that he needs is a yardstick.

You have seen the pretentious announcements of "L'Esquisse d'une
Philosophie," and you have admired the work on trust; for either
you have not read it, or, if you have, you are incapable of
judging it. Acquaint yourselves, then, with this speculation
more brilliant than sound; and, while admiring the enthusiasm of
the author, cease to pity those useful labors which only habit
and the great number of the persons engaged in them render
contemptible. I shall be brief; for, notwithstanding the
importance of the subject and the genius of the author, what I
have to say is of but little moment.

M. Lamennais starts with the existence of God. How does he
demonstrate it? By Cicero's argument,--that is, by the consent
of the human race. There is nothing new in that. We have still
to find out whether the belief of the human race is legitimate;
or, as Kant says, whether our subjective certainty of the
existence of God corresponds with the objective truth. This,
however, does not trouble M. Lamennais. He says that, if the
human race believes, it is because it has a reason for believing.

Then, having pronounced the name of God, M. Lamennais sings a
hymn; and that is his demonstration!

This first hypothesis admitted, M. Lamennais follows it with a
second; namely, that there are three persons in God. But, while
Christianity teaches the dogma of the Trinity only on the
authority of revelation, M. Lamennais pretends to arrive at it by
the sole force of argument; and he does not perceive that his
pretended demonstration is, from beginning to end,
anthropomorphism,--that is, an ascription of the faculties of the
human mind and the powers of nature to the Divine substance. New
songs, new hymns!

God and the Trinity thus DEMONSTRATED, the philosopher passes
to the creation,--a third hypothesis, in which M. Lamennais,
always eloquent, varied, and sublime, DEMONSTRATES that God
made the world neither of nothing, nor of something, nor of
himself; that he was free in creating, but that nevertheless he
could not but create; that there is in matter a matter which is
not matter; that the archetypal ideas of the world are separated
from each other, in the Divine mind, by a division which is
obscure and unintelligible, and yet substantial and real, which
involves intelligibility, &c. We meet with like contradictions
concerning the origin of evil. To explain this problem,--one of
the profoundest in philosophy,--M. Lamennais at one time denies
evil, at another makes God the author of evil, and at still
another seeks outside of God a first cause which is not God,--an
amalgam of _entites_ more or less incoherent, borrowed from
Plato, Proclus, Spinoza, I might say even from all philosophers.

Having thus established his trinity of hypotheses, M. Lamennais
deduces therefrom, by a badly connected chain of analogies, his
whole philosophy. And it is here especially that we notice the
syncretism which is peculiar to him. The theory of M. Lamennais
embraces all systems, and supports all opinions. Are you a
materialist? Suppress, as useless _entites_, the three persons
in God; then, starting directly from heat, light, and electro-
magnetism,--which, according to the author, are the three
original fluids, the three primary external manifestations of
Will, Intelligence, and Love,--you have a materialistic and
atheistic cosmogony. On the contrary, are you wedded to
spiritualism? With the theory of the immateriality of the body,
you are able to see everywhere nothing but spirits. Finally, if
you incline to pantheism, you will be satisfied by M. Lamennais,
who formally teaches that the world is not an EMANATION from
Divinity,--which is pure pantheism,--but a FLOW of Divinity.

I do not pretend, however, to deny that "L'Esquisse" contains
some excellent things; but, by the author's declaration, these
things are not original with him; it is the system which is his.
That is undoubtedly the reason why M. Lamennais speaks so
contemptuously of his predecessors in philosophy, and disdains to
quote his originals. He thinks that, since "L'Esquisse" contains
all true philosophy, the world will lose nothing when the names
and works of the old philosophers perish. M. Lamennais, who
renders glory to God in beautiful songs, does not know how as
well to render justice to his fellows. His fatal fault is this
appropriation of knowledge, which the theologians call the
which will not damn you, proletaires, nor me either.

