What is Property? Proudhon 1840
Property is impossible; equality does not exist. We hate the former, and yet wish to possess it; the latter rules all our thoughts, yet we know not how to reach it. Who will explain this profound antagonism between our conscience and our will? Who will point out the causes of this pernicious error, which has become the most sacred principle of justice and society?
I am bold enough to undertake the task, and I hope to succeed.
But before explaining why man has violated justice, it is necessary to determine what justice is.
The philosophers have endeavored often to locate the line which separates man’s intelligence from that of the brutes; and, according to their general custom, they gave utterance to much foolishness before resolving upon the only course possible for them to take, — observation. It was reserved for an unpretending savant — who perhaps did not pride himself on his philosophy — to put an end to the interminable controversy by a simple distinction; but one of those luminous distinctions which are worth more than systems. Frederic Cuvier separated instinct from intelligence.
But, as yet, no one has proposed this question: —
Is the difference between man’s moral sense and that of the brute a difference in kind or only in degree?
If, hitherto, any one had dared to maintain the latter alternative, his arguments would have seemed scandalous, blasphemous, and offensive to morality and religion. The ecclesiastical and secular tribunals would have condemned him with one voice. And, mark the style in which they would have branded the immoral paradox! “Conscience,” — they would have cried, — “conscience, man’s chief glory, was given to him exclusively; the notion of justice and injustice, of merit and demerit, is his noble privilege; to man, alone, — the lord of creation, — belongs the sublime power to resist his worldly propensities, to choose between good and evil, and to bring himself more and more into the resemblance of God through liberty and justice. . . . No; the holy image of virtue was never graven save on the heart of man.” Words full of feeling, but void of sense.
Man is a rational and social animal — zwon logikon kai politikon — said Aristotle. This definition is worth more than all which have been given since. I do not except even M. de Bonald’s celebrated definition, — man is an intellect served by organs — a definition which has the double fault of explaining the known by the unknown; that is, the living being by the intellect; and of neglecting man’s essential quality, — animality.
Man, then, is an animal living in society. Society means the sum total of relationships; in short, system. Now, all systems exist only on certain conditions. What, then, are the conditions, the laws, of human society?
What are the rights of men with respect to each other; what is justice?
It amounts to nothing to say, — with the philosophers of various schools, — “It is a divine instinct, an immortal and heavenly voice, a guide given us by Nature, a light revealed unto every man on coming into the world, a law engraved upon our hearts; it is the voice of conscience, the dictum of reason, the inspiration of sentiment, the penchant of feeling; it is the love of self in others; it is enlightened self-interest; or else it is an innate idea, the imperative command of applied reason, which has its source in the concepts of pure reason; it is a passional attraction,” &c., &c. This may be as true as it seems beautiful; but it is utterly meaningless. Though we should prolong this litany through ten pages (it has been filtered through a thousand volumes), we should be no nearer to the solution of the question.
“Justice is public utility,” says Aristotle. That is true, but it is a tautology. “The principle that the public welfare ought to be the object of the legislator” — says M. Ch. Comte in his “Treatise on Legislation” — “cannot be overthrown. But legislation is advanced no farther by its announcement and demonstration, than is medicine when it is said that it is the business of physicians to cure the sick.”
Let us take another course. Right is the sum total of the principles which govern society. Justice, in man, is the respect and observation of those principles. To practise justice is to obey the social instinct; to do an act of justice is to do a social act. If, then, we watch the conduct of men towards each other under different circumstances, it will be easy for us to distinguish between the presence and absence of society; from the result we may inductively infer the law.
Let us commence with the simplest and least doubtful cases.
The mother, who protects her son at the peril of her life, and sacrifices every thing to his support, is in society with him — she is a good mother. She, on the contrary, who abandons her child, is unfaithful to the social instinct, — maternal love being one of its many features; she is an unnatural mother.
If I plunge into the water to rescue a drowning man, I am his brother, his associate; if, instead of aiding him, I sink him, I am his enemy, his murderer.
Whoever bestows alms treats the poor man as his associate; not thoroughly, it is true, but only in respect to the amount which he shares with him. Whoever takes by force or stratagem that which is not the product of his labor, destroys his social character — he is a brigand.
The Samaritan who relieves the traveller lying by the wayside, dresses his wounds, comforts him, and supplies him with money, thereby declares himself his associate — his neighbor; the priest, who passes by on the other side, remains unassociated, and is his enemy.
In all these cases, man is moved by an internal attraction towards his fellow, by a secret sympathy which causes him to love, congratulate, and condole; so that, to resist this attraction, his will must struggle against his nature.
But in these respects there is no decided difference between man and the animals. With them, as long as the weakness of their young endears them to their mothers, — in a word, associates them with their mothers, — the latter protect the former, at the peril of their lives, with a courage which reminds us of our heroes dying for their country. Certain species unite for hunting purposes, seek each other, call each other (a poet would say invite each other), to share their prey; in danger they aid, protect, and warn each other. The elephant knows how to help his companion out of the ditch into which the latter has fallen. Cows form a circle, with their horns outward and their calves in the centre, in order to repel the attacks of wolves. Horses and pigs, on hearing a cry of distress from one of their number, rush to the spot whence it comes. What descriptions I might give of their marriages, the tenderness of the males towards the females, and the fidelity of their loves! Let us add, however, — to be entirely just — that these touching demonstrations of society, fraternity, and love of neighbor, do not prevent the animals from quarrelling, fighting, and outrageously abusing one another while gaining their livelihood and showing their gallantry; the resemblance between them and ourselves is perfect.
The social instinct, in man and beast, exists to a greater or less degree — its nature is the same. Man has the greater need of association, and employs it more; the animal seems better able to endure isolation. In man, social needs are more imperative and complex; in the beast, they seem less intense, less diversified, less regretted. Society, in a word, aims, in the case of man, at the preservation of the race and the individual; with the animals, its object is more exclusively the preservation of the race.
As yet, we have met with no claim which man can make for himself alone. The social instinct and the moral sense he shares with the brutes; and when he thinks to become god-like by a few acts of charity, justice, and devotion, he does not perceive that in so acting he simply obeys an instinct wholly animal in its nature. As we are good, loving, tender, just, so we are passionate, greedy, lewd, and vindictive; that is, we are like the beasts. Our highest virtues appear, in the last analysis, as blind, impulsive instincts. What subjects for canonization and apotheosis!
There is, however, a difference between us two-handed bipeds and other living creatures — what is it?
A student of philosophy would hasten to reply: “This difference lies in the fact that we are conscious of our social faculty, while the animals are unconscious of theirs — in the fact that while we reflect and reason upon the operation of our social instinct, the animals do nothing of the kind.”
I will go farther. It is by our reflective and reasoning powers, with which we seem to be exclusively endowed, that we know that it is injurious, first to others and then to ourselves, to resist the social instinct which governs us, and which we call justice. It is our reason which teaches us that the selfish man, the robber, the murderer — in a word, the traitor to society — sins against Nature, and is guilty with respect to others and himself, when he does wrong wilfully. Finally, it is our social sentiment on the one hand, and our reason on the other, which cause us to think that beings such as we should take the responsibility of their acts. Such is the principle of remorse, revenge, and penal justice.
But this proves only an intellectual diversity between the animals and man, not at all an affectional one; for, although we reason upon our relations with our fellows, we likewise reason upon our most trivial actions, — such as drinking, eating, choosing a wife, or selecting a dwelling-place. We reason upon things earthly and things heavenly; there is nothing to which our reasoning powers are not applicable. Now, just as the knowledge of external phenomena, which we acquire, has no influence upon their causes and laws, so reflection, by illuminating our instinct, enlightens us as to our sentient nature, but does not alter its character; it tells us what our morality is, but neither changes nor modifies it. Our dissatisfaction with ourselves after doing wrong, the indignation which we feel at the sight of injustice, the idea of deserved punishment and due remuneration, are effects of reflection, and not immediate effects of instinct and emotion. Our appreciation (I do not say exclusive appreciation, for the animals also realize that they have done wrong, and are indignant when one of their number is attacked, but), our infinitely superior appreciation of our social duties, our knowledge of good and evil, does not establish, as regards morality, any vital difference between man and the beasts.
I insist upon the fact, which I have just pointed out, as one of the most important facts of anthropology.
The sympathetic attraction, which causes us to associate, is, by reason of its blind, unruly nature, always governed by temporary impulse, without regard to higher rights, and without distinction of merit or priority. The bastard dog follows indifferently all who call it; the suckling child regards every man as its father and every woman as its nurse; every living creature, when deprived of the society of animals of its species, seeks companionship in its solitude. This fundamental characteristic of the social instinct renders intolerable and even hateful the friendship of frivolous persons, liable to be infatuated with every new face, accommodating to all whether good or bad, and ready to sacrifice, for a passing liaison, the oldest and most honorable affections. The fault of such beings is not in the heart — it is in the judgment. Sociability, in this degree, is a sort of magnetism awakened in us by the contemplation of a being similar to ourselves, but which never goes beyond the person who feels it; it may be reciprocated, but not communicated. Love, benevolence, pity, sympathy, call it what you will, there is nothing in it which deserves esteem, — nothing which lifts man above the beast.
The second degree of sociability is justice, which may be defined as the recognition of the equality between another’s personality and our own. The sentiment of justice we share with the animals; we alone can form an exact idea of it; but our idea, as has been said already, does not change its nature. We shall soon see how man rises to a third degree of sociability which the animals are incapable of reaching. But I must first prove by metaphysics that society, justice, and equality, are three equivalent terms, — three expressions meaning the same thing, — whose mutual conversion is always allowable.
If, amid the confusion of a shipwreck, having escaped in a boat with some provisions, I see a man struggling with the waves, am I bound to go to his assistance? Yes, I am bound under penalty of being adjudged guilty of murder and treason against society.
But am I also bound to share with him my provisions?
To settle this question, we must change the phraseology. If society is binding on the boat, is it also binding on the provisions? Undoubtedly. The duty of an associate is absolute. Man’s occupancy succeeds his social nature, and is subordinate to it; possession can become exclusive only when permission to occupy is granted to all alike. That which in this instance obscures our duty is our power of foresight, which, causing us to fear an eventual danger, impels us to usurpation, and makes us robbers and murderers. Animals do not calculate the duty of instinct any more than the disadvantages resulting to those who exercise it; it would be strange if the intellect of man — the most sociable of animals — should lead him to disobey the law. He betrays society who attempts to use it only for his own advantage; better that God should deprive us of prudence, if it is to serve as the tool of our selfishness.
“What!” you will say, “must I share my bread, the bread which I have earned and which belongs to me, with the stranger whom I do not know; whom I may never see again, and who, perhaps, will reward me with ingratitude? If we had earned this bread together, if this man had done something to obtain it, he might demand his share, since his co-operation would entitle him to it; but as it is, what claim has he on me? We have not produced together — we shall not eat together.”
The fallacy in this argument lies in the false supposition, that each producer is not necessarily associated with every other producer.
When two or more individuals have regularly organized a society, — when the contracts have been agreed upon, drafted, and signed, — there is no difficulty about the future. Everybody knows that when two men associate — for instance — in order to fish, if one of them catches no fish, he is none the less entitled to those caught by his associate. If two merchants form a partnership, while the partnership lasts, the profits and losses are divided between them; since each produces, not for himself, but for the society: when the time of distribution arrives, it is not the producer who is considered, but the associate. That is why the slave, to whom the planter gives straw and rice; and the civilized laborer, to whom the capitalist pays a salary which is always too small, — not being associated with their employers, although producing with them, — are disregarded when the product is divided. Thus, the horse who draws our coaches, and the ox who draws our carts produce with us, but are not associated with us; we take their product, but do not share it with them. The animals and laborers whom we employ hold the same relation to us. Whatever we do for them, we do, not from a sense of justice, but out of pure benevolence.
