François Quesnay, On Natural Rights (1765)

“Observations sur le Droit Naturel des Hommes Reunis en Societe”, Journal de l’Agriculture, du Commerce et des Finances, September 1765. English version in Francis Gilmer, Sketches, Essay and Translations, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 1828, pp175-201. 

Part of the Preliminary Discourse of the Editor relative to the Treatise on Natural Right, from the collection entitled “Physiocracy”, by Dupont de Nemours

The natural right of man in its primitive and most comprehensive sense is, the right which man has to whatever is advantageous to him; or, as the author, some of whose works I now publish, says, ‘the right which man has to whatever is necessary to his enjoyment.’

This right is subject, even by nature, to relations which vary its use so much, that we are obliged to define it in a very general manner, so as to embrace all the different states in which man can exist.

But, in whatever circumstances we may suppose ourselves, whether we live in solitude, or in regular society, our right to what is necessary to our enjoyment, is founded on an imperious condition, by which we are impelled to preserve ourselves, under the penalty of suffering, and even of death. The last degree of punishment decreed by this sovereign law, is paramount to every other interest, and to every positive law.

The exercise of the right of doing whatever is advantageous to us, necessarily supposes the knowledge of what is advantageous to us. It is of the essence of this right, to be enlightened by reflection, by judgment, by physical and moral arithmetick, and by a calculation of our true interest. Without which, instead of employing our faculties in doing what would be advantageous, we should often employ them in doing what would be injurious. In that case, it could not be said, that we had exercised our natural right; and there would exist between the, principles of our conduct, and most of its effects, a gross and fatal contradiction. It is then clear, that the exercise of our natural right, is evidently and necessarily determined by absolute causes, which we should study and understand distinctly’: to which the mind is obliged rigidly to submit itself, and without conformity to which, we could de no action, either lawful or reasonable.

The right to things, necessary to our enjoyment, existed for the first man. It exists for a single isolated individual. Considered rigidly and abstractedly, in this elementary point of view, it precedes the social order, as well as the relations of justice and injustice. But, in this case, as in every other, it is not less subject In its essence, to the physical laws of the natural and general order of the universe. In this case, as in every other, it cannot be exercised with certainty, without the direction of an enlightened reason. In this case, as in every other, it is confined within different limits from those of the physical power of the individual, and to evident sovereign rules, from which the individual cannot deviate in any manner, but to his own prejudice.

A man entirely alone on a distant island, appears to have a choice of acting, or of being idle. But, as we have before remarked, he is constrained by nature to preserve himself, under the penalty of sufferance, and even of death. He will then, if he be not lad, by no means remain entirely idle.. He will labour to procure food, and to preserve himself against the attacks of other animals. He will learn, also, that it is not sufficient to satisfy by the labour of the moment his present wants; he will endeavour to accumulate and preserve, provisions against future contingencies, to afford him sustenance in those seasons when the earth yields none. Otherwise he would not exercise his right of doing what is advantageous to him: he would not fulfil the duty, imperiously dictated to him by nature and he would be promptly and severely punished for his negligence, by the inevitable effect of natural law.

If instead of a single individual, many men had met in an unsettled country, it is certain that .the strong would sometimes have the physical power to take away the provisions of the weak ; that two weak persons united together-nay, that by stratagem and address, even the most feeble person, might have the physical power to overcome the strongest, and take from him his prey, and even his life. But it is equally certain, that they would abstain from conduct so dangerous, so disorderly, so fruitless of good, so calculated mutually to disturb the labour necessary to their subsistence, and the palpable danger of which, would be so certainly reciprocal. They would immediately perceive, that such a state of war, could only terminate in the ruin of all and ‘that in the mean time, they would all be constrained to lead a most miserable life, in which no one could enjoy, or even hope to enjoy, this right of doing what would be advantageous to him.

But men are interested in nothing more than in securing the enjoyment fundamental right Each individual is admonished by the pressing wants of necessity, to employ his physical power for his preservation, instead of using it to hurt and destroy others. Natural wants, fear, interest, and finally reason, would induce them to unite their efforts for the good of all – to submit to the rules of natural justice, and of reciprocal kindness – and would establish among them, social conventions, tacit or express, to secure to each the lawful use of his natural right to things necessary to his enjoyment-or, in other words, the liberty of profiting from the benefit he may derive from the natural order of things.