In short, "L'Esquisse," judged as a system, and divested of all
which its author borrows from previous systems, is a commonplace
work, whose method consists in constantly explaining the known by
the unknown, and in giving entites for abstractions, and
tautologies for proofs. Its whole theodicy is a work not of
genius but of imagination, a patching up of neo-Platonic ideas.
The psychological portion amounts to nothing, M. Lamennais openly
ridiculing labors of this character, without which, however,
metaphysics is impossible. The book, which treats of logic and
its methods, is weak, vague, and shallow. Finally, we find in
the physical and physiological speculations which M. Lamennais
deduces from his trinitarian cosmogony grave errors, the
preconceived design of accommodating facts to theory, and the
substitution in almost every case of hypothesis for reality. The
third volume on industry and art is the most interesting to read,
and the best. It is true that M. Lamennais can boast of
nothing but his style. As a philosopher, he has added not a
single idea to those which existed before him.

Why, then, this excessive mediocrity of M. Lamennais considered
as a thinker, a mediocrity which disclosed itself at the time of
the publication of the "Essai sur l'Indifference!"? It is
because (remember this well, proletaires!) Nature makes no man
truly complete, and because the development of certain faculties
almost always excludes an equal development of the opposite
faculties; it is because M. Lamennais is preeminently a poet, a
man of feeling and sentiment. Look at his style,--exuberant,
sonorous, picturesque, vehement, full of exaggeration and
invective,--and hold it for certain that no man possessed of such
a style was ever a true metaphysician. This wealth of expression
and illustration, which everybody admires, becomes in M Lamennais
the incurable cause of his philosophical impotence. His flow of
language, and his sensitive nature misleading his imagination, he
thinks that he is reasoning when he is only repeating himself,
and readily takes a description for a logical deduction. Hence
his horror of positive ideas, his feeble powers of analysis, his
pronounced taste for indefinite analogies, verbal abstractions,
hypothetical generalities, in short, all sorts of entites.

Further, the entire life of M. Lamennais is conclusive proof of
his anti-philosophical genius. Devout even to mysticism, an
ardent ultramontane, an intolerant theocrat, he at first feels
the double influence of the religious reaction and the literary
theories which marked the beginning of this century, and falls
back to the middle ages and Gregory VII.; then, suddenly becoming
a progressive Christian and a democrat, he gradually leans
towards rationalism, and finally falls into deism. At present,
everybody waits at the trap-door. As for me, though I would not
swear to it, I am inclined to think that M. Lamennais,
already taken with scepticism, will die in a state of
indifference. He owes to individual reason and methodical doubt
this expiation of his early essays.

It has been pretended that M. Lamennais, preaching now a
theocracy, now universal democracy, has been always consistent;
that, under different names, he has sought invariably one and the
same thing,--unity. Pitiful excuse for an author surprised in
the very act of contradiction! What would be thought of a man
who, by turns a servant of despotism under Louis XVI, a
demagogue with Robespierre, a courtier of the Emperor, a bigot
during fifteen years of the Restoration, a conservative since
1830, should dare to say that he ever had wished for but one
thing,--public order? Would he be regarded as any the less a
renegade from all parties? Public order, unity, the world's
welfare, social harmony, the union of the nations,--concerning
each of these things there is no possible difference of opinion.
Everybody wishes them; the character of the publicist depends
only upon the means by which he proposes to arrive at them. But
why look to M. Lamennais for a steadfastness of opinion, which he
himself repudiates? Has he not said, "The mind has no law; that
which I believe to-day, I did not believe yesterday; I do not
know that I shall believe it to-morrow"?