But is it possible that we are not all associated? Let us call to mind what was said in the last two chapters, That even though we do not want to be associated, the force of things, the necessity of consumption, the laws of production, and the mathematical principle of exchange combine to associate us. There is but a single exception to this rule, — that of the proprietor, who, producing by his right of increase, is not associated with any one, and consequently is not obliged to share his product with any one; just as no one else is bound to share with him. With the exception of the proprietor, we labor for each other; we can do nothing by ourselves unaided by others, and we continually exchange products and services with each other. If these are not social acts, what are they?
Now, neither a commercial, nor an industrial, nor an agricultural association can be conceived of in the absence of equality; equality is its sine qua non. So that, in all matters which concern this association, to violate society is to violate justice and equality. Apply this principle to humanity at large. After what has been said, I assume that the reader has sufficient insight to enable him to dispense with any aid of mine.
By this principle, the man who takes possession of a field, and says, “This field is mine,” will not be unjust so long as every one else has an equal right of possession; nor will he be unjust, if, wishing to change his location, he exchanges this field for an equivalent. But if, putting another in his place, he says to him, “Work for me while I rest,” he then becomes unjust, unassociated, unequal. He is a proprietor.
Reciprocally, the sluggard, or the rake, who, without performing any social task, enjoys like others — and often more than others — the products of society, should be proceeded against as a thief and a parasite. We owe it to ourselves to give him nothing; but, since he must live, to put him under supervision, and compel him to labor.
Sociability is the attraction felt by sentient beings for each other. Justice is this same attraction, accompanied by thought and knowledge. But under what general concept, in what category of the understanding, is justice placed? In the category of equal quantities. Hence, the ancient definition of justice — Justum æquale est, injustum inæquale. What is it, then, to practise justice? It is to give equal wealth to each, on condition of equal labor. It is to act socially. Our selfishness may complain; there is no escape from evidence and necessity.
What is the right of occupancy? It is a natural method of dividing the earth, by reducing each laborer’s share as fast as new laborers present themselves. This right disappears if the public interest requires it; which, being the social interest, is also that of the occupant.
What is the right of labor? It is the right to obtain one’s share of wealth by fulfilling the required conditions. It is the right of society, the right of equality.
Justice, which is the product of the combination of an idea and an instinct, manifests itself in man as soon as he is capable of feeling, and of forming ideas. Consequently, it has been regarded as an innate and original sentiment; but this opinion is logically and chronologically false. But justice, by its composition hybrid — if I may use the term, — justice, born of emotion and intellect combined, seems to me one of the strongest proofs of the unity and simplicity of the ego; the organism being no more capable of producing such a mixture by itself, than are the combined senses of hearing and sight of forming a binary sense, half auditory and half visual.
This double nature of justice gives us the definitive basis of all the demonstrations in Chapters II., III., and IV. On the one hand, the idea of justice being identical with that of society, and society necessarily implying equality, equality must underlie all the sophisms invented in defence of property; for, since property can be defended only as a just and social institution, and property being inequality, in order to prove that property is in harmony with society, it must be shown that injustice is justice, and that inequality is equality, — a contradiction in terms. On the other hand, since the idea of equality — the second element of justice — has its source in the mathematical proportions of things; and since property, or the unequal distribution of wealth among laborers, destroys the necessary balance between labor, production, and consumption, — property must be impossible.
All men, then, are associated; all are entitled to the same justice; all are equal. Does it follow that the preferences of love and friendship are unjust?
This requires explanation. I have already supposed the case of a man in peril, I being in a position to help him. Now, I suppose myself appealed to at the same time by two men exposed to danger. Am I not allowed — am I not commanded even — to rush first to the aid of him who is endeared to me by ties of blood, friendship, acquaintance, or esteem, at the risk of leaving the other to perish? Yes. And why? Because within universal society there exist for each of us as many special societies as there are individuals; and we are bound, by the principle of sociability itself, to fulfil the obligations which these impose upon us, according to the intimacy of our relations with them. Therefore we must give our father, mother, children, friends, relatives, &c., the preference over all others. But in what consists this preference?
A judge has a case to decide, in which one of the parties is his friend, and the other his enemy. Should he, in this instance, prefer his intimate associate to his distant associate; and decide the case in favor of his friend, in spite of evidence to the contrary? No: for, if he should favor his friend’s injustice, he would become his accomplice in his violation of the social compact; he would form with him a sort of conspiracy against the social body. Preference should be shown only in personal matters, such as love, esteem, confidence, or intimacy, when all cannot be considered at once. Thus, in case of fire, a father would save his own child before thinking of his neighbor’s; but the recognition of a right not being an optional matter with a judge, he is not at liberty to favor one person to the detriment of another.
The theory of these special societies — which are formed concentrically, so to speak, by each of us inside of the main body — gives the key to all the problems which arise from the opposition and conflict of the different varieties of social duty, — problems upon which the ancient tragedies are based.
The justice practised among animals is, in a certain degree, negative. With the exception of protecting their young, hunting and plundering in troops, uniting for common defence and sometimes for individual assistance, it consists more in prevention than in action. A sick animal who cannot arise from the ground, or an imprudent one who has fallen over a precipice, receives neither medicine nor nourishment. If he cannot cure himself, nor relieve himself of his trouble, his life is in danger: he will neither be cared for in bed, nor fed in a prison. Their neglect of their fellows arises as much from the weakness of their intellect as from their lack of resources. Still, the degrees of intimacy common among men are not unknown to the animals. They have friendships of habit and of choice; friendships neighborly, and friendships parental. In comparison with us, they have feeble memories, sluggish feelings, and are almost destitute of intelligence; but the identity of these faculties is preserved to some extent, and our superiority in this respect arises entirely from our understanding.
It is our strength of memory and penetration of judgment which enable us to multiply and combine the acts which our social instinct impels us to perform, and which teaches us how to render them more effective, and how to distribute them justly. The beasts who live in society practise justice, but are ignorant of its nature, and do not reason upon it; they obey their instinct without thought or philosophy. They know not how to unite the social sentiment with the idea of equality, which they do not possess; this idea being an abstract one. We, on the contrary, starting with the principle that society implies equality, can, by our reasoning faculty, understand and agree with each other in settling our rights; we have even used our judgment to a great extent. But in all this our conscience plays a small part, as is proved by the fact that the idea of right — of which we catch a glimpse in certain animals who approach nearer than any others to our standard of intelligence — seems to grow, from the low level at which it stands in savages, to the lofty height which it reaches in a Plato or a Franklin. If we trace the development of the moral sense in individuals, and the progress of laws in nations, we shall be convinced that the ideas of justice and legislative perfection are always proportional to intelligence. The notion of justice — which has been regarded by some philosophers as simple — is then, in reality, complex. It springs from the social instinct on the one hand, and the idea of equality on the other; just as the notion of guilt arises from the feeling that justice has been violated, and from the idea of free-will.
In conclusion, instinct is not modified by acquaintance with its nature; and the facts of society, which we have thus far observed, occur among beasts as well as men. We know the meaning of justice; in other words, of sociability viewed from the standpoint of equality. We have met with nothing which separates us from the animals.
The reader, perhaps, has not forgotten what was said in the third chapter concerning the division of labor and the speciality of talents. The sum total of the talents and capacities of the race is always the same, and their nature is always similar. We are all born poets, mathematicians, philosophers, artists, artisans, or farmers, but we are not born equally endowed; and between one man and another in society, or between one faculty and another in the same individual, there is an infinite difference. This difference of degree in the same faculties, this predominance of talent in certain directions, is, we have said, the very foundation of our society. Intelligence and natural genius have been distributed by Nature so economically, and yet so liberally, that in society there is no danger of either a surplus or a scarcity of special talents; and that each laborer, by devoting himself to his function, may always attain to the degree of proficiency necessary to enable him to benefit by the labors and discoveries of his fellows. Owing to this simple and wise precaution of Nature, the laborer is not isolated by his task. He communicates with his fellows through the mind, before he is united with them in heart; so that with him love is born of intelligence.
It is not so with societies of animals. In every species, the aptitudes of all the individuals — though very limited — are equal in number and (when they are not the result of instinct) in intensity. Each one does as well as all the others what all the others do; provides his food, avoids the enemy, burrows in the earth, builds a nest, &c. No animal, when free and healthy, expects or requires the aid of his neighbor; who, in his turn, is equally independent.
Associated animals live side by side without any intellectual intercourse or intimate communication, — all doing the same things, having nothing to learn or to remember; they see, feel, and come in contact with each other, but never penetrate each other. Man continually exchanges with man ideas and feelings, products and services. Every discovery and act in society is necessary to him. But of this immense quantity of products and ideas, that which each one has to produce and acquire for himself is but an atom in the sun. Man would not be man were it not for society, and society is supported by the balance and harmony of the powers which compose it.
Society, among the animals, is simple; with man it is complex. Man is associated with man by the same instinct which associates animal with animal; but man is associated differently from the animal, and it is this difference in association which constitutes the difference in morality.
I have proved, — at too great length, perhaps, — both by the spirit of the laws which regard property as the basis of society, and by political economy, that inequality of conditions is justified neither by priority of occupation nor superiority of talent, service, industry, and capacity. But, although equality of conditions is a necessary consequence of natural right, of liberty, of the laws of production, of the capacity of physical nature, and of the principle of society itself, — it does not prevent the social sentiment from stepping over the boundaries of debt and credit. The fields of benevolence and love extend far beyond; and when economy has adjusted its balance, the mind begins to benefit by its own justice, and the heart expands in the boundlessness of its affection.
The social sentiment then takes on a new character, which varies with different persons. In the strong, it becomes the pleasure of generosity; among equals, frank and cordial friendship; in the weak, the pleasure of admiration and gratitude.
The man who is superior in strength, skill, or courage, knows that he owes all that he is to society, without which he could not exist. He knows that, in treating him precisely as it does the lowest of its members, society discharges its whole duty towards him. But he does not underrate his faculties; he is no less conscious of his power and greatness; and it is this voluntary reverence which he pays to humanity, this avowal that he is but an instrument of Nature, — who is alone worthy of glory and worship, — it is, I say, this simultaneous confession of the heart and the mind, this genuine adoration of the Great Being, that distinguishes and elevates man, and lifts him to a degree of social morality to which the beast is powerless to attain. Hercules destroying the monsters and punishing brigands for the safety of Greece, Orpheus teaching the rough and wild Pelasgians, — neither of them putting a price upon their services, — there we see the noblest creations of poetry, the loftiest expression of justice and virtue.
The joys of self-sacrifice are ineffable.
If I were to compare human society to the old Greek tragedies, I should say that the phalanx of noble minds and lofty souls dances the strophe, and the humble multitude the antistrophe. Burdened with painful and disagreeable tasks, but rendered omnipotent by their number and the harmonic arrangement of their functions, the latter execute what the others plan. Guided by them, they owe them nothing; they honor them, however, and lavish upon them praise and approbation.
Gratitude fills people with adoration and enthusiasm.
But equality delights my heart. Benevolence degenerates into tyranny, and admiration into servility. Friendship is the daughter of equality. O my friends! may I live in your midst without emulation, and without glory; let equality bring us together, and fate assign us our places. May I die without knowing to whom among you I owe the most esteem!
