Front Page Titles (by Subject) Letter II.: Helvetius to A. M. Saurin. - A Commentary and Review of Montesquieu's 'Spirit of Laws'
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Letter II.: Helvetius to A. M. Saurin. - Antoine Louis Claude, Comte Destutt de Tracy, A Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s ’Spirit of Laws’ 
A Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s ’Spirit of Laws’: To which are annexed, Observations on the Thirty First Book by the late M. Condorcet; and Two Letters of Helvetius, on the Merits of the same Work, trans. Thomas Jefferson (Philadelphia: William Duane, 1811).
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Helvetius to A. M. Saurin.
As we had agreed, my dear Saurin, I have written to the president, with regard to the impression which his manuscript made upon you, as well as upon myself. At the same time that I have freely explained my opinions, I have conveyed them in language expressive of interest and friendship. Do not be uneasy, our remarks have not hurt him; he likes to witness in his friends that frankness, which distinguishes him among them; he freely promotes discussion, answers by sallies of wit, and rarely alters his opinion. I never fancied, when delivering our opinions, that they would change his; but we have not been able to say
Whatever it cost him, he should be sincere with his friends. When the light of truth shall shine forth and displace self love, he will find that they cannot be reproached with having been less sincere than the public.
I send you his answer, since you cannot come and join me in the country. You will find it such as I had foreseen. You will perceive that he had need of method to rally his ideas, and that being unwilling to lose all that he has thought, written, or imagined, since his youth, and according to the various dispositions in which he found himself, he has laid hold of that which least conflicts with received opinions. With that sort of spirit which distinguished Montagne, he adhered to the prejudices of the lawyers and noblesse.... this is the source of all his errors. His fine genius had elevated him in his youth, to the production of the Persian Letters; now advanced in years, he seems to repent having given envy that pretext for thwarting his ambition. He is more solicitous to uphold received ideas, than to inculcate others more novel and more useful. His manner is dazzling. It must have required the greatest force of genius to form such a mixture of truths and prejudices. Most of our philosophers may admire it as a chef-d'oeuvre. These things are new to all minds, and the less the number of opponents or good judges of his work, the more I fear that he will for a long time lead us astray.
But what the duce would he have us to understand by his treatise upon fiefs? Is it such an affair as to require an enlightened mind to unravel it? What legislation can result from a chaos of barbarian laws, established by force, reverenced only by ignorance, and which will forever be repugnant to a good order of things? Without the conquerors, who have destroyed every thing, what will be our situation with all these motley institutions? Ought we then to inherit all the errors that have been accumulating since the origin of the human race? They would still govern us; and having become the property of the strongest, or of the basest, it would require a more terrible remedy than conquest to release ourselves from them. It is nevertheless, the only remedy, if the voice of wise men is made to mingle with the interest of the powerful, and aid in erecting unnatural usurpations into legitimate properties. And what sort of property is that possessed by a few, injurious to all, even to those possessing it; and which corrupts by producing arrogance and vanity? In truth, if man is happy only when in the practice of the virtues, and in possession of the intelligence which confirms good principles; what virtues and what talents are we to expect from an order of men who engross every thing, and who claim consequence in society, by no other title than that of their birth? The industry of society is for no other end, but for them; all places of honor and profit devolve upon them; the sovereign governs, but through them, and for them alone draws subsidies from his subjects. Is not this totally overturning all ideas of sense and justice? This is the abominable order which misleads so many men of fine genius, and which totally perverts the principles of public and private morality.
L'Esprit de corps assails us on all sides, under the name of established orders: it is a power erected at the expense of the great mass of society. It is by these hereditary usurpations we are ruled. Under the name of the nation, there exist only corporations of individuals, and not citizens who merit that title. Even philosophers wish to form corporate bodies: but if they flatter private interests at the expense of the general welfare, I predict that their reign will not be long: for the knowlege which they circulate, will sooner or later disperse the darkness in which they wish to conceal prejudices; and our friend Montesquieu, deprived of his titles of wise man and legislator, will become no more than the lawyer, the nobleman, and the fine genius. Therefore am I afflicted for him and for humanity.
END OF THE WORK