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A Discourse Upon the Origin and the Foundation of the Inequality Among Mankind

bringing with them into the world the excellent constitution of their parents, and
strengthening it by the same exercises that first produced it, attain by this means all the
vigour that the human frame is capable of. Nature treats them exactly in the same manner
that Sparta treated the children of her citizens; those who come well formed into the
world she renders strong and robust, and destroys all the rest; differing in this respect
from our societies, in which the state, by permitting children to become burdensome to
their parents, murders them all without distinction, even in the wombs of their mothers.
The body being the only instrument that savage man is acquainted with, he employs it to
different uses, of which ours, for want of practice, are incapable; and we may thank our
industry for the loss of that strength and agility, which necessity obliges him to acquire.
Had he a hatchet, would his hand so easily snap off from an oak so stout a branch? Had
he a sling, would it dart a stone to so great a distance? Had he a ladder, would he run so
nimbly up a tree? Had he a horse, would he with such swiftness shoot along the plain?
Give civilized man but time to gather about him all his machines, and no doubt he will be
an overmatch for the savage: but if you have a mind to see a contest still more unequal,
place them naked and unarmed one opposite to the other; and you will soon discover the
advantage there is in perpetually having all our forces at our disposal, in being constantly
prepared against all events, and in always carrying ourselves, as it were, whole and entire
about us.
Hobbes would have it that man is naturally void of fear, and always intent upon attacking
and fighting. An illustrious philosopher thinks on the contrary, and Cumberland and
Puffendorff likewise affirm it, that nothing is more fearful than man in a state of nature,
that he is always in a tremble, and ready to fly at the first motion he perceives, at the first
noise that strikes his ears. This, indeed, may be very true in regard to objects with which
he is not acquainted; and I make no doubt of his being terrified at every new sight that
presents itself, as often as he cannot distinguish the physical good and evil which he may
expect from it, nor compare his forces with the dangers he has to encounter;
circumstances that seldom occur in a state of nature, where all things proceed in so
uniform a manner, and the face of the earth is not liable to those sudden and continual
changes occasioned in it by the passions and inconstancies of collected bodies. But
savage man living among other animals without any society or fixed habitation, and
finding himself early under a necessity of measuring his strength with theirs, soon makes
a comparison between both, and finding that he surpasses them more in address, than
they surpass him in strength, he learns not to be any longer in dread of them. Turn out a
bear or a wolf against a sturdy, active, resolute savage, (and this they all are,) provided
with stones and a good stick; and you will soon find that the danger is at least equal on
both sides, and that after several trials of this kind, wild beasts, who are not fond of
attacking each other, will not be very fond of attacking man, whom they have found
every whit as wild as themselves. As to animals who have really more strength than man
has address, he is, in regard to them, what other weaker species are, who find means to
subsist notwithstanding; he has even this great advantage over such weaker species, that
being equally fleet with them, and finding on every tree an almost inviolable asylum, he
is always at liberty to take it or leave it, as he likes best, and of course to fight or to fly,
whichever is most agreeable to him. To this we may add that no animal naturally makes
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