Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. II.: Of Marriage. - Complete Works, vol. 2 The Spirit of Laws
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CHAP. II.: Of Marriage. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 2 The Spirit of Laws 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 2.
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THE natural obligation of the father to provide for his children has established marriage, which makes known the person who ought to fulfil this obligation.
Among civilized nations, the father‡ is that person on whom the laws, by the ceremony of marriage, have fixed this duty; because they find in him the man they want.
Amongst brutes this is an obligation which the mother can generally perform; but it is much more extensive amongst men. Their children indeed have reason; but this comes only by slow degrees. It is not sufficient to nourish them; we must also direct them: they can already live; but they cannot govern themselves.
Illicit conjunctions contribute but little to the propagation of the species. The father, who is under a natural obligation to nourish and educate his children, is not then fixed; and the mother, with whom the obligation remains, finds a thousand obstacles from shame, remorse, the constraint of her sex, and the rigour of laws; and besides, she generally wants the means.
Women who have submitted to a public prostitution, cannot have the conveniency of educating their children: the trouble of education is incompatible with their station: and they are so corrupt, that they can have no protection from the law.
It follows from all this, that public continence is naturally connected with the propagation of the species.
[* ]The Garamantes.
[† ]Lib. i. cap. 8.
[‡ ]Pater est quem nuptiæ demonstrant.