Natural Right

Chapter I

What is the Natural Right of Man ?

The natural right of man may vaguely be defined to be, the right which man has to whatever is proper for his enjoyment.

Before we consider the natural rights of man, we must consider man himself in his different states of bodily and intellectual capacity, and in his different relations to other men. If we do not enter into this examination before we undertake to develop the natural right of each individual, it will be impossible to perceive even what that right is. [1]

It is from not having ascended to these previous observations, that philosophers have formed such different and even contradictory ideas of the right of man. Some with a semblance of reason have refused to admit it; others with more reason hove admitted it – and there is truth on both sides – But one truth excludes another in the same object, when its state is changed, as one form is the privation of another form in the same body.

He who says that the natural right of man is of no force, says true. [2]

He who says that the natural right of man is what nature teaches all animals, says true. [3]

He who says that the natural right of ‘man is the right which his strength and his intelligence secure to him, says true. [4].

He who says that the natural right of man is limited to the particular interest of each individual, says true. [5]

He who says that natural right is a general and sovereign law which regulates the rights of all men, says true. [6]

He who says that the ‘natural right of man is the unlimited right of all to all, says true. [7]

He who says that the natural right of man is a right limited by a convention, either express or implied, says true. [8]

He who says that the natural right supposes neither justice nor injustice, says true. [9]

He who says that natural right is a just, decisive and fundamental right, says true. [10]

But none of them say true, relative to all cases.

Thus philosophers have stopped with a parallogism, or incomplete argument, in their researches on this important question, which is the natural principle of all the duties of man regulated by reason.

An infant without strength or reason has an incontestable natural right to subsistence, founded on the duty which nature dictates to the father and mother. This right is so much the better secured, because the duty of the father and mother is accompanied by a natural impulse, which act’s more powerfully on parents, than the idea of the natural order which establishes the duty. Nevertheless, we cannot forget that this duty, pointed out and secured by feeling, is in the order of justice-for parents can but render to infants, those duties which they have received from their parents-but a precept which refers itself to a just right, binds every reasonable creature.

If I be asked, what is justice? I reply, it is a natural and sovereign rule, discovered by reason, which determines what belongs to one’s self, and what to another.

If the father and mother of the infant die, and he find himself without any other resource, [11] inevitably abandoned to his own helplessness, he is deprived of the exercise of-his natural right, and this becomes void. For a relative attribute is void, when the correlative is wanting. The use of, eyes is lost in a place totally without light.


The extent of the Natural Right of Man?

The natural right of man differs from his conventional right, or his right dependent on human laws in this; that it is apparent to the light of reason from its internal evidence – and by this evidence alone, it is obligatory, independently of all other constraint: while conventional right, limited by a positive law, is obligatory by reason of the penalty attached to its transgression, by the sanction of this law, and can be known only by its being announced in the law itself.

From these different conditions, one sees the whole extent of natural right, and what distinguishes it from conventional.

Very often conventional right restrains the natural, because human laws are not so perfect as those of the author of nature, and because human laws are sometimes obtained by surprise, from motives, of which enlightened reason cannot always recognise the justice, which is the cause why legislatures often wisely abrogate laws which they themselves have made. The multitude of absurd and contradictory laws successively established among nations, proves manifestly that positive laws often deviate from the immutable rules of justice, and the natural order most beneficial to the society.

Some philosophers, absorbed in the abstract idea of the natural right of man, which gives to each a right to every thing, have limited this natural right to a state of pure independence of men upon one another, and to a state of war among them, each struggling to obtain his unlimited right. Thus, these philosophers pretend, that when a man is deprived by convention, or legitimate authority, of any portion of the natural right which he has to whatever is proper for his enjoyment, his general right is destroyed, and the individual becomes dependent on another by his contract, of by a coercive authority. He is no longer in a state of simple nature; or of entire independence; he is no longer the sole judge of his right; he is subject to the judgment of another; he is, therefore, say they, no longer in a state of pure nature, nor consequently in the sphere of natural right.

