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Chapter 3


The first man, who, after enclosing a piece of ground, took it into
his head to say, "This is mine," and found people simple enough to
believe him, was the true founder of civil society. How many crimes,
how many wars, how many murders, how many misfortunes and horrors,
would that man have saved the human species, who pulling up the stakes
or filling up the ditches should have cried to his fellows: Be sure
not to listen to this imposter; you are lost, if you forget that the
fruits of the earth belong equally to us all, and the earth itself to
nobody! But it is highly probable that things were now come to such a
pass, that they could not continue much longer in the same way; for as
this idea of property depends on several prior ideas which could only
spring up gradually one after another, it was not formed all at once
in the human mind: men must have made great progress; they must have
acquired a great stock of industry and knowledge, and transmitted and
increased it from age to age before they could arrive at this last
term of the state of nature. Let us therefore take up things a little
higher, and collect into one point of view, and in their most natural
order, this slow succession of events and mental improvements.

The first sentiment of man was that of his existence, his first care
that of preserving it. The productions of the earth yielded him all
the assistance he required; instinct prompted him to make use of them.
Among the various appetites, which made him at different times
experience different modes of existence, there was one that excited
him to perpetuate his species; and this blind propensity, quite void
of anything like pure love or affection, produced nothing but an act
that was merely animal. The present heat once allayed, the sexes took
no further notice of each other, and even the child ceased to have any
tie in his mother, the moment he ceased to want her assistance.

Such was the condition of infant man; such was the life of an animal
confined at first to pure sensations, and so far from harbouring any
thought of forcing her gifts from nature, that he scarcely availed
himself of those which she offered to him of her own accord. But
difficulties soon arose, and there was a necessity for learning how to
surmount them: the height of some trees, which prevented his reaching
their fruits; the competition of other animals equally fond of the
same fruits; the fierceness of many that even aimed at his life; these
were so many circumstances, which obliged him to apply to bodily
exercise. There was a necessity for becoming active, swift-footed, and
sturdy in battle. The natural arms, which are stones and the branches
of trees, soon offered themselves to his assistance. He learned to
surmount the obstacles of nature, to contend in case of necessity with
other animals, to dispute his subsistence even with other men, or
indemnify himself for the loss of whatever he found himself obliged to
part with to the strongest.

In proportion as the human species grew more numerous, and extended
itself, its pains likewise multiplied and increased. The difference
of soils, climates and seasons, might have forced men to observe some
difference in their way of living. Bad harvests, long and severe
winters, and scorching summers which parched up all the fruits of the
earth, required extraordinary exertions of industry. On the sea shore,
and the banks of rivers, they invented the line and the hook, and
became fishermen and ichthyophagous. In the forests they made
themselves bows and arrows, and became huntsmen and warriors. In the
cold countries they covered themselves with the skins of the beasts
they had killed; thunder, a volcano, or some happy accident made them
acquainted with fire, a new resource against the rigours of winter:
they discovered the method of preserving this element, then that of
reproducing it, and lastly the way of preparing with it the flesh of
animals, which heretofore they devoured raw from the carcass.

This reiterated application of various beings to himself, and to one
another, must have naturally engendered in the mind of man the idea of
certain relations. These relations, which we express by the words,
great, little, strong, weak, swift, slow, fearful, bold, and the like,
compared occasionally, and almost without thinking of it, produced in
him some kind of reflection, or rather a mechanical prudence, which
pointed out to him the precautions most essential to his preservation
and safety.

The new lights resulting from this development increased his
superiority over other animals, by making him sensible of it. He laid
himself out to ensnare them; he played them a thousand tricks; and
though several surpassed him in strength or in swiftness, he in time
became the master of those that could be of any service to him, and a
sore enemy to those that could do him any mischief. 'Tis thus, that
the first look he gave into himself produced the first emotion of
pride in him; 'tis thus that, at a time he scarce knew how to
distinguish between the different ranks of existence, by attributing
to his species the first rank among animals in general, he prepared
himself at a distance to pretend to it as an individual among those of
his own species in particular.

Though other men were not to him what they are to us, and he had
scarce more intercourse with them than with other animals, they were
not overlooked in his observations. The conformities, which in time
he might discover between them, and between himself and his female,
made him judge of those he did not perceive; and seeing that they all
behaved as himself would have done in similar circumstances, he
concluded that their manner of thinking and willing was quite
conformable to his own; and this important truth, when once engraved
deeply on his mind, made him follow, by a presentiment as sure as any
logic, and withal much quicker, the best rules of conduct, which for
the sake of his own safety and advantage it was proper he should
observe towards them.

Instructed by experience that the love of happiness is the sole
principle of all human actions, he found himself in a condition to
distinguish the few cases, in which common interest might authorize
him to build upon the assistance of his fellows, and those still
fewer, in which a competition of interests might justly render it
suspected. In the first case he united with them in the same flock, or
at most by some kind of free association which obliged none of its
members, and lasted no longer than the transitory necessity that had
given birth to it. In the second case every one aimed at his own
private advantage, either by open force if he found himself strong
enough, or by cunning and address if he thought himself too weak to
use violence.

Such was the manner in which men might have insensibly acquired some
gross idea of their mutual engagements and the advantage of fulfilling
them, but this only as far as their present and sensible interest
required; for as to foresight they were utter strangers to it, and far
from troubling their heads about a distant futurity, they scarce
thought of the day following. Was a deer to be taken? Every one saw
that to succeed he must faithfully stand to his post; but suppose a
hare to have slipped by within reach of any one of them, it is not to
be doubted but he pursued it without scruple, and when he had seized
his prey never reproached himself with having made his companions miss

We may easily conceive that such an intercourse scarce required a more
refined language than that of crows and monkeys, which flock together
almost in the same manner. Inarticulate exclamations, a great many
gestures, and some imitative sounds, must have been for a long time
the universal language of mankind, and by joining to these in every
country some articulate and conventional sounds, of which, as I have
already hinted, it is not very easy to explain the institution, there
arose particular languages, but rude, imperfect, and such nearly as
are to be found at this day among several savage nations. My pen
straightened by the rapidity of time, the abundance of things I have
to say, and the almost insensible progress of the first improvements,
flies like an arrow over numberless ages, for the slower the
succession of events, the quicker I may allow myself to be in relating

At length, these first improvements enabled man to improve at a
greater rate. Industry grew perfect in proportion as the mind became
more enlightened. Men soon ceasing to fall asleep under the first
tree, or take shelter in the first cavern, lit upon some hard and
sharp kinds of stone resembling spades or hatchets, and employed them
to dig the ground, cut down trees, and with the branches build huts,
which they afterwards bethought themselves of plastering over with
clay or dirt. This was the epoch of a first revolution, which produced
the establishment and distinction of families, and which introduced a
species of property, and along with it perhaps a thousand quarrels and
battles. As the strongest however were probably the first to make
themselves cabins, which they knew they were able to defend, we may
conclude that the weak found it much shorter and safer to imitate than
to attempt to dislodge them: and as to those, who were already
provided with cabins, no one could have any great temptation to seize
upon that of his neighbour, not so much because it did not belong to
him, as because it could be of no service to him; and as besides to
make himself master of it, he must expose himself to a very sharp
conflict with the present occupiers.

The first developments of the heart were the effects of a new
situation, which united husbands and wives, parents and children,
under one roof; the habit of living together gave birth to the
sweetest sentiments the human species is acquainted with, conjugal and
paternal love. Every family became a little society, so much the more
firmly united, as a mutual attachment and liberty were the only bonds
of it; and it was now that the sexes, whose way of life had been
hitherto the same, began to adopt different manners and customs. The
women became more sedentary, and accustomed themselves to stay at home
and look after the children, while the men rambled abroad in quest of
subsistence for the whole family. The two sexes likewise by living a
little more at their ease began to lose somewhat of their usual
ferocity and sturdiness; but if on the one hand individuals became
less able to engage separately with wild beasts, they on the other
were more easily got together to make a common resistance against

In this new state of things, the simplicity and solitariness of man's
life, the limitedness of his wants, and the instruments which he had
invented to satisfy them, leaving him a great deal of leisure, he
employed it to supply himself with several conveniences unknown to his
ancestors; and this was the first yoke he inadvertently imposed upon
himself, and the first source of mischief which he prepared for his
children; for besides continuing in this manner to soften both body
and mind, these conveniences having through use lost almost all their
aptness to please, and even degenerated into real wants, the privation
of them became far more intolerable than the possession of them had
been agreeable; to lose them was a misfortune, to possess them no

Here we may a little better discover how the use of speech insensibly
commences or improves in the bosom of every family, and may likewise
from conjectures concerning the manner in which divers particular
causes might have propagated language, and accelerated its progress by
rendering it every day more and more necessary. Great inundations or
earthquakes surrounded inhabited districts with water or precipices,
portions of the continent were by revolutions of the globe torn off
and split into islands. It is obvious that among men thus collected,
and forced to live together, a common idiom must have started up much
sooner, than among those who freely wandered through the forests of
the main land. Thus it is very possible that the inhabitants of the
islands formed in this manner, after their first essays in navigation,
brought among us the use of speech; and it is very probable at least
that society and languages commenced in islands and even acquired
perfection there, before the inhabitants of the continent knew
anything of either.

Everything now begins to wear a new aspect. Those who heretofore
wandered through the woods, by taking to a more settled way of life,
gradually flock together, coalesce into several separate bodies, and
at length form in every country distinct nations, united in character
and manners, not by any laws or regulations, but by an uniform manner
of life, a sameness of provisions, and the common influence of the
climate. A permanent neighborhood must at last infallibly create some
connection between different families. The transitory commerce
required by nature soon produced, among the youth of both sexes living
in contiguous cabins, another kind of commerce, which besides being
equally agreeable is rendered more durable by mutual intercourse. Men
begin to consider different objects, and to make comparisons; they
insensibly acquire ideas of merit and beauty, and these soon produce
sentiments of preference. By seeing each other often they contract a
habit, which makes it painful not to see each other always. Tender and
agreeable sentiments steal into the soul, and are by the smallest
opposition wound up into the most impetuous fury: Jealousy kindles
with love; discord triumphs; and the gentlest of passions requires
sacrifices of human blood to appease it.

In proportion as ideas and sentiments succeed each other, and the head
and the heart exercise themselves, men continue to shake off their
original wildness, and their connections become more intimate and
extensive. They now begin to assemble round a great tree: singing and
dancing, the genuine offspring of love and leisure, become the
amusement or rather the occupation of the men and women, free from
care, thus gathered together. Every one begins to survey the rest, and
wishes to be surveyed himself; and public esteem acquires a value. He
who sings or dances best; the handsomest, the strongest, the most
dexterous, the most eloquent, comes to be the most respected: this was
the first step towards inequality, and at the same time towards vice.
From these first preferences there proceeded on one side vanity and
contempt, on the other envy and shame; and the fermentation raised by
these new leavens at length produced combinations fatal to happiness
and innocence.

Men no sooner began to set a value upon each other, and know what
esteem was, than each laid claim to it, and it was no longer safe for
any man to refuse it to another. Hence the first duties of civility
and politeness, even among savages; and hence every voluntary injury
became an affront, as besides the mischief, which resulted from it as
an injury, the party offended was sure to find in it a contempt for
his person more intolerable than the mischief itself. It was thus that
every man, punishing the contempt expressed for him by others in
proportion to the value he set upon himself, the effects of revenge
became terrible, and men learned to be sanguinary and cruel. Such
precisely was the degree attained by most of the savage nations with
whom we are acquainted. And it is for want of sufficiently
distinguishing ideas, and observing at how great a distance these
people were from the first state of nature, that so many authors have
hastily concluded that man is naturally cruel, and requires a regular
system of police to be reclaimed; whereas nothing can be more gentle
than he in his primitive state, when placed by nature at an equal
distance from the stupidity of brutes, and the pernicious good sense
of civilized man; and equally confined by instinct and reason to the
care of providing against the mischief which threatens him, he is
withheld by natural compassion from doing any injury to others, so far
from being ever so little prone even to return that which he has
received. For according to the axiom of the wise Locke, Where there is
no property, there can be no injury.

But we must take notice, that the society now formed and the relations
now established among men required in them qualities different from
those, which they derived from their primitive constitution; that as a
sense of morality began to insinuate itself into human actions, and
every man, before the enacting of laws, was the only judge and avenger
of the injuries he had received, that goodness of heart suitable to
the pure state of nature by no means suited infant society; that it
was necessary punishments should become severer in the same proportion
that the opportunities of offending became more frequent, and the
dread of vengeance add strength to the too weak curb of the law. Thus,
though men were become less patient, and natural compassion had
already suffered some alteration, this period of the development of
the human faculties, holding a just mean between the indolence of the
primitive state, and the petulant activity of self-love, must have
been the happiest and most durable epoch. The more we reflect on this
state, the more convinced we shall be, that it was the least subject
of any to revolutions, the best for man, and that nothing could have
drawn him out of it but some fatal accident, which, for the public
good, should never have happened. The example of the savages, most of
whom have been found in this condition, seems to confirm that mankind
was formed ever to remain in it, that this condition is the real youth
of the world, and that all ulterior improvements have been so many
steps, in appearance towards the perfection of individuals, but in
fact towards the decrepitness of the species.

As long as men remained satisfied with their rustic cabins; as long as
they confined themselves to the use of clothes made of the skins of
other animals, and the use of thorns and fish-bones, in putting these
skins together; as long as they continued to consider feathers and
shells as sufficient ornaments, and to paint their bodies of different
colours, to improve or ornament their bows and arrows, to form and
scoop out with sharp-edged stones some little fishing boats, or clumsy
instruments of music; in a word, as long as they undertook such works
only as a single person could finish, and stuck to such arts as did
not require the joint endeavours of several hands, they lived free,
healthy, honest and happy, as much as their nature would admit, and
continued to enjoy with each other all the pleasures of an independent
intercourse; but from the moment one man began to stand in need of
another's assistance; from the moment it appeared an advantage for one
man to possess the quantity of provisions requisite for two, all
equality vanished; property started up; labour became necessary; and
boundless forests became smiling fields, which it was found necessary
to water with human sweat, and in which slavery and misery were soon
seen to sprout out and grow with the fruits of the earth.

Metallurgy and agriculture were the two arts whose invention produced
this great revolution. With the poet, it is gold and silver, but with
the philosopher it is iron and corn, which have civilized men, and
ruined mankind. Accordingly both one and the other were unknown to the
savages of America, who for that very reason have always continued
savages; nay other nations seem to have continued in a state of
barbarism, as long as they continued to exercise one only of these
arts without the other; and perhaps one of the best reasons that can
be assigned, why Europe has been, if not earlier, at least more
constantly and better civilized than the other quarters of the world,
is that she both abounds most in iron and is best qualified to
produce corn.

It is a very difficult matter to tell how men came to know anything of
iron, and the art of employing it: for we are not to suppose that they
should of themselves think of digging it out of the mines, and
preparing it for fusion, before they knew what could be the result of
such a process. On the other hand, there is the less reason to
attribute this discovery to any accidental fire, as mines are formed
nowhere but in dry and barren places, and such as are bare of trees
and plants, so that it looks as if nature had taken pains to keep from
us so mischievous a secret. Nothing therefore remains but the
extraordinary circumstance of some volcano, which, belching forth
metallic substances ready fused, might have given the spectators a
notion of imitating that operation of nature; and after all we must
suppose them endued with an extraordinary stock of courage and
foresight to undertake so painful a work, and have, at so great a
distance, an eye to the advantages they might derive from it;
qualities scarcely suitable but to heads more exercised, than those of
such discoverers can be supposed to have been.

As to agriculture, the principles of it were known a long time before
the practice of it took place, and it is hardly possible that men,
constantly employed in drawing their subsistence from trees and
plants, should not have early hit on the means employed by nature for
the generation of vegetables; but in all probability it was very late
before their industry took a turn that way, either because trees,
which with their land and water game supplied them with sufficient
food, did not require their attention; or because they did not know
the use of corn; or because they had no instruments to cultivate it;
or because they were destitute of foresight in regard to future
necessities; or in fine, because they wanted means to hinder others
from running away with the fruit of their labours. We may believe that
on their becoming more industrious they began their agriculture by
cultivating with sharp stones and pointed sticks a few pulse or roots
about their cabins; and that it was a long time before they knew the
method of preparing corn, and were provided with instruments necessary
to raise it in large quantities; not to mention the necessity there
is, in order to follow this occupation and sow lands, to consent to
lose something at present to gain a great deal hereafter; a precaution
very foreign to the turn of man's mind in a savage state, in which, as
I have already taken notice, he can hardly foresee his wants from
morning to night.

For this reason the invention of other arts must have been necessary
to oblige mankind to apply to that of agriculture. As soon as men
were wanted to fuse and forge iron, others were wanted to maintain
them. The more hands were employed in manufactures, the fewer hands
were left to provide subsistence for all, though the number of mouths
to be supplied with food continued the same; and as some required
commodities in exchange for their iron, the rest at last found out the
method of making iron subservient to the multiplication of
commodities. Hence on the one hand husbandry and agriculture, and on
the other the art of working metals and of multiplying the uses of

To the tilling of the earth the distribution of it necessarily
succeeded, and to property once acknowledged, the first rules of
justice: for to secure every man his own, every man must have
something. Moreover, as men began to extend their views to futurity,
and all found themselves in possession of more or less goods capable
of being lost, every one in particular had reason to fear, lest
reprisals should be made on him for any injury he might do to others.
This origin is so much the more natural, as it is impossible to
conceive how property can flow from any other source but industry; for
what can a man add but his labour to things which he has not made, in
order to acquire a property in them? 'Tis the labour of the hands
alone, which giving the husbandman a title to the produce of the land
he has tilled gives him a title to the land itself, at least till he
has gathered in the fruits of it, and so on from year to year; and
this enjoyment forming a continued possession is easily transformed
into a property. The ancients, says Grotius, by giving to Ceres the
epithet of Legislatrix, and to a festival celebrated in her honour the
name of Thesmorphoria, insinuated that the distribution of lands
produced a new kind of right; that is, the right of property different
from that which results from the law of nature.

Things thus circumstanced might have remained equal, if men's talents
had been equal, and if, for instance, the use of iron, and the
consumption of commodities had always held an exact proportion to each
other; but as this proportion had no support, it was soon broken. The
man that had most strength performed most labour; the most dexterous
turned his labour to best account; the most ingenious found out
methods of lessening his labour; the husbandman required more iron, or
the smith more corn, and while both worked equally, one earned a great
deal by his labour, while the other could scarce live by his. It is
thus that natural inequality insensibly unfolds itself with that
arising from a variety of combinations, and that the difference among
men, developed by the difference of their circumstances, becomes more
sensible, more permanent in its effects, and begins to influence in
the same proportion the condition of private persons.

Things once arrived at this period, it is an easy matter to imagine
the rest. I shall not stop to describe the successive inventions of
other arts, the progress of language, the trial and employments of
talents, the inequality of fortunes, the use or abuse of riches, nor
all the details which follow these, and which every one may easily
supply. I shall just give a glance at mankind placed in this new order
of things.

Behold then all our faculties developed; our memory and imagination at
work, self-love interested; reason rendered active; and the mind
almost arrived at the utmost bounds of that perfection it is capable
of. Behold all our natural qualities put in motion; the rank and
condition of every man established, not only as to the quantum of
property and the power of serving or hurting others, but likewise as
to genius, beauty, strength or address, merit or talents; and as these
were the only qualities which could command respect, it was found
necessary to have or at least to affect them. It was requisite for men
to be thought what they really were not. To be and to appear became
two very different things, and from this distinction sprang pomp and
knavery, and all the vices which form their train. On the other hand,
man, heretofore free and independent, was now in consequence of a
multitude of new wants brought under subjection, as it were, to all
nature, and especially to his fellows, whose slave in some sense he
became even by becoming their master; if rich, he stood in need of
their services, if poor, of their assistance; even mediocrity itself
could not enable him to do without them. He must therefore have been
continually at work to interest them in his happiness, and make them,
if not really, at least apparently find their advantage in labouring
for his: this rendered him sly and artful in his dealings with some,
imperious and cruel in his dealings with others, and laid him under
the necessity of using ill all those whom he stood in need of, as
often as he could not awe them into a compliance with his will, and
did not find it his interest to purchase it at the expense of real
services. In fine, an insatiable ambition, the rage of raising their
relative fortunes, not so much through real necessity, as to over-top
others, inspire all men with a wicked inclination to injure each
other, and with a secret jealousy so much the more dangerous, as to
carry its point with the greater security, it often puts on the face
of benevolence. In a word, sometimes nothing was to be seen but a
contention of endeavours on the one hand, and an opposition of
interests on the other, while a secret desire of thriving at the
expense of others constantly prevailed. Such were the first effects of
property, and the inseparable attendants of infant inequality.

Riches, before the invention of signs to represent them, could scarce
consist in anything but lands and cattle, the only real goods which
men can possess. But when estates increased so much in number and in
extent as to take in whole countries and touch each other, it became
impossible for one man to aggrandise himself but at the expense of
some other; and the supernumerary inhabitants, who were too weak or
too indolent to make such acquisitions in their turn, impoverished
without losing anything, because while everything about them changed
they alone remained the same, were obliged to receive or force their
subsistence from the hands of the rich. And hence began to flow,
according to the different characters of each, domination and slavery,
or violence and rapine. The rich on their side scarce began to taste
the pleasure of commanding, when they preferred it to every other; and
making use of their old slaves to acquire new ones, they no longer
thought of anything but subduing and enslaving their neighbours; like
those ravenous wolves, who having once tasted human flesh, despise
every other food, and devour nothing but men for the future.

It is thus that the most powerful or the most wretched, respectively
considering their power and wretchedness as a kind of title to the
substance of others, even equivalent to that of property, the equality
once broken was followed by the most shocking disorders. It is thus
that the usurpations of the rich, the pillagings of the poor, and the
unbridled passions of all, by stifling the cries of natural
compassion, and the as yet feeble voice of justice, rendered man
avaricious, wicked and ambitious. There arose between the title of the
strongest, and that of the first occupier a perpetual conflict, which
always ended in battery and bloodshed. Infant society became a scene
of the most horrible warfare: Mankind thus debased and harassed, and
no longer able to retreat, or renounce the unhappy acquisitions it had
made; labouring, in short merely to its confusion by the abuse of
those faculties, which in themselves do it so much honour, brought
itself to the very brink of ruin and destruction.

Attonitus novitate mali, divesque miserque,
Effugere optat opes; et quoe modo voverat, odit.

But it is impossible that men should not sooner or later have made
reflections on so wretched a situation, and upon the calamities with
which they were overwhelmed. The rich in particular must have soon
perceived how much they suffered by a perpetual war, of which they
alone supported all the expense, and in which, though all risked life,
they alone risked any substance. Besides, whatever colour they might
pretend to give their usurpations, they sufficiently saw that these
usurpations were in the main founded upon false and precarious titles,
and that what they had acquired by mere force, others could again by
mere force wrest out of their hands, without leaving them the least
room to complain of such a proceeding. Even those, who owed all their
riches to their own industry, could scarce ground their acquisitions
upon a better title. It availed them nothing to say, 'Twas I built
this wall; I acquired this spot by my labour. Who traced it out for
you, another might object, and what right have you to expect payment
at our expense for doing that we did not oblige you to do? Don't you
know that numbers of your brethren perish, or suffer grievously for
want of what you possess more than suffices nature, and that you
should have had the express and unanimous consent of mankind to
appropriate to yourself of their common, more than was requisite for
your private subsistence? Destitute of solid reasons to justify, and
sufficient force to defend himself; crushing individuals with ease,
but with equal ease crushed by numbers; one against all, and unable,
on account of mutual jealousies, to unite with his equals against
banditti united by the common hopes of pillage; the rich man, thus
pressed by necessity, at last conceived the deepest project that ever
entered the human mind: this was to employ in his favour the very
forces that attacked him, to make allies of his enemies, to inspire
them with other maxims, and make them adopt other institutions as
favourable to his pretensions, as the law of nature was unfavourable
to them.

With this view, after laying before his neighbours all the horrors of
a situation, which armed them all one against another, which rendered
their possessions as burdensome as their wants were intolerable, and
in which no one could expect any safety either in poverty or riches,
he easily invented specious arguments to bring them over to his
purpose. "Let us unite," said he, "to secure the weak from
oppression, restrain the ambitious, and secure to every man the
possession of what belongs to him: Let us form rules of justice and
peace, to which all may be obliged to conform, which shall not except
persons, but may in some sort make amends for the caprice of fortune,
by submitting alike the powerful and the weak to the observance of
mutual duties. In a word, instead of turning our forces against
ourselves, let us collect them into a sovereign power, which may
govern us by wise laws, may protect and defend all the members of the
association, repel common enemies, and maintain a perpetual concord
and harmony among us."

Much fewer words of this kind were sufficient to draw in a parcel of
rustics, whom it was an easy matter to impose upon, who had besides
too many quarrels among themselves to live without arbiters, and too
much avarice and ambition to live long without masters. All offered
their necks to the yoke in hopes of securing their liberty; for though
they had sense enough to perceive the advantages of a political
constitution, they had not experience enough to see beforehand the
dangers of it; those among them, who were best qualified to foresee
abuses, were precisely those who expected to benefit by them; even the
soberest judged it requisite to sacrifice one part of their liberty to
ensure the other, as a man, dangerously wounded in any of his limbs,
readily parts with it to save the rest of his body.

Such was, or must have been, had man been left to himself, the origin
of society and of the laws, which increased the fetters of the weak,
and the strength of the rich; irretrievably destroyed natural liberty,
fixed for ever the laws of property and inequality; changed an artful
usurpation into an irrevocable title; and for the benefit of a few
ambitious individuals subjected the rest of mankind to perpetual
labour, servitude, and misery. We may easily conceive how the
establishment of a single society rendered that of all the rest
absolutely necessary, and how, to make head against united forces, it
became necessary for the rest of mankind to unite in their turn.
Societies once formed in this manner, soon multiplied or spread to
such a degree, as to cover the face of the earth; and not to leave a
corner in the whole universe, where a man could throw off the yoke,
and withdraw his head from under the often ill-conducted sword which
he saw perpetually hanging over it. The civil law being thus become
the common rule of citizens, the law of nature no longer obtained but
among the different societies, in which, under the name of the law of
nations, it was qualified by some tacit conventions to render commerce
possible, and supply the place of natural compassion, which, losing by
degrees all that influence over societies which it originally had over
individuals, no longer exists but in some great souls, who consider
themselves as citizens of the world, and forcing the imaginary
barriers that separate people from people, after the example of the
Sovereign Being from whom we all derive our existence, make the whole
human race the object of their benevolence.

Political bodies, thus remaining in a state of nature among
themselves, soon experienced the inconveniences which had obliged
individuals to quit it; and this state became much more fatal to these
great bodies, than it had been before to the individuals which now
composed them. Hence those national wars, those battles, those
murders, those reprisals, which make nature shudder and shock reason;
hence all those horrible prejudices, which make it a virtue and an
honour to shed human blood. The worthiest men learned to consider the
cutting the throats of their fellows as a duty; at length men began to
butcher each other by thousands without knowing for what; and more
murders were committed in a single action, and more horrible disorders
at the taking of a single town, than had been committed in the state
of nature during ages together upon the whole face of the earth. Such
are the first effects we may conceive to have arisen from the division
of mankind into different societies. Let us return to their

I know that several writers have assigned other origins of political
society; as for instance, the conquests of the powerful, or the union
of the weak; and it is no matter which of these causes we adopt in
regard to what I am going to establish; that, however, which I have
just laid down, seems to me the most natural, for the following
reasons: First, because, in the first case, the right of conquest
being in fact no right at all, it could not serve as a foundation for
any other right, the conqueror and the conquered ever remaining with
respect to each other in a state of war, unless the conquered,
restored to the full possession of their liberty, should freely choose
their conqueror for their chief. Till then, whatever capitulations
might have been made between them, as these capitulations were founded
upon violence, and of course _de facto_ null and void, there could not
have existed in this hypothesis either a true society, or a political
body, or any other law but that of the strongest. Second, because
these words strong and weak, are ambiguous in the second case; for
during the interval between the establishment of the right of property
or prior occupation and that of political government, the meaning of
these terms is better expressed by the words poor and rich, as before
the establishment of laws men in reality had no other means of
reducing their equals, but by invading the property of these equals,
or by parting with some of their own property to them. Third, because
the poor having nothing but their liberty to lose, it would have been
the height of madness in them to give up willingly the only blessing
they had left without obtaining some consideration for it: whereas the
rich being sensible, if I may say so, in every part of their
possessions, it was much easier to do them mischief, and therefore
more incumbent upon them to guard against it; and because, in fine, it
is but reasonable to suppose, that a thing has been invented by him to
whom it could be of service rather than by him to whom it must prove

Government in its infancy had no regular and permanent form. For want
of a sufficient fund of philosophy and experience, men could see no
further than the present inconveniences, and never thought of
providing remedies for future ones, but in proportion as they arose.
In spite of all the labours of the wisest legislators, the political
state still continued imperfect, because it was in a manner the work
of chance; and, as the foundations of it were ill laid, time, though
sufficient to discover its defects and suggest the remedies for them,
could never mend its original vices. Men were continually repairing;
whereas, to erect a good edifice, they should have begun as Lycurgus
did at Sparta, by clearing the area, and removing the old materials.
Society at first consisted merely of some general conventions which
all the members bound themselves to observe, and for the performance
of which the whole body became security to every individual.
Experience was necessary to show the great weakness of such a
constitution, and how easy it was for those, who infringed it, to
escape the conviction or chastisement of faults, of which the public
alone was to be both the witness and the judge; the laws could not
fail of being eluded a thousand ways; inconveniences and disorders
could not but multiply continually, till it was at last found
necessary to think of committing to private persons the dangerous
trust of public authority, and to magistrates the care of enforcing
obedience to the people: for to say that chiefs were elected before
confederacies were formed, and that the ministers of the laws existed
before the laws themselves, is a supposition too ridiculous to deserve
I should seriously refute it.

It would be equally unreasonable to imagine that men at first threw
themselves into the arms of an absolute master, without any conditions
or consideration on his side; and that the first means contrived by
jealous and unconquered men for their common safety was to run hand
over head into slavery. In fact, why did they give themselves
superiors, if it was not to be defended by them against oppression,
and protected in their lives, liberties, and properties, which are in
a manner the constitutional elements of their being? Now in the
relations between man and man, the worst that can happen to one man
being to see himself at the discretion of another, would it not have
been contrary to the dictates of good sense to begin by making over to
a chief the only things for the preservation of which they stood in
need of his assistance? What equivalent could he have offered them
for so fine a privilege? And had he presumed to exact it on pretense
of defending them, would he not have immediately received the answer
in the apologue? What worse treatment can we expect from an enemy? It
is therefore past dispute, and indeed a fundamental maxim of political
law, that people gave themselves chiefs to defend their liberty and
not be enslaved by them. If we have a prince, said Pliny to Trajan, it
is in order that he may keep us from having a master.

Political writers argue in regard to the love of liberty with the same
philosophy that philosophers do in regard to the state of nature; by
the things they see they judge of things very different which they
have never seen, and they attribute to men a natural inclination to
slavery, on account of the patience with which the slaves within their
notice carry the yoke; not reflecting that it is with liberty as with
innocence and virtue, the value of which is not known but by those who
possess them, though the relish for them is lost with the things
themselves. I know the charms of your country, said Brasidas to a
satrap who was comparing the life of the Spartans with that of the
Persepolites; but you can not know the pleasures of mine.

As an unbroken courser erects his mane, paws the ground, and rages at
the bare sight of the bit, while a trained horse patiently suffers
both whip and spur, just so the barbarian will never reach his neck to
the yoke which civilized man carries without murmuring but prefers the
most stormy liberty to a calm subjection. It is not therefore by the
servile disposition of enslaved nations that we must judge of the
natural dispositions of man for or against slavery, but by the
prodigies done by every free people to secure themselves from
oppression. I know that the first are constantly crying up that peace
and tranquillity they enjoy in their irons, and that _miserrimam
servitutem pacem appellant_: but when I see the others sacrifice
pleasures, peace, riches, power, and even life itself to the
preservation of that single jewel so much slighted by those who have
lost it; when I see free-born animals through a natural abhorrence of
captivity dash their brains out against the bars of their prison; when
I see multitudes of naked savages despise European pleasures, and
brave hunger, fire and sword, and death itself to preserve their
independency; I feel that it belongs not to slaves to argue concerning

As to paternal authority, from which several have derived absolute
government and every other mode of society, it is sufficient, without
having recourse to Locke and Sidney, to observe that nothing in the
world differs more from the cruel spirit of despotism that the
gentleness of that authority, which looks more to the advantage of him
who obeys than to the utility of him who commands; that by the law of
nature the father continues master of his child no longer than the
child stands in need of his assistance; that after that term they
become equal, and that then the son, entirely independent of the
father, owes him no obedience, but only respect. Gratitude is indeed
a duty which we are bound to pay, but which benefactors can not exact.
Instead of saying that civil society is derived from paternal
authority, we should rather say that it is to the former that the
latter owes its principal force: No one individual was acknowledged as
the father of several other individuals, till they settled about him.
The father's goods, which he can indeed dispose of as he pleases, are
the ties which hold his children to their dependence upon him, and he
may divide his substance among them in proportion as they shall have
deserved his attention by a continual deference to his commands. Now
the subjects of a despotic chief, far from having any such favour to
expect from him, as both themselves and all they have are his
property, or at least are considered by him as such, are obliged to
receive as a favour what he relinquishes to them of their own
property. He does them justice when he strips them; he treats them
with mercy when he suffers them to live. By continuing in this manner
to compare facts with right, we should discover as little solidity as
truth in the voluntary establishment of tyranny; and it would be a
hard matter to prove the validity of a contract which was binding only
on one side, in which one of the parties should stake everything and
the other nothing, and which could turn out to the prejudice of him
alone who had bound himself.

This odious system is even, at this day, far from being that of wise
and good monarchs, and especially of the kings of France, as may be
seen by divers passages in their edicts, and particularly by that of a
celebrated piece published in 1667 in the name and by the orders of
Louis XIV. "Let it therefore not be said that the sovereign is not
subject to the laws of his realm, since, that he is, is a maxim of the
law of nations which flattery has sometimes attacked, but which good
princes have always defended as the tutelary divinity of their realms.
How much more reasonable is it to say with the sage Plato, that the
perfect happiness of a state consists in the subjects obeying their
prince, the prince obeying the laws, and the laws being equitable and
always directed to the good of the public?" I shall not stop to
consider, if, liberty being the most noble faculty of man, it is not
degrading one's nature, reducing one's self to the level of brutes,
who are the slaves of instinct, and even offending the author of one's
being, to renounce without reserve the most precious of his gifts, and
submit to the commission of all the crimes he has forbid us, merely to
gratify a mad or a cruel master; and if this sublime artist ought to
be more irritated at seeing his work destroyed than at seeing it
dishonoured. I shall only ask what right those, who were not afraid
thus to degrade themselves, could have to subject their dependants to
the same ignominy, and renounce, in the name of their posterity,
blessings for which it is not indebted to their liberality, and
without which life itself must appear a burthen to all those who are
worthy to live.

Puffendorf says that, as we can transfer our property from one to
another by contracts and conventions, we may likewise divest ourselves
of our liberty in favour of other men. This, in my opinion, is a very
poor way of arguing; for, in the first place, the property I cede to
another becomes by such cession a thing quite foreign to me, and the
abuse of which can no way affect me; but it concerns me greatly that
my liberty is not abused, and I can not, without incurring the guilt
of the crimes I may be forced to commit, expose myself to become the
instrument of any. Besides, the right of property being of mere human
convention and institution, every man may dispose as he pleases of
what he possesses: But the case is otherwise with regard to the
essential gifts of nature, such as life and liberty, which every man
is permitted to enjoy, and of which it is doubtful at least whether
any man has a right to divest himself: By giving up the one, we
degrade our being; by giving up the other we annihilate it as much as
it is our power to do so; and as no temporal enjoyments can indemnify
us for the loss of either, it would be at once offending both nature
and reason to renounce them for any consideration. But though we could
transfer our liberty as we do our substance, the difference would be
very great with regard to our children, who enjoy our substance but by
a cession of our right; whereas liberty being a blessing, which as men
they hold from nature, their parents have no right to strip them of
it; so that as to establish slavery it was necessary to do violence to
nature, so it was necessary to alter nature to perpetuate such a
right; and the jurisconsults, who have gravely pronounced that the
child of a slave comes a slave into the world, have in other words
decided, that a man does not come a man into the world.

It therefore appears to me incontestably true, that not only
governments did not begin by arbitrary power, which is but the
corruption and extreme term of government, and at length brings it
back to the law of the strongest, against which governments were at
first the remedy, but even that, allowing they had commenced in this
manner, such power being illegal in itself could never have served as
a foundation to the rights of society, nor of course to the inequality
of institution.

I shall not now enter upon the inquiries which still remain to be made
into the nature of the fundamental pacts of every kind of government,
but, following the common opinion, confine myself in this place to the
establishment of the political body as a real contract between the
multitude and the chiefs elected by it. A contract by which both
parties oblige themselves to the observance of the laws that are
therein stipulated, and form the bands of their union. The multitude
having, on occasion of the social relations between them, concentered
all their wills in one person, all the articles, in regard to which
this will explains itself, become so many fundamental laws, which
oblige without exception all the members of the state, and one of
which laws regulates the choice and the power of the magistrates
appointed to look to the execution of the rest. This power extends to
everything that can maintain the constitution, but extends to nothing
that can alter it. To this power are added honours, that may render
the laws and the ministers of them respectable; and the persons of the
ministers are distinguished by certain prerogatives, which may make
them amends for the great fatigues inseparable from a good
administration. The magistrate, on his side, obliges himself not to
use the power with which he is intrusted but conformably to the
intention of his constituents, to maintain every one of them in the
peaceable possession of his property, and upon all occasions prefer
the good of the public to his own private interest.

Before experience had demonstrated, or a thorough knowledge of the
human heart had pointed out, the abuses inseparable from such a
constitution, it must have appeared so much the more perfect, as those
appointed to look to its preservation were themselves most concerned
therein; for magistracy and its rights being built solely on the
fundamental laws, as soon as these ceased to exist, the magistrates
would cease to be lawful, the people would no longer be bound to obey
them, and, as the essence of the state did not consist in the
magistrates but in the laws, the members of it would immediately
become entitled to their primitive and natural liberty.

A little reflection would afford us new arguments in confirmation of
this truth, and the nature of the contract might alone convince us
that it can not be irrevocable: for if there was no superior power
capable of guaranteeing the fidelity of the contracting parties and of
obliging them to fulfil their mutual engagements, they would remain
sole judges in their own cause, and each of them would always have a
right to renounce the contract, as soon as he discovered that the
other had broke the conditions of it, or that these conditions ceased
to suit his private convenience. Upon this principle, the right of
abdication may probably be founded. Now, to consider as we do nothing
but what is human in this institution, if the magistrate, who has all
the power in his own hands, and who appropriates to himself all the
advantages of the contract, has notwithstanding a right to divest
himself of his authority; how much a better right must the people, who
pay for all the faults of its chief, have to renounce their dependence
upon him. But the shocking dissensions and disorders without number,
which would be the necessary consequence of so dangerous a privilege,
show more than anything else how much human governments stood in need
of a more solid basis than that of mere reason, and how necessary it
was for the public tranquillity, that the will of the Almighty should
interpose to give to sovereign authority, a sacred and inviolable
character, which should deprive subjects of the mischievous right to
dispose of it to whom they pleased. If mankind had received no other
advantages from religion, this alone would be sufficient to make them
adopt and cherish it, since it is the means of saving more blood than
fanaticism has been the cause of spilling. But to resume the thread of
our hypothesis.

The various forms of government owe their origin to the various
degrees of inequality between the members, at the time they first
coalesced into a political body. Where a man happened to be eminent
for power, for virtue, for riches, or for credit, he became sole
magistrate, and the state assumed a monarchical form; if many of
pretty equal eminence out-topped all the rest, they were jointly
elected, and this election produced an aristocracy; those, between
whose fortune or talents there happened to be no such disproportion,
and who had deviated less from the state of nature, retained in common
the supreme administration, and formed a democracy. Time demonstrated
which of these forms suited mankind best. Some remained altogether
subject to the laws; others soon bowed their necks to masters. The
former laboured to preserve their liberty; the latter thought of
nothing but invading that of their neighbours, jealous at seeing
others enjoy a blessing which themselves had lost. In a word, riches
and conquest fell to the share of the one, and virtue and happiness to
that of the other.

In these various modes of government the offices at first were all
elective; and when riches did not preponderate, the preference was
given to merit, which gives a natural ascendant, and to age, which is
the parent of deliberateness in council, and experience in execution.
The ancients among the Hebrews, the Geronts of Sparta, the Senate of
Rome, nay, the very etymology of our word seigneur, show how much gray
hairs were formerly respected. The oftener the choice fell upon old
men, the oftener it became necessary to repeat it, and the more the
trouble of such repetitions became sensible; electioneering took
place; factions arose; the parties contracted ill blood; civil wars
blazed forth; the lives of the citizens were sacrificed to the
pretended happiness of the state; and things at last came to such a
pass, as to be ready to relapse into their primitive confusion. The
ambition of the principal men induced them to take advantage of these
circumstances to perpetuate the hitherto temporary charges in their
families; the people already inured to dependence, accustomed to ease
and the conveniences of life, and too much enervated to break their
fetters, consented to the increase of their slavery for the sake of
securing their tranquillity; and it is thus that chiefs, become
hereditary, contracted the habit of considering magistracies as a
family estate, and themselves as proprietors of those communities, of
which at first they were but mere officers; to call their
fellow-citizens their slaves; to look upon them, like so many cows or
sheep, as a part of their substance; and to style themselves the peers
of Gods, and Kings of Kings.

By pursuing the progress of inequality in these different revolutions,
we shall discover that the establishment of laws and of the right of
property was the first term of it; the institution of magistrates the
second; and the third and last the changing of legal into arbitrary
power; so that the different states of rich and poor were authorized
by the first epoch; those of powerful and weak by the second; and by
the third those of master and slave, which formed the last degree of
inequality, and the term in which all the rest at last end, till new
revolutions entirely dissolve the government, or bring it back nearer
to its legal constitution.

To conceive the necessity of this progress, we are not so much to
consider the motives for the establishment of political bodies, as the
forms these bodies assume in their administration; and the
inconveniences with which they are essentially attended; for those
vices, which render social institutions necessary, are the same which
render the abuse of such institutions unavoidable; and as (Sparta
alone excepted, whose laws chiefly regarded the education of children,
and where Lycurgus established such manners and customs, as in a great
measure made laws needless,) the laws, in general less strong than the
passions, restrain men without changing them; it would be no hard
matter to prove that every government, which carefully guarding
against all alteration and corruption should scrupulously comply with
the ends of its institution, was unnecessarily instituted; and that a
country, where no one either eluded the laws, or made an ill use of
magistracy, required neither laws nor magistrates.

Political distinctions are necessarily attended with civil
distinctions. The inequality between the people and the chiefs
increase so fast as to be soon felt by the private members, and
appears among them in a thousand shapes according to their passions,
their talents, and the circumstances of affairs. The magistrate can
not usurp any illegal power without making himself creatures, with
whom he must divide it. Besides, the citizens of a free state suffer
themselves to be oppressed merely in proportion as, hurried on by a
blind ambition, and looking rather below than above them, they come to
love authority more than independence. When they submit to fetters,
'tis only to be the better able to fetter others in their turn. It is
no easy matter to make him obey, who does not wish to command; and the
most refined policy would find it impossible to subdue those men, who
only desire to be independent; but inequality easily gains ground
among base and ambitious souls, ever ready to run the risks of
fortune, and almost indifferent whether they command or obey, as she
proves either favourable or adverse to them. Thus then there must have
been a time, when the eyes of the people were bewitched to such a
degree, that their rulers needed only to have said to the most pitiful
wretch, "Be great you and all your posterity," to make him immediately
appear great in the eyes of every one as well as in his own; and his
descendants took still more upon them, in proportion to their removes
from him: the more distant and uncertain the cause, the greater the
effect; the longer line of drones a family produced, the more
illustrious it was reckoned.

Were this a proper place to enter into details, I could easily explain
in what manner inequalities in point of credit and authority become
unavoidable among private persons the moment that, united into one
body, they are obliged to compare themselves one with another, and to
note the differences which they find in the continual use every man
must make of his neighbour. These differences are of several kinds;
but riches, nobility or rank, power and personal merit, being in
general the principal distinctions, by which men in society measure
each other, I could prove that the harmony or conflict between these
different forces is the surest indication of the good or bad original
constitution of any state: I could make it appear that, as among these
four kinds of inequality, personal qualities are the source of all the
rest, riches is that in which they ultimately terminate, because,
being the most immediately useful to the prosperity of individuals,
and the most easy to communicate, they are made use of to purchase
every other distinction. By this observation we are enabled to judge
with tolerable exactness, how much any people has deviated from its
primitive institution, and what steps it has still to make to the
extreme term of corruption. I could show how much this universal
desire of reputation, of honours, of preference, with which we are all
devoured, exercises and compares our talents and our forces: how much
it excites and multiplies our passions; and, by creating an universal
competition, rivalship, or rather enmity among men, how many
disappointments, successes, and catastrophes of every kind it daily
causes among the innumerable pretenders whom it engages in the same
career. I could show that it is to this itch of being spoken of, to
this fury of distinguishing ourselves which seldom or never gives us a
moment's respite, that we owe both the best and the worst things among
us, our virtues and our vices, our sciences and our errors, our
conquerors and our philosophers; that is to say, a great many bad
things to a very few good ones. I could prove, in short, that if we
behold a handful of rich and powerful men seated on the pinnacle of
fortune and greatness, while the crowd grovel in obscurity and want,
it is merely because the first prize what they enjoy but in the same
degree that others want it, and that, without changing their
condition, they would cease to be happy the minute the people ceased
to be miserable.

But these details would alone furnish sufficient matter for a more
considerable work, in which might be weighed the advantages and
disadvantages of every species of government, relatively to the rights
of man in a state of nature, and might likewise be unveiled all the
different faces under which inequality has appeared to this day, and
may hereafter appear to the end of time, according to the nature of
these several governments, and the revolutions time must unavoidably
occasion in them. We should then see the multitude oppressed by
domestic tyrants in consequence of those very precautions taken by
them to guard against foreign masters. We should see oppression
increase continually without its being ever possible for the oppressed
to know where it would stop, nor what lawful means they had left to
check its progress. We should see the rights of citizens, and the
liberties of nations extinguished by slow degrees, and the groans, and
protestations and appeals of the weak treated as seditious murmurings.
We should see policy confine to a mercenary portion of the people the
honour of defending the common cause. We should see imposts made
necessary by such measures, the disheartened husbandman desert his
field even in time of peace, and quit the plough to take up the sword.
We should see fatal and whimsical rules laid down concerning the point
of honour. We should see the champions of their country sooner or
later become her enemies, and perpetually holding their poniards to
the breasts of their fellow citizens. Nay, the time would come when
they might be heard to say to the oppressor of their country:

Pectore si fratris gladium juguloque parentis
Condere me jubeas, gravidoeque in viscera partu
Conjugis, in vita peragam tamen omnia dextra.

From the vast inequality of conditions and fortunes, from the great
variety of passions and of talents, of useless arts, of pernicious
arts, of frivolous sciences, would issue clouds of prejudices equally
contrary to reason, to happiness, to virtue. We should see the chiefs
foment everything that tends to weaken men formed into societies by
dividing them; everything that, while it gives society an air of
apparent harmony, sows in it the seeds of real division; everything
that can inspire the different orders with mutual distrust and hatred
by an opposition of their rights and interest, and of course
strengthen that power which contains them all.

'Tis from the bosom of this disorder and these revolutions, that
despotism gradually rearing up her hideous crest, and devouring in
every part of the state all that still remained sound and untainted,
would at last issue to trample upon the laws and the people, and
establish herself upon the ruins of the republic. The times
immediately preceding this last alteration would be times of calamity
and trouble: but at last everything would be swallowed up by the
monster; and the people would no longer have chiefs or laws, but only
tyrants. At this fatal period all regard to virtue and manners would
likewise disappear; for despotism, _cui ex honesto nulla est spes_,
tolerates no other master, wherever it reigns; the moment it speaks,
probity and duty lose all their influence, and the blindest obedience
is the only virtue the miserable slaves have left them to practise.

This is the last term of inequality, the extreme point which closes
the circle and meets that from which we set out. 'Tis here that all
private men return to their primitive equality, because they are no
longer of any account; and that, the subjects having no longer any law
but that of their master, nor the master any other law but his
passions, all notions of good and principles of justice again
disappear. 'Tis here that everything returns to the sole law of the
strongest, and of course to a new state of nature different from that
with which we began, in as much as the first was the state of nature
in its purity, and the last the consequence of excessive corruption.
There is, in other respects, so little difference between these two
states, and the contract of government is so much dissolved by
despotism, that the despot is no longer master than he continues the
strongest, and that, as soon as his slaves can expel him, they may do
it without his having the least right to complain of their using him
ill. The insurrection, which ends in the death or despotism of a
sultan, is as juridical an act as any by which the day before he
disposed of the lives and fortunes of his subjects. Force alone upheld
him, force alone overturns him. Thus all things take place and succeed
in their natural order; and whatever may be the upshot of these hasty
and frequent revolutions, no one man has reason to complain of
another's injustice, but only of his own indiscretion or bad fortune.

By thus discovering and following the lost and forgotten tracks, by
which man from the natural must have arrived at the civil state; by
restoring, with the intermediate positions which I have been just
indicating, those which want of leisure obliges me to suppress, or
which my imagination has not suggested, every attentive reader must
unavoidably be struck at the immense space which separates these two
states. 'Tis in this slow succession of things he may meet with the
solution of an infinite number of problems in morality and politics,
which philosophers are puzzled to solve. He will perceive that, the
mankind of one age not being the mankind of another, the reason why
Diogenes could not find a man was, that he sought among his
cotemporaries the man of an earlier period: Cato, he will then see,
fell with Rome and with liberty, because he did not suit the age in
which he lived; and the greatest of men served only to astonish that
world, which would have cheerfully obeyed him, had he come into it
five hundred years earlier. In a word, he will find himself in a
condition to understand how the soul and the passions of men by
insensible alterations change as it were their nature; how it comes to
pass, that at the long run our wants and our pleasures change objects;
that, original man vanishing by degrees, society no longer offers to
our inspection but an assemblage of artificial men and factitious
passions, which are the work of all these new relations, and have no
foundation in nature. Reflection teaches us nothing on that head, but
what experience perfectly confirms. Savage man and civilised man
differ so much at bottom in point of inclinations and passions, that
what constitutes the supreme happiness of the one would reduce the
other to despair. The first sighs for nothing but repose and liberty;
he desires only to live, and to be exempt from labour; nay, the
ataraxy of the most confirmed Stoic falls short of his consummate
indifference for every other object. On the contrary, the citizen
always in motion, is perpetually sweating and toiling, and racking his
brains to find out occupations still more laborious: He continues a
drudge to his last minute; nay, he courts death to be able to live, or
renounces life to acquire immortality. He cringes to men in power whom
he hates, and to rich men whom he despises; he sticks at nothing to
have the honour of serving them; he is not ashamed to value himself on
his own weakness and the protection they afford him; and proud of his
chains, he speaks with disdain of those who have not the honour of
being the partner of his bondage. What a spectacle must the painful
and envied labours of an European minister of state form in the eyes
of a Caribbean! How many cruel deaths would not this indolent savage
prefer to such a horrid life, which very often is not even sweetened
by the pleasure of doing good? But to see the drift of so many cares,
his mind should first have affixed some meaning to these words power
and reputation; he should be apprised that there are men who consider
as something the looks of the rest of mankind, who know how to be
happy and satisfied with themselves on the testimony of others sooner
than upon their own. In fact, the real source of all those
differences, is that the savage lives within himself, whereas the
citizen, constantly beside himself, knows only how to live in the
opinion of others; insomuch that it is, if I may say so, merely from
their judgment that he derives the consciousness of his own existence.
It is foreign to my subject to show how this disposition engenders so
much indifference for good and evil, notwithstanding so many and such
fine discourses of morality; how everything, being reduced to
appearances, becomes mere art and mummery; honour, friendship, virtue,
and often vice itself, which we at last learn the secret to boast of;
how, in short, ever inquiring of others what we are, and never daring
to question ourselves on so delicate a point, in the midst of so much
philosophy, humanity, and politeness, and so many sublime maxims, we
have nothing to show for ourselves but a deceitful and frivolous
exterior, honour without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure
without happiness. It is sufficient that I have proved that this is
not the original condition of man, and that it is merely the spirit of
society, and the inequality which society engenders, that thus change
and transform all our natural inclinations.

I have endeavoured to exhibit the origin and progress of inequality,
the institution and abuse of political societies, as far as these
things are capable of being deduced from the nature of man by the mere
light of reason, and independently of those sacred maxims which give
to the sovereign authority the sanction of divine right. It follows
from this picture, that as there is scarce any inequality among men in
a state of nature, all that which we now behold owes its force and its
growth to the development of our faculties and the improvement of our
understanding, and at last becomes permanent and lawful by the
establishment of property and of laws. It likewise follows that moral
inequality, authorised by any right that is merely positive, clashes
with natural right, as often as it does not combine in the same
proportion with physical inequality: a distinction which sufficiently
determines, what we are able to think in that respect of that kind of
inequality which obtains in all civilised nations, since it is
evidently against the law of nature that infancy should command old
age, folly conduct wisdom, and a handful of men should be ready to
choke with superfluities, while the famished multitude want the
commonest necessaries of life.

[Transcriber's Note: Some words which appear to be potential typos are
printed as such in the original book: These possible words include
cotemporaries and oftens. The paragraph starting with the words "This
odius system is even" contains unmatched quotes, which have been
reproduced as they appeared in the orginal. This work was transcribed
from a anthology (Harvard Classics Volume 34) published in 1910. The
editor of the entire series was Charles W. Eliot. The name of the
translator was not given, nor was the name of the author of the
introduction. Indented lines indicate embedded verse that should not
be re-wrapped.]

Jean Jacques Rousseau

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