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Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 2 (The Spirit of Laws) [1748]

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Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 2.

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About this Title:

This is volume 2 from the Complete Works. The Spirit of Laws is Montesquieu’s best known work in which he reflects on the influence of climate on society, the separation of political powers, and the need for checks on a powerful executive office.

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The text is in the public domain.

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Table of Contents:

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vol. ii.
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london, Printed for T. Evans in the Strand; and W. Davis in Piccadilly.
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  • Book XX. Of laws in relation to commerce, considered in its natur and distinctions.
    • CHAP. I. Of commerce, Page 1
    • Chap. II. Of the spirit of commerce, 2
    • Chap. III. Of the poverty of the people, 3
    • Chap. IV. Of commerce in different governments, 4
    • Chap. V. Of nations that have entered into an œconomical commerce 6
    • Chap. VI. Some effects of an extensive navigation ibid.
    • Chap. VII. The spirit of England with respect to commerce, 8
    • Chap. VIII. In what manner the œconomical commerce has been sometimes restrained, ibid.
    • Chap. IX. Of the prohibition of commerce, 9
    • Chap. X. An institution adapted to œconomical commerce, 10
    • Chap. XI. The same subject continued, 11
    • Chap. XII. Of the freedom of commerce, ibid.
    • Chap. XIII. What it is that destroys this liberty, 12
    • Chap. XIV. The laws of commerce concerning the confiscation of merchandises, 13
    • Chap. XV. Of seizing the persons of merchants, ibid.
    • Chap. XVI. An excellent law, 14
    • Chap. XVII. A law of Rhodes, 15
    • Chap. XVIII. Of the judges of commerce, ibid.
    • Chap. XIX. That a prince ought not to engage himself in commerce, 16
    • Chap. XX. The same subject continued, 17
    • Chap. XXI. Of commerce in a monarchy, ibid.
    • Chap. XXII. A singular reflection, 18
    • Chap. XXIII. To what nations commerce is prejudicial, 19
  • Book XXI. Of laws relative to commerce, considered in the revolutions it has met with in the world.
    • Chap. I. Some general considerations, 22
    • Chap. II. Of the people of Africa, 23
    • Chap. III. That the wants of the people in the south are different from those of the north, 24
    • Chap. IV. The principal difference between the commerce of the ancients and the moderns, ibid.
    • Chap. V. Other differences, 25
    • Chap. VI. Of the commerce of the ancients, 26
    • Chap. VII. Of the commerce of the Greeks, 33
    • Chap. VIII. Alexander. His conquest, 36
    • Chap. IX. Of the commerce of the Grecian kings, after the death of Alexander, 40
    • Chap. X. Of the circuit of Asia, 47
    • Chap. XI. Of Carthage and Marseilles, 50
    • Chap. XII. The isle of Delos. Mithridates, 56
    • Chap. XIII. Of the genius of the Romans as to maritime affairs, 58
    • Chap. XIV. Of the genius of the Romans with respect to commerce, ibid.
    • Chap. XV. Of the commerce of the Romans with the barbarians, 60
    • Chap. XVI. Of the commerce of the Romans with Arabia and the Indies, 61 Edition: current; Page: [ii]
    • Chap. XVII. Of commerce after the destruction of the western empire, 65
    • Chap. XVIII. A particular regulation, 60
    • Chap. XIX. Of commerce after the decay of the Roman power in the East, 67
    • Chap. XX. How commerce broke thro’ the barbarism of Europe, ibid.
    • Chap. XXI. The discovery of two new worlds, and in what manner Europe is affected by it, 70
    • Chap. XXII. Of the riches which Spain drew from America, 75
    • Chap. XXIII. A problem, 80
  • Book XXII. Of laws in relation to the use of money.
    • Chap. I. The reason of the use of money, 81
    • Chap. II. Of the nature of money, 82
    • Chap. III. Of ideal money, 84
    • Chap. IV. Of the quantity of gold and silver, 85
    • Chap. V. The same subject continued, 86
    • Chap. VI. The reason why interest was lowered one half after the conquest of the Indies, ib.
    • Chap. VII. How the price of things is fixed in the variation of the sign of riches, 87
    • Chap. VIII. The same subject continued, 89
    • Chap. IX. Of the relative scarcity of gold and silver, 90
    • Chap. X. Of exchange, 91
    • Chap. XI. Of the proceedings of the Romans with respect to money, 101
    • Chap. XII. The circumstances in which the Romans changed the value of their specie, 103
    • Chap. XIII. Proceedings with respect to money in the time of the Emperors, 105
    • Chap. XIV. How the exchange is a constraint on despotic power 106
    • Chap. XV. The practice of some countries in Italy, 107
    • Chap. XVI. The assistance a state may derive from bankers, ib.
    • Chap. XVII. Of public debts, 108
    • Chap. XVIII. Of the payment of public debts, 109
    • Chap. XIX. Of lending upon interest, 111
    • Chap. XX. Of maritime usury, 112
    • Chap. XXI. Of lending by contract, and the state of usury amongst the Romans, 113
    • Chap. XXII. The same subject continued, 114
  • Book XXIII. Of laws in relation they bear to the number of inhabitants.
    • Chap. I. Of men and animals with respect to the multiplication of their species, 120
    • Chap. II. Of marriage, 121
    • Chap. III. Of the condition of children, 122
    • Chap. IV. Of families, 123
    • Chap. V. Of the several orders of lawful wives, ib.
    • Chap. VI. Of bastards in different governments, 124
    • Chap. VII. Of the father’s consent to marriage, 126
    • Chap. VIII. The same subject continued, 127
    • Chap. IX. Of young women, 128
    • Chap. X. What it is that determines to marriage, ib.
    • Chap. XI. Of the severity of government, ib. Edition: current; Page: [iii]
    • Chap. XII. Of the number of males & females in different countries 129
    • Chap. XIII. Of sea port towns, 130
    • Chap. XIV. Of the productions of the earth which require a greater or a less number of men, 131
    • Chap. XV. Of the number of inhabitants with relation to the arts 132
    • Chap. XVI. The concern of the legislator in the propagation of the species, 133
    • Chap. XVII. Of Greece, and the number of its inhabitants, 134
    • Chap. XVIII. Of the state and number of people before the Romans, 136
    • Chap. XIX. Of the depopulation of the globe, ibid.
    • Chap. XX. That the Romans were under a necessity of making laws to encourage the propagation of the species, 137
    • Chap. XXI. Of the laws of the Romans relating to the propagation of the species, ibid.
    • Chap. XXII. Of the exposing of children, 150
    • Chap. XXIII. Of the state of the world after the destruction of the Romans, 151
    • Chap. XXIV. The changes which happened in Europe, with regard to the number of the inhabitants, 152
    • Chap. XXV. The same subject continued, 153
    • Chap. XXVI. Consequences, ibid.
    • Chap. XXVII. Of the law made in France to encourage the propagation of the species, 154
    • Chap. XXVIII. By what means we may remedy a depopulation, ib.
    • Chap. XXIX. Of hospitals, 155
  • Book XXIV. Of laws as relative to religion, considered in itself and in its doctrines.
    • Chap. I. Of religion in general, 158
    • Chap. II. A paradox of Mr. Bayle’s, 159
    • Chap. III. That a moderate government is most agreeable to the Christian religion, and a despotic one to the Mahometan 160
    • Chap. IV. Consequences from the character of the Christian religion and that of the Mahometan, 162
    • Chap. V. That the Catholic religion is most agreeable to a monarchy, and the Protestant to a republic, 163
    • Chap. VI. Another of Mr. Bayle’s paradoxes, 164
    • Chap. VII. Of the laws of perfection in religion, 165
    • Chap. VIII. Of the connection between the moral laws and those of religion, ibid.
    • Chap. IX. Of the Essenes, 166
    • Chap. X. Of the sect of Stoics, ibid.
    • Chap. XI. Of contemplation, 167
    • Chap. XII. Of penances, 168
    • Chap. XIII. Of inexpiable crimes, ibid.
    • Chap. XIV. In what manner religion has an influence on civil laws 169
    • Chap. XV. How false religions are sometimes corrected by the civil laws, 172
    • Chap. XVI. How the laws of religion correct the inconveniencies of a political constitution, ibid.
    • Chap. XVII. The same subject continued, 173
    • Chap. XVIII. How the laws of religion have the effect of civil laws, 174 Edition: current; Page: [iv]
    • Chap. XIX. That it is not so much the truth or falsity of a doctrine which renders it useful or pernicious to men in civil government, as the use or abuse which is made of it, 175
    • Chap. XX. The same subject continued, 177
    • Chap. XXI. Of the metempsychosis, ibid.
    • Chap. XXII. That it is dangerous for religion to inspire an aversion for things in themselves indifferent, 178
    • Chap. XXIII. Of festivals, ibid.
    • Chap. XXIV. Of the local laws of religion, 180
    • Chap. XXV. The inconveniency of transplanting a religion from one country to another, 181
    • Chap. XXVI. The same subject continued. 182
  • Book XXV. Of laws as relative to the establishment of religion, and its external polity.
    • Chap. I. Of religious sentiments, 183
    • Chap. II. Of the motives of attachment to different religions, ib.
    • Chap. III. Of temples, 185
    • Chap. IV. Of the ministers of religion, 188
    • Chap. V. Of the bounds which the laws ought to prescribe to the riches of the clergy, 189
    • Chap. VI. Of monasteries, 191
    • Chap. VII. Of the luxury of superstition, ibid.
    • Chap. VIII. Of the pontificate, 193
    • Chap. IX. Of toleration in point of religion, ibid.
    • Chap. X. The same subject continued, 194
    • Chap. XI. Of changing a religion, 195
    • Chap. XII. Of penal laws, ibid.
    • Chap. XIII. A most humble remonstrance to the inquisitors of Spain and Portugal, 197
    • Chap. XIV. Why the Christian religion is so odious in Japan 200
    • Chap. XV. Of the propagation of religion, 201
  • Book XXVI. Of laws as relative to the order of things on which they determine.
    • Chap. I. Idea of this book, 202
    • Chap. II. Of laws divine and human, 203
    • Chap. III. Of civil laws contrary to the law of nature, 204
    • Chap. IV. The same subject continued, 206
    • Chap. V. Cases in which we may judge by the principles of the civil law, in limiting the principles of the law of nature 207
    • Chap. VI. That the order of succession or inheritance depends on the principles of political or civil law, and not on those of the law of nature, 208
    • Chap. VII. That we ought not to decide by the precepts of religion what belongs only to the law of nature, 210
    • Chap. VIII. That we ought not to regulate by the principles of the canon law, things which should be regulated by those of the civil law, 211
    • Chap. IX. That things which ought to be regulated by the principles of civil law, can seldom be regulated by those of religion, 212
    • Chap. X. In what case we ought to follow the civil law which permits, and not the law of religion which forbids, 214
    • Chap. XI. That human courts of justice should not be regulated by the maxims of those tribunals which relate to the other life 215
    • Chap. XII. The same subject continued, ibid. Edition: current; Page: [v]
    • Chap. XIII. In what cases, with regard to marriages, we ought to follow the laws of religion, and in what cases we should follow the civil laws, 216
    • Chap. XIV. In what instances marriages between relations should be regulated by the laws of nature, and in what instances by the civil laws, 218
    • Chap. XV. That we should not regulate, by the principles of political law, those things which depend on the principles of civil law, 223
    • Chap. XVI. That we ought not to decide by the rules of the civil law, when it is proper to decide by those of the political law, 225
    • Chap. XVII. The same subject continued, 226
    • Chap. XVIII. That it is necessary to enquire, whether the laws which seem contradictory are of the same class, 227
    • Chap. XIX. That we should not decide those things by the civil law, which ought to be decided by domestic laws, 228
    • Chap. XX. That we ought not to decide by the principles of the civil laws, those things which belong to the law of nations, 229
    • Chap. XXI. That we should not decide by political laws, things which belong to the law of nations, ibid.
    • Chap. XXII. The unhappy state of the Ynca Athualpa, 230
    • Chap. XXIII. That when by some circumstance the political law becomes destructive to the state, we ought to decide by such a political law as will preserve it, which sometimes becomes a law of nations, 231
    • Chap. XXIV. That the regulations of the police are of a different class from other civil laws, 232
    • Chap. XXV. That we should not follow the general dispositions of the civil law, in things which ought to be subject to particular rules drawn from their own nature, 233
  • Book XXVII. Of the origin and revolutions of the Roman laws on successions.
    • Chap. I. Of the Roman laws on successions, 234
  • Book XXVIII. Of the origin and revolutions of the civil laws among the French.
    • Chap. I. Different character of the laws of the several people of Germany, 249
    • Chap. II. That the laws of the Barbarians were all personal 252
    • Chap. III. Capital difference between the Salic laws and those of the Visigoths and Burgundians, 254
    • Chap. IV. In what manner the Roman law came to be lost in the country subject to the Franks, and preserved in that subject to the Goths and Burgundians, 256
    • Chap. V. The same subject continued, 259
    • Chap. VI. How the Roman law kept its ground in the demesne of the Lombards, 260
    • Chap. VII. How the Roman law came to be lost in Spain, 261
    • Chap. VIII. A falte capitulary, 263
    • Chap. IX. In what manner the codes of the barbarian laws, and the capitularies came to be lost, ibid.
    • Chap. X. The same subject continued, 265
    • Chap. XI. Other causes of the disuse of the codes of barbarian laws, as well as of the Roman law, and of the capitularies, 266
    • Chap. XII. Of local customs. Revolution of the laws of barbarous nations, as well as of the Roman law, 267 Edition: current; Page: [vi]
    • Chap. XIII. Difference between the Salic law, or that of the Salian Franks, and that of the Ripuarian Franks, and other barbarous nations, 270
    • Chap. XIV. Another difference, 271
    • Chap. XV. A reflection, 272
    • Chap. XVI. Of the ordeal or trial by boiling water, established by the Salic law, 273
    • Chap. XVII. Particular notions of our ancestors, 274
    • Chap. XVIII. In what manner the custom of judicial combats gained ground, 277
    • Chap. XIX. A new reason of the disuse of the Salic and Roman laws, as also of the capitularies, 283
    • Chap. XX. Origin of the point of honour, 285
    • Chap. XXI. A new reflection upon the point of honour among the Germans, 287
    • Chap. XXII. Of the manners relative to judicial combats, ibid.
    • Chap. XXIII. Of the code of laws on judicial combats, 289
    • Chap. XXIV. Rules established in the judicial combats, 290
    • Chap. XXV. Of the bounds prescribed to the custom of judicial combats, 292
    • Chap. XXVI. Of the judiciary combat between one of the parties and one of the witnesses, 294
    • Chap. XXVII. Of the judicial combat between one of the parties, and one of the lord’s Peers. Appeal of false judgment, 296
    • Chap. XXVIII. Of the appeal of default of justice, 302
    • Chap. XXIX. Epoch of the reign of St. Lewis, 308
    • Chap. XXX. Observations on appeals, 311
    • Chap. XXXI. The same subject continued, 312
    • Chap. XXXII. The same subject continued, 313
    • Chap. XXXIII. The same subject continued, 314
    • Chap. XXXIV. In what manner the proceedings at law became secret, 315
    • Chap. XXXV. Of the costs, 316
    • Chap. XXXVI. Of the public prosecutor, 318
    • Chap. XXXVII. In what manner the institutions of St. Lewis fell into oblivion, 321
    • Chap. XXXVIII. The same subject continued, 323
    • Chap. XXXIX. The same subject continued, 326
    • Chap. XL. In what manner the judiciary forms were borrowed from the decretals, 327
    • Chap. XLI. Flux and reflux of the ecclesiastic and temporal jurisdiction, 328
    • Chap. XLII. The revival of the Roman law, and the result thereof. Change in the tribunals, 330
    • Chap. XLIII. The same subject continued, 333
    • Chap. XLIV. Of the proof by witnesses, 334
    • Chap. XLV. Of the customs of France, 335
  • Book XXIX. Of the manner of composing laws.
    • Chap. I. Of the spirit of the legislator, 338
    • Chap. II. The same subject continued, 339
    • Chap. III. That the laws which seem to deviate from the views of the legislator, are frequently agreeable to them, ibid.
    • Chap. IV. Of the laws that are contrary to the views of the legislator, 340
    • Chap. V. The same subject continued, ibid. Edition: current; Page: [vii]
    • Chap. VI. The laws which appear the same, have not always the same effect, 341
    • Chap. VII. The same subject continued. The necessity of composing laws in a proper manner, 342
    • Chap. VIII. That laws which appear the same were not always made through the same motive, 343
    • Chap. IX. That the Greek and Roman laws punished suicide, but not through the same motive, 344
    • Chap. X. That laws which seem contrary proceed sometimes from the same spirit, 345
    • Chap. XI. How we are to judge of the difference of laws, 346
    • Chap. XII. That laws which appear the same are sometimes really different, 347
    • Chap. XIII. That we must not separate the laws from the end for which they were made: Of the Roman laws on theft, 348
    • Chap. XIV. That we must not separate the laws from the circumstances in which they were made, 350
    • Chap. XV. That sometimes it is proper the law should amend itself, ibid.
    • Chap. XVI. Things to be observed in the composing of laws, 351
    • Chap. XVII. A bad method of giving laws, 357
    • Chap. XVIII. Of the ideas of uniformity, 358
    • Chap. XIX. Of legislators, ibid.
  • Book XXX. Theory of the feudal laws among the Franks, in the relation they bear to the establishment of the monarchy.
    • Chap. I. Of feudal laws, 359
    • Chap. II. Of the source of feudal laws, 360
    • Chap. III. The origin of vassalage, 361
    • Chap. IV. The same subject continued, 362
    • Chap. V. Of the conquests of the Franks, 363
    • Chap. VI. Of the Goths, Burgundians, and Franks, 364
    • Chap. VII. Different ways of dividing the lands, 365
    • Chap. VIII. The same subject continued, 366
    • Chap. IX. A just application of the law of the Burgundians, and of that of the Visigoths, in relation to the division of lands, 367
    • Chap. X. Of servitudes, 368
    • Chap. XI. The same subject continued, 369
    • Chap. XII. That the lands belonging to the division of the barbarians paid no taxes, 373
    • Chap. XIII. Of taxes paid by the Romans and Gauls, in the monarchy of the Franks, 377
    • Chap. XIV. Of what they called census, 380
    • Chap. XV. That what they called census was raised only on the bondmen, and not on the freemen, 382
    • Chap. XVI. Of the feudal lords or vassals, 385
    • Chap. XVII. Of the military service of freemen, 387
    • Chap. XVIII. Of the double service, 391
    • Chap. XIX. Of compositions among the barbarous nations, 394
    • Chap. XX. Of what was after call’d the jurisdiction of the lords, 399
    • Chap. XXI. Of the territorial jurisdiction of the churches, 404
    • Chap. XXII. That the jurisdictions were established before the end of the second race, 406
    • Chap. XXIII. General idea of the Abbé du Bos’s book on the establishment of the French monarchy in Gaul, 410 Edition: current; Page: [viii]
    • Chap. XXIV. The same subject continued. Reflections on the main part of the system, 411
    • Chap. XXV. Of the French nobility, 415
  • Book XXXI. Theory of the feudal laws among the Franks, in the relation they bear to the revolutions of their monarchy.
    • Chap. I. Changes in the offices and in the fiefs. Of the mayors of the palace, 423
    • Chap. II. How the civil government was reformed, 427
    • Chap. III. Authority of the mayors of the palace, 431
    • Chap. IV. Of the genius of the nation in regard to the mayors 434
    • Chap. V. In what manner the mayors obtained the command of the armies, 435
    • Chap. VI. Second epocha of the humiliation of our kings of the first race, 437
    • Chap. VII. Of the great offices and fiefs under the mayors of the palace, 438
    • Chap. VIII. In what manner the allodial estates were changed into fiefs. 440
    • Chap. IX. How the church lands were converted into fiefs, 443
    • Chap. X. Riches of the clergy, 445
    • Chap. XI. State of Europe at the time of Charles Martel, 446
    • Chap. XII. Establishment of the tithes, 450
    • Chap. XIII. Of the elections of bishops and abbots, 453
    • Chap. XIV. Of the fiefs of Charles Martel, 454
    • Chap. XV. The same subject continued, 455
    • Chap. XVI. Confusion of the royalty and mayoralty. The second race, ibid.
    • Chap. XVII. A particular thing in the election of the kings of the second race, 457
    • Chap. XVIII. Charlemagne, 459
    • Chap. XIX. The same subject continued, 461
    • Chap. XX. Lewis the Debonnaire, 462
    • Chap. XXI. The successors of Charlemagne, 465
    • Chap. XXII. The same subject continued, 466
    • Chap. XXIII. The same subject continued, 467
    • Chap. XXIV. That the freemen were rendered capable of holding fiefs, 470
    • Chap. XXV. The principal cause of the humiliation of the second race. Changes in the allodia, 472
    • Chap. XXVI. Changes in the fiefs, 475
    • Chap. XXVII. Another change which happened in the fiefs 476
    • Chap. XXVIII. Changes which happened in the great offices, and in the fiefs, 477
    • Chap. XXIX. Of the nature of the fiefs after the reign of Charles the Bald, 479
    • Chap. XXX. The same subject continued, 480
    • Chap. XXXI. In what manner the empire was transferred from the family of Charlemagne, 482
    • Chap. XXXII. In what manner the crown of France was transferred to the house of Hugh Capet, 483
    • Chap. XXXIII. Some consequences of the perpetuity of fiefs 485
    • Chap. XXXIV. The same subject continued, 490
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CHAP. I.: Of Commerce.

THE following subjects deserve to be treated in a more extensive manner than the nature of this work will permit. Fain would I glide down a gentle river; but I am carried away by a torrent.

Commerce is a cure for the most destructive prejudices; for it is almost a general rule, that whereever we find agreeable manners, there commerce flourishes; and that wherever there is commerce, there we meet with agreeable manners.

Let us not be astonished, then, if our manners are now less savage than formerly. Commerce has every Edition: current; Page: [2] where diffused a knowledge of the manners of all nations; these are compared one with another, and from this comparison arise the greatest advantages.

Commercial laws, it may be said, improve manners, for the same reason as they destroy them. They corrupt the purest morals*; this was the subject of Plato’s complaints: and we every day see, that they polish and refine the most barbarous.

CHAP. II.: Of the Spirit of Commerce.

PEACE is the natural effect of trade. Two nations who traffic with each other become reciprocally dependent; for if one has an interest in buying, the other has an interest in selling; and thus their union is founded on their mutual necessities.

But if the spirit of commerce unites nations, it does not in the same manner unite individuals. We see, that in countries where the people move only by the spirit of commerce, they make a traffic of all the humane, all the moral virtues: the most trifling things, those which humanity would demand, are there done, or there given, only for money.

The spirit of trade produces in the mind of man a certain sense of exact justice, opposite on the one hand to robbery, and on the other to those moral virtues which forbid our always adhering rigidly to the rules of private interest, and suffer us to neglect this for the advantage of others.

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The total privation of trade, on the contrary, produces robbery, which Aristotle ranks in the number of means of acquiring: yet it is not at all inconsistent with certain moral virtues Hospitality, for instance, is most rare in trading countries, while it is found in the most admirable perfection among nations of vagabonds.

It is a sacrilege, says Tacitus, for a German to shut his door against any man whomsoever, whether known or unknown. He who has* behaved with hospitality to a stranger, goes to shew him another house where this hospitality is also practised; and he is there received with the same humanity. But when the Germans had founded kingdoms, hospitality was become burthensome. This appears by two laws of the code of the Burgundians; one of which inslicted a penalty on every barbarian, who presumed to shew a stranger the house of a Roman; and the other decreed, that whoever received a stranger should be indemnified by the inhabitants, every one being obliged to pay his proper proportion.

CHAP. III.: Of the Poverty of the People.

THERE are two sorts of poor; those who are rendered such by the severity of the government; these are indeed incapable of performing almost any great action, because their indigence is a consequence of their slavery. Others are poor, only because they either despise, or know not the conveniencies of life; and Edition: current; Page: [4] these are capable of accomplishing great things, because their poverty constitutes a part of their liberty.

CHAP. IV.: Of Commerce in different Governments.

TRADE has some relation to forms of government. In a monarchy it is generally founded on luxury; and though it be also founded on real wants, yet the principal view with which it is carried on, is to procure every thing that can contribute to the pride, the pleasure, and the capricious whimsies of the nation. In republics, it is commonly founded on œconomy. Their merchants having an eye to all the nations of the earth, bring from one what is wanted by another. It is thus that the republics of Tyre, Carthage, Athens, Marseilles, Florence, Venice, and Holland, engaged in commerce.

This kind of traffic has a natural relation to a republican government; to monarchies it is only occasional. For as it is founded on the practice of gaining little, and even less than other nations, and of remedying this by gaining incessantly; it can hardly be carried on by a people swallowed up in luxury; who spend much, and see nothing but objects of grandeur.

Cicero was of this opinion, when he so justly said*, “that he did not like that the same people should be at once both the lords and factors of the whole earth.” For this would indeed be to suppose, that every individual in the state, and the whole state collectively, had their heads constantly filled with grand views, Edition: current; Page: [5] and at the same time with small ones; which is a contradiction.

Not but that the most noble enterprises are compleated also in those states which subsist by œconomical commerce: they have even an intrepidity not to be found in monarchies. And the reason is this:

One branch of commerce leads to another; the small to the moderate, the moderate to the great; thus he who has gratified his desire of gaining a little, raises himself to a situation in which he is not less desirous of gaining a great deal.

Besides, the grand enterprises of merchants are always necessarily connected with the affairs of the public. But in monarchies, these public affairs give as much distrust to the merchants, as in free states they appear to give safety. Great enterprises therefore, in commerce, are not for monarchical, but for republican governments.

In short, an opinion of greater certainty, as to the possession of property in these states, makes them undertake every thing. They flatter themselves with the hopes of receiving great advantages from the smiles of fortune, and thinking themselves sure of what they have already acquired, they boldly expose it, in order to acquire more; risking nothing but as the means of obtaining.

I do not pretend to say that any monarchy is entirely excluded from an œconomical commerce; but of its own nature it has less tendency towards it: neither do I mean that the republics, with which we are acquainted, are absolutely deprived of the commerce of luxury; but it is less connected with their constitution.

With regard to a despotic state, there is no occasion to mention it. A general Rule: A nation in slavery labours more to preserve than to acquire; a free nation, more to acquire than to preserve.

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CHAP. V.: Of Nations that have entered into an œconomical Commerce.

MARSEILLES, a necessary retreat in the midst of a tempestuous sea; Marseilles, a harbour which all the winds, the shelves of the sea, the disposition of the coasts, point out for a landing-place, became frequented by mariners! while the sterility* of the adjacent country determined the citizens to an œconomical commerce. It was necessary that they should be laborious, to supply what nature had refused; that they should be just, in order to live among barbarous nations, from whom they were to derive their prosperity; that they should be moderate, to the end that they might always taste the sweets of a tranquil government; in fine, that they should be frugal in their manners, to enable them to subsist by trade, a trade the more certain, as it was less advantageous.

We every where see violence and oppression give birth to a commerce founded on œconomy, while men are constrained to take refuge in marshes, in isles, in the shallows of the sea, and even on rocks themselves. Thus it was, that Tyre, Venice, and the cities of Holland, were founded. Fugitives found there a place of safety. It was necessary that they should subsist; they drew therefore their subsistence from all parts of the world.

CHAP. VI.: Some Effects of an extensive Navigation.

IT sometimes happens that a nation, when engaged in an œconomical commerce, having need of Edition: current; Page: [7] the merchandizes of one country, which serve as a capital or stock for procuring the commodities of another, is satisfied with making very little profits, and frequently none at all, in trading with the former, in expectation of gaining greatly by the latter. Thus, when the Dutch were almost the only nation that carried on the trade from the South to the North of Europe; the French wines, which they imported to the North, were in some measure only a capital or stock for conducting their commerce in that part of the world.

It is a known fact, that there are some kinds of merchandize in Holland, which, though imported from afar, sell for very little more than they cost upon the spot. They account for it thus: a captain who has occasion to ballast his ship, will load it with marble; if he wants wood for stowage, he will buy it; and provided he loses nothing by the bargain, he will think himself a gainer. Thus it is that Holland has its quarries and its forests.

Further, it may happen so, that not only a commerce which brings in nothing, shall be useful; but even a losing trade shall be beneficial. I have heard it affirmed in Holland, that the whale-fishery in general does not answer the expence: but it must be observed, that the persons employed in building the ships, as also those who furnish the rigging and provisions, are jointly concerned in the fishery. Should they happen to lose in the voyage, they have had a profit in fitting out the vessel. This commerce, in short, is a kind of lottery, and every one is allured with the hopes of a prize. Mankind are generally fond of gaming; and even the most prudent have no aversion to it, when the disagreeable circumstances attending it, such as dissipation, anxiety, passion, loss of time, and even of life and fortune, are concealed from their view.

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CHAP. VII.: The Spirit of England, with respect to Commerce.

THE tariff, or customs of England, are very unsettled, with respect to other nations; they are changed, in some measure, with every parliament, either by taking off particular duties, or by imposing new ones. They endeavour by these means still to preserve their independence. Supremely jealous with respect to trade, they bind themselves but little by treaties, and depend only on their own laws.

Other nations have made the interests of commerce yield to those of politics; the English, on the contrary, have ever made their political interests give way to those of commerce.

They know better than any other people upon earth, how to value at the same time these three great advantages, religion, commerce and liberty.

CHAP. VIII.: In what manner the œconomical Commerce has been sometimes restrained.

IN several kingdoms laws have been made, extremely proper to humble the states that have entered into the œconomical commerce. They have forbid their importing any merchandises, except the product of their respective countries; and have permitted them to traffic only in vessels built in the kingdom to which they brought their commodities.

It is necessary that the kingdom which imposes these laws should itself be able easily to engage in Edition: current; Page: [9] commerce; otherwise it will, at least, be an equal sufferer. It is much more advantageous to trade with a commercial nation, whose profits are moderate, and who are rendered in some sort dependent by the affairs of commerce; with a nation, whose larger views, and whose extended trade enables them to dispose of their superfluous merchandises; with a wealthy nation, who can take off many of their commodities, and make them a quicker return in specie; with a nation under a kind of necessity to be faithful, pacific from principle, and that seeks to gain, and not to conquer; it is much better, I say, to trade with such a nation, than with others, their constant rivals, who will never grant such great advantages.

CHAP. IX.: Of the Prohibition of Commerce.

IT is a true maxim, that one nation should never exclude another from trading with it, except for very great reasons. The Japanese trade only with two nations, the Chinese and the Dutch. The *Chinese gain a thousand per cent. upon sugars, and sometimes as much by the goods they take in exchange. The Dutch make nearly the same profits. Every nation that acts upon Japanese principles must necessarily be deceived; for it is competition which sets a just value on merchandises, and establishes the relation between them.

Much less ought a state to lay itself under an obligation of selling its manufactures only to a single nation, under a pretence of their taking all at a certain price. The Poles, in this manner, dispose Edition: current; Page: [10] of their corn to the city of Dantzic; and several Indian princes have made a like contract for their spices with the Dutch. These argreements are proper only for a poor nation, whose inhabitants are satisfied to forego the hopes of enriching themselves provided they can be secure of a certain subsistence; or for nations, whose slavery consists either in renouncing the use of those things which nature has given them, or in being obliged to submit to a disadvantageous commerce.

CHAP. X.: An Institution adapted to œconomical Commerce.

IN states that carry on an œconomical commerce, they have luckily established banks, which by their credit have formed a new species of wealth; but it would be quite wrong to introduce them into governments, whose commerce is founded only in luxury. The erecting of banks in countries governed by an absolute monarch, supposes money on the one side, and on the other power; that is, on the one hand, the means of procuring every thing without any power, and on the other the power, without any means of procuring at all. In a government of this kind, none but the prince ever had, or can have a treasure; and wherever there is one, it no sooner becomes great, than it becoms the treasure of the prince.

For the same reason, all associations of merchants, in order to carry on a particular commerce, are seldom proper in absolute governments. The design of these companies is to give to the wealth of private persons the weight of public riches. But, in those governments, this weight can be found only in the prince. Edition: current; Page: [11] Nay, they are not even always proper in states engaged in œconomical commerce; for, if the trade be not so great as to surpass the management of particular persons, it is much better to leave it open, than by exclusive privileges, to restrain the liberty of commerce.

CHAP. XI.: The same Subject continued.

A FREE port may be established in the dominions of states whose commerce is œconomical. That œconomy in the government, which always attends the frugality of individuals, is, if I may so express myself, the soul of its œconomical commerce. The loss it sustains with respect to customs, it can repair by drawing from the wealth and industry of the republic. But in a monarchy, a step of this kind must be opposite to reason; for it could have no other effect, than to ease luxury of the weight of taxes. This would be depriving itself of the only advantage that luxury can procure, and of the only curb which, in a constitution like this, it is capable of receiving.

CHAP. XII.: Of the Freedom of Commerce.

THE freedom of commerce is not a power granted to the merchants to do what they please: This would be more properly its slavery. The constraint of the merchant is not the constraint of commerce. It is in the freest countries that the merchant finds innumerable obstacles; and he is never less crossed by laws, than in a country of slaves.

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England prohibits the exportation of her wool; coals must be brought by sea to the capital; no horses, except geldings, are allowed to be exported; and the vessels* of her colonies, trading to Europe, must take in water in England. The English constrain the merchant, but it is in favour of commerce.

CHAP. XIII.: What it is that destroys this Liberty.

WHEREVER commerce subsists, customs are established. Commerce is the exportation and importation of merchandises, with a view to the advantage of the state: Customs are a certain right over this same exportation and importation, founded also on the advantage of the state. From hence it becomes necessary, that the state should be neuter between its customs and its commerce, that neither of these two interfere with each other; and then the inhabitants enjoy a free commerce.

The farming of the customs destroys commerce by its injustice and vexations, as well as by the excess of the imposts; but, independent of this, it destroys it even more by the difficulties that arise from it, and by the formalities it exacts. In England, where the customs are managed by the king’s officers, business is negotiated with a singular dexterity: one word of writing accomplishes the greatest affairs. The merchant need not lose an infinite deal of time; he has no occasion for a particular commissioner, either to obviate all the difficulties of the farmers, or to submit to them.

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CHAP. XIV.: The Laws of Commerce concerning the Confiscation of Merchandises.

THE Magna Charta of England forbids the seizing and confiscating, in case of war, the effects of foreign merchants, except by way of reprisals. It is an honour to the English nation, they have made this one of the articles of their liberty.

In the late war between Spain and England, the former made a *law, which punished with death those who brought English merchandises into the dominions of Spain; and the same penalty on those who carried Spanish merchandises into England. An ordinance like this cannot, I believe, find a precedent in any laws but those of Japan. It equally shocks humanity, the spirit of commerce, and the harmony which ought to subsist in the proportion of penalties; it confounds all our ideas, making that a crime against the state, which is only a violation of civil polity.

CHAP. XV.: Of seizing the Persons of Merchants.

SOLON made a law, that the Athenians should no longer seize the body for civil debts. This law he received from Egypt. It had been made by Boccoris, and renewed by Sesostris.

This law is extremely good, with respect to the generality Edition: current; Page: [14] of civil §affairs; but there is sufficient reason for its not being observed in those of commerce. For, as merchants are obliged to entrust large sums, frequently for a very short time, and to pay money as well as to receive it, there is a necessity, that the debtor should constantly fulfil his engagements at the time prefixed; and hence it becomes necessary to lay a constraint on his person.

In affairs relating to common civil contracts, the law ought not to permit the seizure of the person; because the liberty of one citizen is of greater importance to the public, than the ease or prosperity of another. But in conventions derived from commerce, the law ought to consider the public prosperity as of greater importance than the liberty of a citizen; which, however, does not hinder the restrictions and limitations that humanity and good policy demand.

CHAP. XVI.: An excellent Law.

ADMIRABLE is that law of Geneva, which excludes from the magistracy, and even from the admittance into the great council, the children of those who have lived or died insolvent, except they have discharged their father’s debts. It has this effect; it gives a confidence in the merchants, in the magistrates, and in the city itself. There the credit of the individual has still all the weight of public credit.

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CHAP. XVII.: A Law of Rhodes.

THE inhabitants of Rhodes went further. Sextus Empiricus* observes, that among those people, a son could not be excused from paying his father’s debts, by renouncing the succession. This law of Rhodes was calculated for a republic, founded on commerce. Now I am inclined to think, that reasons drawn from commerce itself should make this limitation, that the debts contracted by the father, since the son’s entering into commerce, should not affect the estate or property acquired by the latter. A merchant ought always to know his obligations, and to square his conduct by his circumstances and present fortune.

CHAP. XVIII.: Of the Judges of Commerce.

XENOPHON, in his book of revenues, would have rewards given to those overseers of commerce, who dispatched the causes brought before them with the greatest expedition. He was sensible of the need of our modern jurisdiction of a consul.

The affairs of commerce are but little susceptible of formalities. They are the actions of a day, and are every day followed by others of the same nature. Hence it becomes necessary, that every day they should be decided. It is otherwise with those actions of life which have a principal influence on futurity, but rarely happen. We seldom marry more Edition: current; Page: [16] than once; deeds and wills are not the work of every day: we are but once of age.

Plato *says, that in a city where there is no maritime commerce, there ought not to be above half the number of civil laws: This is very true. Commerce brings into the same country different kinds of people; it introduces also a great number of contracts, and of species of wealth, with various ways of acquiring it.

Thus in a trading city, there are fewer judges, and more laws.

CHAP. XIX.: That a Prince ought not to engage himself in Commerce.

THEOPHILUS seeing a vessel laden with merchandises for his wife Theodora, ordered it to be burnt. “I am Emperor,” said he, “and you make me the master of a galley: By what means shall these poor men gain a livelihood, if we take their trade out of their hands?” He might have added, Who shall set bounds to us, if we monopolize all to ourselves? Who shall oblige us to fulfil our engagements? Our courtiers will follow our example; they will be more greedy, and more unjust than we: The people have some confidence in our justice; they will have none in our opulence: All these numerous duties, which are the cause of their wants, are certain proofs of ours.

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CHAP. XX.: The same Subject continued.

WHEN the Portuguese and Castilians bore sway in the East Indies, commerce had such opulent branches, that their princes did not fail to seize them. This ruined their settlements in those parts of the world.

The viceroy of Goa granted exclusive privileges to particular persons. The people had no confidence in these men, and the commerce declined, by the perpetual change of those to whom it was entrusted; nobody took care to improve it, or to leave it entire to his successor. In short, the profit centered in a few hands, and was not sufficiently extended.

CHAP. XXI.: Of the Commerce of the Nobility in a Monarchy.

IN a monarchical government, it is contrary to the spirit of commerce, that any of the nobility should be merchants. “This,” said the Emperors* Honorius and Theodosius, “would be pernicious to cities; and would remove the facility of buying and selling between the merchants and the plebeians.”

It is contrary to the spirit of monarchy, to admit the nobility into commerce. The custom of suffering the nobility of England to trade, is one of those things which has there mostly contributed to weaken the monarchical government.

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CHAP. XXII.: A singular Reflection.

PERSONS, struck with the practice of some states, imagine, that in France they ought to make laws to engage the nobility to enter into commerce. But these laws would be the means of destroying the nobility, without being of any advantage to trade. The practice of this country is extremely wise; merchants are not nobles, though they may become so: they have the hopes of obtaining a degree of nobility, unattended with its actual inconveniencies. There is no surer way of being advanced above their profession, than to manage it well, or with success; the consequence of which is generally an affluent fortune.

Laws which oblige every one to continue in his profession, and to devolve it to his children, neither are nor can be of use in any but* despotic kingdoms, where no body either can, or ought to have, emulation.

Let none say, that every one will succeed better in his profession, when he cannot change it for another. I say, that a person will succeed best, when those who have excelled hope to arise to another.

The possibility of purchasing honour with gold, encourages many merchants to put themselves in circumstances by which they may attain it. I do not take upon me to examine the justice of thus bartering for money the price of virtue. There are governments where this may be very useful.

In France, the dignity of the long robe, which places those who wear it between the great nobility Edition: current; Page: [19] and the people, and without having such shining honours as the former, has all their privileges; a dignity which, while this body, the depositary of the laws, is encircled with glory, leaves the private members in a mediocrity of fortune; a dignity, in which there are no other means of distinction, but by a superior capacity and virtue, yet which still leaves in view one much more illustrious: The warlike nobility likewise, who conceive that, whatever degree of wealth they are possessed of, they may still increase their fortunes; who are ashamed of augmenting, if they begin not with dissipating their estates; who always serve their prince with their whole capital stock, and, when that is sunk, make room for others who follow their example; who take the field that they may never be reproached with not having been there; who, when they can no longer hope for riches, live in expectation of honours, and, when they have not obtained the latter, enjoy the consolation of having acquired glory: all these things together have necessarily contributed to augment the grandeur of this kingdom; and, if for two or three centuries it has been incessantly increasing in power, this must be attributed not to fortune, who was never famed for constancy, but to the goodness of its laws.

CHAP. XXIII.: To what Nations Commerce is prejudicial.

RICHES consist either in lands, or in moveable effects. The soil of every country is commonly possessed by the natives. The laws of most states render foreigners unwilling to purchase their lands; and nothing but the presence of the owner improves them: this kind of riches therefore belongs to every state in particular. But moveable effects, as Edition: current; Page: [20] money, notes, bills of exchange, stocks in companies, vessels, and in fine all merchandises, belong to the whole world in general; in this respect it is composed of but one single state, of which all the societies upon earth are members. The people who possess more of these moveable effects than any other on the globe, are the most opulent. Some states have an immense quantity, acquired by their commodities, by the labour of their mechanics, by their industry, by their discoveries, and even by chance. The avarice of nations makes them quarrel for the moveables of the whole universe. If we could find a state so unhappy, as to be deprived of the effects of other countries, and at the same time of almost all its own, the proprietors of the lands would be only planters to foreigners. This state, wanting all, could acquire nothing; therefore it would be much better for the inhabitants not to have the least commerce with any nation upon earth; for commerce, in these circumstances, must necessarily lead them to poverty.

A country, that constantly exports fewer manufactures or commodities than it receives, will soon find the balance sinking; it will receive less and less, until, falling into extreme poverty, it will receive nothing at all.

In trading countries, the specie which suddenly vanishes quickly returns, because those nations that have received it are its debtors; but it never returns into those states of which we have just been speaking, because those who have received it owe them nothing.

Poland will serve us for an example. It has scarcely any of those things which we call the moveable effects of the universe, except corn, the produce of its lands. Some of the lords possess entire provinces; they oppress the husbandmen, in order to have greater quantities of corn, which they send to strangers, Edition: current; Page: [21] to procure the superfluous demands of luxury. If Poland had no foreign trade, its inhabitants would be more happy. The grandees, who would have only their corn, would give it to their peasants for subsistence; as their too extensive estates would become burthensome, they would divide them amongst their peasants; every one would find skins or wool in their herds or flocks, so that they would no longer be at an immense expence in providing cloaths; the great, who are ever fond of luxury, not being able to find it but in their own country, would encourage the labour of the poor. This nation, I affirm, would then become more flourishing, at least, if it did not become barbarous; and this the laws might easily prevent.

Let us next consider Japan. The vast quantity of what they receive, is the cause of the vast quantity of merchandises they send abroad. Things are thus in as nice an equilibrium, as if the importation and exportation were but small. Besides, this kind of exuberance in the state is productive of a thousand advantages: there is a greater consumption, a greater quantity of those things on which the arts are exercised; more men employed, and more numerous means of acquiring power: exigencies may also happen, that require a speedy assistance, which so opulent a state can better afford than any other. It is difficult for a country to avoid having superfluities: but it is the nature of commerce to render the superfluous useful, and the useful necessary. The state will be therefore able to afford necessaries to a much greater number of subjects.

Let us say then, that it is not those nations who have need of nothing, that must lose by trade; it is those who have need of every thing. It is not such people as have a sufficiency within themselves, but Edition: current; Page: [22] those who are most in want, that will find an advantage in putting a stop to all commercial intercourse.


CHAP. I.: Some general Considerations.

THOUGH commerce be subject to great revolutions, yet it is possible that certain physical causes, as the quality of the soil or the climate, may fix its nature for ever.

We at present carry on the trade of the Indies merely by means of the silver which we send thither. The* Romans carried annually thither about fifty millions of sesterces; and this silver, as ours is at present, was exchanged for merchandises which were brought to the west. Every nation, that ever traded to the Indies, has constantly carried bullion, and brought merchandises in return.

It is Nature itself that produces this effect. The Indians have their arts adapted to their manner of living. Our luxury cannot be theirs, nor theirs our wants Their climate neither demands nor permits hardly any thing which comes from us. They go in Edition: current; Page: [23] a great measure naked: such cloaths as they have the country itself furnishes; and their religion, which is deeply rooted, gives them an aversion for those things that serve for our nourishment. They want, therefore, nothing but our bullion, to serve as the medium of value, and for this they give us merchandises in return, with which the frugality of the people, and the nature of the country, furnishes them in great abundance. Those ancient *authors, who have mentioned the Indies, describe them just as we now find them, as to their policy, customs, and manners. The Indies have ever been the same Indies they are at present; and, in every period of time, those who traded to that country must carry specie thither, and brought none in return.

CHAP. II.: Of the People of Africa.

THE greatest part of the people on the coast of Africa are savages and barbarians. The principal reason, I believe, of this is, because the small countries capable of being inhabited, are separated from each other by large and almost uninhabitable tracts of land. They are without industry or arts. They have gold in abundance, which they receive immediately from the hand of nature. Every civilized state is therefore in a condition to traffic with them to advantage, by raising their esteem for things of no value, and receiving a very high price in return.

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CHAP. III.: That the wants of the People in the South are different from those of the North.

In Europe, there is a kind of balance between the southern and northern nations. The first have every convenience of life, and few of its wants: the last have many wants, and few conveniencies. To one, nature has given much, and demands but little; to the other, she has given but little, and demands a great deal. The equilibrium is maintained by the laziness of the southern nations, and by the industry and activity which she has given to those in the north. The latter are obliged to undergo excessive labour, without which, they would want every thing, and degenerate into barbarians. This has naturalized slavery to the people of the south: as they can easily dispense with riches, they can more easily dispense with liberty. But the people of the north have need of liberty, for this can best procure them the means of satisfying all those wants which they have received from nature. The people of the north, then, are in a forced state, if they are not either free or barbarians. Almost all the people of the south are, in some measure, in a state of violence, if they are not slaves.

CHAP. IV.: The principal Difference between the Commerce of the Ancients and the Moderns.

The world has found itself, from time to time, in different situations; by which the face of commerce has been altered. The trade of Europe is, at present, carried on principally from the north to the south; and the difference of climate is the cause that the several nations have great occasion for the merchandizes Edition: current; Page: [25] of each other. For example, the liquors of the south, which are carried to the north, form a commerce little known to the ancients. Thus the burthen of vessels, which was formerly computed by measures of corn, is at present determined by tons of liquor.

The ancient commerce, so far as it is known to us, was carred on from one port in the Mediterranean to another: and was almost wholly confined to the south. Now the people of the same climate, having nearly the same things of their own, have not the same need of trading amongst themselves as with those of a different climate. The commerce of Europe was therefore formerly less extended than at present.

This does not at all contradict what I have said of our commerce to the Indies: for here the prodigious difference of climate destroys all relation between their wants and ours.

CHAP. V.: Other Differences.

COMMERCE is sometimes destroyed by conquerors, sometimes cramped by monarchs; it traverses the earth, flies from the places where it is oppressed, and stays where it has liberty to breathe: it reigns at present where nothing was formerly to be seen but desarts, seas, and rocks; and where it once reigned, there are only desarts.

To see Colchis in its present situation, which is no more than a vast forest, where the people are every day decreasing, and only defend their liberty to sell themselves by piece-meal to the Turks and Persians; one could never imagine, that this country had ever, in the time of the Romans, been full of cities, where commerce convened all the nations of the world. We find no monument of these sacts in the country itself; Edition: current; Page: [26] there are no traces of them, except in* Pliny and Strabo.

The history of commerce, is that of the communication of people. Their numerous defeats, and the flux and reflux of populations and devastations, here form the most extraordinary events.

CHAP. VI.: Of the Commerce of the Ancients.

THE immense treasures of Semiramis, which could not be acquired in a day, give us reason to believe, that the Assyrians themselves had pillaged other rich nations, as other nations afterwards pillaged them.

The effect of commerce is riches; the consequence of riches, luxury; and that of luxury, the perfection of arts. We find that the arts were carried to great perfection in the time of Semiramis which is a sufficient indication, that a considerable commerce was then established.

In the empires of Asia, there was a great commerce of luxury. The history of luxury would make a fine part of that of commerce. The luxury of the Persians was that of the Medes, as the luxury of the Medes was that of the Assyrians.

Great revolutions have happened in Asia. The north east parts of Persia, viz. Hyrcania, Margiana, Bactria, &c. were formerly full of flourishing§ cities which are now no more; and the north of this ††empire, that is, the isthmus which separates the Caspian and the Euxine seas, was covered with cities and nations, which are now destroyed.

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Eratosthenes and Aristobulus learnt from Patroclus*, that the merchandizes of India passed by the Oxus into the sea of Pontus. Marcus Varro tells us, that the time when Pompey commanded against Mithridates, they were informed, that people went in seven days from India to the country of the Bactrians, and to the river Icarus, which falls into the Oxus; that by this method, they were able to bring the merchandizes of India across the Caspian sea, and to enter the mouth of Cyrus; from whence it was only five days passage to the Phasis, a river that discharges itself into the Euxine sea. There is no doubt but it was by the nations inhabiting these several countries, that the great empires of the Assyrians, Medes, and Persians, had a communication, with the most distant parts of the east and west.

An entire stop is now put to this communication. All these countries have been laid waste by the§ Tartars, and are still infested by this destructive nation. The Oxus no longer runs into the Caspian sea; the Tartars, for some private** reasons, have changed its course, and it now loses itself in the barren sands.

The Jaxartes, which was formerly a barrier between the polite and barbarous nations, has had its course turned ††in the same manner by the Tartars, and it no longer empties itself into the sea.

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Seleucus Nicator formed the project of joining the Euxine to the Caspian sea. This project, which would have greatly facilitated the commerce of those days, vanished at his death. We are not certain it could have been executed in the isthmus which separates the two seas. This country is at present very little known; it is depopulated, and full of forests: however, water is not wanting, for an infinite number of rivers roll into it from mount Caucasus; but, as this mountain forms the north of the isthmus, and extends like two arms towards the south, it would have been a grand obstacle to such an enterprise, especially in those times when they had not the art of making sluices.

It may be imagined, that Seleucus would have joined the two seas in the very place where Peter I. has since joined them, that is, in that neck of land where the Tanais approaches the Volga; but the north of the Caspian sea was not then discovered.

While the empires of Asia enjoyed the commerce of luxury, the Tyrians had the commerce of œconomy, which they extended throughout the world. Bochard has employed the first book of his Canaan, in enumerating the colonies which they sent into all the countries bordering upon the sea: they passed the Pillars of Hercules, and made establishments* on the coast of the ocean.

In those times their pilots were obliged to follow the coasts, which were, if I may so express myself, their compass. Voyages were long and painful. The laborious voyage of Ulysses has been the fruitful subject of the finest poem in the world, next to that which alone has the preference.

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The little knowledge, which the greatest part of the world had of those who were far distant from them, favoured the nations engaged in the œconomical commerce. They managed trade with as much obscurity as they pleased: they had all the advantages which the most intelligent nations could take over the most ignorant.

The Egyptians, a people who by their religion and their manners were averse to all communication with strangers, had scarcely at that time any foreign trade. They enjoyed a fruitful soil, and great plenty. Their country was the Japan of those times; it possessed every thing within itself.

So little jealous were those people of commerce, that they left that of the Red Sea to all the petty nations that had any harbours in it. Here they suffered the Idumeans, the Syrians, and the Jews to have fleets. Solomon employed in this navigation the Tyrians, who knew those seas.

Josephus says, that his nation, being entirely employed in agriculture, knew little of navigation: the Jews therefore traded only occasionally in the Red Sea. They took from the Idumeans, Eloth and Eziongeber, from whom they received this commerce; they lost these two cities, and with them lost this commerce.

It was not so with the Phœnicians; theirs was not a commerce of luxury; nor was their trade owing to conquest: their frugality, their abilities, their industry, their perils, and the hardships they suffered, rendered them necessary to all the nations of the world.

Before Alexander, the people bordering on the Red Sea traded only in this sea, and in that of Africa. The astonishment, which filled the globe Edition: current; Page: [30] at the discovery of the Indian Sea under that conqueror, is of this a sufficient proof. I have observed,* that bullion was always carried to the Indies, and never any brought from thence; now the Jewish fleets, which brought gold and silver by the way of the Red Sea, returned from Africa, and not from the Indies.

Besides, this navigation was made on the eastern coast of Africa; for the state of navigation at that time is a convincing proof, that they did not sail to a very distant shore. I am not ignorant, that the fleet of Solomon and Jehosaphat returned only every three years; but I do not see that the time taken up in the voyage is any proof of the greatness of the distance.

Pliny and Strabo inform us, that the junks of India and the Red Sea were twenty days in performing a voyage, which a Greek or Roman vessel would accomplish in seven, In this proportion, a voyage of one year, made by the fleets of Greece or Rome, would take very near three, when performed by those of Solomon.

Two ships of unequal swiftness do not perform their voyage in a time proportionate to their swiftness. Slowness is frequently the cause of much greater slowness. When it becomes necessary to follow the coasts, and to be incessantly in a different position, when they must wait for a fair wind to get out of a gulph, and for another to proceed; a good sailor takes the advantage of every favourable moment, while the other still continues in a difficult situation, and waits many days for another change.

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This slowness of the Indian vessels, which in an equal time could make but one third of the way of those of the Greeks and Romans, may be explained by what we every day see in our modern navigation. The Indian vessels, which were built with a kind of sea-rushes, drew less water than those of Greece and Rome, which were of wood and joined with iron.

We may compare these Indian vessels to those at present made use of in ports of little depth of water. Such are those of Venice, and even of all *Italy in general, of the Baltic, and of the province of Holland. Their ships, which ought to be able to go in and out of port, are built round and broad at the bottom; while those of other nations, who have good harbours, are formed to sink deep into the water. This mechanism renders these last mentioned vessels able to sail much nearer to the wind; while the first can hardly sail, except the wind be nearly in the poop. A ship that sinks deep into the water, sails towards the same side with almost every wind: this proceeds from the resistance which the vessel, whilst driven by the wind, meets with from the water, from which it receives a strong support; and from the length of the vessel, which presents its side to the wind, while from the form of the helm the prow is turned to the point proposed; so that she can sail very near to the wind, or, in other words, very near the point from whence the wind blows. But when the hull is round and broad at the bottom, and consequently draws little water, it no longer finds this steady support; the wind drives the vessel, which is incapable of resistance, and can run then but with a small variation from the point opposite to the wind. From whence it follows, that broad-bottomed vessels are longer in performing voyages.

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1. They lose much time in waiting for the wind, especially if they are obliged frequently to change their course. 2. They sail much slower, because, not having a proper support from a depth of water, they cannot carry so much sail. If this be the case at a time when the arts are every where known, at a time when art corrects the defects of nature, and even of art itself; if at this time, I say, we find this difference, how great must that have been, in the navigation of the antients?

I cannot yet leave this subject. The Indian vessels were small, and those of the Greeks and Romans, if we except their machines built for ostentation, much less than ours. Now, the smaller the vessel, the greater the danger it encounters from foul weather. A tempest that would swallow up a small vessel, would only make a large one roll. The more one body is surpassed by another in bigness, the more its surface is relatively small. From whence it follows, that in a small ship, there is a less proportion, that is, a greater difference, as to the surface of the vessel, and the weight or lading she can carry, than in a large one. We know that it is a pretty general practice, to make the weight of the lading equal to that of half the water the vessel is able to contain. Suppose a vessel will contain eight hundred tons, her lading then must be four hundred; and that of a vessel, which would hold but four hundred tons of water, would be two hundred tons. Thus the largeness of the first ship will be to the weight she carries, as 8 to 4; and that of the second as 4 to 2. Let us suppose then, that the surface of the greater is to the surface of the smaller, as 8 to 6: the surface* of this will be to her weight as 6 to 2, while the surface of the former will be to her Edition: current; Page: [33] weight only, as 8 to 4. Therefore, as the winds and waves act only upon the surface, the large vessel will, by her weight, resist their impetuosity much more than the small.