But if we attend to the futility of this abstract position, the natural right of all to all, we must, in conformity to the natural order itself, reduce this natural right of man to things of Which he can obtain the enjoyment – and this pretended general right will in fact be very limited.

In this point of view it will be perceived, that the reasoning which I am exposing, is but a frivolous sophism, or trilling of the mind, very much out of place in discussing so important a question-and we shall be well convinced, that the natural right of every man, reduces itself in reality, to that portion which he can obtain by his labour-for his right to all, is like that of a swallow to all the gnats which float in the atmosphere, which in truth is limited to those only, which it can catch by its labour prompted by hunger.

In a state of pure nature, things proper for the enjoyment of man, are reduced to what nature spontaneously produces, and over which each man can exercise his natural, indeterminate right, in procuring a certain portion by his labour – that is by his exertions. Whence it follows: 1. That his right to all is but ideal. 2. That the portion which he enjoys in a state of pure nature, is, what he obtains by his labour. 3. That his right to things proper for his enjoyment, ‘nestle considered in the order of nature, and in the order of justice; for in the order of nature it is undetermined, as long as it is of secured by actual possession; and in the order of justice, it is determined by an effective possession, acquired by labour, without usurpation on the right of possession of another. 4. That in a state of pore nature, men, compelled to satisfy their wants by their own exertions, will not lose their time in mutual contentions and battles, which would only oppose [12] obstacles to their occupations, necessary for providing means of subsistence. 5. That a natural right, consisting in the order of nature, and of justice, extends to all states in which men exist, in whatever relation to one another.


Of the inequality of the Natural Rights of Men.

We have seen, that even in a state of pure nature, or of entire independence, men only enjoy their natural right to things of which they have need, by labour that is, by the exertion necessary to obtain them – thus, the right of all to all, reduces itself to that portion which each can procure, whether they live by the chase, or by fishing, or on the vegetables which nature spontaneously produces. But to make these exertions with success, they must have faculties of body and mind, and means, or proper instruments to act, and to obtain what is necessary to gratify their wants. The enjoyment of this their natural right must be very limited in, that state of pure nature and independence, where we do not suppose among them, as yet, any combination to aid one another, and where the strong can use unjust violence toward the weak. So soon as they shall enter into societies, and form conventions with one another for their reciprocal advantage, they will increase the enjoyment of their natural right, and secure it even to its full extent, if the constitution of the society be conformable to the order evidently most advantageous to man, relative to the fundamental laws of their natural right.

But in considering the bodily and intellectual faculties, and the other means of each particular individual, we will still find a great inequality relative to the enjoyment of the natural rights of men. This inequality does not admit the relations of just and unjust in its principles. It results from the combination of the laws of nature and men cannot penetrate the designs of the Supreme Being in the construction of the universe; they cannot exalt their minds to comprehend the end of the immutable laws which he has instituted for the formation and preservation of his works. But if one will examine these rules with attention, he will find that the physical causes of physical evil, are, themselves, causes of physical good: that the rain which incommodes the traveller, fertilizes the earth: and if one calculate without prejudice; he will perceive that these causes produce infinitely more good than evil, and that they, were instituted for good purposes only. That the incidental evil which they produce, necessarily results from the essence of those very properties by which they produce good. It is for this reason, that in the natural order relative to men, there are no laws obligatory but for our good – they impose upon us the duty of avoiding as far as we have the power, the evils which our prudence can foresee.

We must then by no means attribute to physical laws, the evils which are a just and inevitable punishment of the violation of the order of physical laws instituted to produce good. If a government violate the natural laws which ensure success to agriculture, would any one dare to arraign agriculture itself, because there was a want of bread, and, because at the same time the number of men was seen to diminish, and that of the miserable to increase?

Transgressions of the natural laws are the most frequent, and most extensive causes of the physical evils which afflict mankind. Even the rich who have more means of avoiding them, draw on themselves by their ambition, their passions, and even their pleasures, many evils, for which they have no excuse but their: own irregularities. This would lead insensibly to another cause of physical and moral evil, very different from physical laws, which is the abuse of human liberty. Liberty, that essential attribute of man, which he would extend beyond its limits, never appears to him the cause of evil. If he injure himself, if he destroy his health, dissipate his fortune, and ruin his family by the abuse of his liberty, he complains of the author of liberty, because he would be more free. [13]

He does not perceive that it is himself in contradiction with himself. Let him then acknowledge his own extravagancies. Let him learn, then, how to employ this liberty, so dear to him, rightfully. Let him banish ignorance and irregularity, those sources of the evils he brings on himself by the abuse of his freedom. He is by nature a free and an intelligent being, though he is often neither one nor the other. [14] By the blind and imprudent use he makes of his liberty, he often makes, bad choices; by his intelligence he can make better, and conduct himself with prudence as far as-the order of the physical. laws which ‘constitute the universe will permit.

Physical, good and physical evil, moral good and moral evil, have evidently, then, their origin in natural laws. Every thing has its immutable essence and its properties inseparable from its essence. Other laws may have other essential properties; probably leas conformable to the Perfection which the author of nature, has given his works those which he has instituted are just and perfect in the general plan, since they are conformed to the order and the ends which he has proposed to himself. For he is the author of the laws and the rules, and consequently superior to both. But their end is to produce good, and every thing is subject to those which he has instituted. Man, gifted with intelligence, has the prerogative of being able to contemplate and understand them, to draw from them the greatest possible advantage without being rebellious against them.

From whence it follows, that everyone has a natural right to use with gratitude, all the faculties with which he has been endowed by nature, “in whatever circumstances he be placed under the condition of neither injuring himself nor another-without which condition, no one would be assured of preserving the use of his faculties, or the enjoyment of his natural right – which conducts us to the following chapter.


Of the Natural Right of Men considered relatively to one another.

Men may be considered either in a state of solitude, or as congregated into societies.

If one views men as dispersed in such a manner as that they ant have no communication with one another, he perceives that they are completely in a state of pure nature, and of entire independence, without any relation either of justice or injustice as respects one another. But this state could subsist only during the life of each individual, unless we suppose, that these men live at least each with a wife in his seclusion, which would entirely change the hypothesis of their state of solitude ;•for this association of a wife, and of children who would follow, would admit of an order of dependence, of justice, of duty, of safety, and of reciprocal assistance.

Every man is impelled to preserve himself under the penalty of suffering; ‘and he alone suffers, who is wanting in that duty to himself, which obliges him to provide for himself before all others. But all those with whom he is associated, are charged with the same duty under the same penalty. It is in the natural order, that the strongest should be the chief of the family; but it is not in the order of justice, that he should usurp the natural rights of those who live in a community of interests with him. There is, then, a compensation in the enjoyment Of the natural right of each, which must be advantageous to every individual of the family, and which ought to lie regulated by the chief, according to the order of distributive justice; conformably to the duties prescribed by nature, and to the co-operation by which each contributes to the advantage Of society according to his capacity. Different individuals contribute differently, but the ” employment of one is a discharge of so much labour to another, and by this distribution of occupations, every one can perform his men work more completely: by this reciprocal assistance, every one contributes to the advantage of society nearly equally. Therefore; every one ought to enjoy the full extent of his natural right, conformably to the advantages which result from the concurrence of the labour of the whole society: and those who ore not in &state to contribute tiny thing, ought to be allowed to participate, by reason of the (eighty which the particular society has to provide for them. These rules, which: ate obvious, direct the chief of the family to unite in the society the natural order, and the order founded in justice. He is still more induced to this, by sentiments of pleasure, of tenderness, of pity, etc. which -are so many indications of the intention of the author a nature to Secure the observance of rules, which he prescribes to men, to bind them by the obligations of duty mutually to assist one another. If, we consider men as congregated into multitudes, where mutual communication is unavoidable, and where, as yet, there should be no positive laws, which had united them into society under the authority of a sovereign power, and which had subjected them to a form of government, we must look upon them as hordes of barbarians, who would subsist on the natural productions of the soil; or would expose themselves from necessity to the dangers of a predatory life, if there were nations possessing wealth on which they could make incursions : for in this state, they could not procure’ wealth for themselves either by agriculture, or by pasturing flocks: because there would be no tutelary power to guard the security of property. But at least, there would be established among them, of necessity, conventions tacit or express for their personal safety: for men have, in this state of independence, a fear of each other, which mutually disquiets them: from which they may easily relieve themselves, since nothing can be of mere importance to each, than to be reciprocally delivered from this fear. Those of the same canton see each other more frequently they become accustomed to the sight of each other confidence is established between them-they aid one another they become allied by marriages, and form, in a manner, particular nations, where all are leagued together for the common defence, and where, moreover, each remains in a state of entire liberty or independence toward the other, with the condition of personal safety, and the exclusive property in the habitation, and in the little utensils which each has, for his particular convenience, established among them. If their riches c property be more considerable, and more dispersed, or more exposed to plunder, the constitution of such nations would not be sufficient to secure their property. They must then have positive written laws, for a. ‘convention and a sovereign authority to enforce themes for their riches, easily taken from them when abandoned to the fidelity of the public, would excite among their less virtuous countrymen desires, which would induce them to violate the property of others. Thus the formation of societies depends on the larger or smaller portion of wealth which each possesses or may possess, and of which he wishes to secure to him- self -the preservation and the property. And thus, men who plate themselves under the protection of positive laws, and of a tutelary authority, extend very much their power of becoming proprietors, and by consequence, extend very much the use of their natural right, instead of restraining it.


