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OF TRAVEL - Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, or Education 
Emile, or Education. Translated by Barbara Foxley, M.A. (London & Toronto: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1921; New York: E.P. Dutton, 1921).
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Is it good for young people to travel? The question is often asked and as often hotly disputed. If it were stated otherwise—Are men the better for having travelled?—perhaps there would be less difference of opinion.
The misuse of books is the death of sound learning. People think they know what they have read, and take no pains to learn. Too much reading only produces a pretentious ignoramus. There was never so much reading in any age as the present, and never was there less learning; in no country of Europe are so many histories and books of travel printed as in France, and nowhere is there less knowledge of the mind and manners of other nations. So many books lead us to neglect the book of the world; if we read it at all, we keep each to our own page. If the phrase, “Can one become a Persian,” were unknown to me, I should suspect on hearing it that it came from the country where national prejudice is most prevalent and from the sex which does most to increase it.
A Parisian thinks he has a knowledge of men and he knows only Frenchmen; his town is always full of foreigners, but he considers every foreigner as a strange phenomenon which has no equal in the universe. You must have a close acquaintance with the middle classes of that great city, you must have lived among them, before you can believe that people could be at once so witty and so stupid. The strangest thing about it is that probably every one of them has read a dozen times a description of the country whose inhabitants inspire him with such wonder.
To discover the truth amidst our own prejudices and those of the authors is too hard a task. I have been reading books of travels all my life, but I never found two that gave me the same idea of the same nation. On comparing my own scanty observations with what I have read, I have decided to abandon the travellers and I regret the time wasted in trying to learn from their books; for I am quite convinced that for that sort of study, seeing not reading is required. That would be true enough if every traveller were honest, if he only said what he saw and believed, and if truth were not tinged with false colours from his own eyes. What must it be when we have to disentangle the truth from the web of lies and ill-faith?
Let us leave the boasted resources of books to those who are content to use them. Like the art of Raymond Lully they are able to set people chattering about things they do not know. They are able to set fifteen-year-old Platos discussing philosophy in the clubs, and teaching people the customs of Egypt and the Indies on the word of Paul Lucas or Tavernier.
I maintain that it is beyond dispute that any one who has only seen one nation does not know men; he only knows those men among whom he has lived. Hence there is another way of stating the question about travel: “Is it enough for a well-educated man to know his fellow-countrymen, or ought he to know mankind in general?” Then there is no place for argument or uncertainty. See how greatly the solution of a difficult problem may depend on the way in which it is stated.
But is it necessary to travel the whole globe to study mankind? Need we go to Japan to study Europeans? Need we know every individual before we know the species? No, there are men so much alike that it is not worth while to study them individually. When you have seen a dozen Frenchmen you have seen them all. Though one cannot say as much of the English and other nations, it is, however, certain that every nation has its own specific character, which is derived by induction from the study, not of one, but many of its members. He who has compared a dozen nations knows men, just he who has compared a dozen Frenchmen knows the French.
To acquire knowledge it is not enough to travel hastily through a country. Observation demands eyes, and the power of directing them towards the object we desire to know. There are plenty of people who learn no more from their travels than from their books, because they do not know how to think; because in reading their mind is at least under the guidance of the author, and in their travels they do not know how to see for themselves. Others learn nothing, because they have no desire to learn. Their object is so entirely different, that this never occurs to them; it is very unlikely that you will see clearly what you take no trouble to look for. The French travel more than any other nation, but they are so taken up with their own customs, that everything else is confused together. There are Frenchmen in every corner of the globe. In no country of the world do you find more people who have travelled than in France. And yet of all the nations of Europe, that which has seen most, knows least. The English are also travellers, but they travel in another fashion; these two nations must always be at opposite extremes. The English nobility travels, the French stays at home; the French people travel, the English stay at home. This difference does credit, I think, to the English. The French almost always travel for their own ends; the English do not seek their fortune in other lands, unless in the way of commerce and with their hands full; when they travel it is to spend their money, not to live by their wits; they are too proud to cringe before strangers. This is why they learn more abroad than the French who have other fish to fry. Yet the English have their national prejudices; but these prejudices are not so much the result of ignorance as of feeling. The Englishman’s prejudices are the result of pride, the Frenchman’s are due to vanity.
Just as the least cultivated nations are usually the best, so those travel best who travel least; they have made less progress than we in our frivolous pursuits, they are less concerned with the objects of our empty curiosity, so that they give their attention to what is really useful. I hardly know any but the Spaniards who travel in this fashion. While the Frenchman is running after all the artists of the country, while the Englishman is getting a copy of some antique, while the German is taking his album to every man of science, the Spaniard is silently studying the government, the manners of the country, its police, and he is the only one of the four who from all that he has seen will carry home any observation useful to his own country.
The ancients travelled little, read little, and wrote few books; yet we see in those books that remain to us, that they observed each other more thoroughly than we observe our contemporaries. Without going back to the days of Homer, the only poet who transports us to the country he describes, we cannot deny to Herodotus the glory of having painted manners in his history, though he does it rather by narrative than by comment; still he does it better than all our historians whose books are overladen with portraits and characters. Tacitus has described the Germans of his time better than any author has described the Germans of to-day. There can be no doubt that those who have devoted themselves to ancient history know more about the Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Gauls, and Persians than any nation of to-day knows about its neighbours.
It must also be admitted that the original characteristics of different nations are changing day by day, and are therefore more difficult to grasp. As races blend and nations intermingle, those national differences which formerly struck the observer at first sight gradually disappear. Before our time every nation remained more or less cut off from the rest; the means of communication were fewer; there was less travelling, less of mutual or conflicting interests, less political and civil intercourse between nation and nation; those intricate schemes of royalty, miscalled diplomacy, were less frequent; there were no permanent ambassadors resident at foreign courts; long voyages were rare, there was little foreign trade, and what little there was, was either the work of princes, who employed foreigners, or of people of no account who had no influence on others and did nothing to bring the nations together. The relations between Europe and Asia in the present century are a hundredfold more numerous than those between Gaul and Spain in the past; Europe alone was less accessible than the whole world is now.
Moreover, the peoples of antiquity usually considered themselves as the original inhabitants of their country; they had dwelt there so long that all record was lost of the far-off times when their ancestors settled there; they had been there so long that the place had made a lasting impression on them; but in modern Europe the invasions of the barbarians, following upon the Roman conquests, have caused an extraordinary confusion. The Frenchmen of to-day are no longer the big fair men of old; the Greeks are no longer beautiful enough to serve as a sculptor’s model; the very face of the Romans has changed as well as their character; the Persians, originally from Tartary, are daily losing their native ugliness through the intermixture of Circassian blood. Europeans are no longer Gauls, Germans, Iberians, Allobroges; they are all Scythians, more or less degenerate in countenance, and still more so in conduct.
This is why the ancient distinctions of race, the effect of soil and climate, made a greater difference between nation and nation in respect of temperament, looks, manners, and character than can be distinguished in our own time, when the fickleness of Europe leaves no time for natural causes to work, when the forests are cut down and the marshes drained, when the earth is more generally, though less thoroughly, tilled, so that the same differences between country and country can no longer be detected even in purely physical features.
If they considered these facts perhaps people would not be in such a hurry to ridicule Herodotus, Ctesias, Pliny for having described the inhabitants of different countries each with its own peculiarities and with striking differences which we no longer see. To recognise such types of face we should need to see the men themselves; no change must have passed over them, if they are to remain the same. If we could behold all the people who have ever lived, who can doubt that we should find greater variations between one century and another, than are now found between nation and nation.
At the same time, while observation becomes more difficult, it is more carelessly and badly done; this is another reason for the small success of our researches into the natural history of the human race. The information acquired by travel depends upon the object of the journey. If this object is a system of philosophy, the traveller only sees what he desires to see; if it is self-interest, it engrosses the whole attention of those concerned. Commerce and the arts which blend and mingle the nations at the same time prevent them from studying each other. If they know how to make a profit out of their neighbours, what more do they need to know?
It is a good thing to know all the places where we might live, so as to choose those where we can live most comfortably. If every one lived by his own efforts, all he would need to know would be how much land would keep him in food. The savage, who has need of no one, and envies no one, neither knows nor seeks to know any other country but his own. If he requires more land for his subsistence he shuns inhabited places; he makes war upon the wild beasts and feeds on them. But for us, to whom civilised life has become a necessity, for us who must needs devour our fellow-creatures, self-interest prompts each one of us to frequent those districts where there are most people to be devoured. This is why we all flock to Rome, Paris, and London. Human flesh and blood are always cheapest in the capital cities. Thus we only know the great nations, which are just like one another.
They say that men of learning travel to obtain information; not so, they travel like other people from interested motives. Philosophers like Plato and Pythagoras are no longer to be found, or if they are, it must be in far-off lands. Our men of learning only travel at the king’s command; they are sent out, their expenses are paid, they receive a salary for seeing such and such things, and the object of that journey is certainly not the study of any question of morals. Their whole time is required for the object of their journey, and they are too honest not to earn their pay. If in any country whatsoever there are people travelling at their own expense, you may be sure it is not to study men but to teach them. It is not knowledge they desire but ostentation. How should their travels teach them to shake off the yoke of prejudice? It is prejudice that sends them on their travels.
To travel to see foreign lands or to see foreign nations are two very different things. The former is the usual aim of the curious, the latter is merely subordinate to it. If you wish to travel as a philosopher you should reverse this order. The child observes things till he is old enough to study men. Man should begin by studying his fellows; he can study things later if time permits.
It is therefore illogical to conclude that travel is useless because we travel ill. But granting the usefulness of travel, does it follow that it is good for all of us? Far from it; there are very few people who are really fit to travel; it is only good for those who are strong enough in themselves to listen to the voice of error without being deceived, strong enough to see the example of vice without being led away by it. Travelling accelerates the progress of nature, and completes the man for good or evil. When a man returns from travelling about the world, he is what he will be all his life; there are more who return bad than good, because there are more who start with an inclination towards evil. In the course of their travels, young people, ill-educated and ill-behaved, pick up all the vices of the nations among whom they have sojourned, and none of the virtues with which those vices are associated; but those who, happily for themselves, are well-born, those whose good disposition has been well cultivated, those who travel with a real desire to learn, all such return better and wiser than they went. Emile will travel in this fashion; in this fashion there travelled another young man, worthy of a nobler age; one whose worth was the admiration of Europe, one who died for his country in the flower of his manhood; he deserved to live, and his tomb, ennobled by his virtues only, received no honour till a stranger’s hand adorned it with flowers.
Everything that is done in reason should have its rules. Travel, undertaken as a part of education, should therefore have its rules. To travel for travelling’s sake is to wander, to be a vagabond; to travel to learn is still too vague; learning without some definite aim is worthless. I would give a young man a personal interest in learning, and that interest, well-chosen, will also decide the nature of the instruction. This is merely the continuation of the method I have hitherto practised.
Now after he has considered himself in his physical relations to other creatures, in his moral relations with other men, there remains to be considered his civil relations with his fellow-citizens. To do this he must first study the nature of government in general, then the different forms of government, and lastly the particular government under which he was born, to know if it suits him to live under it; for by a right which nothing can abrogate, every man, when he comes of age, becomes his own master, free to renounce the contract by which he forms part of the community, by leaving the country in which that contract holds good. It is only by sojourning in that country, after he has come to years of discretion, that he is supposed to have tacitly confirmed the pledge given by his ancestors. He acquires the right to renounce his country, just as he has the right to renounce all claim to his father’s lands; yet his place of birth was a gift of nature, and in renouncing it, he renounces what is his own. Strictly speaking, every man remains in the land of his birth at his own risk unless he voluntarily submits to its laws in order to acquire a right to their protection.
For example, I should say to Emile, “Hitherto you have lived under my guidance, you were unable to rule yourself. But now you are approaching the age when the law, giving you the control over your property, makes you master of your person. You are about to find yourself alone in society, dependent on everything, even on your patrimony. You mean to marry; that is a praiseworthy intention, it is one of the duties of man; but before you marry you must know what sort of man you want to be, how you wish to spend your life, what steps you mean to take to secure a living for your family and for yourself; for although we should not make this our main business, it must be definitely considered. Do you wish to be dependent on men whom you despise? Do you wish to establish your fortune and determine your position by means of civil relations which will make you always dependent on the choice of others, which will compel you, if you would escape from knaves, to become a knave yourself?”
In the next place I would show him every possible way of using his money in trade, in the civil service, in finance, and I shall show him that in every one of these there are risks to be taken, every one of them places him in a precarious and dependent position, and compels him to adapt his morals, his sentiments, his conduct to the example and the prejudices of others.
“There is yet another way of spending your time and money; you may join the army; that is to say, you may hire yourself out at very high wages to go and kill men who never did you any harm. This trade is held in great honour among men, and they cannot think too highly of those who are fit for nothing better. Moreover, this profession, far from making you independent of other resources, makes them all the more necessary; for it is a point of honour in this profession to ruin those who have adopted it. It is true they are not all ruined; it is even becoming fashionable to grow rich in this as in other professions; but if I told you how people manage to do it, I doubt whether you would desire to follow their example.
“Moreover, you must know that, even in this trade, it is no longer a question of courage or valour, unless with regard to the ladies; on the contrary, the more cringing, mean, and degraded you are, the more honour you obtain; if you have decided to take your profession seriously, you will be despised, you will be hated, you will very possibly be driven out of the service, or at least you will fall a victim to favouritism and be supplanted by your comrades, because you have been doing your duty in the trenches, while they have been attending to their toilet.”
We can hardly suppose that any of these occupations will be much to Emile’s taste. “Why,” he will exclaim, “have I forgotten the amusements of my childhood? Have I lost the use of my arms? Is my strength failing me? Do I not know how to work? What do I care about all your fine professions and all the silly prejudices of others? I know no other pride than to be kindly and just; no other happiness than to live in independence with her I love, gaining health and a good appetite by the day’s work. All these difficulties you speak of do not concern me. The only property I desire is a little farm in some quiet corner. I will devote all my efforts after wealth to making it pay, and I will live without a care. Give me Sophy and my land, and I shall be rich.”
“Yes, my dear friend, that is all a wise man requires, a wife and land of his own; but these treasures are scarcer than you think. The rarest you have found already; let us discuss the other.
“A field of your own, dear Emile! Where will you find it, in what remote corner of the earth can you say, ‘Here am I master of myself and of this estate which belongs to me?’ We know where a man may grow rich; who knows where he can do without riches? Who knows where to live free and independent, without ill-treating others and without fear of being ill-treated himself? Do you think it is so easy to find a place where you can always live like an honest man? If there is any safe and lawful way of living without intrigues, without lawsuits, without dependence on others, it is, I admit, to live by the labour of our hands, by the cultivation of our own land; but where is the state in which a man can say, ‘The earth which I dig is my own?’ Before choosing this happy spot, be sure that you will find the peace you desire; beware lest an unjust government, a persecuting religion, and evil habits should disturb you in your home. Secure yourself against the excessive taxes which devour the fruits of your labours, and the endless lawsuits which consume your capital. Take care that you can live rightly without having to pay court to intendents, to their deputies, to judges, to priests, to powerful neighbours, and to knaves of every kind, who are always ready to annoy you if you neglect them. Above all, secure yourself from annoyance on the part of the rich and great; remember that their estates may anywhere adjoin your Naboth’s vineyard. If unluckily for you some great man buys or builds a house near your cottage, make sure that he will not find a way, under some pretence or other, to encroach on your lands to round off his estate, or that you do not find him at once absorbing all your resources to make a wide highroad. If you keep sufficient credit to ward off all these disagreeables, you might as well keep your money, for it will cost you no more to keep it. Riches and credit lean upon each other, the one can hardly stand without the other.
“I have more experience than you, dear Emile; I see more clearly the difficulties in the way of your scheme. Yet it is a fine scheme and honourable; it would make you happy indeed. Let us try to carry it out. I have a suggestion to make; let us devote the two years from now till the time of your return to choosing a place in Europe where you could live happily with your family, secure from all the dangers I have just described. If we succeed, you will have discovered that true happiness, so often sought for in vain; and you will not have to regret the time spent in its search. If we fail, you will be cured of a mistaken idea; you will console yourself for an inevitable ill, and you will bow to the law of necessity.”
I do not know whether all my readers will see whither this suggested inquiry will lead us; but this I do know, if Emile returns from his travels, begun and continued with this end in view, without a full knowledge of questions of government, public morality, and political philosophy of every kind, we are greatly lacking, he in intelligence and I in judgment.
The science of politics is and probably always will be unknown. Grotius, our leader in this branch of learning, is only a child, and what is worse an untruthful child. When I hear Grotius praised to the skies and Hobbes overwhelmed with abuse, I perceive how little sensible men have read or understood these authors. As a matter of fact, their principles are exactly alike, they only differ in their mode of expression. Their methods are also different: Hobbes relies on sophism; Grotius relies on the poets; they are agreed in everything else. In modern times the only man who could have created this vast and useless science was the illustrious Montesquieu. But he was not concerned with the principles of political law; he was content to deal with the positive laws of settled governments; and nothing could be more different than these two branches of study.
Yet he who would judge wisely in matters of actual government is forced to combine the two; he must know what ought to be in order to judge what is. The chief difficulty in the way of throwing light upon this important matter is to induce an individual to discuss and to answer these two questions. “How does it concern me; and what can I do?” Emile is in a position to answer both.
The next difficulty is due to the prejudices of childhood, the principles in which we were brought up; it is due above all to the partiality of authors, who are always talking about truth, though they care very little about it; it is only their own interests that they care for, and of these they say nothing. Now the nation has neither professorships, nor pensions, nor membership of the academies to bestow. How then shall its rights be established by men of that type? The education I have given him has removed this difficulty also from Emile’s path. He scarcely knows what is meant by government; his business is to find the best; he does not want to write books; if ever he did so, it would not be to pay court to those in authority, but to establish the rights of humanity.
There is a third difficulty, more specious than real; a difficulty which I neither desire to solve nor even to state; enough that I am not afraid of it; sure I am that in inquiries of this kind, great talents are less necessary than a genuine love of justice and a sincere reverence for truth. If matters of government can ever be fairly discussed, now or never is our chance.
Before beginning our observations we must lay down rules of procedure; we must find a scale with which to compare our measurements. Our principles of political law are our scale. Our actual measurements are the civil law of each country.
Our elementary notions are plain and simple, being taken directly from the nature of things. They will take the form of problems discussed between us, and they will not be formulated into principles, until we have found a satisfactory solution of our problems.
For example, we shall begin with the state of nature, we shall see whether men are born slaves or free, in a community or independent; is their association the result of free will or of force? Can the force which compels them to united action ever form a permanent law, by which this original force becomes binding, even when another has been imposed upon it, so that since the power of King Nimrod, who is said to have been the first conqueror, every other power which has overthrown the original power is unjust and usurping, so that there are no lawful kings but the descendants of Nimrod or their representatives; or if this original power has ceased, has the power which succeeded it any right over us, and does it destroy the binding force of the former power, so that we are not bound to obey except under compulsion, and we are free to rebel as soon as we are capable of resistance? Such a right is not very different from might; it is little more than a play upon words.
We shall inquire whether man might not say that all sickness comes from God, and that it is therefore a crime to send for the doctor.
Again, we shall inquire whether we are bound by our conscience to give our purse to a highwayman when we might conceal it from him, for the pistol in his hand is also a power.
Does this word power in this context mean something different from a power which is lawful and therefore subject to the laws to which it owes its being?
Suppose we reject this theory that might is right and admit the right of nature, or the authority of the father, as the foundation of society; we shall inquire into the extent of this authority; what is its foundation in nature? Has it any other grounds but that of its usefulness to the child, his weakness, and the natural love which his father feels towards him? When the child is no longer feeble, when he is grown-up in mind as well as in body, does not he become the sole judge of what is necessary for his preservation? Is he not therefore his own master, independent of all men, even of his father himself? For is it not still more certain that the son loves himself, than that the father loves the son?
The father being dead, should the children obey the eldest brother, or some other person who has not the natural affection of a father? Should there always be, from family to family, one single head to whom all the family owe obedience? If so, how has power ever come to be divided, and how is it that there is more than one head to govern the human race throughout the world?
Suppose the nations to have been formed each by its own choice; we shall then distinguish between right and fact; being thus subjected to their brothers, uncles, or other relations, not because they were obliged, but because they choose, we shall inquire whether this kind of society is not a sort of free and voluntary association?
Taking next the law of slavery, we shall inquire whether a man can make over to another his right to himself, without restriction, without reserve, without any kind of conditions; that is to say, can he renounce his person, his life, his reason, his very self, can he renounce all morality in his actions; in a word, can he cease to exist before his death, in spite of nature who places him directly in charge of his own preservation, in spite of reason and conscience which tell him what to do and what to leave undone?
If there is any reservation or restriction in the deed of slavery, we shall discuss whether this deed does not then become a true contract, in which both the contracting powers, having in this respect no common master,1 remain their own judge as to the conditions of the contract, and therefore free to this extent, and able to break the contract so soon as it becomes hurtful.
If then a slave cannot convey himself altogether to his master, how can a nation convey itself altogether to its head? If a slave is to judge whether his master is fulfilling his contract, is not the nation to judge whether its head is fulfilling his contract?
Thus we are compelled to retrace our steps, and when we consider the meaning of this collective nation we shall inquire whether some contract, a tacit contract at the least, is not required to make a nation, a contract anterior to that which we are assuming.
Since the nation was a nation before it chose a king, what made it a nation, except the social contract? Therefore the social contract is the foundation of all civil society, and it is in the nature of this contract that we must seek the nature of the society formed by it.
We will inquire into the meaning of this contract; may it not be fairly well expressed in this formula? As an individual every one of us contributes his goods, his person, his life, to the common stock, under the supreme direction of the general will; while as a body we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.
Assuming this, in order to define the terms we require, we shall observe that, instead of the individual person of each contracting party, this deed of association produces a moral and collective body, consisting of as many members as there are votes in the Assembly. This public personality is usually called the body politic, which is called by its members the State when it is passive, and the Sovereign when it is active, and a Power when compared with its equals. With regard to the members themselves, collectively they are known as the nation, and individually as citizens as members of the city or partakers in the sovereign power, and subjects as obedient to the same authority.
We shall note that this contract of association includes a mutual pledge on the part of the public and the individual; and that each individual, entering, so to speak, into a contract with himself, finds himself in a twofold capacity, i.e., as a member of the sovereign with regard to others, as member of the state with regard to the sovereign.
We shall also note that while no one is bound by any engagement to which he was not himself a party, the general deliberation which may be binding on all the subjects with regard to the sovereign, because of the two different relations under which each of them is envisaged, cannot be binding on the state with regard to itself. Hence we see that there is not, and cannot be, any other fundamental law, properly so called, except the social contract only. This does not mean that the body politic cannot, in certain respects, pledge itself to others; for in regard to the foreigner, it then becomes a simple creature, an individual.
Thus the two contracting parties, i.e., each individual and the public, have no common superior to decide their differences; so we will inquire if each of them remains free to break the contract at will, that is to repudiate it on his side as soon as he considers it hurtful.
To clear up this difficulty, we shall observe that, according to the social pact, the sovereign power is only able to act through the common, general will; so its decrees can only have a general or common aim; hence it follows that a private individual cannot be directly injured by the sovereign, unless all are injured, which is impossible, for that would be to want to harm oneself. Thus the social contract has no need of any warrant but the general power, for it can only be broken by individuals, and they are not therefore freed from their engagement, but punished for having broken it.
To decide all such questions rightly, we must always bear in mind that the nature of the social pact is private and peculiar to itself, in that the nation only contracts with itself, i.e., the people as a whole as sovereign, with the individuals as subjects; this condition is essential to the construction and working of the political machine, it alone makes pledges lawful, reasonable, and secure, without which it would be absurd, tyrannical, and liable to the grossest abuse.
Individuals having only submitted themselves to the sovereign, and the sovereign power being only the general will, we shall see that every man in obeying the sovereign only obeys himself, and how much freer are we under the social part than in the state of nature.
Having compared natural and civil liberty with regard to persons, we will compare them as to property, the rights of ownership and the rights of sovereignty, the private and the common domain. If the sovereign power rests upon the right of ownership, there is no right more worthy of respect; it is inviolable and sacred for the sovereign power, so long as it remains a private individual right; as soon as it is viewed as common to all the citizens, it is subject to the common will, and this will may destroy it. Thus the sovereign has no right to touch the property of one or many; but he may lawfully take possession of the property of all, as was done in Sparta in the time of Lycurgus; while the abolition of debts by Solon was an unlawful deed.
Since nothing is binding on the subjects except the general will, let us inquire how this will is made manifest, by what signs we may recognise it with certainty, what is a law, and what are the true characters of the law? This is quite a fresh subject; we have still to define the term law.
As soon as the nation considers one or more of its members, the nation is divided. A relation is established between the whole and its part which makes of them two separate entities, of which the part is one, and the whole, minus that part, is the other. But the whole minus the part is not the whole; as long as this relation exists, there is no longer a whole, but two unequal parts.
