What is Property?/Fifth Proposition

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Fifth Proposition: Property is impossible, because, if it exists, Society devours itself.[edit]

When the ass is too heavily loaded, he lies down; man always moves on. Upon this indomitable courage, the proprietor--well knowing that it exists--bases his hopes of speculation. The free laborer produces ten; for me, thinks the proprietor, he will produce twelve.

Indeed,--before consenting to the confiscation of his fields, before bidding farewell to the paternal roof,--the peasant, whose story we have just told, makes a desperate effort; he leases new land; he will sow one-third more; and, taking half of this new product for himself, he will harvest an additional sixth, and thereby pay his rent. What an evil! To add one-sixth to his production, the farmer must add, not one-sixth, but two-sixths to his labor. At such a price, he pays a farm-rent which in God's eyes he does not owe.

The tenant's example is followed by the manufacturer. The former tills more land, and dispossesses his neighbors; the latter lowers the price of his merchandise, and endeavors to monopolize its manufacture and sale, and to crush out his competitors. To satisfy property, the laborer must first produce beyond his needs. Then, he must produce beyond his strength; for, by the withdrawal of laborers who become proprietors, the one always follows from the other. But to produce beyond his strength and needs, he must invade the production of another, and consequently diminish the number of producers. Thus the proprietor--after having lessened production by stepping outside--lessens it still further by encouraging the monopoly of labor. Let us calculate it.

The laborer's deficit, after paying his rent, being, as we have seen, one-tenth, he tries to increase his production by this amount. He sees no way of accomplishing this save by increasing his labor: this also he does. The discontent of the proprietors who have not received the full amount of their rent; the advantageous offers and promises made them by other farmers, whom they suppose more diligent, more industrious, and more reliable; the secret plots and intrigues,--all these give rise to a movement for the re-division of labor, and the elimination of a certain number of producers. Out of nine hundred, ninety will be ejected, that the production of the others may be increased one- tenth. But will the total product be increased? Not in the least: there will be eight hundred and ten laborers producing as nine hundred, while, to accomplish their purpose, they would have to produce as one thousand. Now, it having been proved that farm-rent is proportional to the landed capital instead of to labor, and that it never diminishes, the debts must continue as in the past, while the labor has increased. Here, then, we have a society which is continually decimating itself, and which would destroy itself, did not the periodical occurrence of failures, bankruptcies, and political and economical catastrophes re-establish equilibrium, and distract attention from the real causes of the universal distress.

The monopoly of land and capital is followed by economical processes which also result in throwing laborers out of employment. Interest being a constant burden upon the shoulders of the farmer and the manufacturer, they exclaim, each speaking for himself, "I should have the means wherewith to pay my rent and interest, had I not to pay so many hands." Then those admirable inventions, intended to assure the easy and speedy performance of labor, become so many infernal machines which kill laborers by thousands.


"A few years ago, the Countess of Strafford ejected fifteen thousand persons from her estate, who, as tenants, added to its value. This act of private administration was repeated in 1820, by another large Scotch proprietor, towards six hundred tenants and their families."--Tissot: on Suicide and Revolt.

_ _The author whom I quote, and who has written eloquent words concerning the revolutionary spirit which prevails in modern society, does not say whether he would have disapproved of a revolt on the part of these exiles. For myself, I avow boldly that in my eyes it would have been the first of rights, and the holiest of duties; and all that I desire to-day is that my profession of faith be understood.

Society devours itself,--1. By the violent and periodical sacrifice of laborers: this we have just seen, and shall see again; 2. By the stoppage of the producer's consumption caused by property. These two modes of suicide are at first simultaneous; but soon the first is given additional force by the second, famine uniting with usury to render labor at once more necessary and more scarce.

By the principles of commerce and political economy, that an industrial enterprise may be successful, its product must furnish,--1. The interest on the capital employed; 2. Means for the preservation of this capital; 3. The wages of all the employees and contractors. Further, as large a profit as possible must be realized.

The financial shrewdness and rapacity of property is worthy of admiration. Each different name which increase takes affords the proprietor an opportunity to receive it,--1. In the form of interest; 2. In the form of profit. For, it says, a part of the income derived from manufactures consists of interest on the capital employed. If one hundred thousand francs have been invested in a manufacturing enterprise, and in a year's time five thousand francs have been received therefrom in addition to the expenses, there has been no profit, but only interest on the capital. Now, the proprietor is not a man to labor for nothing. Like the lion in the fable, he gets paid in each of his capacities; so that, after he has been served, nothing is left for his associates.

        _Ego primam tollo, nominor quia leo.
         Secundam quia sum fortis tribuctis mihi.
         Tum quia plus valeo, me sequetur tertia.
         Malo adficietur, si quis quartam tetigerit._


I know nothing prettier than this fable.

         "I am the contractor.  I take the first share.
          I am the laborer, I take the second.
          I am the capitalist, I take the third.
          I am the proprietor, I take the whole."


In four lines, Phaedrus has summed up all the forms of property.

I say that this interest, all the more then this profit, is impossible.

What are laborers in relation to each other? So many members of a large industrial society, to each of whom is assigned a certain portion of the general production, by the principle of the division of labor and functions. Suppose, first, that this society is composed of but three individuals,-- a cattle-raiser, a tanner, and a shoemaker. The social industry, then, is that of shoemaking. If I should ask what ought to be each producer's share of the social product, the first schoolboy whom I should meet would answer, by a rule of commerce and association, that it should be one-third. But it is not our duty here to balance the rights of laborers conventionally associated: we have to prove that, whether associated or not, our three workers are obliged to act as if they were; that, whether they will or no, they are associated by the force of things, by mathematical necessity.

Three processes are required in the manufacture of shoes,--the rearing of cattle, the preparation of their hides, and the cutting and sewing. If the hide, on leaving the farmer's stable, is worth one, it is worth two on leaving the tanner's pit, and three on leaving the shoemaker's shop. Each laborer has produced a portion of the utility; so that, by adding all these portions together, we get the value of the article. To obtain any quantity whatever of this article, each producer must pay, then, first for his own labor, and second for the labor of the other producers. Thus, to obtain as many shoes as can be made from ten hides, the farmer will give thirty raw hides, and the tanner twenty tanned hides. For, the shoes that are made from ten hides are worth thirty raw hides, in consequence of the extra labor bestowed upon them; just as twenty tanned hides are worth thirty raw hides, on account of the tanner's labor. But if the shoemaker demands thirty-three in the farmer's product, or twenty-two in the tanner's, for ten in his own, there will be no exchange; for, if there were, the farmer and the tanner, after having paid the shoemaker ten for his labor, would have to pay eleven for that which they had themselves sold for ten,--which, of course, would be impossible.[1]

[1] There is an error in the author's calculation here; but the translator, feeling sure that the reader will understand Proudhon's meaning, prefers not to alter his figures.-- Translator.



Well, this is precisely what happens whenever an emolument of any kind is received; be it called revenue, farm-rent, interest, or profit. In the little community of which we are speaking, if the shoemaker--in order to procure tools, buy a stock of leather, and support himself until he receives something from his investment-- borrows money at interest, it is clear that to pay this interest he will have to make a profit off the tanner and the farmer. But as this profit is impossible unless fraud is used, the interest will fall back upon the shoulders of the unfortunate shoemaker, and ruin him.

I have imagined a case of unnatural simplicity. There is no human society but sustains more than three vocations. The most uncivilized society supports numerous industries; to-day, the number of industrial functions (I mean by industrial functions all useful functions) exceeds, perhaps, a thousand. However numerous the occupations, the economic law remains the same,-- THAT THE PRODUCER MAY LIVE, HIS WAGES MUST REPURCHASE HIS PRODUCT.

_ _The economists cannot be ignorant of this rudimentary principle of their pretended science: why, then, do they so obstinately defend property, and inequality of wages, and the legitimacy of usury, and the honesty of profit,--all of which contradict the economic law, and make exchange impossible? A contractor pays one hundred thousand francs for raw material, fifty thousand francs in wages, and then expects to receive a product of two hundred thousand francs,--that is, expects to make a profit on the material and on the labor of his employees; but if the laborers and the purveyor of the material cannot, with their combined wages, repurchase that which they have produced for the contractor, how can they live? I will develop my question. Here details become necessary.

If the workingman receives for his labor an average of three francs per day, his employer (in order to gain any thing beyond his own salary, if only interest on his capital) must sell the day's labor of his employee, in the form of merchandise, for more than three francs. The workingman cannot, then, repurchase that which he has produced for his master. It is thus with all trades whatsoever. The tailor, the hatter, the cabinet-maker, the blacksmith, the tanner, the mason, the jeweller, the printer, the clerk, &c., even to the farmer and wine-grower, cannot repurchase their products; since, producing for a master who in one form or another makes a profit, they are obliged to pay more for their own labor than they get for it.

In France, twenty millions of laborers, engaged in all the branches of science, art, and industry, produce every thing which is useful to man. Their annual wages amount, it is estimated. to twenty thousand millions; but, in consequence of the right of property, and the multifarious forms of increase, premiums, tithes, interests, fines, profits, farm-rents, house-rents, revenues, emoluments of every nature and description, their products are estimated by the proprietors and employers at twenty-five thousand millions. What does that signify? That the laborers, who are obliged to repurchase these products in order to live, must either pay five for that which they produced for four, or fast one day in five.

If there is an economist in France able to show that this calculation is false, I summon him to appear; and I promise to retract all that I have wrongfully and wickedly uttered in my attacks upon property.

Let us now look at the results of this profit.

If the wages of the workingmen were the same in all pursuits, the deficit caused by the proprietor's tax would be felt equally everywhere; but also the cause of the evil would be so apparent, that it would soon be discovered and suppressed. But, as there is the same inequality of wages (from that of the scavenger up to that of the minister of state) as of property, robbery continually rebounds from the stronger to the weaker; so that, since the laborer finds his hardships increase as he descends in the social scale, the lowest class of people are literally stripped naked and eaten alive by the others.

The laboring people can buy neither the cloth which they weave, nor the furniture which they manufacture, nor the metal which they forge, nor the jewels which they cut, nor the prints which they engrave. They can procure neither the wheat which they plant, nor the wine which they grow, nor the flesh of the animals which they raise. They are allowed neither to dwell in the houses which they build, nor to attend the plays which their labor supports, nor to enjoy the rest which their body requires. And why? Because the right of increase does not permit these things to be sold at the cost-price, which is all that laborers can afford to pay. On the signs of those magnificent warehouses which he in his poverty admires, the laborer reads in large letters: "This is thy work, and thou shalt not have it." _Sic vos non vobis_!

Every manufacturer who employs one thousand laborers, and gains from them daily one sou each, is slowly pushing them into a state of misery. Every man who makes a profit has entered into a conspiracy with famine. But the whole nation has not even this labor, by means of which property starves it. And why? Because the workers are forced by the insufficiency of their wages to monopolize labor; and because, before being destroyed by dearth, they destroy each other by competition. Let us pursue this truth no further.

If the laborer's wages will not purchase his product, it follows that the product is not made for the producer. For whom, then, is it intended? For the richer consumer; that is, for only a fraction of society. But when the whole society labors, it produces for the whole society. If, then, only a part of society consumes, sooner or later a part of society will be idle. Now, idleness is death, as well for the laborer as for the proprietor.

This conclusion is inevitable.

The most distressing spectacle imaginable is the sight of producers resisting and struggling against this mathematical necessity, this power of figures to which their prejudices blind them.

If one hundred thousand printers can furnish reading-matter enough for thirty-four millions of men, and if the price of books is so high that only one-third of that number can afford to buy them, it is clear that these one hundred thousand printers will produce three times as much as the booksellers can sell. That the products of the laborers may never exceed the demands of the consumers, the laborers must either rest two days out of three, or, separating into three groups, relieve each other three times a week, month, or quarter; that is, during two-thirds of their life they must not live. But industry, under the influence of property, does not proceed with such regularity. It endeavors to produce a great deal in a short time, because the greater the amount of products, and the shorter the time of production, the less each product costs. As soon as a demand begins to be felt, the factories fill up, and everybody goes to work. Then business is lively, and both governors and governed rejoice. But the more they work to-day, the more idle will they be hereafter; the more they laugh, the more they shall weep. Under the rule of property, the flowers of industry are woven into none but funeral wreaths. The laborer digs his own grave.

If the factory stops running, the manufacturer has to pay interest on his capital the same as before. He naturally tries, then, to continue production by lessening expenses. Then comes the lowering of wages; the introduction of machinery; the employment of women and children to do the work of men; bad workmen, and wretched work. They still produce, because the decreased cost creates a larger market; but they do not produce long, because, the cheapness being due to the quantity and rapidity of production, the productive power tends more than ever to outstrip consumption. It is when laborers, whose wages are scarcely sufficient to support them from one day to another, are thrown out of work, that the consequences of the principle of property become most frightful. They have not been able to economize, they have made no savings, they have accumulated no capital whatever to support them even one day more. Today the factory is closed. To-morrow the people starve in the streets. Day after tomorrow they will either die in the hospital, or eat in the jail.

And still new misfortunes come to complicate this terrible situation. In consequence of the cessation of business, and the extreme cheapness of merchandise, the manufacturer finds it impossible to pay the interest on his borrowed capital; whereupon his frightened creditors hasten to withdraw their funds. Production is suspended, and labor comes to a standstill. Then people are astonished to see capital desert commerce, and throw itself upon the Stock Exchange; and I once heard M. Blanqui bitterly lamenting the blind ignorance of capitalists. The cause of this movement of capital is very simple; but for that very reason an economist could not understand it, or rather must not explain it. The cause lies solely in COMPETITION.

I mean by competition, not only the rivalry between two parties engaged in the same business, but the general and simultaneous effort of all kinds of business to get ahead of each other. This effort is to-day so strong, that the price of merchandise scarcely covers the cost of production and distribution; so that, the wages of all laborers being lessened, nothing remains, not even interest for the capitalists.

The primary cause of commercial and industrial stagnations is, then, interest on capital,--that interest which the ancients with one accord branded with the name of usury, whenever it was paid for the use of money, but which they did not dare to condemn in the forms of house-rent, farm-rent, or profit: as if the nature of the thing lent could ever warrant a charge for the lending; that is, robbery.

In proportion to the increase received by the capitalist will be the frequency and intensity of commercial crises,--the first being given, we always can determine the two others; and vice versa. Do you wish to know the regulator of a society? Ascertain the amount of active capital; that is, the capital bearing interest, and the legal rate of this interest. The course of events will be a series of overturns, whose number and violence will be proportional to the activity of capital.

In 1839, the number of failures in Paris alone was one thousand and sixty-four. This proportion was kept up in the early months of 1840; and, as I write these lines, the crisis is not yet ended. It is said, further, that the number of houses which have wound up their business is greater than the number of declared failures. By this flood, we may judge of the waterspout's power of suction.

The decimation of society is now imperceptible and permanent, now periodical and violent; it depends upon the course which property takes. In a country where the property is pretty evenly distributed, and where little business is done,--the rights and claims of each being balanced by those of others,--the power of invasion is destroyed. There--it may be truly said--property does not exist, since the right of increase is scarcely exercised at all. The condition of the laborers--as regards security of life--is almost the same as if absolute equality prevailed among them. They are deprived of all the advantages of full and free association, but their existence is not endangered in the least. With the exception of a few isolated victims of the right of property--of this misfortune whose primary cause no one perceives--the society appears to rest calmly in the bosom of this sort of equality. But have a care; it is balanced on the edge of a sword: at the slightest shock, it will fall and meet with death!

Ordinarily, the whirlpool of property localizes itself. On the one hand, farm-rent stops at a certain point; on the other, in consequence of competition and over-production, the price of manufactured goods does not rise,--so that the condition of the peasant varies but little, and depends mainly on the seasons. The devouring action of property bears, then, principally upon business. We commonly say COMMERCIAL CRISES, not AGRICULTURAL CRISES; because, while the farmer is eaten up slowly by the right of increase, the manufacturer is swallowed at a single mouthful. This leads to the cessation of business, the destruction of fortunes, and the inactivity of the working people; who die one after another on the highways, and in the hospitals, prisons, and galleys.

To sum up this proposition:--

Property sells products to the laborer for more than it pays him for them; therefore it is impossible.

Appendix to the Fifth Proposition[edit]

I. Certain reformers, and even the most of the publicists--who, though belonging to no particular school, busy themselves in devising means for the amelioration of the lot of the poorer and more numerous class--lay much stress now-a-days on a better organization of labor. The disciples of Fourier, especially, never stop shouting, "ON TO THE PHALANX!" declaiming in the same breath against the foolishness and absurdity of other sects.

They consist of half-a-dozen incomparable geniuses who have discovered that FIVE AND FOUR MAKE NINE; TAKE TWO AWAY, AND NINE REMAIN,--and who weep over the blindness of France, who refuses to believe in this astonishing arithmetic.[1]

[1] Fourier, having to multiply a whole number by a fraction, never failed, they say, to obtain a product much greater than the multiplicand. He affirmed that under his system of harmony the mercury would solidify when the temperature was above zero. He might as well have said that the Harmonians would make burning ice. I once asked an intelligent phalansterian what he thought of such physics. "I do not know," he answered; "but I believe." And yet the same man disbelieved in the doctrine of the Real Presence.



In fact, the Fourierists proclaim themselves, on the one hand, defenders of property, of the right of increase, which they have thus formulated: TO EACH ACCORDING TO HIS CAPITAL, HIS LABOR, AND HIS SKILL. On the other hand, they wish the workingman to come into the enjoyment of all the wealth of society; that is,-- abridging the expression,--into the undivided enjoyment of his own product. Is not this like saying to the workingman, "Labor, you shall have three francs per day; you shall live on fifty-five sous; you shall give the rest to the proprietor, and thus you will consume three francs"?

If the above speech is not an exact epitome of Charles Fourier's system, I will subscribe to the whole phalansterian folly with a pen dipped in my own blood.

Of what use is it to reform industry and agriculture,--of what use, indeed, to labor at all,--if property is maintained, and labor can never meet its expenses? Without the abolition of property, the organization of labor is neither more nor less than a delusion. If production should be quadrupled,--a thing which does not seem to me at all impossible,--it would be labor lost: if the additional product was not consumed, it would be of no value, and the proprietor would decline to receive it as interest; if it was consumed, all the disadvantages of property would reappear. It must be confessed that the theory of passional attraction is gravely at fault in this particular, and that Fourier, when he tried to harmonize the PASSION for property,--a bad passion, whatever he may say to the contrary,-- blocked his own chariot-wheels.

The absurdity of the phalansterian economy is so gross, that many people suspect Fourier, in spite of all the homage paid by him to proprietors, of having been a secret enemy of property. This opinion might be supported by plausible arguments; still it is not mine. Charlatanism was too important a part for such a man to play, and sincerity too insignificant a one. I would rather think Fourier ignorant (which is generally admitted) than disingenuous. As for his disciples, before they can formulate any opinion of their own, they must declare once for all, unequivocally and with no mental reservation, whether they mean to maintain property or not, and what they mean by their famous motto,--"To each according to his capital, his labor, and his skill."

II. But, some half-converted proprietor will observe, "Would it not be possible, by suppressing the bank, incomes, farm-rent, house-rent, usury of all kinds, and finally property itself, to proportion products to capacities? That was St. Simon's idea; it was also Fourier's; it is the desire of the human conscience; and no decent person would dare maintain that a minister of state should live no better than a peasant."

O Midas! your ears are long! What! will you never understand that disparity of wages and the right of increase are one and the same? Certainly, St. Simon, Fourier, and their respective flocks committed a serious blunder in attempting to unite, the one, inequality and communism; the other, inequality and property: but you, a man of figures, a man of economy,--you, who know by heart your LOGARITHMIC tables,--how can you make so stupid a mistake?

Does not political economy itself teach you that the product of a man, whatever be his individual capacity, is never worth more than his labor, and that a man's labor is worth no more than his consumption? You remind me of that great constitution-framer, poor Pinheiro-Ferreira, the Sieyes of the nineteenth century, who, dividing the citizens of a nation into twelve classes,--or, if you prefer, into twelve grades,--assigned to some a salary of one hundred thousand francs each; to others, eighty thousand; then twenty-five thousand, fifteen thousand, ten thousand, &c., down to one thousand five hundred, and one thousand francs, the minimum allowance of a citizen. Pinheiro loved distinctions, and could no more conceive of a State without great dignitaries than of an army without drum-majors; and as he also loved, or thought he loved, liberty, equality, and fraternity, he combined the good and the evil of our old society in an eclectic philosophy which he embodied in a constitution. Excellent Pinheiro! Liberty even to passive submission, fraternity even to identity of language, equality even in the jury-box and at the guillotine,--such was his ideal republic. Unappreciated genius, of whom the present century was unworthy, but whom the future will avenge!

Listen, proprietor. Inequality of talent exists in fact; in right it is not admissible, it goes for nothing, it is not thought of. One Newton in a century is equal to thirty millions of men; the psychologist admires the rarity of so fine a genius, the legislator sees only the rarity of the function. Now, rarity of function bestows no privilege upon the functionary; and that for several reasons, all equally forcible.

1. Rarity of genius was not, in the Creator's design, a motive to compel society to go down on its knees before the man of superior talents, but a providential means for the performance of all functions to the greatest advantage of all.

2. Talent is a creation of society rather than a gift of Nature; it is an accumulated capital, of which the receiver is only the guardian. Without society,--without the education and powerful assistance which it furnishes,--the finest nature would be inferior to the most ordinary capacities in the very respect in which it ought to shine. The more extensive a man's knowledge, the more luxuriant his imagination, the more versatile his talent,--the more costly has his education been, the more remarkable and numerous were his teachers and his models, and the greater is his debt. The farmer produces from the time that he leaves his cradle until he enters his grave: the fruits of art and science are late and scarce; frequently the tree dies before the fruit ripens. Society, in cultivating talent, makes a sacrifice to hope.

3. Capacities have no common standard of comparison: the conditions of development being equal, inequality of talent is simply speciality of talent.

4. Inequality of wages, like the right of increase, is economically impossible. Take the most favorable case,--that where each laborer has furnished his maximum production; that there may be an equitable distribution of products, the share of each must be equal to the quotient of the total production divided by the number of laborers. This done, what remains wherewith to pay the higher wages? Nothing whatever.

Will it be said that all laborers should be taxed? But, then, their consumption will not be equal to their production, their wages will not pay for their productive service, they will not be able to repurchase their product, and we shall once more be afflicted with all the calamities of property. I do not speak of the injustice done to the defrauded laborer, of rivalry, of excited ambition, and burning hatred,--these may all be important considerations, but they do not hit the point.

On the one hand, each laborer's task being short and easy, and the means for its successful accomplishment being equal in all cases, how could there be large and small producers? On the other hand, all functions being equal, either on account of the actual equivalence of talents and capacities, or on account of social co-operation, how could a functionary claim a salary proportional to the worth of his genius?

But, what do I say? In equality wages are always proportional to talents. What is the economical meaning of wages? The reproductive consumption of the laborer. The very act by which the laborer produces constitutes, then, this consumption, exactly equal to his production, of which we are speaking. When the astronomer produces observations, the poet verses, or the savant experiments, they consume instruments, books, travels, &c., &c.; now, if society supplies this consumption, what more can the astronomer, the savant, or the poet demand? We must conclude, then, that in equality, and only in equality, St. Simon's adage--TO EACH ACCORDING TO HIS CAPACITY TO EACH CAPACITY ACCORDING TO ITS RESULTS--finds its full and complete application.

III. The great evil--the horrible and ever-present evil--arising from property, is that, while property exists, population, however reduced, is, and always must be, over-abundant. Complaints have been made in all ages of the excess of population; in all ages property has been embarrassed by the presence of pauperism, not perceiving that it caused it. Further,--nothing is more curious than the diversity of the plans proposed for its extermination. Their atrocity is equalled only by their absurdity.

The ancients made a practice of abandoning their children. The wholesale and retail slaughter of slaves, civil and foreign wars, also lent their aid. In Rome (where property held full sway), these three means were employed so effectively, and for so long a time, that finally the empire found itself without inhabitants. When the barbarians arrived, nobody was to be found; the fields were no longer cultivated; grass grew in the streets of the Italian cities.

In China, from time immemorial, upon famine alone has devolved the task of sweeping away the poor. The people living almost exclusively upon rice, if an accident causes the crop to fail, in a few days hunger kills the inhabitants by myriads; and the Chinese historian records in the annals of the empire, that in such a year of such an emperor twenty, thirty, fifty, one hundred thousand inhabitants died of starvation. Then they bury the dead, and recommence the production of children until another famine leads to the same result. Such appears to have been, in all ages, the Confucian economy.

I borrow the following facts from a modern economist:--


"Since the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, England has been preyed upon by pauperism. At that time beggars were punished by law." Nevertheless, she had not one-fourth as large a population as she has to-day.

"Edward prohibits alms-giving, on pain of imprisonment. . . . The laws of 1547 and 1656 prescribe a like punishment, in case of a second offence. Elizabeth orders that each parish shall support its own paupers. But what is a pauper? Charles II. decides that an UNDISPUTED residence of forty days constitutes a settlement in a parish; but, if disputed, the new-comer is forced to pack off. James II. modifies this decision, which is again modified by William. In the midst of trials, reports, and modifications, pauperism increases, and the workingman languishes and dies.

"The poor-tax in 1774 exceeded forty millions of francs; in 1783- 4-5, it averaged fifty-three millions; 1813, more than a hundred and eighty-seven millions five hundred thousand francs; 1816, two hundred and fifty millions; in 1817, it is estimated at three hundred and seventeen millions.

"In 1821, the number of paupers enrolled upon the parish lists was estimated at four millions, nearly one-third of the population.

"FRANCE. In 1544, Francis I. establishes a compulsory tax in behalf of the poor. In 1566 and 1586, the same principle is applied to the whole kingdom.

"Under Louis XIV., forty thousand paupers infested the capital [as many in proportion as to-day]. Mendicity was punished severely. In 1740, the Parliament of Paris re-establishes within its own jurisdiction the compulsory assessment.

"The Constituent Assembly, frightened at the extent of the evil and the difficulty of curing it, ordains the _statu quo_.

"The Convention proclaims assistance of the poor to be a NATIONAL DEBT. Its law remains unexecuted.

"Napoleon also wishes to remedy the evil: his idea is imprisonment. `In that way,' said he, `I shall protect the rich from the importunity of beggars, and shall relieve them of the disgusting sight of abject poverty.'" O wonderful man!


From these facts, which I might multiply still farther, two things are to be inferred,--the one, that pauperism is independent of population; the other, that all attempts hitherto made at its extermination have proved abortive.

Catholicism founds hospitals and convents, and commands charity; that is, she encourages mendicity. That is the extent of her insight as voiced by her priests.

The secular power of Christian nations now orders taxes on the rich, now banishment and imprisonment for the poor; that is, on the one hand, violation of the right of property, and, on the other, civil death and murder.

The modern economists--thinking that pauperism is caused by the excess of population, exclusively--have devoted themselves to devising checks. Some wish to prohibit the poor from marrying; thus,--having denounced religious celibacy,--they propose compulsory celibacy, which will inevitably become licentious celibacy.

Others do not approve this method, which they deem too violent; and which, they say, deprives the poor man of THE ONLY PLEASURE WHICH HE KNOWS IN THIS WORLD. They would simply recommend him to be PRUDENT. This opinion is held by Malthus, Sismondi, Say, Droz, Duchatel, &c. But if the poor are to be PRUDENT, the rich must set the example. Why should the marriageable age of the latter be fixed at eighteen years, while that of the former is postponed until thirty?


Again, they would do well to explain clearly what they mean by this matrimonial prudence which they so urgently recommend to the laborer; for here equivocation is especially dangerous, and I suspect that the economists are not thoroughly understood. "Some half-enlightened ecclesiastics are alarmed when they hear prudence in marriage advised; they fear that the divine injunction--INCREASE AND MULTIPLY--is to be set aside. To be logical, they must anathematize bachelors." (J. Droz: Political Economy.)

M. Droz is too honest a man, and too little of a theologian, to see why these casuists are so alarmed; and this chaste ignorance is the very best evidence of the purity of his heart. Religion never has encouraged early marriages; and the kind of PRUDENCE which it condemns is that described in this Latin sentence from Sanchez,--_An licet ob metum liberorum semen extra vas ejicere_?

Destutt de Tracy seems to dislike prudence in either form. He says: "I confess that I no more share the desire of the moralists to diminish and restrain our pleasures, than that of the politicians to increase our procreative powers, and accelerate reproduction." He believes, then, that we should love and marry when and as we please. Widespread misery results from love and marriage, but this our philosopher does not heed. True to the dogma of the necessity of evil, to evil he looks for the solution of all problems. He adds: "The multiplication of men continuing in all classes of society, the surplus members of the upper classes are supported by the lower classes, and those of the latter are destroyed by poverty." This philosophy has few avowed partisans; but it has over every other the indisputable advantage of demonstration in practice. Not long since France heard it advocated in the Chamber of Deputies, in the course of the discussion on the electoral reform,--POVERTY WILL ALWAYS EXIST. That is the political aphorism with which the minister of state ground to powder the arguments of M. Arago. POVERTY WILL ALWAYS EXIST! Yes, so long as property does.

The Fourierists--INVENTORS of so many marvellous contrivances-- could not, in this field, belie their character. They invented four methods of checking increase of population at will.

1. THE VIGOR OF WOMEN. On this point they are contradicted by experience; for, although vigorous women may be less likely to conceive, nevertheless they give birth to the healthiest children; so that the advantage of maternity is on their side.

2. INTEGRAL EXERCISE, or the equal development of all the physical powers. If this development is equal, how is the power of reproduction lessened?

3. THE GASTRONOMIC REGIME; or, in plain English, the philosophy of the belly. The Fourierists say, that abundance of rich food renders women sterile; just as too much sap--while enhancing the beauty of flowers--destroys their reproductive capacity. But the analogy is a false one. Flowers become sterile when the stamens--or male organs--are changed into petals, as may be seen by inspecting a rose; and when through excessive dampness the pollen loses its fertilizing power. Then,--in order that the gastronomic regime may produce the results claimed for it,--not only must the females be fattened, but the males must be rendered impotent.

4. PHANEROGAMIC MORALITY, or public concubinage. I know not why the phalansterians use Greek words to convey ideas which can be expressed so clearly in French. This method--like the preceding one--is copied from civilized customs. Fourier, himself, cites the example of prostitutes as a proof. Now we have no certain knowledge yet of the facts which he quotes. So states Parent Duchatelet in his work on "Prostitution."

From all the information which I have been able to gather, I find that all the remedies for pauperism and fecundity-- sanctioned by universal practice, philosophy, political economy, and the latest reformers--may be summed up in the following list: masturbation, onanism,[1] sodomy, tribadie, polyandry,[2] prostitution, castration, continence, abortion, and infanticide.[3]

[1] _Hoc inter se differunt onanismus et manuspratio, nempe quod haec a solitario exercetur, ille autem a duobus reciprocatur, masculo scilicet et faemina. Porro foedam hanc onanismi venerem ludentes uxoria mariti habent nunc omnigm suavissimam_

[2] Polyandry,--plurality of husbands.

[3] Infanticide has just been publicly advocated in England, in a pamphlet written by a disciple of Malthus. He proposes an ANNUAL MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS in all families containing more children than the law allows; and he asks that a magnificent cemetery, adorned with statues, groves, fountains, and flowers, be set apart as a special burying-place for the superfluous children. Mothers would resort to this delightful spot to dream of the happiness of these little angels, and would return, quite comforted, to give birth to others, to be buried in their turn.



All these methods being proved inadequate, there remains proscription.

Unfortunately, proscription, while decreasing the number of the poor, increases their proportion. If the interest charged by the proprietor upon the product is equal only to one-twentieth of the product (by law it is equal to one-twentieth of the capital), it follows that twenty laborers produce for nineteen only; because there is one among them, called proprietor, who eats the share of two. Suppose that the twentieth laborer--the poor one--is killed: the production of the following year will be diminished one-twentieth; consequently the nineteenth will have to yield his portion, and perish. For, since it is not one-twentieth of the product of nineteen which must be paid to the proprietor, but one-twentieth of the product of twenty (see third proposition), each surviving laborer must sacrifice one-twentieth PLUS one four-hundredth of his product; in other words, one man out of nineteen must be killed. Therefore, while property exists, the more poor people we kill, the more there are born in proportion.

Malthus, who proved so clearly that population increases in geometrical progression, while production increases only in arithmetical progression, did not notice this PAUPERIZING power of property. Had he observed this, he would have understood that, before trying to check reproduction, the right of increase should be abolished; because, wherever that right is tolerated, there are always too many inhabitants, whatever the extent or fertility of the soil.

It will be asked, perhaps, how I would maintain a balance between population and production; for sooner or later this problem must be solved. The reader will pardon me, if I do not give my method here. For, in my opinion, it is useless to say a thing unless we prove it. Now, to explain my method fully would require no less than a formal treatise. It is a thing so simple and so vast, so common and so extraordinary, so true and so misunderstood, so sacred and so profane, that to name it without developing and proving it would serve only to excite contempt and incredulity. One thing at a time. Let us establish equality, and this remedy will soon appear; for truths follow each other, just as crimes and errors do.