Front Page Titles (by Subject) THREE LETTERS OF M. DE MONTESQUIEU TO M. LE CHEVALIER DE BRUANT. - Complete Works, vol. 3 (Grandeur and Declension of the Roman Empire; A Dialogue between Sylla and Eucrates; Persian Letters)
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THREE LETTERS OF M. DE MONTESQUIEU TO M. LE CHEVALIER DE BRUANT. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 3 (Grandeur and Declension of the Roman Empire; A Dialogue between Sylla and Eucrates; Persian Letters) 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 3.
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THREE LETTERS OF M. DE MONTESQUIEU TO M. LE CHEVALIER DE BRUANT.
I WAS not at * * * when your letter came; you embarrass me greatly; I shall only answer you for the pleasure of entertaining myself with a man, who is much better able to resolve the doubts which he proposed, than the person to whom he sent them.
I am not of your opinion with regard to despotism, and despotic princes. It appears to me horrible and absurd to the last degree, that a whole people should blindly subject themselves to the caprice of one, even if he were an angel. For my own part, I would not live under him a single day. This angel may become, in a moment, a monster thirsting after blood. Despotism is, to me, the most abominable and disgustful of all bad governments; man is perpetually crushed, debased, and degraded by it. Look into history, ancient and modern, if ever there was one upon earth that was not an insult on mankind, and the disgrace of human nature. Monarchy would, doubtless, be the best of governments, if it was possible to find such kings as Henry IV. the only one who ever deserved the homage and veneration of his subjects. Kings should always be brought up in a school of affliction, as this great man was; such alone are truly great, and the lovers of mankind. Before we can feel for the misfortunes of others, we must ourselves have been unfortunate. But, on the other hand, the hearts of princes corrupted by prosperity, and the slaves of pride and folly, are inaccessible to pity, and insensible to true glory.
I am not at all surprized, that in monarchies, and especially in our own, there should be so few princes worthy of esteem. Incircled by corrupters, knaves and hypocrites, they accustom themselves to look upon their fellow-creatures with disdain, and set no value on any but the sycophants, who caress their vices, and live in perpetual idleness and inactivity. Such is generally the condition of a monarch; great men are always scarce, and great kings still more so. Add to this, that the splendor of a monarchy is short and transitory. France is already sunk into misery and disgrace; an age more will annihilate her, or she will fall a prey to the first intrepid conqueror.
The English government has nothing to support it but a delusive outside, extremely flattering to the people, who fancy themselves the sole governors. I do not know any country where it is more easy to create such open dissensions, as may overthrow the state. A man of sense and generosity may, in ten years time, erect himself into a despotic prince with more safety at London than at Moscow; remember Cromwell. Money alone is sufficient to corrupt the whole parliament.
The great, ever fond of riches and power, and prostrate at the feet of fortune, who always attend the throne, will promote the views of their master; and the great once gained over, this phantom of liberty, which appeared at intervals in the convulsive motions of the commons, which awakens, shakes itself, and soon vanishes, will be totally annihilated at the first signal given by the supreme ruler.
I know indeed of no monarchy that is fixed, constant, and perfect, the wisest kings oppress their subjects to arrive at despotism. Adieu, my friend; live in freedom and obscurity. Solitude will procure you the best and truest pleasure, self-content. The foolish and the wicked, seen afar off, will only excite your compassion; to look nearly upon them would raise your contempt and indignation.
I write this in haste; we will treat this matter more fully in the free intercourse of guiltless friendship.
YOU ask me in what country a man may enjoy the most perfect liberty? In every place, my dear Philintus, where there are men and laws. The wise man is free even in the court of a tyrant, because his happiness depends on himself. Reason and conscience are the throne of his liberty. It is not in the power of fortune, injustice, or any thing else, to unhinge his soul, or disturb his repose. He rejoices in himself, and his joy is always calm, permanent, and delightful.
Would you, my friend, because you see violence and iniquity every day committed by wicked ministers, by the rich and great, by almost every man in place and power, would you therefore entirely banish yourself from that society to which you are indebted for every thing, and for which every honest and good member of it should yield up all, without repining at the injuries which he suffers from it? Because a prince buries himself in sloth and debauchery, because he perfecutes, oppresses and destroys, shall you become an exile from your country, leave your friends, and desert the poor and afflicted, who apply to you for relief, and rend your heart with their complaints? No, my friend, you have too much sensibility. Despise the unjust and cruel prince; but love mankind, and, above all, the unfortunate and distressed. Avoid the impetuous whirlwinds of a court; forget, if possible, tha your king is surrounded with perverse, wicked, and oppressive men, who laugh at his ignorance, and avail themselves of his weakness. Fly to retirement, in search of that repose, friendship, and felicity, which are never to be found in the seats of power and grandeur, or in the dangerous and delusive tumults of a noisy metropolis. Bring with you a few friends, as worthy and sensible as yourself. Read Plato, Montagne, Charron, and Rabellais; exercise yourself in acts of kindness to the poor labourers, the only creatures upon earth who are always miserable, perpetually toiling to supply the necessities of nature, and victims to the cruel rapacity of the farmers in general, who grind and oppress them.
Thus will you enjoy the most delicate and lively of all pleasures, the pleasure of doing good, the only consolation that can reconcile us to the miseries of human life. When once you are habituated to a country life, joy and peace will revive in your disquieted and uneasy mind, which will grow strong and great, raising itself by degrees to the celestial regions of genius and philosophy. There, free as the air you breathe, throw out your thoughts as they arise, your soul will then shoot forth such divine flames as shall warm and enlighten even the cold and ignorant. When you have filled your paper, arrange and correct the whole, and I will tell you with the utmost freedom my opinion of it. Adieu, my dear friend; with a heart of such delicate sensibility as yours is, youth, health, and a tolerable fortune, you must be happy, if happiness is the portion of virtue.
YOU are right, my dear Philintus, in believing and asserting to all your friends, that education makes the man. That alone is the parent of every virtue; it is the most sacred, the most useful, and, at the same time, the most neglected thing in almost every country, and in every station of life. But too many vague and impracticable rules have been laid down on this important subject. Even the wise Locke, the great instructor of mankind, is sometimes mistaken, like other writers. All education should have an eye to government, or we lose our aim. The man of patience and understanding will consider well the mind he has to form and instruct; he will infuse, by little and little, maxims adapted to his age, and suited to his genius, rank, and capacity. I know that there are some soils barren and ungrateful, and which will never answer the labour of the cultivator. But besides that such are very uncommon, I am inclined to suspect, that frequently the tiller has neither strength nor skill enough to dig into and improve it as he ought.
There is one radical vice in France, which may, perhaps, never be extirpated, because it comes from the women, who, amongst us, interfere in every thing, and, in the end, ruin and destroy every thing. A child is soon spoiled in their hands, from two years old to six, when he is delivered up, without consideration, to a man whom he has neither seen nor known. The tutor, perhaps a fellow of no character, takes charge of him, not from inclination, but merely for his own interest. For ten succeeding years he vegetates in the narrow circle of a college, or in the unimproving converse and society of prating females of quality. These tutors are generally appointed by the women, who seldom look any further than the outside; never considering personal merit, which they have not sense enough to distinguish, having never habituated themselves to reflect one moment on any thing serious or useful.
Another circumstance highly prejudicial to education, and which disgusts and deters men of merit from engaging in it, is the little regard paid to the tutor, or preceptor, who ought to be respected as a father, whose place he is in a great measure intended to supply; he to whom is intrusted the heir of an illustrious name and family; he who is to form the worthy citizen, and the good subject; who is to do honour to his rank and character, and become the glory of his country. Such are the men, charged as they are with so important an office, who, in the fashionable world, are so often despised and ill treated, and even sometimes suffered to perish for want. Such abuses, if they become general, must point out a shameful and universal depravity of manners. Our nobility indeed are free from this reproach; if they pay but indifferently, they make amends by the weight of their interest, and a thousand engaging civilities, for the small appointment which their fortune will permit them to allow. Your rich financiers, on the other hand, who are naturally morose, proud, and ostentatious, seldom pay a man without affronting him: having nothing but money to give, they gorge you with it.
In France the women ruin every thing, because they think themselves fit for every thing, and the men are weak and childish enough to humour their caprice. Nature, notwithstanding, made them but to obey, and the weakness of their constitution every day points out to us the weakness of their sex. With regard to education, it is worse at court than in any other place, the governor having a despotic power over his pupil, suffers him to grow up in ignorance and idleness, fills his head with the nonsense of fashion, and puffs him up with the notion of his own rank, and a contempt of the insignificant creatures that crawl beneath him. Every thing around him is made subservient to his pleasure and advancement. Every thing is to fall down before him on the first notice. He never talks to him concerning the royal virtues that adorn a throne, justice, courage, beneficence, intrepidity, and the love of glory; therefore it is, that, amongst our kings, we never see a great man; for I call not the conqueror by that name, but rather consider him as the terror, scourge, and disgrace of human kind; one whom the people are bound by their own interest to destroy, as soon as the flame of his ambition breaks forth in projects of slaughter and oppression.
Lewis XII. was honest and just, but weak and ignorant. Francis I. a vain boaster, cruel, and a pretender to wit. Henry IV. brave and magnanimous, but too much given to women ever to become a philosopher. Lewis XIV. at once the greatest and meanest of mankind, would have excelled all the monarchs in the universe, if he had not been corrupted in his youth by base and ambitious flatterers. A slave during his whole life to pride and vain-glory, he never really loved his subjects even for a moment; yet expected at the same time, like a true arbitrary prince, that they should sacrifice themselves to his will and pleasure. Intoxicated with power and grandeur, he imagined the whole world was made but to promote his happiness. He was feared, obeyed, idolized, hated, mortified, and abandoned. He lived like a sultan, and died like a woman. His reign was immortalized by the lowest of his subjects.
It is therefore, my dear Philintus, impossible there should ever be a great man amongst our kings, who are made brutes and fools of all their lives, by a set of infamous wretches, who surround and beset them from the cradle to the grave.
end of the third volume.