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Curiously, for a long time it was only on the net in Italian, on the BNF Gallica site of all places. (They now have French editions.) The discourse was translated into Italian during the Jacobin Republic of Naples in 1799 by one of the leaders of the revolt against the Borbons, Cesare Paribelli.
Estienne De La Boetie: Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (1548)
in the light of reason, it is a great misfortune to be at the beck and call of one master, for it is impossible to be sure that he is going to be kind, since it is always in his power to be cruel whenever he pleases. As for having several masters, according to the number one has, it amounts to being that many times unfortunate. Although I do not wish at this time to discuss this much debated question, namely whether other types of government are preferable to monarchy, still I should like to know, before casting doubt on the place that monarchy should occupy among commonwealths, whether or not it belongs to such a group, since it is hard to believe that there is anything of common wealth in a country where everything belongs to one master. This question, however, can remain for another time and would really require a separate treatment involving by its very nature all sorts of political discussion.
A weakness characteristic of human kind is that we often have to obey force; we have to make concessions; we ourselves cannot always be the stronger. Therefore, when a nation is constrained by the fortune of war to serve a single clique, as happened when the city of Athens served the thirty Tyrants, one should not be amazed that the nation obeys, but simply be grieved by the situation; or rather, instead of being amazed or saddened, consider patiently the evil and look forward hopefully toward a happier future.
Our nature is such that the common duties of human relationship occupy a great part of the course of our life. It is reasonable to love virtue, to esteem good deeds, to be grateful for good from whatever source we may receive it, and, often, to give up some of our comfort in order to increase the honor and advantage of some man whom we love and who deserves it. Therefore, if the inhabitants of a country have found some great personage who has shown rare foresight in protecting them in an emergency, rare boldness in defending them, rare solicitude in governing them, and if, from that point on, they contract the habit of obeying him and depending on him to such an extent that they grant him certain prerogatives, I fear that such a procedure is not prudent, inasmuch as they remove him from a position in which he was doing good and advance him to a dignity in which he may do evil. Certainly while he continues to manifest good will one need fear no harm from a man who seems to be generally well disposed.
Discourse on Voluntary Servitude The Discours sur la servitude volontaire of ÉTIENNE DE LA BOÉTIE, 1548 Rendered into English by HARRY KURZ [Published under the title ANTI-DICTATOR] New York: COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS: 1942.
Discourse on Voluntary Servitude The Discours sur la servitude volontaire of ÉTIENNE DE LA BOÉTIE, 1548 Rendered into English by HARRY KURZ
[Published under the title ANTI-DICTATOR]
New York: COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS: 1942.
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