OR, MEDITATION ON THE REVOLUTIONS OF EMPIRES
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UNIVERSAL BASIS OF ALL RIGHT AND ALL LAW.
The men chosen by the people to investigate the true principles of
morals and of reason then proceeded in the sacred object of their
mission; and, after a long examination, having discovered a
fundamental and universal principle, a legislator arose and said to
Here is the primordial basis, the physical origin of all justice
and of all right.
Whatever be the active power, the moving cause, that governs the
universe, since it has given to all men the same organs, the same
sensations, and the same wants, it has thereby declared that it has
given to all the same right to the use of its treasures, and that
all men are equal in the order of nature.
And, since this power has given to each man the necessary means of
preserving his own existence, it is evident that it has constituted
them all independent one of another; that it has created them free;
that no one is subject to another; that each one is absolute
proprietor of his own person.
Equality and liberty are, therefore, two essential attributes of
man, two laws of the Divinity, constitutional and unchangeable,
like the physical properties of matter.
Now, every individual being absolute master of his own person, it
follows that a full and free consent is a condition indispensable
to all contracts and all engagements.
Again, since each individual is equal to another, it follows that
the balance of what is received and of what is given, should be
strictly in equilibrium; so that the idea of justice, of equity,
necessarily imports that of equality.*
- The etymology of the words themselves trace out to us this
connection: equilibrium, equalitas, equitas, are all of one family,
and the physical idea of equality, in the scales of a balance, is
the source and type of all the rest.
Equality and liberty are therefore the physical and unalterable
basis of every union of men in society, and of course the necessary
and generating principle of every law and of every system of
- In the Declaration of Rights, there is an inversion of ideas in
the first article, liberty being placed before equality, from which
it in reality springs. This defect is not to be wondered at; the
science of the rights of man is a new science: it was invented
yesterday by the Americans, to-day the French are perfecting it,
but there yet remains a great deal to be done. In the ideas that
constitute it there is a genealogical order which, from us basis,
physical equality, to the minutest and most remote branches of
government, ought to proceed in an uninterrupted series of
A disregard of this basis has introduced in your nation, and in
every other, those disorders which have finally roused you. It is
by returning to this rule that you may reform them, and reorganize
a happy order of society.
But observe, this reorganization will occasion a violent shock in
your habits, your fortunes, and your prejudices. Vicious contracts
and abusive claims must be dissolved, unjust distinctions and ill
founded property renounced; you must indeed recur for a moment to a
state of nature. Consider whether you can consent to so many
Then, reflecting on the cupidity inherent in the heart of man, I
thought that this people would renounce all ideas of amelioration.
But, in a moment, a great number of men, advancing toward the
pyramid, made a solemn abjuration of all their distinctions and all
Establish for us, said they, the laws of equality and liberty; we
will possess nothing in future but on the title of justice.
Equality, liberty, justice,--these shall be our code, and shall be
written on our standards.
And the people immediately raised a great standard, inscribed with
these three words, in three different colors. They displayed it
over the pyramid of the legislators, and for the first time the
flag of universal justice floated on the face of the earth.
And the people raised before the pyramid a new altar, on which they
placed a golden balance, a sword, and a book with this inscription: