We have now arrived at the principal object of the Laws: the care of security. This inestimable good is the distinctive mark of civilization: it is entirely the work of the laws. Without law there is no security; consequently no abundance, nor even certain subsistence. And the only equality which can exist in such a condition, is the equality of misery.
In order rightly to estimate this great benefit of the Laws, it is only necessary to consider the condition of savages. They struggle without ceasing against famine, which sometimes cuts off in a few days whole nations: rivalry with respect to the means of subsistence, produces among them the most cruel wars; and, like the most ferocious beasts, men pursue men, that they may feed on one another. The dread of this horrible calamity destroys amongst them the gentlest sentiments of nature: pity connects itself with insensibility in putting the old persons to death, because they can no longer follow their prey.
Examine also what passes at those periods, during which civilized societies almost return into the savage state: I refer to a time of war, when the laws which give security are in part suspended. Every instant of its duration is fruitful in calamity: at every step which it imprints upon the globe, at every movement which it makes, the existing mass of riches, the foundation of abundance and subsistence, is decreased and disappears: the lowly cottage, and the lofty palace are alike subject to its ravages; and often the anger or caprice of a moment consigns to destruction the slow productions of an age of labour.
Law alone has accomplished what all the natural feelings were not able to do: Law alone, has been able to create a fixed and durable possession which deserves the name of Property. The law alone could accustom men to submit to the yoke of foresight, at first painful to be borne, but afterwards agreeable and mild; it alone could encourage them in labour---superfluous at present, and which they are not to enjoy till the future. Economy has as many enemies as there are spendthrifts, or men who would enjoy, without taking the trouble to produce. Labour is too painful for idleness; it is too slow for impatience: Cunning and Injustice underhandedly conspire to appropriate its fruits; Insolence and Audacity plot to seize them by open force. Hence Security, always tottering, always threatened, never at rest, lives in the midst of snares. It requires in the legislator, vigilance continually sustained, and power always in action, to defend it against his constantly reviving crowd of adversaries.
The Law does not say to a man, ``Work and I will reward you''; but it says to him ``Work, and by stopping the hand that would take them from you, I will ensure to you the fruits of your labour, its natural and sufficient reward, which, without me, you could not preserve.'' If industry creates, it is the law which preserves: if, at the first moment, we owe every thing to labour, at the second, and every succeeding moment, we owe every thing to the law.
In order to form a clear idea of the whole extent which ought to be given to the principle of security, it is necessary to consider, that man is not like the brutes, limited to the present time, either in enjoyment or suffering, but that he is susceptible of pleasure and pain by anticipation, and that it is not enough to guard him against an actual loss, but also to guarantee to him, as much as possible, his possessions against future losses. The idea of his security must be prolonged to him throughout the whole vista that his imagination can measure.
This disposition to look forward, which has so marked an influence upon the condition of man, may be called expectation---expectation of the future. It is by means of this we are enabled to form a general plan of conduct; it is by means of this, that the successive moments which compose the duration of life are not like insulated and independent points, but become parts of a continuous whole. Expectation is a chain which unites our present and our future existence, and passes beyond ourselves to the generations which follow us. The sensibility of the individual is prolonged through all the links of this chain.
The principle of security comprehends the maintenance of all these hopes; it directs that events, inasmuch as they are dependent upon the laws, should be conformed to the expectations to which the laws have given birth.
Every injury which happens to this sentiment produces a distinct, a peculiar evil, which may be called pain of disappointed expectation.
The views of jurists must have been extremely confused, since they have paid no particular attention to a sentiment so fundamental in human life: the word expectation is scarcely to be found in their vocabulary; an argument can scarcely be found in their works, founded upon this principle. They have followed it, without doubt, in many instances, but it has been from instinct, and not from reason.
If they had known its extreme importance, they would not have omitted to name it; to point it out, instead of leaving it in the crowd.[Back to:]