Proudhon’s “New Theory” (2 of 3)

 Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, The Theory of Property, Chapter VI: “The New Theory” (1865)

§ 1. —”Necessity, after having organized the State, of creating a counter-weight to the State in the liberty of each citizen. Federalist and republican character of property. Observations on the electoral census and confiscation.”

Considered in its political tendencies and its connections with the State, property tends to make of government and instrument of exploitation, nothing more, nothing less.

In that which concerns the system of power—whether monarchic, democratic, aristocratic, constitutional or despotic—property is by nature perfectly indifferent: what is wants is for the State to be its creature, for government to move by it and for it, at its pleasure and for its benefit. Surplus, division of powers, proportionality of taxes, education of the masses, respect for Justice, etc.—these matter little to property. More than anything, that the government be its creature and its slave, otherwise it will perish. No power prevails before it; no dynasty is sacred, no constitution inviolable. From two things one: it is necessary that property reign and govern as it pleases, otherwise it declares itself anarchical, regicide.

Romulus, original author of the division of land, founder of the quiritary domain, was brought down by the patricians: that was his fault. Why, if he wanted to subordinate the aristocracy to his power, did he give to them a superior force, by conferring on each noble a title equal to his own, that of proprietor?

Servius Tullius affects popularity, seeks support in the multitude. Tarquin the Superb, his successor, continued that policy and threatened the heads of the aristocracy.

But the Tarquins are driven off, royalty is vanquished by property. From that moment, up until the law of Licinius Stolon, in 376, the government at Rome was nothing other than a means of the exploitation of more into the hands of the patriciat. The plebs were reduced to servitude, the constitution of the State summed itself up entirely in the patrician prerogative; that is, in the most perfect arbitrariness. The decision acquired, in 450, to dispatch to Athens commissioners to study the Greek laws proves it. It would have been better to distribute, from time to time, some land to the plebs, carved from the ager publicus; military service and public charges ruined the plebian, forced him to sell, and the land always returned to the great. However, by the egoistic and anarchic nature of property, internal jealousies, divisions arise in the aristocracy; at the same time, the plebs are increasing in number, and the Licinian law admitting it to the division of conquered land, property turns against itself: that is what made the triumph of the plebian party. Never, without that possession, which was such only in name, would it have prevailed on the patrician party, and never would the plebs have obtained land without the propertarian anarchy.

It is the conversion of benefits into allodium which reverses the Carolingian power; on the contrary, it is the conversion of allodium into fief which little by little leads to feudal servitude.

The noble, from pride, in contempt of common birth, attaches himself to his fief, disdains allodial property. The law of primogeniture comes to add more to the immobilism of the fief. The bourgeois follow the Roman right; allodium unites with the king against the fief, which succumbs everywhere. In England, things occur otherwise, but always according to the same law. The barons, that threaten the royal power, seized the opportunity offered them by the poverty of King Jean, called ”Sans-Terre”, to extract from him the Magna Carta, foundation of all English liberties; then, uniting themselves with the communes, fief with allodium, they definitively dominate the crown. The constitution of England and all its history is explained by that. Today industrial property, joined to a portion of the soil possessed by the bourgeoisie, balances the aristocratic power: thus the present predominance of the house of commons over the upper house. Where one finds the greatest sum of wealth united to the greatest liberty of action, there is the greatest force. But feudal property, rendered inferior, is not for that annihilated; far from that, its conservation has become a political element of English society. That is why England is at once monarchic, aristocratic and bourgeois: it will only be democracy like a France the day which the good of the nobles have been made by law alienable and divisible, and primogeniture abolished, as takes place for allodial properties.

We know how the French Revolution took place. Sales and mobilization of a third of the territory, as allodial property, abolition of all the old feudal rights, the abolition of primogeniture; conversion of fiefs, not sold, into allodial properties: that is what made France a democracy.

In 1799, the new property manifested itself by a coup d’État and abolished the Republic. Fourteen years later, dissatisfied with the Emperor, who had contained it, it abandoned Napoleon and decided the fall of the imperial system. — It is property that, in 1830, made Charles X fall; it is property again which, in 1848, brought down Louis-Philippe. The high bourgeoisie or great proprietors were divided; the middle class or small proprietors were stirred up; a handful of Republicans, followed by some men of the people, decided the thing. Louis-Philippe brushed aside, it was logical that power would thus pass to the republicans. But logic did not make force: property, surprised for a moment, soon reappeared, and for the second time rid itself of the republic. The plebs having nothing, democracy rested on nothing. The coup d’État of December 2 succeeded, like that of the 18 Brumaire, by the support of property. Louis-Napoléon had only to anticipate the wishes of the bourgeoisie, so much more certain of success as the plebs saw in him a protector against bourgeois exploitation.

Thus it is proven that property, by itself, holds to no form of government; that no dynastic or juridical link shackle it; that all of its politics is reduced to a word, exploitation, if not anarchy; that it is for power the most redoubtable enemy and the most perfidious ally; in a word that, in its relations to the State, it is directed by only one principle, a single sentiment, one sole idea, personal interest, egoism. It is in this that consists, from the point of view, the abuse of property. Whoever will research what it has done in all the States where its existence was more or less recognized, in Carthage, Athens, Venice, Florence, etc., will always find there the same. On the contrary, whoever will study the political effects of possession or fief, will be led constantly to the opposite results. It is property which makes liberty, since the anarchy and finally the dissolution of the Athenian democracy; it is communism which sustained the tyranny and stasis of the noble Spartan, engulfed in the ocean of wars, who perished with weapons in hand.

And this is also why every government, every utopia and every Church mistrust property. Without speaking of Lycurgus and Plato, who chased it, along with poetry, from their republics, we see the Caesars, leaders of the plebs, who have conquered only to obtain property, scarcely in possession of the dictatorship, attack the quiritary right in every way. That quiritary right was the apanage [the concession of a fief], so to speak, of the Roman people. Augustus extended it to all Italy, Caracalla to all the provinces. One combats property with property: it is for politics to balance. Then one attacks property by taxation; Augustus established the tax on successions, 5 p. 400; then another tax on adjudications, 1 p. 100; later one established indirect taxes. Christianity, in its turn, attacked property with its dogma; the great feudal lords with military service: things come to a point that under the emperors, the citizens renounce their property and their municipal functions; and under the Barbarians, from the sixth to the tenth century, the small allodial proprietors regarded it a pleasure to attach themselves to a suzerain. As much as, in a word, property, by its own nature, shows itself redoubtable to power, that much power attempts to avert the danger by protecting itself against property. One contains it by the fear of the plebs, by permanent armies, by divisions, rivalries and competition; by restrictive laws of all sorts, by corruption. Property is thus reduced little by little to being only a privilege of the idle: at this point, property is tamed; the proprietor, from warrior or baron, is made pêquin; he trembles, he is nothing anymore.

All these considerations recalled, we can conclude: property is the greatest revolutionary force which exists and which can be opposed to power. Now, the force itself cannot be said to be beneficent or maleficent, abusive or non-abusive: it is indifferent to the use in which it is employed; as much as it shows itself destructive, so much can it become conservator; if sometimes it sparkled in subversive effects, instead of giving out useful results, the fault is in those who manage it, and who are as blind as it.

The state, constituted in the most rational and liberal manner, animated by the most just intentions, is none the less an enormous power, capable of crushing everything, all by itself, if it is not given a counter-balance. What can that counter-balance be? The state draws all of its power from the support of the citizens. The state is the gathering together of the general interest, supported by the general will and served, if necessary, by the combination of all the individual forces. Where will we find a power capable of counter-balancing that formidable power of the state? It is nothing other than property. Take the sum of the proprietors’ force: you have a power equal to that of the state.—Why, you ask me, isn’t that counter-balance also found in possession, or in fief?—Because possession, or fief, is itself a dependence of the state; it is encompassed by the state, and consequently, instead of opposing it, it gives it aid; it weighs in on the same side of the scale: which, instead of producing an equilibrium, only aggravates the power of government. In such a system, the state is on one side, all the subjects or citizens with it; there is nothing on the other side. It is governmental absolutism in its highest expression and in all its immobility. Thus Louis XIV understood it, who not only was in perfectly good faith, but logical and just from his point of view, when he claimed that everything in France, persons and things, answers to him. Louis XIV denied absolute property; he acknowledged sovereignty only in the State represented by the king. In order that one force could hold another force in respect, it is necessary that they be independent from one another, that they are two and not one. In order for the citizen to be something in the State, it is not enough then that he be free in his person; his personality must be supported, like that of the State, on a portion of material that he possesses in all sovereignty, as the State has sovereignty over the public domain. That condition is fulfilled by property.

To serve as counter-weight to the public power, to balance the State, and by that means to insure individual liberty: such is then, the public system, the principal function of property. Suppress that function or, what amounts to the same thing, to remove from property the absolutist character that we have recognized in it and that distinguishes it; impose conditions on it, declare it not transferable and indivisible: at that instant it loses its force, it no longer carries any weight; it becomes again a simple benefit, a flimsy thing; it is a movement of the government, without action against it.

Thus the absolute right of the State finds itself in struggle with the absolute right of the proprietor. It is necessary to follow closely the course of that combat.

Generally, where the State has started from conquest, as in France after the invasion of the Barbarians, it is the absolutism of the State which posits itself first: divine right sort from the patriarchate. The social pact comes down from heaven; it is God who has instituted the priesthood and royalty; it is to his vicars that everything must lead. The dependence of man, the hierarchy of society, the exclusive attribution to the prince of eminent domain, is a result of that conception. Fro that a first form of appropriation celebrated under the name of ”feudal property” or ”fief”, for the constitution that the Church gave it in the Middle Ages.

The fundamental characteristics of that form of property are:

1. Dependence (all land belongs to the king, or to the emperor);

2. Primogeniture;

3. Immobilization or inalienability;

4. Thus, the tendency to inequality.

It is from that conception that we born subsequently, from the point of view of exploitation of the land and of taxation: emphyteusis, lease for farming and grazing, duty, tithe, mainmorte and all the seigneurial charges, and ”serfdom”.

That form of property carries with it a special form of political organization, the hierarchy of classes and ranks, in a word the whole system of feudal rights.

But soon the proprietary absolutism reacts against imperial absolutism, the domain of the citizen against the domain of the State; then a new form of property is constituted, which is allodial property

The characteristics of that property are, contrary to the preceding:

1. Independence;

2. Equal division between the children after the death of the father;

3. Mobilization and division, or alienability;

4. Finally, a clear tendency towards equality.

Allodial property engenders, as a consequence of its principle, credit by mortgage; it makes a veritable moveable property of the land; it tends to make the sharecropper participate in the profits of the farm, in the rent, by rendering real property less and less productive for the non-working proprietor; it changes the nature of taxation, by making the fiscal system turn on the land-rent, instead of leaving it on capital and consumption.

Allodium implies a special form of government, the representative and democratic regime.

Property in England has never ceased to be organized feudally. The famous law on cereals, of Robert Peel, large exception to the principle protection, by bringing down the price of grains, has attacked small culture, and allodial property. That is why the political system of England, on which on does not cease to repeat that the charters of 1814 and 1830 were traced, is entirely different from ours; that is why the representative government of France must not be confused with that of England: the English government is an aristocracy; the French government, — Louis-Philippe has said it with a great hauteur de raison, and his misfortune was to have forgotten it, — was, had to be, from 1814 to 1848, a monarchy surrounded by republican institutions.

Historically, allodial property has outstripped feudal property in the countries conquered by the Germans; the invading soldiers having divided the conquered territory as spoils, without making application of the national customs on property. But that society was not mature; also, at the end of several centuries the allods were converted into fiefs: as if liberty and equality had never existed in the camps of the French kings. It would take a period of historical evolution to restore the present form of property, allodium.

We could classify the nations, States and governments according to the form of property which is in force there; that would be a simple way to explain their history and predict their future. Indeed, the history of nations, As I will demonstrate it with regard to Poland, is very often only that of property.

It is not necessary however to believe that the State, in passing from the feudal to the allodial system, had lost all of its prerogatives and its superior domain. At the same time that property gained independence, mobility, equality of division, the ability to loan by means of mortgage, etc., the State, by virtue of its prerogative, had established servitudes, made regulations de ”commodo” et ”incommoda”, decreed a law of expropriation for the cause of public utility; one asks it today to set a limit on division: it is thus that the absolutism of the State opposes itself to proprietary absolutism, and that they act on each other, constantly engendering, by their mutual action and reaction, new sureties for society, new guarantees to the proprietor, and make Liberty, Labor and Justice triumph definitively.

It is well understood that, for the sincerity of that system, it is absolutely necessary that the government had cast off every despotic aspect; that it be representative, parliamentary, republican in forms, based on a serious responsibility, not of the prince, but of his ministers. It is necessary, in a word, that the nation be governed by itself, so that the reaction of the prerogative of the State against the prerogative of the proprietor stems, not from the free will of a man, of a despot, which would make a bascule of the system, but the reason of the State expressed by national representation. Without that, property is placed in the hands of the autocrat; it is in peril of feudalism.

Such is, since 89, the constitution of property. It is easy to see that as much as allodium is superior to fief, so much it would be impossible ”a priori” to discover it: it is one of the things which surpasses philosophical reason, and that the genius of Humanity alone can produce.

Who does not see, indeed that the feudal constitution has come from a perfectly reasoned respect of Right, from an idea of justice which refused itself to that proprietary absolutism, judging it irrational, usurping, immoral, full of menaces and egoism, injurious to God and men? It is the calculated respect of Right that has created that enchained, non-transferable, indivisible, dependant property, guarantee of subordination and of hierarchy, as of protection and surveillance. And it was found, by experience, that tyranny was there precisely where one had believed to find right; anarchy, where hierarchy manifested itself; servitude and misery, where one had flattered oneself to create protection and charity.

It is permitted to believe that in the times of the Roman republic and of the omnipotence of the patricians, the definition of property was simply unilateral: ”Dominium est jus utendi et abutendi;” and that only later, under the emperors, the jurists would add the restriction: ”quatenùs juris ratio patitur.” But the evil was done; the emperors could do nothing about it. Roman property remained untamed; and it was in the hatred of this proprietary absolutism, without counter-weight, in hatred of the senatorial tyranny and of the latifundia, that, at the heart of the Christian societies, was conceived the system of feudal property, renewed from the ancient patriarchate, by the papacy united with empire and sustained by the prestige of religion.

Modern property, constituted, as it appears, against all thought of rights and all good sense, on a double absolutism, must be considered as a triumph of Liberty. It is Liberty which has made it, not, as it seems at first glance, against law or right, but by an intelligence superior to those. What is Justice, indeed, but the equilibrium between forces? Justice is not a simple relation, an abstract conception, a fiction of the understanding, or an act of faith of the conscience: it is a real thing, all the more obligatory because it rests on realities, on free forces.

From the principle that property, irreverent with regard to the prince, rebellious against authority, anarchic in the end, is the only force which can serve as a counter-balance to the state, follows this corollary: property, absolutism piled on an absolutism, is still for the state an element of division. The power of the state is a power of concentration; give it freedom to grow and all individuality will soon disappear, absorbed into the collectivity; society will fall into communism; property, on the other hand, is a power of decentralization; because it is itself absolute, it is anti-despotic, anti-unitary; it is because of this that it is the principle of all federation; and it is for this reason that property, autocratic in essence carried into political society, becomes straightway republican.

It is entirely the opposite with possession or fief, which has a fatal tendency to unity, to concentration, to universal subjection. Of all the despotisms, the must crushing was that of the czars, to the point that it became impossible, and that for half a century one has seen the emperors of Russia labor of themselves to lighten the weight. Now, the first cause of that despotism was in Slavic possession, against which the reforms of Alexandre II just struck a first blow.

One of the most odious abuses of property, which from its origins has raised against it the complaint of the masses, is monopolization. The great properties have ruined Italy, ”latifundia perdidere Italiam”. It is the cry of the historians who have recounted the last days of the empire. It can be a very good thing that a vast domain well worked, well enclosed, and giving regularly to the proprietor a good revenue. Society has its part in that wealth: so that one can say up to certain point the public is in agreement with the large property. But it is encore more sad to see companies of farmers without patrimony, wandering on the roads, chased from the land that seems to belong to them, and forced by the latifundia into the proletariat of the large cities, where they stagnate, without rights as without holdings. Now, it is that which would not occur in a system of conditional and restricted property, which forbade the division and the alienation of the soil. For it is by division and sale that monopolization is made possible: take from property its absolutist prerogative, and the earth will be possessed by all, precisely because it will belong as domain to no one.

This comes down to saying that the citizens all have the same rights and the same dignity in the State; that if nature has created them unequal with regard to faculties of realization, the tendency of civilization and of the laws is to restrict in practice the effects of that inequality, by giving the same guarantees to all and, as much as possible, the same education; but that property hinders this happy tendency, by its constant mutations and monopolizations. Consequently, one accuses property of being hostile to equality, and places it in this regard below possession.

