The Traditional Order Defended
This newspaper article considers the question of equality from the opposite point of view—arguing that without social distinctions making clear who should lead and who should follow, society cannot hold together. In particular, the article emphasizes that economic changes such as reliance on the market to set prices undercut older ideas of protection by the elite, shifting notions of social morality.
What do we see first? Seigneurial goods, common people's goods, houses and lands for sale or to rent. Expenses, offices, and pensions for sale. . . . These are frequently transferred. If people think a little bit, they will be aware of the worldly and moral whirl in which they live. Lands, castles, family estates, expenses, leave one family to enter another one. These mobile possessions, this continuous succession, which substitutes old masters for new ones and continuously subjects half the men to the other half, represent such an amazing show for a philosopher. We would be led to believe that there are no real possessions, and that all men are simple usufructuaries. In less than a generation, most of the goods have gone from one master to another and are often distorted. Large lands and expenses, which are important to all the distinguished families because of the name of the house, are not spared from these revolutions, because of marriages, alliances, death, exchanges, and changes of fortunes.
Then comes the sale of furniture, personal effects, wardrobes, carriages . . . either because of death or through a friendly transaction, which brings up the same thought. Here again we notice how short human pleasures are, how the remains of wealthiness and luxury rapidly go from one family to another. In a short time, referred to as years, these same families will be stripped of the remains of wealthiness and luxury.
Eugene Hatin, Histoire politique et littéraire de la presse en France, 8 vols. (Paris, 1859–61), 2:125.