Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XII.: Of the Laws against Suicides. - Complete Works, vol. 1 The Spirit of Laws
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CHAP. XII.: Of the Laws against Suicides. - 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 Laws against Suicides.
WE do not find in history that the Romans ever killed themselves without a cause: but the English are apt to commit suicide most unaccountably; they destroy themselves even in the bosom of happiness. This action, among the Romans, was the effect of education, being connected with their principles and customs; among the English, it is the consequence of a distemper* , being connected with the physical state of the machine, and independent of every other cause.
In all probability, it is a defect of the filtration of the nervous juice: the machine, whose motive faculties are often unexerted, is weary of itself; the soul feels no pain, but a certain uneasiness in existing. Pain is a local sensation, which leads us to the desire of seeing an end of it; the burthen of life, which prompts us to the desire of ceasing to exist, is an evil confined to no particular part.
It is evident that the civil laws of some countries may have reasons for branding suicide with infamy: but, in England, it cannot be punished without punishing the effects of madness.
[* ]It may be complicated with the scurvy, which, in some countries especially, renders a man whimsical and insupportable to himself. See Pirard’s voyages, part 2. chap. 21.