No; there is no real superiority among men, since all talents and
capacities are combined never in one individual. This man has
the power of thought, that one imagination and style, still
another industrial and commercial capacity. By our very nature
and education, we possess only special aptitudes which are
limited and confined, and which become consequently more
necessary as they gain in depth and strength. Capacities are to
each other as functions and persons; who would dare to classify
them in ranks? The finest genius is, by the laws of his
existence and development, the most dependent upon the society
which creates him. Who would dare to make a god of the glorious

"It is not strength which makes the man," said a Hercules of the
market-place to the admiring crowd; "it is character." That man,
who had only his muscles, held force in contempt. The lesson is
a good one, proletaires; we should profit by it. It is not
talent (which is also a force), it is not knowledge, it is not
beauty which makes the man. It is heart, courage, will, virtue.
Now, if we are equal in that which makes us men, how can the
accidental distribution of secondary faculties detract from our

Remember that privilege is naturally and inevitably the lot of
the weak; and do not be misled by the fame which accompanies
certain talents whose greatest merit consists in their rarity,
and a long and toilsome apprenticeship. It is easier for M.
Lamennais to recite a philippic, or sing a humanitarian ode after
the Platonic fashion, than to discover a single useful truth; it
is easier for an economist to apply the laws of production and
distribution than to write ten lines in the style of M.
Lamennais; it is easier for both to speak than to act. You,
then, who put your hands to the work, who alone truly create, why
do you wish me to admit your inferiority? But, what am I saying?

Yes, you are inferior, for you lack virtue and will! Ready for
labor and for battle, you have, when liberty and equality are in
question, neither courage nor character!

In the preface to his pamphlet on "Le Pays et le Gouvernement,"
as well as in his defence before the jury, M. Lamennais frankly
declared himself an advocate of property. Out of regard for the
author and his misfortune, I shall abstain from characterizing
this declaration, and from examining these two sorrowful
performances. M. Lamennais seems to be only the tool of a quasi-
radical party, which flatters him in order to use him, without
respect for a glorious, but hence forth powerless, old age. What
means this profession of faith? From the first number of
"L'Avenir" to "L'Esquisse d'une Philosophie," M. Lamennais always
favors equality, association, and even a sort of vague and
indefinite communism. M. Lamennais, in recognizing the right of
property, gives the lie to his past career, and renounces his
most generous tendencies. Can it, then, be true that in this
man, who has been too roughly treated, but who is also too easily
flattered, strength of talent has already outlived strength of

It is said that M. Lamennais has rejected the offers of several
of his friends to try to procure for him a commutation of his
sentence. M. Lamennais prefers to serve out his time. May not
this affectation of a false stoicism come from the same source as
his recognition of the right of property? The Huron, when taken
prisoner, hurls insults and threats at his conqueror,--that is
the heroism of the savage; the martyr prays for his executioners,
and is willing to receive from them his life,--that is the
heroism of the Christian. Why has the apostle of love become an
apostle of anger and revenge? Has, then, the translator of
"L'Imitation" forgotten that he who offends charity cannot honor
virtue? Galileo, retracting on his knees before the tribunal of
the inquisition his heresy in regard to the movement of the
earth, and recovering at that price his liberty, seems to me a
hundred times grander than M. Lamennais. What! if we suffer for
truth and justice, must we, in retaliation, thrust our
persecutors outside the pale of human society; and, when
sentenced to an unjust punishment, must we decline exemption if
it is offered to us, because it pleases a few base
satellites to call it a pardon? Such is not the wisdom of
Christianity. But I forgot that in the presence of M. Lamennais
this name is no longer pronounced. May the prophet of "L'Avenir"
be soon restored to liberty and his friends; but, above all, may
he henceforth derive his inspiration only from his genius and his

O proletaires, proletaires! how long are you to be victimized by
this spirit of revenge and implacable hatred which your false
friends kindle, and which, perhaps, has done more harm to the
development of reformatory ideas than the corruption, ignorance,
and malice of the government? Believe me, at the present time
everybody is to blame. In fact, in intention, or in example, all
are found wanting; and you have no right to accuse any one. The
king himself (God forgive me! I do not like to justify a
king),--the king himself is, like his predecessors, only the
personification of an idea, and an idea, proletaires, which
possesses you yet. His greatest wrong consists in wishing for
its complete realization, while you wish it realized only
partially,--consequently, in being logical in his government;
while you, in your complaints, are not at all so. You clamor for
a second regicide. He that is without sin among you,--let him
cast at the prince of property the first stone!

How successful you would have been if, in order to influence men,
you had appealed to the self-love of men,--if, in order to alter
the constitution and the law, you had placed yourselves within
the constitution and the law! Fifty thousand laws, they say,
make up our political and civil codes. Of these fifty thousand
laws, twenty-five thousand are for you, twenty-five thousand
against you. Is it not clear that your duty is to oppose the
former to the latter, and thus, by the argument of contradiction,
drive privilege into its last ditch? This method of action
is henceforth the only useful one, being the only moral and
rational one.

For my part, if I had the ear of this nation, to which I am
attached by birth and predilection, with no intention of playing
the leading part in the future republic, I would instruct the
laboring masses to conquer property through institutions and
judicial pleadings; to seek auxiliaries and accomplices in the
highest ranks of society, and to ruin all privileged classes by
taking advantage of their common desire for power and popularity.

The petition for the electoral reform has already received two
hundred thousand signatures, and the illustrious Arago threatens
us with a million. Surely, that will be well done; but from this
million of citizens, who are as willing to vote for an emperor as
for equality, could we not select ten thousand signatures--I mean
bona fide signatures--whose authors can read, write, cipher,
and even think a little, and whom we could invite, after due
perusal and verbal explanation, to sign such a petition as the


"MONSIEUR LE MINISTRE,--On the day when a royal ordinance,
decreeing the establishment of model national workshops, shall
appear in the `Moniteur,' the undersigned, to the number of TEN
THOUSAND, will repair to the Palace of the Tuileries, and there,
with all the power of their lungs, will shout, `Long live Louis

"On the day when the `Moniteur' shall inform the public that this
petition is refused, the undersigned, to the number of TEN
THOUSAND, will say secretly in their hearts, `Down with Louis

If I am not mistaken, such a petition would have some effect.[1]
The pleasure of a popular ovation would be well worth the
sacrifice of a few millions. They sow so much to
reap unpopularity! Then, if the nation, its hopes of 1830
restored, should feel it its duty to keep its promise,--and it
would keep it, for the word of the nation is, like that of God,
sacred,--if, I say, the nation, reconciled by this act with the
public-spirited monarchy, should bear to the foot of the throne
its cheers and its vows, and should at that solemn moment choose
me to speak in its name, the following would be the substance of
my speech:--

[1] The electoral reform, it is continually asserted, is not an
END, but a MEANS. Undoubtedly; but what, then, is the end?
Why not furnish an unequivocal explanation of its object? How
can the people choose their representatives, unless they know in
advance the purpose for which they choose them, and the object of
the commission which they entrust to them?

But, it is said, the very business of those chosen by the people
is to find out the object of the reform.

That is a quibble. What is to hinder these persons, who are to
be elected in future, from first seeking for this object, and
then, when they have found it, from communicating it to the
people? The reformers have well said, that, while the object of
the electoral reform remains in the least indefinite, it will be
only a means of transferring power from the hands of petty
tyrants to the hands of other tyrants. We know already how a
nation may be oppressed by being led to believe that it is
obeying only its own laws. The history of universal suffrage,
among all nations, is the history of the restrictions of liberty
by and in the name of the multitude.

Still, if the electoral reform, in its present shape, were
rational, practical, acceptable to clean consciences and upright
minds, perhaps one might be excused, though ignorant of its
object, for supporting it. But, no; the text of the petition
determines nothing, makes no distinctions, requires no
conditions, no guarantee; it establishes the right without the
duty. "Every Frenchman is a voter, and eligible to office." As
well say: "Every bayonet is intelligent, every savage is
civilized, every slave is free." In its vague generality, the
reformatory petition is the weakest of abstractions, or the
highest form of political treason. Consequently, the enlightened
patriots distrust and despise each other. The most radical
writer of the time,--he whose economical and social theories are,
without comparison, the most advanced,--M. Leroux, has taken a
bold stand against universal suffrage and democratic government,
and has written an exceedingly keen criticism of J. J. Rousseau.
That is undoubtedly the reason why M. Leroux is no longer the
philosopher of "Le National." That journal, like Napoleon, does
not like men of ideas. Nevertheless, "Le National" ought to know
that he who fights against ideas will perish by ideas.

"SIRE,--This is what the nation wishes to say to your Majesty:--

"O King! you see what it costs to gain the applause of the
citizens. Would you like us henceforth to take for our motto:
`Let us help the King, the King will help us'? Do you wish the
people to cry: `THE KING AND THE FRENCH NATION'? Then abandon
these grasping bankers, these quarrelsome lawyers, these
miserable bourgeois, these infamous writers, these dishonored
men. All these, Sire, hate you, and continue to support you only
because they fear us. Finish the work of our kings; wipe out
aristocracy and privilege; consult with these faithful
proletaires, with the nation, which alone can honor a sovereign
and sincerely shout, `Long live the king!'"

The rest of what I have to say, sir, is for you alone; others
would not understand me. You are, I perceive, a republican as
well as an economist, and your patriotism revolts at the very
idea of addressing to the authorities a petition in which the
government of Louis Philippe should be tacitly recognized.
"National workshops! it were well to have such institutions
established," you think; "but patriotic hearts never will accept
them from an aristocratic ministry, nor by the courtesy of a
king." Already, undoubtedly, your old prejudices have returned,
and you now regard me only as a sophist, as ready to flatter the
powers that be as to dishonor, by pushing them to an extreme, the
principles of equality and universal fraternity.

What shall I say to you? . . . That I should so lightly
compromise the future of my theories, either this clever
sophistry which is attributed to me must be at bottom a very
trifling affair, or else my convictions must be so firm that they
deprive me of free-will.

But, not to insist further on the necessity of a compromise
between the executive power and the people, it seems to me, sir,
that, in doubting my patriotism, you reason very capriciously,
and that your judgments are exceedingly rash. You, sir,
ostensibly defending government and property, are allowed to
be a republican, reformer, phalansterian, any thing you wish; I,
on the contrary, demanding distinctly enough a slight reform in
public economy, am foreordained a conservative, and likewise a
friend of the dynasty. I cannot explain myself more clearly. So
firm a believer am I in the philosophy of accomplished facts and
the _statu quo_ of governmental forms that, instead of destroying
that which exists and beginning over again the past, I prefer to
render every thing legitimate by correcting it. It is true that
the corrections which I propose, though respecting the form, tend
to finally change the nature of the things corrected. Who denies
it? But it is precisely that which constitutes my system of
_statu quo_. I make no war upon symbols, figures, or phantoms.
I respect scarecrows, and bow before bugbears. I ask, on the one
hand, that property be left as it is, but that interest on all
kinds of capital be gradually lowered and finally abolished; on
the other hand, that the charter be maintained in its present
shape, but that method be introduced into administration and
politics. That is all. Nevertheless, submitting to all that is,
though not satisfied with it, I endeavor to conform to the
established order, and to render unto Caesar the things that are
Caesar's. Is it thought, for instance, that I love
property? . . . Very well; I am myself a proprietor and do
homage to the right of increase, as is proved by the fact that I
have creditors to whom I faithfully pay, every year, a large
amount of interest. The same with politics. Since we are a
monarchy, I would cry, "LONG LIVE THE KING," rather than suffer
death; which does not prevent me, however, from demanding that
the irremovable, inviolable, and hereditary representative of the
nation shall act with the proletaires against the privileged
classes; in a word, that the king shall become the leader of the
radical party. Thereby we proletaires would gain every
thing; and I am sure that, at this price, Louis Philippe might
secure to his family the perpetual presidency of the republic.
And this is why I think so.

