SECOND MEMOIR: A Letter to M. Blanqui – Part 2

The phrase equality of fortunes chafes people, as if it referred to a condition of the other world, unknown here below. There are some persons, radicals as well as moderates, whom the very mention of this idea fills with indignation. Let, then, these silly aristocrats abolish mercantile societies and insurance companies, which are founded by prudence for mutual assistance.

For all these social facts, so spontaneous and free from all levelling intentions, are the legitimate fruits of the instinct of equality.

When the legislator makes a law, properly speaking he does not make it, – he does not create it: he describes it. In legislating upon the moral, civil, and political relations of citizens, he does not express an arbitrary notion: he states the general idea, – the higher principle which governs the matter which he is considering; in a word, he is the proclaimer, not the inventor, of the law. So, when two or more men form among themselves, by synallagmatic contract, an industrial or an insurance association, they recognize that their interests, formerly isolated by a false spirit of selfishness and independence, are firmly connected by their inner natures, and by the mutuality of their relations. They do not really bind themselves by an act of their private will: they swear to conform henceforth to a previously existing social law hitherto disregarded by them. And this is proved by the fact that these same men, could they avoid association, would not associate.

Before they can be induced to unite their interests, they must acquire full knowledge of the dangers of competition and isolation; hence the experience of evil is the only thing which leads them into society.

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

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

It never has been my intention, sir, in spite of the vigorous censure which you, in behalf of your academy, have pronounced upon the doctrine of equality of fortunes, to contradict and cope with you. In listening to you, I have felt my inferiority too keenly to permit me to enter upon such a discussion. And then, – if it must be said, – however different your language is from mine, we believe in the same principles; you share all my opinions. I do not mean to insinuate thereby, sir, that you have (to use the phraseology of the schools) an esoteric and an exoteric doctrine, – that, secretly believing in equality, you defend property only from motives of prudence and by command. I am not rash enough to regard you as my colleague in my revolutionary projects; and I esteem you too highly, moreover, to suspect you of dissimulation. I only mean that the truths which methodical investigation and laborious metaphysical speculation have painfully demonstrated to me, a profound acquaintance with political economy and a long experience reveal to you. While I have reached my belief in equality by long reflection, and almost in spite of my desires, you hold yours, sir, with all the zeal of faith, – with all the spontaneity of genius. That is why your course of lectures at the Conservatory is a perpetual war upon property and inequality of fortunes; that is why your most learned investigations, your most ingenious analyses, and your innumerable observations always conclude in a formula of progress and equality; that is why, finally, you are never more admired and applauded than at those moments of inspiration when, borne upon the wings of science, you ascend to those lofty truths which cause plebeian hearts to beat with enthusiasm, and which chill with horror men whose intentions are evil. How many times, from the place where I eagerly drank in your eloquent words, have I inwardly thanked Heaven for exempting you from the judgment passed by St. Paul upon the philosophers of his time, – “They have known the truth, and have not made it known”! How many times have I rejoiced at finding my own justification in each of your discourses! No, no; I neither wish nor ask for any thing which you do not teach yourself. I appeal to your numerous audience; let it belie me if, in commenting upon you, I pervert your meaning. A disciple of Say, what in your eyes is more anti-social than the custom-houses; or, as you correctly call them, the barriers erected by monopoly between nations? What is more annoying, more unjust, or more absurd, than this prohibitory system which compels us to pay forty sous in France for that which in England or Belgium would bring us but fifteen? It is the custom-house, you once said,(1) which arrests the development of civilization by preventing the specialization of industries; it is the custom-house which enriches a hundred monopolists by impoverishing millions of citizens; it is the custom-house which produces famine in the midst of abundance, which makes labor sterile by prohibiting exchange, and which stifles production in a mortal embrace. It is the custom-house which renders nations jealous of, and hostile to, each other; four-fifths of the wars of all ages were caused originally by the custom-house. And then, at the highest pitch of your enthusiasm, you shouted:

“Yes, if to put an end to this hateful system, it should become necessary for me to shed the last drop of my blood, I would joyfully spring into the gap, asking only time enough to give thanks to God for having judged me worthy of martyrdom!”

