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The Ruins

Part I, Chapter 16
A FREE AND LEGISLATIVE PEOPLE
Considering that all public power was now suspended, and that the habitual restraint of
the people had suddenly ceased, I shuddered with the apprehension that they would fall
into the dissolution of anarchy. But, taking their affairs into immediate deliberation, they
said:
It is not enough that we have freed ourselves from tyrants and parasites; we must prevent
their return. We are men, and experience has abundantly taught us that every man is fond
of power, and wishes to enjoy it at the expense of others. It is necessary, then, to guard
against a propensity which is the source of discord; we must establish certain rules of
duty and of right. But the knowledge of our rights, and the estimation of our duties, are so
abstract and difficult as to require all the time and all the faculties of a man. Occupied in
our own affairs, we have not leisure for these studies; nor can we exercise these functions
in our own persons. Let us choose, then, among ourselves, such persons as are capable of
this employment. To them we will delegate our powers to institute our government and
laws. They shall be the representatives of our wills and of our interests. And in order to
attain the fairest representation possible of our wills and our interests, let it be numerous,
and composed of men resembling ourselves.
Having made the election of a numerous body of delegates, the people thus addressed
them:
We have hitherto lived in a society formed by chance, without fixed agreements, without
free conventions, without a stipulation of rights, without reciprocal engagements,--and a
multitude of disorders and evils have arisen from this precarious state. We are now
determined on forming a regular compact; and we have chosen you to adjust the articles.
Examine, then, with care what ought to be its basis and its conditions; consider what is
the end and the principles of every association; recognize the rights which every member
brings, the powers which he delegates, and those which be reserves to himself. Point out
to us the rules of conduct--the basis of just and equitable laws. Prepare for us a new
system of government; for we realize that the one which has hitherto guided us is corrupt.
Our fathers have wandered in the paths of ignorance, and habit has taught us to follow in
their footsteps. Everything has been done by fraud, violence, and delusion; and the true
laws of morality and reason are still obscure. Clear up, then, their chaos; trace out their
connection; publish their code, and we will adopt it.
And the people raised a large throne, in the form of a pyramid, and seating on it the men
they had chosen, said to them:
We raise you to-day above us, that you may better discover the whole of our relations,
and be above the reach of our passions. But remember that you are our fellow-citizens;
that the power we confer on you is our own; that we deposit it with you, but not as a
 
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