Friendship is precious to the hearts of the children of men.
Generosity, gratitude (I mean here only that gratitude which is born of admiration of a superior power), and friendship are three distinct shades of a single sentiment which I will call équité, or social proportionality. Equité does not change justice: but, always taking équité for the base, it superadds esteem, and thereby forms in man a third degree of sociability. Equité makes it at once our duty and our pleasure to aid the weak who have need of us, and to make them our equals; to pay to the strong a just tribute of gratitude and honor, without enslaving ourselves to them; to cherish our neighbors, friends, and equals, for that which we receive from them, even by right of exchange. Equité is sociability raised to its ideal by reason and justice; its commonest manifestation is urbanity or politeness, which, among certain nations, sums up in a single word nearly all the social duties.
Now, this feeling is unknown among the beasts, who love and cling to each other, and show their preferences, but who cannot conceive of esteem, and who are incapable of generosity, admiration, or politeness.
This feeling does not spring from intelligence, which calculates, computes, and balances, but does not love; which sees, but does not feel. As justice is the product of social instinct and reflection combined, so équité is a product of justice and taste combined — that is, of our powers of judging and of idealizing.
This product — the third and last degree of human sociability — is determined by our complex mode of association; in which inequality, or rather the divergence of faculties, and the speciality of functions — tending of themselves to isolate laborers — demand a more active sociability.
That is why the force which oppresses while protecting is execrable; why the silly ignorance which views with the same eye the marvels of art, and the products of the rudest industry, excites unutterable contempt; why proud mediocrity, which glories in saying, “I have paid you — I owe you nothing,” is especially odious.
Sociability, justice, équité — such, in its triplicity, is the exact definition of the instinctive faculty which leads us into communication with our fellows, and whose physical manifestation is expressed by the formula: Equality in natural wealth, and the products of labor.
These three degrees of sociability support and imply each other. Equité cannot exist without justice; society without justice is a solecism. If, in order to reward talent, I take from one to give to another, in unjustly stripping the first, I do not esteem his talent as I ought; if, in society, I award more to myself than to my associate, we are not really associated. Justice is sociability as manifested in the division of material things, susceptible of weight and measure; équité is justice accompanied by admiration and esteem, — things which cannot be measured.
From this several inferences may be drawn.
1. Though we are free to grant our esteem to one more than to another, and in all possible degrees, yet we should give no one more than his proportion of the common wealth; because the duty of justice, being imposed upon us before that of équité, must always take precedence of it. The woman honored by the ancients, who, when forced by a tyrant to choose between the death of her brother and that of her husband, sacrificed the latter on the ground that she could find another husband but not another brother, — that woman, I say, in obeying her sense of équité, failed in point of justice, and did a bad deed, because conjugal association is a closer relation than fraternal association, and because the life of our neighbor is not our property.
By the same principle, inequality of wages cannot be admitted by law on the ground of inequality of talents; because the just distribution of wealth is the function of economy, — not of enthusiasm.
Finally, as regards donations, wills, and inheritance, society, careful both of the personal affections and its own rights, must never permit love and partiality to destroy justice. And, though it is pleasant to think that the son, who has been long associated with his father in business, is more capable than any one else of carrying it on; and that the citizen, who is surprised in the midst of his task by death, is best fitted, in consequence of his natural taste for his occupation, to designate his successor; and though the heir should be allowed the right of choice in case of more than one inheritance, — nevertheless, society can tolerate no concentration of capital and industry for the benefit of a single man, no monopoly of labor, no encroachment.
“Suppose that some spoils, taken from the enemy, and equal to twelve, are to be divided between Achilles and Ajax. If the two persons were equal, their respective shares would be arithmetically equal: Achilles would have six, Ajax six. And if we should carry out this arithmetical equality, Thersites would be entitled to as much as Achilles, which would be unjust in the extreme. To avoid this injustice, the worth of the persons should be estimated, and the spoils divided accordingly. Suppose that the worth of Achilles is double that of Ajax: the former’s share is eight, the latter four. There is no arithmetical equality, but a proportional equality. It is this comparison of merits, rationum, that Aristotle calls distributive justice. It is a geometrical proportion.” — Toullier: French Law according to the Code.
2. Equité, justice, and society, can exist only between individuals of the same species. They form no part of the relations of different races to each other, — for instance, of the wolf to the goat, of the goat to man, of man to God, much less of God to man. The attribution of justice, equity, and love to the Supreme Being is pure anthropomorphism; and the adjectives just, merciful, pitiful, and the like, should be stricken from our litanies. God can be regarded as just, equitable, and good, only to another God. Now, God has no associate; consequently, he cannot experience social affections, — such as goodness, équité, and justice. Is the shepherd said to be just to his sheep and his dogs? No: and if he saw fit to shear as much wool from a lamb six months old, as from a ram of two years; or, if he required as much work from a young dog as from an old one, — they would say, not that he was unjust, but that he was foolish. Between man and beast there is no society, though there may be affection. Man loves the animals as things, — as sentient things, if you will, — but not as persons. Philosophy, after having eliminated from the idea of God the passions ascribed to him by superstition, will then be obliged to eliminate also the virtues which our liberal piety awards to him.
If God should come down to earth, and dwell among us, we could not love him unless he became like us; nor give him any thing unless he produced something; nor listen to him unless he proved us mistaken; nor worship him unless he manifested his power. All the laws of our nature, affectional, economical, and intellectual, would prevent us from treating him as we treat our fellow-men, — that is, according to reason, justice, and équité. I infer from this that, if God should wish ever to put himself into immediate communication with man, he would have to become a man.
Now, if kings are images of God, and executors of his will, they cannot receive love, wealth, obedience, and glory from us, unless they consent to labor and associate with us — produce as much as they consume, reason with their subjects, and do wonderful things. Still more; if, as some pretend, kings are public functionaries, the love which is due them is measured by their personal amiability; our obligation to obey them, by the wisdom of their commands; and their civil list, by the total social production divided by the number of citizens.
Thus, jurisprudence, political economy, and psychology agree in admitting the law of equality. Right and duty — the due reward of talent and labor — the outbursts of love and enthusiasm, — all are regulated in advance by an invariable standard; all depend upon number and balance. Equality of conditions is the law of society, and universal solidarity is the ratification of this law.
Equality of conditions has never been realized, thanks to our passions and our ignorance; but our opposition to this law has made it all the more a necessity. To that fact history bears perpetual testimony, and the course of events reveals it to us. Society advances from equation to equation. To the eyes of the economist, the revolutions of empires seem now like the reduction of algebraical quantities, which are inter-deducible; now like the discovery of unknown quantities, induced by the inevitable influence of time. Figures are the providence of history. Undoubtedly there are other elements in human progress; but in the multitude of hidden causes which agitate nations, there is none more powerful or constant, none less obscure, than the periodical explosions of the proletariat against property. Property, acting by exclusion and encroachment, while population was increasing, has been the life-principle and definitive cause of all revolutions. Religious wars, and wars of conquest, when they have stopped short of the extermination of races, have been only accidental disturbances, soon repaired by the mathematical progression of the life of nations. The downfall and death of societies are due to the power of accumulation possessed by property.
In the middle ages, take Florence, — a republic of merchants and brokers, always rent by its well-known factions, the Guelphs and Ghibellines, who were, after all, only the people and the proprietors fighting against each other, — Florence, ruled by bankers, and borne down at last by the weight of her debts; in ancient times, take Rome, preyed upon from its birth by usury, flourishing, nevertheless, as long as the known world furnished its terrible proletaires with labor, stained with blood by civil war at every interval of rest, and dying of exhaustion when the people lost, together with their former energy, their last spark of moral sense; Carthage, a commercial and financial city, continually divided by internal competition; Tyre, Sidon, Jerusalem, Nineveh, Babylon, ruined, in turn, by commercial rivalry and, as we now express it, by panics in the market, — do not these famous examples show clearly enough the fate which awaits modern nations, unless the people, unless France, with a sudden burst of her powerful voice, proclaims in thunder-tones the abolition of the régime of property?
Here my task should end. I have proved the right of the poor; I have shown the usurpation of the rich. I demand justice; it is not my business to execute the sentence. If it should be argued — in order to prolong for a few years an illegitimate privilege — that it is not enough to demonstrate equality, that it is necessary also to organize it, and above all to establish it peacefully, I might reply: The welfare of the oppressed is of more importance than official composure. Equality of conditions is a natural law upon which public economy and jurisprudence are based. The right to labor, and the principle of equal distribution of wealth, cannot give way to the anxieties of power. It is not for the proletaire to reconcile the contradictions of the codes, still less to suffer for the errors of the government. On the contrary, it is the duty of the civil and administrative power to reconstruct itself on the basis of political equality. An evil, when known, should be condemned and destroyed. The legislator cannot plead ignorance as an excuse for upholding a glaring iniquity. Restitution should not be delayed. Justice, justice! recognition of right! reinstatement of the proletaire! — when these results are accomplished, then, judges and consuls, you may attend to your police, and provide a government for the Republic!
For the rest, I do not think that a single one of my readers accuses me of knowing how to destroy, but of not knowing how to construct. In demonstrating the principle of equality, I have laid the foundation of the social structure I have done more. I have given an example of the true method of solving political and legislative problems. Of the science itself, I confess that I know nothing more than its principle; and I know of no one at present who can boast of having penetrated deeper. Many people cry, “Come to me, and I will teach you the truth!” These people mistake for the truth their cherished opinion and ardent conviction, which is usually any thing but the truth. The science of society — like all human sciences — will be for ever incomplete. The depth and variety of the questions which it embraces are infinite. We hardly know the A B C of this science, as is proved by the fact that we have not yet emerged from the period of systems, and have not ceased to put the authority of the majority in the place of facts. A certain philological society decided linguistic questions by a plurality of votes. Our parliamentary debates — were their results less pernicious — would be even more ridiculous. The task of the true publicist, in the age in which we live, is to close the mouths of quacks and charlatans, and to teach the public to demand demonstrations, instead of being contented with symbols and programmes. Before talking of the science itself, it is necessary to ascertain its object, and discover its method and principle. The ground must be cleared of the prejudices which encumber it. Such is the mission of the nineteenth century.
For my part, I have sworn fidelity to my work of demolition, and I will not cease to pursue the truth through the ruins and rubbish. I hate to see a thing half done; and it will be believed without any assurance of mine, that, having dared to raise my hand against the Holy Ark, I shall not rest contented with the removal of the cover. The mysteries of the sanctuary of iniquity must be unveiled, the tables of the old alliance broken, and all the objects of the ancient faith thrown in a heap to the swine. A charter has been given to us, — a résumé of political science, the monument of twenty legislatures. A code has been written, — the pride of a conqueror, and the summary of ancient wisdom. Well! of this charter and this code not one article shall be left standing upon another! The time has come for the wise to choose their course, and prepare for reconstruction.
But, since a destroyed error necessarily implies a counter-truth, I will not finish this treatise without solving the first problem of political science, — that which receives the attention of all minds.
When property is abolished, what will be the form of society! Will it be communism?
The true form of human society cannot be determined until the following question has been solved: —
Property not being our natural condition, how did it gain a foothold? Why has the social instinct, so trustworthy among the animals, erred in the case of man? Why is man, who was born for society, not yet associated?
I have said that human society is complex in its nature. Though this expression is inaccurate, the fact to which it refers is none the less true; namely, the classification of talents and capacities. But who does not see that these talents and capacities, owing to their infinite variety, give rise to an infinite variety of wills, and that the character, the inclinations, and — if I may venture to use the expression — the form of the ego, are necessarily changed; so that in the order of liberty, as in the order of intelligence, there are as many types as individuals, as many characters as heads, whose tastes, fancies, and propensities, being modified by dissimilar ideas, must necessarily conflict? Man, by his nature and his instinct, is predestined to society; but his personality, ever varying, is adverse to it.
In societies of animals, all the members do exactly the same things. The same genius directs them; the same will animates them. A society of beasts is a collection of atoms, round, hooked, cubical, or triangular, but always perfectly identical. These personalities do not vary, and we might say that a single ego governs them all. The labors which animals perform, whether alone or in society, are exact reproductions of their character. Just as the swarm of bees is composed of individual bees, alike in nature and equal in value, so the honeycomb is formed of individual cells, constantly and invariably repeated.
But man’s intelligence, fitted for his social destiny and his personal needs, is of a very different composition, and therefore gives rise to a wonderful variety of human wills. In the bee, the will is constant and uniform, because the instinct which guides it is invariable, and constitutes the animal’s whole life and nature. In man, talent varies, and the mind wavers; consequently, his will is multiform and vague. He seeks society, but dislikes constraint and monotony; he is an imitator, but fond of his own ideas, and passionately in love with his works.
If, like the bees, every man were born possessed of talent, perfect knowledge of certain kinds, and, in a word, an innate acquaintance with the functions he has to perform, but destitute of reflective and reasoning faculties, society would organize itself. We should see one man plowing a field, another building houses; this one forging metals, that one cutting clothes; and still others storing the products, and superintending their distribution. Each one, without inquiring as to the object of his labor, and without troubling himself about the extent of his task, would obey orders, bring his product, receive his salary, and would then rest for a time; keeping meanwhile no accounts, envious of nobody, and satisfied with the distributor, who never would be unjust to any one. Kings would govern, but would not reign; for to reign is to be a proprietor à l'engrais, as Bonaparte said: and having no commands to give, since all would be at their posts, they would serve rather as rallying centres than as authorities or counsellors. It would be a state of ordered communism, but not a society entered into deliberately and freely.
But man acquires skill only by observation and experiment. He reflects, then, since to observe and experiment is to reflect; he reasons, since he cannot help reasoning. In reflecting, he becomes deluded; in reasoning, he makes mistakes, and, thinking himself right, persists in them. He is wedded to his opinions; he esteems himself, and despises others. Consequently, he isolates himself; for he could not submit to the majority without renouncing his will and his reason, — that is, without disowning himself, which is impossible. And this isolation, this intellectual egotism, this individuality of opinion, lasts until the truth is demonstrated to him by observation and experience. A final illustration will make these facts still clearer.
If to the blind but convergent and harmonious instincts of a swarm of bees should be suddenly added reflection and judgment, the little society could not long exist. In the first place, the bees would not fail to try some new industrial process; for instance, that of making their cells round or square. All sorts of systems and inventions would be tried, until long experience, aided by geometry, should show them that the hexagonal shape is the best. Then insurrections would occur. The drones would be told to provide for themselves, and the queens to labor; jealousy would spread among the laborers; discords would burst forth; soon each one would want to produce on his own account; and finally the hive would be abandoned, and the bees would perish. Evil would be introduced into the honey-producing republic by the power of reflection, — the very faculty which ought to constitute its glory.
Thus, moral evil, or, in this case, disorder in society, is naturally explained by our power of reflection. The mother of poverty, crime, insurrection, and war was inequality of conditions; which was the daughter of property, which was born of selfishness, which was engendered by private opinion, which descended in a direct line from the autocracy of reason. Man, in his infancy, is neither criminal nor barbarous, but ignorant and inexperienced. Endowed with imperious instincts which are under the control of his reasoning faculty, at first he reflects but little, and reasons inaccurately; then, benefiting by his mistakes, he rectifies his ideas, and perfects his reason. In the first place, it is the savage sacrificing all his possessions for a trinket, and then repenting and weeping; it is Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage, and afterwards wishing to cancel the bargain; it is the civilized workman laboring in insecurity, and continually demanding that his wages be increased, neither he nor his employer understanding that, in the absence of equality, any salary, however large, is always insufficient. Then it is Naboth dying to defend his inheritance; Cato tearing out his entrails that he might not be enslaved; Socrates drinking the fatal cup in defence of liberty of thought; it is the third estate of ‘89 reclaiming its liberty: soon it will be the people demanding equality of wages and an equal division of the means of production.
Man is born a social being, — that is, he seeks equality and justice in all his relations, but he loves independence and praise. The difficulty of satisfying these various desires at the same time is the primary cause of the despotism of the will, and the appropriation which results from it. On the other hand, man always needs a market for his products; unable to compare values of different kinds, he is satisfied to judge approximately, according to his passion and caprice; and he engages in dishonest commerce, which always results in wealth and poverty. Thus, the greatest evils which man suffers arise from the misuse of his social nature, of this same justice of which he is so proud, and which he applies with such deplorable ignorance. The practice of justice is a science which, when once discovered and diffused, will sooner or later put an end to social disorder, by teaching us our rights and duties.
This progressive and painful education of our instinct, this slow and imperceptible transformation of our spontaneous perceptions into deliberate knowledge, does not take place among the animals, whose instincts remain fixed, and never become enlightened.
“According to Frederic Cuvier, who has so clearly distinguished between instinct and intelligence in animals, ‘instinct is a natural and inherent faculty, like feeling, irritability, or intelligence. The wolf and the fox who recognize the traps in which they have been caught, and who avoid them; the dog and the horse, who understand the meaning of several of our words, and who obey us, — thereby show intelligence. The dog who hides the remains of his dinner, the bee who constructs his cell, the bird who builds his nest, act only from instinct. Even man has instincts: it is a special instinct which leads the new-born child to suck. But, in man, almost every thing is accomplished by intelligence; and intelligence supplements instinct. The opposite is true of animals: their instinct is given them as a supplement to their intelligence.’ “ — Flourens: Analytical Summary of the Observations of F. Cuvier.
“We can form a clear idea of instinct only by admitting that animals have in their sensorium, images or innate and constant sensations, which influence their actions in the same manner that ordinary and accidental sensations commonly do. It is a sort of dream, or vision, which always follows them and in all which relates to instinct they may be regarded as somnambulists.” — F. Cuvier: Introduction to the Animal Kingdom.
Intelligence and instinct being common, then, though in different degrees, to animals and man, what is the distinguishing characteristic of the latter? According to F. Cuvier, it is reflection or the power of intellectually considering our own modifications by a survey of ourselves.
This lacks clearness, and requires an explanation.
If we grant intelligence to animals, we must also grant them, in some degree, reflection; for, the first cannot exist without the second, as F. Cuvier himself has proved by numerous examples. But notice that the learned observer defines the kind of reflection which distinguishes us from the animals as the power of considering our own modifications. This I shall endeavour to interpret, by developing to the best of my ability the laconism of the philosophical naturalist.
The intelligence acquired by animals never modifies the operations which they perform by instinct: it is given them only as a provision against unexpected accidents which might disturb these operations. In man, on the contrary, instinctive action is constantly changing into deliberate action. Thus, man is social by instinct, and is every day becoming social by reflection and choice. At first, he formed his words by instinct; he was a poet by inspiration: to-day, he makes grammar a science, and poetry an art. His conception of God and a future life is spontaneous and instinctive, and his expressions of this conception have been, by turns, monstrous, eccentric, beautiful, comforting, and terrible. All these different creeds, at which the frivolous irreligion of the eighteenth century mocked, are modes of expression of the religious sentiment. Some day, man will explain to himself the character of the God whom he believes in, and the nature of that other world to which his soul aspires.
All that he does from instinct man despises; or, if he admires it, it is as Nature’s work, not as his own. This explains the obscurity which surrounds the names of early inventors; it explains also our indifference to religious matters, and the ridicule heaped upon religious customs. Man esteems only the products of reflection and of reason. The most wonderful works of instinct are, in his eyes, only lucky god-sends; he reserves the name discovery — I had almost said creation — for the works of intelligence. Instinct is the source of passion and enthusiasm; it is intelligence which causes crime and virtue.
In developing his intelligence, man makes use of not only his own observations, but also those of others. He keeps an account of his experience, and preserves the record; so that the race, as well as the individual, becomes more and more intelligent. The animals do not transmit their knowledge; that which each individual accumulates dies with him.
It is not enough, then, to say that we are distinguished from the animals by reflection, unless we mean thereby the constant tendency of our instinct to become intelligence. While man is governed by instinct, he is unconscious of his acts. He never would deceive himself, and never would be troubled by errors, evils, and disorder, if, like the animals, instinct were his only guide. But the Creator has endowed us with reflection, to the end that our instinct might become intelligence; and since this reflection and resulting knowledge pass through various stages, it happens that in the beginning our instinct is opposed, rather than guided, by reflection; consequently, that our power of thought leads us to act in opposition to our nature and our end; that, deceiving ourselves, we do and suffer evil, until instinct which points us towards good, and reflection which makes us stumble into evil, are replaced by the science of good and evil, which invariably causes us to seek the one and avoid the other.
Thus, evil — or error and its consequences — is the firstborn son of the union of two opposing faculties, instinct and reflection; good, or truth, must inevitably be the second child. Or, to again employ the figure, evil is the product of incest between adverse powers; good will sooner or later be the legitimate child of their holy and mysterious union.
Property, born of the reasoning faculty, intrenches itself behind comparisons. But, just as reflection and reason are subsequent to spontaneity, observation to sensation, and experience to instinct, so property is subsequent to communism. Communism — or association in a simple form — is the necessary object and original aspiration of the social nature, the spontaneous movement by which it manifests and establishes itself. It is the first phase of human civilization. In this state of society, — which the jurists have called negative communism — man draws near to man, and shares with him the fruits of the field and the milk and flesh of animals. Little by little this communism — negative as long as man does not produce — tends to become positive and organic through the development of labor and industry. But it is then that the sovereignty of thought, and the terrible faculty of reasoning logically or illogically, teach man that, if equality is the sine qua non of society, communism is the first species of slavery. To express this idea by an Hegelian formula, I will say:
Communism — the first expression of the social nature — is the first term of social development, — the thesis; property, the reverse of communism, is the second term, — the antithesis. When we have discovered the third term, the synthesis, we shall have the required solution. Now, this synthesis necessarily results from the correction of the thesis by the antithesis. Therefore it is necessary, by a final examination of their characteristics, to eliminate those features which are hostile to sociability. The union of the two remainders will give us the true form of human association.
I. I ought not to conceal the fact that property and communism have been considered always the only possible forms of society. This deplorable error has been the life of property. The disadvantages of communism are so obvious that its critics never have needed to employ much eloquence to thoroughly disgust men with it. The irreparability of the injustice which it causes, the violence which it does to attractions and repulsions, the yoke of iron which it fastens upon the will, the moral torture to which it subjects the conscience, the debilitating effect which it has upon society; and, to sum it all up, the pious and stupid uniformity which it enforces upon the free, active, reasoning, unsubmissive personality of man, have shocked common sense, and condemned communism by an irrevocable decree.
The authorities and examples cited in its favor disprove it. The communistic republic of Plato involved slavery; that of Lycurgus employed Helots, whose duty it was to produce for their masters, thus enabling the latter to devote themselves exclusively to athletic sports and to war. Even J. J. Rousseau — confounding communism and equality — has said somewhere that, without slavery, he did not think equality of conditions possible. The communities of the early Church did not last the first century out, and soon degenerated into monasteries. In those of the Jesuits of Paraguay, the condition of the blacks is said by all travellers to be as miserable as that of slaves; and it is a fact that the good Fathers were obliged to surround themselves with ditches and walls to prevent their new converts from escaping. The followers of Baboeuf — guided by a lofty horror of property rather than by any definite belief — were ruined by exaggeration of their principles; the St. Simonians, lumping communism and inequality, passed away like a masquerade. The greatest danger to which society is exposed to-day is that of another shipwreck on this rock.
Singularly enough, systematic communism — the deliberate negation of property — is conceived under the direct influence of the proprietary prejudice; and property is the basis of all communistic theories.
The members of a community, it is true, have no private property; but the community is proprietor, and proprietor not only of the goods, but of the persons and wills. In consequence of this principle of absolute property, labor, which should be only a condition imposed upon man by Nature, becomes in all communities a human commandment, and therefore odious. Passive obedience, irreconcilable with a reflecting will, is strictly enforced. Fidelity to regulations, which are always defective, however wise they may be thought, allows of no complaint. Life, talent, and all the human faculties are the property of the State, which has the right to use them as it pleases for the common good. Private associations are sternly prohibited, in spite of the likes and dislikes of different natures, because to tolerate them would be to introduce small communities within the large one, and consequently private property; the strong work for the weak, although this ought to be left to benevolence, and not enforced, advised, or enjoined; the industrious work for the lazy, although this is unjust; the clever work for the foolish, although this is absurd; and, finally, man — casting aside his personality, his spontaneity, his genius, and his affections — humbly annihilates himself at the feet of the majestic and inflexible Commune!
Communism is inequality, but not as property is. Property is the exploitation of the weak by the strong. Communism is the exploitation of the strong by the weak. In property, inequality of conditions is the result of force, under whatever name it be disguised: physical and mental force; force of events, chance, fortune; force of accumulated property, &c. In communism, inequality springs from placing mediocrity on a level with excellence. This damaging equation is repellent to the conscience, and causes merit to complain; for, although it may be the duty of the strong to aid the weak, they prefer to do it out of generosity, — they never will endure a comparison. Give them equal opportunities of labor, and equal wages, but never allow their jealousy to be awakened by mutual suspicion of unfaithfulness in the performance of the common task.
Communism is oppression and slavery. Man is very willing to obey the law of duty, serve his country, and oblige his friends; but he wishes to labor when he pleases, where he pleases, and as much as he pleases. He wishes to dispose of his own time, to be governed only by necessity, to choose his friendships, his recreation, and his discipline; to act from judgment, not by command; to sacrifice himself through selfishness, not through servile obligation. Communism is essentially opposed to the free exercise of our faculties, to our noblest desires, to our deepest feelings. Any plan which could be devised for reconciling it with the demands of the individual reason and will would end only in changing the thing while preserving the name. Now, if we are honest truth-seekers, we shall avoid disputes about words.
Thus, communism violates the sovereignty of the conscience, and equality: the first, by restricting spontaneity of mind and heart, and freedom of thought and action; the second, by placing labor and laziness, skill and stupidity, and even vice and virtue on an equality in point of comfort. For the rest, if property is impossible on account of the desire to accumulate, communism would soon become so through the desire to shirk.
II. Property, in its turn, violates equality by the rights of exclusion and increase, and freedom by despotism. The former effect of property having been sufficiently developed in the last three chapters, I will content myself here with establishing by a final comparison, its perfect identity with robbery.
The Latin words for robber are fur and latro; the former taken from the Greek for, or fhrw, Latin fero, I carry away; the latter from laqrw, I play the part of a brigand, which is derived from lhqw, Latin lateo, I conceal myself. The Greeks have also klepths, from kleptw, I filch, whose radical consonants are the same as those of kalnptw, I cover, I conceal. Thus, in these languages, the idea of a robber is that of a man who conceals, carries away, or diverts, in any manner whatever, a thing which does not belong to him.
The Hebrews expressed the same idea by the word gannab, — robber, — from the verb ganab, which means to put away, to turn aside: lo thi-gnob (Decalogue: Eighth Commandment), thou shalt not steal, — that is, thou shalt not hold back, thou shalt not put away any thing for thyself. That is the act of a man who, on entering into a society into which he agrees to bring all that he has, secretly reserves a portion, as did the celebrated disciple Ananias.
The etymology of the French verb voler is still more significant. Voler, or faire la vole (from the Latin vola, palm of the hand), means to take all the tricks in a game of ombre; so that le voleur, the robber, is the capitalist who takes all, who gets the lion’s share. Probably this verb voler had its origin in the professional slang of thieves, whence it has passed into common use, and, consequently into the phraseology of the law.
Robbery is committed in a variety of ways, which have been very cleverly distinguished and classified by legislators according to their heinousness or merit, to the end that some robbers may be honored, while others are punished.
We rob, — 1. By murder on the highway; 2. Alone, or in a band; 3. By breaking into buildings, or scaling walls; 4. By abstraction; 5. By fraudulent bankruptcy; 6. By forgery of the handwriting of public officials or private individuals; 7. By manufacture of counterfeit money.
This species includes all robbers who practise their profession with no other aid than force and open fraud. Bandits, brigands, pirates, rovers by land and sea, — these names were gloried in by the ancient heroes, who thought their profession as noble as it was lucrative. Nimrod, Theseus, Jason and his Argonauts; Jephthah, David, Cacus, Romulus, Clovis and all his Merovingian descendants; Robert Guiscard, Tancred de Hauteville, Bohemond, and most of the Norman heroes, — were brigands and robbers. The heroic character of the robber is expressed in this line from Horace, in reference to Achilles, — “Jura neget sibi nata, nihil non arroget armis," and by this sentence from the dying words of Jacob (Gen. xlviii.), which the Jews apply to David, and the Christians to their Christ: Manus ejus contra omnes. In our day, the robber — the warrior of the ancients — is pursued with the utmost vigor. His profession, in the language of the code, entails ignominious and corporal penalties, from imprisonment to the scaffold. A sad change in opinions here below!
We rob, — 8. By cheating; 9. By swindling; 10. By abuse of trust; 11. By games and lotteries.
This second species was encouraged by the laws of Lycurgus, in order to sharpen the wits of the young. It is the kind practised by Ulysses, Solon, and Sinon; by the ancient and modern Jews, from Jacob down to Deutz; and by the Bohemians, the Arabs, and all savage tribes. Under Louis XIII. and Louis XIV., it was not considered dishonorable to cheat at play. To do so was a part of the game; and many worthy people did not scruple to correct the caprice of Fortune by dexterous jugglery. To-day even, and in all countries, it is thought a mark of merit among peasants, merchants, and shopkeepers to know how to make a bargain, — that is, to deceive one’s man. This is so universally accepted, that the cheated party takes no offence. It is known with what reluctance our government resolved upon the abolition of lotteries. It felt that it was dealing a stab thereby at property. The pickpocket, the blackleg, and the charlatan make especial use of their dexterity of hand, their subtlety of mind, the magic power of their eloquence, and their great fertility of invention. Sometimes they offer bait to cupidity. Therefore the penal code — which much prefers intelligence to muscular vigor — has made, of the four varieties mentioned above, a second category, liable only to correctional, not to Ignominious, punishments.
Let them now accuse the law of being materialistic and atheistic.
We rob, — 12. By usury.
This species of robbery, so odious and so severely punished since the publication of the Gospel, is the connecting link between forbidden and authorized robbery. Owing to its ambiguous nature, it has given rise to a multitude of contradictions in the laws and in morals, — contradictions which have been very cleverly turned to account by lawyers, financiers, and merchants. Thus the usurer, who lends on mortgage at ten, twelve, and fifteen per cent., is heavily fined when detected; while the banker, who receives the same interest (not, it is true, upon a loan, but in the way of exchange or discount, — that is, of sale), is protected by royal privilege. But the distinction between the banker and the usurer is a purely nominal one. Like the usurer, who lends on property, real or personal, the banker lends on business paper; like the usurer, he takes his interest in advance; like the usurer, he can recover from the borrower if the property is destroyed (that is, if the note is not redeemed), — a circumstance which makes him a money-lender, not a money-seller. But the banker lends for a short time only, while the usurer’s loan may be for one, two, three, or more years. Now, a difference in the duration of the loan, or the form of the act, does not alter the nature of the transaction. As for the capitalists who invest their money, either with the State or in commercial operations, at three, four, and five per cent., — that is, who lend on usury at a little lower rate than the bankers and usurers, — they are the flower of society, the cream of honesty! Moderation in robbery is the height of virtue!
We rob, — 13. By farm-rent, house-rent, and leases of all kinds.
The author of the “Provincial Letters” entertained the honest Christians of the seventeenth century at the expense of Escobar, the Jesuit, and the contract Mohatra.” The contract Mohatra,” said Escobar, “is a contract by which goods are bought, at a high price and on credit, to be again sold at the same moment to the same person, cash down, and at a lower price.” Escobar found a way to justify this kind of usury. Pascal and all the Jansenists laughed at him. But what would the satirical Pascal, the learned Nicole, and the invincible Arnaud have said, if Father Antoine Escobar de Valladolid had answered them thus: “A lease is a contract by which real estate is bought, at a high price and on credit, to be again sold, at the expiration of a certain time, to the same person, at a lower price; only, to simplify the transaction, the buyer is content to pay the difference between the first sale and the second. Either deny the identity of the lease and the contract Mohatra, and then I will annihilate you in a moment; or, if you admit the similarity, admit also the soundness of my doctrine: otherwise you proscribe both interest and rent at one blow"?
In reply to this overwhelming argument of the Jesuit, the sire of Montalte would have sounded the tocsin, and would have shouted that society was in peril, — that the Jesuits were sapping its very foundations.
We rob, — 14. By commerce, when the profit of the merchant exceeds his legitimate salary.
Everybody knows the definition of commerce — The art of buying for three francs that which is worth six, and of selling for six that which is worth three. Between commerce thus defined and vol a l'americaine, the only difference is in the relative proportion of the values exchanged, — in short, in the amount of the profit.
We rob, — 15. By making profit on our product, by accepting sinecures, and by exacting exorbitant wages.
The farmer, who sells a certain amount of corn to the consumer, and who during the measurement thrusts his hand into the bushel and takes out a handful of grains, robs; the professor, whose lectures are paid for by the State, and who through the intervention of a bookseller sells them to the public a second time, robs; the sinecurist, who receives an enormous product in exchange for his vanity, robs; the functionary, the laborer, whatever he may be, who produces only one and gets paid four, one hundred, or one thousand, robs; the publisher of this book, and I, its author, — we rob, by charging for it twice as much as it is worth.
In recapitulation: —
Justice, after passing through the state of negative communism, called by the ancient poets the age of gold, commences as the right of the strongest. In a society which is trying to organize itself, inequality of faculties calls up the idea of merit; équité suggests the plan of proportioning not only esteem, but also material comforts, to personal merit; and since the highest and almost the only merit then recognized is physical strength, the strongest, apistos, and consequently the best, apistos, is entitled to the largest share; and if it is refused him, he very naturally takes it by force. From this to the assumption of the right of property in all things, it is but one step.
Such was justice in the heroic age, preserved, at least by tradition, among the Greeks and Romans down to the last days of their republics. Plato, in the “Gorgias,” introduces a character named Callicles, who spiritedly defends the right of the strongest, which Socrates, the advocate of equality, ton ison, seriously refutes. It is related of the great Pompey, that he blushed easily, and, nevertheless, these words once escaped his lips: “Why should I respect the laws, when I have arms in my hand?” This shows him to have been a man in whom the moral sense and ambition were struggling for the mastery, and who sought to justify his violence by the motto of the hero and the brigand.
From the right of the strongest springs the exploitation of man by man, or bondage; usury, or the tribute levied upon the conquered by the conqueror; and the whole numerous family of taxes, duties, monarchical prerogatives, house-rents, farm-rents, &c.; in one word, — property.
Force was followed by artifice, the second manifestation of justice, which was detested by the ancient heroes, who, not excelling in that direction, were heavy losers by it. Force was still employed, but mental force instead of physical. Skill in deceiving an enemy by treacherous propositions seemed deserving of reward; nevertheless, the strong always prided themselves upon their honesty. In those days, oaths were observed and promises kept according to the letter rather than the spirit: Uti lingua nuncupassit, ita jus esto, — “As the tongue has spoken, so must the right be,” says the law of the Twelve Tables. Artifice, or rather perfidy, was the main element in the politics of ancient Rome. Among other examples, Vico cites the following, also quoted by Montesquieu: The Romans had guaranteed to the Carthaginians the preservation of their goods and their city, — intentionally using the word civitas, that is, the society, the State; the Carthaginians, on the contrary, understood them to mean the material city, urbs, and accordingly began to rebuild their walls. They were immediately attacked on account of their violation of the treaty, by the Romans, who, acting upon the old heroic idea of right, did not imagine that, in taking advantage of an equivocation to surprise their enemies, they were waging unjust war.
From artifice sprang the profits of manufactures, commerce, and banking, mercantile frauds, and pretensions which are honored with the beautiful names of talent and genius, but which ought to be regarded as the last degree of knavery and deception; and, finally, all sorts of social inequalities.
In those forms of robbery which are prohibited by law, force and artifice are employed alone and undisguised; in the authorized forms, they conceal themselves within a useful product, which they use as a tool to plunder their victim.
The direct use of violence and stratagem was early and universally condemned; but no nation has yet got rid of that kind of robbery which acts through talent, labor, and possession, and which is the source of all the dilemmas of casuistry and the innumerable contradictions of jurisprudence.
The right of force and the right of artifice — glorified by the rhapsodists in the poems of the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” — inspired the legislation of the Greeks and Romans, from which they passed into our morals and codes. Christianity has not changed at all. The Gospel should not be blamed, because the priests, as stupid as the legists, have been unable either to expound or to understand it. The ignorance of councils and popes upon all questions of morality is equal to that of the market-place and the money-changers; and it is this utter ignorance of right, justice, and society, which is killing the Church, and discrediting its teachings for ever. The infidelity of the Roman church and other Christian churches is flagrant; all have disregarded the precept of Jesus; all have erred in moral and doctrinal points; all are guilty of teaching false and absurd dogmas, which lead straight to wickedness and murder. Let it ask pardon of God and men, — this church which called itself infallible, and which has grown so corrupt in morals; let its reformed sisters humble themselves, . . . and the people, undeceived, but still religious and merciful, will begin to think.
The development of right has followed the same order, in its various expressions, that property has in its forms. Every where we see justice driving robbery before it and confining it within narrower and narrower limits. Hitherto the victories of justice over injustice, and of equality over inequality, have been won by instinct and the simple force of things; but the final triumph of our social nature will be due to our reason, or else we shall fall back into feudal chaos. Either this glorious height is reserved for our intelligence, or this miserable depth for our baseness.
The second effect of property is despotism. Now, since despotism is inseparably connected with the idea of legitimate authority, in explaining the natural causes of the first, the principle of the second will appear.
What is to be the form of government in the future? hear some of my younger readers reply: “Why, how can you ask such a question? You are a republican.” “A republican! Yes; but that word specifies nothing. Res publica; that is, the public thing. Now, whoever is interested in public affairs — no matter under what form of government — may call himself a republican. Even kings are republicans.” —
“Well! you are a democrat?” — “No.” — “What! you would have a monarchy.” — “No.” — “A constitutionalist?” — “God forbid!” — “You are then an aristocrat?” — “Not at all.” — “You want a mixed government?” — “Still less.” — “What are you, then?” — “I am an anarchist.”
“Oh! I understand you; you speak satirically. This is a hit at the government.” — “By no means. I have just given you my serious and well-considered profession of faith. Although a firm friend of order, I am (in the full force of the term) an anarchist. Listen to me.”
In all species of sociable animals, “the weakness of the young is the principle of their obedience to the old, who are strong; and from habit, which is a kind of conscience with them, the power remains with the oldest, although he finally becomes the weakest. Whenever the society is under the control of a chief, this chief is almost always the oldest of the troop. I say almost always, because the established order may be disturbed by violent outbreaks. Then the authority passes to another; and, having been re-established by force, it is again maintained by habit. Wild horses go in herds: they have a chief who marches at their head, whom they confidently follow, and who gives the signal for flight or battle.
“The sheep which we have raised follows us, but it follows in company with the flock in the midst of which it was born. It regards man as the chief of its flock. . . . Man is regarded by domestic animals as a member of their society. All that he has to do is to get himself accepted by them as an associate: he soon becomes their chief, in consequence of his superior intelligence. He does not, then, change the natural condition of these animals, as Buffon has said. On the contrary, he uses this natural condition to his own advantage; in other words, he finds sociable animals, and renders them domestic by becoming their associate and chief. Thus, the domesticity of animals is only a special condition, a simple modification, a definitive consequence of their sociability. All domestic animals are by nature sociable animals.” . . . — Flourens: Summary of the Observations of F. Cuvier.
Sociable animals follow their chief by instinct; but take notice of the fact (which F. Cuvier omitted to state), that the function of the chief is altogether one of intelligence. The chief does not teach the others to associate, to unite under his lead, to reproduce their kind, to take to flight, or to defend themselves. Concerning each of these particulars, his subordinates are as well informed as he. But it is the chief who, by his accumulated experience, provides against accidents; he it is whose private intelligence supplements, in difficult situations, the general instinct; he it is who deliberates, decides, and leads; he it is, in short, whose enlightened prudence regulates the public routine for the greatest good of all.
Man (naturally a sociable being) naturally follows a chief. Originally, the chief is the father, the patriarch, the elder; in other words, the good and wise man, whose functions, consequently, are exclusively of a reflective and intellectual nature. The human race — like all other races of sociable animals — has its instincts, its innate faculties, its general ideas, and its categories of sentiment and reason. Its chiefs, legislators, or kings have devised nothing, supposed nothing, imagined nothing. They have only guided society by their accumulated experience, always however in conformity with opinions and beliefs.
Those philosophers who (carrying into morals and into history their gloomy and factious whims) affirm that the human race had originally neither chiefs nor kings, know nothing of the nature of man. Royalty, and absolute royalty, is — as truly and more truly than democracy — a primitive form of government. Perceiving that, in the remotest ages, crowns and kingships were worn by heroes, brigands, and knight-errants, they confound the two things, — royalty and despotism. But royalty dates from the creation of man; it existed in the age of negative communism. Ancient heroism (and the despotism which it engendered) commenced only with the first manifestation of the idea of justice; that is, with the reign of force. As soon as the strongest, in the comparison of merits, was decided to be the best, the oldest had to abandon his position, and royalty became despotic.
The spontaneous, instinctive, and — so to speak — physiological origin of royalty gives it, in the beginning, a superhuman character. The nations connected it with the gods, from whom they said the first kings descended. This notion was the origin of the divine genealogies of royal families, the incarnations of gods, and the messianic fables. From it sprang the doctrine of divine right, which is still championed by a few singular characters.
Royalty was at first elective, because — at a time when man produced but little and possessed nothing — property was too weak to establish the principle of heredity, and secure to the son the throne of his father; but as soon as fields were cleared, and cities built, each function was, like every thing else, appropriated, and hereditary kingships and priesthoods were the result. The principle of heredity was carried into even the most ordinary professions, — a circumstance which led to class distinctions, pride of station, and abjection of the common people, and which confirms my assertion, concerning the principle of patrimonial succession, that it is a method suggested by Nature of filling vacancies in business, and completing unfinished tasks.
From time to time, ambition caused usurpers, or supplanters of kings, to start up; and, in consequence, some were called kings by right, or legitimate kings, and others tyrants. But we must not let these names deceive us. There have been execrable kings, and very tolerable tyrants. Royalty may always be good, when it is the only possible form of government; legitimate it is never. Neither heredity, nor election, nor universal suffrage, nor the excellence of the sovereign, nor the consecration of religion and of time, can make royalty legitimate. Whatever form it takes, — monarchic, oligarchic, or democratic, — royalty, or the government of man by man, is illegitimate and absurd.
Man, in order to procure as speedily as possible the most thorough satisfaction of his wants, seeks rule. In the beginning, this rule is to him living, visible, and tangible. It is his father, his master, his king. The more ignorant man is, the more obedient he is, and the more absolute is his confidence in his guide. But, it being a law of man’s nature to conform to rule, — that is, to discover it by his powers of reflection and reason, — man reasons upon the commands of his chiefs. Now, such reasoning as that is a protest against authority, — a beginning of disobedience. At the moment that man inquires into the motives which govern the will of his sovereign, — at that moment man revolts. If he obeys no longer because the king commands, but because the king demonstrates the wisdom of his commands, it may be said that henceforth he will recognize no authority, and that he has become his own king. Unhappy he who shall dare to command him, and shall offer, as his authority, only the vote of the majority; for, sooner or later, the minority will become the majority, and this imprudent despot will be overthrown, and all his laws annihilated.
In proportion as society becomes enlightened, royal authority diminishes. That is a fact to which all history bears witness. At the birth of nations, men reflect and reason in vain. Without methods, without principles, not knowing how to use their reason, they cannot judge of the justice of their conclusions. Then the authority of kings is immense, no knowledge having been acquired with which to contradict it. But, little by little, experience produces habits, which develop into customs; then the customs are formulated in maxims, laid down as principles, — in short, transformed into laws, to which the king, the living law, has to bow. There comes a time when customs and laws are so numerous that the will of the prince is, so to speak, entwined by the public will; and that, on taking the crown, he is obliged to swear that he will govern in conformity with established customs and usages; and that he is but the executive power of a society whose laws are made independently of him.
Up to this point, all is done instinctively, and, as it were, unconsciously; but see where this movement must end.
By means of self-instruction and the acquisition of ideas, man finally acquires the idea of science, — that is, of a system of knowledge in harmony with the reality of things, and inferred from observation. He searches for the science, or the system, of inanimate bodies, — the system of organic bodies, the system of the human mind, and the system of the universe: why should he not also search for the system of society? But, having reached this height, he comprehends that political truth, or the science of politics, exists quite independently of the will of sovereigns, the opinion of majorities, and popular beliefs, — that kings, ministers, magistrates, and nations, as wills, have no connection with the science, and are worthy of no consideration. He comprehends, at the same time, that, if man is born a sociable being, the authority of his father over him ceases on the day when, his mind being formed and his education finished, he becomes the associate of his father; that his true chief and his king is the demonstrated truth; that politics is a science, not a stratagem; and that the function of the legislator is reduced, in the last analysis, to the methodical search for truth.
Thus, in a given society, the authority of man over man is inversely proportional to the stage of intellectual development which that society has reached; and the probable duration of that authority can be calculated from the more or less general desire for a true government, — that is, for a scientific government. And just as the right of force and the right of artifice retreat before the steady advance of justice, and must finally be extinguished in equality, so the sovereignty of the will yields to the sovereignty of the reason, and must at last be lost in scientific socialism. Property and royalty have been crumbling to pieces ever since the world began. As man seeks justice in equality, so society seeks order in anarchy.
Anarchy, — the absence of a master, of a sovereign, — such is the form of government to which we are every day approximating, and which our accustomed habit of taking man for our rule, and his will for law, leads us to regard as the height of disorder and the expression of chaos. The story is told, that a citizen of Paris in the seventeenth century having heard it said that in Venice there was no king, the good man could not recover from his astonishment, and nearly died from laughter at the mere mention of so ridiculous a thing. So strong is our prejudice. As long as we live, we want a chief or chiefs; and at this very moment I hold in my hand a brochure, whose author — a zealous communist — dreams, like a second Marat, of the dictatorship. The most advanced among us are those who wish the greatest possible number of sovereigns, — their most ardent wish is for the royalty of the National Guard. Soon, undoubtedly, some one, jealous of the citizen militia, will say, “Everybody is king.” But, when he has spoken, I will say, in my turn, “Nobody is king; we are, whether we will or no, associated.” Every question of domestic politics must be decided by departmental statistics; every question of foreign politics is an affair of international statistics. The science of government rightly belongs to one of the sections of the Academy of Sciences, whose permanent secretary is necessarily prime minister; and, since every citizen may address a memoir to the Academy, every citizen is a legislator. But, as the opinion of no one is of any value until its truth has been proven, no one can substitute his will for reason, — nobody is king.
All questions of legislation and politics are matters of science, not of opinion. The legislative power belongs only to the reason, methodically recognized and demonstrated. To attribute to any power whatever the right of veto or of sanction, is the last degree of tyranny. Justice and legality are two things as independent of our approval as is mathematical truth. To compel, they need only to be known; to be known, they need only to be considered and studied. What, then, is the nation, if it is not the sovereign, — if it is not the source of the legislative power? The nation is the guardian of the law — the nation is the executive power. Every citizen may assert: “This is true; that is just; “but his opinion controls no one but himself. That the truth which he proclaims may become a law, it must be recognized. Now, what is it to recognize a law? It is to verify a mathematical or a metaphysical calculation; it is to repeat an experiment, to observe a phenomenon, to establish a fact. Only the nation has the right to say, “Be it known and decreed.”
I confess that this is an overturning of received ideas, and that I seem to be attempting to revolutionize our political system; but I beg the reader to consider that, having begun with a paradox, I must, if I reason correctly, meet with paradoxes at every step, and must end with paradoxes. For the rest, I do not see how the liberty of citizens would be endangered by entrusting to their hands, instead of the pen of the legislator, the sword of the law. The executive power, belonging properly to the will, cannot be confided to too many proxies. That is the true sovereignty of the nation.
The proprietor, the robber, the hero, the sovereign — for all these titles are synonymous — imposes his will as law, and suffers neither contradiction nor control; that is, he pretends to be the legislative and the executive power at once. Accordingly, the substitution of the scientific and true law for the royal will is accomplished only by a terrible struggle; and this constant substitution is, after property, the most potent element in history, the most prolific source of political disturbances. Examples are too numerous and too striking to require enumeration.
Now, property necessarily engenders despotism, — the government of caprice, the reign of libidinous pleasure. That is so clearly the essence of property that, to be convinced of it, one need but remember what it is, and observe what happens around him. Property is the right to use and abuse. If, then, government is economy, — if its object is production and consumption, and the distribution of labor and products, — how is government possible while property exists? And if goods are property, why should not the proprietors be kings, and despotic kings — kings in proportion to their facultés bonitaires? And if each proprietor is sovereign lord within the sphere of his property, absolute king throughout his own domain, how could a government of proprietors be any thing but chaos and confusion?
Then, no government, no public economy, no administration, is possible, which is based upon property.
Communism seeks equality and law. Property, born of the sovereignty of the reason, and the sense of personal merit, wishes above all things independence and proportionality.
But communism, mistaking uniformity for law, and levelism for equality, becomes tyrannical and unjust. Property, by its despotism and encroachments, soon proves itself oppressive and anti-social.
The objects of communism and property are good — their results are bad. And why? Because both are exclusive, and each disregards two elements of society. Communism rejects independence and proportionality; property does not satisfy equality and law.
Now, if we imagine a society based upon these four principles, — equality, law, independence, and proportionality, — we find: —
1. That equality, consisting only in equality of conditions, that is, of means, and not in equality of comfort, — which it is the business of the laborers to achieve for themselves, when provided with equal means, — in no way violates justice and équité.
2. That law, resulting from the knowledge of facts, and consequently based upon necessity itself, never clashes with independence.
3. That individual independence, or the autonomy of the private reason, originating in the difference in talents and capacities, can exist without danger within the limits of the law.
4. That proportionality, being admitted only in the sphere of intelligence and sentiment, and not as regards material objects, may be observed without violating justice or social equality.
This third form of society, the synthesis of communism and property, we will call liberty.
In determining the nature of liberty, we do not unite communism and property indiscriminately; such a process would be absurd eclecticism. We search by analysis for those elements in each which are true, and in harmony with the laws of Nature and society, disregarding the rest altogether; and the result gives us an adequate expression of the natural form of human society, — in one word, liberty.
Liberty is equality, because liberty exists only in society; and in the absence of equality there is no society.
Liberty is anarchy, because it does not admit the government of the will, but only the authority of the law; that is, of necessity.
Liberty is infinite variety, because it respects all wills within the limits of the law.
Liberty is proportionality, because it allows the utmost latitude to the ambition for merit, and the emulation of glory.
We can now say, in the words of M. Cousin: “Our principle is true; it is good, it is social; let us not fear to push it to its ultimate.”
Man’s social nature becoming justice through reflection, équité through the classification of capacities, and having liberty for its formula, is the true basis of morality, — the principle and regulator of all our actions. This is the universal motor, which philosophy is searching for, which religion strengthens, which egotism supplants, and whose place pure reason never can fill. Duty and right are born of need, which, when considered in connection with others, is a right, and when considered in connection with ourselves, a duty.
We need to eat and sleep. It is our right to procure those things which are necessary to rest and nourishment. It is our duty to use them when Nature requires it.
We need to labor in order to live. To do so is both our right and our duty.
We need to love our wives and children. It is our duty to protect and support them. It is our right to be loved in preference to all others. Conjugal fidelity is justice. Adultery is high treason against society.
We need to exchange our products for other products. It is our right that this exchange should be one of equivalents; and since we consume before we produce, it would be our duty, if we could control the matter, to see to it that our last product shall follow our last consumption. Suicide is fraudulent bankruptcy.
We need to live our lives according to the dictates of our reason. It is our right to maintain our freedom. It is our duty to respect that of others.
We need to be appreciated by our fellows. It is our duty to deserve their praise. It is our right to be judged by our works.
Liberty is not opposed to the rights of succession and bequest. It contents itself with preventing violations of equality. “Choose,” it tells us, “between two legacies, but do not take them both.” All our legislation concerning transmissions, entailments, adoptions, and, if I may venture to use such a word, coadjutoreries, requires remodelling.
Liberty favors emulation, instead of destroying it. In social equality, emulation consists in accomplishing under like conditions; it is its own reward. No one suffers by the victory.
Liberty applauds self-sacrifice, and honors it with its votes, but it can dispense with it. Justice alone suffices to maintain the social equilibrium. Self-sacrifice is an act of supererogation. Happy, however, the man who can say, “I sacrifice myself."
Liberty is essentially an organizing force. To insure equality between men and peace among nations, agriculture and industry, and the centres of education, business, and storage, must be distributed according to the climate and the geographical position of the country, the nature of the products, the character and natural talents of the inhabitants, &c., in proportions so just, so wise, so harmonious, that in no place shall there ever be either an excess or a lack of population, consumption, and products. There commences the science of public and private right, the true political economy. It is for the writers on jurisprudence, henceforth unembarrassed by the false principle of property, to describe the new laws, and bring peace upon earth. Knowledge and genius they do not lack; the foundation is now laid for them.
I have accomplished my task; property is conquered, never again to arise. Wherever this work is read and discussed, there will be deposited the germ of death to property; there, sooner or later, privilege and servitude will disappear, and the despotism of will will give place to the reign of reason. What sophisms, indeed, what prejudices (however obstinate) can stand before the simplicity of the following propositions: —
I. Individual possession is the condition of social life; five thousand years of property demonstrate it. Property is the suicide of society. Possession is a right; property is against right. Suppress property while maintaining possession, and, by this simple modification of the principle, you will revolutionize law, government, economy, and institutions; you will drive evil from the face of the earth.
II. All having an equal right of occupancy, possession varies with the number of possessors; property cannot establish itself.
III. The effect of labor being the same for all, property is lost in the common prosperity.
IV. All human labor being the result of collective force, all property becomes, in consequence, collective and unitary. To speak more exactly, labor destroys property.
V. Every capacity for labor being, like every instrument of labor, an accumulated capital, and a collective property, inequality of wages and fortunes (on the ground of inequality of capacities) is, therefore, injustice and robbery.
VI. The necessary conditions of commerce are the liberty of the contracting parties and the equivalence of the products exchanged. Now, value being expressed by the amount of time and outlay which each product costs, and liberty being inviolable, the wages of laborers (like their rights and duties) should be equal.
VII. Products are bought only by products. Now, the condition of all exchange being equivalence of products, profit is impossible and unjust. Observe this elementary principle of economy, and pauperism, luxury, oppression, vice, crime, and hunger will disappear from our midst.
VIII. Men are associated by the physical and mathematical law of production, before they are voluntarily associated by choice. Therefore, equality of conditions is demanded by justice; that is, by strict social law: esteem, friendship, gratitude, admiration, all fall within the domain of equitable or proportional law only.
IX. Free association, liberty — whose sole function is to maintain equality in the means of production and equivalence in exchanges — is the only possible, the only just, the only true form of society.
X. Politics is the science of liberty. The government of man by man (under whatever name it be disguised) is oppression. Society finds its highest perfection in the union of order with anarchy.
The old civilization has run its race; a new sun is rising, and will soon renew the face of the earth. Let the present generation perish, let the old prevaricators die in the desert! the holy earth shall not cover their bones. Young man, exasperated by the corruption of the age, and absorbed in your zeal for justice! — if your country is dear to you, and if you have the interests of humanity at heart, have the courage to espouse the cause of liberty! Cast off your old selfishness, and plunge into the rising flood of popular equality! There your regenerate soul will acquire new life and vigor; your enervated genius will recover unconquerable energy; and your heart, perhaps already withered, will be rejuvenated! Every thing will wear a different look to your illuminated vision; new sentiments will engender new ideas within you; religion, morality, poetry, art, language will appear before you in nobler and fairer forms; and thenceforth, sure of your faith, and thoughtfully enthusiastic, you will hail the dawn of universal regeneration!
And you, sad victims of an odious law! — you, whom a jesting world despoils and outrages! — you, whose labor has always been fruitless, and whose rest has been without hope, — take courage! your tears are numbered! The fathers have sown in affliction, the children shall reap in rejoicings!