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

But, sir, by this magnificent theory of liberty of commerce you render military glory impossible, – you leave nothing for diplomacy to do; you even take away the desire for conquest, while abolishing profit altogether. What matters it, indeed, who restores Constantinople, Alexandria, and Saint Jean d’Acre, if the Syrians, Egyptians, and Turks are free to choose their masters; free to exchange their products with whom they please? Why should Europe get into such a turmoil over this petty Sultan and his old Pasha, if it is only a question whether we or the English shall civilize the Orient, – shall instruct Egypt and Syria in the European arts, and shall teach them to construct machines, dig canals, and build railroads? For, if to national independence free trade is added, the foreign influence of these two countries is thereafter exerted only through a voluntary relationship of producer to producer, or apprentice to journeyman. Alone among European powers, France cheerfully accepted the task of civilizing the Orient, and began an invasion which was quite apostolic in its character, – so joyful and high-minded do noble thoughts render our nation! But diplomatic rivalry, national selfishness, English avarice, and Russian ambition stood in her way. To consummate a long-meditated usurpation, it was necessary to crush a too generous ally: the robbers of the Holy Alliance formed a league against dauntless and blameless France. Consequently, at the news of this famous treaty, there arose among us a chorus of curses upon the principle of property, which at that time was acting under the hypocritical formulas of the old political system. The last hour of property seemed to have struck by the side of Syria; from the Alps to the ocean, from the Rhine to the Pyrenees, the popular conscience was aroused. All France sang songs of war, and the coalition turned pale at the sound of these shuddering cries: “War upon the autocrat, who wishes to be proprietor of the old world! War upon the English perjurer, the devourer of India, the poisoner of China, the tyrant of Ireland, and the eternal enemy of France! War upon the allies who have conspired against liberty and equality! War! war! war upon property!”

By the counsel of Providence the emancipation of the nations is postponed. France is to conquer, not by arms, but by example.

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

In fact, if we suppress the custom-houses, the alliance of the nations is declared by that very act; their solidarity is recognized, and their equality proclaimed. If we suppress the custom-houses, the principle of association will not be slow in reaching from the State to the province, from the province to the city, and from the city to the workshop. But, then, what becomes of the privileges of authors and artists? Of what use are the patents for invention, imagination, amelioration, and improvement? When our deputies write a law of literary property by the side of a law which opens a large breach in the custom-house they contradict themselves, indeed, and pull down with one hand what they build up with the other. Without the custom-house. literary property does not exist, and the hopes of our starving authors are frustrated. For, certainly you do not expect, with the good man Fourier, that literary property will exercise itself in China to the profit of a French writer; and that an ode of Lamartine, sold by privilege all over the world, will bring in millions to its author! The poet’s work is peculiar to the climate in which he lives; every where else the reproduction of his works, having no market value, should be frank and free. But what! will it be necessary for nations to put themselves under mutual surveillance for the sake of verses, statues, and elixirs? We shall always have, then, an excise, a city-toll, rights of entrance and transit, custom-houses finally; and then, as a reaction against privilege, smuggling. Smuggling! That word reminds me of one of the most horrible forms of property. “Smuggling,” you have said, sir,(2) “is an offence of political creation; it is the exercise of natural liberty, defined as a crime in certain cases by the will of the sovereign. The smuggler is a gallant man, – a man of spirit, who gaily busies himself in procuring for his neighbor, at a very low price, a jewel, a shawl, or any other object of necessity or luxury, which domestic monopoly renders excessively dear.” Then, to a very poetical monograph of the smuggler, you add this dismal conclusion, – that the smuggler belongs to the family of Mandrin, and that the galleys should be his home!

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

It is said, – and I give this report only as an hypothesis and an illustration, for I do not believe it, – it is said that the present minister of finances owes his fortune to smuggling. M. Humann, of Strasbourg, sent out of France, it is said, enormous quantities of sugar, for which he received the bounty on exportation promised by the State; then, smuggling this sugar back again, he exported it anew, receiving the bounty on exportation a second time, and so on. Notice, sir, that I do not state this as a fact; I give it only as it is told, not endorsing or even believing it. My sole design is to fix the idea in the mind by an example. If I believed that a minister had committed such a crime, that is, if I had personal and authentic knowledge that he had, I would denounce M. Humann, the minister of finances, to the Chamber of Deputies, and would loudly demand his expulsion from the ministry. But that which is undoubtedly false of M. Humann is true of many others, as rich and no less honorable than he. Smuggling, organized on a large scale by the eaters of human flesh, is carried on to the profit of a few pashas at the risk and peril of their imprudent victims. The inactive proprietor offers his merchandise for sale; the actual smuggler risks his liberty, his honor, and his life. If success crowns the enterprise, the courageous servant gets paid for his journey; the profit goes to the coward. If fortune or treachery delivers the instrument of this execrable traffic into the hands of the custom-house officer, the master-smuggler suffers a loss which a more fortunate voyage will soon repair. The agent, pronounced a scoundrel, is thrown into prison in company with robbers; while his glorious patron, a juror, elector, deputy, or minister, makes laws concerning expropriation, monopoly, and custom-houses!