On the other hand, if the whole nation makes a law for the whole nation, it is only considering itself; and if a relation is set up, it is between the whole community regarded from one point of view, and the whole community regarded from another point of view, without any division of that whole. Then the object of the statute is general, and the will which makes that statute is general too. Let us see if there is any other kind of decree which may bear the name of law.
If the sovereign can only speak through laws, and if the law can never have any but a general purpose, concerning all the members of the state, it follows that the sovereign never has the power to make any law with regard to particular cases; and yet it is necessary for the preservation of the state that particular cases should also be dealt with; let us see how this can be done.
The decrees of the sovereign can only be decrees of the general will, that is laws; there must also be determining decrees, decrees of power or government, for the execution of those laws; and these, on the other hand, can only have particular aims. Thus the decrees by which the sovereign decides that a chief shall be elected is a law; the decree by which that chief is elected, in pursuance of the law, is only a decree of government.
This is a third relation in which the assembled people may be considered, i.e., as magistrates or executors of the law which it has passed in its capacity as sovereign.1
We will now inquire whether it is possible for the nation to deprive itself of its right of sovereignty, to bestow it on one or more persons; for the decree of election not being a law, and the people in this decree not being themselves sovereign, we do not see how they can transfer a right which they do not possess.
The essence of sovereignty consisting in the general will, it is equally hard to see how we can be certain that an individual will shall always be in agreement with the general will. We should rather assume that it will often be opposed to it; for individual interest always tends to privileges, while the common interest always tends to equality, and if such an agreement were possible, no sovereign right could exist, unless the agreement were either necessary or indestructible.
We will inquire if, without violating the social pact, the heads of the nation, under whatever name they are chosen, can ever be more than the officers of the people, entrusted by them with the duty of carrying the law into execution. Are not these chiefs themselves accountable for their administration, and are not they themselves subject to the laws which it is their business to see carried out?
If the nation cannot alienate its supreme right, can it entrust it to others for a time? Cannot it give itself a master, cannot it find representatives? This is an important question and deserves discussion.
If the nation can have neither sovereign nor representatives we will inquire how it can pass its own laws; must there be many laws; must they be often altered; is it easy for a great nation to be its own lawgiver?
Was not the Roman people a great nation?
Is it a good thing that there should be great nations?
It follows from considerations already established that there is an intermediate body in the state between subjects and sovereign; and this intermediate body, consisting of one or more members, is entrusted with the public administration, the carrying out of the laws, and the maintenance of civil and political liberty.
The members of this body are called magistrates or kings, that is to say, rulers. This body, as a whole, considered in relation to its members, is called the prince, and considered in its actions it is called the government.
If we consider the action of the whole body upon itself, that is to say, the relation of the whole to the whole, of the sovereign to the state, we can compare this relation to that of the extremes in a proportion of which the government is the middle term. The magistrate receives from the sovereign the commands which he gives to the nation, and when it is reckoned up his product or his power is in the same degree as the product or power of the citizens who are subjects on one side of the proportion and sovereigns on the other. None of the three terms can be varied without at once destroying this proportion. If the sovereign tries to govern, and if the prince wants to make the laws, or if the subject refuses to obey them, disorder takes the place of order, and the state falls to pieces under despotism or anarchy.
Let us suppose that this state consists of ten thousand citizens. The sovereign can only be considered collectively and as a body, but each individual, as a subject, has his private and independent existence. Thus the sovereign is as ten thousand to one; that is to say, every member of the state has, as his own share, only one ten-thousandth part of the sovereign power, although he is subject to the whole. Let the nation be composed of one hundred thousand men, the position of the subjects is unchanged, and each continues to bear the whole weight of the laws, while his vote, reduced to the one hundred-thousandth part, has ten times less influence in the making of the laws. Thus the subject being always one, the sovereign is relatively greater as the number of the citizens is increased. Hence it follows that the larger the state the less liberty.
Now the greater the disproportion between private wishes and the general will, i.e., between manners and laws, the greater must be the power of repression. On the other side, the greatness of the state gives the depositaries of public authority greater temptations and additional means of abusing that authority, so that the more power is required by the government to control the people, the more power should there be in the sovereign to control the government.
From this twofold relation it follows that the continued proportion between the sovereign, the prince, and the people is not an arbitrary idea, but a consequence of the nature of the state. Moreover, it follows that one of the extremes, i.e., the nation, being constant, every time the double ratio increases or decreases, the simple ratio increases or diminishes in its turn; which cannot be unless the middle term is as often changed. From this we may conclude that there is no single absolute form of government, but there must be as many different forms of government as there are states of different size.
If the greater the numbers of the nation the less the ratio between its manners and its laws, by a fairly clear analogy, we may also say, the more numerous the magistrates, the weaker the government.
To make this principle clearer we will distinguish three essentially different wills in the person of each magistrate; first, his own will as an individual, which looks to his own advantage only; secondly, the common will of the magistrates, which is concerned only with the advantage of the prince, a will which may be called corporate, and one which is general in relation to the government and particular in relation to the state of which the government forms part; thirdly, the will of the people, or the sovereign will, which is general, as much in relation to the state viewed as the whole as in relation to the government viewed as a part of the whole. In a perfect legislature the private individual will should be almost nothing; the corporate will belonging to the government should be quite subordinate, and therefore the general and sovereign will is the master of all the others. On the other hand, in the natural order, these different wills become more and more active in proportion as they become centralised; the general will is always weak, the corporate will takes the second place, the individual will is preferred to all; so that every one is himself first, then a magistrate, and then a citizen; a series just the opposite of that required by the social order.
Having laid down this principle, let us assume that the government is in the hands of one man. In this case the individual and the corporate will are absolutely one, and therefore this will has reached the greatest possible degree of intensity. Now the use of power depends on the degree of this intensity, and as the absolute power of the government is always that of the people, and therefore invariable, it follows that the rule of one man is the most active form of government.
If, on the other hand, we unite the government with the supreme power, and make the prince the sovereign and the citizens so many magistrates, then the corporate will is completely lost in the general will, and will have no more activity than the general will, and it will leave the individual will in full vigour. Thus the government, though its absolute force is constant, will have the minimum of activity.
These rules are incontestable in themselves, and other considerations only serve to confirm them. For example, we see the magistrates as a body far more active than the citizens as a body, so that the individual will always counts for more. For each magistrate usually has charge of some particular duty of government; while each citizen, in himself, has no particular duty of sovereignty. Moreover, the greater the state the greater its real power, although its power does not increase because of the increase in territory; but the state remaining unchanged, the magistrates are multiplied in vain, the government acquires no further real strength, because it is the depositary of that of the state, which I have assumed to be constant. Thus, this plurality of magistrates decreases the activity of the government without increasing its power.
Having found that the power of the government is relaxed in proportion as the number of magistrates is multiplied, and that the more numerous the people, the more the controlling power must be increased, we shall infer that the ratio between the magistrates and the government should be inverse to that between subjects and sovereign, that is to say, that the greater the state, the smaller the government, and that in like manner the number of chiefs should be diminished because of the increased numbers of the people.
In order to make this diversity of forms clearer, and to assign them their different names, we shall observe in the first place that the sovereign may entrust the care of the government to the whole nation or to the greater part of the nation, so that there are more citizen magistrates than private citizens. This form of government is called Democracy.
Or the sovereign may restrict the government in the hands of a lesser number, so that there are more plain citizens than magistrates; and this form of government is called Aristocracy.
Finally, the sovereign may concentrate the whole government in the hands of one man. This is the third and commonest form of government, and is called Monarchy or royal government.
We shall observe that all these forms, or the first and second at least, may be less or more, and that within tolerably wide limits. For the democracy may include the whole nation, or may be confined to one half of it. The aristocracy, in its turn, may shrink from the half of the nation to the smallest number. Even royalty may be shared, either between father and son, between two brothers, or in some other fashion. There were always two kings in Sparta, and in the Roman empire there were as many as eight emperors at once, and yet it cannot be said that the empire was divided. There is a point where each form of government blends with the next; and under the three specific forms there may be really as many forms of government as there are citizens in the state.
Nor is this all. In certain respects each of these governments is capable of subdivision into different parts, each administered in one of these three ways. From these forms in combination there may arise a multitude of mixed forms, since each may be multiplied by all the simple forms.
In all ages there have been great disputes as to which is the best form of government, and people have failed to consider that each is the best in some cases and the worst in others. For ourselves, if the number of magistrates in the various states is to be in inverse ratio to the number of the citizens, we infer that generally a democratic government is adapted to small states, an aristocratic government to those of moderate size, and a monarchy to large states.
These inquiries furnish us with a clue by which we may discover what are the duties and rights of citizens, and whether they can be separated one from the other; what is our country, in what does it really consist, and how can each of us ascertain whether he has a country or no?
Having thus considered every kind of civil society in itself, we shall compare them, so as to note their relations one with another; great and small, strong and weak, attacking one another, insulting one another, destroying one another; and in this perpetual action and reaction causing more misery and loss of life than if men had preserved their original freedom. We shall inquire whether too much or too little has not been accomplished in the matter of social institutions; whether individuals who are subject to law and to men, while societies preserve the independence of nature, are not exposed to the ills of both conditions without the advantages of either, and whether it would not be better to have no civil society in the world rather than to have many such societies. Is it not that mixed condition which partakes of both and secures neither?
“Per quem neutrum licet, nec tanquam in bello paratum esse, nec tanquam in pace securum.”
—Seneca,De Trang: Animi, cap. 1.
I it not this partial and imperfect association which gives rise to tyranny and war? And are not tyranny and war the worst scourges of humanity?
Finally we will inquire how men seek to get rid of these difficulties by means of leagues and confederations, which leave each state its own master in internal affairs, while they arm it against any unjust aggression. We will inquire how a good federal association may be established, what can make it lasting, and how far the rights of the federation may be stretched without destroying the right of sovereignty.
1 The Abbé de Saint-Pierre suggested an association of all the states of Europe to maintain perpetual peace among themselves. Is this association practicable, and supposing that it were established, would it be likely to last? These inquiries lead us straight to all the questions of international law which may clear up the remaining difficulties of political law.
Finally we shall lay down the real principles of the laws of war, and we shall see why Grotius and others have only stated false principles.
I should not be surprised if my pupil, who is a sensible young man, should interrupt me saying, “One would think we were building our edifice of wood and not of men; we are putting everything so exactly in its place!” That is true; but remember that the law does not bow to the passions of men, and that we have first to establish the true principles of political law. Now that our foundations are laid, come and see what men have built upon them; and you will see some strange sights!
Then I set him to read Telemachus, and we pursue our journey; we are seeking that happy Salentum and the good Idomeneus made wise by misfortunes. By the way we find many like Protesilas and no Philocles, neither can Adrastes, King of the Daunians, be found. But let our readers picture our travels for themselves, or take the same journeys with Telemachus in their hand; and let us not suggest to them painful applications which the author himself avoids or makes in spite of himself.
Moreover, Emile is not a king, nor am I a god, so that we are not distressed that we cannot imitate Telemachus and Mentor in the good they did; none know better than we how to keep to our own place, none have less desire to leave it. We know that the same task is allotted to all; that whoever loves what is right with all his heart, and does the right so far as it is in his power, has fulfilled that task. We know that Telemachus and Mentor are creatures of the imagination. Emile does not travel in idleness and he does more good than if he were a prince. If we were kings we should be no greater benefactors. If we were kings and benefactors we should cause any number of real evils for every apparent good we supposed we were doing. If we were kings and sages, the first good deed we should desire to perform, for ourselves and for others, would be to abdicate our kingship and return to our present position.
I have said why travel does so little for every one. What makes it still more barren for the young is the way in which they are sent on their travels. Tutors, more concerned to amuse than to instruct, take them from town to town, from palace to palace, where if they are men of learning and letters, they make them spend their time in libraries, or visiting antiquaries, or rummaging among old buildings transcribing ancient inscriptions. In every country they are busy over some other century, as if they were living in another country; so that after they have travelled all over Europe at great expense, a prey to frivolity or tedium, they return, having seen nothing to interest them, and having learnt nothing that could be of any possible use to them.
All capitals are just alike, they are a mixture of all nations and all ways of living; they are not the place in which to study the nations. Paris and London seem to me the same town. Their inhabitants have a few prejudices of their own, but each has as many as the other, and all their rules of conduct are the same. We know the kind of people who will throng the court. We know the way of living which the crowds of people and the unequal distribution of wealth will produce. As soon as any one tells me of a town with two hundred thousand people, I know its life already. What I do not know about it is not worth going there to learn.
To study the genius and character of a nation you should go to the more remote provinces, where there is less stir, less commerce, where strangers seldom travel, where the inhabitants stay in one place, where there are fewer changes of wealth and position. Take a look at the capital on your way, but go and study the country far away from that capital. The French are not in Paris, but in Touraine; the English are more English in Mercia than in London, and the Spaniards more Spanish in Galicia than in Madrid. In these remoter provinces a nation assumes its true character and shows what it really is; there the good or ill effects of the government are best perceived, just as you can measure the arc more exactly at a greater radius.
The necessary relations between character and government have been so clearly pointed out in the book of L’Esprit des Lois, that one cannot do better than have recourse to that work for the study of those relations. But speaking generally, there are two plain and simple standards by which to decide whether governments are good or bad. One is the population. Every country in which the population is decreasing is on its way to ruin; and the countries in which the population increases most rapidly, even were they the poorest countries in the world, are certainly the best governed.1
But this population must be the natural result of the government and the national character, for if it is caused by colonisation or any other temporary and accidental cause, then the remedy itself is evidence of the disease. When Augustus passed laws against celibacy, those laws showed that the Roman empire was already beginning to decline. Citizens must be induced to marry by the goodness of the government, not compelled to marry by law; you must not examine the effects of force, for the law which strives against the constitution has little or no effect; you should study what is done by the influence of public morals and by the natural inclination of the government, for these alone produce a lasting effect. It was the policy of the worthy Abbé de Saint-Pierre always to look for a little remedy for every individual ill, instead of tracing them to their common source and seeing if they could not all be cured together. You do not need to treat separately every sore on a rich man’s body; you should purify the blood which produces them. They say that in England there are prizes for agriculture; that is enough for me; that is proof enough that agriculture will not flourish there much longer.
The second sign of the goodness or badness of the government and the laws is also to be found in the population, but it is to be found not in its numbers but in its distribution. Two states equal in size and population may be very unequal in strength; and the more powerful is always that in which the people are more evenly distributed over its territory; the country which has fewer large towns, and makes less show on this account, will always defeat the other. It is the great towns which exhaust the state and are the cause of its weakness; the wealth which they produce is a sham wealth, there is much money and few goods. They say the town of Paris is worth a whole province to the King of France; for my own part I believe it costs him more than several provinces. I believe that Paris is fed by the provinces in more senses than one, and that the greater part of their revenues is poured into that town and stays there, without ever returning to the people or to the king. It is inconceivable that in this age of calculators there is no one to see that France would be much more powerful if Paris were destroyed. Not only is this ill-distributed population not advantageous to the state, it is more ruinous than depopulation itself, because depopulation only gives as produce nought, and the ill-regulated addition of still more people gives a negative result. When I hear an Englishman and a Frenchman so proud of the size of their capitals, and disputing whether London or Paris has more inhabitants, it seems to me that they are quarrelling as to which nation can claim the honour of being the worst governed.
Study the nation outside its towns; thus only will you really get to know it. It is nothing to see the apparent form of a government, overladen with the machinery of administration and the jargon of the administrators, if you have not also studied its nature as seen in the effects it has upon the people, and in every degree of administration. The difference of form is really shared by every degree of the administration, and it is only by including every degree that you really know the difference. In one country you begin to feel the spirit of the minister in the manœuvres of his underlings; in another you must see the election of members of parliament to see if the nation is really free; in each and every country, he who has only seen the towns cannot possibly know what the government is like, as its spirit is never the same in town and country. Now it is the agricultural districts which form the country, and the country people who make the nation.
This study of different nations in their remoter provinces, and in the simplicity of their native genius, gives a general result which is very satisfactory, to my thinking, and very consoling to the human heart; it is this: All the nations, if you observe them in this fashion, seem much better worth observing; the nearer they are to nature, the more does kindness hold sway in their character; it is only when they are cooped up in towns, it is only when they are changed by cultivation, that they become depraved, that certain faults which were rather coarse than injurious are exchanged for pleasant but pernicious vices.
From this observation we see another advantage in the mode of travel I suggest; for young men, sojourning less in the big towns which are horribly corrupt, are less likely to catch the infection of vice; among simpler people and less numerous company, they will preserve a surer judgment, a healthier taste, and better morals. Besides this contagion of vice is hardly to be feared for Emile; he has everything to protect him from it. Among all the precautions I have taken, I reckon much on the love he bears in his heart.
We do not know the power of true love over youthful desires, because we are ourselves as ignorant of it as they are, and those who have control over the young turn them from true love. Yet a young man must either love or fall into bad ways. It is easy to be deceived by appearances. You will quote any number of young men who are said to live very chastely without love; but show me one grown man, a real man, who can truly say that his youth was thus spent? In all our virtues, all our duties, people are content with appearances; for my own part I want the reality, and I am much mistaken if there is any other way of securing it beyond the means I have suggested.
The idea of letting Emile fall in love before taking him on his travels is not my own. It was suggested to me by the following incident.
I was in Venice calling on the tutor of a young Englishman. It was winter and we were sitting round the fire. The tutor’s letters were brought from the post office. He glanced at them, and then read them aloud to his pupil. They were in English; I understood not a word, but while he was reading I saw the young man tear some fine point lace ruffles which he was wearing, and throw them in the fire one after another, as quietly as he could, so that no one should see it. Surprised at this whim, I looked at his face and thought I perceived some emotion; but the external signs of passion, though much alike in all men, have national different which may easily lead one astray. Nations have a different language of facial expression as well as of speech. I waited till the letters were finished and then showing the tutor the bare wrists of his pupil, which he did his best to hide, I said, “May I ask the meaning of this?”
The tutor seeing what had happened began to laugh; he embraced his pupil with an air of satisfaction and, with his consent, he gave me the desired explanation.
“The ruffles,” said he, “which Mr. John has just torn to pieces, were a present from a lady in this town, who made them for him not long ago. Now you must know that Mr. John is engaged to a young lady in his own country, with whom he is greatly in love, and she well deserves it. This letter is from the lady’s mother, and I will translate the passage which caused the destruction you beheld.
“ ‘Lucy is always at work upon Mr. John’s ruffles. Yesterday Miss Betty Roldham came to spend the afternoon and insisted on doing some of her work. I knew that Lucy was up very early this morning and I wanted to see what she was doing; I found her busy unpicking what Miss Betty had done. She would not have a single stitch in her present done by any hand but her own.’ ”
Mr. John went to fetch another pair of ruffles, and I said to his tutor: “Your pupil has a very good disposition; but tell me is not the letter from Miss Lucy’s mother a put up job? Is it not an expedient of your designing against the lady of the ruffles?” “No,” said he, “it is quite genuine; I am not so artful as that; I have made use of simplicity and zeal, and God has blessed my efforts.”
This incident with regard to the young man stuck in my mind; it was sure to set a dreamer like me thinking.
But it is time we finished. Let us take Mr. John back to Miss Lucy, or rather Emile to Sophy. He brings her a heart as tender as ever, and a more enlightened mind, and he returns to his native land all the better for having made acquaintance with foreign governments through their vices and foreign nations through their virtues. I have even taken care that he should associate himself with some man of worth in every nation, by means of a treaty of hospitality after the fashion of the ancients, and I shall not be sorry if this acquaintance is kept up by means of letters. Not only may this be useful, not only is it always pleasant to have a correspondent in foreign lands, it is also an excellent antidote against the sway of patriotic prejudices, to which we are liable all through our life, and to which sooner or later we are more or less enslaved. Nothing is better calculated to lessen the hold of such prejudices than a friendly interchange of opinions with sensible people whom we respect; they are free from our prejudices and we find ourselves face to face with theirs, and so we can set the one set of prejudices against the other and be safe from both. It is not the same thing to have to do with strangers in our own country and in theirs. In the former case there is always a certain amount of politeness which either makes them conceal their real opinions, or makes them think more favourably of our country while they are with us; when they get home again this disappears, and they merely do us justice. I should be very glad if the foreigner I consult has seen my country, but I shall not ask what he thinks of it till he is at home again.
When we have spent nearly two years travelling in a few of the great countries and many of the smaller countries of Europe, when we have learnt two or three of the chief languages, when we have seen what is really interesting in natural history, government, arts, or men, Emile, devoured by impatience, reminds me that our time is almost up. Then I say, “Well, my friend, you remember the main object of our journey; you have seen and observed; what is the final result of your observations? What decision have you come to?” Either my method is wrong, or he will answer me somewhat after this fashion—
“What decision have I come to? I have decided to be what you made me; of my own free will I will add no fetters to those imposed upon me by nature and the laws. The more I study the works of men in their institutions, the more clearly I see that, in their efforts after independence, they become slaves, and that their very freedom is wasted in vain attempts to assure its continuance. That they may not be carried away by the flood of things, they form all sorts of attachments; then as soon as they wish to move forward they are surprised to find that everything drags them back. It seems to me that to set oneself free we need do nothing, we need only continue to desire freedom. My master, you have made me free by teaching me to yield to necessity. Let her come when she will, I follow her without compulsion; I lay hold of nothing to keep me back. In our travels I have sought for some corner of the earth where I might be absolutely my own; but where can one dwell among men without being dependent on their passions? On further consideration I have discovered that my desire contradicted itself; for were I to hold to nothing else, I should at least hold to the spot on which I had settled; my life would be attached to that spot, as the dryads were attached to their trees. I have discovered that the words liberty and empire are incompatible; I can only be master of a cottage by ceasing to be master of myself.
“ ‘Hoc erat in votis, modus agri non ita magnus.’
Horace, lib. ii., sat. vi.
“I remember that my property was the origin of our inquiries. You argued very forcibly that I could not keep both my wealth and my liberty; but when you wished me to be free and at the same time without needs, you desired two incompatible things, for I could only be independent of men by returning to dependence on nature. What then shall I do with the fortune bequeathed to me by my parents? To begin with, I will not be dependent on it; I will cut myself loose from all the ties which bind me to it; if it is left in my hands, I shall keep it; if I am deprived of it, I shall not be dragged away with it. I shall not trouble myself to keep it, but I shall keep steadfastly to my own place. Rich or poor, I shall be free. I shall be free not merely in this country or in that; I shall be free in any part of the world. All the chains of prejudice are broken; as far as I am concerned I know only the bonds of necessity. I have been trained to endure them from my childhood, and I shall endure them until death, for I am a man; and why should I not wear those chains as a free man, for I should have to wear them even if I were a slave, together with the additional fetters of slavery?
“What matters my place in the world? What matters it where I am? Wherever there are men, I am among my brethren; wherever there are none, I am in my own home. So long as I may be independent and rich, and have wherewithal to live, and I shall live. If my wealth makes a slave of me, I shall find it easy to renounce it. I have hands to work, and I shall get a living. If my hands fail me, I shall live if others will support me; if they forsake me I shall die; I shall die even if I am not forsaken, for death is not the penalty of poverty, it is a law of nature. Whensoever death comes I defy it; it shall never find me making preparations for life; it shall never provent me having lived.
“My father, this is my decision. But for my passions, I should be in my manhood independent as God himself, for I only desire what is and I should never fight against fate. At least, there is only one chain, a chain which I shall ever wear, a chain of which I may be justly proud. Come then, give me my Sophy, and I am free.”
“Dear Emile, I am glad indeed to hear you speak like a man, and to behold the feelings of your heart. At your age this exaggerated unselfishness is not unpleasing. It will decrease when you have children of your own, and then you will be just what a good father and a wise man ought to be. I knew what the result would be before our travels; I knew that when you saw our institutions you would be far from reposing a confidence in them which they do not deserve. In vain do we seek freedom under the power of the laws. The laws! Where is there any law? Where is there any respect for law? Under the name of law you have everywhere seen the rule of self-interest and human passion. But the eternal laws of nature and of order exist. For the wise man they take the place of positive law; they are written in the depths of his heart by conscience and reason; let him obey these laws and be free; for there is no slave but the evil-doer, for he always does evil against his will. Liberty is not to be found in any form of government, she is in the heart of the free man, he bears her with him everywhere. The vile man bears his slavery in himself; the one would be a slave in Geneva, the other free in Paris.
“If I spoke to you of the duties of a citizen, you would perhaps ask me, ‘Which is my country?’ And you would think you had put me to confusion. Yet you would be mistaken, dear Emile, for he who has no country has, at least, the land in which he lives. There is always a government and certain so-called laws under which he has lived in peace. What matter though the social contract has not been observed, if he has been protected by private interest against the general will, if he has been secured by public violence against private aggressions, if the evil he has beheld has taught him to love the good, and if our institutions themselves have made him perceive and hate their own iniquities? Oh, Emile, where is the man who owes nothing to the land in which he lives? Whatever that land may be, he owes to it the most precious thing possessed by man, the morality of his actions and the love of virtue. Born in the depths of a forest he would have lived in greater happiness and freedom; but being able to follow his inclinations without a struggle there would have been no merit in his goodness, he would not have been virtuous, as he may be now, in spite of his passions. The mere sight of order teaches him to know and love it. The public good, which to others is a mere pretext, is a real motive for him. He learns to fight against himself and to prevail, to sacrifice his own interest to the common weal. It is not true that he gains nothing from the laws; they give him courage to be just, even in the midst of the wicked. It is not true that they have failed to make him free; they have taught him to rule himself.