If there existed in France but one great functional inequality,
the duty of the functionary being, from one end of the year to
the other, to hold full court of savants, artists, soldiers,
deputies, inspectors, &c., it is evident that the expenses of the
presidency then would be the national expenses; and that, through
the reversion of the civil list to the mass of consumers, the
great inequality of which I speak would form an exact equation
with the whole nation. Of this no economist needs a
demonstration. Consequently, there would be no more fear of
cliques, courtiers, and appanages, since no new inequality could
be established. The king, as king, would have friends (unheard-
of thing), but no family. His relatives or kinsmen,--_agnats et
cognats_,--if they were fools, would be nothing to him; and in no
case, with the exception of the heir apparent, would they have,
even in court, more privileges than others. No more nepotism, no
more favor, no more baseness. No one would go to court save when
duty required, or when called by an honorable distinction; and as
all conditions would be equal and all functions equally honored,
there would be no other emulation than that of merit and virtue.
I wish the king of the French could say without shame, "My
brother the gardener, my sister-in-law the milk-maid, my son the
prince-royal, and my son the blacksmith." His daughter might well
be an artist. That would be beautiful, sir; that would be royal;
no one but a buffoon could fail to understand it.

In this way, I have come to think that the forms of royalty may
be made to harmonize with the requirements of equality, and have
given a monarchical form to my republican spirit. I have
seen that France contains by no means as many democrats as is
generally supposed, and I have compromised with the monarchy. I
do not say, however, that, if France wanted a republic, I could
not accommodate myself equally well, and perhaps better. By
nature, I hate all signs of distinction, crosses of honor, gold
lace, liveries, costumes, honorary titles, &c., and, above all,
parades. If I had my way, no general should be distinguished
from a soldier, nor a peer of France from a peasant. Why have I
never taken part in a review? for I am happy to say, sir, that I
am a national guard; I have nothing else in the world but that.
Because the review is always held at a place which I do not like,
and because they have fools for officers whom I am compelled to
obey. You see,--and this is not the best of my history,--that,
in spite of my conservative opinions, my life is a perpetual
sacrifice to the republic.

Nevertheless, I doubt if such simplicity would be agreeable to
French vanity, to that inordinate love of distinction and
flattery which makes our nation the most frivolous in the world.
M. Lamartine, in his grand "Meditation on Bonaparte," calls the
French A NATION OF BRUTUSES. We are merely a nation of
Narcissuses. Previous to '89, we had the aristocracy of blood;
then every bourgeois looked down upon the commonalty, and
wished to be a nobleman. Afterwards, distinction was based on
wealth, and the bourgeoisie jealous of the nobility, and proud
of their money, used 1830 to promote, not liberty by any means,
but the aristocracy of wealth. When, through the force of
events, and the natural laws of society, for the development of
which France offers such free play, equality shall be established
in functions and fortunes, then the beaux and the belles, the
savants and the artists, will form new classes. There is a
universal and innate desire in this Gallic country for fame
and glory. We must have distinctions, be they what they may,--
nobility, wealth, talent, beauty, or dress. I suspect MM. Arage
and Garnier-Pages of having aristocratic manners, and I picture
to myself our great journalists, in their columns so friendly to
the people, administering rough kicks to the compositors in their
printing offices.

"This man," once said "Le National" in speaking of Carrel, "whom
we had proclaimed FIRST CONSUL! . . . Is it not true that the
monarchical principle still lives in the hearts of our democrats,
and that they want universal suffrage in order to make themselves
kings? Since "Le National" prides itself on holding more fixed
opinions than "Le Journal des Debats," I presume that, Armand
Carrel being dead, M. Armand Marrast is now first consul, and M.
Garnier-Pages second consul. In every thing the deputy must give
way to the journalist. I do not speak of M. Arago, whom I
believe to be, in spite of calumny, too learned for the
consulship. Be it so. Though we have consuls, our position is
not much altered. I am ready to yield my share of sovereignty to
MM. Armand Marrast and Garnier-Pages, the appointed consuls,
provided they will swear on entering upon the duties of their
office, to abolish property and not be haughty.

