Gustave de Molinari, Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare: entretiens
sur les lois économiques et défense de la propriété (Evenings on Saint
Lazarus Street: Discussions on Economic Laws and the Defence of Property)
[A Draft of Liberty Fund's new translation]
[May 17, 2012]
[SUMMARY: The right to make a will. –Legislation
regulating inheritance. – The right of inheritance. – Its moral
outcomes. – Its material outcomes. – Comparison of French and
British agriculture. – On entail and its utility. The natural organization
of farming under a regime of free property.]
Title Page of the original 1849 edition
The photo of Molinari (1819-1912) which accompanied
his obituary in the Journal des économistes
Related Links in the Library:
Related Links in the Forum:
Molinari's book Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare; entretiens sur les
lois économiques et défense de la propriété. (Paris: Guillaumin, 1849)
is being translated by Liberty Fund. The translation was done by Dennis O'Keeffe
and it is being edited by David M. Hart. The critical apparatus of foontnotes
and glossary entries, and introduction are being provided by David Hart.
We welcome feedback from Molinari scholars to ensure that this edition will
be a great one and thus befitting Molinari in his centennial year.
page has a detailed Table of Contents and links to other Chapters.
The Fourth Evening
SUMMARY: The right to make a will. –Legislation regulating inheritance. – The
right of inheritance. – Its moral outcomes. – Its material outcomes. – Comparison
of French and British agriculture. – On entail and its utility. The
natural organization of farming under a regime of free property.
Those who have taken it upon themselves the right to put limitations on property
have not failed to limit its free disposition as well. The gifting, bequeathing,
lending and exchanging of property have all been subjected to a multitude of
The giving away of certain property is subject to irksome and costly formalities.
Making a will is even more constrained. Instead of leaving to the father of
the family the free disposition of his wealth, the law obliges him to leave
it in more or less equal portions to his legitimate children. If one of his
children feels wronged by the sharing out, he has the right to have the will
Are you are also attacking, therefore, this law which protects family and
I am attacking this law which is destructive of family and property.  It
is in the name of a higher law than that of fathers of families, that society
has regulated inheritance, is it not? Why, though, should it not go on to use
this superior right to claim for itself, tomorrow, this property which it had
at its disposal yesterday? If it has been able to say to the father of the
family “you will not dispose of your wealth according to your own will but
according to mine”, could it not very well also say to him “it suits me henceforth
that you alienate your wealth in my favor”? Is not the abolition of inheritance,
that is to say the elimination of individual property, subsumed in a law which
attributes to society the unchallengeable right to dispose of inheritance?
Is not the destruction of paternal authority, that is to say the [p. 94] destruction
of the family, likewise subsumed in a law which takes away from the father
of the family the free disposition of his wealth in order to grant his children
an effective right to an inheritance?
A right to an inheritance you say?
To tell children that they have a right to demand from their father virtually
equal shares in his inheritance, whatever their conduct has been, whatever
their feelings in his regard; to tell them they have the right to have his
will invalidated if they find themselves slighted in the sharing, is this not
to sanctify the right to an inheritance? Is it not to give the child a share
in his father’s property? Is this not to allow him to consider and demand as
a debt, what he once regarded and received as a kindness. Where nature made
a son, will your law not be creating a creditor?
But is this not a trifling thing, making a parent share his wealth fairly
[p95] between his children? Without the law which regulates the shares, would
not the children be endlessly frustrated – cheated and inveigled out
of what is rightfully theirs? Has not the law prevented all frauds and resolved
By breaking family links; by rendering the father’s authority illusory. No
doubt if the right to make a will obtained, the father might distribute his
wealth very badly. Is he not always held in check, however, by those powerful
restraints that no man-made law could possibly replace – paternal love
and the sense of justice? If those two feelings have been silenced in his heart,
do you think your law would make them speak out? Do you believe that the father
will not find some roundabout means of disposing of his wealth to his children’s
disadvantage? If these feelings are present in him, what good is your law?
And then there is the point that you posit equality of shares as the ideal
standard of equity. Are you entirely sure, however, that this brutal equality
is always just? Are you also quite sure that a father cannot favor one child
without robbing the others? By going so far as to admit that the son has to
all intents and purposes some claim on his father’s wealth…
What? The son would have no claim on the paternal inheritance? But if this
were so he could be robbed if there were no will.
The conclusion is false. The children’s claim is based in this case on the
likelihood of the legacy. The inheritance has to be theirs, not because they
possess a potential claim [p96] on that inheritance, but because the father
has probably bequeathed it to them.
By fathering a child, the father agrees to accept the moral obligation to
feed him and to prepare him to earn his living, nothing more and nothing less.
If it pleases him to give his child something extra, this is an outcome of
his own wishes.
Even allowing your alleged right to an inheritance, however, do you believe
that a bad son has the same claim on the paternal estate as a good one? Do
you think that a father is bound, from the point of view of natural equity,
to bequeath part of his wealth to some miserable creature who has been the
despair and shame of his family? Do you not think, on the contrary, that he
will be bound to deprive this degraded being of the wherewithal for indulging
his evil passions? Can the right to disinherit not be useful and just sometimes?