Of the Natural Right of Men united in Society under a Sovereign Authority.

Societies are governed by an authority, in its form either monarchical, aristocratical, or democratical, etc. But it is not the different forms of authority which determine the essence of the natural rights of men united in society, for the laws vary a good deal in each of these forms. The laws of government which decide the rights of subjects, reduce themselves, almost always, to positive laws, or laws of human institution: but these laws pre not the essential and immutable foundation of natural right-and they vary so much that it would be impossible to examine the state of the natural rights of men under them: it is even useless to enter on this examination : for where the laws and tutelary power do not secure liberty and property, neither the government nor society can be of spy, advantage : there is only domination and anarchy under the appearance of government : positive laws and this domination but protect and secure the usurpation of the strong, and destroy’ the liberty and property of the weak A state of pure nature is then more advantageous than this violent state of society, which passes through every’ vicissitude of disorder, of form, of authority, and of sovereigns. This appears so inevitable, that men who abandon themselves to the contemplation of all these changes, persuade themselves that it is in the irreversible order of destiny, that governments should have their commencements, their progress, their highest elevation of power, their decline, and their extinction. But they are constrained at the same time to admit, that this order is very irregular, that the, passages through it are more or less rapid, more or less uniform, more or less unequal; more or less complicated by unforeseen, events, favourable or-disastrous, more or less directed or fortuitous, more or less attributable to prudence or folly, to knowledge or ignorance, to wisdom or to the licentious passions of those who govern: they must likewise conclude, at least, that the fatality of bad governments is not inherent in the natural and immutable order, the archetype of all governments.

To understand the order of seasons, and of places, to regulate navigation, and secure commerce, it has been found necessary to observe and calculate with precision the laws of motion of the heavenly bodies. We must also, to know the extent of the natural rights of men united in society, ascertain the natural laws constitutive of the best possible government. That government to which men ought to be subjected consists in a natural and a positive order the most advantageous to men united in society.

Men united in society, then, ought to be subject to natural and to positive laws.

Natural laws are either physical or moral. By physical law, we here mean, the regular course of every physical event of the natural order evidently most advantageous to mankind.

By moral law we mean, the tide of every human action of the moral order conformable to the physical order, evidently most advantageous to mankind.

These laws form together what we call natural law: all men and all human powers ought to be controlled by these sovereign rules, instituted by the supreme being. They are immutable, irrefragable, and the best laws possible. [15] Of consequence they are the foundation of the most perfect government, and the fundamental rule of every, positive law; for positive laws are but laws of preservation relative to the natural order evidently most advantageous to mankind.

Positive laws are authentic rules established by a sovereign authority to determine the order of administering the government, to secure the defence of society, to enforce the regular observance of natural laws, to reform or maintain customs and usages introduced into the nation, to regulate the particular rights of subjects relative to their different states, to determine the positive order in doubtful cases reduced all probability of opinion or convenience, to settle the decisions of distributive justice. But the first positive law, the fundamental law of all the other positive ones, is, the institution of publick and private instruction in the laws of the natural order, which is the sovereign rule of all human legislation, and of all, civil, political, economical and social conduct. Without this fundamental institution, government and the conduct of men can be nothing else, than darkness, error, confusion, and disorder; for without the know-I ledge of natural, laws, which ought to serve as the basis of human legislation, and as sovereign rules for the conduct of men,, we could have no evidence of justice or injustice, of natural right, of physical and moral order: no .evidence of the essential distinction between general and particular, interests, of the real causes of the prosperity and of the decline of nations ; no evidence of the-essence of moral good and evil, of the sacred rights of those who govern, or of the duty of those to whom the social order prescribes obedience.

Positive legislation, then, consists in the declaration of natural laws, constitutive of the order evidently the most advantageous possible to men united in society. We might say more simply, the most advantageous possible to the sovereign, for what is really most advantageous to the sovereign is most advantageous also to the subject. Nothing but the knowledge of these laws can constantly secure the tranquillity and the prosperity of an empire : and the more a nation shall apply itself to this science, the more will the natural order predominate in it, and the more regular will the positive order be: no one in such a nation would propose any unreasonable law, for both the government and its citizens would perceive its absurdity.

The foundation of society is the subsistence of men, and the funds necessary to the support of the power which must defend them: thus it could be nothing but ignorance, for example, which would favour the introduction of positive laws, contrary to the order of reproduction, and of the regular annual distribution of the wealth of the territory. If the torch of reason enlighten government, all positive laws injurious, to the society and the sovereign will disappear.

We speak here of reason strengthened, enlarged and perfected, by the study of natural laws. For simple reason does not raise men above .the brutes: it is in its principle only a faculty, or aptitude, by which one may acquire, the knowledge which is necessary to him, and by which he can procure the physical and moral good essential to the nature of his being. Reason is to the soul what eyes are to the body; without eyes one could not enjoy light, and without light he could see nothing.

Reason alone, then, is not sufficient to guide the conduct of man; he must by his reason acquire the knowledge necessary to him; and by his reason he must avail himself of this knowledge to conduct himself worthily and to procure the good things of which he has need. Ignorance is the primitive attribute of savage an solitary man; in society it is the most fatal infirmity of man, it is there, even criminal, because men being endowed with intelligence should raise themselves to an higher order than the brutes: it is there a crime enormous in its guilt, for ignorance is the most general cause of the misfortunes of the human race, and of its unworthiness toward the author of nature, toward the eternal light, the supreme reason, and the first cause of all good. But enlightened reason having attained the point of knowing with certainty the march of natural laws, becomes the necessary rule of the best possible government, where the observance of those sovereign laws would multiply abundantly the riches, necessary to the subsistence of man, and to maintain the tutelary power, the protection of which guarantees to men united in society, the property in their possessions, and security in their persons.

It is then manifest, that the natural right of each individual is extended, because each binds himself to the observance of the hest laws Possible, which Constitute the order most advantageous to men united in society.

These laws do not restrain the liberty of man which forms a part of his natural right; for the advantages of These laws are manifestly the object of the best choice which his liberty can make. Man cannot refuse the obedience which he owes to these laws, otherwise his liberty would become injurious to himself and to others: this would be the liberty of a madman, which in a good government should be restrained and corrected by authority of the positive laws of society.


