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Full text of "Godwin's "Political justice"; a reprint of the essay on "Property", from the original edition;"

HANDBOUND 

AT THE 



UMVERSITY OF 
TORONTO PRESS 



^ 



GODWIN'S 



POLITICAL JUSTICE." 

A REPRINT OF 

THE ESSAY ON "PROPERTY," 



FROM THE ORIGINAL EDITION. 



EDITED BY 



H. S. SALT. 





LONDON: 

SWAN SONNENSCHEIN & C0. r 

PATERNOSTER SQUARE. 

1890. 



BUTLER & TANNER, 

THE SBLWOOD PRINTING WORKS, 

FKOME, AND LONDON. 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 
1 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

LIST OF GODWIN'S CHIEF WORKS . . . .33 
I. GENUINE SYSTEM OF PROPERTY DELINEATED . 35 

II. BENEFITS ARISING FROM THE GENUINE SYSTEM OF 

PROPERTY 47 

III. OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM THE 

ADMIRABLE EFFECTS OF LUXURY . . .64 

IV. OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM THE 

ALLUREMENTS OF SLOTH 68 

V. OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM THE IM- 
POSSIBILITY OF ITS BEING RENDERED PERMANENT 80 

VI. OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM THE 

INFLEXIBILITY OF ITS RESTRICTIONS. . . 91 

VII. OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM THE 

PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION .... 114 

VIII. OF THE MEANS OF INTRODUCING THE GENUINE 

SYSTEM OF PROPERTY . . 129 



SOCIAL SCIENCE SERIES 

Each 2s. 6d. 

1. WORK AND WAGES 

Professor THOBOLD KOGEBS. 

2. CIVILIZATION : Its Cause and Cure 

E. CAKPENTER. 

3. QUINTESSENCE OF SOCIALISM 

Dr. SCHAFFLE. 
" Precisely the manual needed. Brief, lucid, fair and wise." British, Weekly* 

4. DARWINISM AND POLITICS 

D. G. EITCHIE, M.A. 

5. RELIGION OF SOCIALISM 

E. BELFOBT BAX. 

6. ETHICS OF SOCIALISM 

E. BELFOBT BAX, 

7. THE DRINK QUESTION 

Dr. KATE MITCHELL. 

8. PROMOTION OF GENERAL HAPPINESS 

Professor MICHAEL MACMILLAN. 

g. ENGLAND'S IDEAL 

EDW. CABPENTEB.. 

10. SOCIALISM IN ENGLAND 

SIDNEY WEBB, LL.B. 

ii GODWIN'S POLITICAL JUSTICE (On Property) 

Edited by H. S. SALT. 

12. BISMARCK AND STATE SOCIALISM 

W. H. DAWSON. 

13. THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

E. BELFOBT BAX. 

14. CHARITY ORGANIZATION 

C. S. LOCH, Sec. to Char. Organ. Soc. 

15. CRIME AND THE PRISON SYSTEM 

W. DOUGLAS MOBBISON, of H.M. Gaol, Wandsmorth. 

SWAN SONNENSCHEIN & CO., LONDON. 



GODWIN'S " POLITICAL JUSTICE." 

A Reprint of the Essay on Property. 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 

IT is now close on a hundred years since the world 
was startled by the appearance of a book which, both 
by the significance of its title and the strangeness of 
its conclusions, was well calculated to arrest the atten- 
tion friendly or hostile, as the case might be of 
every reader into whose hands it might fall. It is 
difficult for us, who live in a less speculative and 
sanguine age, to realize the keen interest which at- 
tached to the publication, in 1793, of William God- 
win's Political Justice, at a crisis when men's minds 
were strung to a high pitch of expectant enthusiasm 
by the thrill of excitement of which the French 
Revolution was the cause ; but the testimony of 
contemporary authors, whatever their personal sym- 
pathies might be, is explicit on this point. " No work 
in our time," says Hazlitt, " gave such a blow to 

B 



2 GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE" 

the philosophical mind of the country as Godwin's 
celebrated Enquiry concerning Political Justice. Tom 
Paine was considered for the time as a Tom Fool to 
him; Paley an old woman; Edmund Burke a flashy 
sophist. Truth, moral truth, it was supposed, had 
here taken up its abode, and these were the oracles of 
thought." "Burn your books of chemistry/' was 
Wordsworth's advice to a student, " and read God- 
win on Necessity." " Faulty as it is in many parts," 
wrote Southey, "there is a mass of truth in it that 
must make every man think." We are told by De 
Quincey that Godwin's book f( carried one single shock 
into the bosom of English society, fearful but momen- 
tary." " In the quarto," he adds," that is, the 
original edition of his Political Justice, Mr. Godwin 
advanced against thrones and dominations, powers and 
principalities, with the air of some Titan slinger or 
monomachist from Thebes and Troy, saying, ' Come 
hither, ye wretches, that I may give your flesh to the 
fowls of the air.' " 

It might well have been expected, in an age when 
government prosecutions were so rife, that the powers 
thus challenged would have retaliated with full severity 
on their venturesome opponent. It is said that 
Political Justice owed its immunity from prosecution 
solely to the fact that it appeared in an expensive 
form ; for when the question was discussed in the 
Privy Council, it was remarked by Pitt that " a three- 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 






guinea book could never do much harm among those 
who had not three shillings to spare." In this respect 
Pitt's judgment seems to have been less shrewd than 
might be supposed, for it is recorded that Political 
Justice "became so popular that the poorest mechanics 
were known to club subscriptions for its purchase, and 
thus it was directed to mine and eat away contentment 
from a nation's roots/' 1 Godwin himself indirectly 
corroborates this statement. " I had a numerous 
audience," he says, " of all classes, of every age, and 
of every sex. The young and the fair did not feel 
deterred from consulting my pages." 

The author who rose into this sudden notoriety as 
the advocate of the most revolutionary views was the 
descendant on both sides of respectable middle-class 
families, his father being a Dissenting minister at 
Wisbeach, in Cambridgeshire, in which place William 
Godwin was born, March 3rd, 1756. He was brought 
up in an atmosphere of ultra- Calvinistic doctrines as 
a follower of Sandeman, " a celebrated north country 
apostle," as Godwin expresses it, " who, after Calvin 
had damned ninety-nine in a hundred of mankind, con- 
trived a scheme for damning ninety-nine in a hundred 
of the followers of Calvin." Among the boy's earliest 
books were the Pilgrim's Progress and the Pious Death* 
of many Godly Children; and so serious was his tern - 

1 Gentleman's Magazine, June, 1836. 




4 GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE? 

perament, that it was his practice, when occasion per- 
mitted, to discourse to his school-fellows on the con- 
genial subject of sin and damnation. From the first, 
the leading traits of his character were an indefatigable 
zeal in the search for truth, and a calm, intellectual 
gravity, underlaid, and at times dominated, by an 
insatiable self-esteem. After receiving his education 
at Norwich and Hoxton College, he undertook and 
discharged the duties of a Nonconformist minister at 
Stowmarket, and other places, for a period of about 
eight years, publishing, in 1784, a volume of six ser- 
mons, under the title of Sketches of History, in which, 
while in the main writing as an orthodox Calvinist, 
he advanced the significant and characteristic proposi- 
tion that " God himself has no right to be a tyrant/' 

In a few years from this time his religious faith, 
which had already been shaken by a study of the 
French philosophers, underwent a complete change, 
and from 1787 onward he gave up the ministry, to 
become an avowed and uncompromising advocate of the 
principles of free thought. Urged partly by the need 
of finding a livelihood, for his means were very 
limited, partly by a natural inclination to a literary 
profession, he settled in London, where he became 
acquainted with Sheridan, Canning, Holcroft, and 
other men of note, and won some distinction as a 
vigorous exponent of advanced political opinion. He 
wrote articles for the Political Herald, contributed a 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 



sketch of English History to the New Annual Register, 
and published, in 1788, his first serious attempt in 
literature a Life of Lord Chatham. It was during 
this period that he conceived and formulated the 
theories which subsequently found expression in 
Political Justice a line of thought to which he was 
especially stimulated by his intercourse with Holcroft. 
In 1791 we find the project assuming definite shape. 
" This year," writes Godwin in his autobiographical 
notes, 1 " was the main crisis of my life. I suggested 
to Robinson the bookseller the idea of composing a 
treatise on Political Principles, and he agreed to aid 
me in executing it. In the first fervour of my enthu- 
siasm, I entertained the vain imagination of ' hewing 
a stone from the rock/ which, by its inherent energy 
and weight, should overbear and annihilate all opposi- 
tion, and place the principles of politics on an immov- 
able basis." The work, which was executed with 
much slowness and deliberation, was published in 
February, 1793. 

Political Justice, as the name implies, is essentially a 
moral treatise, concerning " the adoption of any prin- 
ciple of morality and truth into the practice of a 
community." Starting with the assumption that "we 
bring into the world with us no innate principles," N y 
and that " the moral qualities of men are the produce 

1 Life of William Godwin. By C. Kegan Paul. 



6 GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE? 

of the impressions made upon them/' Godwin pro- 
ceeded to argue that, by the gradual improvement of 
human surroundings and institutions, vice and misery 
may be ultimately extirpated from the world. This 
perfectibility of man in the future (a theory which had 
already been advanced by Priestley in his First Prin- 
ciples of Government), was not based by Godwin, as is 
sometimes supposed, on the contingency of a sudden 
and supernatural change in human nature, but rather 
on a study of the improvements already effected in 
the past. While admitting that both individuals 
and nations are powerfully affected by the influence 
of climate, heredity, and other physical causes, he yet 
maintains that Keason is in the main omnipotent, and 
that where the truth is clearly enunciated it must 
finally prevail; the three most effective methods of 
reform being Literature, Education, and that notion 
of Political Justice which it was his special purpose 
to inculcate. 1 

Justice is defined as "a rule of conduct originat- 
ing in the connection of one percipient being with 
another ; " its object is the general good, which must 
take precedence of all considerations of a private or 
personal nature. In dealing with this point, Godwin 
was led by his passion for logical consistency into a 
denial of the excellence of the domestic affections, as 

1 Political Justice, original edition, Book i. 



NOTE. 



partialities which are incompatible with a strict regard 
for the interests of the community; but the more para- 
doxical arguments of this portion of his treatise 
were afterwards withdrawn by him. The doctrine of 
" rights," whether belonging to the individual or 
society, in the sense of "a, full and complete power of 
either doing a thing or omitting it, without liability 
to animadversion or censure," is entirely contraverted, , 
every member of the community being held morally 
accountable for his own actions, and possessing in his 
turn " a diploma constituting him inquisitor- general of 
the moral conduct of his neighbours." This brings 
us to the subject of the duty (not " right ") of pri- 
vate judgment one of the most important and most 
strongly emphasized of all Godwin's contentions. "To 
a rational being/' he asserts, " there can be but one 
rule of conduct justice ; and one mode of ascertaining 
that rule the exercise of the understanding." In 
other words, he advocates an absolute intellectual 
individualism, subject only to the moral censorship of ' 
society. 1 

From the adoption of these anarchist principles he 
necessarily proceeds to the condemnation of all systems 
of government as at the best a temporary expedient 
and makeshift. te Since government," he says, " even 
in its best state is an evil, the object principally to be 

1 Book ii. 



8 GODWINS "POLITICAL JUSTICE? 

aimed at is that we should have as little of it as the 
general peace of human society will permit/' a senti- 
ment which, in one form or another, repeatedly occurs 
in the pages of Political Justice. But he is careful to 
add, in accordance with the dictates of his slow and 
cautious temperament, that all violent resistance is 
earnestly to be deprecated, and that a revolution, to 
be successful, must be effected not by force, but by 
argument and persuasion, and consist in a genuine 
change of character and conviction ; we must " care- 
fully distinguish between informing the people and 
inflaming them." To such a length did Godwin 
carry his dread of popular tumult, that he objects 
even to Political Associations as likely to retard the 
cause of moral progress. He maintains that the 
spread of intellectual enlightenment is the great engine 
of liberty; and that the benevolence which prompts 
men to consult the welfare of their fellows originates 
in a higher motive than self-love. " Neither philoso- 
phy/' he says, " nor morality, nor politics, will ever 
show like themselves, till man shall be acknowledged 
for what he really is a being capable of justice, vir- 
tue, and benevolence. 1 " The doctrine of Necessity is 
frankly and fully accepted by Godwin as corroborat- 
ing rather than weakening the general force of his 
scheme. A belief in this doctrine, he argues, so far 
from paralyzing moral action, should have a contrary 
result, for "the more certain the connection between 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 



effects and causes, the more cheerfulness should I feel 
in yielding to painful and laborious employments." 

In the second volume of Political Justice we have 
the application of these abstract moral principles to 
various existing institutions. Monarchy and aristo- 
cracy are considered and criticised in all their bear- 
ings ; while all religious establishments, tests, oaths, 
libel laws, and other obstacles to the development of 
individual liberty, are declared to be objectionable. 
It is curious to note that the introduction of the ballot 
at parliamentary elections (an assembly of delegates 
for common deliberation is regarded by Godwin as the 
least blameworthy form of government) is deprecated 
as teaching us " to draw a veil of concealment over 
the performance of our duty/' Even National Educa- 
tion is rejected by this uncompromising individualist, 
as likely to produce too much 'permanence and uni- 
formity of thought. 2 

To the employment of a Penal Code and coercion 
of any violent kind Godwin, both as a necessarian and 
a philanthropist, offers the most strenuous opposition. 
Punishment, he maintains, can only be justified by the 
correction of the offender. " It cannot be just that 
we should inflict suffering on any man, except so far , 
as it tends to good." He points out the impossibility 
of rightly estimating the motives of a " criminal," 



1 Books iii. and iv. 



2 Books v. and vi. 



io GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE." 

since every man's criterion of duty must lie in the 
exercise of his private judgment. " How few/' he 
exclaims, " are the trials which an humane and a just 
man can read, terminating in a verdict of guilty, with- 
out feeling an incontrollable repugnance against the 
verdict." 

The concluding portion of Godwin's Enquiry, of 
which a reprint is now offered to the public, is devoted 
to the momentous question of Property, which he de- 
clares to be " the key-stone that completes the fabric 
of political justice." It will be seen that, keeping 
justice in view as the sole criterion of conduct, he in- 
sists that all possessions are in strict equity a common 
stock, from which all men are entitled to draw accord- 
ing to their own needs and those of their fellow- 
citizens; and that he sets forth and emphasizes the 
evils of the present system of competition, which 
results in the demoralization of rich and poor alike. 
This essay on Property is perhaps the most interest- 
ing and characteristic of all Godwin's writings, con- 
taining as it does an epitome of his social doctrines, 
and exhibiting him both in the stronger and the 
weaker aspects of his work the ardent communist, 
whose creed it is that a loaf of bread belongs " to him 
who most wants it ; " the equally ardent individualist, 
who, in spite of his communism, would minimise co- 
operation as at best a necessary evil ; the enthusiastic 
dreamer, whose faith in human perfectibility, and in 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 



ii 



the regenerating power of the mind, points to an 
ultimate triumph over every physical limitation. Ifc 
should be remembered by those who blame Godwin 
for ignoring the intermediate steps that must be 
laboriously taken before man can even approach this 
state of perfection, that he was avowedly writing of 
an ideal and abstract condition, and that the over- 
sanguine mood which occasionally prompted him to 
absurd and extravagant statements was one which he 
shared with Fourier, Owen, and other thinkers of his 
time. It is easy to ridicule and caricature such 
speculations by applying, or rather misapplying, the 
criticism of to-day to views which have reference 
solely to a future period ; but it is well, nevertheless, 
that our thoughts should be sometimes directed to- 
wards this final and ultimate goal of human aspirations. 
The strength of Godwin's Political Justice consists 
in its moral earnestness : it is an appeal from the 
fetters of restrictive institutions to the higher and 
nobler elements in human nature. If eclectic rather 
than original in the opinions it embodies (and God- 
win fully acknowledges his various debt to Hume, 
Locke, Priestley, Rousseau, and other writers), it 
may, nevertheless, claim originality in the new force 
which these opinions acquired when collected, re- 
stated, emphasized, and made to converge towards one 
unmistakable conclusion, by that intellectual calmness 
and that perspicuity of language which were Godwin's 



12 'GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE" 

peculiar characteristics. Its weakness lies in the fact 
that its author, carried too far perhaps by the ambi- 
tion and enthusiasm of the moment, attempted to give 
the appearance of complete logical consistency and 
scientific precision to a work which is based primarily 
on humane sentiment, and does not admit of being 
constructed into an irrefragable <c system," however 
powerfully it may influence a certain class of mind. 
In his preface to a later volume, 1 Godwin himself re- 
cognised the danger that attends such a priori reason- 
ing as he had adopted in Political Justice by "laying 
down one or two simple principles which seem scarcely 
to be exposed to the hazard of reputation, and then 
developing them, applying them to a number of points, 
and following them into a variety of inferences." In 
such a process, he adds, " a mistake at the com- 
mencement is fatal ; 3> and the critics have not been 
lacking who have contended that Godwin made this 
mistake. As far, then, as it was intended to be a 
positive system, which should " overbear and annihi- 
late all opposition," Political Justice must be adjudged 
to have been a failure ; but, regarded as a treatise on 
morals, it not only created a deep impression at the 
time, but will always appeal powerfully to those 
readers who have any natural tendency to sympathise 
with its author's ideals. It is a grave, lucid, and 

1 The Enquirer, 1797- 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 



forcible presentment of the arguments in favour of 
the reorganization of society on a simpler basis, with 
benevolence instead of authority as its guiding prin- 
ciple ; and it avowedly treats less of what is immedi- 
ately practicable than of what is ultimately desirable 
a fact which is of itself an answer to a good deal of 
the irrelevant criticism of which Godwin has been the 
mark. 

That Godwin, writing before the age of Darwinian 
discovery, should greatly underrate the vast scope and 
power of hereditary instincts, was of course inevit- 
able ; nor could he, any more than the other philo- 
sophic radicals of his day, grasp the significance of 
those economic changes which were already replacing 
individual by collective industry, and rendering a 
policy of governmental laisser faire intolerable. In 
these respects he shared the disabilities of those 
among whom he lived. But he was not guilty of the 
gross absurdities which some of his critics misunder- 
standing his meaning through lack of sympathy with 
the spirit in which he wrote are too apt to attribute 
to him. It has been said that he " believes as firmly 
as any Christian in the speedy revelation of a New 
Jerusalem four-square and perfect in its plan " 1 
a mere caricature this, of the theory of perfectibility, 
which, as has already been stated, does not portend 

1 Leslie Stephen's English Thought of the Eighteenth 
Century. 



14 GODWINS "POLITICAL JUSTICE." 

a miraculous perfection, but is simply the belief that 
an observation of human efforts in years past justifies 
us in anticipating an unlimited progress in years to 
come. Godwin himself, so far from being animated, 
as some have supposed, by an unscientific prejudice 
against the historical method, was himself a successful 
student and writer of history. " History/' he tells us, 
" was a study to which I felt a peculiar vocation." 
" I trust that none of my readers," he elsewhere re- 
marks, l " will be erroneous enough to consider the 
vivid recollection of things past as hostile to that tone 
of spirit which should aspire to the boldest improve- 
ments in the future." 

Equally false is the idea that Godwin in his tirade 
against kings, priests, and tyrants, was unaware of 
the consideration (gravely pointed out by his critics) 
that government cannot be regarded as the external 
cause of political evil, since it must itself be an effect 
of some internal trait in human nature. This objec- 
tion not only is not overlooked by Godwin, but is met 
and answered by anticipation, his charge against 
government being not that it introduced evil where 
none existed before, but that it fosters and strengthens 
it by "giving substance and permanence to our errors." 
As to the exaggerated antipathy to kings and priests, 
as the prime enemies of the human race, with which 

1 Preface to Essay on Sepulchres, 1809. 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 



he is often accredited, it is sufficient to point out that 
he declares the miseries which are caused by the un- 
equal distribution of property to be worse than those 
resulting from any other source whatsoever. 1 Finally, 
the equality of men, on which he of course insists, is 
not based on the fabulous notion (which some learned 
persons now-a-days think it worth their while to de- 
molish), that men are born equal in mental and 
physical endowments, but on the fact that " we are 
partakers of a common nature, and the same causes 
that contribute to the benefit of one contribute to the 
benefit of another/' 

In the second edition of his book, which appeared 
in 1796, Godwin modified some of the views which 
were so strongly and plainly expressed in the original 
quarto. " In this collapse of a tense excitement/' 
says De Quincey, " I myself find the true reason for 
the utter extinction of the Political Justice, and of its 
author considered as a philosopher." It seems more 
probable, however, that the decrease of public interest 
in Godwin's work was due to the subsidence of that 
political agitation which first brought it into note. 
"Books, as well as men," says Mackintosh, "are 
subject to what is called fortune. The same cir- 
cumstances which favoured the sudden popularity 
of Political Justice have since unduly depressed its 

1 See p. 47. 



j 6 GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE." 

reputation. The moment for doing full and exact 
justice will come." 

The seven years that followed the publication of 
Political Justice saw Godwin in the prime of his 
powers and at the zenith of his fame. While the 
spirit of enthusiasm was still strong in his mind, he 
wrote his most successful novel, Caleb Williams, 
designed to be "a general review of the modes of 
domestic despotism, by which man becomes the de- 
stroyer of man/' in which aspect it may be regarded 
as the pendant and complement of the preceding 
work. The main subject of the story is the persecu- 
tion undergone by Caleb Williams, a raw youth, full 
of natural inquisitiveness and a mild yet indomitable 
pertinacity (somewhat suggestive of Godwin himself), 
at the hands of his master Falkland, into whose guilty 
secret he has been rash and injudicious enough to pry. 
The penalties attendant on simplicity and love of 
knowledge, when they offend the prejudices of the 
wealthy and powerful, are thus incidentally illus- 
trated ; while the character of Falkland, a courtly and 
high-minded gentleman, who, to avenge a gross insult, 
had been tempted, years before, into the commission 
of a terrible crime, gave Godwin the opportunity of 
preaching an eloquent sermon on a favourite text 
the iniquity of that " code of honour " which would 
seek satisfaction for a real or supposed injury in any 
other way than by argument and expostulation. 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 17 

Caleb Williams, which was published in 1794, attained 
a wider popularity than any of Godwin's other works, 
doubtless because its didactic purpose is concealed 
and concealed with more skill than one would have 
expected from so serious a writer under the form of 
a narrative. "It is the cream of his mind," says 
Allan Cunningham ; " the rest are the skimmed milk." 
The encomiums passed on this novel by Sir T. N. 
Talfourd, Gilfillan, and other contemporaries of 
Godwin, were somewhat extravagant ; but the book is 
a powerful and remarkable one, and less read at the 
present time than its merits would make us expect. 

In this same year, 1794, Godwin wrote several 
letters to the Morning Chronicle on the subject of the 
state trials by which the Government was then seek- 
ing to destroy some of the more prominent of the 
advocates of reform; and it was in great measure 
owing to his crushing answer to the charge of Chief 
Justice Eyre that a verdict of acquittal was returned 
in favour of the twelve men who were put on their 
trial in October, among whom were Holcroft, Home 
Tooke, and others of Godwin's friends. " The feeling 
of triumph among the friends of liberty," says Mrs. 
Shelley, "was universal. Godwin never forgot the 
delightful sensations he then experienced ; it was his 
honest boast, and most grateful recollection, that he 
had contributed to the glorious result by his letter to 
Chief Justice Eyre." 

c 



i8 GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE." 

The Enquirer, a volume of essays published in 1797, 
is said by Gilfillan to be " made up of orts and frag- 
ments which were over from the great feast of the 
Enquiry." It is, however, as Godwin indicates in his 
Preface, an approach on Truth from another side than 
that of Political Justice, being based on a posteriori 
instead of a priori reasoning, and on an tc incessant 
recurrence to experiment and actual observation." 
Its author confesses that he did not escape the con- 
tagion of the French Revolution, but was too im- 
patient and impetuous in certain passages of his 
earlier work; he therefore wishes to descend into 
" the humbler walks of private life," and to study in 
The Enquirer points which had been overlooked in 
Political Justice. The essay, however, which treats 
of "Riches and Poverty," was corroborative, in the 
main, of the opinions already expressed by Godwin on 
the subject of property. 

