Pierre Joseph Proudhon, a French political writer, born in Besançon, July 15, 1809, died at Passy, Paris, Jan. 19, 1865. He was educated at the college of his native city, became apprentice to a printer, and in 1837 was taken into partnership by a printing firm at Besançon. He published an edition of the Bible with annotations upon the principles of the Hebrew language, and reprinted Bergier's Éléments primitifs des langues (1837), with an anonymous Essai de grammaire générate, by himself, as an appendix. This essay received from the academy of Besançon a prize consisting of a triennial pension of 1,500 francs, which enabled him to visit Paris. Here he became a contributor to Parent Desbarres's Encyclopédie catholique, and wrote for the Besançon academy a prize essay, De la célébration du di-manche (1840), and a paper entitled Qu'est-ce que la propriété? This pamphlet, which opened with the afterward celebrated dictum, La propriété c'est le vol, was censured by the academy, who at once cut short Proudhon's allowance; but the economist Blanqui, who had been appointed to examine it, declared that he found nothing objectionable in it.
It was followed in 1841 by another pamphlet on the same question, and in 1842 by an Avertissement aux propriétaires, for which he was arraigned before a jury at Besançon, but was acquitted. In the same year he went to Lyons, and from 1843 to 1847 was director of a company running freight boats on the Saône and Rhône. In the mean time he continued to propagate his opinions in De la création de Vordre dans Vhumanité (1843), presenting the theory of a new political organization, and Système des contradictions éconorniques (2 vols. 8vo, 1846). On the breaking out of the revolution of February, 1848, he was in Paris engaged in the publication of his Solution du problème social, a plan of social reform by means of a new organization of credit and monetary circulation. On April 1 he became the editor of Le représentant du peuple, a daily journal of radical opinions, suspended in August. On June 4 he was elected deputy to the constituent assembly, and on July 31 he came forward to urge a proposition which he had previously made for the establishment of a progressive income tax, the design of which was the abolition of interest on capital, and eventually the consolidation of the republican government.
This was almost unanimously voted down "as an odious attack upon the principles of public morality and an appeal to the worst passions." He closed his parliamentary career by opposing (Nov. 4) the adoption of the constitution, which he looked upon as "dangerous to liberty." He next edited in succession three short-lived journals, the last of which expired Oct. 13, 1850. These papers were repeatedly condemned by the courts, but the fines imposed upon the editor were immediately paid by his admirers. His printed speeches and pamphlets, including his Droit au travail (1848), Les Malthusiens, Démonstration du socialisme, and Idées révolutionnaires (1849), found a ready sale among men of all opinions, and elicited answers from the ablest pens in the conservative party. In January, 1849, he had undertaken to establish la banque du peuple, an institution of gratuitous credit, by means of which he hoped to bring his theory into operation; but in this he was interrupted, March 28, by a sentence of three years' imprisonment for illegal publications, which he at first avoided by flight.
After sojourning in Geneva for a few months, he delivered himself up (June 4), and was incarcerated successively in the Conciergerie, at Doullens, and in the prison of Ste. Pélagie, where in 1850 he married a merchant's daughter. During his imprisonment he wrote Confessions d'un révo-lutionnaire (1849), Actes de la révolution (1849), Gratuité du crédit (1850), and La révolution so-ciale démontrée par le coup d'état (1852), which created a deep sensation and was looked upon as a partial apology for Napoleon's policy. He was liberated on June 4, 1852; in 1856 published a Manuel des opérations de la bourse, a satire on stockjobbers and speculators; and soon afterward De la justice dans la révolution et dans l'église, nouveaux principes de philosophic pratique (3 vols., 1858), which he ironically dedicated to the archbishop of Besançon. This metaphysical work, a covert attack upon the established order of things, was seized by the police, and its author was sentenced to three years' imprisonment and a fine of 4,000 francs; but Proudhon was in Belgium, where he remained till November, 1860, when the amnesty granted to the press by Napoleon III. permitted him to return to Paris. His principal later works are: La guerre et la paix (2 vols., 1861); Théorie de l'mpôt (1861); La fédération et l'unité en Italie (1862); and Du principe fédératif et de la nécessité de reconsti-tuer le parti de la révolution (1863). Among his posthumous works are: Les Évangiles an-notés (1865), which was seized and the editor was sentenced to a year's imprisonment; and France et Rhin (1867). - See Proudhon, sa vie, ses oeuvres et sa correspondance, by Charles C1ément (1872). The first volume of his correspondence was published in 1874, and is to be followed by seven others, besides several additional posthumous works.