Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XIX.: In what Manner the Use of Liberty is suspended in a Republic. - Complete Works, vol. 1 The Spirit of Laws
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAP. XIX.: In what Manner the Use of Liberty is suspended in a Republic. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
In what Manner the Use of Liberty is suspended in a Republic.
IN countries where liberty is most esteemed there are laws by which a single person is deprived of it, in order to preserve it for the whole community. Such are, in England, what they call bills of attainder§ . These are relative to those Athenian laws by which a private person was condemned* , provided they were made by the unanimous suffrage of six thousand citizens. They are relative also to those laws which were made at Rome against private citizens, and were called privileges† . These were never passed but in the great meetings of the people. But, in what manner soever they were enacted, Cicero was for having them abolished, because the force of a law consists in its being made for the whole community‡ . I must own, notwithstanding, that the practice of the freest nation that ever existed induces me to think that there are cases in which a veil should be drawn for a while over liberty, as it was customary to cover the statues of the gods.
[§ ]It is not sufficient, in the courts of justice of that kingdom, that the evidence be of such a nature as to satisfy the judges; there must be a legal proof; and the law requires the deposition of two witnesses against the accused. No other proof will do. Now, if a person, who is presumed guilty of high-treason, should contrive to secrete the witnesses, so as to render it impossible for him to be legally condemned, the government then may bring a bill of attainder against him; that is, they may enact a particular law for that single fact. They proceed then in the same manner as in all other bills brought into parliament: it must pass the two houses, and have the king’s consent; otherwise it is not a bill, that is, a sentence of the legislature. The person accused may plead against the bill by counsel, and the members of the house may speak in defence of the bill.
[* ]Legem de singulari aliquo ne rogato, nisi sex millibus ita visum. Ex Andocide de mysteriis. This is what they called ostracism.
[† ]De privis hominibus latæ. Cicero de leg. lib. 3.
[‡ ]Scitum est juslum in omnes. Cicero, ibid.