Page:Essays on Political Economy (Bastiat).djvu/222

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214
THE LAW.

This tendency of the human race, it must be admitted, is greatly thwarted, particularly in our country, by the fatal disposition, resulting from classical teaching, and common to all politicians, of placing themselves beyond mankind, to arrange, organise, and regulate it, according to their fancy.

For whilst society is struggling to realise liberty, the great men who place themselves at its head, imbued with the principles of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, think only of subjecting it to the philanthropic despotism of their social inventions, and making it bear with docility, according to the expression of Rousseau, the yoke of public felicity, as pictured in their own imaginations.

This was particularly the case in 1789. No sooner was the old system destroyed, than society was to be submitted to other artificial arrangements, always with the same starting-point—the omnipotence of the law.

Saint Just.—"The legislator commands the future. It is for him to will for the good of mankind. It is for him to make men what he wishes them to be."

Robespierre.—"The function of Government is to direct the physical and moral powers of the nation towards the object of its institution."

Billaud Varennes.—"A people who are to be restored to liberty must be formed anew. Ancient prejudices must be destroyed, antiquated customs changed, depraved affections corrected, inveterate vices eradicated. For this, a strong force and a vehement impulse will be necessary...... Citizens, the inflexible austerity of Lycurgus created the firm basis of the Spartan republic. The feeble and trusting disposition of Solon plunged Athens into slavery. This parallel contains the whole science of Government."

Lepelletier.—"Considering the extent of human degradation, I am convinced of the necessity of effecting an entire