Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. VII.: Of the Crime of High-Treason. - Complete Works, vol. 1 The Spirit of Laws
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CHAP. VII.: Of the Crime of High-Treason. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 1 The Spirit of Laws 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 1.
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Of the Crime of High-Treason.
IT is determined, by the laws of China, that whosoever shews any disrespect to the emperor is to be punished with death. As they do not mention in what this disrespect consists, every thing may furnish a pretext to take away a man’s life, and to exterminate any family whatsoever.
Two persons of that country, who were employed to write the court-gazette, having inserted some circumstances relating to a certain fact that were not true, it was pretended that to tell a lie in the courtgazette was a disrespect shewn to the court; in consequence of which they were put to death* . A prince of the blood having inadvertently made some mark on a memorial signed with the red pencil by the emperor, it was determined that he had behaved disrespectfully to the sovereign; which occasioned one of the most terrible persecutions against that family that ever was recorded in history† .
If the crime of high-treason be indeterminate, this alone is sufficient to make the government degenerate into arbitrary power. I shall descant more largely on this subject when I come to treat‡ of the composition of laws.
[* ]Father Du Halde, tom. 1, p. 43.
[† ]Father Parennin, in the Edifying Letters.
[‡ ]Book 29.