“Do not say therefore, ‘What matter where I am?’ It does matter that you should be where you can best do your duty; and one of these duties is to love your native land. Your fellow-countrymen protected you in childhood; you should love them in your manhood. You should live among them, or at least you should live where you can serve them to the best of your power, and where they know where to find you if ever they are in need of you. There are circumstances in which a man may be of more use to his fellow-countrymen outside his country than within it. Then he should listen only to his own zeal and should bear his exile without a murmur; that exile is one of his duties. But you, dear Emile, you have not undertaken the painful task of telling men the truth, you must live in the midst of your fellow-creatures, cultivating their friendship in pleasant intercourse; you must be their benefactor, their pattern; your example will do more than all our books, and the good they see you do will touch them more deeply than all our empty words.
“Yet I do not exhort you to live in a town; on the contrary, one of the examples which the good should give to others is that of a patriarchal, rural life, the earliest life of man, the most peaceful, the most natural, and the most attractive to the uncorrupted heart. Happy is the land, my young friend, where one need not seek peace in the wilderness! But where is that country? A man of good will finds it hard to satisfy his inclinations in the midst of towns, where he can find few but frauds and rogues to work for. The welcome given by the towns to those idlers who flock to them to seek their fortunes only completes the ruin of the country, when the country ought really to be repopulated at the cost of the towns. All the men who withdraw from high society are useful just because of their withdrawal, since its vices are the result of its numbers. They are also useful when they can bring with them into the desert places life, culture, and the love of their first condition. I like to think what benefits Emile and Sophy, in their simple home, may spread about them, what a stimulus they may give to the country, how they may revive the zeal of the unlucky villagers.
“In fancy I see the population increasing, the land coming under cultivation, the earth clothed with fresh beauty. Many workers and plenteous crops transform the labours of the fields into holidays; I see the young couple in the midst of the rustic sports which they have revived, and I hear the shouts of joy and the blessings of those about them. Men say the golden age is a fable; it always will be for those whose feelings and taste are depraved. People do not really regret the golden age, for they do nothing to restore it. What is needed for its restoration? One thing only, and that is an impossibility; we must love the golden age.
“Already it seems to be reviving around Sophy’s home; together you will only complete what her worthy parents have begun. But, dear Emile, you must not let so pleasant a life give you a distaste for sterner duties, if ever they are laid upon you; remember that the Romans sometimes left the plough to become consul. If the prince or the state calls you to the service of your country, leave all to fulfil the honourable duties of a citizen in the post assigned to you. If you find that duty onerous, there is a sure and honourable means of escaping from it; do your duty so honestly that it will not long be left in your hands. Moreover, you need not fear the difficulties of such a test; while there are men of our own time, they will not summon you to serve the state.”
Why may I not paint the return of Emile to Sophy and the end of their love, or rather the beginning of their wedded love! A love founded on esteem which will last with life itself, on virtues which will not fade with fading beauty, on fitness of character which gives a charm to intercourse, and prolongs to old age the delights of early love. But all such details would be pleasing but not useful, and so far I have not permitted myself to give attractive details unless I thought they would be useful. Shall I abandon this rule when my task is nearly ended? No, I feel that my pen is weary. Too feeble for such prolonged labours, I should abandon this if it were not so nearly completed; if it is not to be left imperfect it is time it were finished.
At last I see the happy day approaching, the happiest day of Emile’s life and my own; I see the crown of my labours, I begin to appreciate their results. The noble pair are united till death do part; heart and lips confirm no empty vows; they are man and wife. When they return from the church, they follow where they are led; they know not where they are, whither they are going, or what is happening around them. They heed nothing, they answer at random; their eyes are troubled and they see nothing. Oh, rapture! Oh, human weakness! Man is overwhelmed by the feeling of happiness, he is not strong enough to bear it.
There are few people who know how to talk to the newly-married couple. The gloomy propriety of some and the light conversation of others seem to me equally out of place. I would rather their young hearts were left to themselves, to abandon themselves to an agitation which is not without its charm, rather than that they should be so cruelly distressed by a false modesty, or annoyed by coarse witticisms which, even if they appealed to them at other times, are surely out of place on such a day.
I behold our young people, wrapped in a pleasant languor, giving no heed to what is said. Shall I, who desire that they should enjoy all the days of their life, shall I let them lose this precious day? No, I desire that they shall taste its pleasures and enjoy them. I rescue them from the foolish crowd, and walk with them in some quiet place; I recall them to themselves by speaking of them. I wish to speak, not merely to their ears, but to their hearts, and I know that there is only one subject of which they can think to-day.
“My children,” say I, taking a hand of each, “it is three years since I beheld the birth of the pure and vigorous passion which is your happiness to-day. It has gone on growing; your eyes tell me that it has reached its highest point; it must inevitably decline.” My readers can fancy the raptures, the anger, the vows of Emile, and the scornful air with which Sophy withdraws her hand from mine; how their eyes protest that they will adore each other till their latest breath. I let them have their way; then I continue—
“I have often thought that if the happiness of love could continue in marriage, we should find a Paradise upon earth. So far this has never been. But if it were not quite impossible, you two are quite worthy to set an example you have not received, an example which few married couples could follow. My children, shall I tell you what I think is the way, and the only way, to do it?”
They look at one another and smile at my simplicity. Emile thanks me curtly for my prescription, saying that he thinks Sophy has a better, at any rate it is good enough for him. Sophy agrees with him and seems just as certain. Yet in spite of her mockery, I think I see a trace of curiosity. I study Emile; his eager eyes are fixed upon his wife’s beauty; he has no curiosity for anything else; and he pays little heed to what I say. It is my turn to smile, and I say to myself, “I will soon get your attention.”
The almost imperceptible difference between these two hidden impulses is characteristic of a real difference between the two sexes; it is that men are generally less constant than women, and are sooner weary of success in love. A woman foresees man’s future inconstancy, and is anxious; it is this which makes her more jealous.1 When his passion begins to cool she is compelled to pay him the attentions he used to bestow on her for her pleasure; she weeps, it is her turn to humiliate herself, and she is rarely successful. Affection and kind deeds rarely win hearts, and they hardly ever win them back. I return to my prescription against the cooling of love in marriage.
“It is plain and simple,” I continue. “It consists in remaining lovers when you are husband and wife.”
“Indeed,” said Emile, laughing at my secret, “we shall not find that hard.”
“Perhaps you will find it harder than you think. Pray give me time to explain.
“Cords too tightly stretched are soon broken. This is what happens when the marriage bond is subjected to too great a strain. The fidelity imposed by it upon husband and wife is the most sacred of all rights; but it gives to each too great a power over the other. Constraint and love do not agree together, and pleasure is not to be had for the asking. Do not blush, Sophy, and do not try to run away. God forbid that I should offend your modesty! But your fate for life is at stake. For so great a cause, permit a conversation between your husband and your father which you would not permit elsewhere.
“It is not so much possession as mastery of which people tire, and affection is often more prolonged with regard to a mistress than a wife. How can people make a duty of the tenderest caresses, and a right of the sweetest pledges of love? It is mutual desire which gives the right, and nature knows no other. The law may restrict this right, it cannot extend it. The pleasure is so sweet in itself! Should it owe to sad constraint the power which it cannot gain from its own charms? No, my children, in marriage the hearts are bound, but the bodies are not enslaved. You owe one another fidelity, but not complaisance. Neither of you may give yourself to another, but neither of you belongs to the other except at your own will.
“If it is true, dear Emile, that you would always be your wife’s lover, that she should always be your mistress and her own, be a happy but respectful lover; obtain all from love and nothing from duty, and let the slightest favours never be of right but of grace. I know that modesty shuns formal confessions and requires to be overcome; but with delicacy and true love, will the lover ever be mistaken as to the real will? Will not he know when heart and eyes grant what the lips refuse? Let both for ever be master of their person and their caresses, let them have the right to bestow them only at their own will. Remember that even in marriage this pleasure is only lawful when the desire is mutual. Do not be afraid, my children, that this law will keep you apart; on the contrary, it will make both more eager to please, and will prevent satiety. True to one another, nature and love will draw you to each other.”
Emile is angry and cries out against these and similar suggestions. Sophy is ashamed, she hides her face behind her fan and says nothing. Perhaps while she is saying nothing, she is the most annoyed. Yet I insist, without mercy; I make Emile blush for his lack of delicacy; I undertake to be surety for Sophy that she will undertake her share of the treaty. I incite her to speak, you may guess she will not dare to say I am mistaken. Emile anxiously consults the eyes of his young wife; he beholds them, through all her confusion, filled with a voluptuous anxiety which reassures him against the dangers of trusting her. He flings himself at her feet, kisses with rapture the hand extended to him, and swears that beyond the fidelity he has already promised, he will renounce all other rights over her. “My dear wife,” said he, “be the arbiter of my pleasures as you are already the arbiter of my life and fate. Should your cruelty cost me life itself I would yield to you my most cherished rights. I will owe nothing to your complaisance, but all to your heart.”
Dear Emile, be comforted; Sophy herself is too generous to let you fall a victim to your generosity.
In the evening, when I am about to leave them, I say in the most solemn tone, “Remember both of you, that you are free, that there is no question of marital rights; believe me, no false deference. Emile will you come home with me? Sophy permits it.” Emile is ready to strike me in his anger. “And you, Sophy, what do you say? Shall I take him away?” The little liar, blushing, answers, “Yes.” A tender and delightful falsehood, better than truth itself!
The next day. . . . Men no longer delight in the picture of bliss; their taste is as much depraved by the corruption of vice as their hearts. They can no longer feel what is touching or perceive what is truly delightful. You who, as a picture of voluptuous joys, see only the happy lovers immersed in pleasure, your picture is very imperfect; you have only its grosser part, the sweetest charms of pleasure are not there. Which of you has seen a young couple, happily married, on the morrow of their marriage? their chaste yet languid looks betray the intoxication of the bliss they have enjoyed, the blessed security of innocence, and the delightful certainty that they will spend the rest of their life together. The heart of man can behold no more rapturous sight; this is the real picture of happiness; you have beheld it a hundred times without heeding it; your hearts are so hard that you cannot love it. Sophy, peaceful and happy, spends the day in the arms of her tender mother; a pleasant resting place, after a night spent in the arms of her husband.
The day after I am aware of a slight change. Emile tries to look somewhat vexed; but through this pretence I notice such a tender eagerness, and indeed so much submission, that I do not think there is much amiss. As for Sophy she is merrier than she was yesterday; her eyes are sparkling and she looks very well pleased with herself; she is charming to Emile; she ventures to tease him a little and vexes him still more.
These changes are almost imperceptible, but they do not escape me; I am anxious and I question Emile in private, and I learn that, to his great regret, and in spite of all entreaties, he was not permitted last night to share Sophy’s bed. That haughty lady had made haste to assert her right. An explanation takes place. Emile complains bitterly, Sophy laughs; but at last, seeing that Emile is really getting angry, she looks at him with eyes full of tenderness and love, and pressing my hand, she only says these two words, but in a tone that goes to his heart, “Ungrateful man!” Emile is too stupid to understand. But I understand, and I send Emile away and speak to Sophy privately in her turn.
“I see,” said I, “the reason for this whim. No one could be more delicate, and no one could use that delicacy so ill. Dear Sophy, do not be anxious, I have given you a man; do not be afraid to treat him as such. You have had the first fruits of his youth; he has not squandered his manhood and it will endure for you.
“My dear child, I must explain to you why I said what I did in our conversation of the day before yesterday. Perhaps you only understood it as a way of restraining your pleasures to secure their continuance. Oh, Sophy, there was another object, more worthy of my care. When Emile became your husband, he became your head, it is yours to obey; this is the will of nature. When the wife is like Sophy, it is, however, good for the man to be led by her; that is another of nature’s laws, and it is to give you as much authority over his heart, as his sex gives him over your person, that I have made you the arbiter of his pleasures. It will be hard for you, but you will control him if you can control yourself, and what has already happened shows me that this difficult art is not beyond your courage. You will long rule him by love if you make your favours scarce and precious, if you know how to use them aright. If you want to have your husband always in your power, keep him at a distance. But let your sternness be the result of modesty not caprice; let him find you modest not capricious; beware lest in controlling his love you make him doubt your own. Be all the dearer for your favours and all the more respected when you refuse them; let him honour his wife’s chastity, without having to complain of her coldness.
“Thus, my child, he will give you his confidence, he will listen to your opinion, will consult you in his business, and will decide nothing without you. Thus you may recall him to wisdom, if he strays, and bring him back by a gentle persuasion, you may make yourself lovable in order to be useful, you may employ coquetry on behalf of virtue, and love on behalf of reason.
“Do not think that with all this, your art will always serve your purpose. In spite of every precaution pleasures are destroyed by possession, and love above all others. But when love has lasted long enough, a gentle habit takes its place and the charm of confidence succeeds the raptures of passion. Children form a bond between their parents, a bond no less tender and a bond which is sometimes stronger than love itself. When you cease to be Emile’s mistress you will be his friend and wife; you will be the mother of his children. Then instead of your first reticence let there be the fullest intimacy between you; no more separate beds, no more refusals, no more caprices. Become so truly his better half that he can no longer do without you, and if he must leave you, let him feel that he is far from himself. You have made the charms of home life so powerful in your father’s home, let them prevail in your own. Every man who is happy at home loves his wife. Remember that if your husband is happy in his home, you will be a happy wife.
“For the present, do not be too hard on your lover; he deserves more consideration; he will be offended by your fears; do not care for his health at the cost of his happiness, and enjoy your own happiness. You must neither wait for disgust nor repulse desire; you must not refuse for the sake of refusing, but only to add to the value of your favours.”
Then, taking her back to Emile, I say to her young husband, “One must bear the yoke voluntarily imposed upon oneself. Let your deserts be such that the yoke may be lightened. Above all, sacrifice to the graces, and do not think that sulkiness will make you more amiable.” Peace is soon made, and everybody can guess its terms. The treaty is signed with a kiss, after which I say to my pupil, “Dear Emile, all his life through a man needs a guide and counsellor. So far I have done my best to fulfil that duty; my lengthy task is now ended, and another will undertake this duty. To-day I abdicate the authority which you gave me; henceforward Sophy is your guardian.”
Little by little the first raptures subside and they can peacefully enjoy the delights of their new condition. Happy lovers, worthy husband and wife! To do honour to their virtues, to paint their felicity, would require the history of their lives. How often does my heart throb with rapture when I behold in them the crown of my life’s work! How often do I take their hands in mine blessing God with all my heart! How often do I kiss their clasped hands! How often do their tears of joy fall upon mine! They are touched by my joy and they share my raptures. Their worthy parents see their own youth renewed in that of their children; they begin to live, as it were, afresh in them; or rather they perceive, for the first time, the true value of life; they curse their former wealth, which prevented them from enjoying so delightful a lot when they were young. If there is such a thing as happiness upon earth, you must seek it in our abode.
One morning a few months later Emile enters my room and embraces me, saying, “My master, congratulate your son; he hopes soon to have the honour of being a father. What a responsibility will be ours, how much we shall need you! Yet God forbid that I should let you educate the son as you educated the father. God forbid that so sweet and holy a task should be fulfilled by any but myself, even though I should make as good a choice for my child as was made for me! But continue to be the teacher of the young teachers. Advise and control us; we shall be easily led; as long as I live I shall need you. I need you more than ever now that I am taking up the duties of manhood. You have done your own duty; teach me to follow your example, while you enjoy your well-earned leisure.
THE TEMPLE PRESS LETCHWORTH ENGLAND
[1 ] If they had such a common master, he would be no other than the sovereign, and then the right of slavery resting on the right of sovereignty would not be its origin.
[1 ] These problems and theorems are mostly taken from the Treatise on the Social Contract, itself a summary of a larger work, undertaken without due consideration of my own powers, and long since abandoned.
[1 ] You will remember that I mean, in this context, the supreme magistrates or heads of the nation, the others being only their deputies in this or that respect.
[1 ] I only know one exception to this rule—it is China.
[1 ] In France it is the wives who first emancipate themselves; and necessarily so, for having very little heart, and only desiring attention, when a husband ceases to pay them attention they care very little for himself. In other countries it is not so; it is the husband who first emancipates himself; and necessarily so, for women, faithful, but foolish, importune men with their desires and only disgust them. There may be plenty of exceptions to these general truths; but I still think they are truths.