Discourse on the Origin of Inequality

By Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Patrick Coleman et al. | Go to book overview

TO THE REPUBLIC OF GENEVA Magnificent, Most Honoured, and Sovereign Lords:*

CONVINCED that only the virtuous citizen is entitled to offer his homeland the honours it can acknowledge, I have laboured for thirty years to earn the right to offer you public homage. Because this happy occasion partly compensates for what my efforts have failed to do, I thought it admissible here to heed more the zeal that stirs me than the right that should be my justification. Having had the good fortune to be born among you, how could I reflect on the equality that nature has placed in men and the inequality they themselves have instituted, without reflecting on the deep wisdom with which both, felicitously combined in this city-state, work together, in a fashion closest to natural law and most favourable for society, toward the preservation of public order and the well-being of individuals? In searching for the best maxims that good sense can dictate concerning the constitution of a government, I have been so impressed at seeing them all enacted in yours that even had I not been born within your walls, I would have been compelled to offer this picture of human society to the one people that, among all others, appears to possess the greatest advantages of society and to have best forestalled its abuses.

If I could have chosen my birthplace, I would have chosen a society of a size limited by the range of the human faculties, that is to say, by the possibility of being well governed, and one in which, since everyone is equal to his tasks, no one would be compelled to entrust his responsibilities to others; a state in which all individuals were acquainted with each other, and neither the shady schemes of vice nor the modesty of virtue could escape public view and public judgement; and in which the agreeable habit of seeing and knowing one another would make the love of one's country take the form of love of its citizens rather than of its soil.

-3-

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Discourse on the Origin of Inequality
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • OXFORD WORLD'S CLASSICS ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • NOTE ON THE TEXT xxxi
  • SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY xxxii
  • A Chronology og Jean-Jacques Rousseau xxxiv
  • To the Republic of Geneva Magnificent, Most Honoured, and Sovereign Lords: 3
  • Preface 14
  • REMARK ABOUT THE NOTES 20
  • Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men 23
  • PART I 26
  • Notes 55
  • PART II 86
  • EXPLANATORY NOTES 121
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