The Ruins HTML version
Part I, Chapter 11
GENERAL CAUSES OF THE REVOLUTIONS AND RUIN OF ANCIENT
Cupidity had nevertheless excited among men a constant and universal conflict, which
incessantly prompting individuals and societies to reciprocal invasions, occasioned
successive revolutions, and returning agitations.
And first, in the savage and barbarous state of the first men, this audacious and fierce
cupidity produced rapine, violence, and murder, and retarded for a long time the progress
When afterwards societies began to be formed, the effect of bad habits, communicated to
laws and governments, corrupted their institutions and objects, and established arbitrary
and factitious rights, which depraved the ideas of justice, and the morality of the people.
Thus one man being stronger than another, their inequality--an accident of nature--was
taken for her law;* and the strong being able to take the life of the weak, and yet sparing
him, arrogated over his person an abusive right of property; and the slavery of individuals
prepared the way for the slavery of nations.
*Almost all the ancient philosophers and politicians have laid it down as a principle that
men are born unequal, that nature his created some to be free, and others to be slaves.
Expressions of this kind are to be found in Aristotle, and even in Plato, called the divine,
doubtless in the same sense as the mythological reveries which he promulgated. With all
the people of antiquity, the Gauls, the Romans, the Athenians, the right of the strongest
was the right of nations; and from the same principle are derived all the political
disorders and public national crimes that at present exist.
Because the head of a family could be absolute in his house, he made his own affections
and desires the rule of his conduct; he gave or resumed his goods without equality,
without justice; and paternal despotism laid the foundation of despotism in government.*
* Upon this single expression it would be easy to write a long and important chapter. We
might prove in it, beyond contradiction, that all the abuses of national governments, have
sprung from those of domestic government, from that government called patriarchal,
which superficial minds have extolled without having analyzed it. Numberless facts
demonstrate, that with every infant people, in every savage and barbarous state, the
father, the chief of the family, is a despot, and a cruel and insolent despot. The wife is his
slave, the children his servants. This king sleeps or smokes his pipe, while his wife and
daughters perform all the drudgery of the house, and even that of tillage and cultivation,
as far as occupations of this nature are practised in such societies; and no sooner have the
boys acquired strength then they are allowed to beat the females and make them serve
and wait upon them as they do upon their fathers. Similar to this is the state of our own