CHAP. VII.: Of the Commerce of the Greeks.

THE first Greeks were all pirates. Minos, who enjoyed the empire of the sea, was only more successful, perhaps, than others in piracy; for his maritime dominion extended no farther than round his own isle. But when the Greeks became a great people, the Athenians obtained the real dominion of the sea; because this trading and victorious nation gave laws to the most potent monarch* of that time; and humbled the maritime powers of Syria, of the isle of Cyprus, and Phœnicia.

But this Athenian lordship of the sea deserves to be more particularly mentioned. “Athens, says Xenophon, rules the sea; but as the country of Attica is joined to the continent, it is ravaged by enemies, while the Athenians are engaged in distant expeditions. Their leaders suffer their lands to be destroyed; and secure their wealth, by sending it to some island. The populace, who are not possessed of lands, have no uneasiness. But if the Athenians inhabited an island, and, besides this, enjoyed the empire of the sea, they would, so long as they were possessed of these advantages, be able to annoy others, and at the same time to be out of all danger of being annoyed.” One would imagine, that Xenophon was speaking of England.

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The Athenians, a people whose heads were filled with ambitious projects; the Athenians, who augmented their jealousy, instead of increasing their influence; who were more attentive to extend their maritime empire than to enjoy it; whose political government was such, that the common people distributed the public revenues amongst themselves, while the rich were in a state of oppression; the Athenians, I say, did not carry on so extensive a commerce as might be expected from the produce of their mines, from the multitude of their slaves, from the number of their seamen, from their influence over the cities of Greece; and, above all, from the excellent institutions of Solon. Their trade was almost wholly confined to Greece, and to the Euxine sea; from whence they drew their subsistence.

Corinth was admirably situated; it separated two seas, and opened and shut the Peloponnesus: it was the key of Greece, and a city of the greatest importance, at a time when the people of Greece were a world, and the cities of Greece, nations. Its trade was more extensive than that of Athens, having a port to receive the merchandizes of Asia; and another those of Italy: for the great difficulties which attended the doubling cape Malea, where the* meeting of opposite winds causes shipwrecks, induced every one to go to Corinth, and they could even convey their vessels over land from one sea to the other. Never was there a city, in which the works of art were carried to so high a degree of perfection. But here religion finished the corruption, which their opulence began. They erected a temple to Venus, in which more than a thousand courtesans were consecrated to that deity; from this seminary came the Edition: current; Page: [35] greatest part of those celebrated beauties, whose history Athenæus has presumed to commit to writing.

It seems, that in Homer’s time, the opulence of Greece centered in Rhodes, Corinth, and Orchomenus: “Jupiter, he says,* loved the Rhodians, and made them a very wealthy nation.” On Corinth he bestows the epithet of rich. In like manner, when he speaks of cities that have plenty of gold, he mentions Orchomenus, to which he joins Thebes in Egypt. Rhodes and Corinth preserved their power; but Orchomenus lost hers. The situation of Orchomenus in the neighbourhood of the Hellespont, the Propontis, and the Euxine sea, makes us naturally imagine, that she was indebted for her opulence to a trade along that maritime coast, which had given rise to the fable of the golden fleece: and indeed, the name of Minyeios has been given to Orchomenus, as well as to the Argonauts. But these seas becoming afterwards more frequented, the Greeks planted along the coasts a greater number of colonies, which traded with the barbarous nations, and at the same time preserved an intercourse with their mother country: in consequence of this, Orchomenus began to decline, till at length it was lost in the croud of the other cities of Greece.

Before Homer’s time, the Greeks had scarce any trade but among themselves, and with a few barbarous nations; in proportion, however, as they formed new colonies, they extended their dominion. Greece was a large peninsula, the capes of which seemed to have kept off the seas, while its gulphs opened on all sides to receive them. If we cast an eye on Greece, we shall find, in a pretty compact country, a considerable extent of sea-coast. Her innumerable colonies formed an immense circle round Edition: current; Page: [36] her; and there she beheld, in some measure, the whole civilized world. Did she penetrate into Sicily and Italy? she formed new nations. Did she navigate towards the sea of Pontus, the coast of Asia Minor, or that of Africa? she acted in the same manner. Her cities increased in prosperity, in proportion as they happened to have new people in their neighbourhood. And what was extremely beautiful, she was surrounded on every side with a prodigious number of islands, drawn, as it were, in a line of circumvallation.

What a source of prosperity must Greece have found in those games, with which she entertained, in some measure, the whole globe; in those temples, to which all the kings of the earth sent their offerings; in those festivals, at which such a concourse of people used to assemble from all parts; in those oracles, to which the attention of all mankind was directed; and, in short, in that exquisite taste for the polite arts, which she carried to such a height, that to expect ever to surpass her, would be only betraying our ignorance.

CHAP. VIII.: Of Alexander. His Conquest.

FOUR great events happened in the reign of Alexander, which entirely changed the face of commerce: the taking of Tyre, the conquest of Egypt, that likewise of the Indies, and the discovery of the sea which lies south of that country.

The empire of Persia extended to the Indus.* Darius, long before Alexander, had sent some vessels, Edition: current; Page: [37] which sailed down this river, and passed even into the Red sea. How then were the Greeks the first who traded to the Indies by the south? Had not the Persians done this before? Did they make no advantage of seas which were so near them; of the very seas that washed their coasts? Alexander, it is true, conquered the Indies; but was it necessary for him to conquer a country, in order to trade with it? This is what I shall now examine.

Ariana,* which extended from the Persian gulph as far as the Indus, and from the South Sea to the mountains of Paropamisus, depended indeed in some measure on the empire of Persia; but in the southern part it was barren, scorched, rude, and uncultivated. Tradition relates, that the armies of Semiramis and Cyrus perished in these desarts; and Alexander, who caused his fleet to follow him, could not avoid losing in this place a great part of his army. The Persians left the whole coast to the Ichthyophagi, the Oritæ, and other barbarous nations. Besides, the Persians were no§ great sailors, and their very religion debarred them from entertaining any such notion as that of a maritime commerce. The voyage undertaken by Darius’s direction upon the Indus, and the Indian sea, proceeded rather from the capriciousness of a prince vainly ambitious of shewing his power, than from any settled regular project. It was attended with no consequence, either to the advantage of commerce, or of navigation. They emerged from their ignorance, only to plunge into it again.

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Besides, it was a received opinion,* before the expedition of Alexander, that the southern parts of India were uninhabitable. This proceeded from a tradition that Semiramis had brought back from thence only twenty men, and Cyrus but seven.

Alexander entered by the north. His design was to march towards the east; but having found a part of the south full of great nations, cities, and rivers, he attempted to conquer it, and succeeded.

He then formed the design of uniting the Indies to the western nations by a maritime commerce, as he had already united them by the colonies he had established by land.

He ordered a fleet to be built on the Hydaspes, then fell down that river, entered the Indus, and sailed even to its mouth. He left his army and his fleet at Patala, went himself with a few vessels to view the sea, and marked the places where he would have ports to be opened, and arsenals erected. Upon his return from Patala, he separated the fleet, and took the route by land, for the mutual support of fleet and army. The fleet followed the coast from the Indus along the banks of the country of the Oritæ, of the Ichthyophagi, of Carmania and Persia. He caused wells to be dug, built cities, and would not suffer the Ichthyophagi§ to live on fish, being desirous of having the Edition: current; Page: [39] borders of the sea inhabited by civilized nations. Nearchus and Onesecritus wrote a journal of this voyage, which was performed in ten months. They arrived at Susa, where they found Alexander, who gave an entertainment to his whole army.

This prince had founded Alexandria, with a view of securing his conquest of Egypt; this was a key to open it, in the very place where the kings his* predecessors had a key to shut it; and he had not the least thought of a commerce, of which the discovery of the Indian sea could alone give him the idea.

It even seems, that after this discovery, he had no new design, in regard to Alexandria. He had, indeed, a general scheme of opening a trade between the East Indies and the western parts of his empire; but as for the project of conducting this commerce through Egypt, his knowledge was too imperfect to be able to form any such design. It is true, he had seen the Indus, he had seen the Nile, but he knew nothing of the Arabian seas between the two rivers. Scarce was he returned from India, when he fitted out new fleets, and navigated on the Euleus, the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the ocean: he removed the cataracts, with which the Persians had encumbered those rivers; and he discovered that the Persian gulph was a branch of the main sea. But as he went to view this sea, in the same manner as he had done in regard to that of India; as he caused a port to be opened for a thousand ships, and arsenals to be erected at Babylon; as he sent five hundred talents into Phœnicia and Syria, to draw mariners into this service, whom he intended Edition: current; Page: [40] to distribute in the colonies along the coast; in fine, as he caused immense works to be erected on the Euphrates, and the other rivers of Assyria, there could be no doubt but he designed to carry on the commerce of India by the way of Babylon and the Persic gulph.

There are some who pretend that Alexander wanted to subdue Arabia,* and had formed a design to make it the seat of his empire: but how could he have pitched upon a place, with which he was entirely unacquainted. Besides, of all countries, this would have been the most inconvenient to him; for it would have separated him from the rest of his empire. The Caliphs, who made distant conquests, soon withdrew from Arabia, to reside elsewhere.

CHAP. IX.: Of the Commerce of the Grecian Kings after the Death of Alexander.

AT the time when Alexander made the conquest of Egypt, they had but a very imperfect idea of the Red sea, and none at all of the ocean, which joining to this sea, on one side washes the coast of Africa, and on the other, that of Arabia; nay, they thought it impossible to sail round the peninsula of Arabia. They who attempted it on each side, had relinquished their design. “How is it possible, said they, to navigate to the southern coast of Arabia, when Cambyses’s army, which traversed it on the north side, almost entirely perished; and the forces which Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, sent to the assistance Edition: current; Page: [41] of Seleucus Nicator at Babylon, underwent incredible hardships, and, upon account of the heats, could march only in the night?”

The Persians were entire-strangers to navigation. When they had subdued Egypt, they introduced the same spirit into that country as prevailed in Persia: hence so great was the supineness of the Persians, in this respect, that the Grecian kings found them quite strangers, not only to the commerce of the Tyrians, Idumeans, and the Jews, on the ocean, but even to the navigation of the Red sea. I am apt to think, that the destruction of the first Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar, together with the subversion of several petty nations and towns bordering on the Red sea, had obliterated all their former knowledge of commerce.

Egypt, at the time of the Persian monarchy, did not front the Red sea; it* contained only that long narrow neck of land which the Nile covers with its inundations, and is enclosed on both sides by a chain of mountains. They were, therefore, under the necessity of making a second discovery of the ocean and the Red sea; and this discovery engaged the curiosity of the Grecian monarchs.

They ascended the Nile, and hunted after elephants in the countries situated between that river and the sea; by this progression they traced the sea-coast; and as the discoveries were made by the Greeks, the names are all Grecian, and the temples are consecrated to Greek divinities.

The Greeks settled in Egypt were able to command a most extensive commerce; they were masters of all the harbours on the Red sea; Tyre, the rival of every trading nation, was no more; they were not Edition: current; Page: [42] constrained by the ancient* superstitions of the country; in short, Egypt was become the centre of the world.

The kings of Syria left the commerce of the south to those of Egypt, and attached themselves only to the northern trade, which was carried on by means of the Oxus and the Caspian sea. They then imagined, that this sea was part of the northern ocean; and Alexander, some time before his death had fitted out a fleet, in order to discover whether it communicated with the ocean by the Euxine sea, or on some other eastern sea towards India. After him, Seleucus and Antiochus applied themselves to make discoveries in it, with a particular attention; and with this view they scoured it with their fleets.§ That part which Seleucus surveyed, was called the Seleucidian sea; that which Antiochus discovered, received the name of the sea of Antiochus. Attentive to the projects they might have formed on that side, they neglected the seas on the south: whether it was that the Ptolemies, by means of their fleets on the Red sea, were already become the masters of it; or that they discovered an invincible aversion in the Persians against engaging in maritime affairs. The southern coasts of Persia supplied them with no seamen; there had been none in those parts, except towards the latter end of Alexander’s reign. But the Egyptian kings being masters of the isle of Cyprus, of Phœnicia, and of a great number of towns on the coast of Asia minor, were possessed of all sorts of conveniencies for undertaking maritime expeditions. They had no occasion Edition: current; Page: [43] to force, they had only to follow the genius and bent of their subjects.

I am surprized, I confess, at the obstinacy with which the ancients believed that the Caspian sea was a part of the ocean. The expeditions of Alexander, of the kings of Syria, of the Parthians and the Romans, could not make them change their sentiments; notwithstanding these nations described the Caspian sea with a wonderful exactness; but men are generally tenacious of their errors. When only the south of this sea was known, it was at first taken for the ocean; in proportion as they advanced along the banks of the northern coast, instead of imagining it a great lake, they still believed it to be the ocean, that here made a sort of a bay: surveying the coast, their discoveries never went eastward beyond the Jaxartes, nor westward further than the extremity of Albania. The sea towards the north was shallow,* and of course very unfit for navigation. Hence it was, that they always looked upon this as the ocean.

The land army of Alexander had been on the east only as far as the Hypanis, which is the last of those rivers that fall into the Indus: thus the first trade which the Greeks carried on to the Indies was confined to a very small part of the country. Seleucus Nicator penetrated as far as the Ganges, and there by discovered the sea into which this river falls, that is to say, the bay of Bengal. The moderns discover countries by voyages at sea; the ancients discovered seas by conquests at land.

Strabo, notwithstanding the testimony of Apollodorus, seems to doubt whether the Grecian kings§ of Bactria proceeded farther than Seleucus and Alexander. Were it even true that they went no further to Edition: current; Page: [44] the east than Seleucus, yet they went farther towards the south: they discovered* Siger, and the ports on the coast of Malabar, which gave rise to the navigation I am going to mention.

Pliny informs us, that the navigation of the Indies was successively carried on by three different ways. At first they sailed from the cape of Siagre to the island of Patalena, which is at the mouth of the Indus. This we find was the course that Alexander’s fleet steered to the Indies. They took afterwards, a shorter and more certain course, by sailing from the same cape or promontory to Siger: this can be no other but the kingdom of Siger, mentioned by Strabo,§ and discovered by the Grecian kings of Bactria. Pliny, by saying that this way was shorter than the other, can mean only that the voyage was made in less time: for as Siger was discovered by the kings of Bactria, it must have been farther than the Indus: by this passage they must therefore have avoided the windings of certain coasts, and taken advantage of particular winds. The merchants at last took a third way; they sailed to Canes, or Ocelis, ports situated at the entrance of the Red sea; from whence by a west wind, they arrived at Muziris, the first staple town of the Indies, and from thence to the other ports. Here we see, that instead of sailing to the mouth of the Red sea as far as Siagre, by coasting Arabia Felix to the north-east, they steered directly from west to east, from one side to the other, by means of the monsoons, whose regular course they discovered by sailing in these latitudes. The ancients never lost sight of the coasts, but when they took advantage of Edition: current; Page: [45] these* and the trade winds, which were to them a kind of compass.

Pliny says, that they set sail for the Indies in the middle of summer, and returned towards the end of December, or in the beginning of January. This is entirely conformable to our naval journals. In that part of the Indian sea which is between the peninsula of Africa, and that on this side the Ganges, there are two monsoons; the first, during which the winds blow from west to east, begins in the month of August or September; and the second, during which the wind is in the east, begins in January. Thus we set sail from Africa for Malabar, at the season of the year that Ptolemy’s fleet used to put to sea from thence; and we return too at the same time as they.

Alexander’s fleet was seven months in sailing from Patala to Susa. It set out in the month of July, that is, at a season when no ship dare now put to sea to return from the Indies. Between these two monsoons there is an interval of time, during which the winds vary; when a north wind meeting with the common winds, raises, especially near the coasts, the most terrible tempests. These continue during the months of June, July, and August. Alexander’s fleet, therefore, setting sail from Patala in the month of July, must have been exposed to many storms, and the voyage must have been long, because they sailed against the monsoon.

Pliny says, that they set out for the Indies at the end of summer; thus they spent the time proper for taking advantage of the monsoon, in their passage from Alexandria to the Red sea.

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Observe here, I pray, how navigation has by little and little arrived at perfection. Darius’s fleet was two years and an half* in falling down the Indus, and going to the Red sea. Afterwards the fleet of Alexander, descending the Indus, arrived at Susa in ten months, having sailed three months on the Indus, and seven on the Indian sea; at last, the passage from the coast of Malabar to the Red sea was made in forty days.

Strabo,§ who accounts for their ignorance of the countries between the Hypanis and the Ganges, says, there were very few of those who sailed from Egypt to the Indies, that ever proceeded so far as the Ganges. Their fleets, in fact, never went thither: they sailed with the western monsoons from the mouth of the Red sea to the coast of Malabar. They cast anchor in ports along that coast, and never attempted to get round the peninsula on this side the Ganges by cape Comorin and the coast of Coromandel. The plan of navigation laid down by the kings of Egypt and the Romans was, to set out and return the same year.

Thus it is demonstrable, that the commerce of the Greeks and Romans to the Indies was much less extensive than ours. We know immense countries, which to them were entirely unknown; we traffic with all the Indian nations; we even manage their trade, and in our bottoms carry on their commerce.

But this commerce of the ancients was carried on with far greater facility than ours. And if the moderns were to trade only to the coast of Guzarat and Malabar, and, without seeking for the southern isles, were satisfied with what these islanders brought them, they would certainly prefer the way of Egypt to that of the cape of Good-hope. Strabo** informs us, that they traded thus with the people of Taprobane.

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CHAP. X.: Of the Circuit of Africa.

WE find from history, that before the discovery of the mariner’s compass, four attempts were made to sail round the coast of Africa. The Phœnicians sent by* Necho, and Eudoxus flying from the wrath of Ptolomy Lathyrus, set out from the Red sea, and succeeded. Sataspes sent by Xerxes, and Hanno by the Carthaginians, set out from the Pillars of Hercules, and failed in the attempt.

The capital point in surrounding Africa was, to discover and double the cape of Good-hope. Those who set out from the Red sea, found this cape nearer by half, than it would have been in setting out from the Mediterranean. The shore from the Red sea is not so shallow as that from the cape§ to Hercules’s pillars. The discovery of the cape by Hercules’s pillars was owing to the invention of the compass, which permitted them to leave the coast of Africa, and to launch out into the vast ocean, in order to sail towards the island of St. Helena, or towards the coast of Brasil. It was therefore very possible for them to sail from the Red sea into the Mediterranean, but not to set out from the Mediterranean to return by the Red sea.

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Thus, without making this grand circuit, after which they could hardly ever hope to return, it was most natural to trade to the east of Africa by the Red sea, and to the western coast by Hercules’s pillars.

The Grecian kings of Egypt discovered at first in the Red sea, that part of the coast of Africa, which extends from the bottom of the gulph where stands the town of Heroum, as far as Dira, that is, to the streight, now known by the name of Babelmandel. From thence to the promontory of Aromatia, situate at the entrance of the Red sea,* the coast had never been surveyed by navigators: and this is evident from what Artemidorus tells us, that they were acquainted with the places on that coast, but knew not their distances: the reason of which is, they successively gained a knowledge of those ports by land, without sailing from one to the other.

Beyond this promontory, at which the coast along the ocean commenced, they knew nothing, as we learn from Eratosthenes and Artemidorus.

Such was the knowledge they had of the coasts of Africa in Strabo’s time, that is, in the reign of Augustus. But after that prince’s decease, the Romans found out the two capes Raptum and Passum, of which Strabo makes no mention, because they had not been as yet discovered. It is plain, that both those names are of Roman original.

Ptolemy the geographer flourished under Adrian and Antoninus Pius; and the author of the Periplus of the Red sea, whoever he was, lived a little after. Edition: current; Page: [49] Yet the former limits known Africa* to cape Prassum, which is in about the 14th degree of south latitude; while the author of the Periplus confines it to cape Raptum, which is nearly in the 10th degree of the same latitude. In all likelihood, the latter took his limit from a place then frequented, and Ptolemy his from a place with which there was no longer any communication.

What confirms me in this notion is, that the people about cape Prassum were anthropophagi. Ptolemy takes notice§ of a great number of places between the port or emporium Aromatum and cape Raptum, but leaves an entire blank between the capes Raptum and Prassum. The great profits of the East-India trade must have occasioned a neglect of that of Africa. In fine, the Romans never had any settled navigation; they had discovered these several ports by land expeditions, and by means of ships driven on that coast; and, as at present, we are well acquainted with the maritime parts of Africa, but know very little of the inland country; the ancients, on the contrary, had a very good knowledge of the inland parts, but were almost strangers to the coasts.

I said, that the Phœnicians sent by Necho and Eudoxus under Ptolemy Lathryus, had made the circuit of Africa: but at the time of Ptolemy the geographer, those two voyages must have been looked upon as fabulous, since he places,** after the Sinus Magnus, which I apprehend to be the gulph of Siam, an unknown Edition: current; Page: [50] country, extending from Asia to Africa, and terminating at cape Prassum, so that the Indian ocean would have been no more than a lake. The ancients, who discovered the Indies towards the north, advancing castward, placed this unknown country to the south.

CHAP. XI.: Of Carthage and Marseilles.

THE law of nations which obtained at Carthage, was very extraordinrry: all strangers, who traded to Sardinia and towards Hercules’s pillars, this haughty republic sentenced to be drowned. Her civil polity was equally surprizing; she forbid the Sardinians to cultivate their lands, upon pain of death. She increased her power by her riches, and afterwards her riches by her power. Being mistress of the coasts of Africa, which are washed by the Mediterranean, she extended herself along the ocean. Hanno, by order of the senate of Carthage, distributed thirty thousand Carthaginians from Hercules’s pillars as far as Cerne. This place, he says, is as distant from Hercules’s pillars, as the latter from Carthage. This situation is extremely remarkable. It lets us see, that Hanno limitted his settlements to the 25th degree of north latitude, that is, to two or three degrees south of the Canaries.

Hanno being at Cerne, undertook another voyage, with a view of making further discoveries towards the South. He took but little notice of the continent. He followed the coast for twenty-six days, when he was obliged to return for want of provisions. The Carthaginians, it seems, made no use of this second enterprise. Scylax* says, that the sea is not navigable Edition: current; Page: [51] beyond Cerne, because it is shallow, full of mud and sea-weeds; and in fact, there are many of these in those latitudes.* The Carthaginian merchants, mentioned by Scylax, might find obstacles, which Hanno, who had sixty vessels of fifty oars each, had surmounted. Difficulties are at most but relative; besides, we ought not to confound an enterprize, in which bravery and resolution must be exerted, with things that require no extraordinary conduct.

The relation of Hanno’s voyage is a fine fragment of antiquity. It was written by the very man that performed it. His recital is not mingled with ostentation. Great commanders write their actions with simplicity; because they receive more glory from facts than from words.

The stile is agreeable to the subject: he deals not in the marvellous. All he says of the climate, of the soil, the behaviour, the manners of the inhabitants, correspond with what is every day seen on this coast of Africa; one would imagine it the journal of a modern sailor.

He observed from his fleet, that in the day-time there was a prodigious silence on the continent, that in the night he heard the sound of various musical instruments, and that fires might then be every where seen, some larger than others. Our relations are conformable to this; it has been discovered, that in the day the savages retire into the forests to avoid the heat of the sun, that they light up great fires in the Edition: current; Page: [52] night to disperse the beasts of prey, and that they are passionately fond of music and dancing.

The same writer describes a volcano with all the phænomena of Vesuvius; and relates, that he took two hairy women, who chose to die rather than follow the Carthaginians, and whose skins he carried to Carthage. This has been found not void of probability.

This narration is so much the more valuable, as it is a monument of Punic antiquity: and from hence alone it has been regarded as fabulons. For the Romans retained their hatred to the Carthaginians, even after they had destroyed them. But it was victory alone that decided whether we ought to say, The Punic or the Roman faith.

Some moderns* have imbibed these prejudices. What is become, say they, of the cities described by Hanno, of which even in Pliny’s time there remained no vestiges? But it would have been a wonder indeed, if any such vestiges had remained. Was it a Corinth or Athens that Hanno built on those coasts? He left Carthaginian families in such places as were most commodious for trade, and secured them as well as his hurry would permit, against savages and wild beasts. The calamities of the Carthaginians put a period to the navigation of Africa; these families must necessarily then either perish or become savages. Besides, were the ruins of these cities even still in being, who is it that would venture into the woods and marshes to make the discovery? We find, however, in Scylax and Polybius, that the Carthaginians had considerable settlements on those coasts. These are the vestiges of the cities of Hanno; there are no other, from the same reason that there are no other of Carthage itself.

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The Carthaginians were in the high road to wealth; and had they gone so far as four degrees of north latitude, and fifteen of longitude, they would have discovered the gold-coast. They would then have had a trade of much greater importance than that which is carried on at present on that coast, at a time when America seems to have degraded the riches of all other countries. They would there have found treasures, of which they could never have been deprived by the Romans.

Very suprising things have been said of the riches of Spain. If we may believe Aristotle,* the Phœnicians, who arrived at Tartessus, found so much silver there, that their ships could not hold it all: and they made of this metal their meanest utensils. The Carthaginians, according to Diodorus, found so much gold and silver in the Pyrenean mountains, that they adorned the anchors of their ships with it. But no foundation can be built on such popular reports. Let us therefore examine into the facts themselves.

We find in a fragment of Polybius, cited by Strabo, that the silver mines at the source of the river Bætis, in which forty thousand men were employed, produced to the Romans twenty-five thousand drachmas a day, that is, about five millions of livres a year, at fifty livres to the mark. The mountains that contained these mines were called the§ Silver Mountains: which shews they were the Potosi of those times. At present, the mines of Hanover do not employ a fourth part of the workmen, and yet they yield more. But as the Romans had not many copper-mines, and but few of silver; and as the Greeks knew none but the Attic mines, which were of little value, they might well be astonished at their abundance.

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In the war that broke out for the succession of Spain, a man called the marquis of Rhodes, of whom it was said that he was ruined in golden mines, and enriched in hospitals,* proposed to the court of France to open the Pyrenean mines. He alledged the example of the Tyrians, the Carthaginians, and the Romans. He was permitted to search, but sought in vain; he still alledged, and found nothing.

The Carthaginians being masters of the gold and silver trade, were willing to be so of the lead and pewter. These metals were carried by land from the ports of Gaul upon the ocean to those of the Mediterranean. The Carthaginians were desirous of receiving them at the first hand: they sent Himilco to make a settlement in the isles called Cassiterides, which are imagined to be those of Scilly.

These voyages from Bætica into England have made some persons imagine that the Carthaginians knew the compass: but it is very certain that they followed the coasts. There needs no other proof than Himilco’s being four months in sailing from the mouth of the Bætis to England: besides the famous piece of history of the Carthaginian pilot, who, being followed by a Roman vessel, ran a-ground, that he might not shew her the way to England, plainly intimates, that those vessels were very near the shore, when they fell in with each other.

The ancients might have performed voyages, that would make one imagine they had the compass, though they had not. If a pilot was far from land, and during his voyage had such serene weather, that in the night he could always see a polar star, and in the day the rising and setting of the sun, it is certain Edition: current; Page: [55] he might regulate his course as well as we do now by the compass: but this must be a fortuirous case, and not a regular method of navigation.

We see in the treaty which put an end to the first Punic war, that Carthage was principally attentive to preserve the empire of the sea, and Rome that of the land. Hanno,* in his negociation with the Romans, declared, that they should not be suffered even to wash their hands in the sea of Sicily; they were not permitted to sail beyond the promontorium pulchrum they were forbid to trade in Sicily, Sardinia, and Africa, except at Carthage: an exception that lets us see there was no design to favour them in their trade with that city.

In early times there had been very great wars between Carthage and Marseilles on the subject of fishing. After the peace they entered jointly into the œconomical commerce. Marseilles at length grew jealous, especially as being equal to her rival in industry, she was become inferior to her in power. This is the motive of her great fidelity to the Romans. The war between the latter and the Carthaginians in Spain was a source of riches to Marseilles, which was now become their magazine. The ruin of Carthage and Corinth still increased the glory of Marseilles; and had it not been for the civil wars, in which this republic ought on no account to have engaged, she would have been happy under the protection of the Romans, who had not the least jealousy of her commerce.

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CHAP. XII.: The Isle of Delos. Mithridates.

UPON the destruction of Corinth by the Romans, the merchants retired to Delos, an island, which from religious considerations was looked upon as a place of safety:* besides, it was extremely well situated for the commerce of Italy and Asia, which, since the reduction of Africa, and the weakening of Greece, was grown more important.

From the earliest times, the Greeks, as we have already observed, sent colonies to Propontis, and to the Euxine sea: colonies which retained their laws and liberties under the Persians. Alexander, having undertaken his expedition against the barbarians only, did not molest these people. Neither does it appear that the kings of Pontus, who were masters of many of those colonies, ever deprived them of their own civil government.

The power§ of those kings increased as soon as they subdued those cities. Mithridates found himself able to hire troops on every side, to repair his frequent losses: to have a multitude of workmen, ships, and military machines; to procure himself allies; to Edition: current; Page: [57] bribe those of the Romans, and even the Romans themselves; to keep the barbarians of Asia and Europe in his pay;* to continue the war for many years, and of course to discipline his troops: he found himself able to train them to arms, to instruct them in the military art of the Romans, and to form considerable bodies out of their deserters; in a word, he found himself able to sustain great losses, and to be frequently defeated, without being ruined; neither would he have been ruined, if the voluptuous and barbarous king had not destroyed, in his prosperous days, what had been done by the great prince in times of adversity.

Thus it is that when the Romans were arrived at their highest pitch of grandeur, and seemed to have nothing to apprehend but from the ambition of their own subjects, Mithridates once more ventured to contest the mighty point, which the overthrows of Philip, of Antiochus, and of Perseus, had already decided. Never was there a more destructive war: the two contending parties being possessed of great power, and receiving alternate advantages, the inhabitants of Greece and of Asia fell a sacrifice in the quarrel, either as foes, or as friends of Mithridates. Delos was involved in the general fatality; and commerce failed on every side; which was a necessary consequence, the people themselves being destroyed.

The Romans, in pursuance of a system of which I have spoken elsewhere,§ acting as destroyers, that they might not appear as conquerors, demolished Carthage and Corinth; a practice by which they would have ruined themselves, had they not subdued Edition: current; Page: [58] the world. When the kings of Pontus became masters of the Greek colonies on the Euxine sea, they took care not to destroy what was to be the foundation of their own grandeur.

CHAP. XIII.: Of the Genius of the Romans as to Maritime Affairs.

THE Romans laid no stress on any thing but their land forces, who were disciplined to stand firm, to fight on one spot, and there bravely to die. They could not, like the practice of seamen, who first offer to fight, then fly, then return, constantly avoid danger, often make use of stratagem, and seldom of force. This was not suitable to the genius of the* Greeks, much less to that of the Romans.

They destined, therefore, to the sea only those citizens who were not considerable enough to have a place in their legions. Their marines were commonly freed-men.

At this time we have neither the same esteem for land-forces, nor the same contempt for those of the sea. In the former, art is decreased; in the§ latter, it is augmented: now things are generally esteemed in proportion to the degree of ability requisite to discharge them.

CHAP. XIV.: Of the Genius of the Romans with Respect to Commerce.

THE Romans were never distinguished by a jealousy for trade. They attacked Carthage as a rival, Edition: current; Page: [59] not as a commercial nation. They favoured trading cities that were not subject to them. Thus they increased the power of Marseilles, by the cession of a large territory. They were vastly afraid of barbarians; but had not the least apprehension from a trading people. Their genius, their glory, their military education, and the very form of their government, estranged them from commerce.

In the city, they were employed only about war, elections, factions, and law-suits; in the country, about agriculture; and, as for the provinces, a severe and tyrannical government was incompatible with commerce.

But their political constitution was not more opposite to trade, than their law of nations. “The people, says* Pomponius the civilian, with whom we have neither friendship nor hospitality, nor alliance, are not our enemies; however, if any thing belonging to us falls into their hands, they are the proprietors of it; freemen become their slaves; and they are upon the same terms with respect to us.”

Their civil law was not less oppressive. The law of Constantine, after having stigmatised as bastards the children of persons of a mean rank, who had been married to those of a superior station, confounds women, who retail merchandizes, with slaves, with the mistresses of taverns, with actresses, with the daughters of those who keep public stews, or who had been condemned to fight in the amphitheatre: this had its original in the ancient institutions of the Romans.

I am not ignorant that men prepossessed with these two ideas, that commerce is of the greatest service to a state, and that the Romans had the best-regulated Edition: current; Page: [60] government in the world, have believed that these people greatly honoured and encouraged commerce; but the truth is, they seldom troubled their heads about it.

CHAP. XV.: Of the Commerce of the Romans with the Barbarians.

THE Romans having erected a vast empire in Europe, Asia, and Africa; the weakness of the people and the tyranny of their laws united all the parts of this immense body. The Roman policy was then to avoid all communication with those nations whom they had not subdued: the fear of carrying to them the art of conquering, made them neglect the art of enriching themselves. They made laws to hinder all commerce with barbarians. “Let nobody, said* Valens and Gratian, send wine, oil, or other liquors to the barbarians, though it be only for them to taste. Let no one carry gold to them, adds Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius: rather, if they have any, let our subjects deprive them of it by stratagem.” The exportation of iron was prohibited on pain of death.

Domitian, a prince of great timidity, ordered the vines in Gaul to be pulled up; from a fear, no doubt, lest their wines should draw thither the barbarians. Probus and Julian, who had no such fears, gave orders for their being planted again.

I am sensible, that upon the declension of the Roman Empire, the barbarians obliged the Romans to Edition: current; Page: [61] establish staple towns,* and to trade with them. But even this is a proof that the minds of the Romans were averse to commerce.

CHAP. XVI.: Of the Commerce of the Romans with Arabia, and the Indies.

THE trade to Arabia Felix, and that to the Indies, were the two branches, and almost the only ones of their foreign commerce. The Arabians were possessed of immense riches, which they found in their seas and forests; and as they sold much and purchased little, they drew to themselves the gold and silver of the Romans. Augustus§ being well apprised of that opulence, resolved they should be either his friends, or his enemies. With this view, he sent Elius Gallus from Egypt into Arabia. This commander found the people indolent, peaceable, and unskilled in war. He fought battles, laid sieges to towns, and lost but seven of his men by the sword; but the perfidy of his guides, long marches, the climate, want of provisions, distempers, and ill conduct, caused the ruin of his army.

He was therefore obliged to be content with trading to Arabia, in the same manner as other nations, that is, with giving them gold and silver in exchange for their commodities. The Europeans trade with them Edition: current; Page: [62] still in the same manner; the caravans of Aleppo, and the royal vessel of Suez, carry thither immense sums.*

Nature had formed the Arabs for commerce, not for war: but when those quiet people came to be near neighbours to the Parthians and the Romans, they acted as auxiliaries to both nations. Elius Gallus found them a trading people; Mahomet happened to find them trained to war; he inspired them with enthusiasm, which led them to glory and conquest.

The commerce of the Romans to the Indies was very considerable. Strabo had been informed in Egypt, that they employed in this navigation one hundred and twenty vessels: this commerce was carried on entirely with bullion. They sent thither annually fifty millions of sesterces. Pliny says, that the merchandizes brought from thence, were sold at Rome at cent. per cent. profit. He speaks, I believe, too generally; if this trade had been so vastly profitable, every body would have been willing to engage in it, and then it would have been at an end.

It will admit of a question, whether the trade to Arabia and the Indies was of any advantage to the Romans? They were obliged to export their bullion thither, though they had not, like us, the resource of America, which supplies what we send away. I am persuaded, that one of the reasons of their increasing the value of their specie, by establishing base coin, was the scarcity of silver, owing to the continual exportation of it to the Indies: and though the commodities of this country were sold at Rome at the rate of cent. per cent. this profit of the Romans, being obtained from the Romans themselves, could not enrich the empire.

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It may be alledged, on the other hand, that this commerce increased the Roman navigation, and of course their power; that new merchandizes augmented their inland trade, gave encouragement to the arts, and employment to the industrious; that the number of subjects multiplied in proportion to the new means of support; that this new commerce was productive of luxury, which I have proved to be as favourable to a monarchical government, as fatal to a commonwealth; that this establishment was of the same date as the fall of their republic; that the luxury of Rome was become necessary; and that it was extremely proper, that a city which had accumulated all the wealth of the universe, should refund it by its luxury.

Strabo* says that the Romans carried on a far more extensive commerce to the Indies than the kings of Egypt; but it is very extraordinary, that those people who were so little acquainted with commerce, should have paid more attention to that of India, than the Egyptian kings, whose dominions lay so conveniently for it. The reason of this must be explained.

After the death of Alexander, the kings of Egypt established a maritime commerce to the Indies; while the kings of Syria, who were possessed of the more eastern provinces, and consequently of the Indies, maintained that commerce, of which we have taken notice in the sixth chapter, which was carried on partly by land, and partly by rivers, and had been farther facilitated by means of the Macedonian colonies; insomuch, that Europe had a communication with the Indies, both by Egypt and by Syria. The dismembering of the latter kingdom, from whence was formed that of Bactriana, did not prove any way prejudicial to this commerce. Marinus the Edition: current; Page: [64] Tyrian, quoted by Ptolemy,* mentions the discoveries made in India by means of some Macedonian merchants, who found out new roads, which had been unknown to kings in their military expeditions. We find in Ptolemy, that they went from Peter’s tower, as far as Sera; and the discoveries made by mercantile people of so distant a mart, situated in the north-east part of China, was a kind of prodigy. Hence, under the kings of Syria and Bactriana, merchandizes were conveyed to the west from the southern parts of India, by the river Indus, the Oxus, and the Caspian sea; while those of the more eastern and northern parts were transported from Sera, Peter’s tower, and other staples, as far as the Euphrates. Those merchants directed their route, nearly by the fortieth degree of north latitude, through countries situated to the west of China, more civilized at that time than at present, because they had not as yet been infested by the Tartars.

Now while the Syrian empire was extending its trade to such a distance by land, Egypt did not greatly enlarge its maritime commerce.

The Parthians soon after appeared, and founded their empire; and when Egypt fell under the power of the Romans, this empire was at its height, and had received its whole extension.

The Romans and Parthians were two rival nations, that fought not for dominion, but for their very existence. Between the two empires deserts were formed, and armies were always stationed on the frontiers; so that instead of there being any commerce, there was not so much as a communication between them. Ambition, jealousy, religion, national antipathy, and difference Edition: current; Page: [65] of manners, compleated the separation. Thus the trade from east to west, which had formerly so many channels, was reduced to one; and Alexandria becoming the only staple, the trade to this city was immensely enlarged.

We shall say but one word on their inland trade. Its principal branch was the corn brought to Rome for the subsistence of the people; but this was rather a political affair than a point of commerce. On this account the sailors were favoured with some privileges,* because the safety of the empire depended on their vigilance.

CHAP. XVII.: Of Commerce after the Destruction of the Western Empire.

AFTER the invasion of the Roman empire, one effect of the general calamity was the destruction of commerce. The barbarous nations at first regarded it only as an opportunity for robbery; and when they had subdued the Romans, they honoured it no more than agriculture, and the other professions of a conquered people.

Soon was the commerce of Europe almost entirely lost. The nobility, who had every where the direction of affairs, were in no pain about it.

The laws of the Visigoths permitted private people to occupy half the beds of great rivers, provided the other half remained free for nets and boats. There must have been very little trade in countries conquered by these barbarians.

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In those times were established the ridiculous rights of escheatage and shipwrecks. These men thought, that as strangers were not united to them by any civil law, they owed them on the one hand no kind of justice, and on the other no sort of pity.

In the narrow bounds which nature had originally prescribed to the people of the north, all were strangers to them; and in their poverty they regarded all only as contributing to their riches. Being established, before their conquest, on the coasts of a sea of very little breadth, and full of rocks from these very rocks they drew their subsistence.

But the Romans, who made laws for all the world, had established the most* humane ones with regard to shipwrecks. They suppressed the rapine of those who inhabited the coasts; and what was more still, the rapaciousness of their treasuries.

CHAP. XVIII.: A particular Regulation.

THE law of the Visigoths made however one regulation in favour of commerce. It ordained, that foreign merchants should be judged, in the differences that arose amongst themselves, by the laws and by judges of their own nation. This was founded on an established custom among all mixed people, that every man should live under his own law: a custom, of which I shall speak more at large in another place.

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CHAP. XIX.: Of Commerce after the Decay of the Roman Power in the East.

THE Mahometans appeared, conquered, extended, and dispersed themselves. Egypt had particular sovereigns; these carried on the commerce of India, and being possessed of the merchandizes of this country, drew to themselves the riches of all other nations. The sultans of Egypt were the most powerful princes of those times. History informs us with what a constant and well-regulated force they stopped the ardor, the fire, and the impetuosity of the crusades.

CHAP. XX.: How Commerce broke through the Barbarism of Europe.

ARISTOTLE’s philosophy being carried to the west, pleased the subtil geniuses, who were the virtuosi of those times of ignorance. The schoolmen were infatuated with it, and borrowed from that philosopher,* a great many notions on lending upon interest, whereas its source might have been easily traced in the gospel; in short, they condemned it absolutely and in all cases. Hence commerce, which was the profession only of mean persons, became that of knaves: for whenever a thing is forbidden, which nature permits or necessity requires, those who do it are looked upon as dishonest.

Commerce was transferred to a nation covered with infamy; and soon ranked with the most shameful Edition: current; Page: [68] usury, with monopolies, with the levying of subsidies, and with all the dishonest means of acquiring wealth.

The Jews,* enriched by their exactions, were pillaged by the tyranny of princes; which pleased, indeed, but did not ease the people.

What passed in England may serve to give us an idea of what was done in other countries. King John having imprisoned the Jews, in order to obtain their wealth, there were few who had not at least one of their eyes plucked out. Thus did that king administer justice. A certain Jew, who had a tooth pulled out every day for seven days successively, gave ten thousand marks of silver for the eighth. Henry III. extorted from Aaron, a Jew, at York, fourteen thousands marks of silver, and ten thousand for the queen. In those times they did by violence, what is now done in Poland with some semblance of moderation. As princes could not dive into the purses of their subjects, because of their privileges, they put the Jews to the torture, who were not considered as citizens.

At last a custom was introduced of confiscating the effects of those Jews who embraced Christianity. This ridiculous custom is known only by the law which suppressed it. The most vain and trifling reasons were given in justification of that proceeding; it was alledged, that it was proper to try them, in order to be certain, that they had entirely shaken off the slavery of the devil. But it is evident, that this confiscation was a species of the right of§ amortisation, to recompense Edition: current; Page: [69] the prince, or the lords, for the taxes levied on the Jews, which ceased on their embracing Christianity. In those times, men, like lands, were regarded as property; I cannot help remarking by the way, how this nation has been sported with from one age to another: at one time, their effects were confiscated when they were willing to become Christians; and at another, if they refused to turn Christians, they were ordered to be burnt.

In the mean time, commerce was seen to arise from the bosom of vexation and despair. The Jews, proscribed by turns from every country, found out the way of saving their effects. Thus they rendered their retreat for ever fixed; for though princes might have been willing to get rid of their persons, yet they did not chuse to get rid of their money.

The* Jews invented letters of exchange; commerce, by this method, became capable of eluding violence, and of maintaining every where its ground; the richest merchant having none but invisible effects, which he could convey imperceptibly whereever he pleased.

The theologians were obliged to limit their principles; and commerce, which they had before connected by main force with knavery, re-entered, if I may so express myself, the bosom of probity.

Thus we owe to the speculations of the schoolmen all the misfortunes which accompanied the destruction of commerce; and to the avarice of princes, Edition: current; Page: [70] the establishment of a practice which puts it in some measure out of their power.

From this time it became necessary that princes should govern with more prudence than they themselves could ever have imagined: for great exertions of authority were, in the event, found to be impolitic; and from experience it is manifest, that nothing but the goodness and lenity of a government can make it flourish.

We begin to be cured of Machiavelism, and recover from it every day. More moderation is become necessary in the councils of princes. What would formerly have been called a master-stroke in politics, would be now, independent of the horror it might occasion, the greatest imprudence.

Happy is it for men that they are in a situation, in which, though their passions prompt them to be wicked, it is, however, their interest to be humane and virtuous.

CHAP. XXI.: The Discovery of two new Worlds, and in what Manner Europe is affected by it.

THE compass opened, if I may so express myself, the universe. Asia and Africa were found, of which only some borders were known; and America, of which we knew nothing.

The Portuguese, sailing on the Atlantic ocean, discovered the most southern point of Africa; they saw a vast sea, which carried them to the East-Indies. Their danger upon this sea, the discovery of Mosambique, Melinda, and Calicut, have been sung by Camoens, whose poems make us feel something Edition: current; Page: [71] of the charms of the Odyssey, and the magnificence of the Æneid.

The Venetians had hitherto carried on the trade of the Indies through the Turkish dominions, and pursued it in the midst of oppressions and discouragements. By the discovery of the Cape of Good-hope, and those which were made some time after, Italy was no longer the centre of the trading world; it was, if I may be permitted the expression, only a corner of the universe, and is so still. The commerce even of the Levant depending now on that of the great trading nations to both the Indies, Italy even in that branch can no longer be considered as a principal

The Portuguese traded to the Indies in right of conquest. The* constraining laws which the Dutch at present impose on the commerce of the little Indian princes, had been established before by the Portuguese.

The fortune of the house of Austria was prodigious. Charles V. succeeded to the possession of Burgundy, Castile, and Aragon; he arrived afterwards at the imperial dignity; and to procure him a new kind of grandeur, the globe extended itself, and there was seen a new world paying him obeisance.

Christopher Columbus discovered America; and though Spain sent thither only a force so small, that the least prince in Europe could have sent the same, yet it subdued two vast empires, and other great states.

While the Spaniards discovered and conquered the west, the Portuguese pushed their conquests and discoveries in the east. These two nations met each other; they had recourse to pope Alexander VI. who made the celebrated line of partition, and adjudged the great process.

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But the other nations of Europe would not suffer them quietly to enjoy their shares. The Dutch chased the Portuguese from almost all their settlements in the East Indies; and several other nations planted colonies in America.

The Spaniards considered these new-discovered countries as the subject of conquest; while others, more refined in their views, found them to be the proper subjects of commerce, and upon this principle directed their proceedings. Hence several nations have conducted themselves with so much wisdom, that they have given a kind of sovereignty to companies of merchants, who governing these far-distant countries only with a view to trade, have made a great accessary power, without embarrassing the principal state.

The colonies they have formed are under a kind of dependance, of which there are but very few instances in all the colonies of the ancients: whether we consider them as holding of the state itself, or of some trading company established in the state.

The design of these colonies is to trade on more advantageous conditions than could otherwise be done with the neighbouring people, with whom all advantages are reciprocal. It has been established, that the* metropolis, or mother country, alone shall trade in the colonies, and that from very good reason; because the design of the settlement was the extension of commerce, not the foundation of a city, or of a new empire.

Thus it is still a fundamental law of Europe, that all commerce with a foreign colony shall be regarded as a mere monopoly, punishable by the laws of the country; and in this case we are not to be directed by Edition: current; Page: [73] the laws and precedents of the *ancients, which are not at all applicable.

It is likewise acknowledged, that a commerce established between the mother countries, does not include a permission to trade in the colonies; for these always continue in a state of prohibition.

The disadvantage of a colony that loses the liberty of commerce, is visibly compensated by the protection of the mother country, who defends it by her arms, or supports it by her laws.

From hence follows a third law of Europe, that when a foreign commerce with a colony is prohibited, it is not lawful to trade in those seas, except in such cases as are excepted by treaty.

Nations, who are, with respect to the whole globe, what individuals are in a state, like these are governed by the laws of nature, and by particular laws of their own making. One nation may resign to another the sea, as well as the land. The Carthaginians forbad the Romans to sail beyond certain limits, as the Greeks had obliged the kings of Persia to keep as far distant from the sea-coast as a horse could gallop.

The great distance of our colonies is not an inconvenience that affects their safety; for if the mother country, on whom they depend for their defence, is remote, no less remote are those nations who rival the mother country, and by whom they may be afraid of being conquered.

Besides, this distance is the cause that those who are established there cannot conform to the manner of living in a climate so different from their own: they are Edition: current; Page: [74] obliged therefore to draw from the mother country all the conveniences of life. The *Carthaginians, to render the Sardinians and Corsicans more dependant, forbad their planting, sowing, or doing any thing of the like kind, under pain of death; so that they supplied them with necessaries from Africa.

The Europeans have compassed the same thing, without having recourse to such severe laws. Our colonies in the Caribbee islands are under an admirable regulation in this respect; the subject of their commerce is what we neither have, nor can produce; and they want what is the subject of ours.

A consequence of the discovery of America was the connecting Asia and Africa with Europe; it furnished materials for a trade with that vast part of Asia known by the name of the East-Indies. Silver, that metal so useful as the medium of commerce, became now, as a merchandize, the basis of the greatest commerce in the world. In fine, the navigation to Africa became necessary, in order to furnish us with men to labour in the mines, and to cultivate the lands of America.

Europe is arrived to so high a degree of power, that nothing in history can be compared to it. Whether we consider the immensity of its expences, the grandeur of its engagements, the number of its troops, and the regular payment even of those that are least serviceable, and which are kept only for ostentation.

Father Duhalde says, that the interior trade of China is much greater than that of all Europe. That might be, if our foreign trade did not augment our inland commerce. Europe carries on the trade and navigation of the other three parts of the Edition: current; Page: [75] world; as France, England, and Holland, do nearly that of Europe.

CHAP. XXII.: Of the Riches which Spain drew from America.

IF Europe* has derived so many advantages from the American trade, it seems natural to imagine, that Spain must have derived much greater. She drew from the newly discovered world so prodigious a quantity of gold and silver, that all we had before could not be compared to it.

But (what one could never have expected) this great kingdom was every where baffled by its misfortunes. Philip II. who succeeded Charles V. was obliged to make the celebrated bankruptcy known to all the world. There never was a prince who suffered more from the murmurs, the insolence, and the revolt of troops constantly ill paid.

From that time the monarchy of Spain has been incessantly declining. This has been owing to an interior and physical defect in the nature of these riches, which renders them vain; a defect which increases every day.

Gold and silver are either a fictitious, or a representative wealth. The representative signs of wealth are extremely durable, and, in their own nature, but little subject to decay. But the more they are multiplied, the more they lose their value, because the fewer are the things which they represent.

The Spaniards, after the conquest of Mexico and Peru, abandoned their natural riches, in pursuit of a Edition: current; Page: [76] representative wealth which daily degraded itself. Gold and silver were extremely scarce in Europe, and Spain becoming all of a sudden mistress of a prodigious quantity of these metals, conceived hopes to which she had never before aspired. The wealth she found in the conquered countries, great as it was, did not however equal those of their mines. The Indians concealed part of them; and besides, these people, who made no other use of gold and silver than to give magnificence to the temples of their gods, and to the palaces of their kings, sought not for it with an avarice like ours. In short, they had not the secret of drawing these metals from every mine; but only from those in which the separation might be made with fire: they were strangers to the manner of making use of mercury, and perhaps of mercury itself.

However, it was not long before the specie of Europe was doubled; this appeared from the price of commodities which every where was doubled.

The Spaniards raked into the mines, scooped out mountains, invented machines to draw out water, to break the ore, and separate it; and, as they sported with the lives of the Indians, they forced them to labour without mercy. The specie of Europe soon doubled, and the profit of Spain diminished in the same proportion; they had every year the same quantity of metal, which was become by one-half less precious.

In double the time the specie still doubled, and the profit still diminished another half.

It diminished even more than half: let us see in what manner.

To extract the gold from the mines, to give it the requisite preparations, and to import it into Europe, must be attended with some certain expence; I will suppose this to be as 1 to 64. When the specie was Edition: current; Page: [77] once doubled, and consequently became by one-half less precious, the expence was as 2 to 64. Thus the galoons which brought to Spain the same quantity of gold, brought a thing which really was of less value by one-half, though the expences attending it had been one-half higher.

If we proceed doubling and doubling, we shall find in this progression the cause of the impotency of the wealth of Spain.

It is about two hundred years since they have worked their Indian mines. I suppose the quantity of specie at present in the trading world is to that before the discovery of the Indies, as 32 is to 1; that is, it has been doubled five times: in two hundred years more, the same quantity will be to that before the discovery, as 64 is to 1; that is, it will be doubled once more. Now at present, fifty* quintals of ore yield four, five, and six ounces of gold; and when it yields only two, the miner receives no more from it than his expences. In two hundred years, when the miner will extract only four, this too will only defray his charges. There will then be but little profit to be drawn from the gold mines. The same reasoning will hold good of silver, except that the working of the silver mines is a little more advantageous than those of gold.

But, if mines should be discovered so fruitful as to give a much greater profit, the more fruitful they will be, the sooner the profit will cease.

The Portuguese in Brasil have found mines of gold so rich, that they must necessarily very soon make a Edition: current; Page: [78] considerable diminution in the profits of those of Spain, as well as in their own.

I have frequently heard people deplore the blindness of the court of France, who repulsed Christopher Columbus when he made the proposal of discovering the Indies. Indeed they did, though perhaps without design, an act of the greatest wisdom. Spain has behaved like the foolish king, who desired that every thing he touched might be converted into gold, and who was obliged to beg of the gods to put an end to his misery.

The companies and banks established in many nations, have put a finishing stroke to the lowering of gold and silver, as a sign or representation of riches; for by new fictions they have multiplied in such a manner the signs of wealth, that gold and silver having this office only in part, are become less precious.

Thus public credit serves instead of mines, and diminishes the profit which the Spaniards draw from theirs.

True it is, that the Dutch trade to the East-Indies has increased, in some measure, the value of the Spanish merchandize; for as they carry bullion, and give it in exchange for the merchandizes of the East, they ease the Spaniards of part of a commodity, which in Europe abounds too much.

And this trade, in which Spain seems to be only indirectly concerned, is as advantageous to that nation as to those who are directly employed in carrying it on.

From what has been said, we may form a judgmen of the last order of the council of Spain, which prohibits the making use of gold and silver in gildings, and other superfluities; a decree as ridiculous as it would be for the states of Holland to prohibit the consumption of spices.

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My reasoning does not hold good against all mines; those of Germany and Hungary, which produce little more than the expence of working them, are extremely useful. They are found in the principal state; they employ many thousand men, who there consume their superfluous commodities; and they are properly a manufacture of the country.

The mines of Germany and Hungary promote the culture of land; the working of those of Mexico and Peru destroys it.

The Indies and Spain are two powers under the same master; but the Indies are the principal; while Spain is only an accessory. It is in vain for politics to attempt to bring back the principal to the accessory; the Indies will always draw Spain to themselves.

Of the merchandizes, to the value of about fifty millions of livres, annually sent to the Indies, Spain furnishes only two millions and a half: the Indies trade for fifty millions, the Spaniards for two and an half.

That must be a bad kind of riches which depends on accident, and not on the industry of a nation, on the number of its inhabitants, and on the cultivation of its lands. The king of Spain, who receives great sums from his custom-house at Cadiz, is in this respect only a rich individual in a state extremely poor. Every thing passes between strangers and himself, while his subjects have scarcely any share in it; this commerce is independent both of the good and bad fortune of his kingdom.

Were some provinces of Castile able to give him a sum equal to that of the custom-house of Cadiz, his power would be much greater: his riches would be the effect of the wealth of the country: these provinces would animate all the others, and they would Edition: current; Page: [80] be all together more capable of supporting their respective charges: instead of a great treasury, he would have a great people.

CHAP. XXIII.: A Problem.

IT is not for me to decide the question, whether if Spain be not herself able to carry on the trade of the Indies, it would not be better to leave it open to strangers. I will only say, that it is for their advantage to load this commerce with as few obstacles as politics will permit. When the merchandizes, which several nations send to the Indies, are very dear, the inhabitants of that country give a great deal of their commodities, which is gold and silver, for very little of those of foreigners: the contrary to this happens when they are at a low price. It would perhaps be of use, that these nations should undersell each other, to the end that the merchandizes carried to the Indies might be always cheap. These are principles which deserve to be examined, without separating them, however, from other considerations; the safety of the Indies, the advantages of one only custom-house, the danger of making great alterations, and the foreseen inconveniencies, which are often less dangerous than those which cannot be foreseen.