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

Property does not avenge, I hope, the injuries which smuggling suffers. The conspiracy against property is general; it is flagrant; it takes possession of all minds, and inspires all our laws; it lies at the bottom of all theories. Here the proletaire pursues property in the street, there the legislator lays an interdict upon it; now, a professor of political economy or of industrial legislation,(3) paid to defend it, undermines it with redoubled blows; at another – time, an academy calls it in question,(4) or inquires as to the progress of its demolition.(5) To-day there is not an idea, not an opinion, not a sect, which does not dream of muzzling property. None confess it, because none are yet conscious of it; there are too few minds capable of grasping spontaneously this ensemble of causes and effects, of principles and consequences, by which I try to demonstrate the approaching disappearance of property; on the other hand, the ideas that are generally formed of this right are too divergent and too loosely determined to allow an admission, so soon, of the contrary theory. Thus, in the middle and lower ranks of literature and philosophy, no less than among the common people, it is thought that, when property is abolished, no one will be able to enjoy the fruit of his labor; that no one will have any thing peculiar to himself, and that tyrannical communism will be established on the ruins of family and liberty! – chimeras, which are to support for a little while longer the cause of privilege. But, before determining precisely the idea of property, before seeking amid the contradictions of systems for the common element which must form the basis of the new right, let us cast a rapid glance at the changes which, at the various periods of history, property has undergone. The political forms of nations are the expression of their beliefs. The mobility of these forms, their modification and their destruction, are solemn experiences which show us the value of ideas, and gradually eliminate from the infinite variety of customs the absolute, eternal, and immutable truth. Now, we shall see that every political institution tends, necessarily, and on pain of death, to equalize conditions; that every where and always equality of fortunes (like equality of rights) has been the social aim, whether the plebeian classes have endeavored to rise to political power by means of property, or whether – rulers already – they have used political power to overthrow property. We shall see, in short, by the progress of society, that the consummation of justice lies in the extinction of individual domain.

For the sake of brevity, I will disregard the testimony of ecclesiastical history and Christian theology: this subject deserves a separate treatise, and I propose hereafter to return to it. Moses and Jesus Christ proscribed, under the names of usury and inequality,(6) all sorts of profit and increase. The church itself, in its purest teachings, has always condemned property; and when I attacked, not only the authority of the church, but also its infidelity to justice, I did it to the glory of religion. I wanted to provoke a peremptory reply, and to pave the way for Christianity’s triumph, in spite of the innumerable attacks of which it is at present the object. I hoped that an apologist would arise forthwith, and, taking his stand upon the Scriptures, the Fathers, the canons, and the councils and constitutions of the Popes, would demonstrate that the church always has maintained the doctrine of equality, and would attribute to temporary necessity the contradictions of its discipline. Such a labor would serve the cause of religion as well as that of equality. We must know, sooner or later, whether Christianity is to be regenerated in the church or out of it, and whether this church accepts the reproaches cast upon it of hatred to liberty and antipathy to progress. Until then we will suspend judgment, and content ourselves with placing before the clergy the teachings of history. When Lycurgus undertook to make laws for Sparta, in what condition did he find this republic? On this point all historians agree. The people and the nobles were at war. The city was in a confused state, and divided by two parties, – the party of the poor, and the party of the rich. Hardly escaped from the barbarism of the heroic ages, society was rapidly declining. The proletariat made war upon property, which, in its turn, oppressed the proletariat. What did Lycurgus do? His first measure was one of general security, at the very idea of which our legislators would tremble. He abolished all debts; then, employing by turns persuasion and force, he induced the nobles to renounce their privileges, and re-established equality. Lycurgus, in a word, hunted property out of Lacedæmon, seeing no other way to harmonize liberty, equality, and law. I certainly should not wish France to follow the example of Sparta; but it is remarkable that the most ancient of Greek legislators, thoroughly acquainted with the nature and needs of the people, more capable than any one else of appreciating the legitimacy of the obligations which he, in the exercise of his absolute authority, cancelled; who had compared the legislative systems of his time, and whose wisdom an oracle had proclaimed, – it is remarkable, I say, that Lycurgus should have judged the right of property incompatible with free institutions, and should have thought it his duty to preface his legislation by a coup d’état which destroyed all distinctions of fortune. Lycurgus understood perfectly that the luxury, the love of enjoyments, and the inequality of fortunes, which property engenders, are the bane of society; unfortunately the means which he employed to preserve his republic were suggested to him by false notions of political economy, and by a superficial knowledge of the human heart. Accordingly, property, which this legislator wrongly confounded with wealth, reentered the city together with the swarm of evils which he was endeavoring to banish; and this time Sparta was hopelessly corrupted.