At this time, as indeed during the greater part of 
his life, Godwin's circle of acquaintances was very 
wide. The four friends by whom he was most 
strongly influenced in his intellectual development 
were, as he himself records, Joseph Fawcet, Thomas 
Holcroft, George Dyson, and S. T. Coleridge. With 
Holcroft and Coleridge in particular he was on terms 
of affectionate intimacy. Charles Lamb, Mackintosh, 
Home Tooke, Dr. Parr, Mrs. Inchbald, were also 
among Godwin's friends, and he was more or less 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 19 

acquainted with most of the eminent men of that time. 
" Let me tell you, Godwin," wrote Coleridge in a 
letter of 1800, "that four such men as you, I, Davy, 
and Wordsworth, do not meet together in one house 
every day of the year I mean four men so distinct 
with so many sympathies." 

Godwin's habits were extremely simple and metho- 
dicaL his mode of living frugal and unpretending, as 
befitted a man of his calm, thoughtful, unimpassioned 
temperament. His appearance may best be judged 
from the portrait by Northcote (most of the written 
accounts that have been preserved refer to a later 
period of his life), which shows us a strong, stern 
countenance, full of intellectual gravity and deter- 
mination, with lofty, massive brow, earnest eyes, large 
nose, and firmly chiselled mouth. His nose, if we 
may trust Southey's humorous and not altogether 
friendly description, was the least prepossessing of his 
features. "As for Godwin," he wrote in 1797, "he 
has large noble eyes, and a nose oh, most abominable 
nose ! Language is not vituperatious enough to 
describe the effect of its downward elongation." 
Godwin, in spite of his unemotional disposition, was 
an ardent, and at times even a jealous friend. "Ex- 
cept the one great passion of his life," says his 
biographer, 1 " friendship stood to him in the place of 

1 William Godwin, his Friends and Contemporaries. By C. 
Kegan Paul. 



20 GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE." 

passion, as morality was to him in the place of devo- 
tion. All the jealousies, misunderstandings, wounded 
feelings, and the like, which some men experience in 
their love affairs, Godwin suffered in his relations 
with his friends. And his relations with women were 
for the most part the same as those with men/' His 
influence over youths, many of whom came to him for 
consultation and advice, was one of his most remark- 
able gifts ; and this influence seems in every case to 
have been exercised with kindliness and discretion. 

The "one great passion of his life" was of course 
his love for the celebrated Mary Wollstonecraft, then 
known as Mrs. Imlay, authoress of the Vindication of 
the Rights of Woman, to whom he was married in the 
early part of 1797. "I think you the most extra- 
ordinary married pair in existence," wrote Holcroft to 
Godwin, when informed of the marriage; and the 
story of their wedded life, so phlegmatic in its out- 
ward appearance, so tender in its inner reality, is 
certainly one of the strangest on record. By the 
death of Mary Wollstonecraft in the autumn of 1797, 
at the birth of the daughter who was afterwards Mrs. 
Shelley, Godwin was once more left alone ; and to this 
bereavement may perhaps be traced many of the 
troubles that beset his later life. The year after his 
wife's death he edited her posthumous works, and 
wrote a biographical memoir of her brief but chequered 
career. In his novel St. Leon, published in 1799, the 



21 



character of Marguerite is in several respects a sketch 
from that of Mary Wollstonecraft, whose influence 
may also be seen in Godwin's change of attitude 
towards those domestic ties, the "affections and 
charities of private life," as he calls them, of which he 
had spoken disparagingly in Political Justice. " For 
more than four years," he says in his Preface to St. 
Leon, "I have been anxious for opportunity and 
leisure to modify some of the earlier chapters of that 
work (Political Justice) in conformity to the senti- 
ments inculcated in this." 

Had Godwin died at the same time as Mary 
Wollstonecraft, it is probable that his fame would 
have stood far higher than it now does with posterity ; 
for there has seldom been a more remarkable instance 
of a life in which the beginning was signalized by the 
best of a man's character, and the conclusion by the 
worst. It has been well observed that Godwin " lived 
in the eighteenth, and only survived in the nineteenth 
century ; " 1 and certainly his long life of eighty years 
may furnish an illustration of the Greek proverb that 
"the half is greater than the whole." The precise 
turning point in his career as far as it is possible to 
assign an exact date to a general deterioration which 
affected his fortune and writings alike was the 
failure, in 1800, of an ill-starred drama, Antonio, on 

1 Leslie Stephen, Fortnightly Review, October, 1876. 



22 GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE." 

which he had been rash enough to risk his interests 
and his hopes. From that time onward we see him 
rather as the needy bookmaker than the disinterested 
moralist and man of letters ; and the repellent traits 
of his character, the egoism and sophistry that had 
been latent or less observable in his earlier years, 
were now more and more developed and accentuated. 
His second marriage, which took place in 1801 (hav- 
ing been preceded by two or three unsuccessful court- 
ships), was not altogether a happy one, Mrs. Clairmont, 
the widow to whom he allied himself, being a woman 
of a strong imperious disposition, which did not con- 
duce to the tranquillity of a philosopher's household ; 
while the bookselling business, which he undertook 
in 1805 and carried on for twenty years, first in 
Hanway Street and then in Skinner Street, Holborn, 
involved him in a hard, discouraging struggle, be- 
ginning in difficulties and ending in complete failure. 
It was under the stress of this unlucky commercial 
enterprise that Godwin gave way to that demoralizing 
habit of borrowing money from every one with whom 
he came in contact friend, acquaintance, or stranger 
with which his name is so largely and dishonourably 
associated. 1 It is only just, however, to note that he 

1 In Henry Crabb Eobinson's Diary for 1812 there is re- 
corded an occasion when Godwin met his match in this 
practice of borrowing. " Godwin and Bough met at this 
party for the first time. The very next day Godwin called on 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 23 

was himself open-handed enough when he chanced to 
have the means of relieving the distress of others, and 
his biographer records several instances of his " large 
and self-denying charity, extending to most distant 
and unexpected quarters." 

During these years of misfortune and decay, Godwin 
still maintained his friendship with Coleridge, Lamb, 
Holcroft, Curran, Grattan, Home Tooke, and others, 
whose acquaintance he had made in happier days ; 
though the number of his friends was now beginning 
to be thinned by death, and some few of them had 
become estranged through increasing differences of 
opinion. That he had also many enemies was due, 
not to any personal animosity on his part a fault 
from which he was singularly free but to the polemi- 
cal nature of his writings and the revolutionary 
opinions of which he was regarded as the exponent. 
" He had courage of no ordinary kind/' says one of 
his contemporaries, " and needed it all to sustain the 
reaction of prodigious popularity ; every species of 
attack, from the sun-shafts of Burke, Mackintosh, and 

me to say how much he liked Kough, adding, ' By the bye, do 
you think he would lend me 50 just now, as I am in want of 
a little money ? ' He had not left me an hour before Bough 
came in with a like question. He wanted a bill discounted, 
and asked whether I thought Godwin would do it for him. 
The habit of both was so well known that some persons were 
afraid to invite them, lest it should lead to an application for 
a loan from some friend who chanced to be present." 



24 GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE? 

Hall, to the reptile calumnies of meaner assailants, 
and a perpetual struggle with narrow circumstances." 
" I am a man of no fortune or consequence in my 
country/' wrote Godwin himself in 1809; 1 "I am 
the adherent of no party j I have passed the greater 
part of my life in solitude and retirement: there are 
numbers of men who overflow with gall and prejudice 
against me God bless them ! " 

There was one faculty of Godwin's prime which did 
not desert him in later life that of attracting and 
strongly influencing youths of ardent spirit. Of those 
who were thus led to sit at the feet of the revolu- 
tionary prophet, the poet Shelley, afterwards his son- 
in-law, was the most illustrious example. How great 
was Shelley's debt to Godwin may be learnt by a 
study of their respective masterpieces Prometheus 
Unbound is the poetical and idealized counterpart of 
Political Justice. It is a striking proof of the extent 
to which Godwin's popularity had waned in the early 
years of this century, that Shelley, writing to him 
for the first time in 1811, confesses that he had re- 
cently learnt with surprise that Godwin was still 
living; in his own words, that he had "enrolled his 
name on the list of the honourable dead." And, in 
a sense, Shelley's supposition was not so entirely un- 
founded. The true Godwin, the stern, self-denying 

1 Preface to Essay on Sepulchres. 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 25 

reformer, was indeed no more; but in his place was 
the impecunious bookseller of Skinner Street (" that 
which was Godwin," Shelley calls him in the " Letter 
to Maria Gisborne"), whose " implacable exactions " 
and " boundless and plausible sophistry " were destined 
to become but too well known to his much-enduring 
son-in-law. 

Godwin's personal appearance, no less than his 
character, had undergone a great change. " In 
person," wrote one who knew him, l "he was remark- 
ably sedate and solemn, resembling in dress and 
manner a Dissenting minister rather than the advocate 
of free thought in all things religious, moral, social, 
and intellectual ; he was short and stout, his clothes 
loosely and carelessly put on, and usually old and 
worn ; his hands were generally in his pockets ; he 
had a remarkably large bald head, and a weak voice ; 
seeming generally half asleep when he walked, and 
even when he talked. Few who saw this man of calm 
exterior, quiet manners, and inexpressive features, 
could have believed him to have originated three 
romances, Falkland, Caleb Williams, and St. Leon, 
not yet forgotten because of their terrible excite- 
ments ; and the work, Political Justice, which for a 
time created a sensation that was a fear in every state 
of Europe." A more favourable description is that 

1 S. C. Hall, Memories of Great Men, London, 1871 . 



26 GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE? 

given by Harriet Martineau, who made Godwin's ac- 
quaintance as late as 1833. "I looked upon him," 
she says, " as a curious monument of a bygone 
state of society ; and there was still a good deal that 
was interesting in him. His fine head was striking, 
and his countenance remarkable." She adds that 
the portrait which appeared in Fraser's Magazine, l 
where Godwin was represented as a small, bent old 
man, in long tail-coat and immense top-hat, was a 
malicious caricature, from which it was impossible to 
form a true estimate of his features. 

In 1822, Godwin's bookselling and publishing busi- 
ness had ended in complete bankruptcy, and during 
the last fourteen years of his life he supported himself 
by literary work ; the presence of his daughter, Mary 
Shelley, who had now returned from Italy after her 
husband's death, being a great help and encourage- 
ment. Of his later writings, the only one of import- 
ance was the answer to Malthus, published in 1820, 
which has been described as " the first action in the 
long warfare between the political economists and 
the various prophets of Utopia/' though it may well 
be doubted if Godwin was the combatant who was 
" nowhere " in this controversy. The Life of Chaucer 
(1803) is marred by its extraordinary diffuseness, a 
very slender amount of material being worked up into 

1 October, 1834. 







INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 27 

two bulky quarto volumes, which drew from Sir 
Walter Scott the observation that Godwin's method 
was " hooking in the description and history of every- 
thing that existed upon earth at the same time with 

haucer." l The Essay on Sepulchres (1809) is a brief 
and pleasantly written proposal "for erecting some 
memorial of the illustrious dead in all ages on the 
spot where their remains have been interred." The 
last work on which Godwin was engaged was the 
series of essays entitled by him " The Genius of 
Christianity Unveiled/' which, however, did not see 
the light until 1873, when it appeared under the 
cautiously indefinite title of Essays hitherto Unpub- 
lished. 

In 1833, Godwin's friends, who had more than once 
raised subscriptions for his assistance, obtained for 
him the post of Yeoman Usher of the Exchequer, 
with residence in New Palace Yard, in the possession 
of which sinecure he spent the short remainder of his 
life. Thus were Society and Government triumphantly 
avenged for the insult offered them forty years pre- 
viously in Political Justice ; and it is curious to note 
that among the many subjects touched on in that 
work the question of Salaries had not been overlooked 
by Godwin. " How humiliating/' he said, " will it 
be to the functionary himself, amidst the complication 

1 Edinburgh Eeview, iii. 



28 GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE." 

and subtlety of motives, to doubt whether the salary 
were not one of his inducements to the acceptance of 
the office!" " Sunt lacrymce rerum; " it is a tragedy 
of a lifetime on which it would be cruel to dwell ; 
but it may at least be said in Godwin's favour, that 
had he devoted his great powers to the cause of 
oppression instead of that of liberty, he would have 
ended his days in some far more luxurious sinecure 
than his residence in New Palace Yard. " Went to 
tea at the Godwins' little dwelling under the roof 
of the Houses of Parliament," writes Harriet Marti- 
neau in 1834. " Godwin had a small office there, with 
a salary, a dwelling, and coals and candle ; and very 
comfortable he seemed there, with his old wife to take 
care of him." It was here that Godwin died on April 
7th, 1836, at the age of eighty years. He was buried 
in Old Saint Pancras churchyard, by the side of Mary 
Wollstonecraft ; but in 1851, when this spot was 
broken up by the intrusion of the railway, their re- 
mains were transferred to the churchyard at Bourne- 
mouth, where their daughter, Mary Shelley, had 
already been laid to rest. 

Godwin's character was a strange mixture of 
strength and irresolution, candour and sophistry, 
generosity and meanness. A most daring speculator, 
even in that age of unlimited theorizing, and gifted 
to a remarkable degree with the faculty of patiently 
following out his inquiries to their logical conclusion, 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 






he was yet one of the most cautious and timorous of 
men in conversation and social intercourse. tf I am 
bold and adventurous in opinions/' he wrote in an 
autobiographical fragment " not in life ; it is im- 
possible that a man with my diffidence and embarrass- 
ment should be. This, and perhaps only this, renders 
me often cold, uninviting, and unconciliating in 
society/' His strong didactic tendency, which was 
unrelieved by any sense of humour or delicacy of tact, 
often led him into absurd positions and incongruous 
statements which many a less talented man would 
have easily avoided ; while his inordinate self-esteem, 
which at first stimulated him to a career of disin- 
terested activity, degenerated in the latter part of his 
life into mere vanity and selfishness. He has been 
called " cold blooded " ; this defect, however, existed 
more in appearance than in reality, for under the calm 
exterior of his phlegmatic and unimpassioned manner 
there undoubtedly lay a large amount of real sensi- 
bility and tenderness, and his writings show him to 
have been one of the most humanely minded men of 
the age in which he lived. Those who wish to es- 
timate Godwin's character impartially will not judge 
him solely or chiefly, as hostile critics have done, by 
the odious traits which manifested themselves in his 
declining years, but will remember him also as he 
appeared in his early and better period, as the fearless 
champion of intellectual and social liberty, the author 



30 GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE" 

of Political Justice and Caleb Williams, the husband 
of Mary Wollstonecraft, and the sympathetic friend 
and adviser of the many young enthusiasts who came 
to him for assistance and encouragement. 

A moralist who deals as frankly as Godwin did with 
subjects which excite so much controversy, must ne- 
cessarily be viewed in very different lights by those 
who approve and those who reprobate his ideals. 
" In weighing well his merits with his moral imper- 
fections/' says a writer of the latter class, l " it is me- 
lancholy to discover how far the latter preponderated, 
and we are led to the very painful though certain con- 
clusion, that it might have been better for mankind 
had he never existed." This conclusion does not 
strike every onenow-a-days as possessing the certainty 
attributed to it ; nor has time altogether verified the 
comfortable assertion, frequently advanced during the 
past three-quarters of a century by those in whom the 
wish was perhaps father to the thought, that God- 
win's revolutionary theories have long been dead and 
buried ; for theories of this sort have a troublesome 
habit of re-arising from the tomb at the very time 
when their obsequies are being confidently celebrated. 
A significant instance of this phenomenon may be 
seen in Prof. W. Smyth's essay on Godwin, 2 in which, 



1 Gentleman's Magazine, obituary notice, June, 1836. 

2 Lectures on the French Revolution, vol. iii. 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 31 

after stating that it is now impossible to read his 
works, as " the world is now in a more settled state, 
and people no longer make inquiries concerning 
political justice/' he proceeds to explain that " this 
sentence was written many years ago, but I have lived 
to see all the doctrines of Godwin revived they are 
the same as those which now infest the world and dis- 
grace the human understanding, delivered by Mr. 
Owen, the Chartists, and the St. Simonians." This 
was written in 1842, and now, half a century later, 
the same might be said, mutatis mutandis, by the 
upholders of orthodoxy and constitutionalism. 

Modern revolutionists, on the other hand, however 
little they may agree with portions of Godwin's work 
or approve his a priori method of reasoning, will feel 
that in choosing Justice for the watchword of his creed, 
in insisting on the liberty of individual opinion as dis- 
tinct from the license of individual money- making, 
and in pointing with such emphasis to the accumula- 
tion of private property as the main cause of human 
wretchedness and depravity, he instinctively struck a 
true note, and entitled himself to be regarded as one 
of the pioneers of the great movement of social eman- 
cipation. A man of commanding genius he certainly 
was not; but it is equally certain that his abilities 
have in many quarters been unduly depreciated. 
There was more in Godwin, said Coleridge, than 
he was once willing to admit, though not so much as 



32 GODWIN'S "POLITICAL JUSTICE? 

his enthusiastic admirers fancied ; and this is perhaps 
the true and final judgment to be passed on him. 
One high quality, invaluable to a moralist, he un- 
doubtedly possessed the power of indoctrinating his 
readers with the intellectual enthusiasm by which he 
was himself inspired. " It was in the spring of this 
year," wrote one of Godwin's contemporaries in 1795, 1 
" that I read a book which gave a turn to my mind, 
and directed the whole course of my life a book 
which, after producing a powerful effect on the youth 
of that generation, has now sunk into unmerited 
oblivion. This was Godwin's Political Justice. In 
one respect the book had an excellent effect on my 
mind it made me feel more generously. I had never 
felt before, nor, I am afraid, have I ever since felt so 
strongly, the duty of not living to one's self, but of 
having for one's sole object the good of the com- 
munity." 

It would be difficult to express more correctly the 
sum and substance of the teaching conveyed in God- 
win's Political Justice. 

H. S. 



Henry Crabb Eobinson's Diary, i. 18. 



LIST OF GODWIN'S CHIEF WORKS. 



History of the Life of William Pitt, Lord Chatham, 
8vo, 1783. 

Sketches of History, in Six Sermons, 12 mo, 1784. 

An Enquiry concerning Political Justice, 2 vols., 4to, 
1793. 

Ditto, Second Edition, 2 vols., 8vo, 1796; Third 
Edition, ] 798. (A. reprint was issued by James Wat- 
son, the secularist, about 1840.) 

Things as they are, or the Adventures of Caleb 
Williams, a novel, 1794. 

The Enquirer; Reflections on Education, Manners, 
and Literature, 8vo, 1797. 

Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft, 8vo, 1798. 

St. Leon, a Tale of the Sixteenth Century, 4 vols., 
12mo, 1799. 

Antonio, or the Soldier's Return, a Tragedy, 8vo, 
1800. 

A Reply to Dr. Parr and others, 8vo, 1801. 

Life of Geoffrey Chaucer, 2 vols., 4to, 1803. 

* D 



34 LIST OF GODWIN'S CHIEF WORKS. 

Fables, Ancient and Modern, 1805. (This was one 
of a series of educational works, written by Godwin 
under the pseudonym of Edward Baldwin.) 

Fleet wood, or the New Man of Feeling, 3 vols., 
12mo, 1805. 

Faulkner, a tragedy, 1807. 

Essay on Sepulchres, 16ino, 1809. 

Lives of Edward and John Phillips, nephews of 
Milton, 4to, 1815. 

Mandeville, a Tale of the Times of Croimuell, 3 vols., 
8vo, 1817. 

Of Population, an Answer to Mai thus' Essay, 8vo, 
1820. 

A History of the Commonwealth of England, 4 vols., 
1824-1828. 

Cloudesly, a Tale, 12 mo, 1830. 

Thoughts on Man, a volume of Essays, 8vo, 1831. 

Deloraine, a Novel, 3 vols., 1833. 

Lives of the Necromancers, 8vo, 1834. 

Essays , never before published, 1873. 



AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING 
POLITICAL JUSTICE. 



BOOK VIIL 
OF PROPERTY. 



CHAPTER I. 

GENUINE SYSTEM OF PROPERTY DELINEATED. 

IMPORTANCE OP THIS TOPIC. ABUSES TO WHICH IT HAS 

BEEN EXPOSED. CRITERION OF PROPERTY : JUSTICE. 

ENTITLES EACH MAN TO THE SUPPLY OP HIS ANIMAL 
WANTS AS FAR AS THE GENERAL STOCK WILL AFFORD 

IT. TO THE MEANS OF WELL BEING. ESTIMATE OF 

LUXURY. ITS PERNICIOUS EFFECTS ON THE INDIVI- 
DUAL WHO PARTAKES OF IT. IDEA OF LABOUR AS THE 
FOUNDATION OF PROPERTY CONSIDERED. ITS UNREA- 
SONABLENESS. SYSTEM OF POPULAR MORALITY ON 
THIS SUBJECT. DEFECTS OF THAT SYSTEM. 

THE subject of property is the key-stone that com- 
pletes the fabric of political justice. According 

35 



36 OF PROPERTY. 



as our ideas respecting it are crude or correct, they 
will enlighten us as to the consequences of a simple 
form of society without government, and remove the 
prejudices that attach us to complexity. There is 
nothing that more powerfully tends to distort our 
judgment and opinions, than erroneous notions con- 
cerning the goods of fortune. Finally, the period that 
shall put an end to the system of coercion and punish- 
mentj is intimately connected with the circumstance of 
property's being placed upon an equitable basis. 

Various abuses of the most incontrovertible nature 
have insinuated themselves into the administration of 
property. Each of these abuses might usefully be 
made the subject of a separate investigation. We 
might inquire into the vexations of this sort that are 
produced by the dreams of national greatness or magis- 
tratical vanity. This would lead us to a just estimate 
of the different kinds of taxation, landed or mercan- 
tile, having the necessaries or the luxuries of life for 
their subject of operation. We might examine into 
the abuses which have adhered to the commercial 
system : monopolies, charters, patents, protecting 
duties, prohibitions and bounties. We might remark 
upon the consequences that flow from the feudal 
system and the system of ranks ; seignorial duties, 
fines, conveyances, entails, estates freehold, copyhold 
and manorial, vassalage and primogeniture. We 
might consider the rights of the church ; first fruits 



SYSTEM OF PROPERTY DELINEATED. 37 

and tithes : and we might enquire into the propriety 
of the regulation by which a man, after having 
possessed as sovereign a considerable property during 
his life, is permitted to dispose of it at his pleasure, 
at the period which the laws of nature seem to have 
fixed as the termination of his authority. All these 
enquiries would tend to show the incalculable impor- 
tance of this subject. But, excluding them all from 
the present enquiry, it shall be the business of what 
remains of this work to consider, not any particular 
abuses which have incidentally risen out of the ad- 
ministration of property, but those general principles 
by which it has in almost all cases been directed, and 
which, if erroneous, must not only be regarded as the 
source of the abuses above enumerated, but of others 
of innumerable kinds, too multifarious and subtle to 
enter into so brief a catalogue. 

What is the criterion that must determine whether 
this or that substance, capable of contributing to the 
benefit of a human being, ought to be considered as 
your property or mine ? To this question there can 
be but one answer Justice. Let us then recur to 
the principles of justice. 1 

1 Book II., chap. ii. " Justice is a rule of conduct originat- 
ing in the connection of one percipient being with another. 
A comprehensive maxim which has been laid down upon 
this subject is " that we should love our neighbours as our- 
selves." But this maxim, though possessing considerable 



OF PROPERTY. 



To whom does any article of property, suppose a 
loaf of bread, justly belong ? To him who most 
wants it, or to whom the possession of it will be most 
beneficial. Here are six men famished with hunger, 
and the loaf is, absolutely considered, capable of 
satisfying the cravings of them all. Who is it that 
has a reasonable claim to benefit by the qualities with 
which this loaf is endowed ? They are all brothers 
perhaps, and the law of primogeniture bestows it 
exclusively on the eldest. But does justice confirm 
this award ? The laws of different countries dispose 
of property in a thousand different ways ; but there 
can be but one way which is most comformable to 
reason. 

It would have been easy to put a case much 
stronger than that which has just been stated. I have 
an hundred loaves in my possession, and in the next 
street there is a poor man expiring with hunger, to 
whom one of these loaves would be the means of pre- 
serving his life. If I withhold this loaf from him, am 
I not unjust ? If I impart it, am I not complying 
with what justice demands ? To whom does the loaf 
justly belong ? 

I suppose myself in other respects to be in easy 

merit as a popular principle, is not modelled with the strict- 
ness of philosophical accuracy." Godwin proceeds to argue 
that each person should be valued according to his usefulness 
to society, without regard to domestic ties and affections. 



SYSTEM OF PROPERTY DELINEATED. 39 

circumstances, and that I do not want this bread as 
an object of barter or sale, to procure me any of the 
other necessaries of a human being. Our animal 
wants have long since been defined, and are stated to 
consist of food, clothing and shelter. If justice have 
any meaning, nothing can be more iniquitous, than 
for one man to possess superfluities, while there is a 
human being in existence that is not adequately sup- 
plied with these. 

Justice does not stop here. Every man is entitled, 
so far as the general stock will suffice, not only to the 
means of being, but of well being. It is unjust, if 
one man labour to the destruction of his health or his 
life, that another man may abound in luxuries. It is 
unjust, if one man be deprived of leisure to cultivate 
his rational powers, while another man contributes 
not a single effort to add to the common stock. The 
faculties of one man are like the faculties of another 
man. Justice directs that each man, unless perhaps 
he be employed more beneficially to the public, should 
contribute to the cultivation of the common harvest, 
of which each man consumes a share. This recipro- 
city indeed, as was observed when that subject was 
the matter of separate consideration, is of the very 
essence of justice. How the latter branch of it, the 
necessary labour, is to be secured, while each man is 
admitted to claim his share of the produce, we shall 
presently have occasion to enquire. 



40 OF PROPERTY. 



This subject will be placed in a still more striking 
light, if we reflect for a moment on the nature of 
luxuries. The wealth of any state may intelligibly 
enough be considered as the aggregate of all the 
incomes, which are annually consumed within that 
state, without destroying the materials of an equal 
consumption in the ensuing year. Considering this 
income as being, what in almost all cases it will be 
found to be, the produce of the industry of the in- 
habitants, it will follow that in civilized countries the 
peasant often does not consume more than the twen- 
tieth part of the produce of his labour, while his rich 
neighbour consumes perhaps the produce of the labour 
of twenty peasants. The benefit that arises to this 
favoured mortal ought surely to be very extraordinary. 

But nothing is more evident than that the condition 
of this man is the reverse of beneficial. The man of 
an hundred pounds per annum, if he understand his 
own happiness, is a thousand times more favourably 
circumstanced. What shall the rich man do with his 
enormous wealth ? Shall he eat of innumerable 
dishes of the most expensive viands, or pour down 
hogsheads of the most highly flavoured wines ? A 
frugal diet will contribute infinitely more to health, 
to a clear understanding, to cheerful spirits, and even 
to the gratification of the appetites. Almost every 
other expense is an expense of ostentation. No man, 
but the most sordid epicure, would long continue to 



SYSTEM OF PROPERTY DELINEATED. 41 

maintain even a plentiful table, if he had no spectators, 
visitors or servants, to behold his establishment. For 
whom are our sumptuous palaces and costly furniture, 
our equipages, and even our very clothes ? The noble- 
man, who should for the first time let his imagination 
loose to conceive the style in which he would live, if 
he had nobody to observe, and no eye to please but 
his own, would no doubt be surprised to find that 
vanity had been the first mover in all his actions. 

The object of this vanity is to procure the admira- 
tion and applause of beholders. We need not here 
enter into the intrinsic value of applause. Taking it 
for granted that it is as estimable an acquisition as 
any man can suppose it, how contemptible is the 
source of applause to which the rich man has re- 
course ? " Applaud me, because my ancestor has left 
me a great estate." What merit is there in that ? 
The first effect then of riches is to deprive their 
possessor of the genuine powers of understanding, and 
render him incapable of discerning absolute truth. 
They lead him to fix his affections on objects not 
accommodated to the wants and the structure of the 
human mind, and of consequence entail upon him 
disappointment and unhappiness. The greatest of all 
personal advantages are, independence of mind, which 
makes us feel that our satisfactions are not at the 
mercy either of men or of fortune; and activity of 
mind, the cheerfulness that arises from industry per- 



42 OF PROPERTY. 



petually employed about objects, of which our judg- 
ment acknowledges the intrinsic value. 

In this case we have compared the happiness of the 
man of extreme opulence with that of the man of one 
hundred pounds per annum. But the latter side of 
this alternative was assumed merely in compliance 
with existing prejudices. Even in the present state 
of human society we perceive, that a man, who should 
be perpetually earning the necessary competence by 
a very moderate industry, and with his pursuits un- 
crossed by the peevishness or caprice of his neigh- 
bours, would not be less happy than if he were born 
to that competence. In the state of society we are 
here contemplating, where, as will presently appear, 
the requisite industry will be of the lightest kind, it 
will be the reverse of a misfortune to any man, to find 
himself necessarily stimulated to a gentle activity, and 
in consequence to feel that no reverse of fortune could 
deprive him of the means of subsistence and content- 
ment. 

But it has been alleged, "that we find among 
different men very different degrees of labour and in- 
dustry, and that it is not just they should receive an 
equal reward." It cannot indeed be denied that the 
attainments of men in virtue and usefulness ought by 
no means to be confounded. How far the present 
system of property contributes to their being equit- 
ably treated it is very easy to determine. The pre- 



SYSTEM OF PROPERTY DELINEATED. 43 

sent system of property confers on one man immense 
wealth in consideration of the accident of his birth. 
He that from beggary ascends to opulence is usually 
known not to have effected this transition by methods 
very creditable to his honesty or his usefulness. The 
most industrious and active member of society is fre- 
quently with great difficulty able to keep his family 
from starving. 

But, to pass over these iniquitous effects of the 
unequal distribution of property, let us consider the 
nature of the reward which is thus proposed to in- 
dustry. If you be industrious, you shall have an 
hundred times more food than you can eat, and an 
hundred times more clothes than you can wear. Where 
is the justice of this ? If I be the greatest benefactor 
the human species ever knew, is that a reason for 
bestowing on me what I do not want, especially when 
there are thousands to whom my superfluity would be 
of the greatest advantage ? With this superfluity I 
can purchase nothing but gaudy ostentation and envy, 
nothing but the pitiful pleasure of returning to the 
poor under the name of generosity that to which 
reason gives them an irresistible claim, nothing but 
prejudice, error and vice. 

The doctrine of the injustice of accumulated property 
has been the foundation of all religious morality. The 
object of this morality has been, to excite men by 
individual virtue to repair this injustice. The most 



44 OF PROPERTY. 






energetic teachers of religion have been irresistibly 
led to assert the precise truth upon this interesting 
subject. They have taught the rich, that they hold 
their wealth only as a trust, that they are strictly 
accountable for every atom of their expenditure, that 
they are merely administrators, and by no means pro- 
prietors in chief. 1 The defect of this system is, that 
they rather excite us to palliate our injustice than to 
forsake it. 

No truth can be more simple than that which they 
inculcate. There is no action of any human being, 
and certainly no action that respects the disposition 
of property, that is not capable of better and worse, 
and concerning which reason and morality do not 
prescribe a specific conduct. He that sets out with 
acknowledging that other men are of the same nature 
as himself, and is capable of perceiving the precise 
place he would hold in the eye of an impartial specta- 
tor, roust be fully sensible, that the money he employs 
in procuring an object of trifling or no advantage to 
himself, and which might have been employed in 
purchasing substantial and indispensable benefit to 
another, is unjustly employed. He that looks at his 
property with the eye of truth, will find that every 
shilling of it has received its destination from the dic- 

1 See Swift's Sermon on Mutual Subjection, quoted Book II. 
chap. ii. [Godwin's Note.] 



SYSTEM OF PROPERTY DELINEATED. 45 

tates of justice. He will at the same time, however, be 
exposed to considerable pain, in consequence of his 
own ignorance as to the precise disposition that justice 
and public utility require. 

Does any man doubt of the truth of these asser- 
tions ? Does any man doubt that, when I employ a 
sum of money small or great in the purchase of an 
absolute luxury for myself, I am guilty of vice ? It 
is high time that this subject should be adequately 
understood. It is high time that we should lay aside 
the very names of justice and virtue, or that we should 
acknowledge that they do not authorise us to accumu- 
late luxuries upon ourselves, while we see others in 
want of the indispensable means of improvement and 
happiness. 

But, while religion inculcated on mankind the im- 
partial nature of justice, its teachers have been too 
apt to treat the practice of justice, not as a debt, 
which it ought to be considered, but as an affair of 
spontaneous generosity and bounty. They have called 
upon the rich to be clement and merciful to the poor. 
The consequence of this has been that the rich, when 
they bestowed the most slender pittance of their 
enormous wealth in acts of charity, as they were 
called, took merit to themselves for what they gave, 
instead of considering themselves as delinquents for 
what they withheld. 

Religion is in reality in all its parts an accommo- 



46 OF PROPERTY. 



elation to the prejudices and weaknesses of mankind. 
Its authors communicated to the world as much truth 
as they calculated that the world would be willing to 
receive. But it is time that we should lay aside the 
instruction intended only for children in understand- 
ing/ and contemplate the nature and principles of 
things. If religion ha^L spoken out, and told us it 
was just that all men should receive the supply of 
their wants, we should presently have been led to 
suspect that a gratuitous distribution to be made by 
the rich was a very indirect and ineffectual way of 
arriving at this object. The experience of all ages 
has taught us, that this system is productive only of a 
very precarious supply. The principal object which 
it seems to propose, is to place this supply in the 
disposal of a few, enabling them to make a show of 
generosity with what is not truly their own, and to 
purchase the gratitude of the poor by the payment of 
a debt. It is a system of clemency and charity, in- 
stead of a system of justice. It fills the rich with un- 
reasonable pride by the spurious denominations with 
which it decorates their acts, and the poor with ser- 
vility, by leading them to regard the slender comforts 
they obtain, not as their incontrovertible due, but as 
the good pleasure and the grace of their opulent 
neighbours. 

1 1 Cor. iii. 1, 2. [Godwin's note.] 



CHAPTER II. 

BENEFITS ARISING FROM THE GENUINE 
SYSTEM OF PROPERTY. 

CONTRASTED WITH THE MISCHIEFS OF THE PRESENT SYS- 
TEM, AS CONSISTING 1. IN A SENSE OF DEPENDENCE. 

2. IN THE PERPETUAL SPECTACLE OF INJUSTICE, LEAD- 
ING MEN ASTRAY IN THEIR DESIRES AND PERVERTING 

THE INTEGRITY OF THEIR JUDGMENTS. THE RICH ARE 

THE TRUE PENSIONERS. 3. IN THE DISCOURAGEMENT 

OF INTELLECTUAL ATTAINMENTS. 4. IN THE MULTI- 
PLICATION OF VICE GENERATING THE CRIMES OF THE 

POOR THE PASSIONS OF THE RICH AND THE MISFOR- 
TUNES OF WAR. 5. IN DEPOPULATION. 

HAVING seen the justice of an equal distribution 
of property, let us next consider the benefits 
with which it would be attended. And here with 
grief it must be confessed, that, however great and 
extensive are the evils that are produced by mon- 
archies and courts, by the imposture of priests and the 
iniquity of criminal laws, all these are imbecil and 

47 






48 OF PROPERTY. 



impotent compared with the evils that arise out of the 
established system of property. 

Its first effect is that which we have already men- 
tioned, a sense of dependence. It is true that courts 
are mean spirited, intriguing and servile, and that this 
disposition is transferred by contagion from them to 
all ranks of society. But property brings home a 
servile and truckling spirit by no circuitous method 
to every house in the nation. Observe the pauper 
fawning with abject vileness upon his rich benefactor, 
and speechless with sensations of gratitude for having 
received that which he ought to have claimed with an 
erect mien, and with a consciousness that his claim 
was irresistible. Observe the servants that follow in 
a rich man's train, watchful of his looks, anticipating 
his commands, not daring to reply to his insolence, 
all their time and their- efforts under the direction of 
his caprice. Observe the tradesman, how he studies 
the passions of his customers, not to correct, but to 
pamper them, the vileness of his flattery and the 
systematical constancy with which he exaggerates the 
merit of his commodities. Observe the practices of a 
popular election, where the great mass are purchased 
by obsequiousness, by intemperance and bribery, or 
driven by unmanly threats of poverty and persecu- 
tion. Indeed " the age of chivalry is " not " gone ! " l 

1 Burke's Reflections. [Godwin's note.] 



THE GENUINE SYSTEM, ITS BENEFITS. 49 

The feudal spirit still survives, that reduced the great 
mass of mankind to the rank of slaves and cattle for 
the service of a few. 

We have heard much of visionary and theoretical 
improvements. It would indeed be visionary and 
theoretical to expect virtue from mankind, while they 
are thus subjected to hourly corruption, and bred from 
father to son to sell their independence and their 
conscience for the vile rewards that oppression has 
to bestow. No man can be either useful to others 
or happy to himself who is a stranger to the grace of 
firmness, and who is not habituated to prefer the 
dictates of his own sense of rectitude to all the 
tyranny of command, and allurements of temptation. 
Here again, as upon a former occasion, religion comes 
in to illustrate our thesis. Religion was the generous 
ebullition of men, who let their imagination loose 
on the grandest subjects, and wandered without re- 
straint in the unbounded field of inquiry. It is not 
to be wondered at therefore if they brought home 
imperfect ideas of the sublimest views that intellect 
can furnish. In this instance religion teaches that 
the true perfection of man is to divest himself of the 
influence of passions; that he must have no artificial 
wants, no sensuality, and no fear. But to divest the 
human species under the present system of the influ- 
ence of passions is an extravagant speculation. The 
enquirer after truth and the benefactor of mankind 



50 OF PROPERTY. 



will be desirous of removing from them those external 
impressions by which their evil propensities are 
cherished. The true object that should be kept in 
view, is to extirpate all ideas of condescension and 
superiority, to oblige every man to feel, that the 
kindness he exerts is what he is bound to perform, 
and the assistance he asks what he has a right to 
claim. 

A second . evil that arises out of the established 
system of property is the perpetual spectacle of injus- 
tice it exhibits. This consists partly in luxury and 
partly in caprice. There is nothing more pernicious 
to the human mind than luxury. Mind, being in its 
own nature essentially active, necessarily fixes on 
some object public or personal, and in the latter case 
on the attainment of some excellence, or something 
which shall command the esteem and deference of 
others. No propensity, absolutely considered, can 
be more valuable than this. But the established 
system of property directs it into the channel of the 
acquisition of wealth. The ostentation of the rich 
perpetually goads the spectator to the desire of 
opulence. Wealth, by the sentiments of servility 
and dependence it produces, makes the rich man 
stand forward as the only object of general esteem 
and deference. In vain are sobriety, integrity, and 
industry, in vain the sublimest powers of mind and 
the most ardent benevolence, if their possessor be 



THE GENUINE SYSTEM, ITS BENEFITS. 51 

narrowed in his circumstances. To acquire wealth 
and to display it, is therefore the universal passion. 
The whole structure of human society is made a 
system of the narrowest selfishness. If self-love and 
benevolence were apparently reconciled as to their 
object, a man might set out with the desire of emi- 
nence, and yet every day become more generous and 
philanthropical in his views. But the passion we are 
here describing is accustomed to be gratified at every 
step by inhumanly trampling upon the interest of 
others. Wealth is acquired by overreaching our 
neighbours, and is spent in insulting them. 

The spectacle of injustice which the established 
system of property exhibits, consists partly in caprice. 
If you would cherish in any man the love of rectitude, 
you must take care that its principles be impressed 
on him, not only by words, but actions. It sometimes 
happens during the period of education, that maxims 
of integrity and consistency are repeatedly enforced, 
and that the preceptor gives no quarter to the base 
suggestions of selfishness and cunning. But how is 
the lesson that has been read to the pupil confounded 
and reversed, when he enters upon the scene of the 
world ? If he ask, " Why is this man honoured ? " 
the ready answer is, " Because he is rich." If he 
enquire further, " Why is he rich ? " the answer in 
most cases is, " From the accident of birth, or from 
a minute and sordid attention to the cares of gain." 



52 OF PROPERTY. 



The system of accumulated property is the offspring 
of civil policy ; and civil policy, as we are taught to 
believe, is the production of accumulated wisdom. 
Thus the wisdom of legislators and senates has been 
employed, to secure a distribution of property the 
most profligate and unprincipled, that bids defiance 
to the maxims of justice and the nature of man. 
Humanity weeps over the distresses of the peasantry 
of all civilized nations ; and, when she turns from 
this spectacle to behold the luxury of their lords, 
gross, imperious, and prodigal, her sensations certainly 
are not less acute. This spectacle is the school in 
which mankind have been educated. They have been 
accustomed to the sight of injustice, oppression, and 
iniquity, till their feelings are made callous, and their 
understandings incapable of apprehending the nature 
of true virtue. 

In beginning to point out the evils of accumulated 
property, we compared the extent of those evils with 
the correspondent evils of monarchies and courts. 
No circumstances under the latter have excited a 
more pointed disapprobation than pensions and pe- 
cuniary corruption, by means of which hundreds of 
individuals are rewarded, not for serving, but betray- 
ing the public, and the hard earnings of industry are 
employed to fatten the servile adherents of despot- 
ism. But the rent-roll of the lands of England is a 
much more formidable pension list than that which 



THE GENUINE SYSTEM, ITS BENEFITS. 53 

is supposed to be employed in the purchase of minis- 
terial majorities. All riches, and especially all heredi- 
tary riches, are to be considered as the salary of a 
sinecure office, where the labourer and the manu- 
facturer perform the duties, and the principal spends 
the income in luxury and idleness. 1 Hereditary 

1 This idea is to be found in Ogilvie's Essay on the Right 
of Property in Land, published about two years ago, Part I., 
Sect. iii. par. 38, 39. The reasonings of this author have 
sometimes considerable merit, though he has by no means 
gone to the source of the evil. 

It might be amusing to some readers to recollect the 
authorities, if the citation of authorities were a proper mode 
of reasoning, by which the system of accumulated property 
is openly attacked. The best known is Plato, in his treatise 
of a Eepublic. His steps have been followed by Sir Thomas 
More, in his Utopia. Specimens of very powerful reasoning 
on the same side may be found in Gulliver's Travels, par- 
ticularly, Part IV., chap. vi. Mably, in his book De la Legis- 
lation, has displayed at large the advantages of equality, and 
then quits the subject in despair from an opinion of the in- 
corrigibleness of human depravity. Wallace, the contempo- 
rary and antagonist of Hume, in a treatise entitled, Various 
Prospects of Mankind, Nature, and Providence, is copious in 
his eulogium of the same system, and deserts it only from 
fear of the earth becoming too populous: see below, Chap. 
YIT. The great practical authorities are Crete, Sparta, Peru, 
and Paraguay. It would be easy to swell this list, if we 
added examples where an approach only to these principles 
was attempted, and authors who have incidentally confirmed 
a doctrine, so interesting and clear as never to have been 
wholly eradicated from any human understanding. 

It would be trifling, to object that the systems of Plato and 



54 OF PROPERTY. 

wealth is in reality a premium paid to idleness, an 
immense annuity expended to retain mankind in 
brutality and ignorance. The poor are kept in igno- 
rance by the want of leisure. The rich are furnished 
indeed with the means of cultivation and literature, 
but they are paid for being dissipated and indolent. 
The most powerful means that malignity could have 
invented, are employed to prevent them from im- 
proving their talents, and becoming useful to the 
public. 

This leads us to observe, thirdly, that the estab- 
lished system of property is the true levelling system 
with respect to the human species, by as much as the 
cultivation of intellect and truth is more valuable 
and more characteristic of man, than the gratifications 
of vanity or appetite. Accumulated property treads 
the powers of thought in the dust, extinguishes the 



others are full of imperfections. This indeed rather strength- 
ens their authority ; since the evidence of the truth they 
maintained was so great as still to preserve its hold on their 
understandings, though they knew not how to remove the 
difficulties that attended it. [Godwin's Note.] 

William Ogilvie, referred to in this note, was an Aberdeen 
Professor, whose essay on the Land Question attracted some 
attention in 1781. It is strange that Godwin makes no men- 
tion of Thomas Spence, the forerunner of Henry George, 
whose lecture on Land Reform, read before the Newcastle 
Philosophical Society in 1775, had resulted in his expulsion 
from that body. 



THE GENUINE SYSTEM, ITS BENEFITS. 55 

sparks of genius, and reduces the great mass of man- 
kind to be immersed in sordid cares ; beside de- 
priving the rich, as we have already said, of the most 
salubrious and effectual motives to activity. If super- 
fluity were banished, the necessity for the greater 
part of the manual industry of mankind would be 
superseded ; and the rest, being amicably shared 
among all the active and vigorous members of the 
community, would be burdensome to none. Every 
man would have a frugal, yet wholesome diet ; every 
man would go forth to that moderate exercise of his 
corporal functions that would give hilarity to the 
spirits ; none would be made torpid with fatigue, but 
all would have leisure to cultivate the kindly and 
philanthropical affections of the soul, and to let loose 
his faculties in the search of intellectual improvement. 
What a contrast does this scene present us with the 
present state of human society, where the peasant 
and the labourer work till their understandings are 
benumbed with toil, their sinews contracted and made 
callous by being for ever on the stretch, and their 
bodies invaded with infirmities and surrendered to 
an untimely grave ? What is the fruit of this dis- 
proportioned and unceasing toil ? At evening they 
return to a family, famished with hunger, exposed 
half naked to the inclemencies of the sky, hardly 
sheltered, and denied the slenderest instruction, 
unless in a few instances, where it is dispensed by 



56 OF PROPERTY. 

the hands of ostentatious charity, and the first lesson 
communicated is unprincipled servility. All this 
while their rich neighbour but we visited him before. 

How rapid and sublime would be the advances of 
intellect, if all men were admitted into the field of 
knowledge ! At present ninety-nine persons in an 
hundred are no more excited to any regular exertions 
of general and curious thought, than the brutes them- 
selves. What would be the state of public mind in 
a nation, where all were wise, all had laid aside the 
shackles of prejudice and implicit faith, all adopted 
with fearless confidence the suggestions of truth, and 
the lethargy of the soul was dismissed for ever ? It 
is to be presumed that the inequality of mind would 
in a certain degree be permanent; but it is reason- 
able to believe that the geniuses of such an age would 
far surpass the grandest exertions of intellect that 
are at present known. Genius would not be depressed 
with false wants and niggardly patronage. It would 
not exert itself with a sense of neglect and oppression 
rankling in its bosom. It would be freed from those 
apprehensions that perpetually recall us to the thought 
of personal emolument, and of consequence would 
expatiate freely among sentiments of generosity and 
public good. 

From ideas of intellectual let us turn to moral 
improvement. And here it is obvious that all the 
occasions of crime would be cut off for ever. All 



THE GENUINE SYSTEM, ITS BENEFITS. 57 

men love justice. All men are conscious that man 
is a being of one common nature, and feel the pro- 
priety of the treatment they receive from one another 
being measured by a common standard. Every man 
is desirous of assisting another; whether we should 
choose to ascribe this to an instinct implanted in his 
nature which renders this conduct a source of personal 
gratification, or to his perception of the reasonable- 
ness of such assistance. So necessary a part is this 
of the constitution of mind, that no man perpetrates 
any action, however criminal, without having first 
invented some sophistry, some palliation, by which 
he proves to himself that it is best to be done. 1 
Hence it appears, that offence, the invasion of one 
man upon the security of another, is a thought alien 
to mind, and which nothing could have reconciled to 
us but the sharp sting of necessity. To consider 
merely the present order of human society, it is 
evident that the first offence must have been his who 
began a monopoly, and took advantage of the weak- 
ness of his neighbours to secure certain exclusive 



1 Book II., chap. iii. " The human mind is incredibly sub- 
tle in inventing an apology for that to which its inclination 
leads. Nothing is so rare as pure and unmingled hypocrisy. 
There is no action of our lives which we were not ready at 
the time of adopting it to justify, unless so far as we were 
prevented by mere indolence and unconcern.' 



58 OF PROPERTY. 



privileges to himself. The man, on the other hand, 
who determined to put an end to this monopoly, and 
who peremptorily demanded what was superfluous to 
the possessor v and would be of extreme benefit to 
himself, appeared to his own mind to be merely 
avenging the violated laws of justice. Were it not 
for the plausibleness of this apology, it is to be 
presumed that there would be no such thing as crime 
in the world. 

The fruitful source of crimes consists in this cir- 
cumstance, one man's possessing in abundance that 
of which another man is destitute. We must change 
the nature of mind, before we can prevent it from 
being powerfully influenced by this circumstance, 
when brought strongly home to its perceptions by 
the nature of its situation. Man must cease to have 
senses, the pleasures of appetite and vanity must 
cease to gratify, before he can look on tamely at the 
monopoly of these pleasures. He must cease to have 
a sense of justice, before he can clearly and fully 
approve this mixed scene of superfluity and distress, 
It is true that the proper method of curing this in- 
equality is by reason and not by violence. But the 
immediate tendency of the established system is to 
persuade men that reason is impotent. The injustice 
of which they complain is upheld by force, and they 
are too easily induced by force to attempt its correc- 
tion. All they endeavour is the partial correction of 



THE GENUINE SYSTEM, ITS BENEFITS. 59 

an injustice, which education tells them is necessary, 
but more powerful reason affirms to be tyrannical. 

Force grew out of monopoly. It might accident- 
ally have occurred among savages whose appetites 
exceeded their supply, or whose passions were in- 
flamed by the presence of the object of their desire ; 
but it would gradually have died away, as reason and 
civilization advanced. Accumulated property has 
fixed its empire ; and henceforth all is an open con- 
tention of the strength and cunning of one party 
against the strength and cunning of the other. In 
this case the violent and premature struggles of the 
necessitous are undoubtedly an evil. They tend to 
defeat the very cause in the success of which they 
are most deeply interested ; they tend to procrastinate 
the triumph of truth. But the true crime is in the 
malevolent and partial propensities of men, thinking 
only of themselves, and despising the emolument of 
others ; and of these the rich have their share. 

The spirit of oppression, the spirit of servility, and 
the spirit of fraud, these are the immediate growth of 
the established system of property. These are alike 
hostile to intellectual and moral improvement. The 
other vices of envy, malice, and revenge are their 
inseparable companions. In a state of society where 
men lived in the midst of plenty, and where all 
shared alike the bounties of nature, these sentiments 
would inevitably expire. The narrow principle of 



60 OF PROPERTY. 



selfishness would vanish. No man being obliged to 
guard his little store, or provide with anxiety and 
pain for his restless wants, each would lose his own 
individual existence in the thought of the general 
good. No man would be an enemy to his neighbour, 
for they would have nothing for which to contend ; 
and of consequence philanthropy would resume the 
empire which reason assigns her. Mind would be 
delivered from her perpetual anxiety about corporal 
support, and free to expatiate in the field of thought 
which is congenial to her. Each man would assist 
the enquiries of all. 

Let us fix our attention for a moment upon the 
revolution of principles and habits that immediately 
grow out of an unequal distribution of property. Till 
it was thus distributed, men felt what their wants 
required, and sought the supply of those wants. All 
that was more than this, was regarded as indifferent. 
But no sooner is accumulation introduced, than they 
begin to study a variety of methods for disposing of 
their superfluity with least emolument to their neigh- 
bour, or in other words by which it shall appear to 
be most their own. They do not long continue to 
buy commodities, before they begin to buy men. He 
that possesses or is the spectator of superfluity soon 
discovers the hold which it affords us on the minds 
of others. Hence the passions of vanity and osten- 
tation. Hence the despotic manners of them who 



THE GENUINE SYSTEM, ITS BENEFITS. 61 

recollect with complacence the rank they occupy, and 
the restless ambition of those whose attention is en- 
grossed by the possible future. 

Ambition is of all the passions of the human mind 
the most extensive in its ravages. It adds district to 
district, and kingdom to kingdom. It spreads blood- 
shed and calamity and conquest over the face of the 
earth. But the passion itself, as well as the means 
of gratifying it, is the produce of the prevailing system 
of property. 1 It is only by means of accumulation 
that one man obtains an unresisted sway over multi- 
tudes of others. It is by means of a certain distribu- 
tion of income that the present governments of the 
world are retained in existence. Nothing more easy 
than to plunge nations so organized into war. But, if 
Europe were at present covered with inhabitants, all 
of them possessing competence, and none of them 
superfluity, what could induce its different countries 
to engage in hostility ? If you would lead men to 
war, you must exhibit certain allurements. If you 
be not enabled by a system, already prevailing, and 
which derives force from prescription, to hire them 
to your purposes, you must bring over each individual 
by dint of persuasion. How hopeless a task by such 

1 Book V., chap. xvi. "A people among whom equality 
reigned, would possess everything they wanted, where they 
possessed the means of subsistence. Why should they pursue 
additional wealth or territory ? " 



62 OF PROPERTY. 



means to excite mankind to murder each other ! It 
is clear then that war in every horrid form is the 
growth of unequal property. As long as this source 
of jealousy and corruption shall remain, it is visionary 
to talk of universal peace. As soon as the source 
shall be dried up, it will be impossible to exclude the 
consequence. It is property that forms men into one 
common mass, and makes them fit to be played upon 
like a brute machine. Were this stumbling block 
removed, each man would be united to his neighbour 
in love and mutual kindness a thousand times more 
than now : but each man would think and judge for 
himself. Let then the advocates for the prevailing 
system, at least consider what it is for which they 
plead, and be well assured that they have arguments 
in its favour which will weigh against these disad- 
vantages. 

There is one other circumstance which, though 
inferior to those above enumerated, deserves to be 
mentioned. This is population. It has been calcu- 
lated that the average cultivation of Europe might be 
improved, so as to maintain five times her present 
number of inhabitants. 1 There is a principle in human 
society by which population is perpetually kept down 
to the level of the means of subsistence. Thus among 
the wandering tribes of America and Asia, we never 

1 Ogilvie, Part i. } Sect, iii., par. 35. [Godwin's note.] 



THE GENUINE SYSTEM, ITS BENEFITS. 63 

find through the lapse of ages, that population has so 
increased, as to render necessary the cultivation of the 
earth. Thus, among the civilized nations of Europe, 
by means of territorial monopoly the sources of sub- 
sistence are kept within a certain limit, and, if the 
population became overstocked, the lower ranks of the 
inhabitants would be still more incapable of procuring 
for themselves the necessaries of life. There are no 
doubt extraordinary concurrences of circumstances, by 
means of which changes are occasionally introduced in 
this respect ; but in ordinary cases the standard of 
population is held in a manner stationary for centuries. 
Thus the established system of property may be con- 
sidered as strangling a considerable portion of our 
children in their cradle. Whatever may be the value 
of the life of man, or rather whatever would be his 
capability of happiness in a free and equal state of 
society, the system we are here opposing may be con- 
sidered as arresting upon the threshold of existence 
four-fifths of that value and that happiness. 



CHAPTER III. 

OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM 
THE ADMIRABLE EFFECTS OF LUXURY. 

NATURE OP THE OBJECTION. LUXURY NOT NECESSARY 

EITHER TO POPULATION OR TO THE IMPROVEMENT 

OF THE MIND. ITS TRUE CHARACTER. 

r I THESE ideas of justice and improvement are as 
-*- old as literature and reflection themselves. They 
have suggested themselves in detached parts to the 
inquisitive in all ages, though they have perhaps never 
been brought together so as sufficiently to strike the 
mind with their consistency and beauty. But, after 
having furnished an agreeable dream, they have per- 
petually been laid aside as impracticable. We will 
proceed to examine the objections upon which this 
supposed impracticability has been founded ; and the 
answer to these objections will gradually lead us to 
such a development of the proposed system, as by its 
completeness and the regular adjustment of its parts 
will be calculated to carry conviction to the most pre- 
judiced mind. 

64 



SUPPOSED ADVANTAGES OF LUXURY. 65 

There is one objection that has chiefly been cul- 
tivated on English ground, and to which we will give 
the priority of examination. It has been affirmed 
"that private vices are public benefits." But this 
principle, thus coarsely stated by one of its original 
advocates, 1 was remodelled by his more elegant suc- 
cessors. 2 They observed, "that the true measure of 
virtue and vice was utility, and consequently that it 
was an unreasonable calumny to state luxury as a 
vice. Luxury," they said, " whatever might be the 
prejudices that cynics and ascetics had excited against 
it, was the rich and generous soil that brought to 
perfection the true prosperity of mankind. Without 
luxury men must always have remained solitary 
savages. It is luxury by which palaces are built and 
cities peopled. How could there have been high 
population in any country, without the various arts 
in which the swarms of its inhabitants are busied ? 
The true benefactor of mankind is not the scrupulous 
devotee who by his charities encourages insensibility 
and sloth ; is not the surly philosopher who reads 
them lectures of barren morality ; but the elegant 
voluptuary who employs thousands in sober and 
healthful industry to procure dainties for his table, 
who unites distant nations in commerce to supply him 

1 Mandeville ; Fable of the Bees. [Godwin's note.] 

2 Coventry, in a treatise entitled, Philemon to Hydaspes : 
Hume; Essays, Part 3L, Essay H, [Godwin's note.] 



66 OF PROPERTY. 



with furniture, and who encourages the fine arts and 
all the sublimities of invention to furnish decorations 
for his residence/' 

I have brought forward this objection, rather that 
nothing material might appear to be omitted, than 
because it requires a separate answer. The true 
answer has been anticipated. It has been seen that 
the population of any country is measured by its 
cultivation. If therefore sufficient motives can be 
furnished to excite men to agriculture, there is no 
doubt, that populatiou may be carried on to any ex- 
tent that the land can be made to maintain. But 
agriculture, when once begun, is never found to stop 
in its career, but from positive discountenance. It is 
territorial monopoly that obliges men unwillingly to 
see vast tracts of land lying waste, or negligently and 
imperfectly cultivated, while they are subjected to the 
miseries of want. If land were perpetually open to 
him who was willing to cultivate it, it is not to be 
believed but that it would be cultivated in proportion 
to the wants of the community, nor by the same 
reason would there be any effectual check to the 
increase of population. 

Undoubtedly the quantity of manual labour would 
be greatly inferior to that which is now performed 
by the inhabitants of any civilized country, since at 
present perhaps one-twentieth part of the inhabitants 
performs the agriculture which supports the whole. 






SUPPOSED ADVANTAGES OF LUXURY. 67 

But it is by no means to be admitted that this leisure 
would be found a real calamity. 

As to what sort of a benefactor the voluptuary is 
to mankind, this was sufficiently seen when we treated 
of the effects of dependence and injustice. To this 
species of benefit all the crimes and moral evils of 
mankind are indebted for their perpetuity. If mind 
be to be preferred to mere animal existence, if it ought 
to be the wish of every reasonable enquirer, not 
merely that man, but that happiness should be propa- 
gated, then is the voluptuary the bane of the human 
species. 



CHAPTER IV. 

OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FEOM THE 
ALLUREMENTS OF SLOTH. 

THE OBJECTION STATED. SUCH A STATE OF SOCIETY MUST 

HAVE BEEN PRECEDED BY GREAT INTELLECTUAL IM- 
PROVEMENT. THE MANUAL LABOUR REQUIRED IN 
THIS STATE WILL BE EXTREMELY SMALL. UNIVER- 
SALITY OF THE LOVE OF DISTINCTION. OPERATION OF 

THIS MOTIVE UNDER THE SYSTEM IN QUESTION. 

WILL FINALLY BE SUPERSEDED BY A BETTER MOTIVE. 

A NOTHER objection which has been urged against 
-jL the system which counteracts the accumulation 
of property, is, "that it would put an end to in- 
dustry. We behold in commercial countries the 
miracles that are operated by the love of gain. 
Their inhabitants cover the sea with their fleets, 
astonish mankind by the refinement of their ingenuity, 
hold vast continents in subjection in distant parts of 
the world by their arms, are able to defy the most 
powerful confederacies, and, oppressed with taxes and 

68 



PROPENSITY TO SLOTHFULNESS. 69 

debts, seem to acquire fresh prosperity under their 
accumulated burthens. Shall we lightly part with a 
system that seems pregnant with such inexhaustible 
motives ? Shall we believe that men will cultivate 
assiduously what they have no assurance they shall be 
permitted to apply to their personal emolument ? It 
will perhaps be found with agriculture as it is with 
commerce, which then nourishes best when subjected 
to no control, but, when placed under rigid restraints, 
languishes and expires. Once establish it as a prin- 
ciple in society that no man is to apply to his personal 
use more than his necessities require, and you will find 
every man become indifferent to those exertions which 
now call forth the energy of his faculties. Man is the 
creature of sensations ; and, when we endeavour to 
strain his intellect, and govern him by reason alone, 
we do but show our ignorance of his nature. Self-love 
is the genuine source of our actions, 1 and, if this 
should be found to bring vice and partiality along 
with it, yet the system that should endeavour to su- 
persede it, would be at best no more than a beau- 
tiful romance. If each man found that, without being 



1 For an examination of this principle see Book IV., chap, 
viii. [Godwin's note.] Godwin here contends against the 
theory that virtue originates in self-interest. Man is " a 
being capable of justice, virtue, and benevolence, and who 
needs not always to be led to a philanthropical conduct by 
foreign and frivolous considerations." 



^ 

70 OF PROPERTY. 



compelled to exert his own industry, he might lay 
claim to the superfluity of his neighbour, indolence 
would perpetually usurp his faculties, and such a 
society must either starve, or be obliged in its own 
defence to return to that system of injustice and 
sordid interest, which theoretical reasoners will for 
ever arraign to no purpose." 

This is the principal objection that prevents men 
from yielding without resistance to the accumulated 
evidence that has already been adduced. In reply, it 
may be observed in the first place, that the equality 
for which we are pleading is an equality that would 
succeed to a state of great intellectual improvement. 
So bold a revolution cannot take place in human 
affairs, till the general mind has been highly culti- 
vated. The present age of mankind is greatly en- 
lightened; but it is to be feared is not yet enlightened 
enough. Hasty and undigested tumults may take 
place under the idea of an equalization of property; 
but it is only a calm and clear conviction of justice, 
of justice mutually to be rendered and received, of 
happiness to be produced by the desertion of our 
most rooted habits, that can introduce an invariable 
system, of this sort. Attempts without this preparation 
will be productive only of confusion. Their effect will 
be momentary, and a new and more barbarous in- 
equality will succeed. Each man with unaltered appe- 
tite will watch his opportunity to gratify his love of 



PROPENSITY TO SLOTHFULNESS. 71 

power or his love of distinction, by usurping on his 
inattentive neighbours. 

4 Is it to be believed then that a state of so great 
intellectual improvement can be the forerunner of 
barbarism ? Savages, it is true, are subject to the 
weakness of indolence. But civilized and refined States 
are the scene of peculiar activity. It is thought, acute- 
ness of disquisition, and ardour of pursuit, that set the 
corporeal faculties at work. Thought begets thought. 
Nothing can put a stop to the progressive advances 
of mind, but oppression. But here, so far from being 
oppressed, every man is equal, every man independent 
and at his ease. It has been observed that the es- 
tablishment of a republic is always attended with 
public enthusiasm and irresistible enterprise. Is it to 
be believed that equality, the true republicanism, will 
be less effectual ? It is true that in republics tins 
spirit sooner or later is found to languish. Republi- 
canism is not a remedy that strikes at the root of the 
evil. Injustice, oppression, and misery can find an 
abode in those seeming happy seats. But what shall 
stop the progress of ardour and improvement, where 
the monopoly of property i< unknown ? 

This argument will be strengthened, if we reflect on 
the amount of labour that a state of equal property 
will require. What is this quantity of exertion from 
which we are supposing many members of the com- 
munity to shrink ? It is so light a burden as rather 



72 OF PROPERTY. 



to assume the appearance of agreeable relaxation and 
gentle exercise, than of labour. In this community 
scarcely any can be expected in consequence of their 
situation or avocations to consider themselves as ex- 
empted from manual industry. There will be no rich 
men to recline in indolence and fatten upon the labour 
of their fellows. The mathematician, the poet, and 
the philosopher will derive a new stock of cheerfulness 
and energy from the recurring labour that makes them 
feel they are men. There will be no persons employed 
in the manufacture of trinkets and luxuries ; and none 
in directing the wheels of the complicated machine of 
government, tax-gatherers, beadles, excisemen, tide- 
waiters, clerks, and secretaries. There will be neither 
fleets nor armies, neither courtiers nor footmen. It is 
the unnecessary employments that at present occupy 
the great mass of the inhabitants of every civilized 
nation, while the peasant labours incessantly to main- 
tain them in a state more pernicious than idleness. 

It has been computed that not more than one- 
twentieth of the inhabitants of England are employed 
seriously and substantially in the labours of agricul- 
ture. Add to this, that the nature of agriculture is 
such as necessarily to give full occupation in some 
parts of the year, and to leave others comparatively 
unemployed. We may consider these latter periods 
as equivalent to a labour which, under the direction 
of sufficient skill, might suffice in a simple state of 






PROPENSITY TO SLOTHFULNESS. 73 

society for the fabrication of tools, for weaving, and 
the occupation of tailors, bakers, and butchers. The 
object in the present state of society is to multiply 
labour, in another state it will be to simplify it. A 
vast disproportion of the wealth of the community has 
been thrown into the hands of a few, and ingenuity 
has been continually upon the stretch to find out ways 
in which it may be expended. In the feudal times 
the great lord invited the poor to come and eat of the 
produce of his estate upon condition of their wearing 
his livery, and forming themselves in rank and file to 
do honour to his well-born guests. Now that ex- 
changes are more facilitated, we have quitted this 
inartificial mode, and oblige the men we maintain out 
of our incomes to exert their ingenuity and industry 
in return. Thus, in the instance just mentioned, we 
pay the tailor to cut our clothes to pieces, that he 
may sew them together again, and to decorate them 
with stitching and various ornaments, without which 
experience would speedily show that they were in no 
respect less useful. We are imagining in the present 
case a state of the most rigid simplicity. 

From the sketch which has been here given it 
seems by no means impossible that the labour of every 
twentieth man in the community would be sufficient 
to maintain the rest in all the absolute necessaries of 
human life. If then this labour, instead of being per- 
formed by so small a number, were amicably divided 



74 OF PROPERTY. 



among them all, it would occupy the twentieth part 
of every man's time. Let us compute that the in- 
dustry of a labouring man engrosses ten hours in every 
day, which, when we have deducted his hours of rest, 
recreation, and meals, seems an ample allowance. It 
follows that half an hour a day, seriously employed in 
manual labour by every member of the community, 
would sufficiently supply the whole with necessaries. 
Who is there that would shrink from this degree of 
industry ? Who is there that sees the incessant 
industry exerted in this city and this island, and 
would believe that with half an hour's industry per 
diem, we should be every way happier and better 
than we are at present ? Is it possible to contemplate 
this fair and generous picture of independence and 
virtue, where every man would have ample leisure for 
the noblest energies of mind, without feeling our very 
souls refreshed with admiration and hope ? 

When we talk of men's sinking into idleness if they 
be not excited by the stimulus of gain, we have cer- 
tainly very little considered the motives that at present 
govern the human mind. We are deceived by the 
apparent mercenariness of mankind, and imagine that 
the accumulation of wealth is their great object. But 
the case is far otherwise. The present ruling passion 
of the human mind is the love of distinction. There 
is no doubt a class in society that are perpetually 
urged by hunger and need, and have no leisure for 



PROPENSITY TO SLOTHFULNESS. 75 

motives less gross and material. But is the class next 
above them less industrious than they ? I exert a 
certain species of industry to supply my immediate 
wants ; but these wants are soon supplied. The rest 
is exerted that I may wear a better coat, that I may 
clothe my wife in gay attire, that I may not merely 
have a shelter, but a handsome habitation, not merely 
bread or flesh to eat, but that I may set it out with a 
suitable decorum. How many of these things would 
engage my attention, i I lived in a desert island, and 
had no spectators of my economy ? If I survey the 
appendages of my person, is there one article that is 
not an appeal to the respect of my neighbours, or a 
refuge against their contempt ? It is for this that the 
merchant braves the dangers of the ocean, and the 
mechanical inventor brings forth the treasures of his 
meditation. The soldier advances even to the cannon's 
mouth, the statesman exposes himself to the rage of 
an indignant people, because they cannot bear to pass 
through life without distinction and esteem. Exclu- 
sively of certain higher motives that will presently be 
mentioned, this is the purpose of all the great exer- 
tions of mankind. The man who has nothing to 
provide for but his animal wants, scarcely ever shakes 
off the lethargy of his mind; but the love of praise 
hurries us on to the most incredible achievements. 
Nothing is more common than to find persons who 
surpass the rest of their species in activity, inexcus- 



76 OF PROPERTY. 



ably remiss in the amelioration of their pecuniary 
affairs. 

In reality, those by whom this reasoning has been 
urged have mistaken the nature of their own objec- 
tion. They did not sincerely believe that men could 
be roused into action only by the love of gain j but 
they imagined that in a state of equal property men 
would have nothing to occupy their attention. What 
degree of truth there is in this idea we shall presently 
have occasion to estimate. 

Meanwhile it is sufficiently obvious,, that the motives 
which arise from the love of distinction are by no 
means cut off, by a state of society incompatible with 
the accumulation of property. Men, no longer able 
to acquire the esteem or avoid the contempt of their 
neighbours by circumstances of dress and furniture, 
will divert the passion for distinction into another 
channel. They will avoid the reproach of indolence, 
as carefully as they now avoid the reproach of poverty. 
The only persons who at present neglect the effect 
which their appearance and manners may produce, 
are those whose faces are ground with famine and 
distress. But in a state of equal society no man will 
be oppressed, and of consequence the more delicate 
affections of the soul will have time to expand them- 
selves. The general mind having, as we have already 
shown, arrived at a high pitch of improvement, the 
impulse that carries it out into action will be stronger 



PROPENSITY TO SLOTHFULNESS. 7? 

than ever. The fervour of public spirit will be great. 
Leisure will be multiplied, and the leisure of a cul- 
tivated understanding is the precise period in which 
great designs, designs the tendency of which is to 
secure applause and esteem, are conceived. In tran- 
quil leisure it is impossible for any but the sublimest 
mind to exist without the passion for distinction. This 
passion, no longer permitted to lose itself in indirect 
channels and useless wanderings, will seek the noblest 
course, and perpetually fructify the seeds of public 
good. Mind, though it will perhaps at no time arrive 
at the termination of its possible discoveries and im- 
provements, will nevertheless advance with a rapidity 
and firmness of progression of which we are at present 
unable to conceive the idea. 

The love of fame is no doubt a delusion. This like 
every other delusion will take its turn to be detected 
and abjured. It is an airy phantom, which will 
indeed afford us an imperfect pleasure so long as we 
worship it, but will always in a considerable degree 
disappoint us, and will not stand the test of examina- 
tion. We ought to love nothing but good, a pure and 
immutable felicity, the good of the majority, the good 
of the general. If there be anything more substan- 
tial than all the rest, it is justice, a principle that rests 
upon this single postulatum, that man and man are 
beings of the same nature, and susceptible, under cer- 
tain limitations, of the same advantages. Whether 



78 OF PROPERTY. 



the benefit proceed from you or me, so it be but con- 
ferred, is a pitiful distinction. Justice has the further 
advantage, which serves us as a countercheck to prove 
the goodness of this species of arithmetic, of produc- 
ing the only solid happiness to the man by whom it 
is practised, as well as the good of all. But fame 
cannot benefit me, any more than serve the best pur- 
poses to others. The man who acts from the love of 
it, may produce public good; but, if he do, it is from 
indirect and spurious views. Fame is an unsubstan- 
tial and delusive pursuit. If it signify an opinion 
entertained of me greater than I deserve, to pursue 
it is vicious. If it be the precise mirror of my cha- 
racter, it is desirable only as a means, inasmuch as I 
may perhaps be able to do most good to the persons 
who best know the extent of my capacity and the 
rectitude of my intentions. 

The love of fame, when it perishes in minds formed 
under the present system, often gives place to a 
greater degeneracy. Selfishness is the habit that 
grows out of monopoly. When therefore this selfish- 
ness ceases to seek its gratification in public exertion, 
it too often narrows itself into some frigid conception 
of personal pleasure, perhaps sensual, perhaps intel- 
lectual. But this cannot be the process where mo- 
nopoly is banished. Selfishness has there no kindly 
circumstances to foster it. Truth, the overpowering 
truth of general good, then seizes us irresistibly. It 



PROPENSITY TO SLOTHFULNESS. 79 

is impossible we should want motives, so long as we 
see clearly bow multitudes and ages may be benefited 
by our exertions, how causes and effects are connected 
iu an endless chain, so that no honest effort can be 
lost, but will operate to good, centuries after its author 
is consigned to the grave. This will be the general 
passion, and all will be animated by the example of 
all. 



CHAPTER V. 

OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM THE 

IMPOSSIBILITY OF ITS BEING RENDERED 

PERMANENT. 

GROUNDS OF THE OBJECTION. ITS SERIOUS IMPORT. 

ANSWER. THE INTRODUCTION OF SUCH A SYSTEM 

MUST BE OWING, 1. TO A DEEP SENSE OF JUSTICE. 2. 

TO A CLEAR INSIGHT INTO THE NATURE OF HAPPINESS 
AS BEING PROPERLY INTELLECTUAL NOT CONSIST- 
ING IN SENSUAL PLEASURE OR THE PLEASURES OF 
DELUSION. INFLUENCE OF THE PASSIONS CONSIDERED. 
MEN WILL NOT ACCUMULATE EITHER FROM INDIVI- 
DUAL FORESIGHT OR FROM VANITY. 

~T~ ET us proceed to another objection. It has some- 
-J ^ times been said by those who oppose the doc- 
trine here maintained, "that equality might perhaps 
contribute to the improvement and happiness of man- 
kind, if it were consistent with the nature of man that 
such a principle should be rendered permanent; but 
that every expectation of that kind must prove abor- 
tive. Confusion would be introduced under the idea 

80 



PERMANENCE OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 81 

of equality to-day, but the old vices and monopolies 
would return to-morrow. All that the rich would have 
purchased by the most generous sacrifice, would be a 
period of barbarism, from which the ideas and regula- 
tions of civil society must commence as from a new 
infancy. The nature of man cannot be changed. 
There would at least be some vicious and designing 
members of society, who would endeavour to secure 
to themselves indulgences beyond the rest. Mind 
would not be reduced to that exact uniformity which a 
state of equal property demands ; and the variety of 
sentiments which must always in some degree pre- 
vail, would inevitably subvert the refined systems of 
speculative perfection." 

No objection can be more essential than that which 
is here adduced. It highly becomes us in so momen T 
tous a subject to resist all extravagant speculations : 
it would be truly to be lamented, if, while we parted 
with that state of society through which mind has 
been thus far advanced, we -ase-replunged into bar- 
barism by the pursuit of specious appearances. But 
what is worst of all is, that, if this objection be true, 
it is to be feared there is no remedy. Mind must go 
forward. What it sees and admires, it will some time 
or other seek to attain. Such is the inevitable law of 
our nature. But it is impossible not to see the beauty 
of equality, and to be charmed with the benefits it 
seems to promise. The consequence is sure. Man, 

a 



82 OF PROPERTY. 



according to the system of these reasoners, is prompted 
to advance for some time with success ; but after that 
time, in the very act of pursuing further improve- 
ment, he necessarily plunges beyond the compass of 
his powers, and has then his petty career to begin 
afresh. The objection represents him as a foul abor- 
tion, with just understanding enough to see what is 
good, but with too little to retain him in the prac- 
tice of it. Let us consider whether equality, once 
established, would be so precarious as it is here 
represented. 

In answer to this objection it must first be re- 
membered, that the state of equalization we are here 
supposing is not the result of accident, of the authority 
of a chief magistrate, or the over-earnest persuasion 
of a few enlightened thinkers, but is produced by the 
serious and deliberate conviction of the community at 
large. We will suppose for the present that it is 
possible for such a conviction to take place among a 
given number of persons living in society with each 
other : and, if it be possible in a small community, 
there seems to be no sufficient reason to prove that it 
is impossible in one of larger and larger dimensions. 
The question we have here to examine is concerning 
the probability, when the conviction has once been 
introduced, of its becoming permanent. 

The conviction rests upon two intellectual im- 
pressions, one of justice, and the other of happiness. 



PERMANENCE OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 83 

Equalization of property cannot begin to assume a 
fixed appearance in human society, till the sentiment 
becomes deeply wrought into the mind, that the 
genuine wants of any man constitute his only just 
claim to the appropriating any species of commodity. 
If the general sense of mankind were once so far 
enlightened, as to produce a perpetual impression of 
this truth, of so forcibje a sort as to be exempt from 
all objections and doubt, we should look with equal 
horror and contempt at the idea of any man's accumu- 
lating a property he did not want. All the evils that 
a state of monopoly never fails to engender would 
stand forward in our minds, together with all the 
existing happiness that attended upon a state of free- 
dom. We should feel as much alienation of thought 
from the consuming uselessly upon ourselves what 
would be beneficial to another, or from the accumula- 
ting property for the purpose of obtaining some kind 
of ascendancy over the mind of our neighbours, as we 
now feel from the commission of murder. No man 
will dispute, that a state of equal property once esta- 
blished, would greatly diminish the evil propensities 
of man. But the crime we are now supposing is more 
atrocious than any that is to be found in the present 
state of society. Man perhaps is incapable under any 
circumstance of perpetrating an action of which he 
has a clear and undoubted perception that it is con- 
trary to the general good. But be this as it will, it 



84 OF PROPERTY. 



is hardly to be believed that any man for the sake 
of some imaginary gratification to himself would 
wantonly injure the whole, if his mind were not first 
ulcerated with the impression of the injury that 
society by its ordinances is committing against him. 
The case we are here considering is that of a man, 
who does not even imagine himself injured, and yet 
wilfully subverts a state of happiness to which no 
description can do justice, to make room for the 
return of all those calamities and vices with which 
mankind have been infested from the earliest page of 
history. 

The equalization we are describing is further in- 
debted for its empire in the mind to the ideas with 
which it is attended of personal happiness. It grows 
out of a simple, clear and unanswerable theory of the 
human mind, that we first stand in need of a certain 
animal subsistence and shelter, and after that, that our 
only true felicity consists in the expansion of our 
intellectual powers, the knowledge of truth, and the 
practice of virtue. It might seem at first sight as if 
this theory omitted a part of the experimental history 
of the mind, the pleasures of sense, and the pleasures 
of delusion. But this omission is apparent, not real. 
However many are the kinds of pleasure of which we 
are susceptible, the truly prudent man will sacrifice 
the inferior to the more exquisite. Now no man who 
has ever produced or contemplated the happiness of 



PERMANENCE OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 85 

others with a liberal mind, will deny that this exercise 
is infinitely the most pleasurable of all sensations. 
But he that is guilty of the smallest excess of sensual 
pleasures, by so much diminishes his capacity of ob- 
taining this highest pleasure. Not to add, if that 
be of any importance, that rigid temperance is the 
reasonable means of tasting sensual pleasures with 
the highest relish. This was the system of Epicurus, 
and must be the system of every man who ever specu- 
lated deeply on the nature of human happiness. For 
the pleasures of delusion, they are absolutely incom- 
patible with our highest pleasure. If we would either 
promote or enjoy the happiness of others, we must 
seek to know in what it consists. But knowledge is 
the irreconcilable foe of delusion. In proportion as 
mind rises to its true element, and shakes off those 
prejudices which are the authors of our misery, it 
becomes incapable of deriving pleasure from flattery, 
fame, or power, or indeed from any source that is not 
compatible with, or, in other words, does not make a 
part of the common good. The most palpable of all 
classes of knowledge is that I am, personally con- 
sidered, but an atom in the ocean of mind. The first 
rudiment, therefore, of that science of personal happi- 
ness which is inseparable from a state of equalization, 
is, that I shall derive infinitely more pleasure from 
simplicity, frugality, and truth, than from luxury, 
empire, and fame. What temptation has a man, 



86 OF PROPERTY. 



entertaining this opinion, and living in a state of 
equal property, to accumulate ? 

This question has been perpetually darkened by 
the doctrine, so familiar to writers of morality, of 
the independent operations of reason and passion. 
Such distinctions must always darken. Of how many 
parts does mind consist ? Of none. It consists 
merely of a series of thought succeeding thought 
from the first moment of our existence to its termina- 
tion. This word passion, which has produced such 
extensive mischief in the philosophy of mind, and has 
no real archetype, is perpetually shifting its meaning. 
Sometimes it is applied universally to all those 
thoughts, which, being peculiarly vivid, and attended 
with great force of argument real or imaginary, 
carry us out into action with uncommon energy. 
Thus we speak of the passion of benevolence, public 
spirit, or courage. Sometimes it signifies those vivid 
thoughts only which upon accurate examination ap- 
pear to be founded in error. In the first sense the 
word might have been unexceptionable. Vehement 
desire is the result of a certain operation of the under- 
standing, and musb always be in a joint ratio of the 
supposed clearness of the proposition and importance 
of the practical effects. In the second sense, the 
doctrine of the passions would have been exceedingly 
harmless, if we had been accustomed to put the defi- 
nition instead of the thing defined. It would then 



PERMANENCE OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 87 

have been found that it merely affirmed that the 
human mind must always be liable to precisely the 
same mistakes as we observe in it at present, or in 
other words affirmed the necessary permanence in 
opposition to the necessary perfectibility of intellect. 
Who is there indeed that sees not, in the case above 
stated, the absurdity of supposing a man, so long as 
he has a clear view of justice and interest lying on 
one side of a given question, to be subject to errors 
that irresistibly compel him to the other ? The mind 
is no doubt liable to fluctuation. But there is a de- 
gree of conviction that would render it impossible for 
us any longer to derive pleasure from intemperance, 
dominion or fame, and this degree in the incessant 
progress of thought must one day arrive. 

This proposition of the permanence of a system of 
equal property, after it has once been brought into 
action by the energies of reason and conviction, will 
be placed out of the reach of all equitable doubt, if 
we proceed to form to ourselves an accurate picture 
of the action of this system. Let us suppose that we 
are introduced to a community of men, who are ac- 
customed to an industry proportioned to the wants of 
the whole, and to communicate instantly and uncon- 
ditionally, each man to his neighbour, that for which 
the former has not and the latter has immediate occa- 
sion. Here the first and simplest motive to personal 
accumulation is instantly cut off. I need not accumu- 



OF PROPERTY. 



late to protect myself against accidents, sickness or 
infirmity, for these are claims the validity of which is 
not regarded as a subject of doubt, and with which 
every man is accustomed to comply. I can accu- 
mulate in a considerable degree nothing but what is 
perishable, for exchange being unknown, that which 
I cannot personally consume adds nothing to the sum 
of my wealth. Meanwhile it should be observed that, 
though accumulation for private purposes under such 
a system would be in the highest degree irrational 
and absurd, this by no means precludes such accumu- 
lation as may be necessary to provide against public 
contingencies. If there be any truth in the preceding 
reasonings, this kind of accumulation will be unat- 
tended with danger. Add to this, that the perpetual 
tendency of wisdom is to preclude contingency. It is 
well known that dearths are principally owing to the 
false precautions and false timidity of mankind ; and 
it is reasonable to suppose that a degree of skill will 
hereafter be produced which will gradually annihilate 
the failure of crops and other similar accidents. 

It has already appeared that the principal and 
unintermitting motive to private accumulation is the 
love of distinction and esteem. This motive is also 
withdrawn. As accumulation can have no rational 
object, it would be viewed as a mark of insanity, not 
a title to admiration. Men would be accustomed to 
the simple principles of justice, and know that nothing 



PERMANENCE OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 89 

was entitled to esteem but talents and virtue. Habit- 
uated to employ their superfluity to supply the wants 
of their neighbour, and to dedicate the time which 
was not necessary for manual labour to the cultivation 
of intellect, with what sentiments would they behold 
the man who was foolish enough to sew a bit of lace 
upon his coat, or affix any other ornament to his 
person ? In such a community property would per- 
petually tend to find its level. It would be interest- 
ing to all to be informed of the person in whose 
hands a certain quantity of any commodity was 
lodged, and every man would apply with confidence 
to him for the supply of his wants in that commodity. 
Putting therefore out of the question every kind of 
compulsion, the feeling of depravity and absurdity 
that would be excited with relation to the man who 
refused to part with that for which he had no real 
need would operate in all cases as a sufficient dis- 
couragement to so odious an innovation. Every man 
would conceive that he had a just and complete title 
to make use of my superfluity. If I refused to listen 
to reason and expostulation on this head, he would not 
stay to adjust with me a thing so vicious as exchange, 
but would leave me in order to seek the supply from 
some rational being. Accumulation, instead, as now, 
of calling forth every mark of respect, would tend to 
cut off he individual who attempted it from all the 
bonds of society, and sink him in neglect and oblivion. 



90 OF PROPERTY. 

The influence of accumulation at present is derived 
from the idea of eventual benefit in the mind of the 
observer; but the accumulator then would be in a 
case still worse than that of the miser now, who, while 
he adds thousands to his heap, cannot be prevailed 
upon to part with a superfluous farthing, and is there- 
fore the object of general desertion. 



CHAPTER VI. 

OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM THE 
INFLEXIBILITY OF ITS RESTRICTIONS. 

NATURE OF THE OBJECTION. NATURAL AND MORAL INDE- 
PENDENCE DISTINGUISHED THE FIRST BENEFICIAL 

THE SECOND INJURIOUS. TENDENCY OF RESTRICTION 

PROPERLY SO CALLED. THE GENUINE SYSTEM OF PRO- 
PERTY NOT A SYSTEM OF RESTRICTIONS DOES NOT 

REQUIRE COMMON LABOUR, MEALS OR MAGAZINES. 

SUCH RESTRICTIONS ABSURD AND UNNECESSARY. 

EVILS OF CO-OPERATION. ITS PROVINCE MAY PER- 
PETUALLY BE DIMINISHED. MANUAL LABOUR MAY BE 
EXTINGUISHED. CONSEQUENT ACTIVITY OF INTELLECT. 

IDEAS OF THE FUTURE STATE OF CO-OPERATION. ITS 

LIMITS. ITS LEGITIMATE PROVINCE. EVILS OF CO- 
HABITATION AND MARRIAGE. THEY OPPOSE THE 

DEVELOPMENT OF OUR FACULTIES ARE INIMICAL TO 

OUR HAPPINESS AND DEPRAVE OUR UNDERSTANDINGS. 

MARRIAGE A BRANCH OF THE PREVAILING SYSTEM 

OF PROPERTY. CONSEQUENCES OF ITS ABOLITION. 

EDUCATION NEED NOT IN THAT STATE OF SOCIETY BE 
91 



92 OF PROPERTY. 

A SUBJECT OF POSITIVE INSTITUTION. THESE FEIN- 

CIPLES DO NOT LEAD TO A SULLEN INDIVIDUALITY. 

PARTIAL ATTACHMENTS CONSIDERED. BENEFITS AC- 
CRUING FROM A JUST AFFECTION MATERIALLY PRO- 
MOTED BY THESE PRINCIPLES. THE GENUINE SYSTEM 
OF PROPERTY DOES NOT PROHIBIT ACCUMULATION 
IMPLIES A CERTAIN DEGREE OF APPROPRIATION AND 
DIVISION OF LABOUR. 

AN objection that has often been urged against a 
system of equal property is, " that it is incon- 
sistent with personal independence. Every man ac- 
cording to this scheme is a passive instrument in the 
hands of the community. He must eat and drink 
and play and sleep at the bidding of others. He has 
no habitation, no period at which he can retreat into 
himself, and not ask another's leave. He has nothing 
that he can call his own, not even his time or his 
person. Under the appearance of a perfect freedom 
from oppression and tyranny, he is in reality subjected 
to the most unlimited slavery/ 7 

To understand the force of this objection it is 
necessary that we should distinguish two sorts of in- 
dependence, one of which may be denominated natural 
and the other moral. Natural independence, a free- 
dom from all constraint except that of reason and 
argument presented to the understanding, is of the 
utmost importance to the welfare and improvement of 






NOT A SYSTEM OF RESTRICTIONS. 93 

mind. Moral independence on the contrary is always 
injurious. The dependence which is essential in this 
respect to the wholesome temperament of society, in- 
cludes in it articles that are no doubt unpalatable to a 
multitude of the present race of mankind, but that 
owe their unpopularity only to weakness and vice. 
It includes a censure to be exercised by every indi- 
vidual over the actions of another, a promptness to 
inquire into them, and to judge them. Why should I 
shrink from this ? What could be more beneficial 
than for each man to derive every possible assistance 
for correcting and moulding his conduct from the 
perspicacity of his neighbours ? The reason why this 
species of censure is at present exercised with illiber- 
ality, is because it is exercised clandestinely, and we 
submit to its operation with impatience and aversion. 
Moral independence is always injurious: for, as has 
abundantly appeared in the course of the present in- 
quiry, there is no situation in which I can be placed 
where it is not incumbent upon me to adopt a cer- 
tain species of conduct in preference to all others, and 
of consequence where I shall not prove an ill mem- 
ber of society if I act in any other than a particular 
manner. The attachment that is felt by the present 
race of mankind to independence in this respect, the 
desire to act as they please without beng account- 
able to the principles of reason, is highly detrimental 
to the general welfare. 



94 OF PROPERTY. 



But, if we ought never to act independently of the 
principles of reason, and in no instance to shrink from 
the candid examination of another, it is nevertheless 
essential that we should at all times be free to culti- 
vate the individuality and follow the dictates of our 
own judgment. If there be anything in the scheme 
of equal property that infringes this principle, the 
objection is conclusive. If the scheme be, as it has 
often been represented, a scheme of government, con- 
straint and regulation, it is no doubt in direct hostility 
with the principles of this work. 

But the truth is, that a system of equal property 
requires no restrictions or superintendence whatever. 
There is no need of common labour, common meals or 
common magazines. These are feeble and mistaken 
instruments for restraining the conduct without mak- 
ing conquest of the judgment. If you cannot bring 
over the hearts of the community to your party, ex- 
pect no success from brute regulations. If you can, 
regulation is unnecessary. Such a system was well 
enough adapted to the military constitution of Sparta; 
but it is wholly unworthy of men who are enlisted 
in no cause but that of reason and justice. Beware 
of reducing men to the state of machines. Govern 
them through no medium but that of inclination and 
conviction. 

Why should we have common meals? Am I obliged 
to be hungry at the same time that you are ? Ought 



NOT A SYSTEM OF RESTRICTIONS. 95 

I to come at a certain hour, from the museum where 
I am working, the recess where I meditate, or the 
observatory where I remark the phenomena of nature, 
to a certain hall appropriated to the office of eating; 
instead of eating, as reason bids me, at the time and 
place most suited to my avocations ? Why have 
common magazines ? For the purpose of carrying 
our provisions a certain distance, that we may after- 
wards bring them back again ? Or is this precaution 
really necessary, after all that has been said in praise 
of equal society and the omnipotence of reason, to 
guard us against the knavery and covetousness of our 
associates ? If it be, for God's sake let us discard the 
parade of political justice, and go over to the standard 
of those reasoners who say, that man and the practice 
of justice are incompatible with each other. 

Once more let us be upon our guard against re- 
ducing men to the condition of brute machines. The 
objectors of the last chapter were partly in the right 
when they spoke of the endless variety of mind. It 
would be absurd to say that we are not capable of 
truth, of evidence and agreement. In these respects, 
so far as mind is in a state of progressive improve- 
ment, we are perpetually coming nearer to each other. 
Bat there are subjects about which we shall continu- 
ally differ, and ought to differ. The ideas, the associa- 
tions and the circumstances of each man are properly 
his own ; and it is a pernicious system that would lead 



96 OF PROPERTY. 



us to require all men, however different their circum- 
stances, to act in many of the common affairs of life 
by a precise general rule. Add to this, that, by the 
doctrine of progressive improvement, we shall always 
be erroneous, though we shall every day become less 
erroneous. The proper method for hastening the 
decay of error, is not, by brute force, or by regulation 
which is one of the classes of force, to endeavour to 
reduce men to intellectual uniformity; but on the 
contrary by teaching every man to think for himself. 

From these principles it appears that everything 
that is usually understood by the term co-operation, is 
in some degree an evil. A man in solitude is obliged 
to sacrifice or postpone the execution of his best 
thoughts to his own convenience. How many admir- 
able designs have perished in the conception by means 
of this circumstance ! The true remedy is for men to 
reduce their wants to the fewest possible, and as much 
as possible to simplify the mode of supplying them. 
It is still worse when a man is also obliged to consult 
the convenience of others. If I be expected to eat or 
to work in conjunction with my neighbour, it must 
either be at a time most convenient to me, or to him, 
or to neither of us. We cannot be reduced to a clock- 
work uniformity. 

Hence it follows that all supererogatory co-opera- 
tion is carefully to be avoided, common labour and 
common meals. " But what shall we say to co-opera- 



NOT A SYSTEM OF RESTRICTIONS. 97 

tion that seems to be dictated by the nature of the 
work to be performed ? " It ought to be diminished. 
At present it is unreasonable to doubt, that the con- 
sideration of the evil of co-operation is in certain 
urgent cases to be postponed to that urgency. 
Whether by the nature of things co-operation of some 
sort will always be necessary, is a question that we 
are scarcely competent to decide. At present, to pull 
down a tree, to cut a canal, to navigate a vessel, 
requires the labour of many. Will it always require 
the labour of many ? When we look at the compli- 
cated machines of human contrivance, various sorts of 
mills, of weaving engines, of steam engines, are we 
not astonished at the compendium of labour they 
produce ? Who shall say where this species of im- 
provement must stop ? At present such inventions 
alarm the labouring part of the community ; and they 
may be productive of temporary distress, though they 
conduce in the sequel to the most important interests 
of the multitude. But in a state of equal labour their 
utility will be liable to no dispute. Hereafter it is by 
no means clear that the most extensive operations will 
not be within the reach of one man ; or, to make use 
of a familiar instance, that a plough may not be turned 
into a field, and perform its office without the need of 
superintendence. It was in this sense that the cele- 
brated Franklin conjectured, that " mind would one 
day become omnipotent over matter." 

H 



98 OF PROPERTY. 



The conclusion of the progress which has here been 
sketched, is something like a final close to the neces- 
sity of manual labour. It is highly instructive in 
such cases to observe how the sublime geniuses of 
former times anticipated what seems likely to be the 
future improvement of mankind. It was one of the 
laws of Lycurgus, that no Spartan should be employed 
in manual labour. For this purpose under his system 
it was necessary that they should be plentifully sup- 
plied with slaves devoted to drudgery. Matter, or, 
to speak more accurately, the certain and unintermit- 
ting laws of the universe, will be the Helots of the 
period we are contemplating. We shall end in this 
respect, oh immortal legislator ! at the point from 
which you began. 

To these prospects perhaps the objection will once 
again be repeated, " that men, delivered from the 
necessity of manual labour, will sink into supineness." 
What narrow views of the nature and capacities of 
mind do such objections imply ! The only thing 
necessary to put intellect into action is motive. Are 
there no motives equally cogent with the prospect 
of hunger ? Whose thoughts are most active, most 
rapid and unwearied, those of Newton or the plough- 
man ? When the mind is stored with prospects of 
intellectual greatness and utility, can it sink into 
torpor ? 

To return to the subject of co-operation. It may be 



NOT A SYSTEM OF RESTRICTIONS. 99 

a curious speculation to attend to the progressive steps 
by which this feature of human society may be ex- 
pected to decline. For example : shall we have con- 
certs of music? The miserable state of mechanism 
of the majority of the performers is so conspicuous, 
as to be even at this day a topic of mortification and 
ridicule. Will it not be practicable hereafter for one 
man to perform the whole ? Shall we have theatrical 
exhibitions ? This seems to include an absurd and 
vicious co-operation. It may be doubted whether men 
will hereafter come forward in any mode gravely to 
repeat words and ideas not their own. It may be 
doubted whether any musical performer will habitually 
execute the compositions of others. We yield su- 
pinely to the superior merit of our predecessors, be- 
cause we are accustomed to indulge the inactivity of 
our own faculties. All formal repetition of other men's 
ideas seems to be a scheme for imprisoning for so long 
a time the operations of our own mind. It borders 
perhaps in this respect upon a breach of sincerity, 
which requires that we should give immediate utter- 
ance to every useful and valuable idea that occurs to 
our thoughts. 

Having ventured to state these hints and con- 
jectures, let us endeavour to mark the limits of in- 
dividuality. Every man that receives an impression 
from any external object, has the current of his own 
thoughts modified by force ; and yet without external 



OF PROPERTY. 



impressions we should be nothing. We ought not, 
except under certain limitations, to endeavour to free 
ourselves from their approach. Every man that reads 
the composition of another, suffers the succession of 
his ideas to be in a considerable degree under the 
direction of his author. But it does not seem as if 
this would ever form a sufficient objection against 
reading. One man will always have stored up reflec- 
tions and facts that another wants ; and mature and 
digested discourse will perhaps always, in equal cir- 
cumstances, be superior to that which is extempore. 
Conversation is a species of co-operation, one or the 
other party always yielding to have his ideas guided 
by the other : and yet conversation and the inter- 
course of mind with mind seem to be the most fertile 
sources of improvement. It is here as it is with 
punishment. He that in the gentlest manner under- 
takes to reason another out of his vices, will probably 
occasion pain ; but this species of punishment ought 
upon no account to be superseded. 

Another article which belongs to the subject of 
co-operation is cohabitation. A very simple process 
will lead us to a right decision in this instance. 
Science is most effectually cultivated, when the 
greatest number of minds are employed in the pursuit 
of it. If a hundred men spontaneously engage the 
whole energy of their faculties upon the solution of a 
given question, the chance of success will be greater 



NOT A SYSTEM OF RESTRICTIONS. 101 

than if only ten men were so employed. By the same 
reason the chance will be also increased, in proportion 
as the intellectual operations of these men are indi- 
vidual, in proportion as their conclusions are directed 
by the reason of the thing, uninfluenced by the force 
either of compulsion or sympathy. All attachments to 
individuals, except in proportion to their merits^ are 
plainly unjust. It is therefore desirable, that we 
should be the friends of man rather than of particular 
men, and that we should pursue the chain of our own 
reflections, with no other interruption than informa- 
tion or philanthropy requires. 

This subject of cohabitation is particularly interest- 
ing, as it includes in it the subject of marriage. It 
will therefore be proper to extend our inquiries some- 
what further upon this head. Cohabitation is not only 
an evil, as it checks the independent progress of mind, 
it is also inconsistent with the imperfections and pro- 
pensities of man. It is absurd to expect that the 
inclinations and wishes of two human beings should 
coincide through any long period of time. To oblige 
them to act and to live together, is to subject them 
to some inevitable portion of thwarting, bickering and 
unhappiness. This cannot be otherwise, so long as 
man has failed to reach the standard of absolute per- 
fection. The supposition that I must have a com- 
panion for life, is the result of a complication of vices. 
It is the dictate of cowardice, and not of fortitude. It 



OF PROPERTY. 



flows from the desire of being loved and esteemed for 
something that is not desert. 

But the evil of marriage as it is practised in 
European countries lies deeper than this. The habit 
is, for a thoughtless and romantic youth of each sex 
to come together, to see each other for a few times 
and under circumstances full of delusion, and then to 
vow to each other eternal attachment. What is the 
consequence of this ? In almost every instance they 
find themselves deceived. They are reduced to make 
the best of an irretrievable mistake. They are pre- 
sented with the strongest imaginable temptation to 
become the dupes of falsehood. They are led to con- 
ceive it their wisest policy to shut their eyes upon 
realities, happy if by any perversion of intellect they 
can persuade themselves that they were right in their 
first crude opinion of their companion. The institu- 
tion of marriage is a system of fraud ; and men who 
carefully mislead their judgments in the daily affair of 
their life, must always have a crippled judgment in 
every other concern. We ought to dismiss our 
mistake as soon as it is detected ; but we are taught 
to cherish it. We ought to be incessant in our search 
after virtue and worth ; but we are taught to check 
our inquiry, and shut our eyes upon the most 
attractive and admirable objects. Marriage is law, 
and the worst of all laws. Whatever our understand- 
ings may tell us of the person from whose connection 



NOT A SYSTEM OF RESTRICTIONS. 103 

we should derive the greatest improvement, of the 
worth of one woman and the demerits of another, we 
are obliged to consider what is law, and not what is 
justice. 

Add to this, that marriage is an affair of property, 
and the worst of all properties. So long as two 
human beings are forbidden by positive institution to 
follow the dictates of their own mind, prejudice is 
alive and vigorous. So long as I seek to engross one 
woman to myself, and to prohibit my neighbour from 
proving his superior desert and reaping the fruits of 
it, I am guilty of the most odious of all monopolies. 
Over this imaginary prize men watch with perpetual 
jealousy, and one man will find his desires and his 
capacity to circumvent as much excited, as the other 
is excited to traverse his projects and frustrate his 
hopes. As long as this state of society continues, 
philanthropy will be crossed and checked in a thou- 
sand ways, and the still augmenting stream of abuse 
will continue to flow. 

The abolition of marriage will be attended with no 
evils. We are apt to represent it to ourselves as the 
harbinger of brutal lust and depravity. But it really 
happens in this as in other cases, that the positive 
laws which are made to restrain our vices, irritate and 
multiply them. Not to say, that the same sentiments 
of justice and happiness which in a state of equal 
property would destroy the relish for luxury, would 



104 OF PROPERTY. 



decrease our inordinate appetites of every kind, and 
lead us universally to prefer the pleasures of intellect 
to the pleasures of sense. 

The intercourse of the sexes will in such a state fall 
under the same system as any other species of friend- 
ship. Exclusively of all groundless and obstinate 
attachments, it will be impossible for me to live in the 
world without finding one man of a worth superior to 
that of any other whom I have an opportunity of 
observing. To this man I shall feel a kindness in 
exact proportion to my apprehension of his worth. 
The case will be precisely the same with respect to 
the female sex. I shall assiduously cultivate the 
intercourse of that woman whose accomplishments 
shall strike me in the most powerful manner. " But 
it may happen that other men will feel for her the 
same preference that I do/' This will create no 
difficulty. We may all enjoy her conversation ; and 
we shall all be wise enough to consider the sensual 
intercourse as a very trivial object. This, like every 
other affair in which two persons are concerned, must 
be regulated in each successive instance by the un- 
forced consent of either party. It is a mark of the 
extreme depravity of our present habits, that we are 
inclined to suppose the sensual intercourse anywise 
material to the advantages arising from the purest 
affection. Reasonable men now eat and drink, not 
from the love of pleasure, but because eating and 



NOT A SYSTEM OF RESTRICTIONS. 105 

drinking are essential to our healthful existence. 
Eeasonable men then will propagate their species, not 
because a certain sensible pleasure is annexed to this 
action, but because it is right the species should be 
propagated ; and the manner in which they exercise 
this function will be regulated by the dictates of 
reason and duty. 

Such are some of the considerations that will 
probably regulate the commerce of the sexes. It 
cannot be definitely affirmed whether it will be known 
in such a state of society who is the father of each 
individual child. But it may be affirmed that such 
knowledge will be of no importance. It is aristocracy, 
self-love and family pride that teach us to set a value 
upon it at present. I ought to prefer no human being 
to another, because that being is my father, my wife, 
or my son, but because, for reasons which equally 
appeal to all understandings, that being is entitled 
to preference. One among the measures which will 
successively be dictated by the spirit of democracy, 
and that probably at no great distance, is the abolition 
of surnames. 

Let us consider the way in which this state of 
society will modify education. It may be imagined 
that the abolition of marriage would make it in a 
certain sense the affair of the public ; though, if there 
be any truth in the reasonings of this work, to provide 
for it by the positive institutions of a community, 



io6 OF PROPERTY. 

would be extremely inconsistent with the true prin- 
ciples of the intellectual system. 1 Education may be 
regarded as consisting of various branches. First, 
the personal cares which the helpless state of an 
infant requires. These will probably devolve upon 
the mother ; unless, by frequent parturition or by the 
very nature of these cares, that were found to render 
her share of the burthen unequal; and then it would 
be amicably and willingly participated by others. 
Secondly, food and other necessary supplies. These, 
as we have already seen, would easily find their true 
level, and spontaneously flow from the quarter in 
which they abounded to the quarter that was deficient. 
Lastly, the term education may be used to signify 
instruction. The task of instruction, under such a 
form of society as that we are contemplating, will be 
greatly simplified and altered from what it is at 
present. It will then be thought no more legitimate 
to make boy slaves, than to make men so. The 
business will not then be to bring forward so many 
adepts in the egg-shell, that the vanity of parents 
may be flattered by hearing their praises. No man 
will then think of vexing with premature learning the 
feeble and inexperienced, for fear that, when they 



1 In Book VI., chap, viii., Godwin contends against a 
system of national education, on the ground that it stereo- 
types and retards thought. 



NOT A SYSTEM: OF RESTRICTIONS. 107 

came to years of discretion, they should refuse to be 
learned. Mind will be suffered to expand itself in 
proportion as occasion and impression shall excite it, 
and not tortured and enervated by being cast in a 
particular mould. No creature in human form will be 
expected to learn anything, but because he desires it 
and has some conception of its utility and value ; and 
every man, in proportion to his capacity, will be ready 
to furnish such general hints and comprehensive 
views, as will suffice for the guidance and encourage- 
ment of him who studies from a principle of desire. 

Before we quit this part of the subject it will be 
necessary to obviate an objection that will suggest 
itself to some readers. They will say " that man was 
formed for society and reciprocal kindness ; and 
therefore is by his nature little adapted to the system 
of individuality which is here delineated. The true 
perfection of man is to blend and unite his own 
existence with that of another, and therefore a system 
which forbids him all partialities and attachments, 
tends to degeneracy and not to improvement." 

No doubt man is formed for society. But there is a 
way in which, for a man to lose his own existence in 
that of others, that is eminently vicious and detri- 
mental. Every man ought to rest upon his own 
centre, and consult his own understanding. Every 
man ought to feel his independence, that he can assert 
the principles of justice and truth, without being 



io8 OF PROPERTY. 



obliged treacherously to adapt them to the peculiarities 
of his situation, and the errors of others. 

No doubt man is formed for society. But he is 
formed for, or in other words his faculties enable him 
to serve, the whole and not a part. Justice obliges 
us to sympathise with a man of merit more fully than 
with an insignificant and corrupt member of society. 
But all partialities strictly so called, tend to the injury 
of him who feels them, of mankind in general, and 
even of him who is their object. The spirit of 
partiality is well expressed in the memorable saying 
of Themistocles, " God forbid that I should sit upon 
a bench of justice, where my friends found no more 
favour than strangers ! " In fact, as has been 
repeatedly seen in the course of this work, we sit in 
every action of our lives upon a bench of justice ; 
and play in humble imitation the part of the unjust 
judge, whenever we indulge the smallest atom of 
partiality. 

Such are the limitations of the social principle. 
These limitations in reality tend to improve it and 
render its operations beneficial. It would be a 
miserable mistake to suppose that the principle is not 
of the utmost importance to mankind. All that in 
which the human mind differs from the intellectual 
principle in animals is the growth of society. All 
that is excellent in man is the fruit of progressive 
improvement, of the circumstance of one age taking 



NOT A SYSTEM OF RESTRICTIONS. 109 

advantage of the discoveries of a preceding age, and 
setting out from the point at which they had arrived. 

Without society we should be wretchedly deficient 
in motives to improvement. But what is most of all, 
without society our improvements would be nearly 
useless. Mind without benevolence is a barren and a 
cold existence. It is in seeking the good of others, 
in embracing a great and expansive sphere of action, 
in forgetting our own individual interests, that we 
find our true element. The tendency of the whole 
system delineated in this Book is to lead us to that 
element. The individuality it recommends tends to 
the good of the whole, and is valuable only as a means 
to that end. Can that be termed a selfish system, 
where no man desires luxury, no man dares to be 
guilty of injustice, and every one devotes himself to 
supply the wants, animal or intellectual, of others ? 
To proceed. 

As a genuine state of society is incompatible with 
all laws and restrictions, so it cannot have even this 
restriction, that no man shall amass property. The 
security against accumulation, as has already been 
said, lies in the perceived absurdity and inutility of 
accumulation. The practice, if it can be conceived in 
a state of society where the principles of justice were 
adequately understood, would not even be dangerous. 
The idea would not create alarm, as it is apt to do 
in prospect among the present advocates of political 



I io OF PROPERTY. 



justice. Men would feel nothing but their laughter 
or their pity excited at so strange a perversity of 
human intellect. 

What would denominate anything my property ? 
The fact, that it was necessary to my welfare. My 
right would be coeval with the existence of that 
necessity. The word property would probably re- 
main ; its signification only would be modified. The 
mistake does not so properly lie in the idea itself, as 
in the source from which it is traced. What I have, 
if it be necessary for my use, is truly mine ; what I 
have, though the fruit of my own industry, if un- 
necessary, it is an usurpation for me to retain. 

Force in such a state of society would be unknown ; 
I should part with nothing without a full consent.. 
Caprice would be unknown ; no man would covet that 
which I used, unless he distinctly apprehended that 
it would be more beneficial in his possession than it 
was in mine. My apartment would be as sacred to 
a certain extent as it is at present. No man would 
obtrude himself upon me to interrupt the course of 
my studies and meditations. No man would feel the 
whim of occupying my apartment, while he could 
provide himself another as good of his own. That 
which was my apartment yesterday would probably 
be my apartment to-day. We have few pursuits that 
do not require a certain degree of apparatus ; and it 
would be for the general good that I should find in 



NOT A SYSTEM OF RESTRICTIONS. in 

ordinary cases the apparatus ready for my use to-day 
that I left yesterday. But, though the idea of pro- 
perty thus modified would remain, the jealousy and 
selfishness of property would be gone. Bolts and 
locks would be unknown. Every man would be wel- 
come to make every use of my accommodations that 
did not interfere with my own use of them. Novices 
as we are, we may figure to ourselves a thousand 
disputes, where property was held by so slight a 
tenure. But disputes would in reality be impossible. 
They are the offspring of a misshapen and dispro- 
portioned love of ourselves. Do you want my table ? 
Make one for yourself; or, if I be more skilful in that 
respect than you, I will make one for you. Do you 
want it immediately ? Let us compare the urgency 
of your wants and mine, and let justice decide. 

These observations lead us to the consideration of 
one additional difficulty, which relates to the division 
of labour. Shall each man make all his tools, his 
furniture and accommodations ? This would perhaps 
be a tedious operation. Every man performs the task 
to which he is accustomed more skilfully and in a 
shorter time than another. It is reasonable that you 
should make for me, that which perhaps I should be 
three or four times as long making, and should make 
imperfectly at last. Shall we then introduce barter 
and exchange ? By no means. The abstract spirit 
of exchange will perhaps govern ; every man will 



12 OF PROPERTY. 



employ an equal portion of his time in manual labour. 
But the individual application of exchange is of all 
practices the most pernicious. The moment I require 
any other reason for supplying you than the cogency 
of your claim, the moment, in addition to the dictates 
of benevolence, I demand a prospect of advantage to 
myself, there is an end of that political justice and 
pure society of which we treat. No man will have a 
trade. It cannot be supposed that a man will con- 
struct any species of commodity, but in proportion as 
it is wanted. The profession paramount to all others, 
and in which every man will bear his part, will be that 
of man, and in addition perhaps that of cultivator. 

The division of labour, as it has been treated by 
commercial writers, is for the most part the offspring 
of avarice. It has been found that ten persons can 
make two hundred and forty times as many pins in 
a day as one person. 1 This refinement is the growth 
of luxury. The object is to see into how vast a sur- 
face the industry of the lower classes may be beaten, 
the more completely to gild over the indolent and the 
proud. The ingenuity of the merchant is whetted by 
new improvements of this sort to transport more of 
the wealth of the powerful into his own coffers. The 
possibility of effecting a compendium of labour by 

1 Smith's Wealth of Nations, Book I., chap. i. [Godwin's 
note. 



NOT A SYSTEM OF RESTRICTIONS. 



ii 



this means will be greatly diminished, when men shall 
learn to deny themselves superfluities. The utility 
of such a saving of labour, where labour is so little, 
will scarcely balance against the evils of so extensive 
a co-operation. From what has been said under this 
head, it appears that there will be a division of labour, 
if we compare the society in question with the state 
of the solitaire and the savage. But it will produce 
an extensive composition of labour, if we compare it 
with that to which we are at present accustomed in 
civilized Europe. 



CHAPTER VII. 

OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM 
THE PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION. 

THE OBJECTION STATED. REMOTENESS OF ITS OPERATION. 

CONJECTURAL IDEAS RESPECTING THE ANTIDOTE. 

OMNIPOTENCE OF MIND. ILLUSTRATIONS. CAUSES OF 

DECREPITUDE. YOUTH IS PROLONGED BY CHEERFUL- 
NESS BY CLEARNESS OF APPREHENSION AND A 

BENEVOLENT CHARACTER. THE POWERS WE POSSESS 

ARE ESSENTIALLY PROGRESSIVE. EFFECTS OF ATTEN- 
TION. THE PHENOMENON OF SLEEP EXPLAINED. 

PRESENT UTILITY OF THESE REASONINGS. APPLICA- 
TION TO THE FUTURE STATE OF SOCIETY. 

A N author who has speculated widely upon sub- 
-TjL_ jects of government/ has recommended equal 
or, which was rather his idea, common property, as a 
complete remedy, to the usurpation and distress which 

1 Wallace : Various Prospects of Mankind, Nature and 
Providence, 1761. [Godwin's Note.] 



PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION. 115 

are at present the most powerful enemies of human 
kind, to the vices which infect education in some 
instances, and the neglect it encounters in more, to 
all the turbulence of passion, and all the injustice of 
selfishness. But, after having exhibited this picture, 
not less true than delightful, he finds an argument 
that demolishes the whole, and restores him to indif- 
ference and despair, in the excessive population that 
would ensue. 

One of the most obvious answers to this objection 
is, that to reason thus is to foresee difficulties at a 
great distance. Three-fourths of the habitable globe 
is now uncultivated. The parts already cultivated 
are capable of immeasurable improvement. Myriads 
of centuries of still increasing population may pro- 
bably pass away, and the earth still be found sufficient 
for the subsistence of its inhabitants. Who can say 
how long the earth itself will survive the casualties of 
the planetary system ? Who can say what remedies 
shall suggest themselves for so distant an inconve- 
nience, time enough for practical application, and of 
which we may yet at this time have not the smallest 
idea ? It would be truly absurd for us to shrink 
from a scheme of essential benefit to mankind, lest 
they should be too happy, and by necessary conse- 
quence at some distant period too populous. 

But, though these remarks may be deemed a suffi- 
cient answer to the objection, it may not be amiss 



u6 OF PROPERTY. 



to indulge in some speculations to which such an 
objection obviously leads. The earth may, to speak 
in the style of one of the writers of the Christian 
Scriptures, " abide for ever." l It may be in danger 
of becoming too populous. A remedy may then be 
necessary. If it may, why should we sit down in 
supine indifference and conclude that we can discover 
no glimpse of it ? The discovery, if made, would add 
to the firmness and consistency of our prospects ; nor 
is it improbable to conjecture that that which would 
form the regulating spring of our conduct then, might 
be the medium of a salutary modification now. What 
follows must be considered in some degree as a 
deviation into the land of conjecture. If it be false, 
it leaves the great system to which it is appended in 
all sound reason as impregnable as ever. If this do 
not lead us to the true remedy, it does not follow 
that there is no remedy. The great object of inquiry 
will still remain open, however defective may be the 
suggestions that are now to be offered. 

Let us here return to the sublime conjecture of 
Franklin, that <f mind will one day become omnipotent 
over matter." If over all other matter, why not over 
the matter of our own bodies ? If over matter at 
ever so great a distance, why not over matter which, 
however ignorant we may be of the tie that connects 

1 Ecclesiastes i. 4. [Godwin's Note.] 






PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION. 117 

it with the thinking principle, we always carry about 
with us, and which is in all cases the medium of com- 
munication between that principle and the external 
universe ? In a word, why may not man be one day 
immortal ? 

The different cases in which thought modifies the 
external universe are obvious to all. It is modified 
by our voluntary thoughts or design. We desire to 
stretch out our hand, and it is stretched out. We 
perform a thousand operations of the same species 
every day, and their familiarity annihilates the wonder. 
They are not in themselves less wonderful than any 
of those modifications which we are least accustomed 
to conceive. Mind modifies body involuntarily. 
Emotion excited by some unexpected word, by a 
letter that is delivered to us, occasions the most 
extraordinary revolutions in our frame, accelerates the 
circulation, causes the heart to palpitate, the tongue 
to refuse its office, and has been known to occasion 
death by extreme anguish or extreme joy. These 
symptoms we may either encourage or check. By 
encouraging them habits are produced of fainting or 
of rage. To discourage them is one of the principal 
offices of fortitude. The effort of mind in resisting 
pain in the stories of Cranmer and Mucius Scaovola 
is of the same kind. It is reasonable to believe that 
that effort with a different direction might have cured 
certain diseases of the system. There is nothing 



u8 OF PROPERTY. 



indeed of which physicians themselves are more fre- 
quently aware, than of the power of the mind in 
assisting or retarding convalescence. 

Why is it that a mature man soon loses that 
elasticity of limb which characterizes the heedless 
gaiety of youth ? Because he desists from youthful 
habits. He assumes an air of dignity incompatible 
with the lightness of childish sallies. He is visited 
and vexed with all the cares that rise out of our 
mistaken institutions, and his heart is no longer 
satisfied and gay. Hence his limbs become stiff and 
unwieldy. This is the forerunner of old age and 
death. 

The first habit favourable to corporeal vigour is 
cheerfulness. Every time that our mind becomes 
morbid, vacant and melancholy, a certain period is 
cut off from the length of our lives. Listlessness of 
thought is the brother of death. But cheerfulness 
gives new life to our frame and circulation to our 
juices. Nothing can long be stagnant in the frame 
of him, whose heart is tranquil, and his imagination 
active. 

A second requisite in the case of which we treat is 
a clear and distinct conception. If I know precisely 
what I wish, it is easy for me to calm the throbs 
of pain, and to assist the sluggish operations of the 
system. It is not a knowledge of anatomy, but a 
quiet and steady attention to my symptoms, that will 



PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION. 119 

best enable me to correct the distemper from which 
they spring. Fainting is nothing else but a confusion 
of mind, in which the ideas appear to mix in painful 
disorder, and nothing is distinguished. 

The true source of cheerfulness is benevolence. To 
a youthful mind, while everything strikes with its 
novelty, the individual situation must be peculiarly 
unfortunate, if gaiety of thought be not produced, 
or, when interrupted, do not speedily return with its 
healing oblivion. But novelty is a fading charm, and 
perpetually decreases. Hence the approach of inanity 
and listlessness. After we have made a certain round, 
life delights no more. A deathlike apathy invades us. 
Thus the aged are generally cold and indifferent; 
nothing interests their attention, or rouses the slug- 
gishness of their soul. How should it be otherwise ? 
The pursuits of mankind are commonly frigid and 
contemptible, and the mistake comes at last to be 
detected. But virtue is a charm that never fades. 
The soul that perpetually overflows with kindness and 
sympathy, will always be cheerful. The man who is 
perpetually busied in contemplations of public good, 
will always be active. 

The application of these reasonings is simple and 
irresistible. If mind be now in a great degree the 
ruler of the system, why should it be incapable of 
extending its empire ? If our involuntary thoughts 
can derange or restore the animal economy, why 



120 OF PROPERTY. 



should we not in process of time, in this as in other 
instances, subject the thoughts which are at present 
involuntary to the government of design ? If volition 
can now do something, why should it not go on to do 
still more and more ? There is no principle of reason 
less liable to question than this, that, if we have in 
any respect a little power now, and if mind be essen- 
tially progressive, that power may, and, barring any 
extraordinary concussions of nature, infallibly will, 
extend beyond any bounds we are able to prescribe 
to it. 

Nothing can be more irrational and presumptuous 
than to conclude, because a certain species of sup- 
posed power is entirely out of the line of our present 
observations, that it is therefore altogether beyond 
the limits of the human mind. We talk familiarly 
indeed of the limits of our faculties, but nothing is 
more difficult than to point them out. Mind, in a 
progressive view at least, is infinite. If it could have 
been told to the savage inhabitants of Europe in the 
times of Theseus and Achilles, that man was capable 
of predicting eclipses and weighing the air, of ex- 
plaining the phenomena of nature so that no prodigies 
should remain, of measuring the distance and the size 
of the heavenly bodies, this would not have appeared 
to them less wonderful, than if we had told them of 
the possible discovery of the means of maintaining 
the human body in perpetual youth and vigour. But 






PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION. 121 

we have not only this analogy, showing that the 
discovery in question forms as it were a regular 
branch of the acquisitions that belong to an intel- 
lectual nature; but in addition to this we seem to 
have a glimpse of the specific manner in which the 
acquisition will be secured. Let us remark a little 
more distinctly the simplicity of the process. 

We have called the principle of immortality in man 
cheerfulness, clearness of conception, and benevolence. 
Perhaps we shall in some respects have a more 
accurate view of its potency, if we consider it as of 
the nature of attention. It is a very old maxim of 
practical conduct, that whatever is done with atten- 
tion, is done well. It is because this was a principal 
requisite, that many persons endowed in an eminent 
degree with cheerfulness, perspicacity, and benevo- 
lence, have perhaps not been longer lived than their 
neighbours. We are not capable at present of attend- 
ing to everything. A man who is engaged in the 
sublimest and most delightful exertions of mind, will 
perhaps be less attentive to his animal functions than 
his most ordinary neighbour, though he will frequently 
in a partial degree repair that neglect, by a more 
cheerful and animated observation, when those exer- 
tions are suspended. But, though the faculty of 
attention may at present have a very small share of 
ductility, it is probable that it may be improved in 
that respect to an inconceivable degree. The picture 



122 OF PROPERTY. 



that was exhibited of the subtlety of mind in an 
earlier stage of this work/ gives to this supposition 
a certain degree of moral evidence. If we can have 
three hundred and twenty successive ideas in a second 
of time, why should it be supposed that we shall not 
hereafter arrive at the skill of carrying on a great 
number of contemporaneous processes without dis- 
order ? 

Having thus given a view of what may be the 
future improvement of mind, it is proper that we 
should qualify this picture to the sanguine temper of 
some readers and the incredulity of others, by observ- 
ing that this improvement, if capable of being realized, 
is however at a great distance. A very obvious 
remark will render this eminently palpable. If an 
unintermitted attention to the animal economy be 
necessary, then, before death can be banished, we 
must banish sleep, death's image. Sleep is one of the 
most conspicuous infirmities of the human frame. It 
is not, as has often been supposed, a suspension of 
thought, but an irregular and distempered state of the 
faculty. Our tired attention resigns the helm, ideas 
swim before us in wild confusion, and are attended 
with less and less distinctness, till at length they 



1 " We have a multitude of different successive perceptions 
in every moment of our existence." Book IV., Chap, vii., 
p. 330. 



PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION. 123 

leave no traces in the memory. Whatever attention 
and volition are then imposed upon us, as it were at 
unawares, are but faint resemblances of our operations 
in the same kind when awake. Generally speaking, 
we contemplate sights of horror with little pain, and 
commit the most atrocious crimes with little sense of 
their true nature. The horror we sometimes attribute 
to our dreams, will frequently be found upon accurate 
observation to belong to our review of them when 
we wake. 

One other remark may be proper in this place. If 
the remedies here prescribed tend to a total extirpa- 
tion of the infirmities of our nature, then, though 
we cannot promise to them an early and complete suc- 
cess, we may probably find them of some utility now. 
They may contribute to prolong our vigour, though 
not to immortalize it, and, which is of more con- 
sequence, to make us live while we live. Every time 
the mind is invaded with anguish and gloom, the 
frame becomes disordered. Every time that languor 
and indifference creep upon us, our functions fall into 
decay. In proportion as we cultivate fortitude and 
equanimity, our circulations will be cheerful. In 
proportion as we cultivate a kind and benevolent pro- 
pensity, we may be secure of finding something for 
ever to interest and engage us. 

Medicine may reasonably be stated to consist of 
two branches, the animal and intellectual. The latter 



I2 4 OF PROPERTY. 



of these has been infinitely too much neglected. It 
cannot be employed to the purposes of a profession ; 
or, where it has been incidentally so employed, it has 
been artificially and indirectly, not in an open and 
avowed manner. " Herein the patient must minister 
to himself." l How often do we find a sudden piece 
of good news dissipating a distemper ! How common 
is the remark, that those accidents, which are to the 
indolent a source of disease, are forgotten and extir- 
pated in the busy and active ! It would no doubt be 
of extreme moment to us, to be thoroughly acquainted 
with the power of motives, habit, and what is called 
resolution, in this respect. I walk twenty miles in 
an indolent and half-determined temper, and am ex- 
tremely fatigued. I walk twenty miles full of ardour 
and with a motive that engrosses my soul, and I come 
in as fresh and alert as when I began my journey. 
We are sick and we die, generally speaking, because 
we consent to suffer these accidents. This consent 
in the present state of mankind is in some degree 
unavoidable. We must have stronger motives and 
clearer views, before we can uniformly refuse it. But, 
though we cannot always, we may frequently refuse. 
This is a truth of which all mankind are to a certain 
degree aware. Nothing more common than for the 
most ignorant man to call upon his sick neighbour, to 

1 Macbeth, Act Y. [Godwin's Note.] 



PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION. 125 

rouse himself, not to suffer himself to be conquered; 
and this exhortation is always accompanied with some 
consciousness of the efficacy of resolution. The wise 
and the good man therefore should carry with him 
the recollection of what cheerfulness and a determined 
spirit are able to do, of the capacity with which he is 
endowed of expelling the seeds and first slight appear- 
ances of indisposition. 

The principal part of the preceding paragraph is 
nothing more than a particular application of what 
was elsewhere delivered respecting moral and physical 
causes. 1 It would have been easy to have cast the 
present chapter in a different form, and to have made 
it a chapter upon health, showing that one of the 
advantages of a better state of society would be a 
very high improvement of the vigour and animal 
constitution of man. In that case the conjecture of 
immortality would only have come in as an incidental 
remark, and the whole would have assumed less the 
air of conjecture than of close and argumentative 
deduction. But it was perhaps better to give the 



1 Godwin's argument is that the mind is more powerful 
than the physical conditions of climate, etc. " Our communi- 
cation with the material universe is at the mercy of our 
choice ; and the inability of the understanding for intellectual 
exertion is principally an affair of moral consideration, exist- 
ing only in the degree in which it is deliberately preferred." 
Book I., Chap, vii., Part I. 



126 OF PROPERTY. 



subject the most explicit form, at the risk of exciting 
a certain degree of prejudice. 

To apply these remarks to the subject of popula- 
tion. The tendency of a cultivated and virtuous mind 
is to render us indifferent to the gratifications of 
sense. They please at present by their novelty, that 
is, because we know not how to estimate them. They 
decay in the decline of life indirectly because the 
system refuses them, but directly and principally 
because they no longer excite the ardour and passion 
of mind. It is well known that an inflamed imagina- 
tion is capable of doubling and tripling the seminal 
secretions. The gratifications of sense please at 
present by their imposture. We soon learn to despise 
the mere animal function, which, apart from the 
delusions of intellect, would be nearly the same in all 
cases; and to value it, only as it happens to be re- 
lieved by personal charms or mental excellence. We 
absurdly imagine that no better road can be found to 
the sympathy and intercourse of minds. But a very 
slight degree of attention might convince us that this 
is a false road, fall of danger and deception. Why 
should I esteem another, or by another be esteemed ? 
For this reason only, because esteem is due, and only 
so far as it is due. 

The men therefore who exist when the earth shall 
refuse itself to a more extended population, will cease 
to propagate, for they will no longer have any motive, 



PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION. 127 

either of error or duty, to induce them. In addition 
to this they will perhaps be immortal. The whole 
will be a people of men, and not of children. Genera- 
tion will not succeed generation, nor truth have in a 
certain degree to recommence her career at the end of 
every thirty years. There will be no war, no crimes, 
no administration of justice as it is called, and no 
government. These latter articles are at no great 
distance; and it is not impossible that some of the 
present race of men may live to see them in part 
accomplished. But beside this, there will be no dis- 
ease, no anguish, no melancholy, and no resentment. 
Every man will seek with ineffable ardour the good 
of all. Mind will be active and eager, yet never 
disappointed. Men will see the progressive advance- 
ment of virtue and good, and feel that, if things 
occasionally happen contrary to their hopes, the 
miscarriage itself was a necessary part of that pro- 
gress. They will know, that they are members of the 
chain, that each has his several utility, and they will 
not feel indifferent to that utility. They will be eager 
to inquire into the good that already exists, the means 
by which it was produced, and the greater good that 
is yet in store. They will never want motives for 
exertion; for that benefit which a man thoroughly 
understands and earnestly loves, he cannot refrain 
from endeavouring to promote. 

Before we dismiss the subject it is proper once again 






128 OF PROPERTY. 



to remind the reader, that the leading doctrine of this 
chapter is given only as matter of probable conjec- 
ture, and that the grand argument of this division 
of the work is altogether independent of its truth or 
falsehood. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

OF THE MEANS OF INTRODUCING THE GENUINE 
SYSTEM OF PROPERTY. 

APPREHENSIONS THAT ARE ENTERTAINED ON THIS SUBJECT. 

IDEA OF MASSACRE. INFERENCE WE OUGHT TO 

MAKE UPON SUPPOSITION OF THE REALITY OF THESE 
APPREHENSIONS. MISCHIEF BY NO MEANS THE NECES- 
SARY ATTENDANT ON IMPR07EMENT. DUTIES UNDER 

THIS CIRCUMSTANCE, 1. OF THOSE WHO ARE QUALIFIED 

FOR PUBLIC INSTRUCTORS TEMPER SINCERITY. 

PERNICIOUS EFFECTS OF DISSIMULATION IN THIS CASE. 

2. OF THE RICH AND GREAT. MANY OF THEM 

MAY BE EXPECTED TO BE ADVOCATES OF EQUALITY. 
CONDUCT WHICH THEIR INTEREST AS A BODY PRE- 
SCRIBES. 3. OF THE FRIENDS OF EQUALITY JN 

GENERAL. OMNIPOTENCE OF TRUTH. IMPORTANCE OF 

A MILD AND BENEVOLENT PROCEEDING. CONNECTION 

BETWEEN LIBERTY AND EQUALITY. CAUSE OF 

EQUALITY WILL PERPETUALLY ADVANCE. SYMPTOMS 

OF ITS PROGRESS. IDEA OF ITS FUTURE SUCCESS. 

CONCLUSION. 

129 



130 OF PROPERTY. 



HAYING thus stated explicitly and without re- 
serve the great branches of this illustrious 
picture, there is but one subject that remains. In 
what manner shall this interesting improvement of 
human society be carried into execution? Are there 
not certain steps that are desirable for this purpose ? 
Are there not certain steps that are inevitable ? Will 
not the period that must first elapse, necessarily be 
stained with a certain infusion of evil ? 

No idea has excited greater horror in the minds 
of a multitude of persons, than that of the mis- 
chiefs that are to ensue from the dissemination of 
what they call levelling principles. They believe 
" that these principles will inevitably ferment in the 
minds of the vulgar, and that the attempt to carry 
them into execution will be attended with every 
species of calamity." They represent to themselves 
" the uninformed and uncivilized part of mankind, as 
let loose from all restraint, and hurried into every kind 
of excess. Knowledge and taste, the improvements 
of intellect, the discoveries of sages, the beauties of 
poetry and art, are trampled under foot and extin- 
guished by barbarians. It is another inundation of 
Goths and Vandals, with this bitter aggravation, that 
the viper that stings us to death was warmed in our 
own bosoms." 

They conceive of the scene as " beginning in mas- 
sacre." They suppose " all that is great, pre-eminent 



INTRODUCTION OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 131 

and illustrious as ranking among the first victims. 
Such as are distinguished by peculiar elegance of 
manners or energy of diction and composition, will be 
the inevitable objects of envy and jealousy. Such as 
intrepidly exert themselves to succour the persecuted, 
or to declare to the public those truths which they are 
least inclined, but which are most necessary for them 
to hear, will be marked out for assassination/' 

Let us not, from any partiality to the system of 
equality delineated in this book, shrink from the pic- 
ture here exhibited. Massacre is the too possible 
attendant upon revolution, and massacre is perhaps 
the most hateful scene, allowing for its momentary 
duration, that any imagination can suggest. The 
fearful, hopeless expectation of the defeated, and the 
blood-hound fury of their conquerors, is a complica- 
tion of mischief that all which has been told of 
infernal regions cannot surpass. The cold-blooded 
massacres that are perpetrated under the name of 
criminal justice fall short of these in their most 
frightful aggravations. The ministers and instru- 
ments of law have by custom reconciled their minds 
to the dreadful task they perform, and bear their 
respective parts in the most shocking enormities, 
without being sensible to the passions allied to those 
enormities. But the instruments of massacre are 
actuated with all the sentiments of fiends. Their 
eyes emit flashes of cruelty and rage. They pursue 



132 OF PROPERTY. 



their victims from street to street and from house to 
house. They tear them from the arms of their fathers 
and their wives. They glut themselves with barbarity 
and insult, and utter shouts of horrid joy at the spec- 
tacle of their tortures. 

We have now contemplated the tremendous picture ; 
what is the conclusion it behoves us to draw ? Must 
we shrink from reason, from justice, from virtue and 
happiness ? Suppose that the inevitable consequence 
of communicating truth were the temporary intro- 
duction of such a scene as has just been described, 
must we on that account refuse to communicate it ? 
The crimes that were perpetrated would in no just 
estimate appear to be the result of truth, but of the 
error which had previously been infused. The im- 
partial inquirer would behold them as the last strug- 
gles of expiring despotism, which, if it had survived, 
would have produced mischiefs, scarcely less atrocious 
in the hour of their commission, and infinitely more 
calamitous by the length of their duration. If we 
would judge truly, even admitting the unfavourable 
supposition above stated, we must contrast a moment 
of horror and distress with ages of felicity. No 
imagination can sufficiently conceive the mental im- 
provement and the tranquil virtue that would succeed, 
were property once permitted to rest upon its genuine 
basis. 

And by what means suppress truth, and keep alive 






INTRODUCTION OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 133 

the salutary intoxication, the tranquillizing insanity 
of mind which some men desire ? Such has been, 
too generally the policy of government through every 
age of the world. Have we slaves? We must assi- 
duously retain them in ignorance. Have we colonies 
and dependencies ? The great effort of our care is to 
keep them from being too populous and prosperous. 
Have we subjects ? It is by impotence and misery 
that we endeavour to render them supple : plenty is 
fib for nothing but to make them unmanageable, dis- 
obedient and mutinous. If this were the true philo- 
sophy of social institutions, well might we shrink from 
it with horror. How tremendous an abortion would 
the human species be found, if all that tended to 
make them wise, tended to make them unprincipled 
and profligate ! But this it is impossible for any one 
to believe, who will lend the subject a moment's im- 
partial consideration. Can truth, the perception of 
justice and a desire to execute it, be the source of 
irretrievable ruin to mankind ? It may be conceived 
that the first opening and illumination of mind will 
be attended with disorder. But every just reasoner 
must confess that regularity and happiness will suc- 
ceed to this confusion. To refuse the remedy, were 
this picture of its operation ever so true, would be as 
if a man who had dislocated a limb, should refuse to 
undergo the pain of having it replaced. If mankind 
have hitherto lost the road of virtue and happiness, 



134 OF PROPERTY. 

that can be no just reason why they should be 
suffered to go wrong for ever. We must not refuse a 
conviction of error, or even the treading over again 
some of the steps that were the result of it. 

Another question suggests itself under this head. 
Can we suppress truth ? Can we arrest the progress 
of the inquiring mind ? If we can, it will only be 
done by the most unmitigated despotism. Mind has 
a perpetual tendency to rise. It cannot be held down 
but by a power that counteracts its genuine tendency 
through every moment of its existence. Tyrannical 
arid sanguinary must be the measures employed for 
this purpose. Miserable and disgustful must be the 
scene they produce. Their result will be thick dark- 
ness of the mind, timidity, servility, hypocrisy. This 
is the alternative, so far as there is any alternative in 
their power, between the opposite measures of which 
the princes and governments of the earth have now 
to choose : they must either suppress enquiry by the 
most arbitrary stretches of power, or preserve a clear 
and tranquil field in which every man shall be at 
liberty to discover and vindicate his opinion. 

No doubt it is the duty of governments to maintain 
the most unalterable neutrality in this important 
transaction. No doubt it is the duty of individuals to 
publish truth without diffidence or reserve, to publish 
it in its genuine form, without seeking aid from the 
meretricious arts of publication. The more it is told, 



INTRODUCTION OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 135 

the more it is known in its true dimensions, and not 
in parts, the less is it possible that it should coalesce 
with or leave room for the pernicious effects of error. 
The true philanthropist will be eager, instead of sup- 
pressing discussion, to take an active share in the 
scene, to exert the full strength of his faculties in 
discovery, and to contribute by his exertions to render 
the operations of thought at once perspicuous and 
profound. 

It being then sufficiently evident that truth must be 
told at whatever expense, let us proceed to consider 
the precise amount of that expense, to inquire how 
much of confusion and violence is inseparable from the 
transit which mind has to accomplish. And here it 
plainly appears that mischief is by no means insepar- 
able from the progress. In the mere circumstance of 
our acquiring knowledge and accumulating one truth 
after another there is no direct tendency to disorder. 
Evil can only spring from the clash of mind with mind, 
from one body of men in the community outstripping 
another in their ideas of improvement, and becoming 
impatient of the opposition they have to encounter. 

In this interesting period, in which mind shall 
arrive as it were at the true crisis of its story, there 
are high duties incumbent upon every branch of the 
community. First, upon those cultivated and power- 
ful minds, that are fitted to be precursors to the rest 
in the discovery of truth. They are bound to be 



136 OF PROPERTY. 



active, indefatigable and disinterested. It is incum- 
bent upon them to abstain from inflammatory lan- 
guage, from all expressions of acrimony and resent- 
ment. It is absurd in any government to erect itself 
into a court of criticism in this respect, and to estab- 
lish a criterion of liberality and decorum ; but for that 
very reason it is doubly incumbent on those who com- 
municate their thoughts to the public, to exercise a 
rigid censure over themselves. The tidings of liberty 
and equality are tidings of goodwill to all orders of 
men. They free the peasant from the iniquity that 
depresses his mind, and the privileged from the luxury 
and despotism by which he is corrupted. Let those 
who bear these tidings not stain their benignity, by 
showing that that benignity has not yet become the 
inmate of their hearts. 

Nor is it less necessary that they should be urged 
to tell the whole truth without disguise. No maxim 
can be more pernicious than that which would teach 
us to consult the temper of the times, and to tell only 
so much as we imagine our contemporaries will be 
able to bear. This practice is at present almost 
universal, and it is the mark of a very painful degree 
of depravity. We retail and mangle truth. We 
impart it to our fellows, not with the liberal measure 
with which we have received it, but with such parsi- 
mony as our own miserable prudence may chance to 
prescribe. We pretend that truths fit to be practised 



INTRODUCTION OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 137 

in one country, nay, truths which we confess to be 
eternally right, are not fit to be practised in another. 
That we may deceive others with a tranquil conscience, 
we begin with deceiving ourselves. We put shackles 
upon our minds, and dare not trust ourselves at large 
in the pursuit of truth. This practice took its com- 
mencement from the machinations of party, and the 
desire of one wise and adventurous leader to carry a 
troop of weak, timid and selfish supporters in his train. 
There is no reason why I should not declare in any 
assembly upon the face of the earth that I am a 
republican. There is no more reason why, being a 
republican under a monarchical government, I should 
enter into a desperate faction to invade the public tran- 
quillity, than if I were monarchical under a republic. 
Every community of men, as well as every individual, 
must govern itself according to its ideas of justice. 
What I should desire is, not by violence to change its 
institutions, but by reason to change its ideas. I have 
no business with factions or intrigue, but simply to 
promulgate the truth, and to wait the tranquil progress 
of conviction. If there be any assembly that cannot 
bear this, of such an assembly I ought to be no mem- 
ber. It happens much oftener than we are willing to 
imagine, that "the post of honour," or, which is better, 
the post of utility, " is a private station." l 

1 Addison's Cato, Act IV. [Godwin's note.] 



138 OF PROPERTY. 



The dissimulation here censured, beside its ill 
effects upon him who practises it, and by degrading 
and unnerving his character upon society at large, has 
a particular ill consequence with respect to the point 
we are considering. It lays a mine, and prepares 
an explosion. This is the tendency of all unnatural 
restraint. Meanwhile the unfettered progress of truth 
is always salutary. Its advances are gradual, and 
each step prepares the general mind for that which is 
to follow. They are sudden and unprepared emana- 
tions of truth, that have the greatest tendency to 
deprive men of their sobriety and self command. Re- 
serve in this respect is calculated at once to give 
a rugged and angry tone to the multitude whenever 
they shall happen to discover what is thus concealed, 
and to mislead the depositaries of political power. It 
soothes them into false security, and prompts them to 
maintain an inauspicious obstinacy. 

Having considered what it is that belongs in such 
a crisis to the enlightened and wise, let us next turn 
our attention to a very different class of society, the 
rich and great. And here in the first place it may be 
remarked, that it is a very false calculation that leads 
us universally to despair of having these for the 
advocates of equality. Mankind are not so miserably 
selfish, as satirists and courtiers have supposed. We 
never engage in any action without enquiring what 
is the decision of justice respecting it. We are at 



INTRODUCTION OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 139 

all times anxious to satisfy ourselves that what our 
inclinations lead us to do, is innocent and right to 
be done. Since therefore justice occupies so large 
a share in the contemplations of the human mind, it 
cannot reasonably be doubted that a strong and com- 
manding view of justice would prove a powerful 
motive to influence our choice. But that virtue which 
for whatever reason we have chosen, soon becomes 
recommended to us by a thousand other reasons. We 
find in it reputation, eminence, self-complacence and 
the divine pleasures of an approving mind. 

The rich and great are far from callous to views of 
general felicity, when such views are brought before 
them with that evidence and attraction of which they 
are susceptible. From one dreadful disadvantage their 
minds are free. They have not been soured with 
unrelenting tyranny, or narrowed by the perpetual 
pressure of distress. They are peculiarly qualified to 
judge of the emptiness of that pomp and those 
gratifications, which are always most admired when 
they are seen from a distance. They will frequently 
be found considerably indifferent to these things, 
unless confirmed by habit and rendered inveterate 
by age. If you show them the attractions of gal- 
lantry and magnanimity in resigning them, they will 
often be resigned without reluctance. Wherever 
accident of any sort has introduced an active mind, 
there enterprise is a necessary consequence; and 



140 OF PROPERTY. 



there are few persons so inactive, as to sit down for 
ever in the supine enjoyment of the indulgences to 
which they were born. The same spirit that has led 
forth the young nobility of successive ages to en- 
counter the hardships of a camp, might easily be 
employed to render them champions of the cause of 
equality : nor is it to be believed that the circum- 
stance of superior virtue and truth in this latter 
exertion will be without its effect. 

But let us suppose a considerable party of the rich 
and great to be actuated by no view but to their 
emolument and ease. It is not difficult to show them, 
that their interest in this sense will admit of no more 
than a temperate and yielding resistance. Much no 
doubt of the future tranquillity or confusion of man- 
kind depends upon the conduct of this party. To 
them I would say : " It is in vain for you to fight 
against truth. It is like endeavouring with the 
human hand to stop the inroad of the ocean. Eetire 
betimes. Seek your safety in concession. If you 
will not go over to the standard of political justice, 
temporise at least with an enemy whom you cannot 
overcome. Much, inexpressibly much depends upon 
you. If you be wise, if you be prudent, if you would 
secure at least your lives and your personal ease 
amidst the general shipwreck of monopoly and folly, 
you will be unwilling to irritate and defy. Unless 
by your rashness, there will be no confusion, no 



INTRODUCTION OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 141 

murder, not a drop of blood will be spilt, and you 
will yourselves be made happy. If you brave the 
storm and call down every species of odium on your 
heads, still it is possible, still it is to be hoped that 
the general tranquillity may be maintained. But, 
should it prove otherwise, you will have principally to 
answer for all the consequences that shall ensue. 

" Above all, do not be lulled into a rash and head- 
long security. We have already seen how much the 
hypocrisy and instability of the wise and enlightened 
of the present day, those who confess much, and have 
a confused view of still more, but dare not examine 
the whole with a steady and unshrinking eye, are 
calculated to increase this security. But there is a 
danger still more palpable. Do not be misled by 
the unthinking and seeming general cry of those who 
have no fixed principles. Addresses have been found 
in every age a very uncertain criterion of the future 
conduct of a people. Do not count upon the numerous 
train of your adherents, retainers and servants. They 
afford a very feeble dependence. They are men, and 
cannot be dead to the interests and claims of man- 
kind. Some of them will adhere to you as long as a 
sordid interest seems to draw them in that direction. 
But the moment yours shall appear to be the losing 
cause, the same interest will carry them over to the 
enemy's standard. They will disappear like the morn- 
ing dew. 



142 OF PROPERTY. 



" May I not hope that you are capable of receiving 
impression from another argument ? Will you feel 
no compunction at the thought of resisting the 
greatest of all benefits ? Are you content to be 
regarded by the most enlightened of your contem- 
poraries, and to be handed down to the remotest 
posterity, as the obstinate adversaries of philanthropy 
and justice ? Can you reconcile it to your own minds, 
that, for a sordid interest, for the cause of general 
corruption and abuse, you should be found active in 
stifling truth, and strangling the new-born happiness 
of mankind ? " Would to God it were possible to 
carry home this argument to the enlightened and 
accomplished advocates of aristocracy ! Would to 
God they could be persuaded to consult neither pas- 
sion, nor prejudice, nor the flights of imagination, in 
deciding upon so momentous a question ! " We 
know that truth does not stand in need of your 
alliance to secure her triumph. We do not fear your 
enmity. But our hearts bleed to see such gallantry, 
such talents and such virtue enslaved to prejudice, 
and enlisted in error. It is for your sakes that we 
expostulate, and for the honour of human nature." 

To the general mass of the adherents of the cause 
of justice it may be proper to say a few words. " If 
there be any force in the arguments of this work, thus 
much at least we are authorized to deduce from them, 
that truth is irresistible. If man be endowed with 



INTRODUCTION OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 143 

a rational nature, then whatever is clearly demon- 
strated to his understanding to have the most power- 
ful recommendations, so long as that clearness is 
present to his mind, will inevitably engage his choice. 
It is to no purpose to say that mind is fluctuating and 
fickle; for it is so only in proportion as evidence is 
imperfect. Let the evidence be increased, and the 
persuasion will be made firmer, and the choice more 
uniform. It is the nature of individual mind to be 
perpetually adding to the stock of its ideas and know- 
ledge. Similar to this is the nature of general mind, 
exclusively of casualties which, arising from a more 
comprehensive order of things, appear to disturb the 
order of limited systems. This is confirmed to us, if 
a truth of this universal nature can derive confirma- 
tion from partial experiments, by the regular advances 
of the human mind from century to century, since the 
invention of printing. 

" Let then this axiom of the omnipotence of truth 
be the rudder of our undertakings. Let us not pre- 
cipitately endeavour to accomplish that to-day, which 
the dissemination of truth will make unavoidable to- 
morrow. Let us not anxiously watch for occasions 
and events : the ascendancy of truth is independent 
of events. Let us anxiously refrain from violence : 
force is not conviction, and is extremely unworthy of 
the cause of justice. Let us admit into our bosoms 
neither contempt, animosity, resentment nor revenge. 



144 OF PROPERTY. 



The cause of justice is the cause of humanity. Its 
advocates should overflow with universal goodwill. 
We should love this cause, for it conduces to the 
general happiness of mankind. We should love it, 
for there is not a man that lives, who in the natural 
and tranquil progress of things will not be made 
happier by its approach. The most powerful cause 
by which it has been retarded, is the mistake of its 
adherents, the air of ruggedness, brutishness and 
inflexibility which they have given to that which in 
itself is all benignity. Nothing less than this could 
have prevented the great mass of inquirers from 
bestowing upon it a patient examination. Be it the 
care of the now increasing advocates of equality to 
remove this obstacle to the success of their cause. 
We have but two plain duties, which, if we set out 
right, it is not easy to mistake. The first is an un- 
wearied attention to the great instrument of justice, 
reason. We must divulge our sentiments with the 
utmost frankness. We must endeavour to impress 
them upon the minds of others. In this attempt we 
must give way to no discouragement. We must 
sharpen our intellectual weapons ; add to the stock of 
our knowledge; be pervaded with a sense of the 
magnitude of our cause ; and perpetually increase 
that calm presence of mind and self-possession which 
must enable us to do justice to our principles. Our 
second duty is tranquillity," 



INTRODUCTION OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 145 



It will not be right to pass over a question that 
will inevitably suggest itself to the mind of the reader. 
" If an equalization of property be to take place, not 
by law, regulation or public institution, but only 
through the private conviction of individuals, in what 
manner shall it begin ? " In answering this question 
it is not necessary to prove so simple a proposition, 
as that all republicanism, all equalization of ranks and 
immunities, strongly tends towards an equalization 
of property. Thus, in Sparta this last principle was 
completely admitted. In Athens the public largesses 
were so great as almost to exempt the citizens from 
manual labour ; and the rich and eminent only pur- 
chased a toleration for their advantages, by the liberal 
manner in which they opened their stores to the 
public. In Eome, agrarian laws, a wretched and ill- 
chosen substitute for equality, but which grew out of 
the same spirit, were perpetually agitated. If men 
go on to increase in discernment, and this they cer- 
tainly will with peculiar rapidity, when the ill-con- 
structed governments which now retard their progress 
are removed, the same arguments which showed them 
the injustice of ranks, will show them the injustice 
of one man's wanting that which, while it is in the 
possession of another, conduces in no respect to his 
well being. 

It is a common error to imagine, that this injustice 
will be felt only by the lower orders who suffer from. 



146 OF PROPERTY. 



it; and hence it would appear that it can only be 
corrected by violence. But in answer to this it may, 
in the first place, be observed that all suffer from it, 
the rich who engross, as well as the poor who want. 
Secondly, it has been clearly shown in the course 
of the present work, that men are not so entirely 
governed by self interest as has frequently been 
supposed. It has been shown, if possible, still more 
clearly, that the selfish are not governed solely by 
sensual gratification or the love of gain, but that the 
desire of eminence and distinction is in different de- 
grees an universal passion. Thirdly and principally, 
the progress of truth is the most powerful of all 
causes. Nothing can be more absurd than to imagine 
that theory, in the best sense of the word, is not 
essentially connected with practice. That which we 
can be persuaded clearly and distinctly to approve, 
will inevitably modify our conduct. Mind is not an 
aggregate of various faculties contending with each 
other for the mastery, but on the contrary the will is 
in all cases correspondent to the last judgment of 
the understanding. When men shall distinctly and 
habitually perceive the folly of luxury, and when their 
neighbours are impressed with a similar disdain, it 
will be impossible that they should pursue the means 
of it with the same avidity as before. 

It will not be difficult perhaps to trace, in the 
progress of modern Europe from barbarism to refine- 



INTRODUCTION OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 147 

ment, a tendency towards the equalization of property. 
In the feudal times, as now in India and other parts 
of the world, men were born to a certain station, and 
it was nearly impossible for a peasant to rise to the 
rank of a noble. Except the nobles there were no 
men that were rich ; for commerce, either external 
or internal, had scarcely an existence. Commerce 
was one engine for throwing down this seemingly 
impregnable barrier, and shocking the prejudices of 
nobles, who were sufficiently willing to believe that 
their retainers were a different species of beings from 
themselves. Learning was another, and more power- 
ful engine. In all ages of the church we see men 
of the basest origin rising to the highest eminence. 
Commerce proved that others could rise to wealth 
beside those who were cased in mail ; but learning 
proved that the low-born were capable of surpassing 
their lords. The progressive effect of these ideas 
may easily be traced by the attentive observer. Long 
after learning began to unfold its powers, its votaries 
still submitted to those obsequious manners and ser- 
vile dedications, which no man reviews at the present 
day without astonishment. It is but lately that men 
have known that intellectual excellence can accom- 
plish its purposes without a patron. At present, 
among the civilized and well informed a man of 
slender wealth, but of great intellectual powers and 
a firm and virtuous mind, is constantly received with 



148 OF PROPERTY. 



attention and deference; and his purse-proud neigh- 
bour who should attempt to treat him superciliously, 
is sure to be discountenanced in his usurpation. The 
inhabitants of distant villages, where long- established 
prejudices are slowly destroyed, would be astonished 
to see how comparatively small a share wealth has in 
determining the degree of attention with which men 
are treated in enlightened circles. 

These no doubt are but slight indications. It is 
with morality in this respect as it is with politics. 
The progress is at first so slow as for the most part 
to elude the observation of mankind; nor can it 
indeed be adequately perceived but by the contempla- 
tion and comparison of events during a considerable 
portion of time. After a certain interval, the scene 
is more fully unfolded, and the advances appear more 
rapid and decisive. While wealth was everything, 
it was to be expected that men would acquire it, 
though at the expense of character and integrity. 
Absolute and universal truth had not yet shown 
itself so decidedly, as to be able to enter the lists 
with what dazzled the eye or gratified the sense. 
In proportion as the monopolies of rank and com- 
panies are abolished, the value of superfluities will 
not fail to decline. In proportion as republicanism 
gains ground, men will come to be estimated for 
what they are, not for what force has given, and force 
may take away. 



INTRODUCTION OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 149 

Let us reflect for a moment on the gradual conse- 
quences of this revolution of opinion. Liberality of 
dealing will be among its earliest results, and of con- 
sequence accumulation will become less frequent and 
less enormous. Men will not be disposed, as now, 
to take advantage of each other's distresses, and to 
demand a price for their aid, not measured by a 
general standard, but by the wants of an individual. 
They will not consider how much they can extort, but 
how much it is reasonable to require. The master 
tradesman who employs labourers under him, will be 
disposed to give a more ample reward to their in- 
dustry, which he is at present enabled to tax chiefly 
by the neutral circumstance of having provided a 
capital. Liberality on the part of his employer will 
complete in the mind of the artisan, what ideas of 
political justice will probably have begun. He will 
no loDger spend the little surplus of his earnings in 
that dissipation, which is at present one of the prin- 
cipal causes that subject him to the arbitrary pleasure 
of a superior. He will escape from the irresolution 
of slavery and the fetters of despair, and perceive that 
independence and ease are scarcely less within his 
reach than that of any other member of the com- 
munity. This is a natural step towards the still 
further progression, in which the labourer will receive 
entire whatever the consumer may be required to pay, 
without having a middle man, an idle and useless 



ISO OF PROPERTY. 



monopolizer, as lie will then be found, to fatten upon 
his spoils. 

The same sentiments that lead to liberality of deal- 
ing, will also lead to liberality of distribution. The 
trader, who is unwilling to grow rich by extorting 
from his employer or his workmen, will also refuse to 
become rich by the not inferior injustice of withhold- 
ing from his poor neighbour the supply he wants. 
The habit which was created in the former case of 
being contented with moderate gains, is closely con- 
nected with the habit of being contented with slender 
accumulation. He that is not anxious to add to his 
heap, will not be reluctant by a benevolent distribu- 
tion to prevent its increase. Wealth was once almost 
the single object of pursuit that presented itself to 
the gross and uncultivated mind. Various objects 
will hereafter divide men's attention, the love of 
liberty, the love of equality, the pursuits of art and 
the desire of knowledge. These objects will not, as 
now, be confined to a few, but will gradually be laid 
open to all. The love of liberty obviously leads to 
the love of man : the sentiment of benevolence will 
be increased, and the narrowness of the selfish affec- 
tions will decline. The general diffusion of truth will 
be productive of general improvement ; and men will 
daily approximate towards those views according to 
which every object will be appreciated at its true 
value. Add to which, that the improvement of which 



INTRODUCTION OF THE GENUINE SYSTEM. 



we speak is general, not individual. The progress 
is the progress of all. Each man will find his senti- 
ments of justice and rectitude echoed, encouraged and 
strengthened by the sentiments of his neighbours. 
Apostasy will be made eminently improbable, because 
the apostate will incur, not only his own censure, but 
the censure of every beholder. 

One remark will suggest itself upon these con- 
siderations. " If the inevitable progress of improve- 
ment insensibly lead towards an equalization of 
property, what need was there of proposing it as a 
specific object to men's consideration ? " The answer 
to this objection is easy. The improvement in ques- 
tion consists in a knowledge of truth. But our know- 
ledge will be very imperfect so long as this great 
branch of universal justice fails to constitute a part 
of it. All truth is useful; can this truth, which is 
perhaps more fundamental than any, be without its 
benefits ? Whatever be the object towards which 
mind spontaneously advances, it is of no mean import- 
ance to us to have a distinct view of that object. Our 
advances will thus become accelerated. It is a well- 
known principle of morality, that he who proposes 
perfection to himself, though he will inevitably fall 
short of what he pursues, will make a more rapid 
progress, than he who is contented to aim only at 
what is imperfect. The benefits to be derived in the 
interval from a view of equalization, as one of the 



152 OF PROPERTY. 



great objects towards which we are tending, are 
exceedingly conspicuous. Such a view will strongly 
conduce to make us disinterested now. It will teach 
us to look with contempt upon mercantile speculations, 
commercial prosperity, and the cares of gain. It will 
impress us with a just apprehension of what it is of 
which man is capable and in which his perfection 
consists ; and will fix our ambition and activity upon 
the worthiest objects. Mind cannot arrive at any 
great and illustrious attainment, however much the 
nature of mind may carry us towards it, without 
feeling some presages of its approach ; and it is 
reasonable to believe that, the earlier these presages 
are introduced, and the more distinct they are made, 
the more auspicious will be the event. 



INDEX. 



Agrarian laws in Home, 145. 
Annual Register, New, 5. 
Antonio, a drama, 21. 
A priori method, 12, 18, 31. 
Athens, public largesses, 14-5. 
Ballot, objections to, 9. 
Benevolence, 8; the source of 

cheerfulness, 119. 
Burke, 2, 23, 48. 
Caleb Williams, 16, 17. 
Canning, 4. 
Charity, a precarious substitute 

for Justice, 45, 46. 
Chatham, Lord, Life of, 5. 
Chaucer, Life of, 26, 27. 
Chronicle, The, Godwin's letters 

to, 17. 

Clairmont, Mrs., 22. 
Coercion condemned, 9, 36. 
Coleridge, S. T., 18, 23 ; opinion 

of Godwin, 31, 32. 
Communism advocated, 10, 38, 

39, 55, 87-90. 

Co-operation,dangers of ,94-100. 
Coventry, author of Philemon 

to Hydaspes, 65. 
Crime, cause and cure of, 57-60. 
Cunningham, Allan, quoted, 17. 
Curran, 23. 
Davy, Sir H., 19. 
De Quincey quoted, 2, 15. 
Disease, intellectual remedy 

for, 118, 119. 
Dyson, George, 18. 
Education, objections to state 

system, 5, 105-107. 
Enquirer, the, 18. 
Essays, hitherto unpublished, 27. 



Equality, 15, 56, 70, 82. 

Eyre, Chief Justice, letter to, 
17. 

Fame, a motive to action, 74-79. 

Fawcett, Joseph, 18. 

Fourier, 11. 

Franklin, Benjamin, saying of, 
116. 

Eraser's Magazine, portrait of 
Godwin, 26. 

French Revolution, influence 
on political speculation, 1, 18. 

Genius of Christianity Unveiled, 
27. 

Gentleman's Magazine 011 God- 
win, 3. 

Gilfillan, George, 17, 18. 

Godwin, Mary, 17, 20, 26, 28. 

Godwin, Mrs. See Wollstone- 
craf't. 

Godwin, Mrs. See Clairmont. 

Godwin, William, birth and 
childhood, 3 ; religious train- 
ing, 3, 4 ; a dissenting mini- 
ster, 4; change of faith, 4; 
early writings, 4, 5 ; writes 
Political Justice, 5; debt to 
previous authors, 11 ; his 
celebrity, 16; writes Caleb 
Williams, 16; letters on the 
state trials of 1794, 17; pub- 
lishes the Enquirer, 18; his 
friends and enemies, 18, 19, 
23, 24; personality, 19, 20; 
influence on young men, 20, 
24; marries Mary Wollstone- 
craf t, 20 ; her death, 20 ; long 
life a misfortune to Godwin, 



INDEX. 



21 ; his second marriage, 22 ; 
in business as bookseller, 22 ; 
debts and borrowing habits, 

22, 23 ; deterioration of cha- 
racter, 21, 22, 25; personal 
appearance, 19, 25, 26 ; failure 
in business, 26 ; later writ- 
ings, 26, 27 ; made Yeoman 
Usher of the Exchequer, 27 ; 
death, 28 ; character, 4, 8, 22, 

23, 28-30; his views, 5-10; 
their value, 11, 30-32; their 
shortcomings, 12, 13 ; mis- 
represented by critics, 13-15. 

Government, evils of, 7, 8, 14, 
109. 

Hall, S. C., quoted, 25. 

Happiness, true theory of, 84, 85. 

Hazlitt, William, quoted, 2, 3. 

Health, dependent on the will, 
118, 119, 125. 

Heredity, its influence under- 
rated by Godwin, 6, 13. 

History not neglected by God- 
win, 14. 

History, Sketches of, 4. 

Holcro'ft, Thomas, 4, 5,17,18; 
quoted, 20. 

Home Tooke, 17, 18, 23. 

Hume, 11, 65. 

Imlay, Mrs. See Wollstone- 
craft. 

Immortality, speculation con- 
cerning, 120, 121. 

Inchbald, Mrs., 18. 

Individuality, Godwin's asser- 
tion of, 7, 10, 31, 95-100, 107- 
109. 

Indolence, not a consequence 
of equality, 68-71, 98. 

Innate ideas, denied by Godwin, 

Justice defined, 6, 37, 38 ; the 
one rule of conduct, 7, 31, 39, 



82-84, 139; erroneous notions 
of, 45, 46. 

Labour, saving of, 66, 71-74, 
97 ; division of, 111-113. 

Lamb, Charles, 18, 23. 

Land Laws, 52-54, 66. 

Liberty, two kinds of, 92, 93. 

Locke, 11. 

Luxury, evils of, 40-45, 50-52, 
64-67. 

Lycurgus, legislation of, 98. 

Mackintosh, Sir James, 18, 23 ; 
quoted, 15. 

Malthus, Godwin's reply to, 26. 
See Population. 

Mandeville, Fable of the Sees 
quoted, 65. 

Marriage, evils of, 101-105. 

Martineau, Harriet, quoted, 26, 
28. 

Massacre, horrors of, 130-132. 

Medicine, intellectual, 123, 125. 

Mind, nature and functions of, 
86, 87, 134, 143, 146 ; specula- 
tions concerning its future 
supremacy over matter, 116- 
125. 

Monarchy condemned, 9; less 
injurious than property, 47, 

More, Sir Thomas, 53. [48. 

National education, dangers of, 
9, 105-107. 

Necessity, doctrine of, accepted 
by Godwin, 8, 9. 

Neiv Annual Register,^ 5. 

Northcote, his portrait of God- 
win, 19. 

Ogilvie, William, 54; quoted, 
53, 62. 

Owen, Robert, 11, 31. 

Parr, Dr., 18. 

Paul, C. Kegan, his Life of 
Godwin, 5, 19, 23. 

Penal Code, iniquity of, 9, 10 ; 



INDEX. 



155 






its connection with property, 
36. 

Perfectibility, theory of, ad- 
vanced by Priestley, 6. 

Pitt, William, and Political 
Justice, 2, 3. 

Plato, 53. 

Political Associations, objec- 
tions to, 8. 

Political Justice, origin and 
meaning of, 5 ; contemporary 
opinions of, 1-3 ; popularity, 
3 ; summary of, 5-10 ; treats 
of an ideal state, 11 ; its 
faults, 12, 13; its value, 11, 
30-32 ; later editions of, 15 ; 
modification of its doctrines, 
15, 21 ; decrease of public 
interest, 15, 16. 

Population, principle of, 62, 63 ; 
answer to Wallace, 114-116, 
126-128 ; answer to Malthus, 
26, 34. 

Priestley on Perfectibility, 6, 11. 

Prometheus Unbound, Shelley's, 
the poetical counterpart of 
Political Justice, 24. 

Property, Godwin's Essay on, 
10, 35-152 ; importance of the 
subject, 35-37 ; mischievous 
effects of accumulation, 48- 
63; equality the only just 
system, 39, 110; benefits of 
equality, 56, 61, 110, 111, 127, 
149-151 ; right of property in 
land, 52-54. 

Reason, omnipotence of, 44. 

Religion, its futile condemna- 
tion of property, 43-46, 49. 

Rich, the, pensioners of the 
poor, 52-54; appeal to the, 
139-142. 

"'Riches and Poverty," essay 
on, 18. 



Rights, doctrine of, rejected by 

Godwin, 7. 
Rights of Woman, Vindication 

of the, 20. 

Robinson, bookseller, 11. 
Robinson,Henry Crabb, quoted, 

22, 23, 32. 

Rome, agrarian laws, 145. 
Rousseau, 11. 
Salaries, 27, 28, 52. 
Self-love not the chief motive 

of conduct, 69, 138, 146. 
Sepulchres, Essay on, 14, 27. 
Shelley, P. B., his relations 

with Godwin, 24-26. 
Shelley, Mary, 20, 26, 28; 

quoted, 17. 
Sheridan, 4. 

Simplicity, benefits of, 40-42. 
Sketches of History, 4. 
Sleep, an infirmity, 122, 123. 
Smith, Adam, 112. 
Society, benefits of, 107-109; 

not antagonistic to indivi- 
duality, 109. 
Southey, quoted, 2, 19. 
Sparta, constitution of, 53, 98, 

145. 

Spence, Thomas, 54. 
St. Leon, Godwin's novel, 20, 21. 
Stephen, Leslie, quoted, 13, 21. 
Swift, quoted, 44, 53. 
Talfourd, Sir T. N., 17. 
Themistocles, saying of, 108. 
Truth, power of, 132-138, 143, 

151. 
Vindication of the Rights of 

Woman, 20. 

Wallace, Dr. R., quoted, 53, 114. 
War, the effect of property, 61 , 

62. 

Wealth, evils of, 41-43, 50-54. 
Wollstonecraft, Mary,20, 21, 28. 
Wordsworth, 19 ; quoted, 2. 



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