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CHAP. I.: The Reason of the Use of Money.

PEOPLE who have few merchandizes, as savages, and among civilized nations, those who have only two or three species, trade by exchange. Thus the caravans of Moors who go to Tombactu, in the heart of Africa, have no need of money, for they exchange their salt for gold. The Moor puts his salt in a heap, and the Negro his dust in another; if there is not gold enough, the Moor takes away some of his salt, or the Negro adds more gold, till both parties are agreed.

But when a nation traffics with a great variety of merchandizes, money becomes necessary; because a metal easily carried from place to place, saves the great expences which people would be obliged to be at, if they always proceeded by exchange.

As all nations have reciprocal wants, it frequently happens that one is desirous of a large quantity of the others merchandizes, when the latter will have very little of theirs, though, with respect to another nation, the case is directly opposite. But when nations have money, and proceed by buying and selling, those who take most merchandizes, pay the balance in specie. And there is this difference, that in the case of buying, the trade carried on is in proportion to the wants Edition: current; Page: [82] of the nation that has the greatest demands; whilst in bartering, the trade is only according to the wants of the nation whose demands are the fewest: without which, the latter would be under an impossibility of balancing its accounts.

CHAP. II.: Of the Nature of Money.

MONEY is a sign which represents the value of all merchandizes. Metal is taken for this design, as being durable,* because it consumes but little by use; and because, without being destroyed, it is capable of many divisions. A precious metal has been chosen as a sign, as being most portable. A metal is most proper for a common measure, because it can be easily reduced to the same standard. Every state fixes upon it a particular impression, to the end that the form may correspond with the standard and the weight, and that both may be known by inspection only.

The Athenians, not having the use of metals, made use of oxen, and the Romans of sheep: but one ox is not the same as another ox, in the manner that one piece of metal may be the same as another.

As specie is the sign of the value of merchandizes, paper is the sign of the value of specie: and when it is of the right sort, it represents this value in such a manner, that as to the effects produced by it, there is not the least difference.

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In the same manner, as money is the sign and representative of a thing, every thing is a sign and representative of money; and the state is in a prosperous condition, when, on the one hand, money perfectly represents all things; and, on the other, all things perfectly represent money, and are reciprocally the sign of each other; that is, when they have such a relative value, that we may have the one as soon as we have the other. This never happens in any other than a moderate government, nor does it always happen there: for example, if the laws favour the dishonest debtor, his effects are no longer a representative or sign of money. With regard to a despotic government, it would be a prodigy, did things there represent their sign. Tyranny and distrust make every one bury* their specie: things are not there then the representative of money.

Legislators have sometimes had the art, not only to make things, in their own nature, the representative of specie, but to convert them even into specie, like the current coin. Cæsar, when he was dictator, permitted debtors to give their lands in payment to their creditors, at the price they were worth before the civil war. Tiberius ordered, that those who desired specie should have it from the public treasury, on binding over their land to double the value. Under Cæsar, the lands were the money which paid all debts: under Tiberius, ten thousand sesterces in land became as current money, equal to five thousand sesterces in silver.

The magna charta of England provides against the seizing the lands or revenues of a debtor, when his Edition: current; Page: [84] moveable or personal goods are sufficient to pay, and he is willing to give them up to his creditors: thus all the goods of an Englishman represented money.

The laws of the Germans constituted money a satisfaction for the injuries that were committed, and for the sufferings due to guilt. But as there was but very little specie in the country, they again constituted this money to be paid in goods or chattels. This we find appointed in a Saxon law, with certain regulations suitable to the ease and convenience of the several ranks of people. At first,* the law declared the value of a sou in cattle; the sou of two tremises answered to an ox of twelve months, or to an ewe with her lamb; that of three tremises was worth an ox of sixteen months. With these people money became cattle, goods, and merchandize; and these again became money.

Money is not only a sign of things; it is also a sign and representative of money, as we shall see in the chapter on exchange.

CHAP. III.: Of ideal Money.

THERE is both real and ideal money. Civilized nations generally make use of ideal money only, because they have converted their real money into ideal. At first, their real money was some metal of a certain weight and standard: but soon dishonesty or want made them retrench a part of a metal from every piece of money, to which they left the same name; for example, from a livre at a pound weight they took half the silver, and still continued to call it a livre; the Edition: current; Page: [85] piece which was the twentieth part of a pound of silver, they continued to call a sou, though it is no more the twentieth part of this pound of silver. By this method the livre is an ideal livre, and the sou an ideal sou. Thus of the other subdivisions; and so far may this be carried, that what we call a livre, shall be only a small part of the original livre or pound which renders it still more ideal. It may even happen, that we have no piece of money of the precise value of a livre, nor any piece exactly with a sou: then the livre and the sou will be purely ideal. They may give to any piece of money the denomination of as many livres and as many sous as they please, the variation may be continual; because it is as easy to give another name to a thing, as it is difficult to change the thing itself.

To take away the source of this abuse, it would be an excellent law for all countries, who are desirous of making commerce flourish, to ordain, that none but real money should be current; and, to prevent any methods from being taken, to render it ideal.

Nothing ought to be so exempt from variation, as that which is the common measure of all.

Trade is in its own nature extremely uncertain: and it is a great evil to add a new uncertainty to that which is founded on the nature of the thing.

CHAP. IV.: Of the Quantity of Gold and Silver.

WHILE civilized nations are the mistresses of the world, gold and silver, whether they draw it from amongst themselves, or fetch it from the mines, must increase every day. On the contrary, it diminishes Edition: current; Page: [86] when barbarous nations prevail. We know how great was the scarcity of these metals, when the Goths and Vandals on the one side, and on the other the Saracens and Tartars, broke in like a torrent on the civilized world.

CHAP. V.: The same Subject continued.

THE bullion drawn from the American mines, imported into Europe, and from thence sent to the east, has greatly promoted the navigation of the European nations; for it is a merchandize which Europe receives in exchange from America, and which she sends in exchange to the Indies. A prodigious quantity of gold and silver is therefore an advantage, when we consider these metals as a merchandize; but it is otherwise, when we consider them as a sign; because their abundance gives an allay to their quality as a sign, which is chiefly founded on their scarcity.

Before the first Punic war, copper was to silver as *960 to 1; it is at present nearly as 73 and a half to 1. When the proportion shall be as it was formerly, silver will better perform its office as a sign.

CHAP. VI.: The Reason why Interest was lowered one half after the Conquest of the Indies.

GARCILASSO informs us, that in Spain, after the conquest of the Indies, the interest, which was at Edition: current; Page: [87] ten per cent. fell to five. This was a necessary consequence. A great quantity of specie being all of a sudden brought into Europe, much fewer persons had need of money. The price of all things increased, while the value of money diminished; the proportion was then broken, and all the old debts were discharged. We may recollect the time of the system;* when every thing was at a high price except specie. Those who had money after the conquest of the Indies, were obliged to lower the price or hire of their merchandize; that is, in other words, their interest.

From this time they were unable to bring interest to its ancient standard, because the quantity of specie brought to Europe has been annually increasing. Besides, as the public funds of some states, founded on riches procured by commerce, gave but a very small interest, it became necessary for the contracts of individuals to be regulated by these. In short, the course of exchange having rendered the conveying of specie from one country to another remarkably easy, money cannot be scarce in a place where they may be so readily supplied with it, by those who have it in plenty.

CHAP. VII.: How the Price of Things is fixed in the Variation of the Sign of Riches.

MONEY is the price of merchandizes or manufactures. But how shall we fix this price? Or in other words, by what piece of money is every thing to be represented?

If we compare the mass of gold and silver in the whole world, with the quantity of merchandizes Edition: current; Page: [88] therein contained, it is certain, that every commodity or merchandize in particular, may be compared to a certain portion of the entire mass of gold and silver. As the total of the one is to the total of the other, so part of the one will be to part of the other. Let us suppose, that there is only one commodity or merchandize in the world, or only one to be purchased, and that this is divisible like money: a part of this merchandize will answer to a part of the mass of gold and silver; the half of the total of the one, to the half of the total of the other; the tenth, the hundredth, the thousandth part of the one, to the tenth, the hundredth, the thousandth part of the other. But as that which constitutes property amongst mankind is not all at once in trade; and as the metals or money, which are the signs of property, are not all in trade at the same time; the price is fixed in the compound ratio of the total of things with the total of signs, and that of the total of things in trade with the total of signs in trade also: and as the things which are not in trade today may be in trade to-morrow, and the signs not now in trade may enter into trade at the same time, the establishment of the price of things fundamentally depends on the proportion of the total of things to the total of signs.

Thus the prince or the magistrate can no more ascertain the value of merchandizes, that he can establish by a decree, that the relation 1 has to 10, is equal to that of 1 to 20. Julian’s* lowering the price of provisions at Antioch, was the cause of a most terrible famine.

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CHAP. VIII.: The same Subject continued.

THE negroes on the coast of Africa have a sign of value without money. It is a sign merely ideal, founded on the degree of esteem which they fix in their minds for every merchandize, in proportion to the need they have of it. A certain commodity or merchandize is worth three macoutes; another, six macoutes; another, ten macoutes; that is, as if they said simply three, six, and ten. The price is formed by a comparison of all merchandizes with each other. They have therefore no particular money; but each kind of merchandize is money to the other.

Let us for a moment transfer to ourselves this manner of valuing things, and join it with ours: all the merchandizes and goods in the world, or else all the merchandizes or manufactures of a state, particularly considered as separate from all others, would be worth a certain number of macoutes; and, dividing the money of this state into as many parts as there are macoutes, one part of this division of money will be the sign of a macoute.

If we suppose the quantity of specie in a state doubled, it will be necessary to double the specie in the macoute; but if, in doubling the specie, you double also the macoute, the proportion will remain the same as before the doubling of either.

If since the discovery of the Indies, gold and silver have increased in Europe in the proportion of 1 to 20, the price of provisions and merchandizes must have been enhanced in proportion of 1 to 20. But if, on the other hand, the number of merchandizes has increased as 1 to 2, it necessarily follows, that the price Edition: current; Page: [90] of these merchandizes and provisions, having been raised in proportion of 1 to 20, and fallen in proportion of 1 to 2, it necessarily follows, I say, that the proportion is only as 1 to 10.

The quantity of goods and merchandizes increases by an augmentation of commerce, the augmentation of commerce by an augmentation of the specie which successively arrives, and by new communications with fresh-discovered countries and seas, which furnish us with new commodities and new merchandizes.

CHAP. IX.: Of the relative Scarcity of Gold and Silver.

BESIDES the positive plenty and scarcity of gold and silver, there is still a relative abundance and a relative scarcity of one of these metals compared to the other.

The avaricious hoard up their gold and silver, for as they do not care to spend, they are fond of signs that are not subject to decay. They prefer gold to silver, because as they are always afraid of losing, they can best conceal that which takes up the least room. Gold therefore disappears when there is plenty of silver, by reason that every one has some to conceal; it appears again when silver is scarce, because they are obliged to draw it from its confinement.

It is then a rule: that gold is common when silver is scarce, and gold is scarce when silver is common. This lets us see the difference between their relative and their real abundance and scarcity: of which I shall presently speak more at large.

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CHAP. X.: Of Exchange.

THE relative abundance and scarcity of specie in different countries, forms what is called the course of exchange.

Exchange is a fixing of the actual and momentary value of money.

Silver, as a metal, has value like all other merchandizes, and an additional value as it is capable of becoming the sign of other merchandizes. If it were no more than a mere merchandize, it would lose much of its value.

Silver, as money, has a value, which the prince in some respects can fix, and in others he cannot.

1. The prince establishes a proportion between a quantity of silver as metal, and the same quantity as money. 2. He fixes the proportion between the several metals made use of as money. 3. He establishes the weight and standard of every piece of money. In fine, 4. he gives to every piece that ideal value, of which I have spoken. I shall call the value of money in these four respects its positive value, because it may be fixed by law.

The coin of every state has, besides this, a relative value, as it is compared with the money of other countries. This relative value is established by the exchange, and greatly depends on its positive value. It is fixed by the general opinion of the merchants, never by the decrees of the prince; because it is subject to incessant variations, and depends on a thousand accidents.

The several nations, in fixing this relative value, are chiefly guided by that which has the greatest quantity Edition: current; Page: [92] of specie. If she has as much specie as all the others together, it is then most proper for the other to regulate theirs by her standard: and the regulation between all the others will pretty nearly agree with the regulation made with this principal nation.

In the actual state of the globe,* Holland is the nation we are speaking of. Let us examine the course of exchange with relation to her.

They have in Holland a piece of money called a florin, worth twenty sous, or forty half-sous or gros. But, to render our ideas as simple as possible, let us imagine that they have not any such piece of money in Holland as a florin, and that they have no other but the gros: a man who should have a thousand florins, should have forty thousand gross; and so of the rest. Now the exchange with Holland is determined by our knowing how many gros every piece of money in other contries is worth; and as the French commonly reckon by a crown of three livres, the exchange makes it necessary for them to know how many gros are contained in a crown of three livres. If the course of exchange is at fifty-four, a crown of three livres will be worth fifty-four gros; if it is at sixty, it will be worth sixty gros. If silver is scarce in France, a crown of three livres will be worth more gros; if plentiful, it will be worth less.

This scarcity or plenty, from whence results the mutability of the course of exchange, is not the real, but a relative scarcity or plenty. For example; when France has greater occasion for funds in Holland, than the Dutch of having funds in France, specie is said to be common in France, and scarce in Holland; and vice versa.

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Let us suppose that the course of exchange with Holland is at fifty-four. If France and Holland composed only one city, they would act as we do when we give change for a crown: the Frenchman would take three livres out of his pocket, and the Dutchman fifty-four gros from his. But as there is some distance between Paris and Amsterdam, it is necessary that he, who for a crown of three livres gives me fifty-four gros, which he has in Holland, should give me a bill of exchange for fifty-four gros payable in Holland. The fifty-four gros is not the thing in question; but a bill for that sum. Thus, in order to judge of the* scarcity or plenty of specie, we must know if there are in France more bills of fifty-four gros drawn upon Holland, than there are crowns drawn upon France. If there are more bills from Holland, than there are from France, specie is scarce in France, and common in Holland; it then becomes necessary that the exchange should rise, and that they give for my crown more than fifty-four gros; otherwise I will not part with it; and vice versa.

Thus the various turns in the course of exchange form an account of debtor and creditor, which must be frequently settled; and which the state in debt can no more discharge by exchange, than an individual can pay a debt by giving change for a piece of silver.

We will suppose that there are but three states in the world, France, Spain, and Holland; that several individuals in Spain are indebted to France to the value of one hundred thousand marks of silver; and that several individuals of France owe in Spain one hundred and ten thousand marks: now, if some circumstance both in Spain and France should cause Edition: current; Page: [94] each to withdraw his specie, what will then be the course of exchange? These two nations will reciprocally acquit each other of an hundred thousand marks; but France will still owe ten thousand marks in Spain, and the Spaniards will still have bills upon France, to the value of ten thousand marks, while France will have none at all upon Spain.

But if Holland was in a contrary situation with respect to France, and in order to balance the account must pay her ten thousand marks, the French would have two ways of paying the Spaniards; either by giving their creditors in Spain bills for ten thousand marks upon their debtors in Holland, or else by sending specie to the value of ten thousand marks to Spain.

From hence it follows, that when a state has occasion to remit a sum of money into another country, it is indifferent, in the nature of the thing, whether specie be conveyed thither, or they take bills of exchange. The advantage or disadvantage of these two methods solely depends on actual circumstances. We must enquire which will yield most gros in Holland, money carried thither in specie, or a bill upon Holland for the like sum.*

When money of the same standard and weight in France yields money of the same standard and weight in Holland, we say that the exchange is at par. In the actual state of specie, the par is nearly at fifty-four gros to the crown. When the exchange is above fifty-four gros, we say it is high: when beneath, we say it is low.

In order to know the loss and gain of a state, in a particular situation of exchange, it must be considered as debtor and creditor, as buyer and seller. When the exchange is below par, it loses as a debtor, and gains as Edition: current; Page: [95] a creditor; it loses as a buyer, and gains as a seller. It is obvious it loses as debtor; suppose, for example, France owes Holland a certain number of gros, the fewer gros there are in a crown, the more crowns she has to pay. On the contrary, if France is creditor for a certain number of gros, the less number of gros there are in a crown, the more crowns she will receive. The state loses also as buyer; for, there must be the same number of gros to purchase the same quantity of merchandizes; and while the change is low, every French crown is worth fewer gros. For the same reason, the state gains as a seller: I sell my merchandize in Holland for a certain number of gros; I receive then more crowns in France, when for every fifty gros I receive a crown, than I should do if I received only the same crown for every fifty-four. The contrary to this takes place in the other state. If the Dutch are indebted a certain number of crowns to France, they will gain; if this money is owing to them, they will lose; if they sell, they lose; and if they buy, they gain.

It is proper to pursue this something farther. When the exchange is below par; for example, if it be at fifty instead of fifty-four, it should follow, that France, on sending bills of exchange to Holland for fifty-four thousand crowns, could buy merchandizes only to the value of fifty thousand; and that, on the other hand, the Dutch sending the value of fifty thousand crowns to France, might buy fifty four thousand, which makes a difference of 8/54 that is, a loss to France of more than 1/7; so that France would be obliged to send to Holland 1/7 more in specie or merchandize, than she would do was the exchange at par. And as the mischief must constantly increase, because a debt of this kind would bring the exchange still lower, France would in the end be ruined. It seems, I say, as if this should certainly follow; and yet it Edition: current; Page: [96] does not, because of the principle which I have* elsewhere established; which is, that states constantly lean towards a balance, in order to preserve their independency. Thus they borrow only in proportion to their ability to pay, and measure their buying by what they sell: and taking the example from above, if the exchange falls in France from fifty-four to fifty, the Dutch who buy merchandizes in France to the value of a thousand crowns, for which they used to pay fifty-four thousand gros, would now pay only fifty thousand, if the French would consent to it. But the merchandize of France will rise insensibly, and the profit will be shared between the French and the Dutch; for, when a merchant can gain, he easily shares his profit: there arises then a communication of profit between the French and the Dutch. In the same manner the French, who bought merchandizes of Holland for fifty-four thousand gros, and who when the exchange was at fifty-four, paid for them a thousand crowns, will be obliged to add 1/7 more in French crowns to buy the same merchandizes. But the French merchant, being sensible of the loss he suffers, will take up less of the merchandize of Holland. The French and the Dutch merchant will then be both losers, the state will insensibly fall into a balance, and the lowering of the exchange will not be attended with all those inconveniencies which we had reason to fear.

A merchant may send his stock into a foreign country, when the exchange is below par, without injuring his fortune; because, when it returns, he recovers what he had lost; but a prince, who sends only specie into a foreign country, which never can return, is always a loser.

When the merchants have great dealings in any country, the exchange there infallibly rises. This proceeds Edition: current; Page: [97] from their entering into many engagements, buying great quantities of merchandizes, and drawing upon foreign countries to pay for them.

A prince may amass great wealth in his dominions, and yet specie may be really scarce, and relatively common; for instance, if this state is indebted for many merchandizes to a foreign conntry, the exchange will be low, though specie be scarce.

The exchange of all places constantly tends to a certain proportion, and that in the very nature of things. If the course of exchange from Ireland to England is below par, and that of England to Holland is also under par, that of Ireland to Holland will be still lower; that is in the compound ratio of that of Ireland to England, and that of England to Holland; for a Dutch merchant who can have specie indirectly from Ireland, by the way of England, will not chuse to pay dearer, by having it in the direct way. This, I say, ought naturally to be the case: but, however, it is not exactly so; there are always circumstances which vary these things; and the different profit of drawing by one place, or of drawing by another, constitutes the particular art and dexterity of the bankers, which does not belong to the present subject.

When a state raises its specie, for instance, when it gives the name of six livres, or two crowns, to what was before called three livres, or one crown, this new denomination, which adds nothing real to the crown, ought not to procure a single gros more by the exchange. We ought only to have for the two new crowns, the same number of gros which we before received for the old one. If this does not happen, it must not be imputed as an effect of the regulation itself; but to the novelty and suddenness of the affair. The exchange adheres to what is already established, and is not altered till after a certain time.

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When a state, instead of only raising the specie by a law, calls it in, in order to diminish its size, it frequently happens, that during the time taken up in passing again through the mint, there are two kinds of money; the large, which is the old, and the small, which is the new; and as the large is cried down, as not to be received as money, and bills of exchange must consequently be paid in the new, one would imagine then, that the exchange should be regulated by the new. If, for example, in France the ancient crown of three livres, being worth in Holland sixty gros, was reduced one half, the new crown ought to be valued only at thirty. On the other hand, it seems as if the exchange ought to be regulated by the old coin; because the banker who has specie, and receives bills, is obliged to carry the old coin to the mint, in order to change it for the new; by which he must be a loser. The exchange then ought to be fixed between the value of the old coin, and that of the new. The value of the old is decreased, if we may call it so, both because there is already some of the new in trade, and because the bankers cannot keep up to the rigour of the law; having an interest in letting loose the old coin from their chests, and being sometimes obliged to make payments with it. Again, the value of this new specie must rise; because the banker having this, finds himself in a situation, in which, as we shall immediately prove, he will reap great advantage by procuring the old. The exchange should then be fixed, as I have already said, between the new and the old coin. For then the bankers find it their interest to send the old out of the kingdom; because by this method they procure the same advantage as they could receive from a regular exchange of the old specie, that is, a great many gros in Holland; and in return, a regular exchange a little lower, between the old and the new specie, which would bring many crowns to France.

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Suppose that three livres of the old coin yield by the actual exchange forty-five gros, and that by sending this same crown to Holland, they receive sixty; but with a bill of forty-five gros, they procure a crown of three livres in France, which being sent in the old specie to Holland, still yields sixty gros; thus all the old specie would be sent out of the kingdom, and the bankers would run away with the whole profit.

To remedy this, new measures must be taken. The state, which coined the new specie, would itself be obliged to send great quantities of the old to the nation which regulates the exchange, and by thus gaining credit there, raise the exchange pretty nearly to as many gros for a crown of three livres out of the country. I say, to nearly the same; for while the profits are small, the bankers will not be tempted to send it abroad, because of the expence of carriage, and the danger of confiscation.

It is fit that we should give a very clear idea of this. Mr. Bernard, or any other banker employed by the state, proposes bills upon Holland, and gives them at one, two, or three gros higher than the actual exchange; he has made a provision in a foreign country, by means of the old specie which he has continually been sending thither; and thus he has raised the exchange to the point we have just mentioned. In the mean time, by disposing of his bills, he seizes on all the new specie, and obliges the other bankers, who have payments to make, to carry their old specie to the mint; and, as he insensibly obtains all the specie, he obliges the other bankers to give him bills of exchange at a very high price. By these means, his profit, in the end, compensates, in great measure, for the loss he suffered at the beginning.

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It is evident, that during these transactions, the state must be in a dangerous crisis. Specie must become extremely scarce; 1. because much the greatest part is cried down; 2. because a part will be sent into foreign countries; 3. because every one will lay it up, as not being willing to give that profit to the prince, which he hopes to receive himself. It is dangerous to do it slowly; and dangerous also to do it in too much haste. If the supposed gain be immoderate, the inconveniencies increase in proportion.

We see, from what has been already said, that when the exchange is lower than the specie, a profit may be made by sending it abroad; for the same reason, when it is higher than the specie, there is profit in causing it to return.

But there is a case in which profit may be made by sending the specie out of the kingdom, when the exchange is at par; that is, by sending it into a foreign country to be coined over again. When it returns, an advantage may be made of it, whether it be circulated in the country, or paid for foreign bills.

If a company has been erected in a state with a prodigious stock, and this stock has in a few months been raised twenty or twenty-five times above the original purchase; if, again, the same state established a bank, whose bills were to perform the office of specie, while the numerary value of these bills was prodigious, in order to answer to the numerary value of the stocks, (this is Mr. Law’s system;) it would follow, from the nature of things, that these stocks and these bills would vanish in the same manner as they arose. Stocks cannot suddenly be raised twenty or twenty-five times above their original value, without giving a number of people the means of procuring immense riches in paper: every one would endeavour to secure his fortune; and as the exchange offers the Edition: current; Page: [101] most easy way of removing it from home, or conveying whither one pleases, people would incessantly remit a part of their effects to the nation that regulates the exchange. A project for making continual remittances into a foreign country, must lower the exchange. Let us suppose, that at the time of the System, in proportion to the standard and weight of the silver coin, the exchange was fixed at forty gros to the crown; when a vast quantity of paper became money, they were unwilling to give more than thirty-nine gros for a crown, and afterwards thirty-eight, thirty-seven, &c. This proceeded so far, that after a while they would give but eight gros, and at last there was no exchange at all.

The exchange ought in this case to have regulated the proportion between the specie and the paper of France. I suppose, that by the weight and standard of the silver, the crown of three livres in silver was worth forty gros, and that the exchange being made in paper, the crown of three livres in paper was worth only eight gros, the difference was four fifths. The crown of three livres in paper was then worth four-fifths less than the crown of three livres in silver.

CHAP. XI.: Of the Proceedings of the Romans with respect to Money.

HOW great soever the exertion of authority had been in our times, with respect to the specie of France during the administration of two successive ministers, still it was vastly exceeded by the Romans; not at the time when corruption had crept into their republic, nor when they were in a state of anarchy; but when they were as much by their wisdom as their Edition: current; Page: [102] courage, in the full vigour of the constitution, after having conquered the cities of Italy, and at the very time that they disputed for empire with the Carthaginians.

And here I am pleased that I have an opportunity of examining more closely into this matter, that no example may be taken from what can never justly be called one.

In the first Punic war the* as, which ought to be twelve ounces of copper, weighed only two, and in the second it was no more than one. This retrenchment answers to what we now call the raising of coin. To take half the silver from a crown of fix livres, in order to make two crowns, or to raise it to the value of twelve livres, is precisely the same thing.

They have left us no monument of the manner in which the Romans conducted this affair in the first Punic war; but what they did in the second, is a proof of the most consummate wisdom. The republic found herself under an impossibility of paying her debts: the as weighed two ounces of copper, and the denarius, valued at ten ases, weighed twenty ounces of copper. The republic being willing to gain half on her creditors, made the as of an ounce of copper, and by this means paid the value of a denarius with ten ounces. This proceeding must give a great shock to the state; they were obliged therefore to break the force of it as well as they could. It was in itself unjust, and it was necessary to render it as litle so as possible. They had in view the deliverance of the republic, with respect to the citizens; they were not therefore obliged to direct their view to the deliverance of the citizens, with respect to each other. Edition: current; Page: [103] This made a second step necessary. It was ordained, the denarius, which hitherto contained but ten ases, should contain sixteen. The result of this double operation was, that while the creditors of the republic lost one half,*, those of individuals lost only a fifth; the price of merchandize was increased only a fifth; the real change of the money was only a fifth. The other consequences are obvious.

The Romans then conducted themselves with greater prudence than we, who in our transactions involved the public treasure, and the fortunes of individuals. But this is not all; their affair was carried on amidst more favourable circumstances than ours.

CHAP. XII.: The Circumstances in which the Romans changed the Value of their Specie.

THERE was formerly very little gold and silver in Italy. This country has few or no mines of gold or silver. When Rome was taken by the Gauls, they found only a thousand weight of gold. And yet the Romans had sacked many powerful cities, and brought home their wealth. For a long time they made use of none but copper money; and it was not till after the peace with Pyrrhus, that they had silver enough to coin§ money: they made denarii of this metal of the value of ten ases, or ten pounds of copper. At that time the proportion of Edition: current; Page: [104] silver was to that of copper, as 1 to 960. For as the Roman denarius was valued at ten ases, or ten pounds of copper, it was worth one hundred and twenty ounces of copper; and as the same denarius was valued only at one-eighth of an ounce of silver,* thus produced the above proportion.

When Rome became mistress of that part of Italy which is nearest to Greece and Sicily, by degrees she found herself between two rich nations, the Greeks and the Carthaginians. Silver increased at Rome; and as the proportion of 1 to 960 between silver and copper could be no longer supported, she made several regulations with respect to money, which to us are unknown. However, at the beginning of the second Punic war, the Roman denarius was worth no more than twenty ounces of copper; and thus the proportion between silver and copper was no longer but as 1 to 960. The reduction was very considerable, since the republic gained five-sixths upon all copper money. But she did only what was necessary in the nature of things, by establishing the proportion between the metals made use of as money.

The peace which terminated the first Punic war, left the Romans masters of Sicily. They soon entered Sardinia; afterwards they began to know Spain; and thus the quantity of silver increased at Rome. They took measures to reduce the denarius from twenty ounces to sixteen, which had the effect of putting a nearear proportion between the silver and copper; thus the proportion, which was before as 1 to 160, was now made as 1 to 128.

If we examine into the conduct of the Romans, we shall never find them so great as in chusing a proper conjuncture for performing any extraordinary operation.

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CHAP. XIII.: Proceedings with respect to Money in the Time of the Emperors.

IN the changes made in the specie during the time of the republic, they proceeded by diminishing it: the state reposed in the people the knowledge of its wants; and did not pretend to deceive them. Under the emperors, they proceeded by way of allay. These princes, reduced to despair even by their liberalities, found themselves obliged to degrade the specie; an indirect method, which diminished the evil, without seeming to touch it. They with-held a part of the gift and yet concealed the hand that did it; and, without speaking of the diminution of the pay, or of the gratuity, it was found diminished.

We even still see* in cabinets a kind of medals which are called plated; and are only pieces of copper covered with a thin plate of silver. This money is mentioned in a fragment of the 77th book of Dio.

Didius Julian first began to debase it. We find that the coin of Caracalla had an allay of more than half; that of Alexander Severus§ of two thirds: the debasing still increased, till under Gallienus nothing was to be seen but copper silvered over.

It is evident, that such violent proceedings could not take place in the present age; a prince might deceive himself, but he could deceive nobody else. Edition: current; Page: [106] The exchange has taught the banker to draw a comparison between all the money in the world, and to establish its just value. The standard of money can be no longer a secret. Were the prince to begin to allay his silver, every body else would continue it, and do it for him; the specie of the true standard would go abroad first, and nothing would be sent back but base metal. If, like the Roman emperors, he debased the silver, without debasing the gold, the gold would suddenly disappear, and he would be reduced to his bad silver. The exchange, as I have said in the preceding book,* has deprived princes of the opportunity of shewing great exertions of authority, or at least has rendered them ineffectual.

CHAP. XIV.: How the Exchange is a Constraint on despotic Power.

MUSCOVY would have descended from its despotic power, but could not. The establishment of commerce depended on that of the exchange, and the transactions were inconsistent with all its laws.

In 1745, the Czarina made a law to expel the Jews, because they remitted into foreign countries the specie of those who were banished into Siberia, as well as that of the foreigners entertained in her service. As all the subjects of the empire are slaves, they can neither go abroad themselves, nor send away their effects without permission. The exchange which gives them the means of remitting their specie from one country to another, is therefore entirely incompatible with the laws of Muscovy.

Commerce itself is inconsistent with the Russian laws. The people are composed only of slaves employed Edition: current; Page: [107] in agriculture, and of slaves called ecclesiastics or gentlemen, who are the lords of those slaves: there is then nobody left for the third estate, which ought to be composed of mechanics and merchants.

CHAP. XV.: The Practice of some Countries in Italy

THEY have made laws in some part of Italy to prevent subjects from selling their lands, in order to remove their specie into foreign countries. These laws may be good, when the riches of a state are so connected with the country itself, that there would be great difficulty in transferring them to another. But since, by the course of exchange, riches are in some degree independent on any particular state, and since they may with so much ease be conveyed from one country to another; that must be a bad law which will not permit persons for their own interest to dispose of their lands, while they can dispose of their money. It is a bad law, because it gives an advantage to moveable effects, in prejudice to the land; because it deters strangers from settling in the country; and, in short, because it may be eluded.

CHAP. XVI.: The Assistance a State may derive from Bankers.

THE bankers business is to change, not to lend money. If the prince makes use of them to exchange his specie, as he never does it but in great affairs, the least profit he can give for the remittance, becomes considerable; and if they demand large profits, we Edition: current; Page: [108] may be certain that there is a fault in the administration. On the contrary, when they are employed to advance specie, their art consists in procuring the greatest profit for the use of it, without being liable to be charged with usury.

CHAP. XVII.: Of public Debts.

SOME have imagined, that it was for the advantage of a state to be indebted to itself: they thought that this multiplied riches, by increasing the circulation.

Those who are of this opinion have, I believe, confounded a circulating paper which represents money, or a circulating paper which is the sign of the profits that a company has, or will make by commerce, with a paper which represents a debt. The two first are extremely advantageous to the state: the last can never be so: and all that we can expect from it is, that individuals have a good security from the government for their money. But let us see the inconveniencies which result from it.

1. If foreigners possess much paper which represent a debt, they annually draw out of the nation a considerable sum for interest.

2. A nation that is thus perpetually in debt, ought to have the exchange very low.

3. The taxes raised for the payment of the interest of the debt, are a hurt to the manufactures, by raising the price of the artificer’s labour.

4. It takes the true revenue of the state from those who have activity and industry, to convey it to the indolent; that is, it gives the conveniencies for labour Edition: current; Page: [109] to those who do not labour, and clogs with difficulties the industrious artist.

These are its inconveniencies: I know of no advantages. Ten persons have each a yearly income of a thousand crowns, either in land or trade; this raises to the nation, at five per cent. a capital of two hundred thousand crowns. If these ten persons employed the half of their income, that is, five thousand crowns, in paying the interest of an hundred thousand crowns which they had borrowed of others, that would be only to the state, as two hundred thousand crowns; that is, in the language of the Algebraists, 200,000 crowns - 100,000 crowns, + 100,000 crowns = 200,000.

People are thrown perhaps into this error, by reflecting, that the paper which represents the debt of a nation is the sign of riches; for none but a rich state can support such paper, without falling into decay. And if it does not fall, it is a proof that the state has other riches besides. They say that it is not an evil, because there are resources against it; and that it is an advantage, since these resources surpass the evil.

CHAP. XVIII.: Of the Payment of public Debts.

IT is necessary that there should be a proportion between the state as creditor, and the state as debtor. The state may be a creditor to infinity, but it can only be a debtor to a certain degree; and when it surpasses that degree, the title of creditor vanishes.

If the credit of the state has never received the least blemish, it may do what has been so happily Edition: current; Page: [110] practised in one of the kingdoms* of Europe; that is, it may acquire a great quantity of specie, and offer to reimbuse every individual, at least if they will not reduce their interest. When the state borrows, the individuals fix the interest; when it pays, the interest for the future is fixed by the state.

It is not sufficient to reduce the interest: it is necessary to erect a sinking fund from the advantage of the reduction, in order to pay every year a part of the capital: a proceeding so happy, that its success increases every day.

When the credit of the state is not entire, there is a new reason for endeavouring to form a sinking fund, because this fund being once established, will soon procure the public confidence.

1. If the state is a republic, the government of which is in its own nature consistent with its entering into projects of a long duration, the capital of the sinking fund may be inconsiderable; but it is necessary in a monarchy for the capital to be much greater.

2. The regulations ought to be so ordered, that all the subjects of the state may support the weight of the establishment of these funds, because they have all the weight of the establishment of the debt; thus the creditor of the state, by the sums he contributes, pays himself.

3. There are four classes of men who pay the debts of the state; the proprietors of the land, those engaged in trade, the labourers and artificers, and, in fine, the annuitants either of the state, or of private people. Of these four classes, the last, in a case of necessity, one would imagine, ought least to be spared, because it is a class entirely passive, while the state is supported by the active vigour of the other three. Edition: current; Page: [111] But as it cannot be higher taxed, without destroying the public confidence, of which the state in general, and these three classes in particular, have the utmost need; as a breach in the public faith cannot be made on a certain number of subjects, without seeming to be made on all; as the class of creditors is always the most exposed to the projects of ministers, and always in their eye, and under their immediate inspection, the state is obliged to give them a singular protection, that the part which is indebted may never have the least advantage over that which is the creditor.

CHAP. XIX.: Of lending upon Interest.

SPECIE is the sign of value. It is evident, that he who has occasion for this sign, ought to pay for the use of it, as well as for every thing else that he has occasion for. All the difference is, that other things may be either hired or bought; whilst money, which is the price of things, can only be hired, and not bought.*

To lend money without interest, is certainly an action laudable and extremely good; but it is obvious, that it is only a counsel of religion, and not a civil law.

In order that trade may be successfully carried on, it is necessary that a price be fixed on the use of specie; but this should be very inconsiderable. If it be too high, the merchant, who sees that it will cost him more in interest than he can gain by commerce, will undertake nothing; if there is no consideration to be Edition: current; Page: [112] paid for the use of specie, nobody will lend it; and here too the merchant will undertake nothing.

I am mistaken when I say nobody will lend: the affairs of society will ever make it necessary. Usury will be established; but with all the disorders with which it has been constantly attended.

The laws of Mahomet confound usury with lending upon interest. Usury increases in Mahometan countries in proportion to the severity of the prohibition. The lender indemnifies himself for the danger he undergoes in suffering the penalty.

In those eastern countries, the greatest part of the people are secure of nothing; there is hardly any proportion between the actual possession of a sum, and the hope of receiving it again after having lent it: usury then must be raised in proportion to the danger of insolvency.

CHAP. XX.: Of maritime Usury.

THE greatness of maritime usury is founded on two things: the danger of the sea, which makes it proper that those who expose their specie, should not do it without considerable advantage; and the ease with which the borrower, by the means of commerce, speedily accomplishes a variety of great affairs. But usury, with respect to land-men, not being founded on either of these two reasons, is either prohibited by the legislators, or, what is more rational, reduced to proper bounds.

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CHAP. XXI.: Of lending by Contract, and the State of Usury amongst the Romans.

BESIDES the loans made for the advantage of commerce, there is still a kind of lending by a civil contract, from whence results interest or usury.

As the people of Rome increased every day in power, the magistrates sought to insinuate themselves in their favour, by enacting such laws as were most agreeable to them. They retrenched capitals; they first lowered, and at length prohibited interest; they took away the power of confining the debtor’s body: in fine, the abolition of debts was contended for, whenever a tribune was disposed to render himself popular.

These continual changes, whether made by the laws, or by the plebiscita, naturalised usury at Rome; for the creditors seeing the people their debtor, their legislator, and their judge, had no longer any confidence in their agreements; the people, like a debtor who has lost his credit, could only tempt them to lend, by allowing an exorbitant interest; especially as the laws applied a remedy to the evil only from time to time, while the complaints of the people were continual, and constantly intimidated the creditors. This was the cause that all honest means of borrowing and lending were abolished at Rome, and that the most monstrous usury established* itself in that city, notwithstanding the strict prohibition and severity of the law. This evil was a consequence of the severity of the laws against usury. Laws excessively good are Edition: current; Page: [114] the source of excessive evil. The borrower found himself under a necessity of paying for the interest of the money, and for the danger the creditor underwent of suffering the penalty of the law.

CHAP. XXII.: The same Subject continued.

THE primitive Romans had not any laws to regulate the rate of usury.* In the contests which arose on this subject between the plebeians and the patricians, even in the sedition on the Mons sacer, nothing was alledged, on the one hand, but justice; and on the other, but the severity of contracts.

They then only followed private agreements, which, I believe, were most commonly at twelve per cent. per annum. My reason is, that in the ancient language of the Romans, interest at six per cent. was called half usury, and interest at three per cent. quarter usury. Total usury must therefore have been interest at twelve per cent.

But if it be asked, how such great interest could be established amongst a people almost without commerce? I answer, that this people, being very often obliged to go to war without pay, were under a frequent necessity of borrowing: and as they incessantly made happy expeditions, they were commonly very able to pay. This is visible from the recital of the contests which arose on this subject; they did not then disagree concerning the avarice of creditors, but said, Edition: current; Page: [115] that those who complained might have been able to pay, had they lived in a more *regular manner.

They then made laws, which had only an influence on the present situation of affairs: they ordained, for instance, that those who enrolled themselves for the war they were engaged in, should not be molested by their creditors; that those who were in prison should be set at liberty; that the most indigent should be sent into the colonies: and sometimes they opened the public treasury. The people, being eased of their present burthens, became appeased; and as they required nothing for the future, the senate were far from providing against it.

At the time when the senate maintained the cause of usury with so much constancy, the Romans were distinguished by an extreme love of frugality, poverty. and moderation: but the constitution was such, that the principal citizens alone supported all the expences of government, while the common people paid nothing. How then was it possible to deprive the former of the liberty of pursuing their debtors, and at the same time to oblige them to execute their offices, and to support the republic amidst its most pressing necessities?

Tacitus says, that the law of the twelve tables fixed the interest at one per cent. It is evident that he was mistaken, and that he took another law, of which I am going to speak, for the law of the twelve tables. If this had been regulated in the law of the twelve tables, why did they not make use of its authority in the disputes which afterwards arose between the creditors and debtors? We find not any vestige of this law upon lending at interest; and let us have but never so little knowledge of the history of Rome, Edition: current; Page: [116] we shall see that a law like this could not be the work of the decemvirs.

The Licinian law, made* eighty-five years after that of the twelve tables, was one of those temporary regulations of which we have spoken. It ordained, that what had been paid for interest should be deducted from the principal, and the rest discharged by three equal payments.

In the year of Rome 398, the tribunes Duellius and Menenius caused a law to be passed, which reduced the interest to one per cent. per annum. It is this law which Tacitus confounds with that of the twelve tables, and this was the first ever made by the Romans to fix the rate of interest. Ten years after,§ this usury was reduced one-half; and in the end entirely abolished;** and if we may believe some authors whom Livy had read, this was under the consulate of†† C. Martius Rutilius and Q. Servilius, in the year of Rome 413.

It fared with this law as with all those in which the legislator carries things to excess; an infinite number of ways were found to elude it. They enacted, therefore, many others to confirm, correct, and temper it. Sometimes they quitted‡‡ the laws to follow the common practice, at others, the common practice to follow the laws; but in this case, custom easily prevailed. When a man wanted Edition: current; Page: [117] to borrow, he found an obstacle in the very law made in his favour; this law must be evaded by the person it was made to succour, and by the person condemned. Sempronius Asellus, the prætor, having permitted the* debtors to act in conformity to the laws, was slain by the creditors for attempting to revive the memory of a severity that could no longer be supported.

I quit the city, in order to cast an eye on the provinces.

I have somewhere else observed, that the Roman provinces were exhausted by a severe and arbitrary government. But this is not all, they were also ruined by a most shocking usury.

Cicero takes notice,§ that the inhabitants of Salamis wanted to borrow a sum of money at Rome, but could not, because of the Gabinian law. We must therefore enquire into the nature of this law.

As soon as lending upon interest was forbidden at Rome, they contrived all sort of means to elude the law; and as their allies,** and the Latins, were not subject to the civil laws of the Romans, they employed a Latin, or an ally, to lend his name, and personate the creditor. The law, therefore, had only subjected the creditors to a matter of form, and the public were not relieved.

The people complained of this artifice; and Marius Sempronius, tribune of the people, by the authority of the senate, caused a plebiscitum to be enacted†† to this purport, that in regard to loans, the laws prohibiting usury betwixt Roman citizens, Edition: current; Page: [118] should equally take place between a citizen and an ally, or a citizen and a Latin.

At that time they gave the name of allies to the people of Italy properly so called, which extended as far as the Arno and the Rubicon, and was not governed in the form of a Roman province.

It is an observation of Tacitus,* that new frauds were constantly committed, whenever any laws were passed for the prevention of usury. Finding themselves debarred from lending or borrowing in the name of an ally, they soon contrived to borrow of some inhabitant of the provinces.

To remedy this abuse, they were obliged to enact a new law; and Gabinius upon the passing of that famous law, which was intended to prevent the corruption of suffrages, must naturally have reflected, that the best way to attain this end, was to discourage the lending upon interest: these were two objects naturally connected; for usury always increased at the time of elections, because they stood in need of money to bribe the voters. It is plain, that the Gabinian law had extended the Senatus Consultum of Marcus Sempronius to the provinces, since the people of Salamis could not borrow money at Rome, because of that very law. Brutus, under fictitious names, lent them some money§ at four per cent. a month, and obtained for that purpose two Senatus Consultums; in the former of which, it was expressly mentioned, that this loan should not be considered as an evasion of the law,** and that the governor Edition: current; Page: [119] of Sicily should determine according to the stipulations mentioned in the bond of the Salaminians.

As lending upon interest was forbidden by the Gabinian law between provincials and Roman citizens, and the latter at that time had all the money of the globe in their hands, there was a necessity for tempting them with the bait of extravagant interest, to the end that the avaricious might thus lose sight of the danger of losing their money. And as they were men of great power in Rome, who awed the magistrates, and over-ruled the laws, they were emboldened to lend, and to extort great usury. Hence the provinces were successively ravaged by every one who had any credit in Rome: and as each governor, at entering upon this province, published his edict,* wherein he fixed the rate of interest in what manner he pleased, the legislature played into the hands of avarice, and the latter served the mean purposes of the legislator.

But the public business must be carried on; and wherever a total inaction obtains, the state is undone. On some occasion the towns, the corporate bodies, and societies, as well as private people, were under a necessity of borrowing; a necessity but too urgent, were it only to repair the ravages of armies, the rapacity of magistrates, the extortions of collectors, and the corrupt practices daily introduced; for never was there at one period so much poverty and opulence. The senate, being possefled of the executive power, granted, through necessity, and oftentimes through favour, a permission of borrowing from Roman citizens, Edition: current; Page: [120] so as to enact decrees for that particular purpose. But even these decrees were discredited by the law; for they might give occasion to the people’s* insisting upon new rates of interest, which would augment the danger of losing the capital, while they made a farther extension of usury. I shall ever repeat it, that mankind are governed, not by extremes, but by principles of moderation.

He pays least, says Ulpian, who pays latest. This decides the question, whether interest be lawful? that is, whether the creditor can sell time, and the debtor buy it.


CHAP. I.: Of Men and Animals, with respect to Multiplication of their Species.

  • DELIGHT of human kind, and Gods above;
  • Parent of Rome, propitious queen of love;
  • * * * * * * * * *
  • For when the rising spring adorns the mead,
  • And a new scene of nature stands display’d;
  • Edition: current; Page: [121]
  • When teeming buds, and chearful greens appear,
  • And western gales unlock the lazy year;
  • The joyous birds thy welcome first express,
  • Whose native songs thy genial fire confess:
  • Then savage beasts bound o’er their slighted food,
  • Struck with thy darts, and tempt the raging flood:
    • All nature is thy gift, earth, air, and sea,
    • Of all that breathes, the various progeny
    • Stung with delight, is goaded on by thee.
    • O’er barren mountains, o’er the flow’ry plain,
    • The leafy forest, and the liquid main,
    • Extends thy uncontroul’d and boundless reign.
  • Thro’ all the living regions thou dost move,
  • And scatter’st where thou go’st the kindly seeds of love.

The females of brutes have an almost constant fecundity. But in the human species, the manner of thinking, the character, the passions, the humour, the caprice, the idea of preserving beauty, the pain of childbearing, and the fatigue of a too numerous family, obstruct propagation a thousand different ways.

CHAP. II.: Of Marriage.

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.

The people* mentioned by Pomponius Mela had no other way of discovering him but by resemblance.

Among civilized nations, the father is that person on whom the laws, by the ceremony of marriage, Edition: current; Page: [122] 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.

CHAP. III.: Of the Condition of Children.

IT is a dictate of reason, that when there is a marriage, children should follow the station or condition of the father; and that when there is not, they can belong to the mother only.*

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CHAP. IV.: Of Families.

IT is almost every where a custom for the wife to pass into the family of the husband. The contrary is without any inconveniency established at Formosa,* where the husband enters into the family of the wife.

This law, which fixes the family in a succession of persons of the same sex, greatly contributes, independently of the first motives, to the propagation of the human species. The family is a kind of property: a man who has children of a sex which does not perpetuate it, is never satisfied if he has not those who can render it perpetual.

Names, whereby men acquire an idea of a thing, which one would imagine ought not to perish, are extremely proper to inspire every family with a desire of extending its duration. There are people, amongst whom names distinguish families: there are others, where they only distinguish persons: the latter have not the same advantage as the former.

CHAP. V.: Of the several Orders of lawful Wives.

LAWS and religion sometimes establish many kinds of civil conjunctions; and this is the case among the Mahometans, where there are several orders of wives, the children of whom are distinguished by being born in the house, by civil contracts, or even by the slavery of the mother, and the subsequent acknowledgment of the father.

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It would be contrary to reason, that the law should stigmatize the children for what it approved in the father. All these children ought therefore to succeed, at least if some particular reason does not oppose it, as in Japan, where none inherit but the children of the wife given by the emperor. Their policy demands that the gifts of the emperor should not be too much divided, because they subject them to a kind of service, like that of our ancient fiefs.

There are countries, where a wife of the second rank enjoys nearly the same honours in a family, as in our part of the world are granted to an only consort: there the children of concubines are deemed to belong to the first or principal wife. Thus it is also established in China. Filial respect,* and the ceremony of deep mourning, are not due to the natural mother, but to her appointed by the law.

By means of this fiction, they have no bastard children; and where such a fiction does not take place, it is obvious, that a law to legitimate the children of concubines, must be considered as an act of violence, as the bulk of the nation would be stigmatised by such a decree. Neither is there any regulation in those countries, with regard to children born in adultery. The recluse lives of women, the locks, the inclosures, and the eunuchs, render all infidelity to their husbands so difficult, that the law judges it impossible. Besides, the same sword would exterminate the mother and the child.

CHAP. VI.: Of Bastards in different Governments.

THEY have, therefore, no such thing as bastards, where polygamy is permitted; this disgrace is known Edition: current; Page: [125] only in countries, in which a man is allowed to marry but one wife. Here they were obliged to stamp a mark of infamy upon concubinage, and consequently they were under a necessity of stigmatizing the issue of such unlawful conjunctions.

In republics, where it is necessary that there should be the purest morals, bastards ought to be more degraded than in monarchies.

The laws made against them at Rome were perhaps too severe, but as the ancient institutions laid all the citizens under a necessity of marrying; and as marriages were also softened by the permission to repudiate, or make a divorce; nothing but an extreme corruption of manners could lead them to concubinage.

It is observable, that as the quality of a citizen was a very considerable thing in a democratic government, where it carried with it the sovereign power, they frequently made laws in respect to the state of bastards, which had less relation to the thing itself, and to the honesty of marriage, than to the particular constitution of the republic. Thus the people have sometimes admitted bastards into the number* of citizens, in order to increase their power in opposition to the great. Thus the Athenians excluded bastards from the privilege of being citizens, that they might possess a greater share of the corn sent them by the king of Egypt. In fine, Aristotle informs us, that in many cities where there was not a sufficient number of citizens, their bastards succeeded to their possessions; and that when there was a proper number, they did not inherit.

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CHAP. VII.: Of the Father’s Consent to Marriage.

THE consent of fathers is founded on their authority, that is, on their right of property. It is also founded on their love, on their reason, and on the uncertainty of that of their children, whom youth confines in a state of ignorance, and passion in a state of ebriety.

In the small republics, or singular institutions already mentioned, they might have laws which gave to magistrates that right of inspection over the marriages of the children of citizens, which nature had already given to fathers. The love of the public might there equal or surpass all other love. Thus Plato would have marriages regulated by the magistrates: this the Lacedæmonian magistrates performed.

But in common institutions, fathers have the disposal of their children in marriage: their prudence in this respect is always supposed to be superior to that of a stranger. Nature gives to fathers a desire of procuring successors to their children, when they have almost lost the desire of enjoyment themselves. In the several degrees of progeniture, they see themselves insensibly advancing to a kind of immortality. But what must be done, if oppression and avarice arise to such a height as to usurp all the authority of fathers? Let us hear what Thomas Gage* says in regard to the conduct of the Spaniards in the West-Indies.

“According to the number of the sons and daughters that are marriageable, the father’s tribute is raised and increased, until they provide husbands and Edition: current; Page: [127] wives for their sons and daughters, who, as soon as they are married, are charged with tribute; which, that it may increase, they will suffer none above fifteen years of age to live unmarried. Nay, the set time of marriage, appointed for the Indians, is at fourteen years for the man, and thirteen for the woman; alledging that they are sooner ripe for the fruit of wedlock, and sooner ripe in knowledge and malice, and strength for work and service, than any other people. Nay, sometimes they force them to marry, who are scarce twelve and thirteen years of age, if they find them well-limbed and strong in body, explaining a point of one of the canons, which alloweth fourteen and fifteen years, Nisi malitia suppleat ætatem.” He saw a list of these taken. It was, says he, a most shameful affair. Thus in an action which ought to be the most free, the Indians are the greatest slaves.

CHAP. VIII.: The same Subject continued.

IN England, the law is frequently abused by the daughters marrying according to their own fancy, without consulting their parents. This custom is, I am apt to imagine, more tolerated there than any where else, from a consideration, that as the laws have not established a monastic celibacy, the daughters have no other state to chuse but that of marriage, and this they cannot refuse. In France, on the contrary, young women have always the resource of celibacy; and therefore the law which ordains that they shall wait for the consent of their fathers, may be more agreeable. In this light, the custom of Italy and Spain must be less rational; convents are there established, and yet they may marry without the consent of their fathers.

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CHAP. IX.: Of young Women.

YOUNG women who are conducted by marriage alone to liberty and pleasure; who have a mind which dares not think, a heart which dares not feel, eyes which dare not see, ears which dare not hear, who appear only to shew themselves silly, condemned without intermission to trifles and precepts, have sufficient inducements to lead them on to marriage: it is the young men that want to be encouraged.

CHAP. X.: What it is that determines to Marriage.

WHEREVER a place is found in which two persons can live commodiously, there they enter into marriage. Nature has a sufficient propensity to it, when unrestrained by the difficulty of subsistence.

A rising people increase and multiply extremely. This is, because with them it would be a great inconveniency to live in celibacy; and none to have many children. The contrary of which is the case when a nation is formed.

CHAP. XI.: Of the Severity of Government.

MEN who have absolutely nothing, such as beggars, have many children. This proceeds from their being in the case of a rising people: it costs the father nothing to give his art to his offspring, who even in their infancy are the instruments of this art. These Edition: current; Page: [129] people multiply in a rich or superstitious country, because they do not support the burthen of society; but are themselves the burthen. But men who are poor, only because they live under a severe government; who regard their fields less as the source of their subsistence, than as a cause of vexation; these men, I say, have few children: they have not even subsistence for themselves; how then can they think of dividing it? They are unable to take care of their own persons when they are sick; how then can they attend to the wants of creatures whose infancy is a continual sickness?

It is pretended by some, who are apt to talk of things which they have never examined, that the greater the poverty of the subjects, the more numerous their families: that the more they are loaded with taxes, the more industriously they endeavour to put themselves in a station in which they will be able to pay them: two sophisms, which have always destroyed, and will for ever be the destruction of monarchies.

The severity of government may be carried to such an extreme, as to make the natural sentiments destructive of the natural sentiments themselves. Would the women of* America have refused to bear children, had their masters been less cruel?

CHAP. XII.: Of the Number of Males and Females in different Countries.

I HAVE already observed, that there are born in Europe rather more boys than girls. It has been remarked, Edition: current; Page: [130] that in *Japan there are born rather more girls than boys: all things compared, there must be more fruitful women in Japan than in Europe, and consequently it must be more populous.

We are informed, that at Bantam there are ten girls to one boy. A disproportion like this must cause the number of families there, to be to the number of those of other climates, as 1 to 51/2; which is a prodigious difference. Their families may be much larger indeed; but there must be few men in circumstances sufficient to provide for so large a family.

CHAP. XIII.: Of Sea-port Towns.

IN sea-port towns, where men expose themselves to a thousand dangers, and go abroad to live or die in distant climates, there are fewer men than women: and yet we see more children there than in other places. This proceeds from the greater ease with which they procure the means of subsistence. Perhaps even the oily parts of fish are more proper to furnish that matter which contributes to generation. This may be one of the causes of the infinite number of people in Japan and China, where they live almost wholly on §fish. If this be the case, certain monastic rules, which oblige the monks to live on fish, must be contrary to the spirit of the legislator himself.