O God of liberty! God of equality! Thou who didst place in my heart the sentiment of justice, before my reason could comprehend it, hear my ardent prayer! Thou hast dictated all that I have written; Thou hast shaped my thought; Thou hast directed my studies; Thou hast weaned my mind from curiosity and my heart from attachment, that I might publish Thy truth to the master and the slave. I have spoken with what force and talent Thou hast given me: it is Thine to finish the work. Thou knowest whether I seek my welfare or Thy glory, O God of liberty! Ah! perish my memory, and let humanity be free! Let me see from my obscurity the people at last instructed; let noble teachers enlighten them; let generous spirits guide them! Abridge, if possible, the time of our trial; stifle pride and avarice in equality; annihilate this love of glory which enslaves us; teach these poor children that in the bosom of liberty there are neither heroes nor great men! Inspire the powerful man, the rich man, him whose name my lips shall never pronounce in Thy presence, with a horror of his crimes; let him be the first to apply for admission to the redeemed society; let the promptness of his repentance be the ground of his forgiveness! Then, great and small, wise and foolish, rich and poor, will unite in an ineffable fraternity; and, singing in unison a new hymn, will rebuild Thy altar, O God of liberty and equality!
1. To perform an act of benevolence towards one’s neighbor is called, in Hebrew, to do justice; in Greek, to take compassion or pity (elehmosunh, from which is derived the French aumone); in Latin, to perform an act of love or charity; in French, give alms. We can trace the degradation of this principle through these various expressions: the first signifies duty; the second only sympathy; the third, affection, a matter of choice, not an obligation; the fourth, caprice.
2. I mean here by équité what the Latins called humanitas, — that is, the kind of sociability which is peculiar to man. Humanity, gentle and courteous to all, knows how to distinguish ranks, virtues, and capacities without injury to any. It is the just distribution of social sympathy and universal love.
3. Justice and équité never have been understood.
Are Achilles and Ajax associated, or are they not? Settle that, and you settle the whole question. If Achilles and Ajax, instead of being associated, are themselves in the service of Agamemnon who pays them, there is no objection to Aristotle’s method. The slave-owner, who controls his slaves, may give a double allowance of brandy to him who does double work. That is the law of despotism; the right of slavery. But if Achilles and Ajax are associated, they are equals. What matters it that Achilles has a strength of four, while that of Ajax is only two? The latter may always answer that he is free; that if Achilles has a strength of four, five could kill him; finally, that in doing personal service he incurs as great a risk as Achilles. The same argument applies to Thersites. If he is unable to fight, let him be cook, purveyor, or butler. If he is good for nothing, put him in the hospital. In no case wrong him, or impose upon him laws.
Man must live in one of two states: either in society, or out of it. In society, conditions are necessarily equal, except in the degree of esteem and consideration which each one may receive. Out of society, man is so much raw material, a capitalized tool, and often an incommodious and useless piece of furniture.
4. Between woman and man there may exist love, passion, ties of custom, and the like; but there is no real society. Man and woman are not companions. The difference of the sexes places a barrier between them, like that placed between animals by a difference of race. Consequently, far from advocating what is now called the emancipation of woman, I should incline, rather, if there were no other alternative, to exclude her from society.
The rights of woman and her relations with man are yet to be determined Matrimonial legislation, like civil legislation, is a matter for the future to settle.
5. “The strong-box of Cosmo de Medici was the grave of Florentine liberty,” said M. Michelet to the College of France.
6. “The problem of the origin of language is solved by the distinction made by Frederic Cuvier between instinct and intelligence. Language is not a premeditated, arbitrary, or conventional device; nor is it communicated or revealed to us by God. Language is an instinctive and unpremeditated creation of man, as the hive is of the bee. In this sense, it may be said that language is not the work of man, since it is not the work of his mind. Further, the mechanism of language seems more wonderful and ingenious when it is not regarded as the result of reflection. This fact is one of the most curious and indisputable which philology has observed. See, among other works, a Latin essay by F. G. Bergmann (Strasbourg, 1839), in which the learned author explains how the phonetic germ is born of sensation; how language passes through three successive stages of development; why man, endowed at birth with the instinctive faculty of creating a language, loses this faculty as fast as his mind develops; and that the study of languages is real natural history, — in fact, a science. France possesses to-day several philologists of the first rank, endowed with rare talents and deep philosophic insight, — modest savants developing a science almost without the knowledge of the public; devoting themselves to studies which are scornfully looked down upon, and seeming to shun applause as much as others seek it.”
7. “My right is my lance and my buckler.” General de Brossard said, like Achilles: “I get wine, gold, and women with my lance and my buckler.”
8. It would be interesting and profitable to review the authors who have written on usury, or, to use the gentler expression which some prefer, lending at interest. The theologians always have opposed usury; but, since they have admitted always the legitimacy of rent, and since rent is evidently identical with interest, they have lost themselves in a labyrinth of subtle distinctions, and have finally reached a pass where they do not know what to think of usury. The Church — the teacher of morality, so jealous and so proud of the purity of her doctrine — has always been ignorant of the real nature of property and usury. She even has proclaimed through her pontiffs the most deplorable errors. Non potest mutuum, said Benedict XIV., locationi ullo pacto comparari. “Rent,” says Bossuet, “is as far from usury as heaven is from the earth.” How, on [sic] such a doctrine, condemn lending at interest? how justify the Gospel, which expressly forbids usury? The difficulty of theologians is a very serious one. Unable to refute the economical demonstrations, which rightly assimilate interest to rent, they no longer dare to condemn interest, and they can say only that there must be such a thing as usury, since the Gospel forbids it. But what, then, is usury? Nothing is more amusing than to see these instructors of nations hesitate between the authority of the Gospel, which, they say, never can have spoken in vain, and the authority of economical demonstrations. Nothing, to my mind, is more creditable to the Gospel than this old infidelity of its pretended teachers. Salmasius, having assimilated interest to rent, was refuted by Grotius, Pufendorf, Burlamaqui, Wolf, and Heineccius; and, what is more curious still, Salmasius admitted his error. Instead of inferring from this doctrine of Salmasius that all increase is illegitimate, and proceeding straight on to the demonstration of Gospel equality, they arrived at just the opposite conclusion; namely, that since everybody acknowledges that rent is permissible, if we allow that interest does not differ from rent, there is nothing left which can be called usury. and, consequently, that the commandment of Jesus Christ is an illusion, and amounts to nothing, which is an impious conclusion.
If this memoir had appeared in the time of Bossuet, that great theologian would have proved by scripture, the fathers, traditions, councils, and popes, that property exists by Divine right, while usury is an invention of the devil; and the heretical work would have been burned, and the author imprisoned.
9. “I preach the Gospel, I live by the Gospel,” said the Apostle; meaning thereby that he lived by his labor. The Catholic clergy prefer to live by property. The struggles in the communes of the middle ages between the priests and bishops and the large proprietors and seigneurs are famous. The papal excommunications fulminated in defence of ecclesiastical revenues are no less so. Even to-day, the official organs of the Gallican clergy still maintain that the pay received by the clergy is not a salary, but an indemnity for goods of which they were once proprietors, and which were taken from them in ‘89 by the Third Estate. The clergy prefer to live by the right of increase rather than by labor.
One of the main causes of Ireland’s poverty to-day is the immense revenues of the English clergy. So heretics and orthodox — Protestants and Papists — cannot reproach each other. All have strayed from the path of justice; all have disobeyed the eighth commandment of the Decalogue: “Thou shalt not steal.”
10. The meaning ordinarily attached to the word “anarchy” is absence of principle, absence of rule; consequently, it has been regarded as synonymous with “disorder.”
11. If such ideas are ever forced into the minds of the people, it will be by representative government and the tyranny of talkers. Once science, thought, and speech were characterized by the same expression. To designate a thoughtful and a learned man, they said, “a man quick to speak and powerful in discourse. “For a long time, speech has been abstractly distinguished from science and reason. Gradually, this abstraction is becoming realized, as the logicians say, in society; so that we have to-day savants of many kinds who talk but little, and talkers who are not even savants in the science of speech. Thus a philosopher is no longer a savant: he is a talker. Legislators and poets were once profound and sublime characters: now they are talkers. A talker is a sonorous bell, whom the least shock suffices to set in perpetual motion. With the talker, the flow of speech is always directly proportional to the poverty of thought. Talkers govern the world; they stun us, they bore us, they worry us, they suck our blood, and laugh at us. As for the savants, they keep silence: if they wish to say a word, they are cut short. Let them write.
12. libertas, librare, libratio, libra, — liberty, to liberate, libration, balance (pound), — words which have a common derivation. Liberty is the balance of rights and duties. To make a man free is to balance him with others, — that is, to put him or their level.
13. In a monthly publication, the first number of which has just appeared under the name of “L'Egalitaire,” self-sacrifice is laid down as a principle of equality. This is a confusion of ideas. Self-sacrifice, taken alone, is the last degree of inequality. To seek equality in self-sacrifice is to confess that equality is against nature. Equality must be based upon justice, upon strict right, upon the principles invoked by the proprietor himself; otherwise it will never exist. Self-sacrifice is superior to justice; but it cannot be imposed as law, because it is of such a nature as to admit of no reward. It is, indeed, desirable that everybody shall recognize the necessity of self-sacrifice, and the idea of “L'Egalitaire” is an excellent example. Unfortunately, it can have no effect. What would you reply, indeed, to a man who should say to you, “I do not want to sacrifice myself"? Is he to be compelled to do so? When self-sacrifice is forced, it becomes oppression, slavery, the exploitation of man by man. Thus have the proletaires sacrificed themselves to property.
14. The disciples of Fourier have long seemed to me the most advanced of all modern socialists, and almost the only ones worthy of the name. If they had understood the nature of their task, spoken to the people, awakened their sympathies, and kept silence when they did not understand; if they had made less extravagant pretensions, and had shown more respect for public intelligence, — perhaps the reform would now, thanks to them, be in progress. But why are these earnest reformers continually bowing to power and wealth, — that is, to all that is anti-reformatory? How, in a thinking age, can they fail to see that the world must be converted by demonstration, not by myths and allegories? Why do they, the deadly enemies of civilization, borrow from it, nevertheless, its most pernicious fruits, — property, inequality of fortune and rank, gluttony, concubinage, prostitution, what do I know? theurgy, magic, and sorcery? Why these endless denunciations of morality, metaphysics, and psychology, when the abuse of these sciences, which they do not understand, constitutes their whole system? Why this mania for deifying a man whose principal merit consisted in talking nonsense about things whose names, even, he did not know, in the strongest language ever put upon paper? Whoever admits the infallibility of a man becomes thereby incapable of instructing others. Whoever denies his own reason will soon proscribe free thought. The phalansterians would not fail to do it if they had the power. Let them condescend to reason, let them proceed systematically, let them give us demonstrations instead of revelations, and we will listen willingly. Then let them organize manufactures, agriculture, and commerce; let them make labor attractive, and the most humble functions honorable, and our praise shall be theirs. Above all, let them throw off that Illuminism which gives them the appearance of impostors or dupes, rather than believers and apostles.
15. Individual possession is no obstacle to extensive cultivation and unity of exploitation. If I have not spoken of the drawbacks arising from small estates, it is because I thought it useless to repeat what so many others have said, and what by this time all the world must know. But I am surprised that the economists, who have so clearly shown the disadvantages of spade-husbandry, have failed to see that it is caused entirely by property; above all, that they have not perceived that their plan for mobilizing the soil is a first step towards the abolition of property.