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

Second Part
The first man, who, after enclosing a piece of ground, took it into his head to say, "This is
mine," and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil
society. How many crimes, how many wars, how many murders, how many misfortunes
and horrors, would that man have saved the human species, who pulling up the stakes or
filling up the ditches should have cried to his fellows: Be sure not to listen to this
imposter; you are lost, if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong equally to us all,
and the earth itself to nobody! But it is highly probable that things were now come to
such a pass, that they could not continue much longer in the same way; for as this idea of
property depends on several prior ideas which could only spring up gradually one after
another, it was not formed all at once in the human mind: men must have made great
progress; they must have acquired a great stock of industry and knowledge, and
transmitted and increased it from age to age before they could arrive at this last term of
the state of nature. Let us therefore take up things a little higher, and collect into one
point of view, and in their most natural order, this slow succession of events and mental
The first sentiment of man was that of his existence, his first care that of preserving it.
The productions of the earth yielded him all the assistance he required; instinct prompted
him to make use of them. Among the various appetites, which made him at different
times experience different modes of existence, there was one that excited him to
perpetuate his species; and this blind propensity, quite void of anything like pure love or
affection, produced nothing but an act that was merely animal. The present heat once
allayed, the sexes took no further notice of each other, and even the child ceased to have
any tie in his mother, the moment he ceased to want her assistance.
Such was the condition of infant man; such was the life of an animal confined at first to
pure sensations, and so far from harbouring any thought of forcing her gifts from nature,
that he scarcely availed himself of those which she offered to him of her own accord. But
difficulties soon arose, and there was a necessity for learning how to surmount them: the
height of some trees, which prevented his reaching their fruits; the competition of other
animals equally fond of the same fruits; the fierceness of many that even aimed at his life;
these were so many circumstances, which obliged him to apply to bodily exercise. There
was a necessity for becoming active, swift-footed, and sturdy in battle. The natural arms,
which are stones and the branches of trees, soon offered themselves to his assistance. He
learned to surmount the obstacles of nature, to contend in case of necessity with other
animals, to dispute his subsistence even with other men, or indemnify himself for the loss
of whatever he found himself obliged to part with to the strongest.
In proportion as the human species grew more numerous, and extended itself, its pains
likewise multiplied and increased. The difference of soils, climates and seasons, might
have forced men to observe some difference in their way of living. Bad harvests, long
and severe winters, and scorching summers which parched up all the fruits of the earth,
required extraordinary exertions of industry. On the sea shore, and the banks of rivers,