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CHAP. XIV.: Of the Productions of the Earth which require a greater or less Number of Men.

PASTURE lands are but little peopled, because they find employment only for a few. Corn lands employ a great many men, and vineyards infinitely more.

It has been a frequent complaint in England*, that the increase of pasture land diminished the inhabitants; and it has been observed in France, that the prodigious number of vineyards is one of the great causes of the multitude of people.

Those countries where coal-pits furnish a proper substance for fuel, have this advantage over others, that not having the same occasion for forests, the lands may be cultivated.

In countries productive of rice, they are at vast pains in watering the land; a great number of men must therefore be employed. Besides, there is less land required to furnish subsistence for a family, than in those which produce other kinds of grain. In fine, the land which is elsewhere employed in raising cattle, serves immediately for the subsistence of man; and the labour, which in other places is performed by cattle, is there performed by men; so that the culture of the soil becomes to man an immense manufacture.

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CHAP. XV.: Of the Number of Inhabitants with relation to the Arts.

WHEN there is an Agrarian law, and the lands are equally divided, the country may be extremely well peopled, though there are but few arts; because every citizen receives from the cultivation of his land whatever is necessary for his subsistence, and all the citizens together consume all the fruits of the earth. Thus it was in some republics.

In our present situation, in which lands are unequally distributed, they produce much more than those who cultivate them are able to consume; if the arts therefore should be neglected, and nothing minded but agriculture, the country could not be peopled. Those who cultivate, or employ others to cultivate, having corn to spare, nothing would engage them to work the following year: the fruits of the earth would not be consumed by the indolent; for these would have nothing with which they could purchase them. It is necessary then that the arts should be established, in order that the produce of the land may be consumed by the labourer and the artificer. In a word, it is now proper that many should cultivate much more than is necessary for their own use. For this purpose, they must have a desire of enjoying superfluities; and these they can receive only from the artificer.

The machines designed to abridge art, are not always useful. If a piece of workmanship is of a moderate price, such as is equally agreeable to the maker and the buyer, those machines which would render the manufacture more simple, or, in other words, diminish the number of workmen, would be Edition: current; Page: [133] pernicious. And if water-mills were not every where established, I should not have believed them so useful as is pretended, because they have deprived an infinite multitude of their employment, a vast number of persons of the use of water, and great part of the land of its fertility.

CHAP. XVI.: The Concern of the Legislator in the Propagation of the Species.

REGULATIONS on the number of citizens depend greatly on circumstances. There are countries, in which nature does all; the legislator then has nothing to do. What need is there of inducing men by laws to propagation, when a fruitful climate yields a sufficient number of inhabitants? Sometimes the climate is more favourable than the soil; the people multiply, and are destroyed by famine: this is the case of China. Hence a father sells his daughters, and exposes his children. In Tonquin*, the same causes produce the same effects; so we need not, like the Arabian travellers mentioned by Renaudot, search for the origin of this in their sentiments on the metempsychosis.

For the same reason, the religion of the isle of Formosa does not suffer the women to bring their children into the world, till they are thirty-five years of age; the priestess before this age, by bruising the belly, procures abortion.

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CHAP. XVII.: Of Greece, and the Number of its Inhabitants.

THAT effect which in certain countries of the East springs from physical causes, was produced in Greece by the nature of the government. The Greeks were a great nation, composed of cities, each of which had a distinct government and separate laws. They had no more the spirit of conquest and ambition, than those of Swisserland, Holland, and Germany, have at this day. In every republic the legislator had in view the happiness of the citizens at home, and their power abroad, lest it should prove inferior* to that of the neighbouring cities. Thus, with the enjoyment of a small territory and great happiness, it was easy for the number of the citizens to increase to such a degree as to become burthensome. This obliged them incessantly to send out colonies; and, as the Swiss do now, to let their men out to war. Nothing was neglected that could hinder the too great multiplication of children.

They had amongst them republics, whose constitution was very remarkable. The nations they had subdued were obliged to provide subsistence for the citizens. The Lacedæmonians were fed by the Helotes, the Cretans by the Periecians, and the Thessalians by the Penestes. They were obliged to have only a certain number of freemen, that their slaves might be able to furnish them with subsistence. It is a received maxim in our days, that it is necessary to limit the number of regular troops: now the Lacedæmonians Edition: current; Page: [135] were an army maintained by the peasants: it was proper therefore that this army should be limited; without this the freemen, who had all the advantages of society, would increase beyond number, and the labourers be overloaded.

The politics of the Greeks were particularly employed in regulating the number of citizens. Plato* fixes them at five thousand and forty, and he would have them stop or encourage propagation, as was most convenient, by honours, shame, and the advice of the old men; he would even regulate the number of marriages, in such a manner, that the republic might be recruited without being overcharged.

If the laws of a country, says Aristotle, forbid the exposing of children, the number of those brought forth ought to be limited. If they have more than the number prescribed by law, he advises to make the women miscarry before the fœtus be formed.

The same author mentions the infamous means made use of by the Cretans, to prevent their having too great a number of children; a proceeding too indecent to repeat.

There are places, says Aristotle§ again, where the laws give the privilege of being citizens to strangers, or to bastards, or to those whose mothers only are citizens; but as soon as they have a sufficient number of people, this privilege ceases. The savages of Canada burn their prisoners; but when they have empty cottages to give them, they receive them into their nation.

Sir William Petty, in his calculations, supposes that a man in England is worth what he would sell for at Algiers**. This can be true only with respect Edition: current; Page: [136] to England. There are countries where a man is worth nothing, there are others where he is worth less than nothing.

CHAP. XVIII.: Of the State and Number of People before the Romans.

ITALY, Sicily, Asia Minor, Gaul and Germany, were nearly in the same state as Greece; full of small nations that abounded with inhabitants, they had no need of laws to increase their number.

CHAP. XIX.: Of the Depopulation of the Globe.

ALL these little republics were swallowed up in a large one, and the globe insensibly became depopulated. In order to be convinced of this, we need only consider the state of Italy and Greece, before and after the victories of the Romans.

“You will ask me,” says Livy*, “where the Volsci could find soldiers to support the war, after having been so often defeated. There must have been formerly an infinite number of people in those countries, which at present would be little better than a desart, were it not for a few soldiers and Roman slaves.”

“The oracles have ceased,” says Plutarch, “because the places where they spoke are destroyed. At present we can scarcely find in Greece three thousand men fit to bear arms.”

“I shall not describe,” says Strabo, “Epirus and the adjacent places; because these countries are Edition: current; Page: [137] intirely deserted. This depopulation, which began long ago, still continues; so that the Roman soldiers encamp in the houses they have abandoned.” We find the cause of this in Polybius, who says, that Paulus Æmilius, after his victory, destroyed seventy cities of Epirus, and carried away a hundred and fifty thousand slaves.

CHAP. XX.: That the Romans were under a Necessity of making Laws, to encourage the Propagation of the Species.

THE Romans, by destroying others, were themselves destroyed: incessantly in action, in the heat of battle, and in the most violent attempts, they wore out like a weapon kept constantly in use.

I shall not here speak of the attention with which they applied themselves to procure* citizens in the room of those they lost, of the associations they entered into, the privileges they bestowed, and of that immense nursery of citizens, their slaves. I shall mention what they did to recruit the number, not of their citizens, but of their men; and as these were the people in the world who knew best how to adapt their laws to their projects, an examination of their conduct, in this respect, cannot be a matter of indifference.

CHAP. XXI.: Of the Laws of the Romans relating to the Propagation of the Species.

THE ancient laws of Rome endeavoured greatly to incite the citizens to marriage. The senate and Edition: current; Page: [138] the people made frequent regulations on this subject, as Augustus says in his speech related by Dio*.

Dionysius Halicarnasseus cannot believe, that after the death of three hundred and five of the Fabii, exterminated by the Veientes, there remained no more of this family but one single child; because the ancient law, which obliged every citizen to marry and to educate all his children, was still in force.

Independently of the laws, the censors had a particular eye upon marriages, and according to the exigencies of the republic, engaged them to it by shame and by punishments.

The corruption of manners that began to take place, contributed vastly to disgust the citizens against marriage, which was painful to those who had no taste for the pleasures of innocence. This is the purport of that speech§ which Metellus Numidicus, when he was censor, made to the people: “If it were possible for us to do without wives, we should deliver ourselves from this evil: but as nature has ordained that we cannot live very happily with them, nor subsist without them, we ought to have more regard to our own preservation, than to transient gratifications.”

The corruption of manners destroyed the censorship, which was itself established to destroy the corruption of manners: for when this depravation became general, the censor lost his power**.

Civil discords, triumvirates, and proscriptions, weakened Rome more than any war she had hitherto Edition: current; Page: [139] engaged in. They left but few citizens*, and the greatest part of them unmarried. To remedy this last evil, Cæsar and Augustus re-established the censorship, and would even be censors themselves. Cæsar gave rewards to those who had many children. All women under forty-five years of age, who had neither husband nor children, were forbid to wear jewels, or to ride in litters; an excellent method thus to attack celibacy by the power of vanity. The laws of Augustus§ were more pressing: he imposed** new penalties on such as were not married, and increased the rewards both of those who were married, and of those who had children. Tacitus calls these Julian laws††; to all appearance they were founded on the ancient regulations made by the senate, the people, and the censors.

The law of Augustus met with innumerable obstacles; and thirty-four years∥∥ after it had been made, the Roman knights insisted on its being abolished. He placed on one side such as were married, and on the other side those who were not: these last appeared by far the greatest number; upon which the citizens were astonished and confounded. Augustus, with the gravity of the ancient censors, addressed them in this manner§§:

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“While sickness and war snatch away so many citizens, what must become of this state if marriages are no longer contracted? the city does not consist of houses, of porticos, of public places, but of inhabitants. You do not see men, like those mentioned in Fable, starting out of the earth to take care of your affairs. Your celibacy is not owing to the desire of living alone: for none of you eats or sleeps by himself. You only seek to enjoy your irregularities undisturbed. Do you cite the example of the Vestal Virgins? If you preserve not the laws of chastity, you ought to be punished like them. You are equally bad citizens, whether your example has an influence on the rest of the world, or whether it be disregarded. My only view is the perpetuity of the republic. I have increased the penalties of those who have disobeyed; and with respect to rewards, they are such, as I do not know whether virtue has ever received greater. For less will a thousand men expose life itself; and yet will not these engage you to take a wife, and provide for children?”

He made a law, which was called after his name, Julia, and Papia Poppæa, from the names of the consuls* for part of that year. The greatness of the evil appeared, even in their being elected: Dio tells us, that they were not married, and that they had no children.

This decree of Augustus was properly a code of laws, and a systematic body of all the regulations that could be made on this subject. The Julian laws were incorporated into it; and received a greater Edition: current; Page: [141] strength. It was so extensive in its use, and had an influence on so many things, that it formed the finest part of the civil law of the Romans.

We find* parts of it dispersed in the precious fragments of Ulpian, in the laws of the Digest, collected from authors who wrote on the Papian laws, in the historians and others who have cited them, in the Theodosian code, which abolished them, and in the works of the fathers, who have censured them, without doubt, from a laudable zeal for the things of the other life, but with very little knowledge of the affairs of this.

These laws had many heads, of which we know thirty-five. But to return to my subject as speedily as possible, I shall begin with that head, which Aulus Gellius informs us was the seventh, and relates to the honours and rewards granted by that law.

The Romans, who for the most part sprung from the cities of the Latins, which were Lacedæmonian colonies, and had received a part of their laws even from those cities§, had, like the Lacedæmonians, such veneration for old age, as to give it all honour and precedency. When the republic wanted citizens, she granted to marriage, and to a number of children, the privileges which had been given to age††. She granted some to marriage alone, independently of the children which might spring from it: this was called the right of husbands. She gave others to those who had any children, and larger still to those who had three children. These three things must not be confounded. Edition: current; Page: [142] These last had those privileges which married men constantly enjoyed; as for example, a particular place in the theatre*; they had those which could only be enjoyed by men who had children; and which none could deprive them of but such as had a greater number.

These privileges were very extensive. The married men, who had the most children, were always preferred, whether in the pursuit, or in the exercise of honours. The consul, who had the most numerous offspring, was the first who received the fasces; he had his choice of the provinces: the senator, who had most children, had his name written first in the catalogue of senators, and was the first in giving his opinion§ in the senate. They might even stand sooner than ordinary for an office, because every child gave a dispensation of a year**. If an inhabitant of Rome had three children, he was exempted from all troublesome offices††. The free-born women who had three children, and the freed-women who had four, passed‡‡ out of that perpetual tutelage, in which they had been∥∥ held by the ancient laws of Rome.

As they had rewards, they had also penalties§§. Those who were not married, could receive no advantage from the will of any person that was not a relation†††; and those who, being married, had Edition: current; Page: [143] no children, could receive only half*. The Romans, says Plutarch, marry only to be heirs, and not to have them.

The advantages which a man and his wife might receive from each other by will, were limited by law. If they had children of each other, they might receive the whole; if not, they could receive only a tenth part of the succession on the account of marriage; and if they had any children by a former venter, as many tenths as they had children.

If a husband absented himself from his wife on any other cause than the affairs of the republic, he could not inherit from her.

The law gave to a surviving husband or wife two years§ to marry again, and a year and a half in case of a divorce. The fathers who would not suffer their children to marry, or refused to give their daughters a portion, were obliged to do it by the magistrates**.

They were not allowed to betroth, when the marriage was to be deferred for more than two years††; and as they could not marry a girl till she was twelve years old, they could not be bethrothed to her, till she was ten. The law would not suffer them to Edition: current; Page: [144] trifle* to no purpose; and under a pretence of being betrothed, to enjoy the privileges of married men.

It was contrary to law for a man of sixty to marry a woman of fifty. As they had given great privileges to married men, the law would not suffer them to enter into useless marriages. For the same reason, the Calvisian Senatus Consultum declared the marriage of a woman above fifty, with a man less than sixty, to be unequal; so that a woman of fifty years of age could not marry, without incurring the penalties of these laws. Tiberius added to the rigour of the Papian law, and prohibited men of sixty from marrying women under fifty; so that a man of sixty could not marry in any case whatsoever, without incurring the penalty. But Claudius abrogated§ this law made under Tiberius.

All these regulations were more conformable to the climate of Italy, than to that of the North, where a man of sixty years of age has still a considerable degree of strength; and where women of fifty are not always past child-bearing.

That they might not be unnecessarily limited in the choice they were to make, Augustus permitted all the free-born citizens, who were not senators††, to marry freed-women‡‡. The Papian∥∥ law forbad the senators marrying freed-women, or those who had been brought to the stage; and from the time of §§Ulpian, free-born persons were forbid to marry Edition: current; Page: [145] women who had led a disorderly life, who had played in the theatre, or who had been condemned by a public sentence. This must have been established by a decree of the senate. During the time of the republic they had never made laws like these, because the censors corrected this kind of disorders as soon as they arose, or else prevented their rising.

Constantine* made a law, in which he comprehended, in the prohibition of the Papian law, not only the senators, but even such as had a considerable rank in the state, without mentioning persons in an inferior station: this constituted the law of those times. These marriages were therefore no longer forbidden, but to the free-born comprehended in the law of Constantine. Justinian however abrogated the law of Constantine, and permitted all sorts of persons to contract these marriages: and thus we have acquired so fatal a liberty.

It is evident, that the penalties inflicted on such as married contrary to the prohibition of the law, were the same as those inflicted on persons who did not marry. These marriages did not give them any civil advantage; for the dowry was confiscated§ after the death of the wife.

Augustus having adjudged the succession and legacies of those, whom these laws had declared incapable, to the public treasury††, they had the appearance rather of fiscal, than of political and civil laws. The disgust they had already conceived at a burden which appeared too heavy, was increased by their seeing themselves a continual prey to the avidity of Edition: current; Page: [146] the treasury. On this account it became necessary, under Tiberius, that* these laws should be softened, that Nero should lessen the rewards given out of the treasury to the informers, that Trajan should put a stop to their plundering, that Severus should also moderate these laws, and that the civilians should consider them as odious, and in all their decisions deviate from the literal rigour.

Besides, the emperors enervated§ these laws, by the privileges they granted, of the rights of husbands, of children, and of three children. More than this, they gave†† particular persons a dispensation from the penalties of these laws. But the regulations established for the public utility seemed incapable of admitting an alleviation.

It was highly reasonable, that they should grant the rights of children to the vestals‡‡, whom religion retained in a necessary virginity: they gave, in the same manner, the privilege of∥∥ married men to soldiers, because they could not marry. It was customary to exempt the emperors from the constraint of certain civil laws. Thus Augustus was freed from the constraint of the law, which limited the power of§§ enfranchising, and of that which set bounds to Edition: current; Page: [147] the right of* bequeathing by testament. These were only particular cases: but, at last, dispensations were given without discretion, and the rule itself became no more than an exception.

The sects of philosophers had already introduced in the empire a disposition that estranged them from business; a disposition which could not gain ground in the time of the republic, when every body was employed in the arts of war and peace. From hence arose an idea of perfection, as connected with a life of speculation; from hence an estrangement from the cares and embarrassments of a family. The Christian religion coming after this philosophy, fixed, if I may make use of the expression, the ideas which that had only prepared.

Christianity stamped its character on jurisprudence; for empire has ever a connexion with the priesthood. This is visible from the Theodosian code, which is only a collection of the decrees of the Christian emperors.

A panegyrist of Constantine says to that Emperor, “Your laws were made only to correct vice, and to regulate manners: you have stripped the ancient laws of that artifice, which seemed to have no other aim than to lay snares for simplicity.”

It is certain, that the alterations made by Constantine took their rise, either from sentiments relating to the establishment of Christianity, or from ideas conceived of its perfection. From the first proceeded those laws which gave such authority to bishops, and which have been the foundation of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction: from hence those laws which weakened Edition: current; Page: [148] paternal authority*, by depriving the father of his property in the possessions of his children. To extend a new religion, they were obliged to take away the dependance of children, who are always leaft attached to what is already established.

The laws made with a view to Christian perfection were more particularly those by which the penalties of the Papian laws were abolished; the unmarried were equally exempted from them, with those who being married had no children.

“These laws were established,” says an ecclesiastic historian, “as if the multiplication of the human species was an effect of our care; instead of being sensible that the number is increased or diminished, according to the order of providence.”

Principles of religion have had an extraordinary influence on the propagation of the human species. Sometimes they have promoted it, as amongst the Jews, the Mahometans, the Gaurs, and the Chinese; at others, they have put a damp to it, as was the case of the Romans upon their conversion to Christianity.

They every where incessantly preached up continency; a virtue the more perfect, because in its own nature it can be practised but by very few.

Constantine had not taken away the decimal laws, which granted a greater extent to the donations between man and wife, in proportion to the number of their children: Theodosius the younger abrogated even these laws.

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Justinian declared all those marriages* valid, which had been prohibited by the Papian laws. These laws require people to marry again: Justinian granted privileges to those who did not marry again.

By the ancient institutions, the natural right which every one had to marry, and beget children, could not be taken away. Thus when they received a legacy, on condition of not marrying, or when a patron made his freed-man swear, that he would neither marry nor beget children, the Papian law annulled both the§ condition and the oath. The clauses on continuing in widowhood, established amongst us, contradict the ancient law, and descend from the constitutions of the emperors, founded on ideas of perfection.

There is no law that contains an express abrogation of the privileges and honours, which the Romans had granted to marriages, and to a number of children. But where celibacy had the pre-eminence, marriage could not be held in honour; and since they could oblige the officers of the public revenue to renounce so many advantages by the abolition of the penalties, it is easy to perceive, that with yet greater ease they might put a stop to the rewards.

The same spiritual reason which had permitted celibacy, soon imposed it even as necessary. God forbid that I should here speak against celibacy, as adopted by religion: but who can be silent when it is built on libertinism; when the two sexes corrupting each other, even by the natural sensations themselves, fly from a union which ought to make them better, to live in that which always renders them worse?

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It is a rule drawn from nature, that the more the number of marriages is diminished, the more corrupt are those who have entered into that state: the fewer married men, the less fidelity is there in marriage; as when there are more thieves, more thefts are committed.

CHAP. XXII.: Of the Exposing of Children.

THE Roman policy was very good, in respect to the exposing of children. Romulus, says Dionysius Halicarnasseus*, laid the citizens under an obligation to educate all their male children, and the eldest of their daughters. If the infants were deformed and monstrous, he permitted the exposing them, after having shewn them to five of their nearest neighbours.

Romulus did not suffer them to kill any infants under three years old: by which means he reconciled the law that gave to fathers the right over their children of life and death, with that which prohibited their being exposed.

We find also in Dionysius Halicarnasseus, that the law which obliged the citizens to marry, and to educate all their children, was in force in the 277th year of Rome: we see that custom had restrained the law of Romulus, which permitted them to expose their younger daughters.

We have no knowledge of what the law of the twelve tables (made in the year of Rome 301), appointed with respect to the exposing of children, except from a passage of Cicero, who, speaking of Edition: current; Page: [151] the office of tribune of the people, says, that soon after its birth, like the monstrous infant of the law of the twelve tables, it was stifled: the infant that was not monstrous, was therefore preserved, and the law of the twelve tables made no alteration in the preceding institutions.

“The Germans, says Tacitus*, never expose their children; amongst them, the best manners have more force, than in other places the best laws.” The Romans had therefore laws against this custom, and yet they did not follow them. We find not any Roman law, that permitted the exposing of children: this was, without doubt, an abuse introduced towards the decline of the republic, when luxury robbed them of their freedom, when wealth divided was called poverty, when the father believed that all was lost which he gave to his family, and when this family was distinct from his property.

CHAP. XXIII.: Of the State of the World after the Destruction of the Romans.

THE regulations made by the Romans to increase the number of their citizens, had their effect, while the republic, in the full vigour of her constitution, had nothing to repair but the losses she sustained by her courage, by her intrepidity, by her firmness, her love of glory, and of virtue. But soon the wisest laws could not re-establish what a dying republic, what a general anarchy, what a military government, what a rigid empire, what a proud despotic power, what Edition: current; Page: [152] a feeble monarchy, what a stupid, weak, and superstitious court had successively pulled down. It might indeed be said, that they conquered the world only to weaken it, and to deliver it up defenceless to barbarians. The Gothic nations, the Getes, the Saracens, and Tartars, by turns harrassed them: and soon the barbarians had none to destroy but barbarians. Thus, in fabulous times, after the inundations and the deluge, there arose out of the earth armed men, who exterminated one another.

CHAP. XXIV.: The Changes which happened in Europe, with regard to the Number of the Inhabitants.

IN the state Europe was in, one would not imagine it possible for it to be retrieved; especially when under Charlemain it formed only one vast empire. But by the nature of government at that time, it became divided into an infinite number of petty sovereignties; and as the lord or sovereign, who resided in his village, or city, was neither great, rich, powerful, nor even safe, but by the number of his subjects; every one employed himself with a singular attention to make his little country flourish. This succeeded in such a manner, that notwithstanding the irregularities of government, the want of that knowledge which has since been acquired in commerce, and the numerous wars and disorders incessantly arising, most countries of Europe were better peopled in those days, than they are even at present.

I have not time to treat fully of this subject. But I shall cite the prodigious armies engaged in the crusades, composed of men of all countries, Puffendorf* Edition: current; Page: [153] says, that in the reign of Charles IX. there were in France twenty millions of men.

It is the perpetual re-union of many little states that has produced this diminution. Formerly, every village of France was a capital; there is at present only one large one: every part of the state was a center of power; at present, all has a relation to one center; and this center is, in some measure, the state itself.

CHAP. XXV.: The same Subject continued.

EUROPE, it is true, has for these two ages past greatly increased its navigation: this has both procured and deprived it of inhabitants. Holland sends every year a great number of mariners to the Indies; of whom not above two thirds return: the rest either perish or settle in the Indies. The same thing must happen to every other nation concerned in that trade.

We must not judge of Europe as of a particular state engaged alone in an extensive navigation. This state would increase in people, because all the neighbouring nations would endeavour to have a share in this commerce; and mariners would arrive from all parts. Europe, separated from the rest of the world by religion, by vast seas and desarts, cannot be repaired in this manner.

CHAP. XXVI.: Consequences.

FROM all this we may conclude, that Europe is at present in a condition to require laws to be made Edition: current; Page: [154] in favour of the propagation of the human species. The politics of the ancient Greeks incessantly complain of the inconveniencies attending a republic, from the excessive number of citizens; but the politics of this age call upon us to take proper means to increase ours.

CHAP. XXVII.: Of the Law made in France to encourage the Propagation of the Species.

LEWIS XIV. appointed* particular pensions to those who had ten children, and much larger to such as had twelve. But it is not sufficient to reward prodigies. In order to communicate a general spirit, which leads to the propagation of the species, it is necessary for us to establish, like the Romans, general rewards, or general penalties.

CHAP. XXVIII.: By what Means we may remedy a Depopulation.

WHEN a state is depopulated by particular accidents, by wars, pestilence, or famine, there are still resources left. The men who remain may preserve the spirit of industry; they may seek to repair their misfortunes, and calamity itself may make them become more industrious. This evil is almost incurable, when the depopulation is prepared before-hand by interior vice and a bad government. When this is the case, men perish with an insensible and habitual disease: born in misery and weakness, in violence, Edition: current; Page: [155] or under the influence of a wicked administration, they see themselves destroyed, and frequently without perceiving the cause of their destruction. Of this we have a melancholy proof, in the countries desolated by despotic power, or by the excessive advantages of the clergy over the laity.

In vain shall we wait for the succour of children yet unborn, to re-establish a state thus depopulated. There is not time for this; men in their solitude are without courage or industry. With land sufficient to nourish a nation, they have scarcely enough to nourish a family. The common people have not even a property in the miseries of the country, that is, in the fallows with which it abounds. The clergy, the prince, the cities, the great men, and some of the principal citizens, insensibly become proprietors of all the land which lies uncultivated: the families who are ruined have left their fields; and the labouring man is destitute.

In this situation they should take the same measures throughout the whole extent of the empire, which the Romans took in a part of theirs; they should practise in their distress what these observed in the midst of plenty; that is, they should distribute land to all the families who are in want, and procure them materials for clearing and cultivating it. This distribution ought to be continued so long as there is a man to receive it; and in such a manner, as not to lose a moment, that can be industriously employed.

CHAP. XXIX.: Of Hospitals.

A MAN is not poor because he has nothing, but because he does not work. The man who without Edition: current; Page: [156] any degree of wealth has an employment, is as much at his ease as he who without labour has an income of a hundred crowns a year. He who has no substance, and yet has a trade, is not poorer than he who possessing ten acres of land, is obliged to cultivate it for his subsistence. The mechanic, who gives his art as an inheritance to his children, has left them a fortune, which is multiplied in proportion to their number. It is not so with him, who having ten acres of land, divides it amongst his children.

In trading countries, where many men have no other subsistence but from the arts, the state is frequently obliged to supply the necessities of the aged, the sick, and the orphan. A well-regulated government draws this support from the arts themselves. It gives to some such employment as they are capable of performing; others are taught to work, and this teaching of itself becomes an employment.

The alms given to a naked man in the street do not fulfil the obligations of the state, which owes to every citizen a certain subsistence, a proper nourishment, convenient cloathing, and a kind of life not incompatible with health.

Aurengzebe* being asked, why he did not build hospitals, said, “I will make my empire so rich, that there shall be no need of hospitals.” He ought to have said, I will begin, by rendering my empire rich, and then I will build hospitals.

The riches of the state suppose great industry. Amidst the numerous branches of trade, it is impossible but some must suffer; and consequently the mechanics must be in a momentary necessity.

Whenever this happens, the state is obliged to lend them a ready assistance; whether it be to prevent the Edition: current; Page: [157] sufferings of the people, or to avoid a rebellion. In this case hospitals, or some equivalent regulations, are necessary to prevent this misery.

But when the nation is poor, private poverty springs from the general calamity; and is, if I may so express myself, the general calamity itself. All the hospitals in the world cannot cure this private poverty; on the contrary, the spirit of indolence, which it constantly inspires, increases the general, and consequently the private misery.

Henry VIII.* resolving to reform the church of England, ruined the monks, of themselves a lazy set of people, that encouraged laziness in others; because, as they practised hospitality, an infinite number of idle persons, gentlemen and citizens, spent their lives in running from convent to convent. He demolished even the hospitals, in which the lower people found subsistence, as the gentlemen did theirs in the monasteries. Since these changes, the spirit of trade and industry has been established in England.

At Rome, the hospitals place every one at his ease, except those who labour, except those who are industrious, except those who have land, except those who are engaged in trade.

I have observed, that wealthy nations have need of hospitals, because fortune subjects them to a thousand accidents: but it is plain, that transient assistances are much better than perpetual foundations. The evil is momentary; it is necessary, therefore, that the succour should be of the same nature, and that it be applied to particular accidents.

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CHAP. I.: Of Religion in general.

AS amidst several degrees of darkness we may form a judgment of those which are the least thick, and among precipices, which are the least deep; so we may search among false religions for those that are most conformable to the welfare of society; for those which, though they have not the effect of leading men to the felicity of another life, may contribute most to their happiness in this.

I shall examine therefore the several religions of the world, in relation only to the good they produce in civil society; whether I speak of that which has its root in heaven, or of those which spring from the earth.

As in this work I am not a divine, but a political writer, I may here advance things which are no otherwise true, than as they correspond with a worldly manner of thinking, not as considered in their relation to truths of a more sublime nature.

With regard to the true religion, a person of the least degree of impartiality must see, that I have never pretended to make its interests submit to those of a political nature, but rather to unite them; now, in order to unite, it is necessary that we should know them.

The Christian religion, which ordains that men should love each other, would, without doubt, have Edition: current; Page: [159] every nation blest with the best civil, the best political laws; because these, next to this religion, are the greatest good that men can give and receive.

CHAP. II.: A Paradox of Mr. Bayle’s.

MR.* Bayle has pretended to prove, that it is better to be an atheist than an idolater; that is, in other words, that it is less dangerous to have no religion at all, than a bad one. “I had rather, said he, it should be said of me that I had no existence, than that I am a villain.” This is only a sophism, founded on this, that it is of no importance to the human race to believe that a certain man exists; whereas it is extremely useful for them to believe the existence of a God. From the idea of his non-existence, immediately follows that of our independence; or, if we cannot conceive this idea, that of disobedience. To say that religion is not a restraining motive, because it does not always restrain, is equally absurd, as to say, that the civil laws are not a restraining motive. It is a false way of reasoning against religion, to collect, in a large work, a long detail of the evils it has produced, if we do not give, at the same time, an enumeration of the advantages which have flowed from it. Were I to relate all the evils that have arisen in the world from civil laws, from monarchy, and from republican government, I might tell of frightful things. Were it of no advantage for subjects to have religion, it would still be of some if princes had it, and if they whitened with foam the Edition: current; Page: [160] only rein which can restrain those who fear not human laws.

A prince who loves and fears religion is a lion, who stoops to the hand that strokes, or to the voice that appeases him. He who fears and hates religion, is like the savage beast that growls and bites the chain which prevents his flying on the passenger. He who has no religion at all, is that terrible animal, who perceives his liberty only when he tears in pieces, and when he devours.

The question is not to know, whether it would be better that a certain man, or a certain people, had no religion, than to abuse what they have; but to know what is the least evil, that religion be sometimes abused, or that there be no such restraint as religion on mankind.

To diminish the horror of atheism, they lay too much to the charge of idolatry. It is far from being true, that when the ancients raised altars to a particular vice, they intended to shew that they loved the vice; this signified, on the contrary, that they hated it. When the Lacedæmonians erected a temple to Fear, it was not to shew that this warlike nation desired, that he would in the midst of battle possess the hearts of the Lacedæmonians. They had deities to whom they prayed not to inspire them with guilt; and others whom they besought to shield them from it.

CHAP. III.: That a moderate Government is most agreeable to the Christian Religion, and a despotic Government to the Mahometan.

THE Christian religion is a stranger to mere despotic power. The mildness so frequently recommended Edition: current; Page: [161] in the gospel, is incompatible with the despotic rage with which a prince punishes his subjects, and exercises himself in cruelty.

As this religion forbids the plurality of wives, its princes are less confined, less concealed from their subjects, and consequently have more humanity: they are more disposed to be directed by laws, and more capable of perceiving, that they cannot do whatever they please.

While the Mahometan princes incessantly give or receive death, the religion of the Christians render their princes less timid, and consequently less cruel. The prince confides in his subjects, and the subjects in the prince. How admirable the religion, which, while it only seems to have in view the felicity of the other life, continues the happiness of this!

It is the Christian religion, that, in spite of the extent of the empire and the influence of the climate, has hindered despotic power from being established in Æthiopia, and has carried into the heart of Africa the manners and laws of Europe.

The heir to the empire of Æthiopia enjoys a principality, and gives to other subjects an example of love and obedience. Not far from thence may be seen the Mahometan shutting up the children of the King* of Sennar, at whose death, the council sends to murder them, in favour of the prince who mounts the throne.

Let us set before our eyes, on the one hand, the continual massacres of the kings and generals of the Greeks and Romans; and, on the other, the destruction of people and cities by those famous conquerors Timur Beg and Jenghiz Khan, who ravaged Edition: current; Page: [162] Asia; and we shall see, that we owe to Christianity, in government, a certain political law; and in war, a certain law of nations; benefits which human nature can never sufficiently acknowledge.

It is owing to this law of nations, that amongst us, victory leaves these great advantages to the conquered, life, liberty, laws, wealth, and always religion, when the conqueror is not blind to his own interest.

We may truly say, that the people of Europe are not at present more disunited than the people and the armies, or even the armies amongst themselves, were under the Roman empire, when it was become a despotic and military government. On the one hand, the armies engaged in war against each other; and, on the other, they pillaged the cities, and divided or confiscated the lands.

CHAP. IV.: Consequences from the Character of the Christian Religion, and that of the Mahometan.

FROM the characters of the Christian and Mahometan religions, we ought, without any further examination, to embrace the one, and reject the other: for it is much easier to prove, that religion ought to humanize the manners of men, than that any particular religion is true.

It is a misfortune to human nature, when religion is given by a conqueror. The Mahometan religion, which speaks only by the sword, acts still upon men with that destructive spirit with which it was founded.

The history of Sabbaco*, one of the pastoral kings of Egypt, is very extraordinary. The tutelar god Edition: current; Page: [163] of Thebes appearing to him in a dream, ordered him to put to death all the priests of Egypt. He judged, that the gods were displeased at his being on the throne, since they commanded him to commit an action contrary to their ordinary pleasure; and therefore he retired into Æthiopia.

CHAP. V.: That the Catholic Religion is most agreeable to a Monarchy, and the Protestant to a Republic.

WHEN a religion is introduced and fixed in a state, it is commonly such as is most suitable to the plan of government there established; for those who receive it, and those who are the cause of its being received, have scarcely any other idea of policy, than that of the state in which they were born.

When the Christian religion, two centuries ago, became unhappily divided into Catholic and Protestant, the people of the North embraced the Protestant, and those of the south adhered still to the Catholic.

The reason is plain: the people of the north have, and will for ever have, a spirit of liberty and independence, which the people of the south have not; and therefore a religion, which has no visible head, is more agreeable to the independency of the climate, than that which has one.

In the countries themselves where the Protestant religion became established, the revolutions were made pursuant to the several plans of political government. Luther having great princes on his side, would never have been able to make them relish an ecclesiastic authority that had no exterior pre-eminence; while Calvin, having to do with people who lived under Edition: current; Page: [164] republican governments, or with obscure citizens in monarchies, might very well avoid establishing dignities and preferments.

Each of these two religions was believed to be the most perfect; the Calvinist judging his most conformable to what Christ had said, and the Lutheran to what the Apostles had practised.

CHAP. VI.: Another of Mr. Bayle’s Paradoxes.

MR. BAYLE, after having abused all religions, endeavours to sully Christianity: he boldly asserts, that true Christians cannot form a government of any duration. Why not? Citizens of this profession being infinitely enlightened with respect to the various duties of life, and having the warmest zeal to fulfil them, must be perfectly sensible of the rights of natural defence. The more they believe themselves indebted to religion, the more they would think due to their country. The principles of Christianity, deeply engraved on the heart, would be infinitely more powerful than the false honour of monarchies, than the humane virtues of republics, or the servile fear of despotic states.

It is astonishing, that this great man should not be able to distinguish between the orders for the establishment of Christianity, and Christianity itself; and that he should be liable to be charged with not knowing the spirit of his own religion. When the legislator, instead of laws, has given counsels, this is, because he knew, that if these counsels were ordained as laws, they would be contrary to the spirit of the laws themselves.

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CHAP. VII.: Of the Laws of Perfection in Religion.

HUMAN laws, made to direct the will, ought to give precepts, and not counsels; religion, made to influence the heart, should give many counsels, and few precepts.

When, for instance, it gives rules, not for what is good, but for what is better; not to direct to what is right, but to what is perfect; it is expedient, that these should be counsels, and not laws: for perfection can have no relation to the universality of men or things. Besides, if these were laws, there would be a necessity for an infinite number of others, to make people observe the first. Celibacy was advised by Christianity: when they made it a law in respect to a certain order of men, it became necessary to make new* ones every day, in order to oblige those men to observe it. The legislator wearied himself, and he wearied society, to make men execute by precept, what those who love perfection would have executed as counsel.

CHAP. VIII.: Of the Connection between the moral Laws and those of Religion.

IN a country so unfortunate as to have a religion that God has not revealed, it is necessary for it to be agreeable to morality; because, even a false religion is the best security we can have of the probity of men.

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The principal points of religion of the inhabitants of Pegu* are, not to commit murder, not to steal, to avoid uncleanness, not to give the least uneasiness to their neighbour, but to do him, on the contrary, all the good in their power. With these rules they think they should be saved in any religion whatsoever. From hence it proceeds, that those people, though poor and proud, behave with gentleness and compassion to the unhappy.

CHAP. IX.: Of the Essenes.

THE Essenes made a vow to observe justice to mankind, to do no ill to any person, upon whatsoever account, to keep faith with all the world, to hate injustice, to command with modesty, always to side with truth, and to fly from all unlawful gain.

CHAP. X.: Of the Sect of Stoics.

THE several sects of philosophy amongst the ancients, were a species of religion. Never were any principles more worthy of human nature, and more proper to form the good man, than those of the Stoics; and if I could for a moment cease to think that I am a Christian, I should not be able to hinder myself from ranking the destruction of the sect of Zeno among the misfortunes that have befallen the human race.

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It carried to excess only those things in which there is true greatness, the contempt of pleasure and of pain.

It was this sect alone that made citizens; this alone that made great men; this alone, great emperors.

Laying aside for a moment revealed truths, let us search through all nature, and we shall not find a nobler object than the Antoninus’s: even Julian himself, Julian, (a commendation thus wrested from me, will not render me an accomplice of his apostacy) no, there has not been a prince since his reign more worthy to govern mankind.

While the Stoics looked upon riches, human grandeur, grief, disquietudes and pleasure, as vanity; they were entirely employed in labouring for the happiness of mankind, and in exercising the duties of society. It seems as if they regarded that sacred spirit, which they believed to dwell within them, as a kind of favourable providence watchful over the human race.

Born for society, they all believed that it was their destiny to labour for it; with so much the less fatigue, as their rewards were all within themselves. Happy by their philosophy alone, it seemed as if only the happiness of others could increase theirs.

CHAP. XI.: Of Contemplation.

MEN being made to preserve, to nourish, to clothe themselves, and do all the actions of society, religion ought not to give them too contemplative a life*.

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The Mahometans become speculative by habit; they pray five times a day, and each time they are obliged to cast behind them every thing which has any concern with this world: this forms them for speculation. Add to this, that indifference for all things which is inspired by the doctrine of unalterable sate.

If other causes besides these concur to disengage their affections; for instance, if the severity of the government, if the laws concerning the property of land, give them a precarious spirit, all is lost.

The religion of the Gaurs formerly rendered Persia a flourishing kingdom; it corrected the bad effects of despotic power. The same empire is now destroyed by the Mahometan religion.

CHAP. XII.: Of Penances.

PENANCES ought to be joined with the idea of labour, not with that of idleness; with the idea of good, not with that of super-eminent; with the idea of frugality, not with that of avarice.

CHAP. XIII.: Of inexpiable Crimes.

IT appears from a passage of the books of the pontiffs, quoted by Cicero*, that they had amongst the Romans inexpiable crimes; and it is on this Edition: current; Page: [169] that Zozymus founds the narration so proper to blacken the motives of Constantine’s conversion; and Julian, that bitter raillery on this conversion in his Cæsars.

The Pagan religion indeed, which prohibited only some of the grosser crimes, and which stopped the hand, but meddled not with the heart, might have crimes that were inexpiable: but a religion which bridles all the passions; which is not more jealous of actions than of thoughts and desires; which holds us not by a few chains, but by an infinite number of threads; which, leaving human justice aside, establishes another kind of justice; which is so ordered, as to lead us continually from repentance to love, and from love to repentance; which puts between the judge and the criminal a greater mediator, between the just and the mediator a great judge; a religion like this ought not to have inexpiable crimes. But, while it gives fear and hope to all, it makes us sufficiently sensible, that though there is no crime in its own nature inexpiable, yet a whole criminal life may be so; that it is extremely dangerous to affront mercy, by new crimes and new expiations; that an uneasiness on account of ancient debts, from which we are never entirely free, ought to make us afraid of contracting new ones, of filling up the measure, and going even to that point where paternal goodness is limited.

CHAP. XIV.: In what manner Religion has an Influence on civil Laws.

AS both religion and the civil laws ought to have a peculiar tendency to render men good citizens, it is evident, that when one of these deviates from this end, the tendency of the other ought to be strengthened. Edition: current; Page: [170] The less severity there is in religion, the more there ought to be in the civil laws.

Thus the reigning religion of Japan having few doctrines, and proposing neither future rewards nor punishments, the laws to supply these defects have been made with the spirit of severity, and are executed with an extraordinary punctuality.

When the doctrine of necessity is established by religion, the penalties of the laws ought to be more severe, and the magistrate more vigilant; to the end that men, who would otherwise become abandoned, might be determined by these motives; but it is quite otherwise, where religion has established the doctrine of liberty.

From the inactivity of the soul springs the Mahometan doctrine of predestination, and from this doctrine of predestination springs the inactivity of the soul. This, they say, is in the decrees of God; they must therefore indulge their repose. In a case like this, the magistrate ought to waken by the laws, those who are lulled asleep by religion.

When religion condemns things which the civil laws ought to permit, there is danger lest the civil laws, on the other hand, should permit what religion ought to condemn. Either of these is a constant proof of a want of true ideas of that harmony and proportion which ought to subsist between both.

Thus the Tartars* under Jenghiz-Khan, amongst whom it was a sin and even a capital crime to put a knife in the fire, to lean against a whip, to strike a horse with his bridle, to break one bone with another; did not believe it to be any sin to break their word, to seize upon another man’s goods, to do an Edition: current; Page: [171] injury to a person, or to commit murder. In a word, laws which render that necessary which is only indifferent, have this inconveniency, that they make those things indifferent which are absolutely necessary.

The people of Formosa* believe, that there is a kind of hell; but it is to punish those who at certain seasons have not gone naked; who have dressed in callico, and not in silk; who have presumed to look for oysters; or who have undertaken any business without consulting the song of birds: whilst drunkenness and debauchery are not regarded as crimes. They believe, even that the debauches of their children are agreeable to their gods.

When religion absolves the mind by a thing merely accidental, it loses its greatest influence on mankind. The people of India believe, that the waters of the Ganges have a sanctifying virtue. Those who die on its banks are imagined to be exempted from the torments of the other life, and to be entitled to dwell in a region full of delights; and for this reason the ashes of the dead are sent from the most distant places to be thrown into this river. Little then does it signify whether they have lived virtuously or not, so they be but thrown into the Ganges.

The idea of a place of rewards has a necessary connection with the idea of the abodes of misery; and when they hope for the former without fearing the latter, the civil laws have no longer any influence. Men who think themselves sure of the rewards of the other life, are above the power of the legislator; they look upon death with too much contempt: how shall Edition: current; Page: [172] the man be restrained by laws, who believes that the greatest pain the magistrate can inflict, will end in a moment to begin his happiness?

CHAP. XV.: How false Religious are sometimes corrected by the Civil Laws.

SIMPLICITY, superstition, or a respect for antiquity, have sometimes established mysteries or ceremonies shocking to modesty: of this the world has furnished numerous examples. Aristotle* says, that in this case the law permits the fathers of families to repair to the temple to celebrate these mysteries for their wives and children. How admirable the civil law, which in spite of religion preserves the manners untainted!

Augustus excluded the youth of either sex from assisting at any nocturnal ceremony, unless accompanied by a more aged relation; and when he revived the Lupercalia, he would not allow the young men to run naked.

CHAP. XVI.: How the Laws of Religion correct the Inconveniencies of a political Constitution.

ON the other hand, religion may support a state, when the laws themselves are incapable of doing it.

Thus, when a kingdom is frequently agitated by civil wars, religion may do much, by obliging one part of the state to remain always quiet. Among Edition: current; Page: [173] the Greeks, the Eleans, as priests of Apollo, lived always in peace. In Japan*, the city of Meaco enjoys a constant peace, as being a holy city: religion supports this regulation, and that empire which seems to be alone upon earth, and which neither has, nor will have, any dependence on foreigners, has always, in its own bosom, a trade which war cannot ruin.

In kingdoms, where wars are not entered upon by a general consent, and where the laws have not pointed out any means either of terminating or preventing them, religion establishes times of peace, or cessation from hostilities, that the people may be able to sow their corn, and perform those other labours, which are absolutely necessary for the subsistence of the state.

Every year all hostility ceases between the Arabian tribes for four months; the least disturbance would then be an impiety. In former times, when every lord in France declared war or peace, religion granted a truce, which was to take place at certain seasons.

CHAP. XVII.: The same Subject continued.

WHEN a state has many causes for hatred, religion ought to produce many ways of reconciliation. The Arabs, a people addicted to robbery, are frequently guilty of doing injury and injustice. Mahomet enacted this law: “If any one forgives the Edition: current; Page: [174] blood of his brother, he may pursue the malefactor for damages and interest: but he who shall injure the wicked, after having received satisfaction, shall, in the day of judgment, suffer the most grievous torments.”

The Germans inherited the hatred and enmity of their near relations: but these were not eternal. Homicide was expiated by giving a certain number of cattle, and all the family received satisfaction: a thing extremely useful, says Tacitus*, because enmities are most dangerous amongst a free people. I believe, indeed, that their ministers of religion, who were held by them in so much credit, were concerned in these reconciliations.

Amongst the inhabitants of Malacca, where no form of reconciliation is established, he who has committed murder, certain of being assassinated by the relations or friends of the deceased, abandons himself to fury, and wounds or kills all he meets.

CHAP. XVIII.: How the Laws of Religion have the Effect of Civil Laws.

THE first Greeks were small nations, frequently dispersed, pirates at sea, unjust at land, without government, and without laws. The mighty actions of Hercules and Theseus let us see the state of that rising people. What could religion do more, to inspire them with horror against murder? It declared, that the man who had been murdered was enraged Edition: current; Page: [175] against the assassin, that he would possess his mind with terror and trouble, and oblige him to yield to him the places he had frequented when alive. They could not touch the criminal, nor converse with him*, without being defiled: the murderer was to be expelled the city, and an expiation made for the crime.

CHAP. XIX.: That it is not so much the Truth or Falsity of a Doctrine which renders it useful or pernicious to Men in Civil Government, as the Use or Abuse of it.

THE most true and holy doctrines may be attended with the very worst consequences, when they are not connected with the principles of society; and, on the contrary, doctrines the most false may be attended with excellent consequences, when contrived so as to be connected with these principles.

The religion of Confucius disowns the immortality of the soul; and the sect of Zeno did not believe it. These two sects have drawn from their bad principles consequences, not just indeed, but most admirable as to their influence on society. Edition: current; Page: [176] Those of the religion of Tao, and of Foe, believe the immortality of the soul; but from this sacred doctrine they draw the most frightful consequences.

The doctrine of the immortality of the soul falsely understood, has, almost in every part of the globe, and in every age, engaged women, slaves, subjects, friends, to murder themselves, that they might go and serve in the other world the object of their respect or love in this. Thus it was in the West-Indies; thus it was amongst the Danes*; thus it is at present in Japan, in Macassar, and many other places.

These customs do not so directly proceed from the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, as from that of the resurrection of the body, from whence they have drawn this consequence, that, after death, the same individual will have the same wants, the same sentiments, the same passions. In this point of view, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul has a prodigious effect on mankind; because the idea of only a simple change of habitation, is more within the reach of the human understanding, and more adapted to flatter the heart, than the idea of a new modification.

It is not enough for religion to establish a doctrine, it must also direct its influence. This the Christian religion performs in the most admirable manner, particularly with regard to the doctrines of which we have been speaking. It makes us hope for a state, which is the object of our belief; not for a state which we have already experienced, or known: thus every article, even the resurrection of the body, leads us to spiritual ideas.

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CHAP. XX.: The same Subject continued.

THE sacred books* of the ancient Persians say, “If you would be holy, instruct your children, because all the good actions which they perform will be imputed to you.” They advise them to marry betimes, because children at the day of judgment will be as a bridge, over which those who have none cannot pass. These doctrines were false, but extremely useful.

CHAP. XXI.: Of the Metempsychosis.

THE doctrine of the immortality of the soul is divided into three branches, that of pure immortality, that of a simple change of habitation, and that of a metempsychosis; that is, the system of the Christians, that of the Scythians, and that of the Indians. We have just been speaking of the two first, and I shall say of the last, that as it has been well or ill explained, it has had good or bad effects. As it inspires men with a certain horror against bloodshed, very few murders are committed in the Indies; and though they seldom punish with death, yet they enjoy a perfect tranquility.

On the other hand, women burn themselves at the death of their husbands; thus it is only the innocent who suffer a violent death.

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CHAP. XXII.: That it is dangerous for Religion to inspire an Aversion for Things in themselves indifferent.

A KIND of honour established in the Indies by the prejudices of religion, has made the several tribes conceive an aversion against each other. This honour is founded entirely on religion; these family distinctions form no civil distinctions; there are Indians who would think themselves dishonoured by eating with their king.

These sorts of distinctions are connected with a certain aversion for other men, very different from those sentiments which naturally arise from difference of rank; which, amongst us, comprehends a love for inferiors.

The laws of religion should never inspire an aversion to any thing but vice, and, above all, they should never estrange man from a love and tenderness for his own species.

The Mahometan and Indian religions embrace an infinite number of people: the Indians hate the Mahometans, because they eat cows; the Mahometans detest the Indians, because they eat hogs.

CHAP. XXIII.: Of Festivals.

WHEN religion appoints a cessation from labour, it ought to have a greater regard to the necessities of mankind, than to the grandeur of the being it designs to honour.

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Athens* was subject to great inconveniencies from the excessive number of its festivals. These powerful people, to whose decision all the cities of Greece came to submit their quarrels, could not have time to dispatch such a multiplicity of affairs.

When Constantine ordained that the people should rest on the sabbath, he made this decree for the cities, and not for the inhabitants of the open country; he was sensible, that labour in the cities was useful, but in the fields necessary.

For the same reason, in a country supported by commerce, the number of festivals ought to be relative to this very commerce. Protestant and Catholic countries are situated in such a manner that there is more need of labour in the former than in the latter; the suppression of festivals is therefore more suitable to Protestant than to Catholic countries.

Dampier observes, that the diversions of different nations vary greatly, according to the climate. As hot climates produce a quantity of delicate fruits, the barbarians easily find necessaries, and therefore spend much time in diversions. The Indians of colder countries have not so much leisure, being obliged to fish and hunt continually; hence they have less music, dancing, and festivals. If a new religion should be established amongst these people, it ought to have regard to this in the institution of festivals.

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CHAP. XXIV.: Of the local Laws of Religion.

THERE are many local laws in various religions: and when Montezuma with so much obstinacy insisted, that the religion of the Spaniards was good for their country, and his for Mexico, he did not assert an absurdity; because, in fact, legislators could never help having a regard to what nature had established before them.

The opinion of the metempsychosis is adapted to the climate of the Indies. An excessive heat burns *up all the country; they can breed but very few cattle; they are always in danger of wanting them for tillage; their black cattle multiply but indifferently; and they are subject to many distempers: a law of religion which preserves them, is therefore more suitable to the policy of the country.

While the meadows are scorched up, rice and pulse, by the assistance of water, are brought to perfection; a law of religion which permits only this kind of nourishment, must therefore be extremely useful to men in those climates.

The flesh of cattle in that country is insipid, but the milk and butter which they receive from them serves for a part of their subsistence; therefore the law which prohibits the eating and killing of cows, is in the Indies not unreasonable.

Athens contained a prodigious multitude of people, but its territory was barren. It was therefore a religious Edition: current; Page: [181] maxim with this people, that those who offered some small presents to the gods*, honoured them more than those who sacrificed an ox.

CHAP. XXV.: The Inconveniency of transplanting a Religion from one Country to another.

IT follows from hence, that there are frequently many inconveniencies attending the transplanting a religion from one country to any other.

“The hog,” says Mr. de Boulainvilliers, “must be very scarce in Arabia, where there are almost no woods, and hardly any thing fit for the nourishment of these animals: besides, the saltness of the water and food renders the people most susceptible of cutaneous disorders.” This local law could not be good in other countries, where the hog is almost an universal, and in some sort a necessary nourishment.

I shall here make a reflection. Sanctorius has observed that pork transpires but little, and that this kind of meat greatly hinders the transpiration of other food; he has found that this diminution amounts to a third§. Besides, it is known that the want of transpiration forms or increases the disorders of the skin. The feeding on pork ought rather to be prohibited in climates where the people are subject to these disorders, as in Palestine, Arabia, Ægypt, and Lybia.

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CHAP. XXVI.: The same Subject continued.

SIR John Chardin* says, that there is not a navigable river in Persia, except the Kur, which is at the extremity of the empire. The ancient law of the Gaurs, which prohibited sailing on rivers, was not therefore attended with any inconvenience in this country, though it would have ruined the trade of another.

Frequent bathings are extremely useful in hot climates. On this account they are ordained in the Mahometan law, and in the Indian religion. In the Indies it is a most meritorious act to pray to God in the running stream: but how could these things be performed in other climates?

When a religion adapted to the climate of one country clashes too much with the climate of another, it cannot be there established; and whenever it has been introduced, it has been afterwards discarded. It seems to all human appearance, as if the climate had prescribed the bounds of the Christian and the Mahometan religions.

It follows from hence, that it is almost always proper for a religion to have particular doctrines, and a general worship. In laws concerning the practice of religious worship, there ought to be but few particulars: for instance, they should command mortification in general, and not a certain kind of mortification. Christianity is full of good sense: abstinence is of divine institution; but a particular kind of abstinence is ordained by human authority, and therefore may be changed.

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CHAP. I.: Of religious Sentiments.

THE pious man and the atheist always talk of religion; the one speaks of what he loves, and the other of what he fears.

CHAP. II.: Of the Motives of Attachment to different Religions.

THE different religions of the world do not give to those who profess them equal motives of attachment; this depends greatly on the manner in which they agree with the turn of thought and perceptions of mankind.

We are extremely addicted to idolatry, and yet have no great inclination for the religion of idolaters: we are not very fond of spiritual ideas, and yet are most attached to those religions which teach us to adore a spiritual being. This proceeds from the satisfaction we find in ourselves at having been so intelligent as to chuse a religion, which raises the deity from that baseness in which he had been placed by others. We look upon idolatry as the religion of an ignorant people; and the religion which has a spiritual being for its object, as that of the most enlightened nations.

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When with a doctrine that gives us the idea of a spiritual supreme being, we can still join those of a sensible nature, and admit them into our worship, we contract a greater attachment to religion; because those motives, which we have just mentioned, are added to our natural inclinations for the objects of sense. Thus the Catholics, who have more of this kind of worship than the Protestants, are more attached to their religion than the Protestants are to theirs, and more zealous for its propagation.

When the* people of Ephesus were informed that the fathers of the council had declared they might call the Virgin Mary the mother of God, they were transported with joy, they kissed the hands of the bishops, they embraced their knees, and the whole city refounded with acclamations.