Forever promises! Forever oaths! Why should the people trust in
tribunes, when kings perjure themselves? Alas! truth and honesty
are no longer, as in the days of King John, in the mouth of
princes. A whole senate has been convicted of felony, and, the
interest of the governors always being, for some mysterious
reason, opposed to the interest of the governed, parliaments
follow each other while the nation dies of hunger. No, no! No
more protectors, no more emperors, no more consuls. Better
manage our affairs ourselves than through agents. Better
associate our industries than beg from monopolies; and, since the
republic cannot dispense with virtues, we should labor for our

This, therefore, is my line of conduct. I preach emancipation to
the proletaires; association to the laborers; equality to the
wealthy. I push forward the revolution by all means in my
power,--the tongue, the pen, the press, by action, and example.
My life is a continual apostleship.

Yes, I am a reformer; I say it as I think it, in good faith, and
that I may be no longer reproached for my vanity. I wish to
convert the world. Very likely this fancy springs from an
enthusiastic pride which may have turned to delirium; but it will
be admitted at least that I have plenty of company, and that my
madness is not monomania. At the present day, everybody wishes
to be reckoned among the lunatics of Beranger. To say nothing of
the Babeufs, the Marats, and the Robespierres, who swarm in our
streets and workshops, all the great reformers of antiquity live
again in the most illustrious personages of our time. One is
Jesus Christ, another Moses, a third Mahomet; this is Orpheus,
that Plato, or Pythagoras. Gregory VII., himself, has risen from
the grave together with the evangelists and the apostles; and it
may turn out that even I am that slave who, having escaped from
his master's house, was forthwith made a bishop and a reformer by
St. Paul. As for the virgins and holy women, they are expected
daily; at present, we have only Aspasias and courtesans.

Now, as in all diseases, the diagnostic varies according to the
temperament, so my madness has its peculiar aspects and
distinguishing characteristic.

Reformers, as a general thing, are jealous of their role; they
suffer no rivals, they want no partners; they have
disciples, but no co-laborers. It is my desire, on the
contrary, to communicate my enthusiasm, and to make it, as far as
I can, epidemic. I wish that all were, like myself, reformers,
in order that there might be no more sects; and that Christs,
Anti-Christs, and false Christs might be forced to understand and
agree with each other.

Again, every reformer is a magician, or at least desires to
become one. Thus Moses, Jesus Christ, and the apostles, proved
their mission by miracles. Mahomet ridiculed miracles after
having endeavored to perform them. Fourier, more cunning,
promises us wonders when the globe shall be covered with
phalansteries. For myself, I have as great a horror of miracles
as of authorities, and aim only at logic. That is why I
continually search after the criterion of certainty. I work
for the reformation of ideas. Little matters it that they find
me dry and austere. I mean to conquer by a bold struggle, or die
in the attempt; and whoever shall come to the defence of
property, I swear that I will force him to argue like M.
Considerant, or philosophize like M. Troplong.

Finally,--and it is here that I differ most from my compeers,--I
do not believe it necessary, in order to reach equality, to turn
every thing topsy-turvy. To maintain that nothing but an
overturn can lead to reform is, in my judgment, to construct a
syllogism, and to look for the truth in the regions of the
unknown. Now, I am for generalization, induction, and progress.
I regard general disappropriation as impossible: attacked from
that point, the problem of universal association seems to me
insolvable. Property is like the dragon which Hercules killed:
to destroy it, it must be taken, not by the head, but by the
tail,--that is, by profit and interest.

I stop. I have said enough to satisfy any one who can read
and understand. The surest way by which the government can
baffle intrigues and break up parties is to take possession of
science, and point out to the nation, at an already appreciable
distance, the rising oriflamme of equality; to say to those
politicians of the tribune and the press, for whose fruitless
quarrels we pay so dearly, "You are rushing forward, blind as you
are, to the abolition of property; but the government marches
with its eyes open. You hasten the future by unprincipled and
insincere controversy; but the government, which knows this
future, leads you thither by a happy and peaceful transition.
The present generation will not pass away before France, the
guide and model of civilized nations, has regained her rank and
legitimate influence."

