Page:Essays on Political Economy (Bastiat).djvu/220

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212
THE LAW.

and above mankind, for the sake of arranging, organizing, and instituting it in his own way.

Condillac.—"Take upon yourself, my lord, the character of Lycurgus or of Solon. Before you finish reading this essay, amuse yourself with giving laws to some wild people in America or in Africa. Establish these roving men in fixed dwellings; teach them to keep flocks. … Endeavor to develop the social qualities which nature has implanted in them. … Make them begin to practice the duties of humanity. … Cause the pleasures of the passions to become distasteful to them by punishments, and you will see these barbarians, with every plan of your legislation, lose a vice and gain a virtue.

"All these people have had laws. But few among them have been happy. Why is this? Because legislators have almost always been ignorant of the object of society, which is, to unite families by a common interest.

"Impartiality in law consists in two things:—in establishing equality in the fortunes and in the dignity of the citizens. … In proportion to the degree of equality established by the laws, the dearer will they become to every citizen. … How can avarice, ambition, dissipation, idleness, sloth, envy, hatred, or jealousy, agitate men who are equal in fortune and dignity, and to whom the laws leave no hope of disturbing their equality?

"What has been told you of the republic of Sparta ought to enlighten you on this question. No other State has had laws more in accordance with the order of nature or of equality."

It is not to be wondered at that the 17th and 18th centuries should have looked upon the human race as inert matter, ready to receive everything, form, figure, impulse, movement, and life, from a great prince, or a great legislator, or a great genius. These ages were reared in the study of antiquity; and antiquity presents everywhere, in Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome, the spectacle of a few men moulding mankind according to their fancy, and mankind to this end enslaved by force or by imposture