When an intellectual religion superadds a choice made by the deity, and a preference to those who prosess it to those who do not, this greatly attaches us to religion. The Mahometans would not be such good mussulmans, if on the one hand there were not idolatrous nations, who make them imagine themselves the champions of the unity of God; and on the other Christians, to make them believe that they are the objects of his preference.

A religion burthened with many ceremonies, attaches us to it more strongly than that which has a fewer number. We have an extreme propensity to things in which we are continually employed; witness the obstinate prejudices of the Mahometans and the Edition: current; Page: [185] Jews; and the readiness with which barbarous and savage nations change their religion, who, as they are employed entirely in hunting, or war, have but few religious ceremonies.

Men are extremely inclined to the passions of hope and fear; a religion therefore, that had neither a heaven nor a hell, could hardly please them. This is proved by the ease with which foreign religions have been established in Japan, and the zeal and fondness with which they were received*.

In order to raise an attachment to religion, it is necessary that it should inculcate pure morals. Men who are knaves by retail, are extremely honest in the gross: they love morality. And were I not treating of so grave a subject, I should say, that this appears remarkably evident in our theatres: we are sure of pleasing the people by sentiments avowed by morality; we are sure of shocking them by those it disapproves.

When external worship is attended with great magnificence, it flatters our minds, and strongly attaches us to religion. The riches of temples, and those of the clergy, greatly affect us. Thus, even the misery of the people, is a motive that renders them fond of a religion, which has served as a pretext to those who were the cause of their misery.

CHAP. III.: Of Temples.

ALMOST all civilized nations dwell in houses; from hence naturally arose the idea of building a house Edition: current; Page: [186] for God, in which they might adore and seek him, amidst all their hopes and fears.

And, indeed, nothing is more comfortable to mankind, than a place in which they may find the deity peculiarly present, and where they may assemble together to confess their weakness, and tell their griefs.

But this natural idea never occurred to any but such as cultivated the land; those who have no houses for themselves, were never known to build temples.

This was the cause that made Jenghis-Khan discover such a prodigious contempt for mosques*. This prince examined the Mahometans, he approved of all their doctrines, except that of the necessity of going to Mecca: he could not comprehend why God might not be every where adored. As the Tartars did not dwell in houses, they could have no idea of temples.

Those people who have no temples, have but a small attachment to their own religion. This is the reason why the Tartars have in all times given so great a toleration; why the barbarous nations who conquered the Roman empire, did not hesitate a moment to embrace Christianity; why the savages of America have so little fondness for their own religion; why, since our missionaries have built churches in Paraguay, the natives of that country are become so zealous for ours.

As the deity is the refuge of the unhappy, and none are more unhappy than criminals, men have been naturally led to think temples an asylum for those wretches. This idea appeared still more natural Edition: current; Page: [187] to the Greeks, where murderers, chased from their city and the presence of men, seemed to have no houses but the temples, nor other protectors but the gods.

At first these were only designed for involuntary homicides; but when the people made them a sanctuary for those who had committed great crimes, they fell into a gross contradiction. If they had offended men, they had much greater reason to believe they had offended the gods.

These asylums multiplied in Greece. The temples, says Tacitus*, were filled with insolvent debtors, and wicked slaves; the magistrate found it difficult to exercise his office; the people protected the crimes of men as the ceremonies of the gods; at length the senate was obliged to retrench a great number of them.

The laws of Moses were perfectly wise. The man who involuntarily killed another, was innocent; but he was obliged to be taken away from before the eyes of the relations of the deceased: Moses therefore appointed an asylum for such unfortunate people. The perpetrators of great crimes deserved not a place of safety, and they had none, the Jews had only a portable tabernacle, which continually changed its place: this excluded the idea of a sanctuary. It is true, that they had afterwards a temple; but the criminals, who would resort thither from all parts, might disturb the divine service. If persons who had committed manslaughter, had been driven out of the country, as was customary amongst the Greeks, they had reason to fear that they would worship strange gods. All these considerations made them establish cities of safety, where they might stay till the death of the high-priest.

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CHAP. IV.: Of the Ministers of Religion.

THE first men, says Porphyry, sacrificed only vegetables. In a worship so simple, every one might be priest in his own family.

The natural desire of pleasing the Deity multiplied ceremonies. From hence it followed, that men employed in agriculture became incapable of observing them all, and of filling up the number.

Particular places were consecrated to the gods; it then became necessary that they should have ministers to take care of them; in the same manner as every citizen took care of his house and domestic affairs. Hence the people who have no priests are commonly barbarians: such were formerly the Pedalians*, and such are still the Wolgusky.

Men consecrated to the Deity ought to be honoured, especially amongst people who have formed an idea of a personal purity necessary to approach the places most agreeable to the gods, and for the performance of particular ceremonies.

The worship of the gods requiring a continual application, most nations were led to consider the clergy as a separate body. Thus, amongst the Egyptians, the Jews, and the Persians, they consecrated to the Deity certain families who performed and perpetuated the service. There have been even religions, which have not only estranged ecclesiastics from business, but have also taken away the embarrassments of a family; Edition: current; Page: [189] and this is the practice of the principal branch of Christianity.

I shall not here treat of the consequences of the law of celibacy: it is evident, that it may become hurtful, in proportion as the body of the clergy may be too numerous; and, in consequence of this, that of the laity too small.

By the nature of the human understanding, we love in religion every thing which carries the idea of difficulty; as in point of morality we have a speculative fondness for every thing which bears the character of severity. Celibacy has been most agreeable to those nations to whom it seemed least adapted, and with whom it might be attended with the most fatal consequences. In the southern countries of Europe, where, by the nature of the climate, the law of celibacy is more difficult to observe, it has been retained; in those of the north, where the passions are less lively, it has been banished. Further, in countries where there are but few inhabitants, it has been admitted; in those that are vastly populous, it has been rejected. It is obvious, that these reflections relate only to the too great extension of celibacy, and not to celibacy itself.

CHAP. V.: Of the Bounds which the Laws ought to prescribe to the Riches of the Clergy.

AS particular families may be extinct, their wealth cannot be a perpetual inheritance. The clergy is a family which cannot be extinct; wealth is therefore fixed to it for ever, and cannot go out of it.

Particular families may increase, it is necessary then that their wealth should also increase. The Edition: current; Page: [190] clergy is a family which ought not to increase; their wealth ought then to be limited.

We have retained the regulations of the Levitical laws as to the possessions of the clergy, except those relating to the bounds of these possessions: indeed, amongst us we must ever be ignorant of the limit, beyond which any religious community can no longer be permitted to acquire.

These endless acquisitions appear to the people so unreasonable, that he who should speak in their defence, would be regarded as an idiot.

The civil laws find sometimes many difficulties in altering established abuses; because they are connected with things worthy of respect; in this case an indirect proceeding would be a greater proof of the wisdom of the legislator, than another which struck directly at the thing itself. Instead of prohibiting the acquisitions of the clergy, we should seek to give them a distaste for them; to leave them the right, and to take away the deed.

In some countries of Europe, a respect for the privileges of the nobility has established in their favour a right of indemnity over immoveable goods acquired in mortmain. The interest of the prince has in the same case made him exact a right of amortization: In Castile, where no such right prevails, the clergy have seized upon every thing. In Arragon, where there is some right of amortization, they have obtained less: in France, where this right and that of indemnity are established, they have acquired less still; and it may be said, that the prosperity of this kingdom is in a great measure owing to the exercise of these two rights. If possible then, increase these rights, and put a stop to the mortmain.

Render the ancient and necessary patrimony of the clergy sacred and inviolable: let it be fixt and eternal Edition: current; Page: [191] like that body itself: but let new inheritances be out of their power.

Permit them to break the rule, when the rule is become an abuse; suffer the abuse, when it enters into the rule.

They still remember at Rome a certain memorial sent thither on some disputes with the clergy, in which was this maxim; “The clergy ought to contribute to the expences of the state, let the Old Testament say what it will.” They concluded from this passage, that the author of this memorial was better versed in the language of the tax-gatherers, than in that of religion.

CHAP. VI.: Of Monasteries.

THE least degree of common sense will let us see, that bodies designed for a perpetual continuance should not be allowed to sell their funds for life, nor to borrow for life; unless we want them to be heirs to all those who have no relations, and to those who do not chuse to have any. These men play against the people, but they hold the bank themselves.

CHAP. VII.: Of the Luxury of Superstition.

“THOSE are guilty of impiety towards the gods, says Plato*, who deny their existence; or who, while they believe it, maintain that they do not interfere with what is done below; or, in fine, who think that they can easily appease them by Edition: current; Page: [192] sacrifices: three opinions equally pernicious.” Plato has here said all that the clearest light of nature has ever been able to say, in point of religion.

The magnificence of external worship has a principal connection with the constitution of the state. In good republics, they have curbed not only the luxury of vanity, but even that of superstition. They have introduced frugal laws into religion. Of this number are many of the laws of Solon, many of those of Plato on funerals, adopted by Cicero; and, in fine, some of the laws of Numa* on sacrifices.

Birds, says Cicero, and paintings begun and finished in a day, are gifts the most divine. We offer common things, says a Spartan, that we may always have it in our power to honour the gods.

The desire of man to pay his worship to the deity, is very different from the magnificence of this worship. Let us not offer our treasures to him, if we are not proud of shewing that we esteem what he would have us despite.

“What must the gods think of the gifts of the impious” said the admirable Plato, “when a good man would blush to receive presents from a villain?”

Religion ought not, under the pretence of gifts, to draw from the people, what the necessities of the state have left them; but, as Plato says, “The chaste and the pious ought to offer gifts, which resemble themselves.”

Nor is it proper for religion to encourage expensive funerals. What is there more natural, than to take away the difference of fortune in a circumstance, and in the very moment, which equals all fortunes?

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CHAP. VIII.: Of the Pontificate.

WHEN religion has many ministers, it is natural for them to have a chief, and for a sovereign pontif to be established. In monarchies, where the several orders of the state cannot be kept too distinct, and where all powers ought not to be lodged in the same person; it is proper that the pontificate be distinct from the empire. The same necessity is not to be met with in a despotic government, the nature of which is to unite all the different powers in the same person. But in this case it may happen, that the prince may regard religion as he does the laws themselves, as dependent on his own will. To prevent this inconveniency, there ought to be monuments of religion, for instance, sacred books, which fix and establish it. The king of Persia is the chief of the religion; but this religion is regulated by the Koran. The emperor of China is the sovereign pontif; but there are books in the hands of every body, to which he himself must conform. In vain a certain emperor attempted to abolish them: they triumphed over tyranny.

CHAP. IX.: Of Toleration in point of Religion.

WE are here politicians, and not divines: but the divines themselves must allow, that there is a great difference between tolerating and approving a religion.

When the legislator has believed it a duty to permit the exercise of many religions, it is necessary that Edition: current; Page: [194] he should inforce also a toleration amongst these religions themselves. It is a principle that every religion which is persecuted, becomes itself persecuting: for as soon as by some accidental turn it arises from persecution, it attacks the religion which persecuted it: not as a religion, but as a tyranny.

It is necessary then that the laws require from the several religions, not only that they shall not embroil the state, but that they shall not raise disturbances amongst themselves. A citizen does not fulfil the laws by not disturbing the government; it is requisite that he should not trouble any citizen whomsoever.

CHAP. X.: The same Subject continued.

AS there are scarce any but persecuting religions that have an extraordinary zeal for being established in other places (because a religion that can tolerate others, seldom thinks of its own propagation); it must therefore be a very good civil law, when the state is already satisfied with the established religion, not to suffer the establishment of another*.

This is then a fundamental principle of the political laws in regard to religion: That when the state is at liberty to receive or to reject a new religion, it ought to be rejected; when it is received, it ought to be tolerated.

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CHAP. XI.: Of changing a Religion.

A PRINCE who undertakes to destroy or to change the established religion of his kingdom, must greatly expose himself. If his government is despotic, he runs a much greater risk of seeing a revolution arise from such a proceeding, than from any tyranny whatsoever, and a revolution is not an uncommon thing in such states. The reason of this is, because a state cannot change its religion, manners and customs, in an instant, and with the same rapidity as the prince publishes the ordinance which establishes a new religion.

Besides, the ancient religion is connected with the constitution of the kingdom, and the new one is not; the former agrees with the climate, and very often the new one is opposite to it. Moreover, the citizens become disgusted with their laws, and look upon the government already established with contempt; they conceive a jealousy against the two religions, instead of a firm belief in one; in a word, these innovations give to the state, at least for some time, both bad citizens and bad believers.

CHAP. XII.: Of penal Laws.

PENAL laws ought to be avoided, in respect to religion: they imprint fear, it is true; but as religion has also penal laws which inspire the same passion, the one is effaced by the other; and between these two different kinds of fear, the mind becomes hardened.

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The threatenings of religion are so terrible, and its promises so great, that when they actuate the mind, whatever efforts the magistrate may use to oblige us to renounce it, he seems to leave us nothing when he deprives us of the exercise of our religion, and to bereave us of nothing when we are allowed to profess it.

It is not therefore by filling the soul with the idea of this great object, by hastening her approach to that critical moment in which it ought to be of the highest importance, that religion can be most successfully attacked: a more certain way is to tempt her by favours, by the conveniencies of life, by hopes of fortune; not by that which revives, but by that which extinguishes the sense of her duty; not by that which shocks her, but by that which throws her into indifference, at the time when other passions actuate the mind, and those which religion inspires are hushed into silence. A generul rule in changing a religion; the invitations should be much stronger than the penalties.

The temper of the human mind has appeared even in the nature of punishments. If we take a survey of the persecutions in Japan*, we shall find that they were more shocked at cruel torments than at long sufferings, which rather weary than affright, which are the more difficult to surmount, from their appearing less difficult.

In a word, history sufficiently informs us, that penal laws have never had any other effect but to destroy.

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CHAP. XIII.: A most humble Remonstrance to the Inquisitors of Spain and Portugal.

A JEWESS of ten years of age, who was burnt at Lisbon at the last Auto-de-fé, gave occasion to the following little piece; the most idle, I believe, that ever was written. When we attempt to prove things so evident, we are sure never to convince.

The author declares, that though a Jew, he has a respect for the Christian religion; and that he should be glad to take away from the princes who are not Christians, a plausible pretence for persecuting this religion.

“You complain, says he to the inquisitors, that the emperor of Japan caused all the Christians in his dominions to be burnt by a slow fire. But he will answer, we treat you who do not believe like us, as you yourselves treat those who do not believe like you: you can only complain of your weakness, which has hindered you from exterminating us, and which has enabled us to exterminate you.

“But it must be confessed, that you are much more cruel than this emperor. You put us to death, who believe only what you believe, because we do not believe all that you believe. We follow a religion, which you yourselves know to have been formerly dear to God. We think that God loves it still, and you think that he loves it no more: and because you judge thus, you make those suffer by sword and fire, who hold an error so pardonable as to believe, that God* still loves what he once loved.

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“If you are cruel to us, you are much more so to our children; you cause them to be burnt, because they follow the inspirations given them by those whom the law of nature, and the laws of all nations, teach them to regard as Gods.

“You deprive yourselves of the advantage you have over the Mahometans, with respect to the manner in which their religion was established. When they boast of the number of their believers, you tell them that they have obtained them by violence, and that they have extended their religion by the sword: why then do you establish yours by fire?

“When you would bring us over to you, we object a source from which you glory to descend. You reply to us, that though your religion is new, it is divine; and you prove it from its growing amidst the persecutions of Pagans, and when watered by the blood of your martyrs: but at present you play the part of the Dioclesians, and make us take yours.

“We conjure you, not by the mighty God whom both you and we serve, but by that Christ who, you tell us, took upon him a human form, to propose himself for an example for you to follow; we conjure you to behave to us, as he himself would behave was he upon earth. You would have us be Christians, and you will not be so yourselves.

“But if you will not be Christians, be at least men: treat us as you would, if having only the weak light of justice which nature bestows, you had not a religion to conduct, and a revelation to enlighten you.

“If heaven has had so great a love for you, as to make you see the truth, you have received a singular Edition: current; Page: [199] favour: but is it for children, who have received the inheritance of their father, to hate those who have not?

“If you have this truth, hide it not from us, by the manner in which you propose it. The characteristic of truth is its triumph over hearts and minds, and not that impotency which you confess, when you would force us to receive it by tortures.

“If you were wise, you would not put us to death for no other reason, but because we are unwilling to deceive you. If your Christ is the son of God, we hope he will reward us for being so unwilling to profane his mysteries; and we believe, that the God whom both you and we serve, will not punish us for having suffered death for a religion which he formerly gave us, only because we believe that he still continues to give it.

“You live in an age in which the light of nature shines more bright than it has ever done; in which philosophy has enlightened human understandings; in which the morality of your gospel has been more known; in which the respective rights of mankind, with regard to each other, and the empire which one conscience has over another, are best understood. If you do not therefore shake off your ancient prejudices, which, whilst unregarded, mingle with your passions, it must be confessed, that you are incorrigible, incapable of any degree of light, or instruction; and a nation must be very unhappy that gives authority to such men.

“Would you have us frankly tell you our thoughts? You consider us rather as your enemies, than as the enemies of your religion: for if you loved your religion, you would not suffer it to be corrupted by such gross ignorance.

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“It is necessary that we should advertise you of one thing; that is, if any one in times to come shall dare to assert, that in the age in which we live, the people of Europe were civilized, you will be cited to prove that they were barbarians; and the idea they will have of you, will be such as will dishonour your age, and spread hatred over all your cotemporaries.”

CHAP. XIV.: Why the Christian Religion is so odious in Japan.

WE have already mentioned* the perverse temper of the people of Japan. The magistrates considered the firmness which Christianity inspires, when they attempted to make the people renounce their faith, as in itself most dangerous: they fancied that it increased their obstinacy. The law of Japan punishes severely the least disobedience. The people were ordered to renounce the Christian religion: they did not renounce it; this was disobedience: the magistrates punished this crime; and the continuance in disobedience seemed to deserve another punishment.

Punishments amongst the Japanese are considered as the revenge of an insult done to the prince. The songs of triumph sung by our martyrs appeared as an outrage against him; the title of martyr provoked the magistrates; in their opinion it signified rebel: they did all in their power to prevent their obtaining it. Then it was that their minds were exasperated, and a horrid struggle was seen between the tribunals that condemned, and the accused who suffered; between the civil laws, and those of religion.

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CHAP. XV.: Of the Propagation of Religion.

ALL the people of the East, except the Mahometans, believe all religions in themselves indifferent. They fear the establishment of another religion, no otherwise than as a change in government. Amongst the Japanese, where there are many sects, and where the state has had for so long a time an ecclesiastic superior, they* never dispute on religion. It is the same with the people of Siam. The Calmucks do more, they make it a point of conscience to tolerate every species of religion: at Calicut it is a maxim of the state, that every religion is good.

But it does not follow from hence, that a religion brought from a far distant country, and quite different in climate, laws, manners, and customs, will have all the success to which its holiness might entitle it. This is more particularly true in great despotic empires: here strangers are tolerated at first, because there is no attention given to what does not seem to strike at the authority of the prince. As they are extremely ignorant, an European may render himself agreeable, by the knowledge he communicates: this is very well in the beginning. But as soon as he has any success, when disputes arise, and when men who have some interest, become informed of it; as their empire, by its very nature, above all things requires tranquility, and as the least disturbance may overturn it, they proscribe the new religion and those who Edition: current; Page: [202] preach it: disputes between the preachers breaking out, they begin to entertain a distaste for religion, on which even those who propose it are not agreed.


CHAP. I.: Idea of this Book.

MEN are governed by several kinds of laws; by the law of nature; by the divine law, which is that of religion; by ecclesiastical, otherwise called canon law, which is that of religious polity; by the law of nations, which may be considered as the civil law of the whole globe, in which sense every nation is a citizen; by the general political law, which relates to that human wisdom from whence all societies derive their origin; by the particular political law, the object of which is each society; by the law of conquest founded on this, that one nation has been willing and able, or has had a right to offer violence to another; by the civil law of every society, by which a citizen may defend his possessions and his life, against the attacks of any other citizen; in fine, by domestic law, which proceeds from a society’s being divided into several families, all which have need of a particular government.

There are therefore different orders of laws, and the sublimity of human reason consists in perfectly Edition: current; Page: [203] knowing to which of these orders the things that are to be determined ought to have a principal relation, and not to throw into confusion those principles which should govern mankind.

CHAP II.: Of Laws divine and human.

WE ought not to decide by divine laws what should be decided by human laws; nor determine by human what should be determined by divine laws.

These two sorts of laws differ in their original, in their object, and in their nature.

It is universally acknowledged, that human laws are in their own nature different from those of religion; this is an important principle; but this principle is itself subject to others, which must be enquired after.

1. It is in the nature of human laws to be subject to all the accidents which can happen, and to vary in proportion as the will of man changes: on the contrary, by the nature of the laws of religion, they are never to vary. Human laws appoint for some good; those of religion for the best: good may have another object, because there are many kinds of good: but the best is but one, it cannot therefore change. We may alter laws, because they are reputed no more than good; but the institutions of religion are always supposed to be the best.

2. There are kingdoms, in which the laws are of no value, as they depend only on the capricious and fickle humour of the sovereign. If in these kingdoms the laws of religion were of the same nature as the human institutions, the laws of religion too would be of no value. It is however necessary to the society, Edition: current; Page: [204] that it should have something fixed; and it is religion that has this stability.

3. The influence of religion proceeds from its being believed; that of human laws, from their being feared. Antiquity suits with religion, because we have frequently a firmer belief of things, in proportion to their distance: for we have no ideas annexed to them drawn from those times, which can contradict them. Human laws, on the contrary, receive advantage from their novelty, which implies the actual and particular attention of the legislator to put them in execution.

CHAP. III.: Of Civil Laws contrary to the Law of Nature.

IF a slave, says Plato*, defends himself, and kills a freeman, he ought to be treated as a parricide. This is a civil law which punishes self-defence, though dictated by nature.

The law of Henry VIII. which condemned a man without being confronted by witnesses, was contrary to self-defence. In order to pass sentence of condemnation, it is necessary that the witnesses should know, whether the man against whom they make their deposition, is he whom they accuse, and that this man be at liberty to say, I am not the person you mean.

The law passed under the same reign, which condemned every woman, who, having carried on a criminal commerce, did not declare it to the king before she married him, violated the regard due to natural modesty. It is as unreasonable to oblige a woman to Edition: current; Page: [205] make this declaration, as to oblige a man not to attempt the defence of his own life.

The law of Henry II. which condemned the woman to death who lost her child, in case she did not make known her pregnancy to the magistrate, was not less contrary to self-defence. It would have been sufficient to oblige her to inform one of her nearest relations, who might watch over the preservation of the infant.

What other information could she give in this situation, so torturing to natural modesty? Education has heightened the notion of preserving that modesty; and in those critical moments, scarce has she any idea remaining of the loss of life.

There has been much talk of a law in* England, which permitted girls seven years old to chuse a husband. This law was shocking two ways; it had no regard to the time when nature gives maturity to the understanding, nor to that in which she gives maturity to the body.

Amongst the Romans, a father might oblige his daughter to repudiate her husband, though he himself had consented to the marriage. But it is contrary to nature, for a divorce to be in the power of a third person.

A divorce can be agreeable to nature only when it is by consent of the two parties, or at least of one of them: but when neither consents, it is a monstrous separation. In short, the power of divorcement can be given only to those who feel the inconveniencies of marriage, and who are sensible of the moment when it is for their interest to make them cease.

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CHAP. IV.: The same Subject continued.

GUNDEBALD* king of Burgundy decreed, that if the wife or son of a person guilty of robbery, did not reveal the crime, they were to become slaves. This was contrary to nature: a wife to inform against her husband! a son to accuse his father! to avenge one criminal action, they ordained another still more criminal.

The law of Recessuinthus permits the children of the adulteress, or those of her husband, to accuse her, and to put the slaves of the house to the torture. How iniquitous the law, which, to preserve a purity of morals, overturns nature, the origin, the source of all morality!

With pleasure we behold in our theatres a young hero express as much horror against the discovery of his mother-in-law’s guilt, as against the guilt itself. In his surprize, though accused, judged, condemned, proscribed, and covered with infamy, he scarcely dares to reflect on the abominable blood from whence Phædra sprang: he abandons the most tender object, all that is most dear, all that lies nearest his heart, all that can fill him with rage, to deliver himself up to the unmerited vengeance of the gods. It is nature’s voice, the sweetest of all sounds, that inspires us with this pleasure.

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CHAP. V.: Cases in which we may judge by the Principles of the Civil Law, in limiting the Principles of the Law of Nature.

AN Athenian law obliged* children to provide for their fathers, when fallen into poverty; it excepted those who were born of a courtezan, those whose chastity had been infamously prostituted by their father, and those to whom he had not given any means of gaining a livelihood.

The law considered, that, in the first case, the father being uncertain, he had rendered the natural obligation precarious; that in the second, he had sullied the life he had given, and done the greatest injury he could do to his children, in depriving them of their reputation; that in the third, he had rendered insupportable a life which had no means of subsistence. The law suspended the natural obligation of children, because the father had violated his; it looked upon the father and the son as no more than two citizens, and determined, in respect to them, only from civil and political views; ever considering, that a good republic ought to have a particular regard to manners. I am apt to think, that Solon’s law was a wise regulation in the first two cases, whether that in which nature has lest the son in ignorance with regard to his father, or that in which she even seems to ordain he should not own him; but it cannot be approved with respect to the third, where the father had only violated a civil institution.

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CHAP. VI.: That the Order of Succession or Inheritance depends on the Principles of Political or Civil Law, and not on those of the Law of Nature.

THE Voconian law ordained, that no woman should be left heiress to an estate, not even if she was an only child. Never was there a law, says St. Augustine*, more unjust. A formula of Marculfus treats that custom as impious, which deprives daughters of the right of succeeding to the estate of their fathers. Justinian gives the appellation of barbarous, to the right which the males had formerly of succeeding in prejudice to the daughters. These notions proceed from their having considered the right of children to succeed to their fathers possessions, as a consequence of the law of nature; which it is not.

The law of nature ordains, that fathers shall provide for their children; but it does not oblige them to make them their heirs. The division of property, the laws of this division, and the succession after the death of the person who has had this division, can be regulated only by the community, and consequently by political or civil laws.

True it is, that a political or civil order frequently demands that children should succeed to their father’s estate; but it does not always make this necessary.

There may be some reasons given why the laws of our fiefs appoint that the eldest of the males, or the nearest relations of the male side, should have all, and the females nothing: and why by the laws of the Edition: current; Page: [209] Lombards* the sisters, the natural children, the other relations; and, in their default, the treasury, might share the inheritance with the daughters.

It was regulated in some of the Dynasties of China, that the brothers of the emperor should succeed to the throne, and that the children should not. If they were willing that the prince should have a certain degree of experience, if they feared his being too young, and if it was become necessary to prevent eunuchs from placing children successively on the throne, they might very justly establish a like order of succession; and when some writers have treated these brothers as usurpers, they have judged only by ideas received from the laws of their own countries.

According to the custom of Numidia, Desalces, brother of Gala, succeeded to the kingdom; not Massinissa, his son. And even to this day, among the Arabs in Barbary, where each village has its chief, they adhere to this ancient custom, by chusing the uncle, or some other relation, to succeed.

There are monarchies merely elective; and since it is evident, that the order of succession ought to be derived from the political or civil laws, it is for these to decide in what cases it is agreeable to reason, that the succession be granted to children, and in what cases it ought to be given to others.

In countries where polygamy is established, the prince has many children; and the number of them is much greater in some of these countries than in others. There are§ states, where it is impossible for the people to maintain the children of the king: Edition: current; Page: [210] they might therefore make it a law, that the crown shall devolve, not on the king’s children, but on those of his sister.

A prodigious number of children would expose the state to the most dreadful civil wars. The order of succession which gives the crown to the children of the sister, the number of whom is not larger than those of a prince who has only one wife, must prevent these inconveniencies.

There are people, amongst whom reasons of state, or some maxims of religion, have made it necessary that the crown should be always fixed in a certain family: from hence, in India, proceeds the jealousy of their* tribes, and the fear of losing the descent: they have there conceived, that never to want princes of the blood royal, they ought to take the children of the eldest sister of the king.

A general maxim: It is an obligation of the law of nature, to provide for our children; but to make them our successors, is an obligation of the civil or political law. From hence are derived the different regulations, with respect to bastards, in the different countries of the world; these are according to the civil or political laws of each country.

CHAP. VII.: That we ought not to decide by the Precepts of Religion, what belongs only to the Law of Nature.

THE Abassines have a most severe Lent of fifty days, which weakens them to such a degree, that for a long time they are incapable of business: the Edition: current; Page: [211] Turks* do not fail to attack them after their Lent. Religion ought, in favour of the natural right of self-defence, to set bounds to these customs.

The Jews were obliged to keep the sabbath; but it was an instance of great stupidity in this nation, not to defend themselves when their enemies chose to attack them on this day.

Cambyses laying siege to Pelusium, set in the first rank a great number of those animals, which the Ægyptians regarded as sacred; the consequence was, that the soldiers of the garrison durst not molest them. Who does not see that self-defence is a duty superior to every precept?

CHAP. VIII.: That we ought not to regulate by the Principles of the Canon Law, Things which should be regulated by those of the Civil Law.

BY the civil law of the Romans, he who took a thing privately from a sacred place, was punished only for the guilt of theft: by the canon law, he is punished for the crime of sacrilege. The canon law takes cognizance of the place; the civil laws of the fact. But to attend only to the place, is neither to reflect on the nature and definition of a theft, nor on the nature and definition of sacrilege.

As the husband may demand a separation, by reason of the infidelity of his wife; the wife might formerly demand it, on account of the infidelity of Edition: current; Page: [212] the husband. This custom, contrary to a regulation made in the* Roman laws, was introduced into the ecclesiastic courts, where nothing was regarded but the maxims of canon law; and indeed, if we consider marriage as a thing merely spiritual, and as relating only to the things of another life, the violation is in both cases the same, but the political and civil laws of almost all nations, have, with reason, made a distinction between them. They have required from the women a degree of reserve and continency, which they have not exacted from the men; because, in women, a violation of chastity supposes a renunciation of all virtue; because women, by violating the laws of marriage, quit the state of their natural dependence; because nature has marked the infidelity of women with certain signs; and, in fine, because the children of the wife born in adultery necessarily belong, and are an expence to the husband, while the children produced by the adultery of the husband, are not the wife’s, nor are an expence to the wife.

CHAP. IX.: That Things which ought to be regulated by the Principles of Civil Law, can seldom be regulated by those of Religion.

THE laws of religion have a greater sublimity; the civil laws a greater extent.

The laws of perfection drawn from religion have more in view the goodness of the person that observes them, than of the society in which they are observed; the civil laws, on the contrary, have more in view Edition: current; Page: [213] the moral goodness of men in general, than that of individuals.

Thus, venerable as those ideas are which immediately spring from religion, they ought not always to serve as a first principle to the civil laws; because these have another, the general welfare of society.

The Romans made regulations amongst themselves, to preserve the morals of their women; these were political institutions. Upon the establishment of monarchy, they made civil laws on this head, and formed them on the principles of their civil government. When the Christian religion became predominant, the new laws that were then made, had less relation to the general rectitude of morals, than to the holiness of marriage; they had less regard to the union of the two sexes in a civil, than in a spiritual state.

At first, by the* Roman law, a husband, who brought back his wife into his house, after she had been found guilty of adultery, was punished as an accomplice in her debauch. Justinian, from other principles, ordained, that during the space of two years he might go and take her again out of the monastery.

Formerly, when a woman, whose husband was gone to war, heard no longer any tidings of him, she might easily marry again, because she had in her hands the power of making a divorce. The law of Constantine obliged the woman to wait four years, after which she might send the bill of divorce to the general; and, if her husband returned, he could not then charge her with adultery. But Justinian decreed, that let the time be never so long after the Edition: current; Page: [214] departure of her husband, she should not marry, unless by the deposition and oath of the general she could prove the death of her husband. Justinian had in view the indissolubility of marriage; but we may safely say, that he had it too much in view. He demanded a positive proof, when a negative one was sufficient; he required a thing extremely difficult, to give an account of the fate of a man at a great distance, and exposed to so many accidents; he presumed a crime, that is, a desertion of the husband, when it was so natural to presume his death. He injured the commonwealth, by obliging women to live out of marriage; he injured individuals, by exposing them to a thousand dangers.

The law of Justinian*, which ranked amongst the causes of divorce the consent of the husband and wife to enter into a monastery, was entirely opposite to the principles of the civil laws. It is natural that the causes of divorce should have their origin in certain impediments, which could not be foreseen before marriage; but this desire of preserving chastity might be foreseen, since it is in ourselves. This law favours inconstancy in a state, which is by its very nature perpetual; it shook the fundamental principle of divorce, which permits the dissolution of one marriage only from the hope of another. In short, if we view it in a religious light, it is no more than giving victims to God without a sacrifice.

CHAP. X.: In what Case we ought to follow the Civil Law which permits, and not the Law of Religion which forbids.

WHEN a religion which prohibits polygamy is introduced into a country where it is permitted, we Edition: current; Page: [215] cannot believe, (speaking only as a politician) that the laws of the country ought to suffer a man who has many wives to embrace this religion; unless the magistrate or the husband should indemnify them, by restoring them some way or other to their civil state. Without this, their condition would be deplorable; no sooner would they obey the laws, than they would find themselves deprived of the greatest advantages of society.

CHAP. XI.: That human Courts of Justice should not be regulated by the Maxims of those Tribunals which relate to the other Life.

THE tribunal of the inquisition, formed by the Christian monks on the idea of the tribunal of penitence, is contrary to all good policy. It has every where met with a general dislike, and must have sunk under the oppositions it met with, if those who were resolved to establish it had not drawn advantages even from these oppositions.

This tribunal is insupportable in all governments. In monarchies, it only makes informers and traitors; in republics, it only forms dishonest men; in a despotic state, it is as destructive as the government itself.

CHAP. XII.: The same Subject continued.

IT is one abuse of this tribunal, that of two persons accused of the same crime, he who denies is condemned to die; and he who confesses avoids the Edition: current; Page: [216] punishment. This has its source in monastic ideas, where he who denies seems in a state of impenitence and damnation; and he who confesses in a state of repentance and salvation. But a distinction of this kind can have no relation to human tribunals. Human justice, which sees only the actions, has but one compact with men, namely that of innocence; divine justice, which sees the thoughts, has two, that of innocence and repentance.

CHAP. XIII.: In what Cases, with regard to Marriage, we ought to follow the Laws of Religion; and in what Cases we should follow the Civil Laws.

IT has happened in all ages and countries, that religion has been blended with marriages. When certain things have been considered as impure or unlawful, and were nevertheless become necessary, they were obliged to call in religion, to legitimate in the one case, and to reprove in others.

On the other hand, as marriage is of all human actions that in which society is most interested, it became proper that this should be regulated by the civil laws.

Every thing which relates to the nature of marriage, its form, the manner of contracting it, the fruitfulness it occasions, which has made all nations consider it as the object of a particular benediction; a benediction which, not being always annexed to it, is supposed to depend on certain superior graces; all this, I say, is within the resort of religion.

The consequences of this union, with regard to property, the reciprocal advantages, every thing which has a relation to the new family, to that from Edition: current; Page: [217] which it sprung, and to that which is expected to arise; all this relates to the civil laws.

As one of the great objects of marriage is to take away that uncertainty which attends unlawful conjunctions, religion here stamps its seal, and the civil laws join theirs to it; to the end that it may be as authentic as possible. Thus, besides the conditions required by religion to make a marriage valid, the civil laws may still exact others.

The civil laws receive this power from their being additional obligations, and not contradictory ones. The law of religion insists upon certain ceremonies, the civil laws on the consent of fathers; in this case, they demand something more than that of religion, but they demand nothing contrary to it.

It follows from hence, that the religious law must decide whether the bond be indissoluble, or not; for if the laws of religion had made the bond indissoluble, and the civil laws had declared it might be broken, they would be contradictory to each other.

Sometimes the regulations made by the civil laws, with respect to marriage, are not absolutely necessary; such are those established by the laws, which, instead of annulling the marriage, only punish those who contract it.

Amongst the Romans, the Papian law declared those marriages illegal which had been prohibited, and yet only subjected them to a penalty*; but a Senatus Consultum, made at the instance of the emperor Marcus Antoninus, declared them void; there then no longer subsisted any such thing as a marriage, wife, dowry, or husband. The civil laws determine Edition: current; Page: [218] according to circumstances: sometimes they are most attentive to repair the evil; at others, to prevent it.

CHAP. XIV.: In what Instances Marriages between Relations should be regulated by the Laws of Nature; and in what Instances by the Civil Laws.

WITH regard to the prohibition of marriage between relations, it is a thing extremely delicate, to fix exactly the point at which the laws of nature stop, and where the civil laws begin. For this purpose, we must establish some principles.

The marriage of the son with the mother confounds the state of things: the son ought to have an unlimited respect to his mother, the wife an unlimited respect for her husband; therefore the marriage of the mother to her son would subvert the natural state of both.

Besides, nature has forwarded in women the time in which they are able to have children, but has retarded it in men; and, for the same reason, women sooner lose this ability, and men later. If the marriage between the mother and the son were permitted, it would almost always be the case, that when the husband was capable of entering into the views of nature, the wife would be incapable.

The marriage between the father and the daughter is contrary to nature, as well as the other; but it is not less contrary, because it has not these two obstacles. Thus the Tartars, who may marry their daughters*, never marry their mothers, as we see in the accounts we have of that nation.

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It has ever been the natural duty of fathers to watch over the chastity of their children. Intrusted with the care of their education, they are obliged to preserve the body in the greatest perfection, and the mind from the least corruption; to encourage whatever has a tendency to inspire them with virtuous desires, and to nourish a becoming tenderness. Fathers, always employed in preserving the morals of their children, must have a natural aversion to every thing that can render them corrupt. Marriage, you will say, is not a corruption: but before marriage they must speak, they must make their persons beloved, they must seduce: it is this seduction which ought to inspire us with horror.

There should be therefore an unsurmountable barrier between those who ought to give the education, and those who are to reeeive it; in order to prevent every kind of corruption, even though the motive be lawful. Why do fathers so carefully deprive those who are to marry their daughters, of their company and familiarity?

The horror that arises against the incest of the brother with the sister, should proceed from the same source. The desire of fathers and mothers to preserve the morals of their children and families untainted, is sufficient to inspire their offspring with a detestation of every thing that can lead to the union of the two sexes.

The prohibition of marriage between cousin-germans, has the same original. In the early ages, that is, in the times of innocence; in the ages when luxury was unknown, it was customary for children*, upon their marriage, not to remove from their parents, but to settle in the same house: as a small habitation was Edition: current; Page: [220] at that time sufficient for a large family: the children* of two brothers, or cousin-germans, were considered both by others and themselves, as brothers. The estrangement then between the brothers and sisters, as to marriage, subsisted also between the cousin-germans.

These principles are so strong and so natural, that they have had their influence almost over all the earth, independently of any communication. It was not the Romans who taught the inhabitants of Formosa, that the marriage of relations of the fourth degree was incestuous: it was not the Romans that communicated this sentiment to the Arabs: it was not they who taught it to the inhabitants of the Maldivian islands§.

But if some nations have not rejected marriages between fathers and children, sisters and brothers, we have seen in the first book, that intelligent beings do not always follow the law of nature. Who could have imagined it! Religious ideas have frequently made men fall into these mistakes. If the Assyrians and the Persians married their mothers, the first were influenced by a religious respect for Semiramis; and the second did it, because the religion of Zoroaster gave a preference** to these marriages. If the Ægyptians married their sisters, it proceeded from the wildness of the Ægyptian religion, which consecrated Edition: current; Page: [221] these marriages in honour of Isis. As the spirit of religion leads us to attempt whatever is great and difficult, we cannot infer that a thing is natural, from its being consecrated by a false religion.

The principle which informs us that marriages between fathers and children, between brothers and sisters, are prohibited, in order to preserve natural modesty in families, will help us to the discovery of those marriages that are forbidden by the law of nature, and of those which can be so only by the civil law.

As children dwell, or are supposed to dwell in their father’s house, and consequently the son-in-law with the mother-in-law, the father-in-law with the daughter-in-law, or wife’s daughter; the marriage between them is forbidden by the law of nature. In this case the resemblance has the same effect as the reality, because it springs from the same cause: the civil law neither can, nor ought to permit these marriages.

There are nations, as we have already observed, amongst whom cousin germans are considered as brothers, because they commonly dwell in the same house: there are others, where this custom is not known. Among the first, the marriage of cousingermans ought to be regarded as contrary to nature; not so among the others.

But the laws of nature cannot be local. Therefore, when these marriages are forbidden, or permitted, they are, according to the circumstances, permitted or forbidden by a civil law.

It is not a necessary custom for the brother-in-law and the sister-in-law to dwell in the same house. The marriage between them is not then prohibited to preserve chastity in the family; and the law which forbids or permits it, is not a law of nature, but a civil law, regulated by circumstances, and dependent on Edition: current; Page: [222] the customs of each country: these are cases in which the laws depend on the morals or customs of the inhabitants.

The civil laws forbid marriages, when by the customs received in a certain country they are found to be in the same circumstances as those forbidden by the law of nature; and they permit them when this is not the case. The prohibitions of the laws of nature are invariable, because the thing on which they depend is invariable; the father, the mother, and the children, necessarily dwell in the same house. But the prohibitions of the civil laws are accidental, because they depend on an accidental circumstance; cousin-germans and others dwelling in the house by accident.

This explains why the laws of Moses, those of the Ægyptians*, and of many other nations, permitted the marriage of the brother-in-law with the sister-in-law; whilst these very marriages were disallowed by other nations.

In the Indies they have a very natural reason for admitting this sort of marriages. The uncle is there considered as the father, and is obliged to maintain and educate his nephew, as if he were his own child: this proceeds from the disposition of these people, which is good-natured and full of humanity. This law, or this custom, has produced another; if a husband has lost his wife, he does not fail to marry her sister: which is extremely natural, for his new consort becomes the mother of her sister’s children, and not a cruel step-mother.

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CHAP. XV.: That we should not regulate by the Principles of political Law, those Things which depend on the Principles of civil Law.

AS men have given up their natural independence to live under political laws, they have given up the natural community of goods to live under civil laws.

By the first, they acquired liberty; by the second, property. We should not decide by the laws of liberty, which, as we have already said, is only the government of the community, what ought to be decided by the laws concerning property. It is a paralogism to say, that the good of the individual should give way to that of the public: this can never take place, but when the government of the community, or, in other words, the liberty of the subject, is concerned; this does not affect such cases as relate to private property, because the public good consists in every one’s having their property, which was given him by the civil laws, invariably preserved.

Cicero maintains, that the Agrarian laws were unjust; because the community was established with no view, but that every one might be able to preserve his property.

Let us therefore lay down a certain maxim, that whenever the public good happens to be the matter in question, it is not for the advantage of the public to deprive an individual of his property, or even to retrench the least part of it by a law, or a political regulation. In this case we should follow the rigour of the civil law, which is the Palladium of property.

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Thus when the public has occasion for the estate of an individual, it ought never to act by the rigour of political law: it is here that the civil law ought to triumph, who with the eyes of a mother regards every individual as the whole community.

If the political magistrate would erect a public edifice, or make a new road, he must indemnify those who are injured by it: the public is in this respect like an individual, who treats with an individual. It is full enough that it can oblige a citizen to sell his inheritance, and that it can strip him of this great privilege which he holds from the civil law, the not being forced to alienate his possessions.

After the nations which subverted the Roman empire had abused their very conquests, the spirit of liberty called them back to that of equity. They exercised the most barbarous laws with moderation: and if any one should doubt the truth of this, they need only read Beaumanoir’s admirable work on jurisprudence, written in the twelfth century.

They mended the highways in his time, as we do at present. He says, that when a highway could not be repaired, they made a new one as near the old as possible; but indemnified the proprietors at the* expence of those who reaped any advantage from the road. They determined at that time by the civil law; in our days, we determine by the law of politics.

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CHAP. XVI.: That we ought not to decide by the Rules of the civil Law, when it is proper to decide by those of the political Law.

MOST difficulties on this subject may be easily solved, by not confounding the rules derived from property with those which spring from liberty.

Is the demesne of a state or government alienable, or is it not? This question ought to be decided by the political law, and not by the civil. It ought not to be decided by the civil law, because it is as necessary that there should be demesnes for the subsistence of a state, as that the state should have civil laws to regulate the disposal of property.

If then they alienate the demesne, the state will be forced to make a new fund for another. But this expedient overturns the political government, because, by the nature of the thing, for every demesne that shall be established, the subject will always be obliged to pay more, and the sovereign to receive less; in a word, the demesne is necessary, and the alienation is not.

The order of succession is, in monarchies, founded on the welfare of the state; this makes it necessary that such an order should be fixed, to avoid the misfortunes, which, I have said, must arise in a despotic kingdom, where all is uncertain, because all is arbitrary.

The order of succession is not fixed for the sake of the reigning family; but because it is the interest of the state, that it should have a reigning family. The law which regulates the succession of individuals, is a civil law, whose view is the interest of individuals; Edition: current; Page: [226] that which regulates the succession to monarchy, is a political law, which has in view the welfare and preservation of the kingdom.

It follows from hence, that when the political law has established an order of succession in government, and this order is at an end, it is absurd to reclaim the succession in virtue of the civil law of any nation whatsoever. One particular society does not make laws for another society. The civil laws of the Romans are no more applicable than any other civil laws. They themselves did not make use of them, when they proceeded against kings: and the maxims by which they judged kings are so abominable, that they ought never to be revived.

It follows also from hence, that when the political law has obliged a family to renounce the succession, it is absurd to insist upon the restitutions drawn from the civil law. Restitutions are in the law, and may be good against those who live in the law: but they are not proper for such as have been raised up for the law, and who live for the law.

It is ridiculous to pretend to decide the rights of kingdoms, of nations, and of the whole globe, by the same maxims on which (to make use of an expression of* Cicero) we should determine the right of a gutter between individuals.

CHAP. XVII.: The same Subject continued.

OSTRACISM ought to be examined by the rules of politics, and not by those of the civil law; and so far is this custom from rendering a popular government odious, that it is, on the contrary, extremely Edition: current; Page: [227] well adapted to prove its lenity. We should be sensible of this ourselves, if, while banishment is always considered amongst us as a penalty, we are able to separate the idea of ostracism from that of punishment.

Aristotle* tells us, it is universally allowed, that this practice has something in it both humane and popular. If in those times and places where this sentence was executed, they found nothing in it that appeared odious; is it for us, who see things at such a distance, to think otherwise than the accuser, the judges, and the accused themselves?

And if we consider that this judgment of the people loaded the person with glory on whom it was passed; that when at Athens it fell upon a man without merit, from that very moment they ceased to use it; we shall find that numbers of people have entertained a false idea of it; for it was an admirable law that could prevent the ill consequences which the glory of a citizen might produce, by loading him with new glory.

CHAP. XVIII.: That it is necessary to enquire, whether the Laws which seem contradictory, are of the same Class.

AT Rome the husband was permitted to lend his wife to another. Plutarch tells us this in express terms. We know that Cato lent his§ wife to Hortensius, and Cato was not a man to violate the laws of his country.

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On the other hand, a husband who suffered his wife to be debauched, who did not bring her to justice, or who took her again after her* condemnation, was punished. These laws seem to contradict each other, and yet are not contradictory. The law which permitted a Roman to lend his wife, was visibly a Lacedæmonian institution, established with a view of giving the republic children of a good species, if I may be allowed the term: the other had in view the preservation of morals. The first was a law of politics, the second a civil law.

CHAP. XIX.: That we should not decide those Things by the civil Law, which ought to be decided by domestic Laws.

THE law of the Visigoths enjoins, that the slaves of the house shall be obliged to bind the man and woman they surprize in adultery, and to present them to the husband and to the judge: a terrible law, which puts into the hands of such mean persons the care of public, domestic, and private vengeance!

This law can be no where proper but in the seraglios of the East, where the slave who has the charge of the inclosure, is deemed an accomplice upon the discovery of the least infidelity. He seizes the criminals, not so much with a view to bring them to justice, as to do justice to himself, and to obtain a scrutiny into the circumstances of the action, in order to remove the suspicion of his negligence.

But, in countries where women are not guarded, it is ridiculous to subject those who govern the family, to the inquisition of their slaves.

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This inquisition may, in certain cases, be at the most a particular domestic regulation, but never a civil law.

CHAP. XX.: That we ought not to decide by the Principles of the civil Law, those Things which belong to the Law of Nations.

LIBERTY consists principally in not being forced to do a thing, where the laws do not oblige: people are in this state, only as they are governed by civil laws; and because they live under those civil laws, they are free.

It follows from hence, that princes who live not among themselves under civil laws, are not free; they are governed by force; they may continually force, or be forced. From hence it follows, that treaties made by force, are as obligatory as those made by free consent. When we who live under civil laws, are, contrary to law, constrained to enter into a contract, we may, by the assistance of the law, recover from the effects of violence: but a prince, who is always in that state in which he forces, or is forced, cannot complain of a treaty which he has been compelled to sign. This would be to complain of his natural state; it would seem as if he would be a prince with respect to other princes, and as if other princes should be subjects with respect to him; that is, it would be contrary to the nature of things.

CHAP. XXI.: That we should not decide by political Laws, Things which belong to the Law of Nations.

POLITICAL laws demand, that every man be subject to the natural and civil courts of the country Edition: current; Page: [230] where he resides, and to the censure of the sovereign.

The law of nations requires, that princes shall send ambassadors; and a reason drawn from the nature of things does not permit these ambassadors to depend either on the sovereign to whom they are sent, or on his tribunals. They are the voice of the prince who sends them, and this voice ought to be free; no obstacle should hinder the execution of their office; they may frequently offend, because they speak for a man entirely independent; they might be wrongfully accused, if they were liable to be punished for crimes; if they could be arrested for debts, these might be forged. Thus a prince, who has naturally a bold and enterprizing spirit, would speak by the mouth of a man who had every thing to fear. We must then be guided, with respect to ambassadors, by reasons drawn from the law of nations, and not by those derived from political law. But if they make an ill use of their representative character, a stop may be put to it by sending them back. They may even be accused before their master, who becomes either their judge or their accomplice.

CHAP. XXII.: The unhappy State of the Ynca Athualpa.

THE principles we have just been establishing, were cruelly violated by the Spaniards. The Ynca Athualpa* could not be tried by the law of nations; they tried him by political and civil laws; they accused him for putting to death some of his own subjects, for having many wives, &c. and to fill up the Edition: current; Page: [231] measure of their stupidity, they condemned him, not by the political and civil laws of his own country, but by the political and civil laws of theirs.

CHAP. XXIII.: That when, by some Circumstance, the political Law becomes destructive to the State, we ought to decide by such a political Law as will preserve it, which sometimes becomes a Law of Nations.

WHEN that political law which has established in the kingdom a certain order of succession, becomes destructive to the body politic for whose sake it was established, there is not the least room to doubt but another political law may be made to change this order; and so far would this law be from opposing the first, it would in the main be entirely conformable to it, since both would depend on this principle, that, the safety of the people is the supreme law.

I have said*, that a great state becoming accessory to another, is itself weakened, and even weakens the principal. We know, that it is for the interest of the state to have the supreme magistrate within itself, that the public revenues be well administered, and that its specie be not sent abroad to enrich another country. It is of importance, that he who is to govern, has not imbibed foreign maxims: these are less agreeable than those already established. Besides, men have an extravagant fondness for their own laws and customs: these constitute the happiness of every community; and, as we learn from the histories of all nations, are rarely changed without violent commotions, and a great effusion of blood.

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It follows from hence, that if a great state has to its heir the possessor of a great state, the former may reasonably exclude him, because a change in the order of succession must be of service to both countries. Thus a law of Russia, made in the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, most wisely excluded from the possession of the crown, every heir who possessed another monarchy; thus the law of Portugal disqualifies every stranger, who lays claim to the crown by right of blood.

But if a nation may exclude, it may with greater reason be allowed a right to oblige a prince to renounce. If the people fear that a certain marriage will be attended with such consequences as shall rob the nation of its dependence, or dismember some of its provinces, it may very justly oblige the contractors and their descendants to renounce all right over them; while he who renounces, and those to whose prejudice he renounces, have the less reason to complain, as the state might originally have made a law to exclude them.

CHAP. XXIV.: That the Regulations of the Police are of a different Class from other civil Laws.

THERE are criminals, whom the magistrate punishes, there are others whom he reproves. The former are subject to the power of the law, the latter to his authority: those are cut off from society; these they oblige to live according to the rules of society.

In the exercise of the police, it is rather the magistrate who punishes, than the law; in the sentence past on crimes, it is rather the law which punishes, than the magistrate. The business of the police consists Edition: current; Page: [233] in affairs which arise every instant, and are commonly of a trifling nature: there is then but little need of formalities. The actions of the police are quick; they are exercised over things which return every day; it would be therefore improper for it to inflict severe punishments. It is continually employed about minute particulars; great examples are therefore not designed for its purpose. It is governed rather by regulations than laws; those who are subject to its jurisdiction, are incessantly under the eye of the magistrate: it is therefore his fault if they fall into excess. Thus we ought not to confound a flagrant violation of the laws, with a simple breach of the police; these things are of a different order.

From hence it follows, that the laws of an Italian *republic, where bearing fire-arms is punished as a capital crime, and where it is not more fatal to make an ill use of them, than to carry them, is not agreeable to the nature of things.

It follows, moreover, that the applauded action of that emperor, who caused a baker to be impaled whom he found guilty of a fraud, was the action of a sultan, who knew not how to be just without committing an outrage on justice.

CHAP. XXV.: That we should not follow the general Disposition of the civil Law, in Things which ought to be subject to particular Rules drawn from their own nature.

IS it a good law, that all civil obligations passed between sailors in a ship in the course of a voyage should be null? Francis Pirard tells us, that in his time it was not observed by the Portuguese, though Edition: current; Page: [234] it was by the French. Men who are together only for a short time; who have no wants, since they are provided for by the prince; who have only one object in view, that of their voyage; who are no longer in society, but are only the inhabitants of a ship, ought not to contract obligations that were never introduced, but to support the burthen of civil society.

In the same spirit was the law of the Rhodians, made at a time when they always followed the coasts; it ordained, that those who during a tempest staid in a vessel, should have ship and cargo, and those who quitted it should have nothing.



THIS affair derives its establishment from the most distant antiquity; and to penetrate to its foundation, permit me to search among the first laws of the Romans, for what, I believe, nobody yet has been so happy as to discover.

We know that Romulus* divided the land of his little kingdom among his subjects; it seems to me, that from hence the laws of Rome on successions were derived.

The law of the division of lands made it necessary, that the property of one family should not pass into Edition: current; Page: [235] another: from hence it followed, that there were but two orders of heirs established by law*, the children and all the descendants that lived under the power of the father, whom they called sui hæredes, or his natural heirs; and, in their default, the nearest relations on the male side, whom they called agnati.

It followed likewise, that the relations on the female side, whom they called cognati, ought not to succeed; they would have conveyed the estate into another family, which was not allowed.

From thence also it followed, that the children ought not to succeed to the mother, nor the mother to her children; for this might carry the estate of one family into another. Thus we see them excluded by the law of the Twelve Tables; it called none to the succession but the agnati, and there was no agnation between the son and the mother.

But it was indifferent whether the suus hæres, or, in default of such, the nearest by agnation, was male or female; because, as the relations on the mother’s side could not succeed, though a woman who was an heiress should happen to marry, yet the estate always returned into the family from whence it came. On this account, the law of the Twelve Tables does not distinguish, whether the person who succeeded was male or female.

This was the cause, that though the grand-children by the son succeeded to the grandfather, the grand-children by the daughter did not succeed; for, to prevent the estate from passing into another family, Edition: current; Page: [236] the agnati were preferred before them. Hence the daughter, and not her* children, succeeded to the father.

Thus amongst the primitive Romans, the women succeeded, when this was agreeable to the law of the division of lands; and they did not succeed, when this law might suffer by it.