But, alas! the government itself,--who shall enlighten it? Who
can induce it to accept this doctrine of equality, whose terrible
but decisive formula the most generous minds hardly dare to
acknowledge? . . . I feel my whole being tremble when I think
that the testimony of three men--yes, of three men who make it
their business to teach and define--would suffice to give full
play to public opinion, to change beliefs, and to fix destinies.
Will not the three men be found? . . .

May we hope, or not? What must we think of those who govern us?
In the world of sorrow in which the proletaire moves, and where
nothing is known of the intentions of power, it must be said that
despair prevails. But you, sir,--you, who by function belong to
the official world; you, in whom the people recognize one of
their noblest friends, and property its most prudent adversary,--
what say you of our deputies, our ministers, our king? Do you
believe that the authorities are friendly to us? Then let the
government declare its position; let it print its profession of
faith in equality, and I am dumb. Otherwise, I shall continue
the war; and the more obstinacy and malice is shown, the
oftener will I redouble my energy and audacity. I have said
before, and I repeat it,--I have sworn, not on the dagger and the
death's-head, amid the horrors of a catacomb, and in the presence
of men besmeared with blood; but I have sworn on my conscience to
pursue property, to grant it neither peace nor truce, until I see
it everywhere execrated. I have not yet published half the
things that I have to say concerning the right of domain, nor the
best things. Let the knights of property, if there are any who
fight otherwise than by retreating, be prepared every day for a
new demonstration and accusation; let them enter the arena armed
with reason and knowledge, not wrapped up in sophisms, for
justice will be done.

"To become enlightened, we must have liberty. That alone
suffices; but it must be the liberty to use the reason in regard
to all public matters.

"And yet we hear on every hand authorities of all kinds and
degrees crying: `Do not reason!'

"If a distinction is wanted, here is one:--

"The PUBLIC use of the reason always should be free, but the
PRIVATE use ought always to be rigidly restricted. By public
use, I mean the scientific, literary use; by private, that which
may be taken advantage of by civil officials and public
functionaries. Since the governmental machinery must be kept in
motion, in order to preserve unity and attain our object, we must
not reason; we must obey. But the same individual who is bound,
from this point of view, to passive obedience, has the right to
speak in his capacity of citizen and scholar. He can make an
appeal to the public, submit to it his observations on events
which occur around him and in the ranks above him, taking care,
however, to avoid offences which are punishable.

"Reason, then, as much as you like; only, obey."--Kant:
Fragment on the Liberty of Thought and of the Press. Tissot's

These words of the great philosopher outline for me my duty. I
have delayed the reprint of the work entitled "What is
Property?" in order that I might lift the discussion to the
philosophical height from which ridiculous clamor has dragged it
down; and that, by a new presentation of the question, I might
dissipate the fears of good citizens. I now reenter upon the
public use of my reason, and give truth full swing. The second
edition of the First Memoir on Property will immediately follow
the publication of this letter. Before issuing any thing
further, I shall await the observations of my critics, and the
co-operation of the friends of the people and of equality.

Hitherto, I have spoken in my own name, and on my own personal
responsibility. It was my duty. I was endeavoring to call
attention to principles which antiquity could not discover,
because it knew nothing of the science which reveals them,--
political economy. I have, then, testified as to FACTS; in
short, I have been a WITNESS. Now my role changes. It
remains for me to deduce the practical consequences of the facts
proclaimed. The position of PUBLIC PROSECUTOR is the only one
which I am henceforth fitted to fill, and I shall sum up the case
in the name of the PEOPLE.

I am, sir, with all the consideration that I owe to your talent
and your character,

Your very humble and most obedient servant,
Pensioner of the Academy of Besancon.

P.S. During the session of April 2, the Chamber of Deputies
rejected, by a very large majority, the literary-property bill,
BECAUSE IT DID NOT UNDERSTAND IT. Nevertheless, literary
property is only a special form of the right of property,
which everybody claims to understand. Let us hope that this
legislative precedent will not be fruitless for the cause of
equality. The consequence of the vote of the Chamber is the
abolition of capitalistic property,--property incomprehensible,
contradictory, impossible, and absurd.

Book of the day: