Claude Pelletier, “Solution of the Problem of Poverty” (1848)





REPRESENTATIVE of the department of the Rhône.

ADJUVANTISM,  from adjuvant,

that which aids, which succors.








Laborers, men of the people, it is for you, it is in your interest that I have written this small book, certain that if we put into practice the humanitarian ideas that it contains, you will be more happy than in the past.

I know that you await larger reforms from the National Assembly, or from our generous socialist thinkers; but as a transitory means, I believe that one will not find any more practical and less hostile to all the ideas of social organization, however advanced they may be. I make opposition to no system, for, if all the systems are taken narrowly, there is some good in all; and often what we believe impossible today, will appear workable tomorrow if it is brought to light.

I am a partisan today of the organization of labor by association, that is to say of national workshops of industry and agriculture in solidarity with one another, where the laborers, associated with one another and placed by election at the head of one or another function, participate in the profits in proportion to labor and talent.

I am a partisan of association, I say, because its time has arrived; but everyone knows that it takes years to organize on a grand scale; and during those years, the workers will be in poverty as in the past, if the government is not careful. That is what must not happen.

However, in order to organize labor, there must be labor: one does not organize what doesn’t exist; in order for their to be labor, it must be created; and in order to create it, it is necessary to shift the consumption which today is only done by the wealthy.

By adjuvantism, as I will show, the laborers gaining more, will spend more, which, consequently, will shift consumption and will put the people themselves to do it.

Readers, in writing this small book, my intention has been to give relief to my brother laborers; I have done my best. If you find it badly written, it is a small evil, provided that the ideas in it are good; but if it appears to you puerile, insufficient, and that you have better, quick, take up the pen, write, and count on my respect and gratitude.


Since men have lived in society, there have always been rich and poor. Poverty has always decimated the laborers. One would say, to see the march of humanity, that it is composed of snails and ant, the first walling themselves up in their property in order to only think of themselves, the others laboring for all, and never tasting a single instant of repose.

Some learned economists, some profound philosophers, some truly human men have sought the means to destroy that poverty, and all, up to now, have been powerless against the selfish spirit of society. Why? Science, the instructions necessary for that labor have not been lacking. Is it because they have not taken sufficient account of the present? Many thinking people think not. Well! me, pardon me, I believe the opposite; and also because these generous thinkers, having written the benevolent pages for which we are infinitely grateful, have not shared our suffering, lived our life, known deeply our sad situation and our ignorance pour to be able to plead our cause with success, by giving us right away a means which could make us have patience until society has accepted their noble ideas. I do not doubt that all the socialists, without a single exception, have thought of adjuvantism before me; but I believe that not having seen it in the same light, they have found it unworthy of their pen, insufficient, and perhaps inapplicable to the present society. A strange error on their part! To believe that the simplest thing in the world would not be easy to establish! So what happened? Many of these laudable publicists have mixed up together all the questions of pauperism, have made very good systems, but for an era that our grandchildren may not see. Their great haste to want to remake the world has rendered them powerless. In wanting to destroy poverty by a social organization which carries with it numerous difficulties, that we will defeat with time and by instruction, without any doubt, they have only managed to expose their system to the calumny of those who do not understand. They have not started at the beginning, and that is their fault.

Today, what is needed, what is only possible, is a system which suppresses poverty instantaneously, without first disturbing social habits; but which, from day to day, leads us, by giant steps, to the organization of labor, to greater reforms, towards the most perfect aims of society.

Until recently, a simple worker, I have not been able to delve as much as I would have liked into the questions of political economy: I had to work to live. But I have been cold, I have been hungry, I have suffered without work; and all my sufferings, equivalent to many reflections of that sort, have furnished me the insights necessary to the development of adjuvantism.

I would not say my adjuvantism or my system; for, being the faithful expression of the thought of the workers, my brothers, it belongs, like truth, to everyone, whatever is said or thought of it by the citizen who reads me.

I also believe adjuvantism superior to many other small systems. It has always been practiced, badly it is true, but in the end it has been practiced; established, as I will demonstrate it, it would be able to serve me on many occasions, as well as the workers, my fellows, who find themselves in a position as precarious as my own.

Could it be tried by those who read me, and implemented or the good of all! Humanity would have made a step, and, placed under a corner of the mantle of equality, relieved by the certainty of no longer lacking anything when it is without work, the worker will no longer receive, as charity, the aid that adjuvantism grants to all the laborers. The administration of the adjuvances deducting from their wages 5 centimes par franc, I suppose, the workers will really remedy themselves. It will be delivered from the disgraceful yoke imposed on them by the committees of charity, which they rightly avoid, because they know that they obtain nothing from them, if they do not register as paupers with the police commissioner of his district, with some Ladies Bountiful who are often indiscrete, or with his parish priest.

This step disgusts them, holds them back; also, moved by a feeling of self-esteem that we should only approve, he abandons what he needs to others less timid, less shameful and often less needy than them.

I propose, to that end, to establish in all the cities of France, in all the villages, according to their importance, one or more houses, to which we will give the name of adjuvances, to hear all the demands of the workers and the unemployed, and address them there as I will explain very soon.

To show with more clarity and precision what I want to make of these adjuvances and in these adjuvances, I am going to contain myself in the city of Paris, sure in advance that adjuvantism being the same for all industries, for all sorts of labor, is applicable to everyone everywhere.

I do not believe it useless to say that in the cities of France where a building trade would continually have to few workers to form an individual bureau, we would necessarily join them with another building trade: that would complicate nothing and would be an economy.


There are 400,000 laborers in Paris (I assume that number) as many workingmen as workingwomen, clerks, handymen, domestics, etc, etc; of these 400,000 laborers there are half of them, 200,000 who make a living, and amass in addition something to sweeten their old age,[1] and 200,000, the other half, who barely earn a sufficiency, for lack of ability or gainful employment.

Among these 400,000 laborers of the first and second class (I distinguish them thus for more ease), there are always 20,000 without occupation, and of these 20,000 there are laborers of some profession who will be three months, two months, one month, or ten days before finding a job.

I do not speak of the workingmen and workingwomen who profession leads to changing houses or bosses every two or three days, every week, or every month. We know that this continual change makes them lose a month a year, without counting the dead seasons; no, I speak of the most fortunate laborers, whose profession has the most stability.

Well! What results from that unemployment?

It happens that if the laborer without work is from the first class, and he is not married, it only makes a large gap in his savings, barely reparable by a year of labor; if the laborers is married and without children, it would take him two years of labor, to make up for his lost time: for he cannot count on the profits of his wife: we know what women earn in general, especially since the convents and prisons do their works for next to nothing. But if he is the head of a family, the poor man is ruined or close to poverty. His whole family suffers from it and will always suffer from it; his children, to whom he would have given instruction, if he had not been out of work and spent his savings, will be deprived of it, and will be forced to labor earlier.

So there are children condemned, for lack of a bit of money, to remain ignorant, to work as soon as they have the strength, to be worn out before becoming men. Sad effect of labor! Poor children! And all this for a bit of money that their unfortunate father spent despite himself.

That is what results for the workers of the first class.

But what becomes of the workers of the second. What do they do?

Alas! they suffer; they promenade their poverty in the streets, they are poorly dressed, they are hungry, they are cold, they borrow to eat after putting in the pawnshop or selling the few clean clothes they had. They can no longer find employment because they are ugly and are pitiful, or if they find it, they are rejected when they go to present themselves. They are dismissed because they don’t look nice! Oh! then they curse God and men, often have the idea of suicide, sometimes succumbing to it, and are said to be of bad faith when they are just poor, vile when they are just unfortunate. They are considered and treated as bad pennies, and often end up becoming such.

That is the condition of the workers of the second class.

— Whose fault is that?

— No one’s.

— Society!

— What’s to be done?

— Repair it.

— How?

By establishing in the neighborhoods of Paris most suitable for trade and industry adjuvances where all workers without occupation would go to obtain it, and the sum of 1 franc, if they could not give work.

I beg the reader to note that this sum, part of which would be levied against their wages, would be granted to workers that if they could not be provided work.

Some workers could object with reason that the wages are not high enough to withdraw 5 cents per franc. Here is my answer: the adjuvances establishing national workshops, as is discussed below, it is likely that workers will earn more, and never having lost days, they will even be able to make the sacrifice without many be deprived.

  1. These ajuvances be very large, and will have for each trade a waiting room and an individual office spacious as required by the approximate number of workers.
  2. The rooms should be made to receive, and to shelter from the cold and bad weather, the men waiting for work, until the time specified by the regulations of the trade of which they are a part; the hour is not to exceed eleven in the morning, and the waiting rooms would remain open to workers throughout the day. They would establish courses there related to the professions, which would be taught by the most capable workers.
  3. To present themselves at the offices of the adjuvances, each worker should carry a certificate that certifies his profession, and would inform the clerk responsible for distributing work or jobs, if he is entitled to occupy it before his colleagues; for we would make the workers of each each category of ability work, as much as possible, to turn as much as possible, by turns.
  4. The workers who do not want to present themselves to the adjuvances to find work, and mingle with all their comrades, would be wrong, it would be better to present themselves at the adjuvances than running with thirty friends, who rarely place you and make you spend a lot.
  5. The offices would be held by capable workers, of both sexes and of the same profession, elected by their peers, appointed to examine the certificates.
  6. The clerks not having work to give to the workers, male or female, would give back their certificates and give them a voucher good for one franc, to draw from the the till of the adjuvances.
  7. The fund of the adjuvances will not pay vouchers that have more than two days from date.
  8. The workers who have worked all week would not receive anything on Sunday.
  9. Any unemployed worker, father of a family, having his sick children or toddlers, unable to appear at the office, will draw, in addition to his voucher, the sum of 75 cents per day for each child below fifteen years; and if his work or employment brought him a salary recognized too small, he would draw the same sum of 75 cents for each of his children.

Relief that the adjuvances would grant to young children would not be of long duration, because the State, wanting later that the education be free, so this one generosity is not a mockery, it will be necessary that it be responsible for feeding and clothing the poor child who will never have enough money for it.

Today we have free schools, and if the children of the worker do not go there, it is because he cannot feed them or provide for them to do nothing, as they say. He takes them to the workshop, to work, where they are used up, withered and demoralized;

  1. Every child older than fifteen would be considered and paid as a worker.
  2. A worker who works without their certificate signed by his boss, and who presents it at the office of his corporation to draw the voucher granted to unemployed workers, would be punished as a thief; the boss who emplys him without having examined his diploma would be liable to the same penalty.
  3. A worker not having his certificate signed by the last person who employed him, would draw nothing until it was signed.
  4. Under no pretext, could his patron refuse to sign his certificate, unless it had been stolen by him
  5. The signature of the boss on the certificate of the worker would not be charged with any recommendation, with any flattery, a useless thing, given that if the certificate is signed, the man is honest.
  6. The entry and exist of the worker from the house where he is employed would be designated: Entered as…, March 1…, left August 10… Signed.)
  7. A boss who has signed, with knowledge of the theft, the certificate of a worker of either sex who had stolen it, would be responsible for robberies that he would have then committed elsewhere than at his firm.
  8. To avoid that a worker who would not want to stroll should obtain a voucher, the boss must sign his certificate only when he no longer wants to or can employ him, or that the worker will no longer want to work for him.
  9. Foreigners will be accepted in the adjuvances, but they will draw nothing, unless their home country, imitating us, was in a condition to give the same to the workers who are our countrymen.
  10. When a boss needs a worker, he will present himself at the office of the trade to which the needed worker belongs. They will hasten to satisfy him, but he should be present in the morning before the vouchers have been delivered.
  11. The workers are free to work, as the bosses are free to employ them as they see fit, without addressing themselves to the adjuvances; but then the boss would be obliged to pay the sum of 15 francs to the office of the trade which employs a member.
  12. A boss who asks the offices of the adjuvances for one worker preferably to another, whose turn in the order would designate to pass before the one that he demands, would pay the sum of 5 francs.
  13. No man could employ another without demanding from him a certificate that he must sign, as it says above.
  14. Every worker leaving his boss after the closing the office of the adjuvances, if it is proved that the termination of his employment has wronged him, would be required to pay a fixed indemnity by the labor court [conseil des prud’hommes], and retained on the salary of the first job that the adjuvance procured for him.
  15. The senior employees of the adjuvances would not be salaried; they would be appointed by the workers, by the relative majority, every two years, and by the government the first year alone.
  16. The junior employees, the salaried, would be appointed by the workers every year and chosen from among them.

I beg the reader to believe that this little regulation is not definitive. I thought I should write them to make my thinking clearer.


These adjuvances would be founded by the state, in conjunction with the city where they are established.

They would invest all the sums that the 5 centimes per franc deducted from the wages of the workers produce, and all the gifts and inheritances that they receive.

All the estates of those who die without heirs could return to their domain.

The State and the city, as we said above, in order establish and operate these adjuvances, will be obliged to furnish the necessary amounts for their expenses, until the investment or the product of the 5 centimes, the gifts, inheritances, estates, etc., etc., was capitalized, and returned enough to do without its assistance.

The administration of these adjuvances would be the same in all of France.

It would buy in all the departments the lands uncultivated belonging either to the State, or to the communes, or to the proprietors, in order to clear them, which would create agricultural work for the for the farmers and laborers without work who would prefer to earn a reasonable day’s wage to the poor pay of 1 franc.

It would establish later, for the civilian invalids, some homes for the aged and infirm workers, unable to work, some factories where injured workers and still vigorous old people would live in liberty, and would be employed with care to in some very light labors that would yield them some money. It would also establish immense workshops for all the trades in which it would employ a considerable number of workers who come to ask for work, thus alleviating its costs, increasing its fortune, and eventually making France capable of competing in industry with all the powers of Europe.

That would be to establish genuine national workshops, the bogeyman of all the selfish, but these national workshops would lead us to well-being, to equality, and we will open the only road that mankind has taken in order to arrive gradually to its perfection without political revolution, without bloodshed, by labor alone.


Reader, as you can see, I simply propose to establish some houses to extinguish poverty, as they have already been established to cure sickness.

Everyone finds that a hospice is necessary; who then will deny the usefulness of the adjuvances to kill poverty?

Don’t these two establishments show themselves, in their ideas, like two brothers, each as essential, as necessary to the workers as the other?

Why, since they both appear useful, and only one exists, don’t we establish the other

Such houses would cost too much to establish, I am told.

We have founded hospitals, and they have cost twice what the adjuvances would cost.

We have made considerable gifts to the hospices, why wouldn’t we make them to the? Is it because they would shelter us from all the riots that are often made in the name of lack of work and bread?

Then, whether they are endowed or not, we must start from a principle:

Must we kill poverty in France, even if it costs the State 500 million the first year, yes or no? The whole question is there. Humanity says yes, and selfishness says no. Which should we believe?

But 500 million to destroy poverty, that is terrifying, much too expensive! — No, it is not too expensive, when we can give it to make the people happy.

Under the deposed system, France spent more than 40 million a year to prevent and punish attacks directed against property, more than 300 million to build prisons, fortresses, outer walls, etc. More than 400 million to endow, to fund the king, the princes, their devotees and sinecurists, the cumulards and a thousand other personages who cost the State far too much. And in 1815 didn’t it find 2 billion, 500 million francs for foreigners and emigrants…?

Why would we not find the sum, or why would we refuse to spend it? do we believe the people are too happy and too independent, by chance, and would be sorry to make it impossible to for them to whisper against the government that they always takes, with reason, for the author of their misery and ignorance? That would be a blunder! Especially since it is in the interest of the rich as well as the bourgeois, the merchants as well as the workers, of all men in fact, except for those who speculate on need and misery and exploit the bodies and souls of the workers for the benefit of their pride and their greed.

So it would be wrong to recoil before such a considerable sum for the moment, if only to no longer have before our eyes these hideous pictures of poverty, to hear the unfortunates singing, crying, cursing, and shaking from hunger and cold on all the street corners, if not on the straw at the back of their attic.

And you, rich men, you will no longer fear that the poor, tomorrow, weary of its distress, will come to say to you savagely: You do nothing, while I work; you enjoy, while I suffer; you have everything, while I have nothing; you violate Christ’s law: God has not made men to live this way. Come to my rescue, to my aid, and we will be friends, we will be brothers; if you refuse, then it is war between us and woe to all!

I have been a worker for sixteen years, I have always lived among them. I know their sufferings and their courage to support themselves, and I can say that if the Republic does nothing for them, they will be forced by poverty to come to those extremities. However, who is more humane, more generous than the worker? He knows his strength and does not abuse it.


We have marched for 17 years down a road bristling with scandalous processes of speculation, with corruption which has led us slowly and tortuously to [one of] two different ends: the Republic or civil war; we have the Republic. And the more scandalous the trials there are, the more we have rushed there quickly. We have taken the workers for imbeciles who comprehend nothing. We have been mistaken. Everything has made a contrary impression. From the stock market games, and the subsidies to the newspapers, to the combinations and sinecures, which we still seem to preserve today, nothing has escaped them, and they are indignant! And not one who does not say to you: the future smiles on us, but we still fear that poverty leads us to civil war. War is no longer possible in the name of a pretender. No! The workers are not so stupid! What is a pretender? A man like any other, and it is not suitable to fight for a man when one must owe everything to his country and we have no principles. The personalities are worn out. It does not take more to it than that. It is up to one thing: his right. The right of each proclaims the right of all, that is what we understand, this is what we demand.

Today the laborers suffer; they love those who take an interest in their sufferings, those who defend their rights, and scorn those who, in journals and brochures, make apologies for their exploiters. And if the revolution which was made, in 1850, for the charter, was not made, before 1848, pour the Republic and its consequences, it is because the people have understood, since 1834, that they should instruct themselves, and study social questions before recommencing their work, not in order to make blood flow anew, in the interest of a king or a prince, of a family, but rather for themselves, for the homeland, for the principle of equality.

The revolution of February was made in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity; in order that the man be really free, equal, and brotherly, to render impossible all bloodshed, every riot which would lead us inevitably to civil war, we must remove the fear of tomorrow. We can do it by establishing adjuvances.

What remains for me to demonstrate, is the well-being which will result from the mode of organization of adjuvantism.

Poverty will disappear immediately, and the laborers, always finding work where enough exists, will never spend their savings.

Their bosses could no longer be despotic and unjust towards them with impunity; the workers could live without them.

So they would be free, better treated, better clothed, better housed and more prosperous, which would shift consumption, which is only done today by the privileged classes.

What’s more, it would be possible for those who are thrifty to amass a little nest egg, to make a dowry for their child, to buy a small property where they will go to spend their last days peacefully.

Those who could not save, those who would be forced, by many circumstances that it is unnecessary to enumerate here, to go to spend their old age in the Invalides work, would earn and spend more, and consequently commerce would be much better—for it is assumed that all the money that the adjavances woulld distribute to workers that they could not employ or cause to be employed, would, almost without exception, be spent.

The merchants, the shopkeepers, who sell primarily to the workers, all the traders who are part of what we all small business, would sell more, and would be much better paid. And if, by mischance, one of them had not made his business [succeed], before having used almost everything he has, and had, unbeknownst to his creditors, saved a bit to live on, after bankruptcy, he could honestly explain the situation, give up everything he had left, and present himself at the office of the adjuvances, in order to enjoy the rights that all workers in the relief that they give.

Begging, which has the lack of work for excuse, would no longer be possible. As for begging as a business, it is condemned long ago. A beggar would present himself to you, and you would be right to say: You have no money and no work; go to the adjuvance, if you do not find work they will give you enough to live.

Thieves would be very uncommon, for if there are some of them whom poor education that leads to crime, there are many who are driven by misery. Now, having a means of living when the work is lacking and having some money they have amassed while working, poverty would no longer be an excuse. There would only remain truly bad sorts against whom we would crack down severely.

These institutions would therefore extinguish poverty, and decrease by half the number of diseases. (Everyone knows that poverty, deprivation, filthy clothes, and unhealthy dwellings greatly increase the number of patients either in hospitals or at home.) They would prevent theft and begging, the people become better and more beautiful, and we would never again hear one of our brothers say that he lacks work and bread.


As some people could believe that by giving the sum of 1 franc per day to the workers who come to ask for work, and that one cannot employ, that would be to give them alms and to encourage them to idleness; I must prove the opposite.

Before the Republic, Louis-Philippe received 14 million per year, and, moreover, enjoyed a connection to the national properties which did not produce less. A president of the Council of Ministers received 100,000 francs salary each year; the ministers 80,000 francs each; the archbishop from 20,000 to 50,000; a general of the national guard 50,000 francs; finally, a thousand other sinecured functionaries that I pass in silence, receiving not less than 20,000, 30,000, or 40,000 francs per year.

Why, since we gave such large salaries to men of high standing, would we not give 1 fr. a day to the worker who has contributed to make that sum by the deduction of 5 percent per frank from his salary. I am told that these high functionaries deserve them and that the government wanted it this way. But why does the government want it? By gratitude rather than by justice, towards  the creatures who supported it. What is it but payment given in recognition? A bonus. What is a bonus? Restitution or alms, and nothing else. It is a restitution if it has been earned by labor, but a charity if we do not deserve it. have all these highly placed men, so generously paid, ever earned half, a quarter, or an eighth of the remuneration they received! Have we ever had the idea that it was a charity?

The people, from infancy until their forces are completely exhausted, labor and earn much more than they receive. Essentially a laborer, he thus has a right, according to the law of God, to live in comfort. But, poor, often ignorant and placed by the vicious organization of society under the yoke of the rich people who have made themselves their masters, he has always been deprived of everything. There is therefore nothing more just, if the adjuvance can provide for him or see that his is provided for, to render to him with considerable interest the amount that has been withdrawn from price of his labor. It is therefore not a handout that we would make, but a restitution. When I say that we would make it to him, it is that he would make it himself, should I say, for I ask, who would furnish the millions that we would distribute to him to exist? Heh! My God, it would be him, once again; is he not always the one who pays for everything.

By this fact, they will not receive charity: we cannot call it charity if they give it to themselves, and what they will give themselves they will have well earned.

As for encouraging the workers to idleness, that would be impossible with the modest sum of one franc that the adjuvances would give to the workers, if they were not able to procurer it from labor. But suppose still that one worker abused this relief, and quits there job at the drop of a hat; what would that do to the administration of the adjuvances; wouldn’t another be needed to replace him? The number of workers without occupation would not be increased by the fact. To give to this one or to that, I repeat, what would it matter to the administration. And then, would we suppose that the workers are cowards who have neither heart nor courage?

By establishing adjuvances, we would commit an act of justice and humanity; they would cost enormous amounts at first, but then the gifts, inheritances, and the collection of 5 centimes per franc that we would accumulate, would reduce these expenses a great deal.

We would no longer see the honest worker endure hunger, while the convicts in the penal colonies grow fat, and the virtuous young girls, often tubercular from privations, go to die in the hospital; while the prostitutes grown bored in luxury and abundance. We would make the people more free, plus healthy, more beautiful and more happy than they have ever been. We can do it. It is only a question of money. We should do it!

Will we do it?

REPRESENTANT du Rhône. Tarare, ce 4 mai 1848.

Paris. Imp. BLOND AU, rue du petit-Carreau, 32. 9

[1] You see that I am not exaggerating the poverty, because if you wanted a summary of the unfortunate workers, you would see that of the eight million farmers there are in France, there are seven million who began work the age of ten, and have at the age of seventy years only poverty, and have for sixty years, which is deplorable and anti-human.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.