Letter to M. X

Translator: Ian Harvey

Passy, August 20th, 1864


I have received seven volumes of your gigantic dictionary through our mutual friend, M. D.; I already had the first volume. I cannot wish enough success for your publication, and I admire M. L.’s courage and dedication to science and how he did not retreat in the face of such an undertaking. Since my convalescence, I have come across some of your articles, and I am increasingly astonished by the enormous mass of material you assemble in your columns. I would be delighted to hear that you found funding for its instalments; that would prove to me once again that our nation is not dead. A people who read, who are interested in science and seek it in all its forms, have not resigned themselves.

I read the two articles that you recommended to me, “Abstention” and “Anarchy,” and I thank you for the way in which you wrote about me in them. I only regret not having been able to explain myself when you were writing them. On “Abstention,” I would have said something more positive and decisive to you than what I found in the dictionary. As for “Anarchy,” its writing seems to me to be better and more exact. I wanted, with that word, to demarcate the extreme term of political progress. Anarchy is, if I may express myself in this way, a kind of government or constitution in which the public and private conscience, formed by the development of science and law, suffices by itself to maintain order and guarantee all liberties, in which, therefore, the principle of authority, police institutions, preventive or repressive measures, bureaucracy, taxes, etc., are reduced to their most simplest expression and, even more, in which monarchic forms and high centralisation disappear, replaced by federative institutions and communal mores. When political life and domestic existence are identified, when social and individual interests are united and balanced through the solution of economic problems, it will be obvious that all limitations will have disappeared and that we will have complete freedom or anarchy. Social law will be fulfilled of its own accord, without supervision or command but through universal spontaneity.

When you come to the articles, “God” and “Property,” I would appreciate it if you let me know. You will see with a few explanatory words that there is more than paradox in the affirmations, “God is evil” and “Property is theft,” which I hold in the literal sense without thinking of making faith in God a crime or of abolishing property.