Introduction: The Measure of the Law
Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, and latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher . . . Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise.1
'One King, one law, one measure, and one weight': given the chain of events which the French Revolution was to unleash, it is perhaps ironic that this slogan, which appears in more or less the same form in numerous cahters de doléances, marks the apogee of sovereign power. Its logic, after all, is: one king (i.e. not many, certainly not 'every man a king'). One law: in part this is a call for one law for all, rather than one law for the rich and one law for the poor. Here traditional grievances and modern ('our') dreams overlap. In the traditional scheme, however, the demand for one law conceals a number of complications, as viewed from a modern perspective. Most obviously, the demand for an end to 'double standards' conceals an unproblematic assumption (in terms of the frame of reference of the end of' the eighteenth century) that married women, or women in general, may be treated differently. But this demand for one king and one law is also a call for one jurisdiction rather than many, for one unified set of institutions rather than a plurality of overlapping jurisdictions, and in this sense for national rather than local law. In this era, the prospect of universalism has not yet been flattened out into the modern preoccupation with the rule of law and equal protection of the laws. The new, perhaps artificial, parochialisms which we have laid over this preoccupation, as a consequence of our own rather abstract apprehension of identity and difference, remain in the future.
One measure one weight: are these equivalent demands, concerned simply with fixing quantity? Certainly, each is rooted in the practical____________________