[1] There have been many discussions on natural right, as philosophers have disputed about liberty, justice, and injustice. They have wished to consider as absolute essences, those relative attributes, of which we can have no adequate and just idea, but by uniting them to the correlatives on which they depend, without which, they would be but ideal and empty abstractions.
[2] See for example the end of this chapter.
[3] This is the definition of Justinian – it, like the others has its aspects in which it is true.
[4] See for example page 187 [Chapter 3], and the note on page 199 [No note on p199. Perhaps note [15] ?].
[5] See for example the note on page 186 [No note on p186. Perhaps note [12] ?].
[6] See pages 193 and 194 [Chapter 4]. With a little more extent this proposition will agree with ours.
[7] This is the system of the sophist Crasimachus in Plato – renewed by Hobbes -and, since Hobbes, by the author of a book entitled “Principles of Natural and Political Right.” See it stated and refuted on pages 183, 184, and 185 [Chapter 2].
[8] See pages 193, 194, and 195 [Chapter 4].
[9] This is the case of a single individual on a desert island, in which the natural right to the provisions of the island, admit neither justice nor injustice, because; justice and injustice are relative attributes which cannot exist apart from persons, towards whom they may be exercised. See the commencement of Chapter. 4.
[10] See in contradiction page 181 [Chapter 1].
[11] Mark the expression “without any other resource,” for if there be human, beings within his reach, he has a right to their assistance, because he suffers what they have suffered – and they could not have lived had they not been assisted in their infancy.
[12] This is the case in the proverb which addresses itself to all -in a state of nature, “if you want, go and seek, no one hinders you.” This rule extends to beasts; those of the same kind which are in the same situation, do not contend with one another reciprocally to prevent their obtaining nourishment by their exertions.
[13]What do the words ” more free” mean? Do they signify more arbitrary, that is, more independent of the motives which act on the will? No. For if this independence were entire, it would reduce the will to a state, of indifference; and in that state liberty would be nothing: it is not in ibis sense, then, that we say ” wore fits.” These words can still less relate to a state of the will controlled by irresistible motives. These two extremes limit the extent of the natural use of liberty.
Liberty, is a faculty relative to exciting but controllable motives, which counterbalance and weaken one another, which present opposite interests and attractions; which reason, more or less enlightened, and more or less prejudiced, examines and appreciates. This state of deliberation consists in many acts of the exercise of liberty, more-or less sustained by the attention of the mind. But to have a still more precise idea of liberty, we must not confound its state of deliberation, with the decisive act of the will, which is a simple, definite act, more or less precipitate, which determines the exercise of liberty, which is not an act of liberty, but simply an absolute determination of the will, more or less prepared for the choice by the exercise of liberty.
After these observations, familiar to every one the least attentive to the exercise of his mind, we may ask those who deny the existence of liberty, if they are well assured of having never deliberated? If they acknowledge they have deliberated; let us ask them why they have done so? and if’ they admit it ‘was to choose, they will be conscious of the exercise of an intellectual faculty between motive and decision. Then we agree to the reality of this faculty; and it will be idle to dispute as to its name.
But under this name let us not unite contradictory conditions; such, as the condition of being able equally to acquiesce in none; conditions which exclude every reason of preference, choice, or decision. For then, every exercise, every use, in a word, every essential property of liberty would cease to exist, and the word would signify only au inconceivable abstraction, like that of a stick without two – ends. To deprive the will of man of all power of determination to render it free, is to destroy the will itself, for every act of the will is to wish a particular thing, which thing determines the will to a preference. To destroy the motive is to destroy the liberty itself, or the intellectual – facility which examines and appreciates objects relative to the affections of the will.
Let us not stop longer on this absurdity, but conclude, that he only is wise, who employs himself in perfecting his liberty. Others always think themselves sufficiently free, when they can satisfy their desires; therefore they are only desirous of procuring the means of multiplying the choices which may extend, not their liberty, bet the imprudent use of it: He who has only one dish for his repast, has only the choice to eat or leave it, and, to eat more or less of it; but he who has twenty dishes, may extend the exercise of his liberty over all the dishes, may choose what he finds best, and eat more or less of what he shall have chosen. It is in this sense, that unenlightened man is ever busy to extend the enjoyment of his liberty, and to satisfy his passions with as little discernment as moderation, which has obliged men who live in society to establish among them penal laws to express the abuse of liberty. Then they extend their liberty from motives of interest which counterbalance one another, and excite the attention, which is, so to speak, “the active organ of liberty or of deliberation.” Thus liberty or deliberation may be extended by the very motives which restrain the rash and imprudent use of liberty.
[14] There are many kinds and degrees of folly, but every one who is a fool from the effect of a badly-organised brains is hurried away by a physical law which does not permit him to make the best choice, or to conduct himself with wisdom. To be a fool is not to be free. Liberty presupposes examination and reason.
[15] The natural order the most advantageous to man, is not perhaps most advantageous to other animals. But man has an unlimited right to make his part the best possible. The superiority he has belongs to his intelligence; it is a natural right, since he holds it from the author of nature, who has decreed it so by the laws which he has ordained in the formation of the universe.

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