Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter four: On the Effect of Arbitrary Measures in Terms of Moral Life, Industry, and the Duration of Governments - Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments
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chapter four: On the Effect of Arbitrary Measures in Terms of Moral Life, Industry, and the Duration of Governments - Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments 
Principles of Politics Applicable to a all Governments, trans. Dennis O’Keeffe, ed. Etienne Hofmann, Introduction by Nicholas Capaldi (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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On the Effect of Arbitrary Measures in Terms of Moral Life, Industry, and the Duration of Governments
If we look at the effects of arbitrary measures in terms of moral life, industry, or even the duration of governments, we will find them equally disastrous.
When a government ruthlessly strikes out against men it suspects, it is not just an individual it persecutes; rather it is the whole nation it slights and degrades. People always try to shake off their sorrow. When what they love is threatened, they either detach themselves from it or defend it. When there is no security, there is no moral life. There are no gentle affections unless we know that the objects of such affection are safe, their innocence a safeguard in itself. Habits become corrupted suddenly in towns attacked by the plague. The dying steal from each other.6 Arbitrary government is to moral life what plague is to the body. It reduces citizens to the choice between forgetting all finer feelings and hatred of the government. When a people coldly contemplates a succession of tyrannical acts, when, without a word of protest, it watches the prisons fill up and banishments multiply, when every man keeps silent and isolated, and, fearful for himself, tries to disarm the government by dissimulation or by the even worse device of assent, can anyone believe, with this despicable example on all sides, that a few banal sentences will suffice to reinvigorate feelings of honesty and generosity? People speak of the need for paternal authority. But the first duty of a son is to defend his father from ill-treatment; and when a father is taken away from his children and the latter are forced to maintain a cowardly silence, what then is the effect of your maxims and codes, your declarations and your laws? People pay homage to the sanctity of marriage; but on the basis of a shadowy denunciation, on a mere suspicion,  by measures called precaution, security, and law and order, a man is separated from his wife or a wife from her husband! Do they think conjugal love is by turns born again and vanishes at the government’s pleasure? Family ties are much praised. But what upholds these ties is individual freedom, the hope founded on living together, living free in the shelter which justice guarantees the citizen. If family ties persisted, would fathers, children, husbands, wives, and friends—all those close to the people despotism oppresses—submit themselves to such despotism? They talk of credit, commerce, and industry; but the man they arrest has creditors, whose fortunes depend on his, and business partners. The result of his detention is not only the short-term loss of his freedom, but the interruption of his business, perhaps his ruin. This ruin embraces all who share his business activities. It goes further; it strikes against all thought and all personal safety is shaken. When an individual suffers without having been proven in any way guilty, anyone not deprived of intelligence rightly feels menaced by this destruction of constitutionality. People shut up because they are frightened; but all human exchange is affected. The very earth shakes and people walk fearfully.7 Everything in our complex and extensive social life becomes static. The injustices thought of as individual are unfailingly sources of public ill too. It is not within our powers to restrict them to some fixed category.
Despotism aims at the very core of morality in order to degrade it. The brief respite it brings is precarious and gloomy, the precursor of terrible storms. We must make no mistake about this. However degraded a nation may seem from the outside, generous sentiments will always find shelter in a few solitary hearts, where, scandalized, they will seethe in silence. Parliamentary debating chambers may ring with furious ranting, and palaces echo with expressions of contempt for the human race. The flatterers of the people may stir us against pity itself; the flatterers of kings denounce courage to them. But no era will ever be so abandoned by providence that it will deliver up the whole human race in the shape despotism requires.  Hatred of oppression, whether in the name of one man or the name of all, has been handed down from age to age, under all forms of despotism. The future will not betray this most just of causes. There will always be men for whom justice is a passion and the defense of the weak something they must do. Nature has willed it so. No one has ever been able to stop it, nor ever will be able to. These men will always give way to this magnanimous instinct. Many will suffer, many perhaps will perish, but the earth with which their ashes will mingle will be stirred thereby and sooner or later will reawaken.
[6. ]Cornelius de Pauw, Recherches philosophiques sur les Grecs, op. cit., t. I, pp. 174–175, speaks of a plague at Athens under Pericles, but does not speak of the moral consequences of this illness.
Constant is probably interpreting this passage from De l’esprit des lois, Livre XX, Ch. 10 (éd. cit., p. 653): “In the States with commercial economies, banks have fortunately been established, which by means of credit have created new indices of value. But it would be a mistake to set them up in States which have only luxury commerce. To put them in countries governed by single individuals is to suppose money on the one hand and power on the other; that is, on the one hand the option to have everything without power, and on the other power and no option to have anything. Under such governments only the ruler has ever had or ever could have had accumulated wealth. Everywhere there is any such, once it becomes sizeable, it becomes first of all the prince’s wealth.” Constant has come back to this thought about Montesquieu and the banks in the Additions, p. 532, lines 10–11. See Annexe III in Hofmann, Les “Principes de politique” de Benjamin Constant, Droz, 1980, Tome II. [Hereafter referred to as Principes de politique (Hofmann’s edition).]