Page:Peter Alexeivitch Kropotkin - Expropriation.djvu/5

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IT is told of Rothschild that, seeing his fortune threatened by the Revolution of 1849, he hit upon the following stratagem:—"I am quite willing to admit," said he, "that my fortune has been accumulated at the expense of others, but if it were divided among the millions of Europe to-morrow the share of each would only amount to five shillings. Very well then, I undertake to render to each his five shillings if he asks me for it."

Having given due publicity to his promise, our millionaire proceeded as usual to stroll quietly through the streets of Frankfort. Three or four passers-by asked for their five shillings, which he disbursed with a sardonic smile. His stratagem succeeded and the family of the millionaire is still in possession of its wealth.

It is in much the same fashion, that the shrewd heads among the middle-classes reason when they say "Ah, Expropriation, I know what that means. You take all the top-coats and lay them in a heap, and every one is free to help himself and fight for the best."

But such jests are irrelevant as well as flippant. What we want is not a redistribution of top-coats. Besides, is it likely that in such a general scramble the shivering folk would come off any better? Nor do we want to divide up the wealth of the Rothschilds. What we do want is so to arrange things that every human being born into the world shall be ensured the opportunity in the first instance of learning some useful occupation, and of becoming skilled in it; next, that he shall be free to work at his trade without asking leave of master or