“The introduction of wealth,” says M. Pastoret, “was one of the principal causes of the misfortunes which they experienced.

Against these, however, the laws had taken extraordinary precautions, the best among which was the inculcation of morals which tended to suppress desire.”

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

“There was a law,” says M. Pastoret again, “to prohibit the rich from wearing better clothing than the poor, from eating more delicate food, and from owning elegant furniture, vases, carpets, fine houses,” &c. Lycurgus hoped, then, to maintain equality by rendering wealth useless. How much wiser he would have been if, in accordance with his military discipline, he had organized industry and taught the people to procure by their own labor the things which he tried in vain to deprive them of. In that case, enjoying happy thoughts and pleasant feelings, the citizen would have known no other desire than that with which the legislator endeavored to inspire him, – love of honor and glory, the triumphs of talent and virtue. “Gold and all kinds of ornaments were forbidden the women.” Absurd. After the death of Lycurgus, his institutions became corrupted; and four centuries before the Christian era not a vestige remained of the former simplicity. Luxury and the thirst for gold were early developed among the Spartans in a degree as intense as might have been expected from their enforced poverty and their inexperience in the arts. Historians have accused Pausanias, Lysander, Agesilaus, and others of having corrupted the morals of their country by the introduction of wealth obtained in war. It is a slander. The morals of the Spartans necessarily grew corrupt as soon as the Lacedæmonian poverty came in contact with Persian luxury and Athenian elegance. Lycurgus, then, made a fatal mistake in attempting to inspire generosity and modesty by enforcing vain and proud simplicity.

“Lycurgus was not frightened at idleness! A Lacedæmonian, happening to be in Athens (where idleness was forbidden) during the punishment of a citizen who had been found guilty, asked to see the Athenian thus condemned for having exercised the rights of a free man… . It was one of the principles of Lycurguss, acted upon for several centuries, that free men should not follow lucrative professions… . The women disdained domestic labor; they did not spin their wool themselves, as did the other Greeks [they did not, then, read Homer!]; they left their slaves to make their clothing for them.” – Pastoret: History of Legislation. Could any thing be more contradictory? Lycurgus proscribed property among the citizens, and founded the means of subsistence on the worst form of property, – on property obtained by force. What wonder, after that, that a lazy city, where no industry was carried on, became a den of avarice? The Spartans succumbed the more easily to the allurements of luxury and Asiatic voluptuousness, being placed entirely at their mercy by their own coarseness. The same thing happened to the Romans, when military success took them out of Italy, – a thing which the author of the prosopopoeia of Fabricius could not explain. It is not the cultivation of the arts which corrupts morals, but their degradation, induced by inactive and luxurious opulence. The instinct of property is to make the industry of Dædalus, as well as the talent of Phidias, subservient to its own fantastic whims and disgraceful pleasures. Property, not wealth, ruined the Spartans.

When Solon appeared, the anarchy caused by property was at its height in the Athenian republic. “The inhabitants of Attica were divided among themselves as to the form of government. Those who lived on the mountains (the poor) preferred the popular form; those of the plain (the middle class), the oligarchs; those by the sea coast, a mixture of oligarchy and democracy.

Other dissensions were arising from the inequality of fortunes. The mutual antagonism of the rich and poor had become so violent, that the one-man power seemed the only safe-guard against the revolution with which the republic was threatened.” (Pastoret: History of Legislation.)

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

Solon followed the example of Lycurgus. He celebrated his legislative inauguration by the abolition of debts, – that is, by bankruptcy. In other words, Solon wound up the governmental machine for a longer or shorter time depending upon the rate of interest. Consequently, when the spring relaxed and the chain became unwound, the republic had either to perish, or to recover itself by a second bankruptcy. This singular policy was pursued by all the ancients. After the captivity of Babylon, Nehemiah, the chief of the Jewish nation, abolished debts; Lycurgus abolished debts; Solon abolished debts; the Roman people, after the expulsion of the kings until the accession of the Cæsars, struggled with the Senate for the abolition of debts.

Afterwards, towards the end of the republic, and long after the establishment of the empire, agriculture being abandoned, and the provinces becoming depopulated in consequence of the excessive rates of interest, the emperors freely granted the lands to whoever would cultivate them, – that is, they abolished debts. No one, except Lycurgus, who went to the other extreme, ever perceived that the great point was, not to release debtors by a coup d’état, but to prevent the contraction of debts in future. On the contrary, the most democratic governments were always exclusively based upon individual property; so that the social element of all these republics was war between the citizens. Solon decreed that a census should be taken of all fortunes, regulated political rights by the result, granted to the larger proprietors more influence, established the balance of powers, – in a word, inserted in the constitution the most active leaven of discord; as if, instead of a legislator chosen by the people, he had been their greatest enemy. Is it not, indeed, the height of imprudence to grant equality of political rights to men of unequal conditions? If a manufacturer, uniting all his workmen in a joint-stock company, should give to each of them a consultative and deliberative voice, – that is, should make all of them masters, – would this equality of mastership secure continued inequality of wages? That is the whole political system of Solon, reduced to its simplest expression.

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

In fact, such violations are always cruelly punished. In ’89 and ’93, the possessions of the nobility and the clergy were confiscated, the clever proletaires were enriched; and to-day the latter, having become aristocrats, are making us pay dearly for our fathers’ robbery. What, therefore, is to be done now? It is not for us to violate right, but to restore it. Now, it would be a violation of justice to dispossess some and endow others, and then stop there. We must gradually lower the rate of interest, organize industry, associate laborers and their functions, and take a census of the large fortunes, not for the purpose of granting privileges, but that we may effect their redemption by settling a life-annuity upon their proprietors. We must apply on a large scale the principle of collective production, give the State eminent domain over all capital! make each producer responsible, abolish the custom-house, and transform every profession and trade into a public function. Thereby large fortunes will vanish without confiscation or violence; individual possession will establish itself, without communism, under the inspection of the republic; and equality of conditions will no longer depend simply on the will of citizens. Of the authors who have written upon the Romans, Bossuet and Montesquieu occupy prominent positions in the first rank; the first being generally regarded as the father of the philosophy of history, and the second as the most profound writer upon law and politics. Nevertheless, it could be shown that these two great writers, each of them imbued with the prejudices of their century and their cloth, have left the question of the causes of the rise and fall of the Romans precisely where they found it.

Bossuet is admirable as long as he confines himself to description: witness, among other passages, the picture which he has given us of Greece before the Persian War, and which seems to have inspired “Telemachus;” the parallel between Athens and Sparta, drawn twenty times since Bossuet; the description of the character and morals of the ancient Romans; and, finally, the sublime peroration which ends the “Discourse on Universal History.” But when the famous historian deals with causes, his philosophy is at fault. “The tribunes always favored the division of captured lands, or the proceeds of their sale, among the citizens. The Senate steadfastly opposed those laws which were damaging to the State, and wanted the price of lands to be awarded to the public treasury.”

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

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

As a general thing, Bossuet shows little regard for the people. His monarchical and theological instincts know nothing but authority, obedience, and alms-giving, under the name of charity. This unfortunate disposition constantly leads him to mistake symptoms for causes; and his depth, which is so much admired, is borrowed from his authors, and amounts to very little, after all. When he says, for instance, that “the dissensions in the republic, and finally its fall, were caused by the jealousies of its citizens, and their love of liberty carried to an extreme and intolerable extent,” are we not tempted to ask him what caused those jealousies? – what inspired the people with that love of liberty, extreme and intolerable? It would be useless to reply, The corruption of morals; the disregard for the ancient poverty; the debaucheries, luxury, and class jealousies; the seditious character of the Gracchi, &c. Why did the morals become corrupt, and whence arose those eternal dissensions between the patricians and the plebeians?

(1) Lecture of Jan. 15, 1841.
(2) Lecture of Jan. 15, 1841.
(3) MM. Blanqui and Wolowski.
(4) Subject proposed by the Fourth Class of the Institute, the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences: “What would be the effect upon the working-class of the organization of labor, according to the modern ideas of association?”
(5) Subject proposed by the Academy of Besançon: “The economical and moral consequences in France, up to the present time, and those which seem likely to appear in future, of the law concerning the equal division of hereditary property between the children.”
(6) Pleonexia, – greater property. The Vulgate translates it avaritia.

Source: Proudhon Pierre Joseph (1890), What is Property?, Humboldt Publishing Company

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