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The fraud once detected
cannot be re-acted. To attempt it is to provoke derision, or invite
destruction.

That property will ever be unequal is certain. Industry, superiority
of talents, dexterity of management, extreme frugality, fortunate
opportunities, or the opposite, or the means of those things, will ever
produce that effect, without having recourse to the harsh, ill sounding
names of avarice and oppression; and besides this, there are some men
who, though they do not despise wealth, will not stoop to the drudgery
or the means of acquiring it, nor will be troubled with it beyond their
wants or their independence; whilst in others there is an avidity to
obtain it by every means not punishable; it makes the sole business of
their lives, and they follow it as a religion. All that is required
with respect to property is to obtain it honestly, and not employ it
criminally; but it is always criminally employed when it is made a
criterion for exclusive rights.

In institutions that are purely pecuniary, such as that of a bank or a
commercial company, the rights of the members composing that company are
wholly created by the property they invest therein; and no other rights
are represented in the government of that company, than what arise out
of that property; neither has that government cognizance of _any thing
but property_.

But the case is totally different with respect to the institution of
civil government, organized on the system of representation. Such a
government has cognizance of every thing, and of _every man_ as a member
of the national society, whether he has property or not; and, therefore,
the principle requires that _every man_, and _every kind of right_, be
represented, of which the right to acquire and to hold property is but
one, and that not of the most essential kind. The protection of a man's
person is more sacred than the protection of property; and besides
this, the faculty of performing any kind of work or services by which
he acquires a livelihood, or maintaining his family, is of the nature of
property. It is property to him; he has acquired it; and it is as much
the object of his protection as exterior property, possessed without
that faculty, can be the object of protection in another person.

I have always believed that the best security for property, be it much
or little, is to remove from every part of the community, as far as
can possibly be done, every cause of complaint, and every motive to
violence; and this can only be done by an equality of rights. When
rights are secure, property is secure in consequence. But when property
is made a pretence for unequal or exclusive rights, it weakens the right
to hold the property, and provokes indignation and tumult; for it is
unnatural to believe that property can be secure under the guarantee of
a society injured in its rights by the influence of that property.

Next to the injustice and ill-policy of making property a pretence
for exclusive rights, is the unaccountable absurdity of giving to mere
_sound_ the idea of property, and annexing to it certain rights; for
what else is a _title_ but sound? Nature is often giving to the world
some extraordinary men who arrive at fame by merit and universal
consent, such as Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, &c. They were truly great
or noble.

But when government sets up a manufactory of nobles, it is as absurd
as if she undertook to manufacture wise men. Her nobles are all
counterfeits.

This wax-work order has assumed the name of aristocracy; and the
disgrace of it would be lessened if it could be considered only as
childish imbecility. We pardon foppery because of its insignificance»
and on the same ground we might pardon the foppery of Titles. But the
origin of aristocracy was worse than foppery. It was robbery. The
first aristocrats in all countries were brigands. Those of later times,
sycophants.

It is very well known that in England, (and the same will be found
in other countries) the great landed estates now held in descent were
plundered from the quiet inhabitants at the conquest. The possibility
did not exist of acquiring such estates honestly. If it be asked how
they could have been acquired, no answer but that of robbery can
be given. That they were not acquired by trade, by commerce, by
manufactures, by agriculture, or by any reputable employment, is
certain. How then were they acquired? Blush, aristocracy, to hear your
origin, for your progenitors were Thieves. They were the Robespierres
and the Jacobins of that day. When they had committed the robbery, they
endeavoured to lose the disgrace of it by sinking their real names under
fictitious ones, which they called Titles. It is ever the practice of
Felons to act in this manner. They never pass by their real names.(1)

1 This and the preceding paragraph have been omitted from
some editions.--Editor.

As property, honestly obtained, is best secured by an equality of
Rights, so ill-gotten property depends for protection on a monopoly of
rights. He who has robbed another of his property, will next endeavour
to disarm him of his rights, to secure that property; for when the
robber becomes the legislator he believes himself secure. That part
of the government of England that is called the house of lords, was
originally composed of persons who had committed the robberies of which
I have been speaking. It was an association for the protection of the
property they had stolen.

But besides the criminality of the origin of aristocracy, it has an
injurious effect on the moral and physical character of man. Like
slavery it debilitates the human faculties; for as the mind bowed down
by slavery loses in silence its elastic powers, so, in the contrary
extreme, when it is buoyed up by folly, it becomes incapable of exerting
them, and dwindles into imbecility. It is impossible that a mind
employed upon ribbands and titles can ever be great. The childishness of
the objects consumes the man.

It is at all times necessary, and more particularly so during the
progress of a revolution, and until right ideas confirm themselves by
habit, that we frequently refresh our patriotism by reference to first
principles. It is by tracing things to their origin that we learn to
understand them: and it is by keeping that line and that origin always
in view that we never forget them.

An enquiry into the origin of Rights will demonstrate to us that
_rights_ are not _gifts_ from one man to another, nor from one class of
men to another; for who is he who could be the first giver, or by what
principle, or on what authority, could he possess the right of giving? A
declaration of rights is not a creation of them, nor a donation of them.
It is a manifest of the principle by which they exist, followed by a
detail of what the rights are; for every civil right has a natural
right for its foundation, and it includes the principle of a reciprocal
guarantee of those rights from man to man. As, therefore, it is
impossible to discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin
of man, it consequently follows, that rights appertain to man in right
of his existence only, and must therefore be equal to every man. The
principle of an _equality of rights_ is clear and simple. Every man can
understand it, and it is by understanding his rights that he learns his
duties; for where the rights of men are equal, every man must finally
see the necessity of protecting the rights of others as the most
effectual security for his own. But if, in the formation of a
constitution, we depart from the principle of equal rights, or attempt
any modification of it, we plunge into a labyrinth of difficulties from
which there is no way out but by retreating. Where are we to stop? Or
by what principle are we to find out the point to stop at, that shall
discriminate between men of the same country, part of whom shall be
free, and the rest not? If property is to be made the criterion, it is
a total departure from every moral principle of liberty, because it
is attaching rights to mere matter, and making man the agent of that
matter. It is, moreover, holding up property as an apple of discord,
and not only exciting but justifying war against it; for I maintain the
principle, that when property is used as an instrument to take away the
rights of those who may happen not to possess property, it is used to an
unlawful purpose, as fire-arms would be in a similar case.

In a state of nature all men are equal in rights, but they are not equal
in power; the weak cannot protect themselves against the strong. This
being the case, the institution of civil society is for the purpose
of making an equalization of powers that shall be parallel to, and
a guarantee of, the equality of rights. The laws of a country, when
properly constructed, apply to this purpose. Every man takes the arm of
the law for his protection as more effectual than his own; and therefore
every man has an equal right in the formation of the government, and
of the laws by which he is to be governed and judged. In extensive
countries and societies, such as America and France, this right in the
individual can only be exercised by delegation, that is, by election and
representation; and hence it is that the institution of representative
government arises.

Hitherto, I have confined myself to matters of principle only. First,
that hereditary government has not a right to exist; that it cannot be
established on any principle of right; and that it is a violation of all
principle. Secondly, that government by election and representation has
its origin in the natural and eternal rights of man; for whether a man
be his own lawgiver, as he would be in a state of nature; or whether he
exercises his portion of legislative sovereignty in his own person, as
might be the case in small democracies where all could assemble for the
formation of the laws by which they were to be governed; or whether he
exercises it in the choice of persons to represent him in a national
assembly of representatives, the origin of the right is the same in
all cases.



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