In the eyes of your legislators, however, the father is a creature at once
bereft of the notion of justice and of paternal feeling. He is a ferocious
beast who incessantly watches his progeny in order to devour them. The law
must intervene to protect them. Society must bind this heartless barbarian,
this so-called father, hand and foot to prevent his sacrificing his innocent
family to his base inclinations.
Our sad legislators have not noticed that their law would be efficacious only
in weakening respect for authority and family feeling. Does respect for authority
still exist in France?
Ah! You have just touched on the most lamentable scourge [p97] of our time.
The present generation has indeed lost the respect for authority – that
is only too true. The Union has published some admirable articles on the subject. Who
will restore respect for authority for us? The son no longer respects his father.
Grownups respect nothing, not even God. Respect for authority is the very anchor
of salvation for our society, tossed hither and thither by the storms of revolution,
like some ship…
Please do not go on about it. We have read the articles in the Union.
You broke that anchor of salvation with your own hands, the day you attacked
the sacred rights of the father of the family, the day when you gave the son
a claim on his father’s property, the day when by taking away from him the
fearsome weapon of disinheritance, you handed him over to the mercies of his
What about the house of correction?
Yes, this is what you have given him in exchange. Short of having lost all
human feeling, though, can a father consent to his son’s being put on this
highway to penal servitude? Better to suffer rebellion than draw infamy down
on oneself and family.
I know quite well that the father can defy the law and disinherit his intractable
son in fact if not legally; but he is forced to act in secret, avoiding the
greedy and jealous eye of his creditor. He no longer uses [p98] legitimate
means to bequeath his wealth; indeed he makes an immoral infringement on his
son’s claim to that wealth. His behavior is no longer that of an owner freely
handing over what is his; it is rather that of a debtor surreptitiously getting
rid of a mortgaged property. That which would secure the father’s authority,
if the right to inheritance did not exist, serves today only to debase it.
I will not speak to you of the hatreds which spring up in families when a
father considers it appropriate to favor one of his children. In countries
where there is no right to inheritance, in the United States for example, the
other children respectfully bow their heads in the face of this sovereign decision
of the paternal will, and they conceive no adverse feelings towards the child
whom the father has favored. In countries where the right to an inheritance
is recognized, such an act becomes, on the contrary, a profound source of family
disunion. In fact is not this straightforward act, often so amply justified
by the circumstances – the frailty or incapacity of the preferred child,
the care he has bestowed on his father – from the point of view of the
legality you espouse, a veritable plundering, a theft? Your law is a new species
of harpy, which
has corrupted family feelings by interfering with them. Having brought about
this, do you now complain that the disorder into which you threw the family
now propagates itself in the society at large?
But if the moral results of the law of equal shares leave something to be
desired, does that law not have at least some admirable outcomes? It has made
everyone a proprietor. Every peasant [p99] with his plot of land to work has
been sheltered from want.
Are you really sure of this? For my part I hold that no law has been so disastrous
for the situation of the laboring poor, both in farming and industry.
Would you prefer, by any chance, the rights of the oldest and of entail?
This is abuse of another sort; another kind of attack on property rights.
In truth, however, I do think I would prefer them really.
The dividing up of plots is
certainly the curse of our farming and Association is
without doubt our last hope.
I think so too.
What? You prefer the feudal arrangements of primogeniture and entail to equal
sharing. Yet you are for association. Now there is a manifest contradiction.
I do not think so. What are the essential conditions of any economic production?
Stability, with security of possession on the one hand; a bringing together
of adequate powers of production on the other. Well the present arrangement
comprises neither stability nor sufficiency of productive powers.
I agree with you that the leases are too short-term and that our inheritance
laws have made undivided ownership of farming plots singularly precarious;
I agree too that farming is short of capital but what is to be done about it?
There is talk of the organization of agricultural credit and for my part I
would think along those lines were it not so difficult to find a good system.
A system of agricultural credit, however excellent, would remedy nothing.
Under present property arrangements, an increase in the number of institutions
of credit would scarcely serve to lower the rate of interest in farming areas.
It would be different if our farming units were soundly established like those
You dare to suggest England as a model for us? Oh, well I grant you that the
state of the helots in
our countryside is truly wretched, but is it not a thousand times preferable
to that of the English peasants? Are not the English workers exploited by an
aristocracy which devours their substance much as the vulture devoured Prometheus’
not England the country where the saddest scenes of the dark drama of man exploiting
man are played out? Is not England the great whore of capital? England! Oh
do not speak to me of England!
Yet the condition of the English peasant, exploited [p101] by the aristocracy,
is infinitely superior to that of the peasant proprietor of France.
Come on now!
I notice in your library two works by Messieurs Mounier and Rubichon, one
called Agriculture in France and England and another called The Role of the
Nobility in Modern Societies, which will furnish me with indisputable evidence
in support of what I am saying.
I humbly confess not to have read them.
That was a mistake on your part. You would have found all the information
needed to settle the question which concerns us. It is a summary of the voluminous
inquiries published by order of the English Parliament, on the state of agriculture
and the condition of farming people. As I leaf through it at random, I find
an extract from the most recent inquiry (1846).
The Chairman of the Inquiry is speaking to Mr Robert Baker, an Essex farmer,
who works some 230 hectares.