The abuse denounced here exists: Heaven forbid that I should fail to take it into account, because it is in the abuse of property that I seek its organic function and providential destination. But, singular thing, the reproach that one addresses here to property of being an obstacle to the equality of conditions and of fortunes, is merited much more by fief and possession, which seem to be instituted by a thought and for an end that are diametrically opposite. It is a fact of universal history, that the land has never been divided more unequally than there where the system of simple possession simple has been predominant, and where fief has supplanted allodium: and conversely, that the States where one finds the most liberty and equality are those ruled by property. It is enough to recall here the existence of the large fiefs, the feudal rights, and the servitude or feudal serfdom. Perhaps, one will reply, the principle of possession was violated, and it is not just, in theory, to charge a principle with the malversations of its applicators. But it is exactly that which is the illusion, as I will demonstrate.

We have recognized that the faculties of realization between individuals and races were unequal; that at least the development was not the same for all: some showing more, others less precocity; that is was necessary to attribute to this cause the inequality conditions, fortunes and ranks; but that the laws of the political organism were contrary to this inequality; that there was, consequently, a general effort of humanity towards leveling, and that it was in order to reestablish the social level that the principle of equality before the law had been posited by unanimous consent.

We have remarked that this principle, of an incalculable significance, must have the effect, in a society of justice and order, of reducing the inequality of conditions and fortunes, always tainted by arbitrariness, to that of services and products; in other words, to make the fortune of each citizen the exact expression, not of his capacity or his virtue, things which are not measured, but of his works, compared to the works of his fellow citizens. One can see, by the comparison of the rates of wages in the various industrial categories, even taking account of all the anomalies of trade, how much that mercantile manner of proceeding is favorable to equality; how much, in the sphere of labor, the inequality of goods is far from reaching the proportions that politics allows it to take, and which manifests itself especially in territorial possession.

In a society where land is nearly the only capital, and the harvest of the cultivator the sole product, the sovereign, before taking account of the natural inequalities and having no means of assess it, the distribution of the soil will occur, not according to the rate of services, but rather according to dignity and rank. Just as in our time one gives a hundred thousand francs of rent to the general who commanded at the taking of Sebastopol, and a medal of brass to the soldier who mounted the attack, so, in a society constituted on the regime of possession, the king gives to his barons, counts, dukes, princes, a thousand, ten thousand or a hundred thousand hectares of land, and only four to the man-at-arms. The costs of exploitation, risks of culture, the deductions to make in exchange, the disadvantages of isolation, soon come to add themselves to that defective mode of division in order to augment the inequality. The small possessor, forced to beg assistance of the large, becomes his tenant farmer; the small tenures, grouping together, form a sort of rustic commune, the principal landlord of which becomes seigneur; with the result that finally, there where at first everyone was free, there no longer remains anything by nobles and serfs.

Now make that communal property and all its nobiliary domains could be divided and sold like quarters of beef, make them enter into exchange and be paid for in products, as if they were themselves only products: soon you will see the inequality decrease, and property, by the very property that it is given to monopolize, will become a leveling institution. Here, the tendency is the opposite of what it is there: while possession, beginning from liberty and primitive equality, sinks more and more into inequality and servitude, property, established on anarchic absolutism, anti-unitary and yet monopolistic, accumulating the most contrary vices, advances to equality and serves Justice.

Thus property is not posited a priori as a right of man and citizen, as has been believed previously and as the declarations of 89, 93 and 95 seem to say: all the arguments that one could make to establish a priori the right of property are petitio principii, and imply contradiction. Property reveals itself, in its abuses, as a FUNCTION; and it is because it is a function to which every citizen is called, as he is called to possess and to produce, that it becomes a right: the right resulting here from the destiny, not the destiny from the right. (See my ”Théorie de l’Impôt”, chap. II, page 64, “Relations of Liberty and the State.”)

The functional and, we can say, liberatory character of property, reveals itself at each step in our political and civil legislation.

Thus, article 57 of the Charter of 1814 holds that confiscation is abolished. Naturally, every proprietor is delighted by such a declaration; but he would not be mistaken in understanding its sense. Many people see in that abolition only a restriction on the greed of the taxman, a mark of the kindliness of the legislator towards families, that one punished for the offence of their heads, a softening of the penalty, a deference toward the proprietors. Egoism is so much of the essence of the proprietor, that it is as rare to see him understand his rights as to fulfill his duties. Under the previous regime, where all possession of land was considered an expression of the State, confiscation was a right of the prince, who claimed it, in certain cases, to punish crimes of high treason. The feudatory felon was despoiled of his tenure; he had broken the social pact; this was justice.

But the citizen proprietor is no longer in the same case. Politically, he is the equal of the prince; he does not hold his property from him, but from himself: accused of ordinary crime or political crime, he is only liable, apart from personal pains, afflictive or derogatory, for a fine or compensation, which fine or compensation must be proportional to the material damage occasioned by the crime or offence. Except for these repetitions, property remains to the condemned and passes to his heirs. It is sacred, even as the product of labor. In short, the proprietor is, in the new political system, a confederate, just the opposite of the fieffeux or vassal: that quality excludes confiscation, which no longer makes any sense.

M. Laboulaye, in his ”Histoire du droit de propriété”, makes this remark:

“The French civil code is the first which has confused (art. 1138 and 1583) obligation and property. To say that property is acquired from the right of the buyer with regard to the seller, as soon as one is agreed on the thing and the price, is a subtlety; if you respect the right of the third, the force of things resists the force of law. Your buyer, who does not have the capital and who cannot have it, is only a creditor with an eye to damages. If on the contrary you do not respect the right of the third possessor, it is a taut snare to good faith.”

One can regret, with M. Laboulaye, in the interest of the mortgage system, that the French Code does not show itself more severe on the form and solemnities of the sale. But when he reproaches it for having confused obligation and property, I admit that I would not be of his opinion. In the true spirit of the institution, the proprietor in land possesses the soil by the same title, with the same plenitude of right, and by virtue of the same of the same absolutism as the producer possesses his product. The quiritary domain does not go that far, but leads there. As, in fact, property and the authority of the father of the family were instituted especially in view of the family, it was natural that the roman law surrounded the sale with a increase of precautions, and distinguished, more than the French Code, the obligation of property; but the roman tradition is not ours: French property is an antithesis of feudal possession, et, up to a certain point, to the ancient quiritary domain itself; industry, by developing a new species of property, has given still more extent to the concept. Thus it is natural, it is logical that the Code, treating obligations, has extended the rules to property as to all the rest. Property is a function; the promises that it gives the citizen in its regard are of the same nature and must have the same effect as those that gives a regard de its labor, its workers, its backers, its customers, etc.

But where the action of property manifests itself with the most energy is in the electoral system. Not only has the State lost its right of confiscation with regard to the proprietor; it has to submit to ask of that proprietor the periodic renewal of his own investiture: it is that which has taken place by the elections to Parliament. In that regard, one struggled against the principle that made of property the sign of political capital; one has declaimed against a regime which excluded from the elections men such as Rousseau, Lammenais and Beranger, and allowed the Proudhommes, Jourdains, Dandins and Geronts of every sort. The Revolution of February has replaced censitary privilege with universal suffrage; still the democratic puritanism has not shown itself satisfied: some wanted the vote to be given to women and children; others will protest against the exclusion of the bankrupt, of freed convicts and detainees; one very nearly demanded the addition of horses and mules.

The theory of property, as we would produce it at this moment, dispels all these clouds. According to that theory, property is not given as a sign or guarantee of political capacity: political capacity is a faculty of intelligence and conscience independent of the quality of being a proprietor; on this point one can say that everyone is in agreement. But we add that if the opposition to despotism is an act of conscience, which does not need, in order to be produced, the citizen to pay two hundred or five hundred francs of contributions, and enjoy some three thousand francs or more of revenue, that same opposition, considered as a manifestation of collectivity, has puissance with regard to power, and becomes efficacious only if it is the expression of a mass of proprietors. This is a matter of mechanics, and has nothing in common with the capacity and civic-mindedness of the citizens. One comparison will make me understood. Every individual male, of twenty years of age and able-bodied, is fit for military service. But it is still necessary, before sending him to the enemy, to exercise, discipline, and arm him; without that, he will serve absolutely nothing. An army of conscripts without arms would be as without effect in war as a cartload of matriculation registers. It is the same for the voter. His vote has real value, I do not say moral value, against the power, only if it represents a real force: that force is that of property. Thus, in order to return to universal suffrage, to the system of have-not electors, one of two things must occur: either they vote with the proprietors, and thus are useless; or else they separate themselves from the proprietors, and in that case the Power remains master of the situation, or they rely on the electoral multitude, either that it lines up on the side of property, or that, instead, placing itself between the two, it establishes itself as mediator and imposes its arbitration. To confer political rights on the people was not itself a bad idea; it would have been necessary only to begin by giving them property.

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Independent scholar, translator and archivist.