The Ruins HTML version

Part I, Chapter 9
In fact, it soon happened that men, fatigued with the evils they reciprocally inflicted,
began to sigh for peace; and reflecting on their misfortunes and the causes of them, they
"We are mutually injuring each other by our passions; and, aiming to grasp every thing,
we hold nothing. What one seizes to-day, another takes to-morrow, and our cupidity
reacts upon ourselves. Let us establish judges, who shall arbitrate our rights, and settle
our differences! When the strong shall rise against the weak, the judge shall restrain him,
and dispose of our force to suppress violence; and the life and property of each shall be
under the guarantee and protection of all; and all shall enjoy the good things of nature."
Conventions were thus formed in society, sometimes express, sometimes tacit, which
became the rule for the action of individuals, the measure of their rights, the law of their
reciprocal relations; and persons were appointed to superintend their observance, to
whom the people confided the balance to weigh rights, and the sword to punish
Thus was established among individuals a happy equilibrium of force and action, which
constituted the common security. The name of equity and of justice was recognized and
revered over the earth; every one, assured of enjoying in peace, the fruits of his toil,
pursued with energy the objects of his attention; and industry, excited and maintained by
the reality or the hope of enjoyment, developed, all the riches of art and of nature. The
fields were covered with harvests, the valleys with flocks, the hills with fruits, the sea
with vessels, and man became happy and powerful on the earth. Thus did his own
wisdom repair the disorder which his imprudence had occasioned; and that wisdom was
only the effect of his own organization. He respected the enjoyments of others in order to
secure his own; and cupidity found its corrective in the enlightened love of self.
Thus the love of self, the moving principle of every individual, becomes the necessary
foundation of every association; and on the observance of that law of our nature has
depended the fate of nations. Have the factitious and conventional laws tended to that
object and accomplished that aim? Every one, urged by a powerful instinct, has displayed
all the faculties of his being; and the sum of individual felicities has constituted the
general felicity. Have these laws, on the contrary, restrained the effort of man toward his
own happiness? His heart, deprived of its exciting principle, has languished in inactivity,
and from the oppression of individuals has resulted the weakness of the state.
As self-love, impetuous and improvident, is ever urging man against his equal, and
consequently tends to dissolve society, the art of legislation and the merit of
administrators consists in attempering the conflict of individual cupidities, in maintaining
an equilibrium of powers, and securing to every one his happiness, in order that, in the