Q. What is the standard diet of agricultural laborers?
A. They eat meat and potatoes. If flour is cheap, however, they do
not eat potatoes. This year (1846) they are eating best white bread. Mr Robert
Hyde-Gregg, for some twenty years one of the biggest manufacturers in Great
Britain, [p102] for his part gives the following answers to questions on the
situation of laborers in manufacturing.
Q. When you say that the laborer in manufacturing districts eats a lot of
potatoes, do you mean by this that, as in Ireland, potatoes are the people’s
basic food, or are they consumed along with meat?
A. In general the dinner consists of potatoes and pork, while the breakfast
and supper consist of tea and bread.
Q. Do the workers generally have pork?
A. I can fairly say that they all eat meat for dinner.
Q. During the time you have been observing things, has there been a great
change in the diet of industrial laborers? Have they replaced oat flour with
A. This change has certainly taken place. I remember that in all the workpeople’s
houses one used to see flat cakes of rough bread hung up; there is nothing
like that now.
Q. Today’s population, then, as far as bread goes, has improved its diet,
using wheat flour rather than oat flour?
R. Yes, absolutely.
Now I will present some evidence relating to workers in France and England.
Mr Joseph Cramp, expert land evaluator in the country of Kent, and a farmer
for forty four years, came to France and took the trouble to make himself familiar
with the condition of French agriculture. He was interviewed as to the condition
of farm laborers in Normandy.
Q. Following your observations of the conditions of the workers in [p103]
Normandy, do you think they are better dressed and better fed than the workers
in the Isle of Thanet,  where
A. No. I have been in their homes, and I have seen them having their meals,
which are such that I hope never to see an Englishman sitting down to such
Q. The workers in the Isle of Thanet eat the best white bread, is that not
Q. And in Normandy the farm workers do not eat it?
R. No. They were eating bread whose color came close to that of this inkwell
Q. How many hectoliters of wheat are produced per hectare in the Isle of
A. About twenty nine.
Q. Having lived and farmed in the Isle of Thanet for so long, can you say
if the condition of farm laborers has improved or worsened since you first
got to know the region?
A. It has improved.
Q. In every respect?
Q. Do you think then that the workers are better dressed and educated?
A. Better fed, better dressed, better educated.
You see then that the condition of the agrarian populations in England is
infinitely superior to that of ours. These people do not own the land. The
proprietors of the land in Great Britain [p104] are some thirty five or thirty
six thousand souls, mostly descendants of former conquerors.
Yes, the land in England belongs to the aristocracy and the English people
pay two or three billion a year to that haughty and idle caste for the right
to work the soil.
It is true that this is rather expensive. So the English have begun to cut
back on the landlords’ share by
abolishing the Corn Laws. You will see,
however, that even at this oppressively inflated price, the English have found
it really advantageous to maintain their aristocracy, while we committed the
sin of hastily eliminating ours.
Oh, dear me!
Let me finish. How have the English succeeded in drawing from their soil much
more and far better produce than we have from ours. The answer is in perfecting
their agriculture, in making it undergo a series of progressive transformations.
British landowners successively replaced their small farms, insufficiently
capitalized, by larger farms [p105] much more heavily capitalized. It is thanks
to this progressive substitution of factory-like agriculture for the small
workshop approach to farming that progress was achieved. The inquiry carried
out by MM. Mounier and Rubichon, gives the following information on the distribution
of the British population:
Families working in agriculture, 961,134
Families working in industry, commerce etc., 2,453,041
These 961, 134 families employed in agriculture supplied some 1,055,982 able
bodied workers to cultivate, 13,849,320 hectares, yielding an output of 4,000,
In France agricultural output yielded only 3,523,000,861,000 francs in 1840,
yet it was worked by a population of 18,000,000 individuals yielding an active
workforce of five to six millions. This means that the output of a French farm
laborer is four to five times less productive than that of one in England.
You must understand now why our population is less well fed than that of Great
You are taking no account of the enormous tribute the English farmers pay
to the aristocracy.
If as the statistics show, the farming population of England is better fed
than ours, despite the tribute paid to the aristocracy, is this not incontestable
proof that by producing more they also receive more?
This is clear.
And if it is true that owing to the care of the aristocracy, British agriculture
has made immense and rapid progress; if it is true that it is because of this
aristocratic management that a farm worker produces more and earns more in
England than in France, has not England been right to preserve her aristocracy?
Yes, but at least the French peasant is the owner of the land.
Is it better to earn ten on your own land or twenty on land belonging to some
It is better to earn twenty anywhere.
Very well! Is it really the case, however, that there is an indispensable
link between these two things, the preservation of the aristocracy and the
progress of British agriculture? Is it not likely that British agriculture
would have achieved even greater progress if England had got rid of its aristocracy,
as we have got rid of ours. Has not French agriculture made progress since
I do not think it has. Mounier and Rubichon say very strongly that instead
of progressing it has regressed. A field which yielded 10 before 1789 now yields
only 4. Perhaps they exaggerate the [p107] ill. Note, however, one incontestable
fact: if the volume of subsistence foods produced by a given labor force has
not declined, the quality of the overall mass of subsistence foods has fallen.
It is notorious that the consumption of meat has diminished. In Paris itself,
this centre where all the productive forces of France converge, they eat less
meat than in 1789. According to Lavoisier, the
average consumption in Paris (including fowl and game) was then 81.5 kilos
per head; by 1838 it had fallen to 62.3 kilos. The fall was no less marked
in the rest of the country. According to old documents quoted in the Imperial
statistics, the average consumption of each inhabitant of France (excluding
cooked meats) was: in 1789, 13.13 kilos; in 1830 only 12.36 kilos; and in 1840,
11.29 kilos. The consumption of an inferior meat – pork – has on
the contrary, grown. Today per capita consumption is 8.65 kilos per head.
To sum up, the consumption of meat in France is at only 8.65 kilos per head.
In the USA the average is 122 kilos.
In England it is 68 kilos.
In Germany it is 55 kilos.
Moreover, it is probable that our consumption will go on falling constantly,
if our farming system stays the same, for the price of meat goes on rising
If we divide France into nine regions, we find that the price of meat has
risen between 1824 and 1840:
In the first region, the North West, by 11%
In the second region, the North, by 22% [p108]
In the third region, the North East, by 28%
In the fourth region, the West, by 17%
In the fifth region, the centre, by 19%
In the sixth region, the East, by 21%,
In the seventh region, the South West by 23%
In the eighth region, the South by 30%
In the ninth region, the South East by 38%
Well you know that the retail price of meat is the surest index of a people’s
I agree with you here; but show us once again, very clearly, the connection
which exists, according to you, between the deterioration of our agriculture
and our law of the equal division of inherited property. How does the one lead
to the other?
I have forgotten one circumstance, namely that our soil is naturally more
fertile than the British soil…But to answer your question, let me note that
England owes the stability of its farming to the care taken by the aristocracy
and to the laws which in that country ensure, at least in part, freedom of
Freedom of inheritance you say. What about entails and the rights of the first
They are perfectly free in that no law obliges the father of the family to
establish them. It is tradition which decides and that tradition is based on
Here is what entails consist in.
At the time of the marriage of his eldest son, usually, or at any other time
convenient for him to choose, the owner of the land bequeaths his property
to his eldest grandson, or in the absence of a grandson, his eldest granddaughter.
If at the time of the entail, the owner has a living son and living grandson,
he can extend the entail further and designate his great-grandson or great-granddaughter
but his right covers only the first unborn generation. In Scotland there is
no such limit and a proprietor can entail his wealth in perpetuity.
The act of entail once accomplished, the owner and his living inheritors lose
the right to dispose freely of the land; they are now only its usufructuaries.
They cannot burden it with mortgages, nor sell it whole or in part. An entailed
property can be neither seized nor confiscated. It is regarded as a sacrosanct
legacy which no one is allowed to deflect from its intended purpose.
At the age of twenty-one the designated beneficiary for whom the entail has
operated can break it, but does not commonly do so except to renew it, adding
to it certain clauses necessitated by the current situation the family finds
itself in. In this way properties are handed on, whole and intact, from generation
Now let us consider what purpose entails have.
They bestow on farms what our own farms lack, namely stability. In France
perspectives are only for a lifetime; in England everything is reckoned in
the long term. Our farms [p110] are exposed to endless fragmentation by being
shared out; British farms run no risks of that kind.
Does this risk really have the importance you give it? It matters rather little
whether the land is more or less split up, provided it is well farmed.
Ask the farmers and they will tell you that all farms have to be of a certain
size to be worked with maximum economy. This is easy to understand. You can
employ the most advanced methods and tools only when the farming is on a very
large scale. In England ordinary farms are of three hundred and fifty or four
hundred hectares. These farms are heavily capitalized. In France the number
of these large farms is extremely limited.
He who sets up some agrarian enterprise does not know whether it will be fragmented
and destroyed when he dies. There is nothing he can do to prevent it from fragmentation.
Has not the law limited his right to bequeath? He is therefore not very enthusiastic
about heavy investment in agriculture. Is the ordinary farmer more so? In France
the leases are very short-term; it is a marvel if you see one of twenty one
years. I do not need to explain to you the reason for these short-term leases:
you will have guessed it! When ownership itself is short-term, it is not possible
to arrange long leases. When, however, the farmer himself [ p111] occupies
his land for only three, six or nine years, he invests the least possible capital;
he economizes on fertilizer, he does not put up fencing, he does not renew
his equipment; and on the other hand he exhausts the soil as much as possible.
In England the stability which the system of entails has given to agriculture,
has brought stability also to rental farming, in the form of long-term leases.
So the farmers, confident of reaping themselves what they have sown, generally
apply their economic efforts into making the land fertile.
Yet the farmer is subject, in England as in France, to the tyranny of landowners.
Yes, but it is a very gentle tyranny. In England there are farmers who have
held the same farm, father and son, from time immemorial. Most have no lease,
so strong is the confidence which the landowners inspire in them. This confidence
is rarely deceived; only rarely will an owner decide to expel a farmer with
age-old links to his family. There are, nevertheless, in England as elsewhere,
different modes of tenure. In the North a system of leases covering the life-times
of three persons is commonly used. The farmer designates himself, and likewise
two of his children, and the lease runs until the death of the last one of
the three. The average duration of these leases is estimated at fifty four
years. When one of the designated children has just died, the farmer ordinarily
is authorized to substitute another name [p112] for that of the dead person,
and thus to prolong the duration of the lease.
When the lease has a fixed term, its duration is commonly determined by that
of the crop rotations. For rotations of six and nine years, it is nineteen
years but it is rare for the lease not to be renewed.
The sizeable fluctuations to which the price of wheat has been exposed for
some time, have given rise to a new form of lease. I want to speak about changeable
leases, leases varying from year to year according to ups and downs of the
cereal markets. A farm will be rented for example for the value of a thousand
quarters of wheat; if in 1845 the price of wheat is fifty shillings, the farmer
has to pay two thousand eight hundred pounds sterling in farm rent; if in 1846
the price rises to sixty shillings he will pay three thousand pounds sterling.
The average price of wheat in the county settles these evaluations.
We can see that farmers can safely risk their capital in enterprises so solidly
based. We can see too that capitalists will readily lend to them. The big farmers
manage to borrow at four per cent and sometimes even at three. One runs in
fact almost no risk investing one’s capital in the soil. Farms are not exposed
to losing their value by fragmentation or sale intended to end their single
ownership. Farmers and landowners being established, so to speak, in perpetuity,
provide lenders with maximum guarantees. Hence the low rates of interest in
agriculture; hence also the considerable numbers of banks established to serve
as intermediaries between capitalists and entrepreneurs in the agriculture
owners or farmers.
[p113] The English people, endlessly pictured to you as deprived of any ownership
of the land in Great Britain, in reality possess far more landed wealth than
the French people themselves. If they do not use their capital to buy actual
land, they do invest it in the land itself whose productivity they thus augment.
In France on the contrary people buy the land but they invest scarcely any
capital in it. It could not be otherwise. One does not happily lend to a small
farmer whose existence is only half assured for a few years; one even hesitates
to lend to the small proprietor whose tiny plot of land may, from one day to
the next, be split up yet again between a number of inheritors. Add to this
the costly formalities, the delays and insecurity of mortgage lending and you
have the explanation of the high interest rates in agriculture.
Yes, usury is gnawing away at our countryside.
Usury perhaps! Examine
however the composition of the ten or fifteen per cent which our farm people
pay to the usurers, weigh up the risks of loss and the expenses involved and
you will be convinced that this usury is in no way illegitimate. You will be
convinced that in respect of the extent and the likelihood of agricultural
risk, the interest on loans made to agriculture is not in any way worse than
the interest on ordinary loans. Since the agricultural banks which people are
so keen on will not eliminate these risks, they will contribute only feebly
to bringing down the rate of agricultural interest.
So what must be done then to restore to our farming lands the security they
have lost? Should we re-establish entails?
God forbid! We must first of all restore to owners the right of disposing
freely of their property. This way we will slow down the dividing up of land
and give farms a degree of that precious stability which they are lacking today.
Capital will then flow more readily into agriculture and its price will fall.
If at the same time one rids the soil of the heavy taxes which afflict it and
if one improves our mortgage arrangements, if we free our industrial and farming
associations from the shackles which Imperial legislation has fastened on them,
we will soon see a veritable revolution at work in our agriculture. Numerous
companies will form to develop the land as happened for the operation of the
railways and mining etc. Now these organizations having an interest in establishing
themselves in the long term, will mean that the farms will acquire an almost
unshakeable stability. Split up into shares, the ownership of the land will
change and will be shared without farming feeling in the slightest under assault.
Agriculture will set itself up in the most economic way possible.
Yes, applying the principle of Association to agriculture will put an end
to our woes.
Perhaps we do not understand association in the same [p115] way. Whatever may
be the case I think that the future of our agriculture and of our industry
belongs to the anonymous limited company. Outside
this form of development, at once flexible and stable, I see no way of keeping
the effort of work always proportionate to the resistance of nature. While
we have been awaiting the setting up of such an arrangement, we have been under
too much pressure to have done with the old institutions. By destroying entails
hastily, by then hindering the establishment of farming companies, we have left agriculture to all
the miseries of fragmentation. Production carried out in progressively smaller
working areas has meant retrogression rather than progress. The labor of the
farm worker has become less and less productive. While the English worker,
aided by machinery perfected by the large agricultural sector produces five,
the French worker produces only one and a half, and the greater part of this
feeble output goes to the capitalists who risk their funds in our poor agricultural
This is the explanation of the poverty which is gnawing away the French countryside.
This is why we are threatened by a new Jacquerie. Do not attribute
this Jacquerie to socialism, attribute it rather to those miserable law makers
who while decreeing with one hand equality of sharing, hindered with the other
the formation of industrial companies and
heaped taxes on farming. These are the guilty men!
Perhaps we will succeed in avoiding the catastrophes which such lamentable
errors prepared the way for, but we will have to hurry. From day to day the
evil gets worse; from day to day France’s situation gets closer to that [p116]
of Ireland. But
our peasants do not have the forbearance of the Irish peasants…..
Ah! We live in very sad times. The countryside is rotten.
Whose fault is it, if not that of the legislators who have attacked the stability
of property and the sanctity of the family? The Socialist preachers can attack
these two holy institutions as much as they like, they will never harm them
as much as you yourselves did, by inscribing in your Legal Codes the right
to an inheritance.
Molinari’s on Legislation about Making a Will
The right to make one’s will is limited in France, mainly by Articles 913
and 915 of the Civil Code.
Art. 913. Gifts, either by way of acts between living persons, or by will
and testament, may not exceed half the wealth of the benefactor if he has
one living child at the time of his death; a third if he has two [p93] living
children; a quarter if he has three or more children.
Art. 915. Gifts, either by way of acts between living persons, or by will
and testament, may not exceed half the wealth of the benefactor if he has
one or several ascendants on either the paternal or maternal side, or three
quarters if he has ascendants on one side only.
It must be said in justification of the authors of the Civil Code, however,
that they had had predecessors more illiberal still. By the law of 7th March
1793, the Convention had completely abolished the right to make a will. This
law was conceived as follows:
One mode of Inheritance. The right to dispose of one’s wealth, either following
one’s death, or between living persons, or by contractual donation in direct
line of descent, is abolished: in consequence, all descendants will have
an equal right to share the wealth of their ascendants.
The authors of the Civil Code were unanimous in recognising that [page 94]
this law had made a grave attack on paternal authority. Unfortunately they
did not dare do more than half reform it.
Under the Roman Republic, the unlimited right to bequeath had been consecrated
by the Law of the Twelve Tables. Divers successive attacks were made on this
right, however. Justinian limited the disposable portion of the inheritance
to a third when there were four children and a half when there were five or
In England, one can dispose in one’s will of all one’s real estate, without
restrictions and of a third of one’s movable property; the other two thirds
belong to the wife and children. Landed property goes by right to the eldest
son, only when there is no will.
In the United States the right of bequeathing is completely free.
 Under the Old Regime there existed the law of entail (“substitution”)
which was designed to preserve aristocratic land holdings by preventing
their being sold or divided. During the Revolution the Law of 1791 required
the equal division of property among the children. [See the glossary entry
 See Molinari’s long footnote on the inheritance laws as defined by the
Civil Code at the end of the chapter.
 The most detailed defense of property by an Economist was provided by
Charles Comte in the Traité
de la Propriété (1834) where he says “The capacity to dispose of things is one of
the essential elements of all property... If I had wanted to combat, in
this book, the errors which spring from the Abbey Raynal on the right of
children to receive the property which their parents leave upon their death,
I would have argued that the spirit of family is one of the principal causes
behind the production and the conservation of wealth; that a man in order
to ensure the survival of his children devotes himself to working and imposes
on himself sacrifices which no other feeling produces in him; that families
develop in themselves habits which are in keeping with their standard of
living; and that if the wealth of an individual is not allowed to be passed
on to his descendants then it will impose the harshest deprivations upon
them …; and finally, that a nation where children are prevented from
inheriting property from their parents would descend in a few short years
to a level much lower than the inhabitants of Egypt under the Mamelukes
or the Greeks under the Turks.” [See Charles Comte, Traité
de la Propriété, vol. 2, Chap. LIV "Des idées
rétrogrades contre la propriété. Conclusion, pp. 470, 478-79.]
 Molinari distinguishes between the “droit à l’héritage” (right to an
inheritance) and “droit de l’héritage” (the right of a property owner to
grant an inheritance). He puts the former expression in italics in order
to question its legitimacy. This distinction is very similar to the one
the Economists made in their debates with the socialists between the “right
to work” (‘le droit au travail” - or right to a job provided at taxpayer
expence) and the "right of working” (la liberté du travail), by which
they meant the right of any individual to pursue an occupation or activity
without any restraints imposed upon him by the state. [See the glossary
entry on “Entail and Inheritance.”]
 The monarchist and legitimist newspaper L'Union monarchique was
created in 1847 when 3 small newspapers were amalgamated: L'Echo
française (1829-1847), La
Quotidienne (1814-1847) (the leading ultra-royalist
newspaper of the Restoration), and La France (1834-1847)
(its subtitle was "Organ of the monarchical and Religious Interests
of Europe"). L'Union monarchique changed
its name to L'Union in 1848. It should not be confused with the Saint-Simonian newspaper
of the same name. [See the glossary entry on “Press (Conservative)”.]
 In Greek mythology a "Harpy” (or "snatcher") was a winged
being which stole food from Phineas, the King of Thrace.
 The technical terms Molinari uses here are “le droit d’aînesse” (primogentiure
or the right of inheritance of the oldest son) and “la substitution” (entail,
or the division of inherited property which is fixed by law). [See the
glossary entry on “Entail and Inheritance.”]
 The French word is “morcellement”. The economists were divided over the
pros and cons of large-scale versus small-scale farming. The Physiocrats
and Adam Smith believed that small-scale farming was more profitable because
the farmer had a very direct and close personal interest in making it so.
In the 19th century Sismondi shared this view based upon his study of the
Italian peasantry. On the other hand the English traveller Arthur Young
thought that the poverty in rural France on the eve of the French Revolution
was due to the excessive subdivision of farms which made them unprofitable
to run. This view was also shared by Thomas Malthus. McCulloch believed
that the greater productivity of British agriculture could be explained
by its inheritance laws which encouraged the preservation of larger estates.
[See A. Legoyt, “Morcellement,” DEP,
vol. 2, pp. 242-50, and E. de Parieu, “Succession,” DEP, vol. 2, pp. 670-78.]
 Depending upon what kind of socialist “The Socialist” is, the term “Association”
will have different meanings. Some of the more extreme socialist groups
like the Fourierists advocated the communal ownership of land and its cooperative
working by all members of the community. Another possibility is that small
private landowner would pool their resources in some kind of co-operative
arrangement. The Economist agrees but the kind of “Association” he has
in mind are large-scale for profit capitalist agri-businesses. A. Clément
distinguishes between associations which arise in the market, associations
organized by voluntary communities such as the Fourierists, and state organized
associations like an army. As the size of the association increases Clément
argues that economic exchanges and competition within the association are
reduced, thus making them less and less efficient. [See Ambroise Clément,
“Association,” DEP, vol. 1, pp. 78-85.]
 Wolowski argues that the annual return on agricultural land was at best
3% but the interest paid on new capital for investment in farming activities
was 6-8%. This led to calls for the state to provide subsidised loans for
small farmers which was discussed in the Constituent Assembly of the new
Second Republic in October 1848. Liberal opponents of the scheme like Léon
Faucher and Thiers warned the Assembly of the inflationary dangers of such
as scheme and reminded them of previous efforts such as Law’s investment
bubble and the revolutionary currency, the assignats, which was based upon
the sale of confiscated land for its value. Wolowski noted that state subsidised
agricultural credit would lead to a “monstrous issuing of paper money”
which was only “the sterile multiplication of the sign of wealth.” [See
Wolowski, “Crédit foncier”, DEP,
vol., 1, pp. 497-508.]
 The Helots were the subject agricultural workers who supported the Spartans.
They were little more than slaves and could be killed with impunity by
 Prometheus was a Greek Titan who supposedly stole fire from Zeus in order
to give it to mankind. Fire represented not only warmth and cooking, but
also knowledge of technology in general. Prometheus was punished by Zeus
by being tied to a rock and having his liver eaten every day by an eagle.
Every night his liver would grow back and his ordeal would be repeated
the next day. Edgar Quinet (1803-187) was a republican politician, professor
of languages, and playwright. He was elected twice to the National Assembly
during the 1848 Revolution. As a keen theatre goer Molinari might have
seen his play “Prométhée” (Prometheus) which was written in 1838. Quinet
has Prometheus explain why he brought fire to mankind:
"I blew on the cinders and made
them feel the spirit: Obscure books, burning questions, Written during
the night on the brow of nations, The enigma of death, the enigma of life,
Liberty, the one idol which I sacrifice to, Who then, if it is not me,
will bring these things from the heavens?” Quinet also wrote a play called "Les
Esclaves” (The Slaves) (1853) in which Spartacus plays a major role and
which Molinari might also have seen (see note on Spartacus on p. ???).
[See, Edgar Quinet, Œuvres
complètes: Prométhée. Napoléon. Les esclaves. Volume 8 of Œuvres complètes (Paris: Pagnerre, 1857), p. 112.
 Maurice Rubichon (1766-1849) and his nephew L. Mounier wrote a series
of books comparing the standard of living of British and French workers
(especially agricultural workers) using official reports of government
inquiries. Molinari conflates two of them in his first reference: De l'Agriculture
en France, d'après les documents officiels (1846) and Des
manufactures et de la condition des ouvriers employés hors de l'agriculture
dans la Grande-Bretagne et en Irlande (1840-43). The second book he refers to is De l'action de la
nobles et des classes supérieures dans les sociétés modernes (1848). [See the glossary entry on “Mounier and Rubichon.”]
 Molinari is quoting from Rubichon, L’Action de la noblesse
(1848), chap. II “De la récolte en Angleterre,”pp. 28-30.
 The Isle of Thanet is no longer an island as the channel which separated
it from the mainland has silted up. It is the most easterly point in Kent,
 Molinari uses the English word “landlords”in the French edition.
 Sir Robert Peel, under pressure brought to bear on the British Parliament
by Richard Cobden’s Anti-Corn Law League, abolished most protective tariffs
on the importation of corn (wheat) in 1846. Bastiat and the French Economists
were inspired by this example to do something similar in France. [See the
glossary entries on “Peel”, “Cobden,”“Anti-Corn-Law League,”“Bastiat,”and
“The Free Trade Association”.]
 Molinari here is making a play on words. He wants to make the point that
industry became more productive by replacing the small artisan workshop
with large-scale factory production, and that the same should be done to
agriculture. He thus he argues that farms run like a “petit atelier” (small
worksop) should be replaced by farms which will be operated like “la manufacture
agricole” (agricultural factory).
 The chemist Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) was a wealthy tax farmer or
collector (for which he was executed during the Terror) and a pioneer in
collecting information about the diets and standard of living of ordinary
French people. He wrote De
la Richesse territorial du Royaume de France (1791)
and Essai sur la population
de la ville de Paris (no date) which were edited
by Molinari and published by Guillaumin in 1847).
- Speech delivered by M. Guizot in the discussion of the Commercial Treaty
with Sardinia. Session of the 31st March, 1845. Molinari correctly
quotes the speech by Guizot. [See, Procès-verbaux
des séances de la Chambre des Députés. Session 1845. Tome
III. Du 11 au 31 mars 1845. Annexes no. 37 à 59 (Paris: L'Imprimérie de
A. Henry, 1845), pp. 271-72.]
 Molinari uses the term “la liberté de l’héritage” (the right to bestow
an inheritance) not “la liberté à l’héritage” (the right to an inheritance)
here. [See note ??? above.]
 See the discussion on Scottish inheritance law in J.R. McCulloch, Chap.
III “Origin of Entails,”pp. 43-79 in A
Treatise on the Succession to Property vacant by Death (1848).
 “Entrepreneurs d’industrie agricole”. [See the glossary entry
"Entrepreneur” and the different kinds of entrepreneurs Molinari discusses”
 Molinari wrote the entry on usury in the DEP which he describes as “a more or less imaginary offense”: “Usure,” DEP, vol. 2, pp. 790-95.
 [See the glossary entry on “Association” on the difference between the
Socialist’s understanding of “Association” with a capital “A” and the Economist’s
understanding of “association” with a lower case a.”]
 Molinari uses the phrase “la société anonyme perpétuelle.”
 Molinari is again teasing the Socialist who uses the word “Association”
in the previous paragraph to mean the common ownership and communal production
of farming. Molinari responds by saying he too is in favour of “associations
agricoles” which we have translated as “farming companies” as both the
French words “association” and “société” can be translated as “company.”
[See an earlier footnote on this difference of meaning of “Association”
for the Socialist and the Economist.]
 The Jacquerie was a peasant revolt which took place in northern France
during the Hundred Years War in the summer of 1358. It got its name from
the fact that the peasants were dismissively referred to as "Jacques
Bonhomme” (or "John Everyman”or John Goodfellow"). The peasants
revolted against the imposition of new taxes and forced labour by the nobility
to help pay for the war. After some weeks of uprising the peasants were
brutally repressed and thousands were killed. It should be noted that a
small, short-lived magazine which Bastiat and Molinari started during the
uprising in Paris of June 1848 was called "Jacques Bonhomme.” [See
the glossary entry on “Jacques Bonhomme.”]
 Molinari uses the expression “les sociétés industrielles”which we have
translated as industrial companies but one should keep in mind the special
meaning which the Economists gave to the word “industry”and “industrial”especially
in the work of Charles Dunoyer. [See the glossary entry on “Industry”.]
 The so-called "Great Irish Famine” (also known as the Irish Potato
Famine) took place between 1845 and 1852 as a result of a disease of the
potato (potato blight) which caused the crop to fail, leading to the death
of nearly 1 million people and the emigration of another million or so.
One consequence of the famine in its early years was to spur opponents
of the Corn Laws (which kept the price of wheat artificially high) into
an organized opposition group known as the Anti-Corn Law League, headed
by Richard Cobden. The Corn Laws were successfully repealed in 1846. [See
the glossary entries on "Cobden”and the "Anti-Corn Law League."]
 The economists were very interested in what Alexis de Tocqueville had
to say about inheritance laws in America. McCulloch used a quote from Democracy
in America, vol. 1 (1830) to open his Treatise
of the Succession to Property (1848): "I am
astonished that ancient and modern political writers have not attributed
a greater influence on the course of human affairs to the laws of landed
inheritance.” Parieu in his article in the DEP continues this quote at length: "These laws belong, it is true,
to the civil order; but they should be placed at the head of all political
institutions, for they have an incredible influence on the social state
of peoples, political laws being just the expression of the social state.
In addition, the laws of inheritance have a sure and uniform way
of operating on society; in a sense they lay hold of generations before
their birth. Through them, man is armed with an almost divine power over
the future of his fellows. The law-maker regulates the inheritance of citizens
once, and he remains at rest for centuries: his work put in motion, he
can keep his hands off; the machine acts on its own power, and moves as
if self-directed toward an end set in advance. Constituted in a certain
way, the law of inheritance reunites, concentrates, gathers property and,
soon after, power, around some head; in a way it makes aristocracy spring
from the soil. Driven by other principles and set along another path, its
action is even more rapid; it divides, shares, disseminates property and
power. Sometimes people are then frightened by the rapidity of its march.
Despairing of stopping its movement, they seek at least to create difficulties
and obstacles before it; they want to counterbalance its action with opposing
efforts; useless exertions! It crushes or sends flying into pieces all
that gets in its way; it constantly rises and falls on the earth until
nothing is left in sight but a shifting and intangible dust on which democracy
takes its seat.”Parieu also is struck by this remark regarding how democratic
France is compared to America: "If the social state of Americans is
still more democratic than ours, our laws are thus more democratic than
theirs. This is explained better than you think: in France democracy is
still busy demolishing; in America it reigns tranquilly over the ruins.”
See Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy
in America: Historical-Critical Edition of De la démocratie en Amérique, ed. Eduardo Nolla, translated from the French by James T. Schleifer.
A Bilingual French-English editions, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010).
Vol. 1. Chapter: That the Salient Point of the Social State of the Anglo-Americans
Is to Be Essentially Democratic </title/2285/218805/3497405>
and Volume 2, Notes (g) Page 84. </title/2286/218933>.