Such were the laws of succession among the primitive Romans; and as these had a natural dependence on the constitution, and were derived from the division of lands, it is easy to perceive, that they had not a foreign original, and were not of the number of those brought into the republic by the deputies sent into the cities of Greece.

Dionysius Halicarnasseus tells us, that Servius Tullius finding the laws of Romulus and Numa on the division of lands abolished, he restored them, and made new ones, to give the old a greater weight. We cannot therefore doubt, but that the laws we have been speaking of, made in consequence of this division, were the work of these three Roman legislators.

The order of succession having been established in consequence of a political law, no citizen was allowed to break in upon it by his private will; that is, in the first ages of Rome, he had not the power of making a testament. Yet it would have been hard to deprive him, in his last moments, of the friendly commerce of kind and beneficent actions.

They therefore found a method of reconciliating, in this respect, the laws with the desires of the individual. He was permitted to dispose of his substance in an assembly of the people; and thus every testament was, in some sort, an act of the legislative power.

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The law of the Twelve Tables permitted the person who made his will, to chuse which citizen he pleased for his heir. The reason that induced the Roman laws so strictly to restrain the number of those who might succeed ab intestato, was the law of the division of lands; and the reason why they extended so widely the power of the testator, was, that as the father might* sell his children, he might with greater reason deprive them of his substance. These were therefore different effects, since they flowed from different principles; and such is, in this respect, the spirit of the Roman laws.

The ancient laws of Athens did not suffer a citizen to make a will. Solon permitted it, with an exception to those who had children: and the legislators of Rome, filled with the idea of paternal power, allowed the making a will even to the prejudice of their children. It must be confessed, that the ancient laws of Athens were more consistent than those of Rome. The indefinite permission of making a will, which had been granted to the Romans, ruined by little and little the political regulation on the division of lands: it was the principal thing that introduced the fatal difference between riches and poverty: many shares were united in the same person; some citizens had too much, and a multitude of others had nothing. Thus the people being continually deprived of their shares, were incessantly calling out for a new distribution of lands. They demanded it in an age when the frugality, the parsimony, and the poverty of the Romans, were their distinguishing characteristic; as Edition: current; Page: [238] well as at a time when their luxury was become still more astonishing.

Testaments being properly a law made in the assembly of the people, those who were in the army were thereby deprived of a testamentary power. The people therefore gave the soldiers the privilege* of making before their companions, the dispositions which should have been made before them.

The great assembly of the people met but twice a year; besides, both the people and the affairs brought before them were increased: they therefore judged it convenient to permit all the citizens to make their will before some Roman citizens of ripe age, who were to represent the body of the people: they took five citizens, in whose presence the inheritor§ purchased his family, that is, his inheritance of the testastor; another citizen brought a pair of scales to weigh the value; for the Romans**, as yet, had no money.

To all appearance these five citizens were to represent the five classes of the people; and they set no value on the sixth, as being composed of men who had no property.

We ought not to say, with Justinian, that these sales were merely imaginary; they became, indeed, imaginary in time, but were not so originally. Most of the laws which afterwards regulated wills, were Edition: current; Page: [239] built on the reality of these sales: we find sufficient proof of this in the fragments of Ulpian*. The deaf, the dumb, the prodigal, could not make a will; the deaf, because he could not hear the words of the buyer of the inheritance; the dumb, because he could not pronounce the terms of nomination; the prodigal, because as he was excluded from the management of all affairs, he could not sell his inheritance. I omit any farther examples.

Wills being made in the assembly of the people, were rather the acts of political than of civil laws, a public rather than a private right; from whence it followed, that the father, while his son was under his authority, could not give him leave to make a will.

Amongst most nations, wills are not subject to greater formalities than ordinary contracts: because both the one and the other are only expressions of the will of him who makes the contract, and both are equally a private right. But, among the Romans, where testaments were derived from the public law, they were attended with much greater formalities, than other affairs; and this is still the case in those provinces of France, which are governed by the Roman law.

Testaments being, as I have said, a law of the people, they ought to be made with the force of a command, and in such terms as are called direct and imperative. Hence a rule was formed, that they could neither give nor transmit an inheritance, without making use of the imperative words: from whence it followed, that they might very justly in certain cases make a substitution; and ordain, that the Edition: current; Page: [240] inheritance should pass to another heir; but that they could never make a fiduciary bequest*, that is, charge any one in terms of intreaty to restore an inheritance, or a part of it, to another.

When the father neither instituted his son his heir, nor disinherited him, the will was annulled; but it was valid, though he did not disinherit his daughter, nor instituted her his heiress. The reason is plain: when he neither instituted nor disinherited his son, he did an injury to his grandson, who might have succeeded ab intestato to his father; but in neither instituting nor disinheriting his daughter, he did no injury to his daughter’s children, who could not succeed ab intestato to their mother, because they were neither sui hæredes nor agnati.

The laws of the ancient Romans concerning successions being formed with the same spirit which dictated the division of lands, did not sufficiently restrain the riches of women; thus a door was left open to luxury, which is always inseparable from this sort of opulence. Between the second and third Punic war, they began to perceive the evil, and made the Voconian law: but as they were induced to this by the most important considerations; as but few monuments have reached us that take notice of this law; and as it has hitherto been spoken of in a most confused manner, I shall endeavour to clear it up.

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Cicero has preserved a fragment, which forbids the instituting a woman an* heiress, whether she was married or unmarried.

The Epitome of Livy, where he speaks of this law, says no more: it appears from Cicero and St. Augustin, that the daughter, though an only child, was comprehended in the prohibition.

Cato the elder§ contributed all in his power to get this law passed. Aulus Gellius cites a fragment** of a speech, which he made on this occasion. By preventing the succession of women, his intent was to take away the source of luxury: as by undertaking the defence of the Oppian law, he intended to put a stop to luxury itself.

In the Institutes of Justinian†† and Theophilus‡‡, mention is made of a chapter of the Voconian law, which limits the power of bequeathing. In reading these authors, every body would imagine, that this chapter was made to prevent the inheritance from being so exhausted by legacies, as to render it unworthy of the heir’s acceptance. But this was not the spirit of the Voconian law. We have just seen, that they had in view the hindering women from inheriting an estate. The article of this law, which set bounds to the power of bequeathing, entered into this view: for if people had been possessed of the liberty to bequeath as much as they pleased, the women might have received as legacies, what they could not receive by succession.

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The Voconian law was made to hinder the women from growing too wealthy; for this end it was necessary to deprive them of large inheritances, and not of such as were incapable of supporting luxury. The law fixed a certain sum, to be given to the women whom it deprived of the succession. Cicero*, from whom we have this particular, does not tell us what was the sum; but by Dio we are informed, it was a hundred thousand sesterces.

The Voconian law was made to regulate opulence, not to lay a restraint upon poverty; hence Cicero informs us, that it related only to those whose names were registered in the censors books.

This furnished a pretence for eluding the law: it is well known that the Romans were extremely fond of set forms; and we have already taken notice, that it was the spirit of the republic to follow the letter of the law. There were fathers who would not give in their names to be enrolled by the censors, because they would have it in their power to leave the succession to a daughter: and the prætors determined, that this was no violation of the Voconian law, since it was not contrary to the letter of it.

One Anius Asellus had appointed his daughter his sole heir and executrix. He had a right to make this disposition, says Cicero; he was not restrained by the Voconian law, since he was not included in the census. Verres, during the time of his prætorship, had deprived Anius’s daughter of the succession; and Cicero maintains that Verres had been bribed, otherwise Edition: current; Page: [243] he would not have annulled a disposition which all the other prætors had confirmed.

What kind of citizens then must those have been, who were not registered in the census, in which all the freemen of Rome were included? According to the institution of Servius Tullius, mentioned by Dionysius of Halicarnassus*, every citizen not enrolled in the census became a slave: even Cicero himself observes, that such a man forfeited his liberty: and the same thing is affirmed by Zonaras. There must have been therefore a difference between not being in the census according to the spirit of the Voconian law, and not being in it according to the spirit of Servius Tullius’s Institutions.

They whose names were not registered in the five first classes, in which the inhabitants ranked in proportion to their fortunes, were not comprized in the census according to the spirit of the Voconian law: they who were not enrolled in one of these six classes, or who were not ranked by the censors among such as were called ærarii, were not included in the census, according to the spirit of Servius’s Institutions. Such was the force of nature, that to elude the Voconian law, fathers submitted to the disgrace of being confounded in the sixth class with the proletarii and capite censi, or perhaps to have their names entered in the Cærites tabulæ.

We have elsewhere observed, that the Roman laws did not admit of fiduciary bequests. The hopes of evading the Voconian law were the cause of their being introduced: they instituted an heir qualified by the law, and they begged he would resign the succession Edition: current; Page: [244] to a person whom the law had excluded: this new method of disposition was productive of very different effects. Some resigned the inheritance; and the conduct of Sextus Peduceus* on an occasion of this nature was very remarkable. A considerable succession was left him, and nobody living knew that he was desired to resign it to another; when he waited upon the widow of the testator, and made over to her the whole fortune belonging to her late husband.

Others kept possession of the inheritance; and here the example of P. Sextilius Rufus is also famous, having been made use of by Cicero in his disputations against the Epicureans. “In my younger days, says he, I was desired by Sextilius to accompany him to his friends, in order to know whether he ought to restore the inheritance of Quintus Fadius Gallus to his daughter Fadia. There were several young people present, with others of more maturity and judgment; and not one of them was of opinion that he should give more to Fadia, than the lady was intitled to by the Voconian law. In consequence of this, Sextilius kept possession of a fine estate, of which he would not have retained a single sestercius, had he preferred justice to utility. It is possible, added he, that you would have resigned the inheritance: nay, it is possible that Epicurus himself would have resigned it; but you would not have acted according to your own principles.” Here I shall pause a little to reflect.

It is a misfortune inherent to humanity, that legislators should be sometimes obliged to enact laws repugnant to the dictates of nature: such was the Voconian law. The reason is, the legislature considers the society rather than the citizen, and the citizen Edition: current; Page: [245] rather than the man. The law sacrificed both the citizen and the man, and directed its views to the prosperity of the republic. Suppose a person made a fiduciary bequest in favour of his daughter; the law paid no regard to the sentiments of nature in the father, nor to the filial piety of the daughter; all it had an eye to, was the person to whom the bequest was made in trust, and who on such an occasion found himself in a terrible dilemma. If he restored the estate, he was a bad citizen; if he kept it, he was a bad man. None but good-natured people thought of eluding the law; and they could pitch upon none but honest men to help them to elude it; for a trust of this kind requires a triumph over avarice and inordinate pleasure, which none but honest men are like to obtain. Perhaps in this light to look upon them as bad citizens, would have favoured too much of severity. It is not impossible but the legislator carried his point in a great measure, since his law was of such a nature, as obliged none but honest men to elude it.

At the time when the Voconian law was passed, the Romans still preserved some remains of their ancient purity of manners. Their conscience was sometimes engaged in favour of the law; and they were made to swear they would observe it*: so that honesty, in some measure, was set in opposition against itself. But latterly their morals were corrupted to such a degree, that the fiduciary bequests must have had less efficacy to elude the Voconian law, than that very legislator had to enforce its observance.

The civil laws were the destruction of an infinite number of citizens. Under Augustus, Rome was almost deserted: it was necessary to repeople it. They Edition: current; Page: [246] made the Papian laws, which omitted nothing that could encourage* the citizens to marry, and procreate children. One of the principal means was to increase, in favour of those who gave into the views of the law, the hopes of being heirs, and to diminish the expectations of those who refused; and as the Voconian law had rendered women incapable of succeeding, the Papian law, in certain cases, dispensed with this prohibition.

Women, especially those who had children, were rendered capable of receiving in virtue of the will of their husbands; they even might, when they had children, receive in virtue of the will of strangers. All this was in direct opposition to the regulations of the Voconian law: and yet it is remarkable, that the spirit of this law was not entirely abandoned. For example, the Papian law, which permitted a man who had one child, to receive an entire inheritance by the will of a stranger, granted the same savour to the wife only when she had three children§.

It must be remarked, that the Papian law did not render the women who had three children capable of succeeding, except in virtue of the will of strangers; and that with respect to the succession of relations, it left the ancient laws, and particularly** the Voconian, in all their force. But this did not long subsist.

Rome, corrupted by the riches of every nation, had changed her manners; the putting a stop to the luxury Edition: current; Page: [247] of women was no longer minded. Aulus Gellius, who lived under* Adrian, tells us, that in his time the Voconian law was almost abolished; it was buried under the opulence of the city. Thus we find in the sentences of Paulus, who lived under Niger, and in the fragments of Ulpian, who was in the time of Alexander Severus, that the sisters on the father’s side might succeed, and that none but the relations of a more distant degree were in the case of those prohibited by the Voconian law.

The ancient laws of Rome began to be thought severe. The prætors were no longer moved but by reasons of equity, moderation, and decorum.

We have seen, that by the ancient laws of Rome mothers had no share in the inheritance of their children. The Voconian law afforded a new reason for their exclusion. But the emperor Claudius gave the mother the succession of her children as a consolation for her loss. The Tertullian senatus consultum, made under Adrian, gave it them when they had three children, if free women; or four, if they were freed women. It is evident, that this decree of the senate was only an extension of the Papian law, which in the same case had granted to women the inheritances left them by strangers. At length Justinian§ favoured them with the succession independently of the number of their children.

The same causes which had debilitated the law against the succession of women, subverted that by degrees which had limited the succession of the relations on the woman’s side. These laws were extremely Edition: current; Page: [248] conformable to the spirit of a good republic, where they ought to have such an influence, as to prevent this sex from rendering either the possession, or the expectation of wealth, an instrument of luxury. On the contrary, the luxury of a monarchy rendering marriage expensive and costly, it ought to be there encouraged, both by the riches which women may bestow, and by the hope of the inheritances it is in their power to procure. Thus when monarchy was established at Rome, the whole system of successions was changed. The prætors called the relations of the woman’s fide in default of those of the male side; though by the ancient laws, the relations of the woman’s side were never called. The Orphitian senatus consultum called children to the succession of their mother; and the emperors Valentinian*, Theodosius, and Arcadius, called the grandchildren by the daughter, to the succession of the grandfather. In short, the emperor Justinian left not the least vestige of the ancient right of successions: he established three orders of heirs, the descendants, the ascendants, and the collaterals, without any distinction between the males and females; between the relations on the woman’s side, and those on the male side; and abrogated all of this kind, which were still in force: he believed, that he followed nature even in deviating from what he called the embarrassments of the ancient jurisprudence.

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  • In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas
  • Corpora
  • Ovid Metam.

CHAP. I.: Different Character of the Laws of the several People of Germany.

AFTER the Franks had quitted their own country, they made a compilement of the Salic laws, with the assistance of* the sages of their own nation. The tribe of the Ripuarian Franks having joined itself under Clovis to that of the Salians, preserved its own customs; and Theodoric king of Austrasia ordered them to be reduced into writing. He collected likewise the customs of those Bavarians and Germans who were dependent on his kingdom. For Germany having been weakened by the migration of such a multitude of people, the Franks, after conquering all before them, made a retrograde march, and extended their dominion into the forests of their ancestors. Very likely the Thuringian code§ was Edition: current; Page: [250] given by the same Theodoric, since the Thuringians were also his subjects. As the Frisians were subdued by Charles Martel and Pepin, their* law cannot be prior to those princes. Charlemain, the first that reduced the Saxons, gave them the law still extant; and we need only read these two last codes, to be convinced they came from the hands of conquerors. As soon as the Visigoths, the Burgundians, and the Lombards, had founded their respective kingdoms, they reduced their laws into writing, not with an intent of obliging the vanquished nations to conform to their customs, but with a design of following them themselves.

There is an admirable simplicity in the Salic and Ripuarian laws, as well as in those of the Alemans, Bavarians, Thuringians, and Frisians. They breathe an original coarseness, and a spirit which no change or corruption of manners had weakened. They received but very few alterations, because all those people, except the Franks, remained in Germany. Even the Franks themselves laid there the foundation of a great part of their empire; so that they had none but German laws. The same cannot be said of the laws of the Visigoths, of the Lombards and the Burgundians; their character considerably altered from the great change which happened in the character of those people, after they had settled in their new habitations.

The kingdom of the Burgundians did not last long enough to admit of great changes in the laws of the conquering nation. Gundebald and Sigismond, who collected their customs, were almost the last of their kings. The laws of the Lombards received additions rather than changes. The laws of Rotharis were Edition: current; Page: [251] followed by those of Grimoaldus, Luitprandus, Rachis and Astulphus; but did not assume a new form. It was not so with the laws of the Visigoths*; their kings new-moulded them, and had them also new-moulded by the clergy.

The kings indeed of the first race struck out of the Salic and Ripuarian laws, whatever was absolutely inconsistent with Christianity; but left the main part untouched. This cannot be said of the laws of the Visigoths.

The laws of the Burgundians, and especially those of the Visigoths, admitted of corporal punishments: these were not tolerated by the Salic and Ripuarian laws; they preserved their character much better.

The Burgundians and Visigoths, whose provinces were greatly exposed, endeavoured to conciliate the affections of the ancient inhabitants, and to give them the most impartial civil laws; but as the kings of the Franks had established their power, they had no such§ considerations.

The Saxons, who lived under the dominion of the Franks, were of an intractable temper, and prone to revolt. Hence we find in their** laws the severities of a conqueror, which are not to be met with in the other codes of the laws of the Barbarians.

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We see the spirit of the German laws in the pecuniary punishments, and the spirit of a conqueror in those of an afflictive nature.

The crimes they commit in their own country are subject to corporal punishment; and the spirit of the German laws is followed only in the punishment of crimes committed beyond the extent of their own territory.

They are plainly told, that their crimes shall meet with no mercy, and they are refused even the asylum of churches.

The bishops had an immense authority at the court of the Visigoth kings; the most important affairs being debated in councils. All the maxims, principles, and views of the present inquisition, are owing to the code of the Visigoths; and the monks have only copied against the Jews, the laws formerly enacted by bishops.

In other respects the laws of Gundebald for the Burgundians seem pretty judicious; and those of Rotharis, and of the other Lombard princes, are still more so. But the laws of the Visigoths, those, for instance, of Recessuinthus, Chaindasuinthus, and Egigas, are puerile, ridiculous, and foolish; they attain not their end; they are stuft with rhetoric, and void of sense; frivolous in the substance, and bombastic in the stile.

CHAP. II.: That the laws of the Barbarians were all personal.

IT is a distinguishing character of these laws of the Barbarians, that they were not confined to a certain district; the Frank was tried by the law of the Franks, the Aleman by that of the Alemans, the Burgundian Edition: current; Page: [253] by that of the Burgundians, and the Roman by the Roman law: nay, so far were the conquerors in those days from reducing their laws to an uniform system or body, that they did not even think of becoming legislators to the people they had conquered.

The original of this I find in the manners of the Germans. These people were parted afunder by marshes, lakes, and forests; and Cæsar* observes, they were fond of such separations. Their dread of the Romans brought about their reunion; and yet each individual among these mixt people was still to be tried by the established customs of his own nation. Each tribe apart was free and independent; and when they came to be intermixt, the independency still continued; the country was common, the government peculiar; the territory the same, and the nations different. The spirit of personal laws prevailed therefore among those people before ever they set out from their own homes, and they carried it with them into the conquered provinces.

We find this custom established in the formula’s of Marculfus, in the codes of the laws of the barbarians, but chiefly in the law of the Ripuarians and the decrees of the kings of the first race, from whence the capitularies on that subject in the second§ race were derived. The children†† followed the laws of their father, the wife‡‡ that of her husband, the widow∥∥ came back to her own original law, and the freedman§§ was under that of his patron. Besides, Edition: current; Page: [254] every man could make choice of what laws he pleased; but the constitution of* Lotharius I. required this choice should be made public.

CHAP. III.: Capital Difference between the Salic Laws and those of the Visigoths and Burgundians.

WE have already observed, that the laws of the Burgundians and Visigoths were impartial; but it was otherwise with regard to the Salic law, for it established between the Franks and Romans the most mortifying distinctions. When a Frank, a Barbarian, or one living under the Salic law, happened to be killed, a composition of 200 sols was to be paid to his relations; only 100 upon the killing of a Roman proprietor, and no more than 45 for a Roman tributary. The composition for the murder of one of the king’s vassals, if a Frank, was 600 sols; if a Roman, though the king’s guest§, only 300††. The Salic law made therefore a cruel distinction between the Frank and Roman lord, and the Frank and Roman commoner.

Farther, if a number of people were got together to assault a Frank in his house‡‡, and he happened to be killed, the Salic law ordained a composition of Edition: current; Page: [255] 600 sols; but if a Roman or a freedman* was assaulted, only half that composition. By the same law, if a Roman put a Frank in irons, he was liable to a composition of 30 sols; but if a Frank had thus used a Roman, he paid only 15. A Frank, stript by a Roman, was intitled to the composition of 621/2 sols, and a Roman stript by a Frank, received only 30. Such unequal treatment must needs have been very grievous to a Roman.

And yet a celebrated author forms a system of the establishment of the Franks in Gaul, on a supposition that they were the best friends of the Romans. The Franks then the best friends of the Romans, they who did, and they who suffered from, the Romans such an infinite deal of mischief! The Franks, the friends of the Romans, they who, after subduing them by their arms, oppressed them in cold blood by their laws! They were exactly the friends of the Romans, as the Tartars, who conquered China, were the friends of the Chinese.

If some Catholic bishops thought fit to make use of the Franks in destroying the Arian kings, does it follow, that they had a desire of living under those barbarous people? And can we from hence conclude, that the Franks had any particular regard to the Romans? I should draw quite different consequences; the less the Franks had to fear from the Romans, the less indulgence they shewed them.

The Abbé du Bos has consulted but indifferent authorities for his history, such as poets and orators: works of parade and ostentation are improper foundations for building systems.

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CHAP. IV.: In what Manner the Roman Law came to be lost in the Country subject to the Franks, and preserved in that subject to the Goths and Burgundians.

WHAT has been above said, will throw some light upon other things, which have hitherto been involved in great obscurity.

The country at this day called France, was, under the first race, governed by the Roman law, or the Theodosian code, and by the different laws of the Barbarians*, who settled in those parts.

In the country subject to the Franks, the Salic law was established for the Franks, and the Theodosian code for the Romans. In that subject to the Visigoths, a compilement of the Theodosian code, made by order of Alaric, regulated disputes among the Romans; and the national customs which Euric caused to be reduced into writing, determined those among the Visigoths. But how comes it, some will say, that the Salic laws gained almost a general authority in the country of the Franks, and the Roman law gradually declined: whilst in the jurisdiction of the Visigoths the Roman law spread itself, and obtained, at last, a general sway.

My answer is, that the Roman law came to be disused among the Franks, because of the great advantages accruing from being a Frank, a Barbarian§, or Edition: current; Page: [257] a person living under the Salic law; every one, in that case, readily quitting the Roman, to live under the Salic law. The* clergy alone retained it, as a change would be of no advantage to them. The difference of conditions and ranks consisted only in the largeness of the composition, as I shall shew in another place. Now particular laws allowed the clergy as favourable compositions, as those of the Franks; for which reason they retained the Roman law. This law brought no hardships upon them; and in other respects it was properest for them, as it was the work of Christian emperors.

On the other hand, in the patrimony of the Visigoths, as the Visigoth law gave no civil advantages to the Visigoths over the Romans, the latter had no reason to discontinue living under their own law, in order to embrace another. They retained therefore their own laws, without adopting those of the Visigoths.

This is still farther confirmed, in proportion as we proceed in our enquiry. The law of Gundebald was extremely impartial, not favouring the Burgundians more than the Romans. It appears by the preamble to that law, that it was made for the Burgundians, and to regulate the disputes which might arise between them and the Romans; and in the latter case, the Edition: current; Page: [258] judges were equally divided of a side. This was necessary for particular reasons, drawn from the political regulations of those times*. The Roman law was continued in Burgundy, in order to regulate the disputes of Romans among themselves. The latter had no inducement to quit their own law, as in the country of the Franks; and the rather, as the Salic law was not established in Burgundy, as appears by the famous letter which Agobard wrote to Lewis the Pious.

Agobard desired that prince to establish the Salic law in Burgundy: consequently it had not been established there at that time. Thus the Roman law did, and still does, subsist in so many provinces, which formerly depended on this kingdom.

The Roman and Gothic laws continued likewise in the country of the establishment of the Goths; where the Salic law was never received. When Pepin and Charles Martel expelled the Saracens, the towns and provinces, which submitted to these princes, petitioned for a continuance of their own laws, and obtained it; this, in spite of the usages of those times when all laws were personal, soon made the Roman law to be considered as a real and territorial law in those countries.

This appears by the edict of Charles the Bald, given at Pistes in the year 864, which distinguishes Edition: current; Page: [259] the countries where causes were decided by the Roman law, from where it was otherwise.

The edict of Pistes shews two things; one, that there were countries where causes were decided by the Roman law, and others where they were not; and the other, that those countries where the Roman law obtained, were precisely* the same where it is still followed at this very day, as appears by the said edict: thus the distinction of the provinces of France under custom, and those under written law, was already established at the time of the edict of Pistes.

I have observed, that in the beginning of the monarchy, all laws were personal; and thus when the edict of Pistes distinguishes the countries of the Roman law, from those which were otherwise; the meaning is, that in countries which were not of the Roman law, such a multitude of people had chosen to live under some or other of the laws of the Barbarians, that there were scarce any who would be subject to the Roman law; and that in the countries of the Roman law there were few who would chuse to live under the laws of the Barbarians.

I am not ignorant, that what is here advanced will be reckoned new; but if the things which I assert be true, surely they are very ancient. After all, what great matter is it, whether they come from me, from the Valesius’s, or from the Bignons?

CHAP. V.: The same Subject continued.

THE law of Gundebald subsisted a long time among the Burgundians, in conjunction with the Roman Edition: current; Page: [260] law: it was still in use under Lewis the Pious, as Agobard’s letter plainly evinces. In like manner, though the edict of Pistes calls the country occupied by the Visigoths the country of the Roman law, yet the law of the Visigoths was always in force there; as appears by the synod of Troyes held under Lewis the Stammerer, in the year 878, that is, fourteen years after the edict of Pistes.

In process of time the Gothic and Burgundian laws fell into disuse even in their own country; which was owing to those general causes that every where suppressed the personal laws of the Barbarians.

CHAP. VI.: How the Roman Law kept its Ground in the Demesne of the Lombards.

THE facts all coincide with my principles. The law of the Lombards was impartial, and the Romans were under no temptation to quit their own for it. The motive which prevailed with the Romans under the Franks to make choice of the Salic law, did not take place in Italy; hence the Roman law maintained itself there, together with that of the Lombards.

It even fell out, that the latter gave way to the Roman institutes, and ceased to be the law of the ruling nation; and though it continued to be that of the principal nobility, yet the greatest part of the cities formed themselves into republics, and the nobility mouldered away of themselves, or were destroyed*. The citizens of the new republics had no inclination to adopt a law, which established the custom of judiciary combats, and whose institutions retained much of the Edition: current; Page: [261] customs and usages of chivalry. As the clergy of those days, a clergy even then so powerful in Italy, lived almost all under the Roman law, the number of those who followed the institutions of the Lombards must have daily diminished.

Besides, the institutions of the Lombards had not that extent, that majesty of the Roman law, by which Italy was reminded of her universal dominion. The institutions of the Lombards and the Roman law could be then of no other use than to furnish out statutes for those cities that were erected into republics. Now which could better furnish them, the institutions of the Lombards that determined on some particular cases, or the Roman law which embraced them all?

CHAP. VII.: How the Roman Law came to be lost in Spain.

THINGS happened otherwise in Spain. The law of the Visigoths prevailed, and the Roman law was lost. Chaindasuinthus* and Recessuinthus proscribed the Roman laws, and even forbad citing them in their courts of judicature. Recessuinthus was likewise author of the law which took off the prohibition of marriages between the Goths and Romans. It is evident that these two laws had the same spirit: this king wanted to remove the principal causes of separation, which subsisted between the Goths and the Romans. Now it was thought, that nothing made a wider separation than the prohibition of intermarriages, Edition: current; Page: [262] and the liberty of living under different institutions.

But though the kings of the Visigoths had proscribed the Roman law, it still subsisted in the demesnes they possessed in South Gaul. These countries being distant from the center of the monarchy, lived in a state of great independence. We see from the history of Vamba, who ascended the throne in 672, that the natives of the country were become the prevailing party*. Hence the Roman law had greater authority, and the Gothic less. The Spanish laws neither suited their manners, nor their actual situation; the people might likewise be obstinately attached to the Roman law, because they had annexed to it the idea of liberty. Besides, the laws of Chaindasuinthus, and of Recessuinthus, contained most severe regulations against the Jews; but these Jews had a vast deal of power in South Gaul. The author of the history of king Vamba calls these provinces the brothel of the Jews. When the Saracens invaded these provinces, it was by invitation; and who could have invited them but the Jews or the Romans? The Goths were the first that were oppressed, because they were the ruling nation. We see in Procopius, that during their calamities they withdrew out of Narbonne Gaul into Spain. Doubtless, under this misfortune, they took refuge in those provinces of Spain, which still held out; and the number of those, who in South Gaul lived under the law of the Visigoths, was thereby greatly diminished.

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CHAP. VIII.: A false Capitulary.

DID not that wretched compiler Benedictus Levita attempt to transform this Visigoth establishment, which prohibited the use of the Roman law, into a capitulary*, ascribed since to Charlemaign? He made of this particular institution a general one, as if he intended to exterminate the Roman law throughout the universe.

CHAP. IX.: In what Manner the Codes of Barbarian Laws, and the Capitularies came to be lost.

THE Salic, the Ripuarian, Burgundian, and Visigoth laws, came by degrees to be disused among the French in the following manner:

As fiefs were become hereditary, and arriere-fiefs extended, many usages were introduced, to which these laws were no longer applicable. Their spirit indeed was continued, which was to regulate most disputes by fines. But as the value of money was, doubtless, subject to change, the fines were also changed; and we see several charters, where the lords fixed the fines, that were payable in their petty courts. Thus the spirit of the law was followed, without adhering to the law itself.

Besides, as France was divided into a number of petty lordships, which acknowledged rather a feudal Edition: current; Page: [264] than a political dependence, it was very difficult for only one law to be authorised. And indeed, it would be impossible to see it observed. The custom no longer prevailed of sending extraordinary* officers into the provinces, to inspect into the administration of justice, and political affairs; it appears, even by the charters, that when new fiefs were established, our kings divested themselves of the right of sending those officers. Thus, when almost every thing was become a fief, these officers could not be employed; there was no longer a common law, because no one could enforce the observance of it.

The Salic, Burgundian, and Visigoth laws, were therefore extremely neglected at the end of the second race; and at the beginning of the third, they were scarce ever mentioned.

Under the first and second race, the nation was often assembled; that is, the lords and bishops; the commons were not yet thought on. In these assemblies, attempts were made to regulate the clergy, a body which formed itself, if I may so speak, under the conquerors, and established its privileges. The laws made in these assemblies, are what we call the capitularies. Hence four things ensued; the feudal laws were established, and a great part of the church revenues was administered by those laws; the clergy affected a wider separation, and neglected those decrees of reformation, where they themselves were not the only reformers; a collection was made of the Edition: current; Page: [265] canons of councils and of the decretals of popes; and these the clergy received, as coming from a purer source. Ever since the erection of the grand fiefs, our kings, as we have already observed, had no longer any deputies in the provinces to enforce the observance of their laws; and hence it is, that under the third race, we find no more mention made of capitularies.

CHAP. X.: The same Subject continued.

SEVERAL capitularies were added to the law of the Lombards, as well as to the Salic and Bavarian laws. The reason of this has been a matter of enquiry: but it must be sought for in the thing itself. There were several sorts of capitularies. Some had relation to political government, others to œconomical, most of them to ecclesiastical polity, and some few to civil government. Those of the last species were added to the civil law, that is, to the personal laws of each nation; for which reason it is said in the capitularies, that there is nothing stipulated* therein contrary to the Roman law. In effect, those capitularies regarding œconomical, ecclesiastical, or political government, had no relation to that law; and those concerning civil government had reference only to the laws of the barbarous people, which were explained, amended, enlarged, or abridged. But the adding of these capitularies to the personal laws, occasioned, I Edition: current; Page: [266] imagine, the neglect of the very body of the capitulaties themselves: in times of ignorance, the abridgement of a work often causes the loss of the work itself.

CHAP. XI.: Other Causes of the Disuse of the Codes of Barbarian Laws, as well as of the Roman Law, and of the Capitularies.

WHEN the German nations subdued the Roman empire, they learnt the use of writing; and, in imitation of the Romans, they wrote down their own usages*, and digested them into codes. The unhappy reigns which followed that of Charlemaign, the invasions of the Normans, and the civil wars, plunged the conquering nations again into the darkness out of which they had emerged: so that reading and writing were quite neglected. Hence it is, that in France and Germany, the written laws of the Barbarians, as well as the Roman law, and the capitularies, fell into oblivion. The use of writing was better preserved in Italy, where reigned the popes and the Greek emperors, and where there were flourishing cities, which enjoyed almost the only commerce in those days. To this neighbourhood of Italy it was owing, that the Roman law was better preserved in the provinces of Gaul, formerly subject to the Goths and Burgundians; and so much the more, as this law was there a territorial institution, and a kind of privilege. It is probable, that the disuse of the Visigoth Edition: current; Page: [267] laws in Spain proceeded from the want of writing; and by the loss of so many laws, customs were every where established.

Personal laws fell to the ground. Compositions, and what they call Fredd*, were regulated more by custom than by the text of these laws. Thus, as in the establishment of the monarchy they had passed from German customs to written laws; some ages after, they came back from written laws to unwritten customs.

CHAP. XII.: Of local Customs. Revolution of the Laws of barbarous Nations, as well as of the Roman Law.

BY several monuments it appears, that there were local customs, so early as the first and second race. We find mention made of the custom of the place, of the ancient usage, of the custom, of the laws§, and of the customs. It has been the opinion of some authors, that what went by the name of customs were the laws of the barbarous nations, and what had the appellation of law were the Roman institutes. This cannot possibly be. King Pepin** ordained, that wherever there should happen to be no law, custom should be complied with; but that it should never be preferred to the law. Now, to pretend that the Roman law was preferred to the codes of the laws of the Barbarians, is subverting all monuments of antiquity, and especially those codes of Barbarian laws, which constantly affirm the contrary.

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So far were the laws of the barbarous nations from being those customs, that it was these very laws, as personal institutions, which introduced them. The Salic law, for instance, was a personal law; but generally, or almost generally, in places inhabited by the Salian Franks, this Salic law, how personal soever, became, in respect to those Salian Franks, a territorial institution, and was personal only in regard to those Franks who lived elsewhere. Now, if several Burgundians, Alemans, or even Romans, should happen to have frequent disputes, in a place where the Salic law was territorial, they must have been determined by the laws of those people; and a great number of decisions agreeable to some of those laws must have introduced new customs into the country. This explains the constitution of Pepin. It was natural that those customs should affect even the Franks, who lived on the spot, in cases not decided by the Salic law; but it was not natural that they should prevail over the Salic law itself.

Thus there were in each place an established law, and received customs, which served as a supplement to that law when they did not contradict it.

They might even happen to supply a law that was no way territorial: and to continue the same example, if a Burgundian was judged by the law of his own nation, in a place where the Salic law was territorial, and the case happened not to be explicitly mentioned in the very text of this law, there is no manner of doubt but judgment would have been passed upon him according to the custom of the place.

In the reign of king Pepin, the customs then established had not the same force as the laws; but it was not long before the laws gave way to the customs. And as new regulations are generally remedies that imply a present evil, it may well be imagined that so Edition: current; Page: [269] early as Pepin’s time, they began to prefer the customs to the established laws.

What has been said, sufficiently explains the manner in which the Roman law began so very early to become territorial, as may be seen in the edict of Pistes; and how the Gothic law continued still in force, as appears by the synod of Troyes* above-mentioned. The Roman was become the general personal law, and the Gothic the particular personal law; consequently the Roman law was territorial. But how came it, some will ask, that the personal laws of the Barbarians fell every where into disuse, while the Roman law was continued as a territorial institution in the Visigoth and Burgundian provinces? I answer, that even the Roman law had very near the same fate as the other personal institutions: otherwise we should still have the Theodosian code in those provinces where the Roman law was territorial, whereas we have the institutes of Justinian. Those provinces retained scarce any thing more than the name of the country under the Roman, or written law; than the natural affection which people have for their own institutions, especially when they consider them as privileges; and a few regulations of the Roman law which were not yet forgotten. This was however sufficient to produce such an effect, that when Justinian’s compilement appeared, it was received in the provinces of the Gothic and Burgundian demesne as a written law, whereas it was admitted only as written reason in the ancient demesne of the Franks.

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CHAP. XIII.: Difference between the Salic Law, or that of the Salian Franks, and that of the Ripuarian Franks, and other barbarous Nations.

THE Salic law did not allow of the custom of negative proofs; that is, if a person brought a demand or charge against another, he was obliged by the Salic law to prove it, and it was not sufficient for the accused to deny it; which is agreeable to the laws of almost all nations.

The law of the Ripuarian Franks had quite a different spirit*; it was contented with negative proofs, and the person against whom a demand or accusation was brought, might clear himself, in most cases, by swearing, in conjunction with a certain number of witnesses, that he had not committed the crime laid to his charge. The number of witnesses who were obliged to swear, increased in proportion to the importance of the affair; sometimes it amounted to seventy-two. The laws of the Alemans, Bavarians, Thuringians, Frisians, Saxons, Lombards, and Burgundians, were formed on the same plan as those of the Ripuarians.

I observed, that the Salic law did not allow of negative proofs. There was one case, however, in which they were allowed; but even then they were not admitted alone, and without the concurrence of Edition: current; Page: [271] positive proofs. The plaintiff* caused witnesses to be heard, in order to ground his action; the defendant produced also witnesses of his side; and the judge was to come at the truth, by comparing those testimonies. This practice was vastly different from that of the Ripuarian, and other barbarous laws, where it was customary for the party accused to clear himself, by swearing he was not guilty, and by making his relations also swear that he had told the truth. These laws could be suitable only to a people remarkable for their natural simplicity and candour; we shall see presently that the legislators were obliged to take proper methods to prevent their being abused.

CHAP. XIV.: Another Difference.

THE Salic law did not admit of the trial by combat; though it had been received by the laws of the Ripuarians, and of almost all the barbarous nations. To me it seems, that the law of combat was a natural consequence, and a remedy of the law which established negative proofs. When an action was brought, and it appeared that the defendant was going to elude it by an oath, what other remedy was left to a military man§, who saw himself upon the point of being confounded, than to demand satisfaction for the injury done to him; and even for the attempt of perjury? The Salic law, which did not allow the Edition: current; Page: [272] custom of negative proofs, neither admitted nor had any need of the trial by combat: but the laws of the Ripuarians* and of the other barbarous nations, who had adopted the practice of negative proofs, were obliged to establish the trial by combat.

Whoever will please to examine the two famous regulations of Gundebald king of Burgundy concerning this subject, will find they are derived from the very nature of the thing. It was necessary, according to the language of the Barbarian laws, to rescue the oath out of the hands of a person who was going to abuse it.

Among the Lombards, the laws of Rotharis admitted of cases, in which a man who had made his defence by oath, should not be suffered to undergo the fatigue of a duel. This custom spread itself farther: we shall presently see the mischiefs that arose from it, and how they were obliged to return to the ancient practice.

CHAP. XV.: A Reflection.

I DO not pretend to deny, but that in the changes made in the code of the Barbarian laws, in the regulations added to that code, and in the body of the Edition: current; Page: [273] capitularies, it is possible to find some passages where the trial by combat is not a consequence of the negative proof. Particular circumstances might, in the course of many ages, give rise to particular laws. I speak only of the general spirit of the laws of the Germans, of their nature and origin; I speak of the ancient oustoms of those people, that were either hinted at or established by those laws; and this is the only matter in question.

CHAP. XVI.: Of the Ordeal, or Trial by boiling Water, established by the Salic Law.

THE Salic law* allowed of the ordeal or trial by boiling water; and as this trial was excessively cruel, the law found an expedient to soften its rigour. It permitted the person who had been summoned to make the trial with boiling water, to ransom his hand, with the consent of the adverse party. The accuser, for a particular sum determined by the law, might be satisfied with the oath of a few witnesses, declaring that the accused had not committed the crime. This was a particular case, in which the Salic law admitted of the negative proof.

This trial was a thing privately agreed upon, which the law permitted only, but did not ordain. The law gave a particular indemnity to the accuser, who would allow the accused to make his defence by a negative proof: the plaintiff was at liberty to be satisfied with the oath of the defendant, as he was at liberty to forgive him the injury.

The law contrived a medium, that before sentence passed, both parties, the one through fear of a Edition: current; Page: [274] terrible trial, the other for the sake of a small indemnity, should terminate their disputes, and put an end to their animosities. It is plain, that when once this negative proof was over, nothing more was requisite; and, therefore, that the practice of legal duels could not be a consequence of this particular regulation of the Salic law.

CHAP. XVII.: Particular Notions of our Ancestors.

IT is astonishing that our ancestors should rest the honour, fortune, and life of the subject, on things that depended less on reason than on hazard; and that they should incessantly make use of proofs incapable of convicting, and that had no manner of connexion either with innocence or guilt.

The Germans who had never been subdued*, enjoyed an excessive independence. Different families waged war with each other, to obtain satisfaction for murders, robberies, or affronts. This custom was moderated, by subjecting these hostilities to rules; it was ordained that they should be no longer committed but by the direction and under the eye of the magistrate. This was far preferable to a general licence of annoying each other.

As the Turks in their civil wars look upon the first victory as a decision of heaven in favour of the victor; so the inhabitants of Germany in their private quarrels, considered the event of a combat as a decree of Providence, Edition: current; Page: [275] ever attentive to punish the criminal or the usurper.

Tacitus informs us, that when one German nation intended to declare war against another, they looked out for a prisoner who was to fight with one of their people, and by the event they judged of the success of the war. A nation who believed that public quarrels could be determined by a single combat, might very well think that it was proper also for deciding the disputes of individuals.

Gundebald*, king of Burgundy, gave the greatest sanction to the custom of legal duels. The reason he assigns for this sanguinary law, is mentioned in his edict. “It is, says he, in order to prevent our subjects from attesting by oath, what they are not certain of, nay, what they know to be false.” Thus, while the clergy declared that an impious law which permitted combats; the Burgundian kings looked upon that as a sacrilegious law, which authorized the taking of an oath.

The trial by combat had some reason for it founded on experience. In a military nation, cowardice supposes other vices; it is an argument of a person’s having deviated from the principles of his education, of his being insensible of honour, and of having refused to be directed by those maxims which govern other men; it shews, that he neither fears their contempt, nor sets any value upon their esteem. Men of any tolerable extraction seldom want either the dexterity requisite to co-operate with strength, or the strength necessary to concur with courage; for as they set a value upon honour, they are practised in matters, without which this honour cannot be obtained. Besides, Edition: current; Page: [276] in a military nation, where strength, courage, and prowess are esteemed, crimes really odious are those which arise from fraud, artifice, and cunning, that is, from cowardice.

With regard to the trial by fire, after the party accused had put his hand on a hot iron, or in boiling water, they wrapped the hand in a bag, and sealed it up: if after three days there appeared no mark, he was acquitted. Is it not plain, that amongst people inured to the handling of arms, the impression made on a rough or callous skin by the hot iron, or by boiling water, could not be so great, as to be seen three days afterwards? And if there appeared any mark, it shewed that the person who had undergone the trial was an esseminate fellow. Our peasants are not afraid to handle hot iron, with their callous hands; and, with regard to the women, the hands of those who worked hard, might be very well able to resist hot iron. The ladies* did not want champions to defend their cause; and in a nation where there was no luxury, there was no middle state.

By the law of the Thuringians, a woman accused of adultery was condemned to the trial by boiling water, only when there was no champion to defend her; and the law of the Ripuarians admits of this trial, only when a person had no witnesses to appear in his justification. Now a woman, that could not prevail upon any one relation to defend her cause, or a man that could not produce one single witness to attest his honesty, were, from those very circumstances, sufficiently convicted.

I conclude, therefore, that under the circumstances of time in which the trial by combat and the trial by Edition: current; Page: [277] hot iron and boiling water obtained, there was such an agreement between those laws and the manners of the people, that the laws were rather unjust in themselves than productive of injustice, that the effects were more innocent than the cause, that they were more contrary to equity than prejudicial to its rights, more unreasonable than tyrannical.

CHAP. XVIII.: In what Manner the Custom of judicial Combats gained Ground.

FROM Agobard’s letter to Lewis the Debonnaire, it might be inferred, that the custom of judicial combats was not established among the Franks; for after having represented to that prince the abuses of the law of Gundebald, he desires* that private disputes should be decided in Burgundy by the law of the Franks. But as it is well known from other quarters, that the trial by combat prevailed at that time in France, this has been the cause of some perplexity. However, the difficulty may be solved by what I have said; the law of the Salian Franks did not allow of this kind of trial, and that of the Ripuarian Franks did.

But, notwithstanding the clamours of the clergy, the custom of judicial combats gained ground continually in France; and I shall presently make it appear, that the clergy themselves were in a great measure the occasion of it.

It is the Law of the Lombards that furnishes us with this proof. There has been long since a detestable custom introduced, says the preamble to the constitution Edition: current; Page: [278] of* Otho II. This is, that if the title to an estate was said to be false, the person who claimed under that title made oath upon the gospels that it was genuine; and without any farther judgment he took possession of the estate: so that they who would perjure themselves, were sure of gaining their point. The emperor Otho I. having caused himself to be crowned at Rome at the very time that a council was held there under pope John XII. all the lords of Italy represented to that prince the necessity of enacting a law to reform this horrid abuse. The pope and the emperor were of opinion, that the affair should be referred to the council, which was to be shortly held at Ravenna. There the lords made the same representations, and repeated their instances; but the affair was put off once more, under pretence of the absence of particular persons. When Otho II. and Conrad§ king of Burgundy arrived in Italy, they had a conference at Verona†† with the Italian lords‡‡; and at their repeated remonstrances, the emperor, with their unanimous consent, made a law, that whenever there happened any disputes about inheritances, and one of the parties insisted upon the legality of his title, and the other maintained its being false, the affair should be decided by combat; that the same rule should be observed in contests relating Edition: current; Page: [279] to fiefs; and that the clergy should be subject to the same law, but should fight by their champions. Here we see, that the nobility insisted on the trial by combat, because of the inconveniency of the proof introduced by the clergy; that notwithstanding the clamours of the nobility, the notoriousness of the abuse which called out loudly for redress, and the authority of Otho who came into Italy to speak and act as master, still the clergy held out in two councils; in fine, that the joint concurrence of the nobility and princes having obliged the clergy to submit, the custom of judicial combats must have been considered as a privilege of the nobility, as a barrier against injustice, and as a security of property, and from that very moment this custom must have gained ground. This was effected at a time when the power of the emperors was great, and that of the popes inconsiderable; at a time when the Othos came to revive the dignity of the empire in Italy.

I shall make one reflection, which will corroborate what has been above said, namely, that the custom of negative proofs produced that of judicial combats. The abuse complained of to the Othos, was, that a person who was charged with having a false title to an estate, defended himself by a negative proof, declaring upon the gospels it was not false. What was it they did to reform this abuse? They revived the custom of judicial combats.

I was in a hurry to speak of the constitution of Otho II. in order to give a clear idea of the disputes between the clergy and the laity of those times. There had been indeed a constitution of* Lotharius I. of an earlier date, who, upon the same complaints and Edition: current; Page: [280] disputes, being desirous of securing the just possession of property, had ordained, that the notary should make oath that the deed or title was not forged; and if the notary should happen to die, the witnesses should be sworn who had signed it. The evil however still continued, till they were obliged at length to have recourse to the remedy above-mentioned.

Before that time, I find, that in the general assemblies held by Charlemaign, the nation represented to him*, that in the actual stare of things it was extremely difficult, but that either the accuser or the accused must forswear themselves; and that for this reason it was much better to revive the judicial combat; which was accordingly done.

The usage of judicial combats gained ground among the Burgundians, and that of an oath was limited. Theodoric king of Italy suppressed the single combat among the Ostrogoths; and the laws of Chaindasuinthus and Recessuinthus seemed as if they would abolish the very idea of it. But these laws were so little respected in Narbonne Gaul, that they looked upon the legal duel as a privilege of the Goths.

The Lombards who conquered Italy, after the Ostrogoths had been destroyed by the Greeks, introduced the custom of judicial combat into that country; but their first laws gave a check to it. Charlemaign, Lewis the Debonnaire, and the Othos, Edition: current; Page: [281] made diverse general constitutions, which we find inserted in the laws of the Lombards, and added to the Salic laws, whereby the practice of legal duels, at first in criminal, and afterwards in civil cases, obtained a greater extent. They knew not what to do. The negative proof by oath had its inconveniencies; that of legal duels had its inconveniencies also; hence they often changed, according as the one or the other affected them most.

On the one hand, the clergy were pleased to see, that in all secular affairs, people were obliged to have recourse to the altar*; and on the other, a haughty nobility were fond of maintaining their rights by the sword.

I would not have it inferred, that it was the clergy who introduced the custom so much complained of by the nobility. This custom was derived from the spirit of the Barbarian laws, and from the establishment of negative proofs. But a practice that contributed to the impunity of such a number of criminals, having given some people reason to think it was proper to make use of the sanctity of the churches, in order to strike terror into the guilty, and to intimidate perjurers, the clergy maintained this usage, and the practice which attended it; for in other respects they were absolutely averse to negative proofs. We find in Beaumanoir, that this kind of proof was never allowed in ecclesiastic courts; which contributed greatly, without doubt, to its suppression, and to Edition: current; Page: [282] weaken, in this respect, the regulation of the codes of the Barbarian laws.

This will convince us more strongly of the connection between the usage of negative proofs, and that of judicial combats, of which I have said so much. The lay tribunals admitted of both; and both were rejected by the ecclesiastic courts.

In chusing the trial by duel, the nation followed its military spirit; for while this was established as a divine decision, the trials by the cross, by cold or boiling waters, which had been also regarded in the same light, were abolished.

Charlemaign ordained, that if any differences should arise between his children, they should be terminated by the judgment of the cross. Lewis the Debonnaire* confined this judgment to ecclesiastic affairs; his son Lotharius abolished it in all cases: nay, he suppressed even the trial by cold water.

I do not pretend to say, that at a time when so few usages were universally received, these trials were not revived in some churches; especially as they are mentioned in a charter of Philip Augustus: but I affirm, they were very seldom practised. Beaumanoir, who lived at the time of St. Lewis, and a little after, enumerating the different kinds of trial, mentions that of judicial combat, but not a word of the others.

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CHAP. XIX.: A new Reason of the Disuse of the Salic and Roman Laws, as also of the Capitularies.

I HAVE already mentioned the reasons that occasioned the disuse of the Salic and Roman laws, as also of the Capitularies; here I shall add, that the principal cause was the great extent given to judiciary combats.

As the Salic laws did not admit of this custom, they became in some measure useless, and fell into oblivion. In like manner, the Roman laws, which also rejected this custom, were laid aside: their whole attention was then taken up in establishing the law of judicial combats, and in forming a proper digest of the several cases that might happen on those occasions. The regulations of the Capitularies became likewise of no manner of service. Thus it is, that such a number of laws lost all their authority, without our being able to tell the precise time in which it was lost; they fell into oblivion, and we cannot find any others that were substituted in their place.

Such a nation had no need of written laws; hence its written laws might very easily fall into disuse.

If there happened to be any disputes between two parties, they had only to order a single combat. For this no great knowledge or abilities were requisite.

All civil and criminal actions are reduced to facts. It is upon these facts they fought; and not only the substance of the affair, but likewise the incidents and imparlances were decided by combat, as Beaumanoir observes,* who produces several instances.

I find that towards the commencement of the third race, the jurisprudence of those times related entirely to personal quarrels, and was governed by the point Edition: current; Page: [284] of honour. If the judge was not obeyed, he insisted upon satisfaction from the person that contemned his his authority. At Bourges, if the provost had summoned a person and he refused to come: his way of proceeding was, to tell him, “I sent for thee, and thou didst not think it worth thy while to come; I demand therefore satisfaction for this thy contempt.” Upon which they fought. Lewis the Fat reformed this custom.

The custom of legal duels prevailed at Orleans, even in all demands of debt. Lewis the Young declared, that this custom should take place only when the demand exceeded five sous. This ordinance was a local law; for in St. Lewis’s time* it was sufficient that the value was more than twelve deniers. Beaumanoir§ heard a gentleman of the law affirm, that formerly there had been a bad custom in France, of hiring a champion for a certain time, to fight their battles in all causes. This shews that the usage of judiciary combats must have had, at that time, a prodigious extent.

CHAP. XX.: Origin of the Point of Honour.

WE meet with inexplicable enigmas in the codes of the laws of the Barbarians. The law of∥∥ the Frisians allows only half a sou in composition to a person that had been beaten with a stick; and yet for ever so small a wound it allows more. By the Salic law, if a freeman gave three blows with a stick to another freeman, he paid three sous; if he drew blood, Edition: current; Page: [285] he was punished as if he had wounded him with steel, and he paid fifteen sous: thus the punishment was proportioned to the greatness of the wound. The law of the Lombards established different compositions for one, two, three, four blows; and so on. At present, a single blow is equivalent to a hundred thousand.

The constitution of Charlemaign inserted in the law of the§ Lombards, ordains, that those who were allowed the trial by combat, should fight with bastons. Perhaps this was out of regard to the clergy; or probably, as the usage of legal duels gained ground, they wanted to render them less sanguinary. The capitulary of* Lewis the Debonnaire, allows the liberty of chusing to fight either with the sword or baston. In process of time none but bondmen fought with the baston.

Here I see the first rise and formation of the particular articles of our point of honour. The accuser began with declaring, in the presence of the judge, that such a person had committed such an action; and the accused made answer, that he lied; upon which the judge gave orders for the duel. It became then an established rule, that whenever a person had the lie given him, it was incumbent on him to fight.

Upon a man’s declaring he would fight, he could not afterwards depart from his word; if he did, he was condemned to a penalty. Hence this rule ensued, that whenever a person had engaged his word, honour sorbade him to recal it.

Gentlemen†† fought one another on horseback, Edition: current; Page: [286] and armed at all points; villains* fought on foot, and with bastons. Hence it followed, that the baston was looked upon as the instrument of insults and affronts; because to strike a man with it, was treating him like a villain.

None but villains fought with their faces uncovered; so that none but they could receive a blow on the face. Therefore a box on the ear became an injury that must be expiated with blood, because the person who received it, had been treated as a villain.

The several people of Germany were no less sensible than we of the point of honour; nay, they were more so. Thus the most distant relations took a very considerable share to themselves in every affront, and on this all their codes are founded. The law of the Lombards ordains, that, whosoever goes attended with servants to beat a man by surprise, in order to load him with shame, and to render him ridiculous, should pay half the composition which he would owe if he had killed him§; and if through the same motive he tied or bound him, he would pay three quarters of the same composition.

Let us then conclude that our forefathers were extremely sensible of affronts; but that affronts of a particular kind, such as being struck with a certain instrument on a certain part of the body, and in a certain manner, were as yet unknown to them. All this was included in the affront of being beaten, and in this case the proportion of the excess constituted the greatness of the outrage.

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CHAP. XXI.: A new Reflection upon the Point of Honour among the Germans.

“IT was a great infamy,” says Tacitus*, “among the Germans for a person to leave his buckler behind him in battle; for which reason many after a misfortune of this kind have destroyed themselves.” Thus the ancient Salic law allows a composition of fifteen sous to any person that had been injuriously reproached with having left his buckler behind him.

When Charlemaign amended the Salic law, he allowed in this case no more than three sous in composition. As this prince cannot be suspected of having had a design to enervate the military discipline; it is manifest that such a change was owing to that of arms, and that from this change of arms a great number of usages derive their origin.

CHAP. XXII.: Of the Manners relative to judicial Combats.

OUR connexions with the fair sex are founded on the pleasure of enjoyment; on the happiness of loving and being beloved; and likewise on the ambition of pleasing the ladies, because they are the best judges of some of those things which constitute personal merit. This general desire of pleasing produces gallantry, which is not love itself, but the delicate, the volatile, the perpetual dissembler of love.

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According to the different circumstances of every country and age, love inclines more to one of those three things than to the other two. Now I maintain, that the prevailing spirit at the time of our judicial combats, must naturally have been that of gallantry.

I find in the law of the Lombards*, that if one of the two champions was found to have any magic herbs about him, the judge ordered them to be taken from him, and obliged him to swear he had no more. This law could be founded only on the vulgar opinion; it was fear, the supposed contriver of such a number of inventions, that made them imagine this kind of prestiges. As in the single combats, the champions were armed at all points; and as with heavy arms, both of the offensive and defensive kind, those of a particular temper and force were of infinite advantage; the notion of some champions having inchanted arms, must certainly have turned the brains of a great many people.

Hence arose the marvellous system of chivalry. The minds of all sorts of people quickly imbibed these extravagant ideas. Then it was they had the romantic notions of knight-errants, necromancers, and of fairies, of winged or intelligent horses, of invisible or invulnerable men, of magicians who concerned themselves in the birth and education of great personages, of inchanted and disinchanted palaces, of a new world in the midst of the old one, the usual course of nature being left only to the lower class of mankind.

Knight-errants ever in armour, in a part of the world abounding with castles, forts, and robbers, placed all their glory in punishing injustice, and in protecting weakness. Hence our romances are full of Edition: current; Page: [289] gallantry founded on the idea of love joined to that of strength and protection.

Such was the original of gallantry, when they formed the notion of an extraordinary race of men, who at the fight of a virtuous and beautiful lady in distress, were inclined to expose themselves to all hazards for her sake, and to endeavour to please her in the common actions of life.

Our romances flattered this desire of pleasing, and communicated to a part of Europe that spirit of gallantry, which we may venture to affirm was very little known to the ancients.

The prodigious luxury of that immense city Rome encouraged sensible pleasures. The tranquility of the plains of Greece gave rise to tender* and amorous sentiments. The idea of knight-errants, protectors of the virtue and beauty of the fair-sex, was productive of gallantry.

This spirit was continued by the custom of tournaments, which uniting the rights of valour and love, added still a considerable importance to gallantry.

CHAP. XXIII.: Of the Code of Laws on judicial Combats.

SOME perhaps will have a curiosity to see this abominable custom of judiciary combat reduced to principle, and to find a code of such extraordinary laws. Men, though reasonable in the main, reduce their very prejudices to rule. Nothing was more contrary to good sense, than those combats: and yet when once this point was laid down, a kind of prudential Edition: current; Page: [290] management was used in carrying it into execution.

In order to be thoroughly acquainted with the jurisprudence of those times, it is necessary to read with attention the regulations of St. Lewis, who made such great changes in the judiciary order. Défontaines was contemporary with that prince: Beaumanoir wrote after* him; and the rest lived since his time. We must therefore look for the ancient practice in the amendments that have been made of it.

CHAP. XXIV.: Rules established in the judicial Combat.

WHEN there happened to be several accusers, they were obliged to agree among themselves that the action might be carried on by a single prosecutor; and if they could not agree, the person before whom the action was brought, appointed one of them to prosecute the quarrel.

When a gentleman challenged a villain, he was obliged to present himself on foot with buckler and baston; but if he came on horseback, and armed like a gentleman, they took his horse and his arms from him; and stripping him to his shirt, they compelled him to fight in that condition with the villain.

Before the combat the magistrates ordered three banns to be published. By the first the relations of the parties were commanded to retire; by the second the people were warned to be silent; and the third prohibited the giving any assistance to either of the parties, under severe penalties; nay, even on pain Edition: current; Page: [291] of death, if by this assistance either of the combatants should happen to be vanquished.

The officers belonging to the civil magistrate* guarded the list or inclosure where the battle was fought; and in case either of the parties declared himself desirous of peace, they took particular notice of the actual state in which things stood at that very moment, to the end that they might be restored to the same situation, in case they did not come to an accommodation.

When the pledges were received either for a crime or for false judgment, the parties could not make up the matter without the consent of the lord: and when one of the parties was overcome, there could be no accommodation without the permission of the count, which had some analogy to our letters of grace.

But if it happened to be a capital crime, and the lord, corrupted by presents, consented to an accommodation; he was obliged to pay a fine of sixty livres, and the right he had of punishing the malefactor devolved to the count.

There were a great many people incapable either of offering, or of accepting battle. But liberty was given them in trial of the cause to chuse a champion; and that he might have a stronger interest in defending the party, in whose behalf he appeared, his hand was cut off if he lost the battle§.

When capital laws were made in the last century against duels, perhaps it would have been sufficient Edition: current; Page: [292] to have deprived a warrior of his military capacity, by the loss of his hand; nothing in general being a greater mortification to mankind, than to survive the loss of their character.

When§ in capital cases the duel was fought by champions, the parties were placed where they could not behold the battle; each was bound with the cord that was to be used at his execution, in case his champion was overcome.

The person overcome in battle, did not always lose the point contested; if, for instance, they fought on an imparlance, he lost only the imparlance.

CHAP. XXV.: Of the Bounds prescribed to the Custom of judicial Combats.

WHEN pledges of battle had been received upon a civil affair of small importance, the lord obliged the parties to withdraw them.

If a fact was notorious;* for instance, if a man had been assassinated in the open market-place, then there was neither a trial by witnesses, nor by combat; the judge gave his decision from the notoriety of the fact.

When the court of a lord had often determined after the same manner, and the usage was thus known, the lord refused to grant the parties the privilege of duelling, to the end that the usages might not be altered by the different success of the combats.

They were not allowed to insist upon duelling but for themselves, for some one belonging to their family, or for their liege lord.

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When the accused had been acquitted,§ another relation could not insist on fighting him; otherwise disputes would never be terminated.

If a person appeared again in public, whose relations, upon a supposition of his being murdered, wanted to revenge his death, there was then no room for a combat: the same may be said if by a notorious absence the fact was proved to be impossible.

If a man* who had been mortally wounded, had disculpated before his death the person accused, and named another, they did not proceed to a duel; but if he had mentioned nobody, his declaration was only looked upon as a forgiveness on his death-bed; the prosecution was continued, and even among gentlemen they could make war against each other.

When there was a war, and one of their relations had given or received pledges of battle, the right of war ceased; for then it was thought that the parties wanted to pursue the ordinary course of justice; therefore he that continued the war would have been sentenced to repair all damages.

Thus the practice of judiciary combat had this advantage, that it was apt to change a general into a particular quarrel, to restore the courts of judicature to their authority, and to reduce to a civil state those who were no longer governed but by the law of nations.

As there are an infinite number of wise things that are managed in a very foolish manner; so there are many foolish things that are very wisely conducted.

When a man who was appealed of a crime, visibly shewed, that it had been committed by the appellant himself, there could be then no pledges of battle; for there is no criminal but would prefer a duel of uncertain event to a certain punishment.

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There were no duels in affairs decided by arbiters, nor by ecclesiastic courts: nor in cases relating to women’s dowries.

A “woman,” says Beaumanoir, “cannot fight.” If a woman appealed a person without naming her champion, the pledges of battle were not accepted. It was also requisite that a woman should be authorized§ by her baron, that is, by her husband, to appeal, but she might be appealed without this authority.

If either the appellant, or the appellee were under fifteen years of age, there could be no combat. They might order it, indeed, in disputes relating to orphans, when their guardians or trustees were willing to run the risk of this procedure.

The cases in which a bondman was allowed to fight, are, I think, as follows. He was allowed to fight another bondman; to fight a freedman, or even a gentleman, in case they were appellants; but if he was the appellant* himself, the others might refuse to fight; and even the bondman’s lord had a right to take him out of the court. The bondman might by his lord’s charter or by usage, fight with any freeman; and the church‡‡ pretended this right for her bondmen, as a mark of respect§§ due to her by the laity.

CHAP. XXVI.: Of the judiciary Combat between one of the Parties, and one of the Witnesses.

BEAUMANOIR informs us∥∥ that a person who saw a witness going to swear against him, might elude the second, by telling the judges, that his adversaries Edition: current; Page: [295] produced a false and slandering witness; and if the witness was willing to maintain the quarrel, he gave pledges of battle. They troubled themselves no farther about the inquest; for if the witness was overcome, it was decided, that the party had produced a false witness, and he lost his cause.

It was necessary the second witness should be prevented from swearing; for if he had made his attestation, the affair would have been decided by the deposition of two witnesses. But by staying the second, the deposition of the first witness was of no manner of use.

The second witness being thus rejected, the party was not allowed to produce any others, but he lost his cause; in case, however, there had been no pledges of battle, he might produce other witnesses.

Beaumanoir observes, that the witness might say to the party he appeared for, before he made his deposition: “I do not care to fight for your quarrel, nor to enter into any debate; but if you are willing to stand by me, I am ready to tell the truth.” The party was then obliged to fight for the witness, and if he happened to be overcome, he did not lose his cause, but the witness was rejected.

This, I believe, was a limitation of the antient custom; and what makes me think so, is, that we find this usage of appealing the witnesses, established in the laws of the§ Bavarians and Burgundians without any restrictions.

I have already made mention of the constitution of Gundebald, against which Agobard* and St. Avitus†† made such loud complaints. “When the accused,” says this prince, “produces witnesses to swear that Edition: current; Page: [296] he has not committed the crime, the accuser may challenge one of the witnesses to a combat; for it is very just, that the person who has offered to swear, and has declared that he was certain of the truth, should make no difficulty to maintain it.” Thus the witnesses were deprived by this king of every kind of subterfuge to avoid the judiciary combat.

CHAP. XXVII.: Of the judicial Combat between one of the Parties, and one of the Lord’s Peers. Appeal of false Judgment.

AS the nature of judicial combats was to terminate the affair for ever, and was incompatible with* a new judgment, and new prosecutions; an appeal, such as is established by the Roman and Canon laws, that is, to a superior court, in order to re-judge the proceedings of an inferior, was a thing unknown in France.

This is a form of proceeding to which a warlike nation, entirely governed by the point of honour, was quite a stranger; and agreeably to this very spirit, the same methods were used against the judges, as was allowed against the parties.

An appeal among the people of this nation was a challenge to fight with arms, a challenge decided by blood, and not by an invitation to a paper quarrel, the knowledge of which was deferred to succeeding ages.

Thus St. Lewis in his institutions, says, that an appeal includes both felony and iniquity. Thus Beaumanoir tells us, that if a vassal§ wanted to make his complaint of an outrage committed against him by his lord, he was first obliged to denounce that he quitted his fief; after which he appealed to his lord paramount, Edition: current; Page: [297] and offered pledges of battle. In like manner the lord renounced the homage of his vassal, if he appealed him before the count.

A vassal to appeal his lord of false judgment, was telling him, that his sentence was unjust and malicious: now, to utter such words against his lord, was in some measure committing the crime of felony.

Hence, instead of bringing an appeal of false judgment against the lord, who appointed and directed the court, they appealed the peers of whom the court itself was formed: by which means they avoided the crime of felony; for they insulted only their peers, with whom they could always account for the affront.

It was a very dangerous thing to appeal the peers of false judgment. If the party waited till judgment was pronounced, he was obliged to fight them all,* when they offered to make good their judgment. If the appeal was made before all the judges had given their opinion, he was obliged to fight all who had agreed in their judgment. To avoid this danger, it was usual to petition the lord to direct that each peer should give his opinion out loud; and when the first had pronounced, and the second was going to do the same, the party told him that he was a liar, a knave, and a slanderer, and then he had to fight only with that peer.

Défontaines would have it, that before an appeal was made of false judgment, it was customary to let three judges pronounce; and he does not say, that it was necessary to fight them all three, much less that there was any obligation to fight all those who had declared themselves of the same opinion. These differences arise from this, that there are few usages exactly Edition: current; Page: [298] in all parts the same; Beaumanoir gives an account of what passed in the county of Clermont; and Défontaines of what was practised in Vermandois.

When* one of the peers had declared that he would maintain the judgment, the judge ordered pledges of battle to be given, and likewise took security of the appellant, that he would maintain his appeal. But the peer who was appealed gave no security, because he was the lord’s vassal, and was obliged to defend the appeal, or to pay the lord a fine of sixty livres.

If the appellant did not prove that the judgment was false, he paid the lord a fine of sixty livres, the same fine to the peer whom he had appealed, and as much to every one of those who had openly consented to the judgment.

When a person violently suspected of a capital crime, had been taken and condemned, he could make no appeal of false judgment: for he would always appeal either to prolong his life, or to get an absolute discharge.

If a person§ said that the judgment was false and bad, and did not offer to make his words good, that is to fight, he was condemned to a fine of six sous, if a gentleman, and to five sous, if a bondman, for the injurious expressions he had uttered.

The judges or peers‡‡ who were overcome, forfeited neither life nor limbs; but the person who appealed them was punished with death, if it happened to be a capital crime.∥∥

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This manner of appealing the peers of false judgment, was to avoid appealing to the lord himself. If the lord§§ had no peers, or had not a sufficient number, he might, at his own expence, hire peers of his lord paramount; but these peers were not obliged to pronounce judgment if they did not like it; they might declare, that they were come only to give their opinion: in that particular case the lord himself pronounced sentence as judge; and if an appeal of false judgment was made against him, it was his business to stand the appeal.

If the lord happened* to be so very poor as not to be able to hire peers of his paramount, or if he neglected to ask for them, or the paramount refused to give them, then the lord could not judge by himself, and as nobody was obliged to plead before a tribunal where judgment could not be given, the affair was brought before the lord paramount.

This, I believe, was one of the principal causes of the separation between the jurisdiction and the fief, from whence arose that maxim of the French lawyers, “The fief is one thing, and the jurisdiction another.” For as there was a vast number of peers who had no subordinate vassals under them, they were incapable of holding their court; all affairs were then brought before their lord paramount, and they lost the privilege of pronouncing judgment, because they had neither power nor will to claim it.

All the peers who had agreed to the judgment, were obliged to be present when it was pronounced, that they might follow one another, and say Yes to the person who, wanting to make an appeal of false Edition: current; Page: [300] judgment, asked them whether they followed; for Défontaines says, “that it is an affair of courtesy and loyalty, and there is no such thing as evasion or delay.” From hence, I imagine, arose the custom still followed in England, of obliging the jury to be all unanimous in their verdict in cases relating to life and death.

Judgment was therefore given according to the opinion of the majority: and if there was an equal division, sentence was pronounced, in criminal cases, in favour of the accused; in cases of debt, in favour of the debtor; and in cases of inheritance, in favour of the defendant.

Défontaines observes, that a peer could not excuse himself by saying that he would not sit in court if there were only four§, or if the whole number, or at least the wisest part, were not present. This is just as if he were to say in the heat of an engagement, that he would not assist his lord, because he had not all his vassals with him. But it was the lord’s business to cause his court to be respected, and to chuse the bravest and most knowing of his tenants. This I mention in order to shew the duty of vassals, which was to fight and to give judgment; and such indeed was this duty, that to give judgment was all the same as to fight.

It was lawful for a lord who went to law with his vassal in his own court, and was cast, to appeal one of his tenants of false judgment. But as the latter owed a respect to his lord for the fealty he had vowed, and the lord on the other hand owed benevolence to his vassal for the fealty accepted; it was customary to make a distinction between the lord’s affirming in general, Edition: current; Page: [301] that the judgment* was false and unjust, and imputing personal prevarications to his tenant. In the former case, he affronted his own court, and in some measure himself, so that there was no room for pledges of battle. But there was room in the latter, because he attacked his vassal’s honour; and the person overcome was deprived of life and property, in order to maintain the public tranquility.

This distinction, which was necessary in that particular case, had afterwards a greater extent. Beaumanoir says, that when the appellant of false judgment attacked one of the peers by personal imputation, battle ensued; but if he attacked only the judgment, the peer appealed was at liberty to determine the dispute either by battle, or by law. But as the prevailing spirit in Beaumanoir’s time was to restrain the usage of judicial combats, and as this liberty which had been granted to the peer appealed, of defending the judgment by combat or not, is equally contrary to the ideas of honour established in those days, and to the obligation the vassal lay under of defending his lord’s jurisdiction; I am apt to think that this distinction of Beaumanoir’s was owing to a new regulation among the French.

I would not have it thought, that all appeals of false judgment were decided by battle; it fared with this appeal as with all others. The reader may recollect the exceptions mentioned in the 25th chapter. Here it was the business of the superior court to examine whether it was proper to withdraw the pledges of battle or not.

There could be no appeal of false judgment against the king’s court; because as there was no one equal Edition: current; Page: [302] to the king, no one could appeal him; and as the king had no superior, none could appeal from his court.

This fundamental regulation, which was necessary as a political law, diminished also as a civil law the abuses of the judicial proceedings of those times. When a lord was afraid* that his court would be appealed of false judgment, or perceived that they were determined to appeal; if justice required there should be no appeal, he might petition for peers from the king’s court, who could not be appealed of false judgment. Thus king Philip, says Défontaines, sent his whole council to judge an affair in the court of the Abbot of Corbey.

If the lord could not have judges from the king, he might remove his court into the king’s, if he held immediately of him: but if there were intermediate lords, he had recourse to his paramount, removing from one lord to another, till he came to the sovereign.

Thus, notwithstanding they had not in those days neither the practice or even the idea of our modern appeals, yet they had recourse to the king, who was the source from whence all those rivers flowed, and the sea into which they returned.

CHAP. XXVIII.: Of the Appeal of Default of Justice.

THE appeal of default of justice was when the court of a particular lord deferred, evaded, or refused to do justice to the parties.

During the time of our princes of the second race, though the count had several offices under him, their Edition: current; Page: [303] person was subordinate, but not their jurisdiction. These officers in their court-days, assizes, or placita, gave judgment in the last resort as the count himself; all the difference consisted in the division of the jurisdiction. For instance, the count had* the power of condemning to death, of judging of liberty, and of the restitution of goods, which the centenarii had not.

For the same reason there were higher causes reserved to the king; namely, those which directly concerned the political order of the state. Such were the disputes between bishops, abbots, counts, and other grandees, which were determined by the king, together with the great vassals.

What some authors have advanced; namely, that an appeal lay from the count to the king’s commissary or missus dominicus, is not well grounded. The count and the missus had an equal jurisdiction independent of each other: The whole difference§ was that the missus held his placita or assizes four months in the year, and the count the other eight.

If a person who had been condemned at an assize**, demanded to have his cause tried over again, and was afterwards cast, he paid a fine of fifteen sous, or received fifteen blows from the judges who had decided the affair.

When the counts or the king’s commissaries did not find themselves able to bring the great lords to reason, Edition: current; Page: [304] they made them give bail or security, that they would appear in the king’s court: this was to try the cause, and not to rejudge it. I find in the capitulary of Metz, a law by which the appeal of false judgment to the king’s court is established, and all other kinds of appeal are proscribed and punished.

If they refused to submit to the judgment of the sheriffs, and made no complaint, they were imprisoned till they had submitted: but if they complained, they were conducted under a proper guard before the king, and the affair was examined in his court.

There could be hardly any room then for an appeal of default of justice. For instead of its being usual in those days to complain, that the counts and others who had a right of holding assizes, were not exact in discharging this duty§; it was a general complaint that they were too exact. Hence we find such numbers of ordinances, by which the counts and all other officers of justice are forbid to hold their assizes above thrice a year. It was not so necessary to chastise their indolence, as to check their activity.

But, after an infinite number of petty lordships had been formed, and different degrees of vassalage established, the neglect of certain vassals in holding their courts gave rise to this kind of appeal*; especially as very considerable profits accrued to the lord paramount from the several fines.

As the custom of judicial combats gained every day more ground, there were places, cases, and times, Edition: current; Page: [305] in which it was difficult to assemble the peers, and consequently in which justice was delayed. The appeal of default of justice was therefore introduced, an appeal that has been often a remarkable æra in our history; because most of the wars of those days were imputed to a violation of the political law; as the cause, or at least the pretence of our modern wars, is the infringement of the law of nations.

Beaumanoir says, that in case of default of justice, battle was not allowed: the reasons are these, 1. they could not challenge the lord, because of the respect due to his person; neither could they challenge the lord’s peers, because the case was clear, and they had only to reckon the days of the summons, or of the other delays; there had been no judgment passed, consequently there could be no appeal of false judgement: in fine, the crime of the peers offended the lord as well as the party, and it was against rule that there should be battle between the lord and his peers.

But as the default was proved by witnesses before the superior court; the witnesses might be challenged, and then neither the lord nor his court were offended.

In case the default was owing to the lord’s tenants or peers by deferring justice or by evading judgment after past delays, then these peers were appealed of default of justice before the paramount; and if they were cast, they paid a fine to their lord. The latter could not give them any assistance; on the contrary, he seized their fief till they had each paid a fine of sixty livres.

2. When the default was owing to the lord, which was the case whenever there happened not to be a Edition: current; Page: [306] sufficient number of peers in his court to pass judgment, or when he had not assembled his tenants or appointed somebody in his room to assemble them, an appeal might be made of the default before the lord paramount; but then the party and not the lord was summoned, because of the respect due to the latter.

The lord demanded to be tried before the paramount, and if he was acquitted of the default, the cause was remanded to him, and he was likewise paid a fine of sixty livres. But if the default was proved, the penalty§ inflicted on him was to lose the trial of the cause, which was to be then determined in the superior court. And indeed, the complaint of default was made with no other view.

3. If the lord was sued* in his own court, which never happened but upon disputes relative to the fief; after letting all the delays pass, the lord himself was summoned before the peers in the sovereign’s name, whose permission was necessary on that occasion. The peers did not make the summons in their own name, because they could not summon their lord, but they could summon** for their lord.

Sometimes†† the appeal of default of justice was followed by an appeal of false judgment, when the lord had caused judgment to be passed, notwithstanding the default.

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The vassal§ who had wrongfully appealed his lord of default of justice, was sentenced to pay a fine according to his lord’s pleasure.

The inhabitants of Gaunt†† had appealed the earl of Flanders of default of justice before the king, for having delayed to give judgment in his own court. Upon examination it was found, that he had used fewer delays than even the custom of the country allowed. They were therefore remanded to him; upon which their effects to the value of sixty thousand livres were seized. They returned to the king’s court in order to have the fine moderated; but it was decided that the earl might insist upon the fine, and even upon more if he pleased. Beaumanoir was present at those judgments.

4. In other disputes which the lord might have with his vassal, in respect to the body or honour of the latter, or to goods that did not belong to the fief, there was no room for an appeal of default of justice; because the cause was not tried in the lord’s court, but in that of the paramount: vassals, says Défontaines*, having no power to give judgment on the body of their lord.

I have been at some trouble to give a clear idea of those things, which are so obscure and confused in ancient authors, that to disentangle them from the chaos in which they were involved, may be reckoned a new discovery.

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CHAP. XXIX.: Epoch of the Reign of St. Lewis.

ST. LEWIS abolished the judicial combats in all the courts of his demesne, as appears by the ordinance he published on that account, and by the institutions.

But he did not suppress them in the courts of his barons, except in the case of appeal of false judgment.

A vassal could not appeal the court of his lord of false judgment, without demanding a judicial combat against the judges who had pronounced sentence. But St. Lewis§ introduced the practice of appealing of false judgment without fighting, a change that may be reckoned a kind of revolution.

He declared††, that there should be no appeal of false judgment in the lordships of his demesne, because it was a crime of felony. If it was a kind of felony against the lord, by a much stronger reason it was felony against the king. But he consented they might demand an amendment‡‡ of the judgments passed in his courts; not because they were false or iniquitous, but because they did some prejudice∥∥. On the contrary, he ordained, that they should be obliged to make an appeal of false judgment against the courts of the barons§§, in case of any complaint.

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It was not allowed by the institutions, as we have already observed, to bring an appeal of false judgment against the courts in the king’s demesnes. They were obliged to demand an amendment before the same court: and in case the bailiff refused the amendment demanded, the king gave leave to make an appeal* to his court; or rather interpreting the institutions by themselves, to present him a request or petition.

With regard to the courts of the lords, St. Lewis by permitting them to be appealed of false judgment, would have the cause brought before the royal tribunal, or that of the lord paramount, not to be decided by duel, but by witnesses pursuant to a certain form of proceeding, the rules of which he laid down in the institutions§.

Thus, whether they could falsify the judgment, as in the court of the barons; or whether they could not falsify, as in the court of his demesne, he ordained, that they might appeal, without the hazard of a duel.

Défontaines** gives us the two first examples he ever saw, in which they proceeded thus without a legal duel: one, in a cause tried at the court of St. Quintin, which belonged to the king’s demesne; and the other, in the court of Ponthieu, where the count, who was present, opposed the ancient jurisprudence: but these two causes were decided by law.

Here, perhaps, it will be asked, why St. Lewis ordained for the courts of his barons a different form Edition: current; Page: [310] of proceeding from that which he had established in the courts of his demesne? The reason is this: when St. Lewis made the regulation for the courts of his demesnes, he was not checked or confined in his views: but he had measures to keep with the lords who enjoyed this ancient prerogative, that causes should not be removed from their courts, unless the party was willing to expose himself to the dangers of an appeal of false judgment. St. Lewis preserved the usage of this appeal; but he ordained, that it should be made without a judicial combat, that is, in order to render the change more insensible, he suppressed the thing and continued the terms.

This regulation was not universally received in the courts of the lords. Beaumanoir* says, that in his time there were two ways of trying causes; one according to the king’s establishment, and the other pursuant to the ancient practice; that the lords were at liberty to follow which way they pleased; but when they had pitched upon one in any cause, they could not afterwards have recourse to the other. He adds, that the count of Clermont followed the new practice, whilst his vassals kept to the old one; but that it was in his power to re-establish the ancient practice whenever he pleased, otherwise he would have less authority than his vassals.

It is proper here to observe, that France was at that time divided into the country of the king’s demesne, and that which was called the country of the barons, or the baronies; and, to make use of the terms of St. Lewis’s institutions, into the country under obedience to the king, and the country out of his obedience. When the king made ordinances for Edition: current; Page: [311] the country of his demesne, he employed his own single authority. But when he published any ordinances that concerned also the country of his barons, these were* made in concert with them, or sealed and subscribed by them: otherwise the barons received or refused them, according as they seemed conducive to the good of their baronies. The rear-vassals were upon the same terms with the great-vassals. Now the institutions were not made with the consent of the lords, though they regulated matters which to them were of great importance: but they were received only by those who believed they would redound to their advantage. Robert, son of St. Lewis, received them in his county of Clermont; yet his vassals did not think proper to conform to this practice.

CHAP. XXX.: Observations on Appeals.

I apprehend that appeals, which were challenges to a combat, must have been made immediately on the spot. “If the party leaves the court without appealing,” says Beaumanoir, “he loses his appeal, and the judgment stands good.” This continued still in force, even after all the restrictions of judicial combat.

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CHAP. XXXI.: The same Subject continued.

THE villain could not bring an appeal of false judgment against the court of his lord. This we learn from Défontaines*, and is confirmed moreover by the institutions. Hence Défontaines says, “between the lord and his villain there is no other judge but God.”

It was the custom of judicial combats that deprived the villains of the privilege of appealing their lord’s court of false judgment. And so true is this, that those villains, who by charter or custom had a right to sight, had also the privilege of appealing their lord’s court of false judgment, even though the peers who tried them were§ gentlemen: and Défontaines** proposes expedients to gentlemen, in order to avoid the scandal of fighting with a villain, by whom they had been appealed of false judgment.

As the practice of judicial combats began to decline, and the usage of new appeals to be introduced, it was reckoned unfair that freemen should have a remedy against the injustice of the court of their lords, and the villains should not; hence the parliament received their appeals all the same as those of freemen.

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CHAP. XXXII.: The same Subject continued.

WHEN an appeal of false judgment was brought against the lord’s court, the lord appeared in person before his paramount, to defend the judgment of his court, In like manner,* in the appeal of default of justice, the party summoned before the lord paramount, brought his lord along with him, to the end that if the default was not proved, he might recover his jurisdiction.

In process of time, as the practice observed in those two particular cases was become general, by the introduction of all sorts of appeals, it seemed very extraordinary that the lord should be obliged to spend his whole life in strange tribunals, and for other people’s affairs. Philip of Valois ordained, that none but the bailiffs should be summoned; and when the usage of appeals became still more frequent, the parties were obliged to defend the appeal: the fact of the judge became that of the party.

I took notice that in the appeal of default of justice, the lord lost only the privilege of having the cause tried in his own court. But if the lord himself was sued as a party,§ which was become a very common practice,** he paid a fine of sixty livres to the king, or to the paramount, before whom the appeal was brought. From thence arose the usage, after appeals had been generally received, of fining the lord upon the amendment of the sentence of his judge; an usage which lasted a long time, and was confirmed Edition: current; Page: [314] by the ordinance of Rousillon, but fell, at length, to the ground, through its own absurdity.

CHAP. XXXIII.: The same Subject continued.

IN the practice of judicial combats, the person who had appealed one of the judges of false judgment, might lose his cause by the combat, but could not possibly gain it. And indeed the party who had a judgment in his favour, ought not to have been deprived of it by another man’s act. The appellant, therefore, who had gained the battle, was obliged to fight likewise against the adverse party: not in order to know whether the judgment was good or bad (for this judgment was out of the case, being reversed by the combat) but to determine whether the demand was just or not; and it was on this new point they fought. From thence proceeds our manner of pronouncing decrees, “The court annuls the appeal; the court annuls the appeal, and the judgment against which the appeal was brought.” In effect, when the person who had made the appeal of false judgment, happened to be overcome, the appeal was reversed; when he proved victorious, both the judgment and the appeal were reversed: then they were obliged to proceed to a new judgment.

This is so far true, that when the cause was tried by inquests, this manner of pronouncing did not take place: witness what M. de la Roche Flavin* says, namely, that the chamber of inquests could not use this form at the beginning of its creation.

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CHAP. XXXIV.: In what Manner the Proceedings at Law became secret.

DUELS had introduced a public form of proceeding, so that both the attack and the defence were equally known. “The witnesses,” says Beaumanoir, “ought to give their testimony in open court.”

Boutillier’s commentator says, he had learnt of ancient practitioners, and from some old manuscript law books, that criminal processes were anciently carried on in public, and in a form nor very different from the public judgments of the Romans. This was owing to their not knowing how to write; a thing in those days very common. The usage of writing fixes the ideas, and preserves the secret; but when this usage is laid aside, nothing but the notoriety of the proceeding is capable of fixing those ideas.

And as uncertainty might easily arise in respect to what had been tried by vassals, they could therefore refresh their memory every time they held a court, by what was called proceedings on record. In that case it was not allowed to challenge the witnesses to combat; for then there would be no end of disputes.

In process of time a secret form of proceeding was introduced. Every thing before had been public; every thing now became secret; the interrogatories, the informations, the re-examinations, the confronting of witnesses, the opinion of the attorney general; and this is the present practice. The first form of proceeding was suitable to the government of that time, as the new form was proper to the government since established.

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Boutillier’s commentator fixes the epoch of this change to the ordinance in the year 1539. I am apt to believe that the change was made insensibly, and passed from one lordship to another, in proportion as the lords renounced the ancient form of judging, and that derived from the institutions of St. Lewis was improved. And indeed, Beaumanoir says,* that witnesses were publicly heard only in cases in which it was allowed to give pledges of battle: in others, they were heard in secret, and their depositions were reduced to writing. The proceedings became therefore secret, when they ceased to give pledges of battle.

CHAP. XXXV.: Of the Costs.

IN former times no one was condemned in the temporal courts of France to the payment of costs. The party cast was sufficiently punished by pecuniary fines to the lord and his peers. From the manner of proceeding by judicial combat, it followed that the party condemned and deprived of life and fortune, was punished as much as he could be: and in the other cases of the judicial combat, there were fines sometimes fixed and sometimes dependent on the disposition of the lord, which were sufficient to make people dread the consequences of suits. The same may be said of causes that were not decided by combat. As the lord had the chief profits, so he was also at the chief expence, either to assemble his peers, or to enable them to proceed to judgment. Besides, as Edition: current; Page: [317] disputes were generally determined on the spot, and without that infinite multitude of writings which afterwards followed, there was no necessity of allowing costs to the parties.

The custom of appeals naturally introduced that of giving costs. Thus Défontaines* says, that when they appealed by written law, that is when they followed the new laws of St. Lewis, they gave costs; but that in the usual custom, which did not permit them to appeal without falsifying the judgment, no costs were allowed. They obtained only a fine, and the possession for a year and a day of the thing contested, if the cause was remanded to the lord.

But when the number of appeals increased from the new facility of appealing; when by the frequent usage of those appeals from one court to another, the parties were continually removed from the place of their residence; when the new method of proceeding multiplied and perpetuated the suits; when the art of eluding the very justest demands was refined; when the parties at law knew how to fly only in order to be followed; when actions proved destructive, and pleas easy; when the arguments were lost in whole volumes of writings; when the kingdom was filled with members of the law, who were strangers to justice; when knavery found encouragement from mean practitioners, though discountenanced by the law; then it was necessary to deter litigious people by the fear of costs. They were obliged to pay costs for the judgment, and for the means they had employed to elude it. Charles the Fair made a general ordinance on that subject.

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CHAP. XXXVI.: Of the public Prosecutor.

AS by the Salic, Ripuarian, and other barbarous laws, crimes were punished with pecuniary fines; they had not in those days, as we have at present, a public officer who has the care of criminal prosecutions. And indeed the issue of all causes being reduced to the reparation of damages, every prosecution was in some measure civil, and might be managed by any one. On the other hand, the Roman law had popular form for the prosecution of crimes, which were inconsistent with the office of a public prosecutor.

The custom of judicial combats was no less opposite to this idea; for who is it that would chuse to make himself every man’s champion against all the world?

I find, in the collection of formulas, inserted by Muratori in the laws of the Lombards, that under the princes of the second race there was an advocate for the public* prosecutor. But whoever pleases to read the entire collection of these formulas, will find that there was a total difference between such officers and those we now call the public prosecutor, our attorney-generals, our king’s solicitors, or our solicitors for the nobility. The former were rather agents to the public for the management of political and domestic affairs, than for the civil. And indeed we did not find in those formulas that they were intrusted with criminal prosecutions, or with causes relating to minors, to churches, or to the condition of persons.

I said that the establishment of a public prosecutor was repugnant to the usage of judicial combats. I find notwithstanding, in one of those formulas, an Edition: current; Page: [319] advocate for the public prosecutor, who had the liberty to fight. Muratori has placed it just after the constitution* of Henry I, for which it was made. In this constitution, it is said, “That if any man kills his father, his brother, or any of his other relations, he shall lose their succession, which shall pass to the other relations, and his own shall go to the exchequer.” Now it was in suing for the succession which had devolved to the exchequer, that the advocate for the public prosecutor, by whom its rights were defended, had the privilege of fighting: This case fell within the general rule.

We see in those formulas the advocate for the public prosecutor proceeding against a person who had taken a robber, but had not brought him before the count; against another who had raised an insurrection or tumult against the count; against§ another who had saved a man’s life whom the count had ordered to be put to death; against the advocate of some churches, whom the count had commanded to bring a robber before him, but had not obeyed; against** another who had revealed the king’s secret to strangers; against†† another who with open violence had attacked the emperor’s commissary; against‡‡ another who had been guilty of contempt to the emperor’s rescripts, and he was prosecuted either by the emperor’s advocate, or by the emperor himself; against§§ another who refused to accept of the prince’s coin; in fine, this advocate sued for things, which by the law were adjudged to the exchequer.∥∥

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But, in criminal causes, we never meet with the advocate for the public prosecutor; not even where duels are used;* not even in the case of incendiaries; not even when the judge is killed on his bench; not even in causes relating to the conditions of persons§, to liberty and slavery.

These formulas are made, not only for the laws of the Lombards, but likewise for the capitularies added to them; so that we have no reason to doubt of their giving us the practice observed, with regard to this subject, under our princes of the second race.

It is obvious that these advocates for a public prosecutor must have ended with our second race of kings, in the same manner as the king’s commissioners in the provinces; because there were no longer any counts in the provinces to hold the affizes, and of course there were no more of those officers, whose principal function was to support the authority of the counts.

As the usage of combats was become more frequent under the third race, it did not allow of any such thing as a public prosecutor. Hence Boutillier, in his Somme Rurale, speaking of the officers of justice, takes notice only of the bailiffs, the peers and serjeants. See the institutions** and Beaumanoir†† concerning the manner in which prosecutions were managed in those days.

I find in the laws§§ of James II. king of Majorca, a creation of the king’s∥∥ attorney-general, with the Edition: current; Page: [321] very same functions as are exercised at present by the officers of that name amongst us. It is manifest that this office was not instituted till we had changed the form of our judiciary proceedings.

CHAP. XXXVII.: In what Manner the Institutions of St. Lewis fell into Oblivion.

IT was the fate of the institutions, that their origin, progress, and decline, were comprised within a very short period.

I shall make a few reflections upon this subject. The code we have now under the name of St. Lewis’s institutions, was never designed as a law for the whole kingdom, though such a design is mentioned in the preface. This compilement is a general code, which determines all points relating to civil affairs, to the disposal of property by will or otherwise, the dowries and advantages of women, and emoluments and privileges of fiefs, with the affairs relative to the police, &c. Now to give a general body of civil laws, at a time when each city, town or village had its customs, was attempting to subvert in one moment all the particular laws then in force in every part of the kingdom. To reduce all the particular customs to a general one, would be a very inconsiderate thing, even at present, when our princes find every where the most passive obedience. But if it be a rule that we ought not to change when the inconveniences are equal to the advantages, much less should we change when the advantages are small and the inconveniences immense. Now if we attentively consider the situation which the kingdom was in at that time, when every lord was puffed up with the notion Edition: current; Page: [322] of his sovereignty and power, we shall find that to attempt a general alteration of the received laws and customs, must be a thing that could never enter into the heads of those who were then in the administration.

What I have been saying, proves likewise that this code of institutions was not confirmed in parliament by the barons and magistrates of the kingdom, as is mentioned in a manuscript of the town-house of Amiens, quoted by Mons. Ducange*. We find in other manuscripts that this code was given by St. Lewis in the year 1270, before he set out for Tunis. But this fact is not truer than the other; for St. Lewis set out upon that expedition in 1269, as Mons. Ducange observes: from whence he concludes, that this code might have been published in his absence. But this, I say, is impossible. How can St. Lewis be imagined to have pitched upon the time of his absence for transacting an affair which would have been the seed of troubles, and might have produced not only changes, but revolutions? An enterprise of that kind had need, more than any other, of being closely pursued, and could not be the work of a feeble regency, composed moreover of lords, whose interest it was that it should not succeed. These were Matthew abbot of St. Denis, Simon of Clermont count of Nelle, and in case of death Philip bishop of Evreux, and John count of Ponthieu. We have seen above that the count of Ponthieu opposed the execution of a new judiciary order in his lordship.

Thirdly, I affirm it to be very probable, that the code now extant is quite a different thing from St. Lewis’s institutions. It cites the institutions, therefore it is a comment upon the institutions, and not the Edition: current; Page: [323] institutions themselves. Besides, Beaumanoir, who frequently makes mention of St. Lewis’s institutions, quotes only some particular laws of that prince, and not this compilement. Défontaines*, who wrote in that prince’s reign, makes mention of the two first times that his institutions on judicial proceedings were put in execution, as of a thing long since elapsed. The institutions of St. Lewis were prior therefore to the compilement I am now speaking of, which in rigor, and adopting the erroneous prefaces inserted by some ignorant persons in that work, could not have been published before the last year of St. Lewis, or even not till after his death.

CHAP. XXXVIII.: The same Subject continued.

WHAT is this compilement then which goes at present under the name of St. Lewis’s institutions? What is this obscure, confused, and ambiguous code, where the French law is continually mixed with the Roman, where the legislator speaks and yet we see a civilian, where we find a complete digest of all cases and points of the civil law? To understand this thoroughly, we must transfer ourselves in imagination to those times.

St. Lewis seeing the abuses in the jurisprudence of his time, endeavoured to give the people a dislike to it: with this view he made several regulations for the court of his demesnes and for those of his barons. And such was his success, that Beaumanoir, who wrote a little after the death of that prince, informs us, that the manner of trying causes which had been Edition: current; Page: [324] established by St. Lewis, obtained in a great number of the courts of the barons.

Thus this prince attained his end, though his regulations for the courts of the lords were not designed as a general law for the kingdom, but as a model which every one might follow, and would even find his advantage in it. He removed the bad practice by shewing them a better. When it appeared that his courts, and those of some lords, had chosen a form of proceeding more natural, more reasonable, more conformable to morality, to religion, to the public tranquility, and to the security of person and property; this form was soon adopted, and the other rejected.

To allure when it is rash to constrain, to win by pleasing means when it is improper to exert authority, shews the man of abilities. Reason has a natural, and even a tyrannical sway; it meets with resistance, but this very resistance constitutes its triumph; for after a short struggle it commands an intire submission.

St. Lewis, in order to give a distaste of the French jurisprudence, caused the books of the Roman law to be translated; by which means they were made known to the lawyers of those times. Défontaines, who is the oldest* law writer we have, made great use of those Roman laws. His work is in some measure a result of the ancient French jurisprudence, of the laws or institutions of St. Lewis, and of the Roman law. Beaumanoir made very little use of the latter; but he reconciled the ancient French laws to the regulations of St. Lewis.

I have a notion therefore that the law book, known by the name of the institutions, was compiled by some bailiffs, with the same design as that of the authors of Edition: current; Page: [325] those two works, and especially of Défontaines. The title of this work mentions, that it is written according to the usage of Paris, Orleans, and the court of Barony; and the preamble says that it treats of the usages of the whole kingdom, and of Anjou, and of the court of Barony. It is plain, that this work was made for Paris, Orleans, and Anjou, as the works of Beaumanoir and Défontaines were framed for the counties of Clermont and Vermandois; and as it appears from Beaumanoir, that divers laws of St. Lewis had been received in the courts of Barony, the compiler was in the right to say, that his work* related also to those courts.

It is manifest, that the person who composed this work, compiled the customs of the country, together with the laws and institutions of St. Lewis. This is a very valuable work, because it contains the ancient customs of Anjou, the institutions of St. Lewis, as they were then in use; and, in fine, the whole practice of the ancient French law.

The difference between this work, and those of Défontaines and Beaumanoir, is, its speaking in imperative terms as a legislator; and this might be right, since it was a medley of written customs and laws.

There was an intrinsic defect in this compilement: it formed an amphibious code, in which the French and Roman laws were mixed, and where things were joined that were no way relative, but often contradictory to each other.

I am not ignorant, that the French courts of vassals or peers, the judgments without power of appealing Edition: current; Page: [326] to another tribunal, the manner of pronouncing sentence by these words, I condemn*, or, I absolve, had some conformity to the popular judgments of the Romans. But they made very little use of that ancient jurisprudence; they rather chose that which was afterwards introduced by the emperor, in order to regulate, limit, correct, and extend the French jurisprudence,

CHAP. XXXIX.: The same Subject continued.

THE judiciary forms introduced by St. Lewis fell into disuse. This prince had not so much in view the thing itself, that is, the best manner of trying causes, as the best manner of supplying the ancient practice of trial. The principal intent was to give a disrelish of the ancient jurisprudence, and the next to form a new one. But when the inconveniencies of the latter appeared, another soon succeeded.

The institutions of St. Lewis did not therefore so much change the French jurisprudence, as they afforded the means of changing it; they opened new tribunals, or rather ways to come at them. And when once the public had easy access to the superior courts, the judgments which before constituted only the usages of a particular lordship, formed an universal digest. By means of the institutions, they had obtained general decisions, which were entirely wanting in the kingdom: when the building was finished, they let the scaffold fall to the ground.

Thus the institutions produced effects which could hardly be expected from a master-piece of legislation. Edition: current; Page: [327] To prepare great changes, sometimes whole ages are requisite; the events ripen, and the revolutions follow.

The parliament judged in the last resort of almost all the affairs of the kingdom. Before*, it took cognizance only of disputes between the dukes, counts, barons, bishops, abbots, or between the king and his vassals, rather in the relation they had to the political, than to the civil order. They were soon obliged to render it permanent, whereas it used to be held only a few times in a year: and, in fine, a great number were created, in order to be sufficient for the decision of all manner of causes.

No sooner was the parliament become a fixed body, than they began to compile its decrees. John de Monluc, under the reign of Philip the Fair, made a collection, which, at present, is known by the name of the Olim registers.

CHAP. XL.: In what Manner the Judiciary Forms were borrowed from the Decretals.

But how comes it, some will say, that when the institutions were laid aside, the judicial forms of the canon law should be preferred to those of the Roman? It was because they had constantly before their eyes the ecclesiastic courts, which followed the forms of the canon law, and they knew of no court that followed those of the Roman law. Besides, the limits of the spiritual and temporal jurisdiction were at that Edition: current; Page: [328] time very little understood; there were* people who sued indifferently, and causes that were tried indifferently, in either court. It seems as if the temporal jurisdiction reserved no other cases exclusively to itself than the judgment of feudal matters, and of such crimes committed by laymen as did not relate to religion. For§ if on the account of conventions and contracts, they had occasion to sue in a temporal court, the parties might of their own accord, proceed before the spiritual tribunals; and as the latter had not a power to oblige the temporal court to execute the sentence, they commanded submission by means of excommunications. Under those circumstances, when they wanted to change the course of proceedings in the temporal court, they took that of the spiritual tribunals, because they knew it; but did not meddle with that of the Roman law, by reason, they were strangers to it: for in point of practice, people know only what is really practised.

CHAP. XLI.: Fiux and Reflux of the ecclesiastic and temporal Jurisdiction.

THE civil power being in the hands of an infinite number of lords, it was an easy matter for the ecclesiastic jurisdiction to gain daily a greater extent. But as the ecclesiastic courts weakened those of the lords, Edition: current; Page: [329] and contributed thereby to give strength to the royal jurisdiction, the latter gradually checked the jurisdiction of the clergy. The parliament, which in its form of proceedings had adopted whatever was good and useful in the spiritual courts, soon perceived nothing else but the abuses which had crept into those tribunals; and as the royal jurisdiction gained ground every day, it grew every day more capable of correcting those abuses. And indeed, they were intolerable: without enumerating them, I shall refer* the reader to Beaumanoir, to Boutillier, and to the ordinances of our kings. I shall mention only two, in which, the public interest was more directly concerned. These abuses we know by the decrees that reformed them; they had been introduced in the times of the darkest ignorance, and upon the breaking out of the first gleam of light, they vanished. From the silence of the clergy it may be presumed, that they forwarded this reformation: which, considering the nature of the human mind, deserves commendation. Every man that died without bequeathing a part of his estate to the church, which was called dying without confession, was deprived of the sacrament, and of christian burial. If he died intestate, his relations were obliged to prevail upon the bishop, that he would, jointly with them, name proper arbiters, to determine what sum the deceased ought to have given, in case he had made a will. People could not lie together the first night of their nuptials, or even the two following nights, without having previously purchased leave: these, indeed, were the best three nights to chuse; for as to the others, they Edition: current; Page: [330] were not worth much. All this was redressed by the Parlement: we find in the* glossary of the French Law, by Ragau, the decree which it published against the bishop of Amiens.

I return to the beginning of my chapter. Whenever we observe in any age or government, the different bodies of the state endeavouring to increase their authority, and to take particular advantages of each other, we should be often mistaken were we to consider their encroachments as an evident mark of their corruption. Through a fatality inseparable from human nature, moderation in great men is very rare: and as it is always much easier to push on force in the direction in which it moves, than to stop its moment, so in the superior class of the people, it is less difficult, perhaps, to find men extremely virtuous, than extremely prudent.

The human mind feels such an exquisite pleasure in the exercise of power; even those who are lovers of virtue are so excessively fond of themselves, that there is no man so happy, as not to have still reason to mistrust his honest intentions; and, indeed, our actions depend on so many things, that it is infinitely more easy to do good, than to do it well.

CHAP. XLII.: The Revival of the Roman Law, and the Result thereof. Change in the Tribunals.

UPON the discovery of Justinian’s digest towards the year 1137, the Roman law seemed to rise out of its ashes. Schools were then established in Italy, Edition: current; Page: [331] where it was publicly taught; they had already the Justinian code, and the Novellæ. I mentioned before, that this code had been so favourably received in that country, as to eclipse the law of the Lombards.

The Italian doctors brought the law of Justinian into France, where they had only* the Theodosian code; because Justinian’s laws were not made till after the settlement of the Barbarians in Gaul. This law met with some opposition: but it stood its ground notwithstanding the excommunications of the popes, who supported their own canons. St. Lewis endeavoured to bring it into repute by the translations of Justinian’s works, made according to his orders, which are still in manuscript in our libraries; and I have already observed, that they made great use of them in compiling the Institutions. Philip the Fair ordered the laws of Justinian to be taught, only as written reason, in those provinces of France that were governed by customs; and they were adopted as a law in those provinces where the Roman law had been received.

I have already taken notice, that the manner of proceeding by judicial combat, required very little knowledge in the judges: disputes were decided according to the usage of each place, and to a few simple customs received by tradition. In Beaumanoir’s time§ there were two different ways of administering Edition: current; Page: [332] justice; in some places they tried by peers, in others by bailiffs: in following the former way, the peers gave judgment according to the practice of their court; in the latter, it was the prodes homines, or old men, who pointed out this same practice to the bailiff. This whole proceeding required neither learning, capacity, nor study. But when the dark code of the institutions made its appearance; when the Roman law was translated and taught in public schools; when a certain art of procedure and jurisprudence began to be formed; when practitioners and civilians were seen to rise; the peers and the prodes homines were no longer capable of judging: the peers began to withdraw from the lords tribunals; and the lords were very little inclined to assemble them; especially as the new form of trial, instead of being a solemn proceeding, agreeable to the nobility, and interesting to a warlike people, was become a course of pleading. which they neither understood, nor cared to learn. The custom of trying by peers began to be less used; that of trying by bailiffs to be more so; the bailiffs did not give§ judgment Edition: current; Page: [333] themselves, they summoned up the evidence and pronounced the judgment of the prodes homines; but the latter being no longer capable of judging, the bailiffs themselves gave judgment.

This was effected so much the easier, as they had before their eyes the practice of the ecclesiastic courts; the canon and new civil law both concurred alike to abolish the peers.

Thus fell the usage hitherto constantly observed in the French monarchy, that judgment should not be pronounced by a single person, as may be seen in the Salic laws, the capitularies, and in the first* law-writers under the third race. The contrary abuse, which obtains only in local jurisdictions, has been moderated, and in some measure redressed, by introducing in many places a judge’s deputy, whom he consults, and who represents the ancient prodes homines by the obligation the judge is under of taking two graduates, in cases that deserve a corporal punishment; and, in fine, it is become of no manner of effect by the extreme facility of appeals.

CHAP. XLIII.: The same subject continued.

THUS there was no law to prohibit the lords from holding their courts themselves; none to abolish the functions of their peers; none to ordain the creation of bailiffs; none to give them the power of judging. All this was effected insensibly, and by the very necessity Edition: current; Page: [334] of the thing. The knowledge of the Roman law, the decrees of the courts, the new digest of the customs, required a study of which the nobility and illiterate people were incapable.

The only ordinance we have upon this subject, is that which obliged the lords to chuse their bailiffs from among the laity. It is a mistake to look upon this as a law of their creation; for it says no such thing. Besides, the intention of the legislator is determined by the reasons assigned in the ordinance: “to the end that the bailiffs may be punished for their prevarications, it is necessary they be taken from the order of the laity.” The immunities of the clergy in those days are very well known.

We must not imagine that the privileges which the nobility formerly enjoyed, and of which they are now divested, were taken from them as usurpations: no, many of those privileges were lost through neglect, and others were given up, because as various changes had been introduced in the course of so many ages, they were inconsistent with those changes.

CHAP. XLIV.: Of the Proof by Witnesses.

THE judges, who had no other rule to go by than the usages, inquired very often by witnesses into every cause that was brought before them.

The usage of judicial combats beginning to decline, they made their inquests in writing. But a verbal proof committed to writing, is never more than a verbal proof; so that this only increased the expences of law proceedings. Regulations were then made which Edition: current; Page: [335] rendered most of those inquests useless; public registers were established, which ascertained most facts, as nobility, age, legitimacy and marriage. Writing is a witness very hard to corrupt; the customs were therefore reduced to writing. All this is very reasonable; it is much easier to go and see in the baptismal register, whether Peter is the son of Paul, than to prove this fact by a tedious inquest. When there are a great number of usages in a country, it is much easier to write them all down in a code, than to oblige individuals to prove every usage. At length the famous ordinance was made, which prohibited the admitting of the proof by witnesses, for a debt exceeding an hundred livres, except there was the beginning of a proof in writing.

CHAP. XLV.: Of the Customs of France.

FRANCE, as we have already observed, was governed by written customs; and the particular usages of each lordship constituted the civil law. Every lordship had its civil law, according to Beaumanoir,* and so particular a law, that this author who is looked upon as a luminary, and a very great luminary, of those times, says, he does not believe that throughout the whole kingdom there were two lordships intirely governed by the same law.

This prodigious diversity had a two-fold origin. With regard to the first, the reader may recollect what has been already said concerning it in the chapter of local customs: and as to the second we meet with it in the different events of legal duels; Edition: current; Page: [336] it being natural that a continual series of fortuitous cases must have been productive of new usages.

These customs were preserved in the memory of old men; but insensibly laws or written customs were formed.

1. At the commencement of* the third race, the kings gave not only particular charters, but likewise general ones, in the manner above explained; such are the institutions of Philip Augustus, and those made by St. Lewis. In like manner the great vassals, in concurrence with the lords who held under them, granted certain charters or establishments, according to particular circumstances at the assizes of their duchies or counties: such were the assize of Godfrey count of Brittany, on the division of the nobles; the customs of Normandy granted by duke Ralph; the customs of Champagne, given by king Theobald; the laws of Simon count of Montfort, and others. This produced some written laws, and even more general ones than those they had before.

2. At the beginning of the third race, almost all the common people were bondmen; but there were several reasons which afterwards determined the kings and lords to infranchise them.

The lords by infranchising their bondmen, gave them property; it was necessary therefore to give them civil laws, in order to regulate the disposal of that property. But by infranchising their bondmen, they likewise deprived themselves of their property; there was a necessity therefore of regulating the rights which they reserved to themselves, as an equivalent for that property. Both these things were regulated by the charters of infranchisement; those charters formed a part of our customs, and this part was reduced to writing.

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3. Under the reign of St. Lewis and of the succeeding princes, some able practitioners, such as Défontaines, Beaumanoir, and others, committed the customs of their bailiwics to writing. Their design was rather to give the course of judicial proceedings, than the usages of their time in respect to the disposal of property. But the whole is there, and though these particular authors have no authority but what they derive from the truth and notoriety of the things they speak of, yet there is no manner of doubt but they contributed greatly to the restoration of our ancient French jurisprudence. Such was in those days our common law.

We are come now to the grand epocha. Charles VII. and his successors caused the different local customs throughout the kingdom to be reduced to writing, and prescribed set forms to be observed to their digesting. Now as this digesting was made through all the provinces, and as people came from each lordship to declare in the general assembly of the province the written or unwritten usages of each place, endeavours were used to render the customs more general, as much as possible, without injuring the interests of individuals, which were carefully* preserved. Thus our customs were characterized in a three-fold manner; they were committed to writing, they were made more general, and they received the stamp of the royal authority.

Many of these customs having been digested anew, several changes were made, either in suppressing whatever was incompatible with the actual practice of the law, or in adding several things drawn from this practice.

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Though the common law is considered amongst us as in some measure opposite to the Roman, insomuch that these two laws divide the different territories; it is notwithstanding true, that several regulations of the Roman law entered into our customs, especially when they made the new digests, at a time not very distant from ours, when this law was the principal study of those who were designed for civil employments; at a time when it was not usual for people to boast of not knowing what it was their duty to know, and of knowing what they ought not to know; at a time when a quickness of understanding was made more subservient towards learning, than pretending to, a profession; and when a continual pursuit of amusements was not even the characteristic of women.

I should have been more diffuse at the end of this book; and entering into the several details, should have traced all the insensible changes, which from the opening of appeals, have formed the great Corpus of our French Jurisprudence. But this would have been ingrafting one large work upon another. I am like that antiquarian* who set out from his own country, arrived in Egypt, cast an eye on the pyramids, and returned home.


CHAP. I.: Of the Spirit of a Legislator.

I SAY it, and methinks I have undertaken this work with no other view than to prove it; the spirit Edition: current; Page: [339] of a legislator ought to be that of moderation; political, like moral evil, lying always between two extremes. Let us produce an example.

The set forms of justice are necessary to liberty; but the number of them might be so great as to be contrary to the end of the very laws that established them; processes would have no end; property would be uncertain; the goods of one of the parties would be adjudged to the other without examining, or they would both be ruined by examining too much.

The citizens would lose their liberty and security; the accusers would no longer have any means to convict, nor the accused to justify themselves.

CHAP. II.: The same Subject continued.

CECILIUS, in Aulus Gellius*, speaking of the law of the Twelve Tables, which permitted the creditor to cut the insolvent debtor into pieces, justifies it even by its cruelty, which hindered people from borrowing beyond their ability of paying. Shall then the cruellest laws be the best? Shall goodness consist in excess, and all the relations of things be destroyed?

CHAP. III.: That the Laws which seem to deviate from the Views of the Legislator, are frequently agreeable to them.

THE law of Solon which declared those persons infamous who espoused no side in an insurrection, Edition: current; Page: [340] seemed very extraordinary; but we ought to consider the circumstances in which Greece was at that time It was divided into very small states: and there was reason to apprehend, lest in a republic, torn by intestine divisions, the soberest part should keep retired, in consequence of which, things might be carried to extremity.

In the seditions raised in those petty states, the bulk of the citizens either made or engaged in the quarrel. In our large monarchies, parties are formed by a few, and the people chuse to live quiet. In the latter case it is natuaal to call back the seditious to the bulk of the citizens; and not these to the seditious: in the other it is necessary to oblige the small number of prudent people to enter among the seditious: it is thus the fermentation of one liquor may be stopped by a single drop of another.

CHAP. IV.: Of the Laws contrary to the Views of the Legislator.

THERE are laws so little understood by the legislator, as to be contrary to the very end he proposed. Those who made this regulation among the French, that when one of the two competitors died, the benefice should devolve to the survivor, had in view, without doubt, the extinction of quarrels; but the very reverse falls out; we see the clergy at variance every day, and like English mastiffs worrying one another to death.

CHAP. V.: The same Subject continued.

THE law I am going to speak of, is to be found in this oath preserved by Æschines*; “I swear that Edition: current; Page: [341] I will never destroy a town of the Amphictyones’ and that I will not divert the course of its running waters; if any nation shall presume to do such a thing, I will declare war against them, and will destroy their towns.” The last article of this law, which seems to confirm the first, is really contrary to it. Amphictyon is willing that the Greek towns should never be destroyed, and yet this law paves the way for their destruction. In order to establish a proper law of nations among the Greeks, they ought to have been accustomed early to think it a barbarous thing to destroy a Greek town; consequently, they ought not even to ruin the destroyers. Amphictyon’s law was just; but it was not prudent; this appears even from the abuse made of it. Did not Philip assume the power of demolishing towns, under the pretence of their having infringed the laws of the Greeks? Amphictyon might have inflicted other punishments; he might have ordained, for example, that a certain number of the magistrates of the destroying town, or of the chiefs of the infringing army, should be punished with death; that the destroying nation should cease for a while to enjoy the privileges of the Greeks; that they should pay a fine till the town was rebuilt. The law ought, above all things, to aim at the reparation of damages.

CHAP. VI.: That Laws which appear the same, have not always the same Effect.

CÆSAR made a law to* prohibit people from keeping above sixty sesterces in their houses. This Edition: current; Page: [342] law was considered at Rome as extremely proper for reconciling the debtors to their creditors; because by obliging the rich to lend to the poor, they enabled the latter to pay their debts. A law of the same nature made in France at the time of the System, proved extremely fatal; because it was enacted under a most frightful situation. After depriving people of all possible means of laying out their money, they stripped them even of the last resource of keeping it at home; which was the same as taking it from them by open violence. Cæsar’s law was intended to make the money circulate; the French minister’s design was to draw all the money into one hand. The former gave either lands or mortgages on private people for the money; the latter proposed in lieu of money, nothing but effects which were of no value, and could have none by their very nature, because the law compelled people to accept of them.

CHAP. VII.: The same Subject continued. Necessity of composing Laws in a proper Manner.

THE law of Ostracism was established at Athens, at Argos, and at Syracuse. At Syracuse it was productive of a thousand mischiefs, because it was imprudently enacted. The principal citizens banished one another by holding the leaf of a fig-tree in their hands; so that those who had any kind of merit withdrew from public affairs. At Athens, where the legislator was sensible of the proper extent and limits of his law, ostracism proved an admirable regulation: they never condemned more than one person at a time; Edition: current; Page: [343] and such a number of suffrages were requisite for passing this sentence, that it was extremely difficult for them to banish a person whose absence was not necessary to the state.

The power of banishing was exercised only every fifth year: and indeed, as the ostracism was designed against none but great personages who threatened the state with danger, it ought not to have been the transaction of every day.

CHAP. VIII.: That Laws which appear the same, were not always made through the same Motive.

IN France they have received most of the Roman laws on substitutions, but through quite a different motive from the Romans. Among the latter the inheritance was accompanied with certain* sacrifices, which were to be performed by the inheritor, and were regulated by the pontifical law; hence it was, that they reckoned it a dishonour to die without heirs, that they made slaves their heirs, and that they devised substitutions. Of this we have a very strong proof in the vulgar substitution, which was the first invented, and took place only when the heir appointed did not accept of the inheritance. Its views were not to perpetuate the estate in a family of the same name, but to find somebody that would accept of it.

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CHAP. IX.: That the Greek and Roman Laws punished Suicide, but not through the same Motive.

A MAN, says Plato*, who has killed one nearly related to him, that is himself, not by an order of the magistrate, not to avoid ignominy, but through pusillanimity, shall be punished. The Roman law punished this action when it was not committed through pusillanimity, through weariness of life, through impatience in pain, but from a criminal despair. The Roman law acquitted where the Greek condemned, and condemned where the other acquitted.

Plato’s law was formed upon the Lacedæmonian institutions, where the orders of the magistrate were absolute, where shame was the greatest of miseries, and pusillanimity the greatest of crimes. The Romans had no longer those refined ideas; theirs was only a fiscal law.

During the time of the republic, there was no law at Rome against suicides: this action is always considered by their historians in a favourable light, and we never meet with any punishment inflicted upon those who committed it.

Under the first emperors, the great families of Rome were continually destroyed by criminal prosecutions. The custom was then introduced of preventing judgment by a voluntary death. In this they found a great advantage: they had an honourable interment, and their wills were executed, because there was no law against suicides. But when the emperors Edition: current; Page: [345] perors became as avaricious as cruel, they deprived those who destroyed themselves of the means of preserving their estates, by rendering it criminal for a person to make away with himself through a criminal remorse.

What I have been saying of the motive of the emperors, is so true, that they consented* that the estates of suicides should not be confiscated, when the crime for which they killed themselves was not punished with confiscation.

CHAP. X.: That Laws which seem contrary, proceed sometimes from the same Spirit.

IN our time we give summons to people in their own houses; but this was not permitted among the Romans.

A summons was a violent action, and a kind of warrant for seizing the body; hence it was no more allowed to summon a person in his own house, than it is now allowed to arrest a person in his own house for debt.

Both the Roman§ and our laws admit of this principle alike, that every man ought to have his own house for an asylum, where he should suffer no violence.

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CHAP. XI.: How we are to judge of the Difference of Laws.

IN France, the punishment against false witnesses is capital; in England it is not. Now, to be able to judge which of these two laws is the best, we must add, that in France the rack is used against criminals, but not in England; that in France the accused is not allowed to produce his witnesses; and that they very seldom admit of circumstantial evidence in favour of the prisoner; in England they allow of witnesses on both sides. These three French laws form a close and well connected system; and so do the three English laws. The law of England, which does not allow of the racking of criminals, has but very little hopes to draw from the accused a confession of his crime; for this reason it invites witnesses from all parts, and does not venture to discourage them by the fear of a capital punishment. The French law, which has one resource more, is not afraid of intimidating the witnesses; on the contrary, reason requires they should be intimidated; it listens only to the witnesses on one side*, which are those produced by the attorney-general, and the fate of the accused depends entirely on their testimony. But in England they admit of witnesses on both sides, and the affair is discussed in some measure between them; consequently false witness is there less dangerous, the accused having a remedy against the false witness, which he has not in France. Wherefore, to determine which of those laws are most agreeable to reason, we must not consider them singly, but compare the whole together.

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CHAP. XII.: That Laws which appear the same, are sometimes really different.

THE Greek and Roman laws inflicted the same* punishment on the receiver as on the thief; the French law does the same. The former acted rationally, but the latter does not. Among the Greeks and Romans, the thief was condemned to a pecuniary punishment, which ought also to be inflicted on the receiver: for every man that contributes in what shape soever to a damage, is obliged to repair it. But as the punishment of theft is capital with us, the receiver cannot be punished like the thief, without carrying things to excess. A receiver may act innocently on a thousand occasions; the thief is always culpable: one hinders the conviction of a crime, the other commits it; in one the whole is passive, the other is active; the thief must surmount more obstacles, and his soul must be more hardened against the laws.

The civilians have gone farther; they look upon the receiver as more odious than the thief; for were it not for the receiver, the theft, say they, could not be long concealed. But this again might be right when there was only a pecuniary punishment; the affair in question was a damage done, and the receiver was generally better able to repair it; but when the punishment became capital, they ought to have been directed by other principles.

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CHAP. XIII.: That we must not separate Laws from the End for which they were made. Of the Roman Laws on Theft.

WHEN a thief was caught in the fact, this was called by the Romans an open theft; when he was not detected till some time afterwards, it was a private theft.

The law of the twelve tables ordained, that an open thief should be whipt with rods, and condemned to slavery, if he had attained the age of puberty; or only whipt, if he was not of ripe age; but as for the private thief, he was only condemned to a fine of double the value of what he had stolen.

When the Porcian laws abolished the custom of whipping the citizens with rods, and of reducing them to slavery, the open thief was condemned to* a payment of four-fold, and they still continued to condemn the private thief to a payment of double.

It seems very odd, that these laws should make such a difference in the quality of those two crimes, and in the punishments they inflicted. And indeed, whether the thief was detected either before or after he had carried the stolen goods to the place intended, this was a circumstance which did not alter the nature of the crime. I do not at all question but the whole theory of the Roman laws in relation to theft was borrowed from the Lacedæmonian institutions. Lycurgus, with a view of rendering the citizens dextrous and cunning, ordained that children should be practised in thieving, and that those who were caught in Edition: current; Page: [349] the fact should be severely whipt: this occasioned among the Greeks, and afterwards among the Romans, a great difference between an open and a private theft*.

Among the Romans a slave who had been guilty of stealing was thrown from the Tarpeian rock. Here the Lacedæmonian institutions were out of the question; the laws of Lycurgus in relation to theft were not made for slaves; to deviate from them in this respect was in reality conforming to them.

At Rome, when a person of unripe age happened to be caught in the fact, the prætor ordered him to be whipt with rods according to his pleasure, as was practised at Sparta. All this had a more distant origin. The Lacedæmonians had derived these usages from the Cretans; and Plato, who wants to prove that the Cretan institutions were designed for war, cites the following, namely, the habit or power of bearing pain in private combats, and in punishments inflicted for open thefts.

As the civil laws depend on the political institutions, because they are made for the same society; whenever there is a design of adopting the civil law of another nation, it would be proper to examine before-hand whether they have both the same institutions, and the same political law.

Thus when the Cretan laws on theft were adopted by the Lacedæmonians, as their constitution and government were adopted at the same time, these laws were equally reasonable in both nations. But when they were carried from Lacedæmonia to Rome, as they did not find there the same constitution, they were always thought strange, and had no manner of connexion with the other civil laws of the Romans.

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CHAP. XIV.: That we must not separate the Laws from the Circumstances in which they were made.

IT was decreed by a law at Athens, that when the city was besieged, all the useless people should be put to death*. This was an abominable political law, in consequence of an abominable law of nations. Among the Greeks, the inhabitants of a town taken, lost their civil liberty, and were sold as slaves. The taking of a town implied its intire destruction; which is the source not only of those obstinate defences, and of those unnatural actions, but likewise of those shocking laws which they sometimes enacted.

The Roman laws ordained that physicians should be punished for neglect or unskilfulness. In those cases, if the physician was a person of any fortune or rank, he was only condemned to deportation; but if he was of a low condition, he was put to death. By our institutions it is otherwise. The Roman laws were not made under the same circumstances as ours: at Rome every ignorant pretender intermeddled with physic; but amongst us, physicians are obliged to go through a regular course of study, and to take their degrees; for which reason they are supposed to understand their profession.

CHAP. XV.: That sometimes it is proper the Law should amend itself.

THE law of the twelve tables allowed people to kill a night-thief as well as a day-thief, if upon being Edition: current; Page: [351] pursued he attempted to make a defence: but it required that the person who killed the thief*, should cry out and call his fellow-citizens: this is indeed what those laws, which permit people to do justice to themselves, ought always to require. It is the cry of innocence, which in the very moment of the action, calls in witnesses and appeals to judges. The people ought to take cognizance of the action, and at the very instant of its being done; an instant when every thing speaks, even the air, the countenance, the passions, the silence of the agent; and when every word either condemns or absolves. A law which may become so contrary to the security and liberty of the citizens, ought to be executed in their presence.

CHAP. XVI.: Things to be observed in the composing of Laws.

THEY who have a genius sufficient to enable them to give laws to their own, or to another nation, ought to be particularly attentive to the manner of forming them.

The stile ought to be concise. The laws of the twelve tables are a model of conciseness; the very children used to learn them by heart. Justinian’s Novellæ were so very diffused, that they were obliged to abridge them.

The stile should also be plain and simple; a direct expression being better understood than an indirect one. There is no majesty at all in the laws of the lower empire; princes are made to speak like rhetoricians. Edition: current; Page: [352] When the stile of laws is tumid, they are looked upon only as a work of parade and ostentation.

It is an essential article that the words of the laws should excite in every body the same ideas. Cardinal Richlieu* agreed, that a minister might be accused before the king; but he would have the accuser punished, if the facts he proved were not matters of moment. This was enough to hinder people from telling any truth whatsoever against the minister; because a matter of moment is entirely relative, and what may be of moment to one is not so to another.

The law of Honorius punished with death any person that purchased a freed-man as a slave, or that gave him molestation. He should not have made use of so vague an expression; the molestation given to a man, depends entirely on the degree of his sensibility.

When the law would fix a set rate upon things, it should avoid as much as possible the estimating it in money. The value of money changes from a thousand causes, and the same denomination continues without the same thing. Every one knows the story of that impudent fellow at Rome, who used to give those he met a box on the ear, and afterwards tendered them the five and twenty pence of the law of the twelve tables.

When the law has once fixed the idea of things, it should never return to vague expressions. The ordinance of Lewis XIV. concerning criminal matters after an exact enumeration of the cause in which the Edition: current; Page: [353] king is immediately concerned, adds these words, “and those which in all times have been subject to the determination of the king’s judges; this renders the thing again arbitrary, after it had been fixed.

Charles VII.* says, he has been informed that the parties appeal three, four, and six months after judgment, contrary to the custom of the kingdom in the country governed by custom: he therefore ordains, that they shall appeal forthwith, unless there happens to be some fraud or deceit in the attorney, or unless there be a great or evident cause to sue the appeal. The end of this law destroys the beginning, and it destroys it so effectually, that they used afterwards to appeal during the space of thirty years.

The law of the Lombards does not allow a woman that has taken a religious habit, though she has made no vow, to marry; because, says this law, “if a spouse who has been contracted to a woman only by a ring, cannot without guilt be married to another; for a much stronger reason the spouse of God or of the blessed virgin”. . . . . Now I say, that in laws the arguments should be drawn from one reality to another, and not from reality to figure, or from figure to reality.

A law enacted by Constantine§, ordains, that the single testimony of a bishop should be sufficient, without listening to any other witnesses. This prince took a very short method; he judged of affairs by persons, and of persons by dignities.

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The laws ought not to be subtle; they are designed for people of common understanding; not as an art of logic, but as the plain reason of a father of a family.

When there is no necessity for exceptions and limitations in a law, it is much better to omit them: details of that kind throw people into new details.

No alteration should be made in a law without sufficient reason. Justinian ordained, that a husband might be repudiated, and yet the wife not lose her portion, if for the space of* two years he had been incapable of consummating the marriage. He altered his law afterwards, and allowed the poor wretch three years. But in a case of that nature, two years are as good as three, and three are not worth more than two.

When a legislator condescends to give the reason of his law, it ought to be worthy of its majesty. A Roman law decrees, that a blind man is incapable to plead, because he cannot see the ornaments of the magistracy. So bad a reason must have been given on purpose, when such a number of good reasons were at hand.

Paul the civilian says, that a child grows perfect in the seventh month, and that the proportion of Pythagoras’s numbers seems to prove it. It is very extraordinary that they should judge of those things by the proportion of Pythagoras’s numbers.

Some French lawyers have asserted, that when the king made an acquisition of a new country, the churches became subject to the regale, because the king’s crown is round. I shall not examine here into Edition: current; Page: [355] the king’s rights, or whether in this case the reason of the civil or ecclesiastic law ought to submit to that of the law of politics: I shall only say, that those august rights ought to be defended by grave maxims. Was there ever such a thing known, as the real rights of a dignity, founded on the figure of that dignity’s sign?

Davila* says, that Charles IX. was declared of age in the parliament of Roan at fourteen years commenced, because the laws require every moment of the time to be reckoned, in cases relating to the restitution and administration of an orphan’s estate: whereas it considers the year commenced as a year complete, when the case is concerning the acquisition of honours. I am very far from censuring a regulation which has been hitherto attended with no inconveniency; I shall only take notice that the reason alledged is not the true one; it is false, that the government of a nation is only an honour.

In point of presumption, that of the law is far preferable to that of the man. The French law considers every act of a merchant during the ten days preceding his bankruptcy as fraudulent: this is the presumption of the law. The Roman law inflicted punishments on the husband who kept his wife after she had been guilty of adultery, unless he was induced to do it through fear of the event of a law-suit, or through contempt of his own shame; this is the presumption of the man. The judge must have presumed the motives of the husband’s conduct, and must have determined a very obscure and ambiguous point: when the law presumes, it gives a fixed rule to the judge.

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Plato’s law*, as I have observed already, required that a punishment should be inflicted on the person who killed himself not with a design of avoiding shame, but through pusillanimity. This law was so far defective, that in the only case in which it was impossible to draw from the criminal an acknowledgment of the motive upon which he had acted, it required the judge to determine concerning these motives.

As useless laws debilitate such as are necessary, so those that may be easily eluded, weaken the legislation. Every law ought to have its effect, and no one should be suffered to deviate from it by a particular exception.

The Falcidian law ordained among the Romans, that the heir should always have the fourth part of the inheritance: another law suffered the testator to prohibit the heir from retaining this fourth part. This is making a jest of the laws. The Falcidian law became useless: for if the testator had a mind to favour his heir, the latter had no need of the Falcidian law; and if he did not intend to favour him, he forbad him to make use of it.

Care should be taken that the laws be worded in such a manner, as not to be contrary to the very nature of things. In the proscription of the prince of Orange, Philip II. promises to any man that will kill the prince, to give him, or his heirs, five and twenty thousand crowns, together with the title of nobility; and this upon the word of a king, and as a servant of God. To promise nobility for such an action! to ordain such an action in the quality of a servant of God! This is equally subversive of the ideas of honour, morality, and religion.

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There very seldom happens to be a necessity of prohibiting a thing which is not bad, under pretence of some imaginary perfection.

There ought to be a certain simplicity and candor in the laws: made to punish the inquity of men, they themselves should be clad with the robes of innocence. We find in the law of the* Visigoths that ridiculous request, by which the Jews were obliged to eat every thing dressed with pork, provided they did not eat the pork itself. This was a very great cruelty; they were obliged to submit to a law, contrary to their own; and they were allowed to retain nothing more of their own, than what might serve as a mark to distinguish them.

CHAP. XVII.: A bad Method of giving Laws.

THE Roman emperors manifested their will like our princes, by decrees and edicts; but they permitted, which our princes do not, both the judges and private people to interrogate them by letters in their several differences; and their answers were called rescripts. The decretals of the popes are rescripts, strictly speaking. It is plain, that this is a bad method of legislation. Those who thus apply for laws are improper guides to the legislator; the facts are always wrong stated. Julius Capitolinus says, that Trajan often refused to give this kind of rescripts, lest a single decision, and frequently a particular favour, should be extended to all cases. Macrinus resolved to abolish all those rescripts; he could not Edition: current; Page: [358] bear that the answers of Commodus, Caracalla, and all those other ignorant princes, should be considered as laws. Justinian thought otherwise, and he filled his compilement with them.

I would advise those who read the Roman laws, to distinguish carefully between this sort of hypotheses, and the Senatus-consulta, the Plebiscita, the general constitutions of the emperors, and all the laws founded on the nature of things, on the frailty of women, the weakness of minors, and the public utility.

CHAP. XVIII.: Of the Ideas of Uniformity.

THERE are certain ideas of uniformity, which sometimes strike great geniuses, (for they even affected Charlemaign) but infallibly make an impression on little souls. They discover therein a kind of perfection; because it is impossible for them not to see it; the same weights, the same measures in trade, the same laws in the state, the same religion in all its parts. But is this always right, and without exception? Is the evil of changing constantly less than that of suffering? And does not a greatness of genius consist rather in distinguishing between those cases in which uniformity is requisite, and those in which there is a necessity for differences? In China the Chinese are governed by the Chinese ceremonial: and the Tartars by theirs. And yet there is no nation in the world that aims so much at tranquility. If the people observe the laws, what signifies it whether these laws are the same?

CHAP. XIX.: Of Legislators.

ARISTOTLE wanted to indulge sometimes his jealousy against Plato, and sometimes his passion for Edition: current; Page: [359] Alexander. Plato was incensed against the tyranny of the people of Athens. Machiavel was full of his idol, the duke of Valentinois. Sir Thomas More, who spoke rather of what he had read, than of what he thought, wanted* to govern all states with the simplicity of a Greek city. Harrington was full of the idea of his favourite republic of England, whilst a croud of writers saw nothing but confusion where monarchy is abolished. The laws always meet the passions and prejudices of the legislator; sometimes they pass through, and imbibe only a tincture; sometimes they stop, and are incorporated with them.


CHAP. I.: Of feudal Laws.

I SHOULD think my work imperfect, were I to pass over in silence an event which never again, perhaps, will happen; were I not to speak of those laws which suddenly appeared over all Europe, without being connected with any of the former institutions; of those laws which have done infinite good and infinite mischief; which have suffered rights to remain when the demesne has been ceded; which by vesting several with different kinds of seignory over Edition: current; Page: [360] the same things or persons, have diminished the weight of the whole seignory; which have established different limits in empires of too great an extent; which have been productive of rule with a bias to anarchy, and of anarchy with a tendency to order and harmony.

This would require a particular work to itself; but considering the nature of the present undertaking, the reader will here meet rather with a general survey, than with a complete treatise of those laws.

The feudal laws form a very beautiful prospect. A venerable old* oak raises its losty head to the skies; the eye sees from afar its spreading leaves: upon drawing nearer, it perceives the trunk, but does not discern the root; the ground must be dug up to discover it.

CHAP. II.: Of the Source of feudal Laws.

THE conquerors of the Roman empire came from Germany. Though few ancient authors have described their manners, yet we have two of very great weight. Cæsar making war against the Germans, describes the manners of that nation; and upon these he regulated some of his enterprises. A few pages of Cæsar upon this subject are equal to whole volumes.

Tacitus has written an entire work on the manners of the Germans. This work is short, but it comes from the pen of Tacitus, who was always concise, because he saw every thing at one glance.

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These two authors agree so perfectly with the codes still extant of the laws of the barbarians, that reading Cæsar and Tacitus, we imagine we are perusing these codes, and perusing these codes, we fancy we are reading Cæsar and Tacitus.

But if in this research into the feudal laws, I should find myself entangled and lost in a dark labyrinth, I fancy I have the clue in my hand, and that I shall be able to find my way through.

CHAP. III.: The Origin of Vassalage.

CÆSAR* says, “That the Germans neglected agriculture; that the greatest part of them lived upon milk, cheese, and flesh; that no one had lands or boundaries of his own; that the princes and magistrates of each nation allotted what portion of land they pleased, to individuals, and obliged them the year following to remove to some other part.” Tacitus says, “That each prince had a multitude of men, who were attached to his service, and followed him wherever he went.” This author gives them a name in his language relative to their state, which is that of companions. They had a strong emulation to obtain the prince’s esteem; and the princes had the same emulation to distinguish themselves in the bravery and number of their companions. “Their dignity and power,” continues Tacitus, “consists in being constantly surrounded with a multitude of young and chosen people: this they reckon their ornament Edition: current; Page: [362] in peace, this their defence and support in war. Their name becomes famous at home, and among neighbouring nations, when they excel all others in the number and courage of their companions: they receive presents and embassies from all parts. Reputation frequently decides the fate of war. In battle it is infamy in the prince to be surpassed in courage; it is infamy in the companions not to follow the brave example of their prince, it is an eternal disgrace to survive him. To defend him is their most sacred engagement. If a city be at peace, the princes go to those who are at war; and it is thus they retain a great number of friends. To these they give the war-horse and the terrible javelin. Their pay consists in coarse but plentiful repasts. The prince supports his liberality merely by war and plunder. You might easier persuade them to attack an enemy, and to expose themselves to the dangers of war, than to cultivate the land, or to attend to the cares of husbandry; they refuse to acquire by sweat what they can purchase with blood.”

Thus, among the Germans there were vassals, but no fiefs; they had no fiefs, because the princes had no lands to give; or rather their fiefs consisted in horses trained for war, in arms, and feasting. There were vassals, because there were trusty men who being bound by their word engaged to follow the prince to the field, and did very near the same service as was afterwards performed for the fiefs.

CHAP. IV.: The same Subject continued.

CÆSAR* says, that “when any of the princes declared to the assembly that he intended to set out Edition: current; Page: [363] upon an expedition, and asked them to follow him, those who approved the leader, and the enterprize, stood up and offered their assistance. Upon which they were commended by the multitude. But if they did not fulfil their engagements, they lost the public esteem, and were looked upon as deserters and traitors.”

What Cæsar says in this place, and what we have extracted in the preceding chapter from Tacitus, is the substance of the history of our princes of the first race.

We must not therefore be surprized, that our kings should have new armies to raise upon every expedition, new troops to encourage, new people to engage; that to acquire much they were obliged to incur great expences; that they should be constant gainers by the division of lands and spoils, and yet give these lands and spoils incessantly away: that their demesne should continually increase and diminish; that a father upon settling a kingdom on one of his children, should always give him a treasure with it; that the king’s treasure should be considered as necessary to the monarchy; and that one king could not give part of it to foreigners, even in portion with his daughter, without the consent of the other kings. The monarchy moved by springs, which they were continually obliged to wind up.

CHAP. V.: Of the Conquests of the Franks.

IT is not true, that the Franks upon entering Gaul, took possession of the whole country to turn it into Edition: current; Page: [364] fiefs. Some have been of this opinion, because they saw the greatest part of the country towards the end of the second race, converted into fiefs, rear-fiefs, or other dependencies; but such a disposition was owing to particular causes, which we shall explain hereafter.

The consequence which sundry writers would infer from thence, that the Barbarians made a general regulation for establishing in all parts the state of villainage, is as false as the principle from which it is derived. If at a time when the fiefs were precarious, all the lands of the kingdom had been fiefs or dependencies of fiefs, and all the men in the kingdom vassals or bondmen, subordinate to vassals; as the person that has property is every possessed of power, the king who continually disposed of the fiefs, that is, of the only property then existing, would have been as arbitrary a monarch as the Grand Seignior; which is absolutely contradictory to all history.

CHAP. VI.: Of the Goths, Burgundians, and Franks.

GAUL was invaded by German nations. The Visigoths took possession of the province of Narbonue, and of almost all the south; the Burgundians settled in the east; and the Franks subdued very near all the rest.

No doubt but these Barbarians retained in their respective conquests the manners, inclinations, and usages of their own country; for no nation can change in an instant their manner of thinking and acting. These people in Germany neglected agriculture. It seems by Cæsar and Tacitus, that they applied themselves greatly to a pastoral life: hence the regulations of the codes of the barbarian laws are almost all relating Edition: current; Page: [365] to their flocks. Roricon, who wrote a history among the Franks, was a shepherd.

CHAP. VII.: Different Ways of dividing the Land.

AFTER the Goths and Burgundians had under various pretences penetrated into the heart of the empire, the Romans, in order to put a stop to their devastations, were obliged to provide for their subsistence. At first they allowed them* corn; but afterwards chose to give them lands. The emperors, or the Roman magistrates in their name, made particular conventions with them concerning the division of lands, as we find in the chronicles and in the codes of the Visigoths and Burgundians.§

The Franks did not follow the same plan. In the Salic and Ripuarian laws we find not the least vestige of any such division of lands: they had conquered the country, and so took what they pleased, making no regulations but amongst themselves.

Let us therefore distinguish between the conduct of the Burgundians and Visigoths in Gaul, of those same Visigoths in Spain, of the auxiliary troops under Augustulus and Odoacer in Italy, and that of the Franks in Gaul, as also of the Vandals** in Africa. The former entered into conventions with the antient inhabitants, and in consequence thereof made a division Edition: current; Page: [366] of lands between them; the latter did no such thing.

CHAP. VIII.: The same Subject continued.

WHAT has induced some to think that the Roman lands were entirely usurped by the barbarians, is their finding in the laws of the Visigoths and the Burgundians, that these two nations had two thirds of the lands: but this they took only in certain quarters or districts assigned them.

Gundebald* says in the law of the Burgundians, that his people at their establishment had two-thirds of the lands allowed them; and the second supplement to this law takes notice, that only a moiety would be allowed to those who should hereafter come to live in that country. Therefore all the lands had not been divided in the beginning between the Roman and the Burgundians.

In those two regulations we meet with the same expressions in the text; consequently they explain one another; and as the latter cannot mean an universal division of lands, neither can this signification be given to the former.

The Franks acted with the same moderation as the Burgundians; they did not strip the Romans wherever they extended their conquests. What would they have done with so much land? They took what suited them, and left the remainder.

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CHAP. IX.: A just application of the Law of the Burgundians and of that of the Visigoths in relation to the division of Lands.

IT is to be considered that those divisions of land were not made with a tyrannical spirit; but with a view of relieving the reciprocal wants of two nations that were to inhabit the same country.

The law of the Burgundians ordains that a Burgundian shall be received in an hospitable manner by a Roman. This is agreeable to the manners of the Germans, who, according to Tacitus,* were the most hospitable people in the world.

By the law of the Burgundians, it is ordained, that the Burgundians shall have two-thirds of the lands, and one third of the bondmen. In this it considered the genius of two nations, and conformed to the manner in which they procured their subsistence. As the Burgundians dealt chiefly in cattle, they wanted a great deal of land and few bondmen, and the Romans from their application to agriculture had need of less land and of a greater number of bondmen. The woods were equally divided, because their wants in this respect were the same.

We find in the code of the Burgundians, that each Barbarian was placed near a Roman. The division therefore was not general; but the Romans who gave the division, were equal in numbers to the Burgundians who received it. The Roman was injured the least possible. The Burgundians as a martial people, fond of hunting and of a pastoral life, did not refuse to accept of the fallow grounds; while the Romans kept such lands as were properest for Edition: current; Page: [368] agriculture: the Burgundian’s flock fattened the Roman’s field.

CHAP. X.: Of Servitudes.

THE law of the Burgundians takes notice, that when those people settled in Gaul, they were allowed two-thirds of the land, and one-third of the bondmen. The state of villainage was therefore§ established in that part of Gaul before it was invaded by the Burgundians.

The law of the Burgundians in points relating to the two nations makes a formal distinction in both, between the nobles, the free-born, and the bondmen, Servitude was not therefore a thing particular to the Romans; nor liberty and nobility particular to the Barbarians.

This very same law says,* that if a Burgundian freedman had not given a particular sum to his master, nor received a third share of a Roman, he was always supposed to belong to his master’s family. The Roman proprietor was therefore free, since he did not belong to another person’s family; he was free, because his third portion was a mark of liberty.

We need only open the Salic and Ripuarian laws, to be satisfied that the Romans were no more in a state of servitude among the Franks, than among the other conquerors of Gaul.

The count de Boulainvilliers is mistaken in the capital point of his system: he has not proved that the Edition: current; Page: [369] Franks made a general regulation to reduce the Romans into a kind of servitude.

As this author’s work is penned without art, and as he speaks with the simplicity, frankness, and candor of that ancient nobility from whence he descends, every one is capable of judging of the fine things he says, and of the errors into which he is fallen. I shall not therefore undertake to criticise him; I shall only observe, that he had more wit than sense, more sense than knowledge; though his knowledge was not contemptible, for he was well acquainted with the most valuable part of our history and laws.

The count de Boulainvilliers, and the abbé du Bos, have formed two different systems, one of which seems to be a conspiracy against the commons, and the other against the nobility. When the sun gave leave to Phaeton to drive his chariot, he said to him, “If you ascend too high, you will burn the heavenly mansions; if you descend too low, you will reduce the earth to ashes: Do not drive to the right, you will meet there with the constellation of the serpent; avoid going too much to the left, you will there fall in with that of the altar: keep in the middle*.”

CHAP. XI.: The same Subject continued.

WHAT first gave rise to the notion of a general regulation made at the time of the conquest, is our meeting with a prodigious number of servitudes in France towards the beginning of the third race; and Edition: current; Page: [370] as the continual progression of these servitudes was not attended to, people imagined in an age of obscurity a general law which was never framed.

Towards the commencement of the first race, we meet with an infinite number of freemen, both among the Franks and the Romans; but the number of bondmen increased to that degree, that at the beginning of the third race, all the husbandmen and almost all the inhabitants of towns were become bondmen: and whereas at the first period there was very near the same administration in the cities as among the Romans; namely, a corporaton, a senate, and courts of judicature; at the other we hardly meet with any thing but a lord and his bondmen.

When the Franks, Burgundians, and Goths, made their several invasions, they seized upon gold, silver, moveables, cloaths, men, women, boys, and whatever the army could carry; the whole was brought to one place, and divided amongst the army. History shews, that after the first settlement, that is after the first devastations, they entered into an agreement with the inhabitants, and left them all their political and civil rights. This was the law of nations in those days; they plundered every thing in time of war, and granted every thing in time of peace. Were it not so, how should we find both in the Salic and Burgundian laws such a number of regulations absolutely contrary to a general servitude of the people?

But though the conquest was not immediately productive of servitude, it arose nevertheless from the same law of nations§ which subsisted after the conquest. Opposition, revolts, and the taking of towns, Edition: current; Page: [371] were followed by the slavery of the inhabitants. And, not to mention the wars which the conquering nations made against one another, as there was this particularity among the Franks, that the different partitions of the monarchy gave rise continually to civil wars between brothers or nephews, in which this law of nations was constantly practised, servitudes of course became more general in Franee than in other countries: and this is, I believe, one of the causes of the difference between our French laws and those of Italy and Spain, in respect to the right of seignories.

The conquest was soon over; and the law of nations then in force was productive of some servile dependencies. The custom of the same law of nations, which obtained for many ages, gave a prodigious extent to those servitudes.

Theodoric imagining that the people of Auvergne were not faithful to him, thus addressed the Franks of his division: “Follow me, and I will carry you into a country where you shall have gold, silver, captives, clothes, and flocks in abundance; and you shall remove all the people into your own country.”

After the conclusion of the peace* between Gontram and Chilperic, the troops employed in the siege of Bourges having had orders to return, carried such a considerable booty away with them, that they hardly left either men or cattle in the country.

Theodoric, king of Italy, whose spirit and policy it was ever to distinguish himself from the other barbarian kings, upon sending an army into Gaul, wrote thus to the General “It is my will that the Roman laws be followed, and that you restore the fugitive slaves to their right owners. The defender of liberty Edition: current; Page: [372] ought not to encourage servants to desert their masters. Let other kings delight in the plunder and devastation of the towns which they have subdued; we are desirous to conquer in such a manner, that our subjects shall lament their having fallen too late under our government.” It is evident, that his intention was to cast an odium on the king’s of the Franks and the Burgundians, and that he alluded in the above passage to their particular law of nations.

Yet this law of nations continued in force under the second race. King Pepin’s army, having penetrated into Aquitaine, returned to France loaded with an immense booty, and with a vast number of bondmen, as we are informed by the annals of Metz*.

Here might I quote numberless authorities; and as the public compassion was raised at the sight of those miseries, as several holy prelates, beholding the captives in chains, employed the treasure belonging to the church, and sold even the sacred utensils, to ransom as many as they could; and as several holy monks exerted themselves on that occasion, it is in the lives of the saints that we meet with the best eclaircissements on this subject. And, although it may be objected to the authors of those lives, that they have been sometimes a little too credulous in respect to things which God has certainly performed, if they were in the order of his providence; yet we draw considerable lights from thence, with regard to the manners and usages of those times.

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When we cast an eye upon the monuments of our history and laws, the whole seems to be an immense expanse, or a boundless ocean: all those frigid, dry, crude writings must be devoured in the same manner, as Saturn is fabled to have devoured the stones.

A vast quantity of land which had been in the hands of freemen,§ was changed into mortmain, when the country was stripped of its free inhabitants; those who had a great multitude of bondmen either took large territories by force, or had them yielded by agreement, and built villages, as may be seen in different charters. On the other hand, the freemen who cultivated the arts, found themselves reduced to exercise those arts in a state of servitude: thus the servitudes restored to the arts and to agriculture whatever they had lost.

It was a customary thing with the proprietors of land, to give them to the churches, in order to hold them themselves by a quit-rent, thinking to partake by their servitude of the sanctity of the churches.

CHAP. XII.: That the lands belonging to the division of the Barbarians paid no taxes.

A PEOPLE remarkable for their simplicity and poverty, a free and martial people, who lived without any other industry than that of tending their flocks, and who had nothing but rush cottages to attach them to their lands; such a people, I say, must have followed their chiefs for the sake of booty, Edition: current; Page: [374] and not to pay or to raise taxes. The art of tax-gathering is generally invented too late, and when men begin to enjoy the felicity of other arts.

The transient* tax of a pitcher of wine for every acre, which was one of the exactions of Chilperic and Fredegonda, related only to the Romans. And indeed it was not the Franks that tore the rolls of those taxes, but the clergy who in those days were all Romans. The burthen of this tax lay chiefly on the inhabitants of the towns; now these were almost all inhabited by Romans.

Gregory of Tours relates, that a certain judge was obliged after the death of Chilperic to take refuge in a church, for having under the reign of that prince ordered taxes to be levied on several Franks, who in the reign of Childebert were ingenui, or freeborn: “Multos de Francis, qui tempore Childeberti regis ingenui fuerant, publico tributo subegit.” Therefore the Franks who were not bondmen paid no taxes.

There is not a grammarian but would be ashamed to see how the Abbé du Bos§ has interpreted this passage. He observes, that in those days the freedmen were also called ingenui. Upon this supposition he renders the Latin word ingenui, by freed from taxes; a phrase, which we indeed may use, as freed from cares, freed from punishments; but in the Latin tongue, such expressions as ingenui a tributis, libertini a tributis, manumissi tributorum, would be quite monstrous.

Parthenius, says Gregory of Tours had like to have been put to death by the Franks for subjecting Edition: current; Page: [375] them to taxes. The Abbé du Bos finding himself hard pressed by this passage* very coolly supposes the thing in question: it was, he says, an extraordinary duty.

We find in the law of the Visigoths, that when a Barbarian had seized upon the estate of a Roman, the judge obliged him to sell it, to the end that this estate might continue to be tributary; consequently the Barbarians paid no taxes.

The Abbé du Bos§ who, to support his system, would fain have the Visigoths subject to taxes, quits the literal and spiritual sense of the law, and pretends upon no other indeed than an imaginary foundation, that between the establishment of the Goths and this law there had been an augmentation of taxes which related only to the Romans. But none but father Harduin are allowed thus to exercise an arbitrary power over facts.

This learned author** has rumaged Justinian’s code††, in search of laws, to prove that among the Romans the military benefices were subject to taxes. From whence he would infer that the same held good with regard to fiefs or benefices among the Franks. But the opinion that our fiefs derive their origin from that institution of the Romans, is Edition: current; Page: [376] at present exploded; it obtained only at a time when the Roman history, but not ours, was well understood, and our ancient records lay buried in obscurity and dust.

But the Abbé is in the wrong to quote Cassiodorus, and to make use of what was transacting in Italy, and in the part of Gaul subject to Theodoric, in order to acquaint us with the practice established among the Franks; these are things which must not be confounded. I propose shewing, some time or other, in a particular work, that the plan of the monarchy of the Ostrogoths was intirely indifferent from that of any other government founded in those days by the other Barbarian nations; and so far are we entitled to affirm that a practice obtained among the Franks, because it was established among the Ostrogoths, that on the contrary we have just reason to think that a custom of the Ostrogoths was not in force among the Franks.

The hardest task for persons of extensive erudition, is to deduce their arguments from passages not foreign to the subject, and to find, if we may be allowed to express ourselves in astronomical terms, the true place of the sun.

The same author makes a wrong use of the capitularies, as well as of the historians and laws of the barbarous nations. When he wants the Franks to pay taxes, he applies to freemen what can be understood only of* bondmen; when he speaks of their military service, he applies to bondmen what can never relate but to freemen.

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CHAP. XIII.: Of Taxes paid by the Romans and Gauls, in the monarchy of the Franks.

I MIGHT here examine whether after the Gauls and Romans were conquered, they continued to pay the taxes to which they were subject under the emperors. But, for the sake of brevity, I shall be satisfied with observing that if they paid them in the beginning, they were soon after exempted, and that those taxes were changed into a military service. For I confess I cannot conceive how the Franks should have been at first such great friends, and afterwards such sudden and violent enemies, to taxes.

A capitulary* of Lewis the Debonnaire explains extremely well the situation of the freemen in the monarchy of the Franks. Some troops of Goths or Iberians, flying from the oppression of the Moors, were received into Lewis’s dominions. The agreement made with them was, that like other freemen they should follow their count to the army; and that upon a march they should mount guard and patrol under the command also of their count; and that they should furnish horses and carriages for baggage to the king’s commissaries and to the ambassadors in their way to and from court; and that they should not be compelled to pay any further acknowledgment, but should be treated as the other freemen.

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It cannot be said that these were new usages introduced towards the commencement of the second race. This must be referred at least to the middle or to the end of the first. A capitulary of the year* 864, says in express terms, that it was the ancient custom for freemen to perform military service, and to furnish likewise the horses and carriages above mentioned; duties particular to themselves, and from which those who possessed the fiefs were exempt, as we shall prove hereafter.

This is not all; there was a regulation which hardly permitted the imposing of taxes on those freemen. He who had sour manors was always obliged to march against the enemy: he who had but three, was joined with a freeman that had only one; the latter bore the fourth part of the other’s charges, and staid at home. In like manner, they joined two freemen who had each two manors; he who went to the army had half his charges borne by him who staid at home.

Again, we have an infinite number of charters, in which the privileges of fiefs are granted to lands or districts possessed by freemen, and of which I shall make farther mention hereafter. These lands are exempted from all the duties or services, which were required of them by the counts, and by the rest of the Edition: current; Page: [379] king’s officers: and as all these services are particularly enumerated, without making any mention of taxes, it is manifest that no taxes were imposed upon them.

It was very natural that the Roman art of tax-gathering should fall of itself in the monarchy of the Franks: it was a most complicate art, far above the conception, and wide from the plan, of those simple people. Were the Tartars to over-run Europe, we should find it very difficult to make them comprehend what is meant by our financiers.

The* anonymous author of the life of Lewis the Debonnaire, speaking of the counts and other officers of the nation of the Franks, whom Charlemaign established in Aquitania, says, that he intrusted them with the care of defending the frontiers, as also with the military power and the direction of the demesnes belonging to the crown. This shews the state of the royal revenues under the second race. The prince had kept his demesnes in his own hands, and employed his bondmen in improving them. But the indictions, the capitations, and other imposts raised at the time of the emperors on the persons or goods of freemen, had been changed into an obligation of defending the frontiers, and marching against the enemy.

In the same history, we find that Lewis the Debonnaire having been to wait upon his father in Germany, this prince asked him, why he, who was a crowned head, came to be so poor: to which Lewis made answer, that he was only a nominal king, and that the great lords were possessed of almost all his demesnes; that Charlemaign, being apprehensive lest this young prince should forfeit their affection, if he attempted himself to resume what he had inconsiderately Edition: current; Page: [380] granted, appointed commissaries to restore things to their former situation.

The bishops writings to Lewis brother to Charles the Bald, use these words: “Take care of your lands, that you may not be obliged to travel continually by the houses of the clergy, and to tire their bondmen with carriages. Manage your affairs, continue they, in such a manner, that you may have enough to live upon, and to receive embassies.” It is evident, that the king’s revenues* in those days consisted of their demesnes.

CHAP. XIV.: Of what they called Census.

AFTER the Barbarians had quitted their own country, they were desirous of reducing their usages into writing; but as they found a difficulty in writing German words with Roman letters, they published these laws in Latin.

In the confusion and rapidity of the conquest, most things changed their nature; in order however to express them, they were obliged to make use of such old Latin words, as were most analogous to the new usages. Thus whatever was likely to revive the idea of the ancient census of the Romans, they called by the name of census tributum; and when things had Edition: current; Page: [381] no relation at all to the Roman census, they expressed, as well as they could, the German words by Roman letters: thus they formed the word fredum, on which I shall have occasion to descant in the following chapters.

The words census and tributum having been employed in an arbitrary manner, this has thrown some obscurity on the signification in which these words were used under our princes of the first and second race. And modern* authors who have adopted particular systems, having found these words in the writings of those days, imagined that what was then called census, was exactly the census of the Romans; and from thence they inferred this consequence, that our kings of the two first races had put themselves in the place of the Roman emperors, and made no change in their administration. Besides, as particular duties raised under the second race were by change and by certain restrictions converted into others, they inferred from thence that these duties were the census of the Romans; and, as since the modern regulations, they found that the crown demesnes were absolutely unalienable, they pretended that those duties which represented the Roman census, and did not form a part of the demesnes, were mere usurpation. I omit the other consequences.

To apply the ideas of the present time to distant ages, is a source of error. To these people who want to modernize all the ancient ages, I shall say what the Egyptian priests said to Solon, “O Athenians, you are mere children!”

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CHAP. XV.: That what they called census was raised only on the bondmen, and not on the freemen.

THE king, the clergy, and the lords raised regular taxes, each on the bondmen of their respective demesnes. I prove it with respect to the king, by the capitulary de Villis; with regard to the clergy, by the codes of the* laws of the Barbarians; and with relation to the lords, by the regulations which Charlemaign made concerning this subject.

These taxes were called census; they were œconomical and not fiscal duties, mere private services and not public obligations.

I affirm, that what they called census at that time, was a tax raised upon the bondmen. This I prove by a formulary of Marculfus containing a permission from the king to enter into holy orders, provided the persons be* free-born, and not enrolled in the register of the census. I prove it also by a commission from Charlemaign to a count, whom he had sent into Saxony; which contains the infranchisement of the Saxons for having embraced Christianity, and is properly a charter of freedom. This prince restores them to their former§ civil liberty, and exempts them from paying the census. It was therefore the Edition: current; Page: [383] same thing to be a bondman as to pay the census, to be free as not to pay it.

By a kind of letters patent* of the same prince in favour of the Spaniards, who had been received into the monarchy, the counts are forbid to demand any census of them, or to deprive them of their lands. That strangers upon their coming to France were treated as bondmen, is a thing well known; and Charlemaign being desirous they should be considered as freemen, since he would have them be proprietors of their lands, forbade the demanding any census of them.

A capitulary of Charles the Bald, given in favour of those very Spaniards, orders them to be treated like the other Franks, and forbids the requiring any census of them: consequently this census was not paid by freemen.

The thirtieth article of the edict of Pistes reforms the abuse, by which several of the husbandmen belonging to the king or to the church, sold the lands dependent on their manors to ecclesiastics or to people of their condition, reserving only a small cottage to themselves; by which means they avoided paying the census; and, it ordains, that things should be restored to their primitive situation: the census was therefore a tax peculiar to bondmen.

From thence also it follows, that there was no general census in the monarchy; and this is clear from a great number of passages. For what could be the meaning of this capitulary? “We ordain that the Edition: current; Page: [384] royal census should be levied in all places, where formerly it was lawfully levied.” What could be the meaning of that in which Charlemaign orders his commissaries in the provinces to make an exact enquiry into all the census’s that belonged in former times to the king’s demesne? And of that§ in which he disposes of the census’s paid by those* of whom they are demanded? What can that other capitulary†† mean, in which we read, “If any person‡‡ has acquired a tributary land, on which we were accustomed to levy the census?” And that other in fine∥∥, in which Charles the Bald§§ makes mention of the lands, whose census had from time immemorial belonged to the king.

Observe that there are some passages which seem at first sight to be contrary to what I have said, and yet confirm it. We have already seen that the freemen in the monarchy were obliged only to furnish particular carriages; the capitulary just now cited gives to this** the name of census, and opposes it to the census paid by the bondmen.

Besides, the edict††† of Pistes takes notice of those freemen who are obliged to pay the royal census for Edition: current; Page: [385] their head and for their cottages, and who had sold themselves during the famine. The king orders them to be ransomed. This is because those who were manumitted by the king’s letters, did not, generally speaking, acquire a full and perfect§ liberty, but they paid censum in capite; and these are the people here meant.

We must therefore explode the idea of a general and universal census, in imitation of that of the Romans, from which census the rights of the lords are also supposed to have been derived by usurpation. What was called census in the French monarchy, independently of the abuse made of that word, was a particular tax imposed on the bondmen by their masters.

I beg the reader to excuse the trouble I must give him with such a number of citations. I should be more concise, did I not meet with the Abbé du Bos’s book on the establishment of the French monarchy in Gaul, continually in my way. Nothing is a greater obstacle to our progress in knowledge, than a bad performance of a celebrated author; because, before we instruct, we must begin with undeceiving.

CHAP. XVI.: Of the feudal Lords or Vassals.

I HAVE taken notice of those volunteers among the Germans, who followed their princes in their Edition: current; Page: [386] several expeditions. The same usage continued after the conquest. Tacitus mentions them by the name of companions*; the Salic law by that of men who have vowed fealty to the king; the formularies of Marculfus by that of the king’s Antrustios, the earliest French historians by that of Leudes§, faithful and loyal; and those of later date by that of vassals** and lords.

In the Salic and Ripuarian laws we meet with an infinite number of regulations in regard to the Franks, and only with a few for the Antrustios. The regulations concerning the Antrustios are different from those which were made for the other Franks; they are full of what relates to the settling of the property of the Franks, but mention not a word concerning that of the Antrustios. This is because the property of the latter was regulated rather by the political than by the civil law, and was the share that fell to an army, and not the patrimony of a family.

The goods reserved for the feudal lords were called fiscal†† goods, benefices, honours, and fiefs, by different authors, and in different times.

There is no doubt but the fiefs at first were at will‡‡. We find in Gregory of Tours∥∥, that Sunegisilus and Gallomanus were deprived of all they held of the exchequer, and no more was left them than their real property. When Gontram raised his Edition: current; Page: [387] nephew Childebert to the throne, he had a private conference with him, in which he named* the persons who ought to be honoured with, and those who ought to be deprived of, the fiefs. In a formulary of Marculfus, the king gives in exchange not only the benefices held by his exchequer, but likewise those which had been held by another. The law of the Lombards opposes the benefices to property. In this our historians, the formularies, the codes of the different barbarous nations, and all the monuments of those days, are unanimous. In fine, the writers of the book of fiefs inform us, that at first the lords could take them back when they pleased, that afterwards they granted them for the space of a year§, and that at length they gave them for life.

CHAP. XVII.: Of the Military Service of Freemen.

TWO sorts of people were bound to military service; the great and lesser vassals, who were obliged in consequence of their fief; and the freemen, whether Franks, Romans, or Gauls, who served under the count, and were commanded by him and his officers.

The name of freemen was given to those, who on the one hand had no benefices or fiefs, and on the Edition: current; Page: [388] other were not subject to the base services of villainage; the lands they possessed were what they called allodial estates.

The counts* assembled the freemen, and led them against the enemy; they had officers under them who were called vicars; and as all the freemen were divided into hundreds, which constituted what they called a borough, the counts had also officers under them, who were denominated centenarii, and led the freemen of the borough, or their hundreds, to the field.

This division into hundreds is posterior to the establishment of the Franks in Gaul. It was made by Clotharius and Childebert, with a view of obliging each district to answer for the robberies committed in their division; this we find in the decrees of those princes. A regulation of this kind is to this very day observed in England.

As the counts led the freemen against the enemy, the feudal lords commanded also their vassals or rearvassals; and the bishops, abbots, or their§ advocates likewise commanded theirs**.

The bishops were greatly embarrassed, and†† inconsistent with themselves; they requested of Charlemaign not to oblige them any longer to a military service; and when he granted their request, they complained that he had deprived them of the public esteem: so that this prince was obliged to justify his Edition: current; Page: [389] intentions upon this head. Be that as it may, when they were exempted from marching against the enemy, I do not find that their vassals were led by the counts; on the contrary, we see* that the kings or the bishops chose one of their feudatories to conduct them.

In a capitulary of Lewis the Debonnaire, this prince distinguishes three sorts of vassals, those belonging to the king, those to the bishops, and those to the counts. The vassals of a feudal lord were not led against the enemy by the count, except some employment in the king’s houshold hindered the lord himself from commanding them.

But who is it that led the feudal lords into the field? No doubt the king himself, who was always at the head of his faithful vassals. Hence we constantly find in the capitularies a distinction made between the king’s vassals and those of the bishops. Such brave and magnanimous princes as our kings, did not take the field to put themselves at the head of an ecclesiastic militia; these were not the men they chose to conquer or to die with.

But these laws carried their vassals and rear-vassals with them; as we can prove by the capitulary*, in which Charlemaign ordains that every freeman, who has four manors either in his own property, Edition: current; Page: [390] or as a benefice from some body else, should march against the enemy or follow his lord. It is evident, that Charlemaign means, that the person who had a manor of his own should march under the count, and he who held a benefice of a lord, should set out along with him.

And yet the Abbé du Bos pretends, that when mention is made in the capitularies, of tenants who depended on a particular lord, no others are meant than bondmen; and he grounds his opinion on the law of the Visigoths, and the practice of that nation. It is much better to rely on the capitularies themselves; that which I have just quoted, says expressly the contrary. The treaty between Charles the Bald and his brothers, takes notice also of freemen, who might chuse to follow either a lord or the king; and this regulation is conformable to a great many others.

We may therefore conclude, that there were three sorts of military services; that of the king’s vassals, who had no other vassals under them; that of the bishops or of the other clergy, and their vassals, and, in fine, that of the count, who commanded the freemen.

Not but the vassals might be also subject to the count; as those who have a particular command are subordinate to him, who is invested with a more general authority.

We even find that the count and the king’s commissaries might oblige them to pay the fine, when they had not fulfilled the engagements of their fief. In like manner if the king’s vassals committed any outrage, they were subject to the correction of the count, unless they chose rather to submit to that of the king.

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CHAP. XVIII.: Of the double Service.

IT was a fundamental principle of the monarchy, that whosoever was subject to the military power of another person, was subject also to his civil jurisdiction. Thus the capitulary* of Lewis the Debonnaire in the year 815, makes the military power of the count, and his civil jurisdiction over the freemen, keep always an equal pace. Thus the placita of the count who carried the freemen against the enemy, were called the placita of the freemen; from whence undoubtedly came this maxim, that the questions relating to liberty could be decided only in the count’s placita, and not in those of his officers. Thus the count never led the vassals§ belonging to the bishops or to the abbots against the enemy, because they were not subject to this civil jurisdiction. Thus he never commanded the rear-vassals belonging to the king’s vassals. Thus the glossary** of the English laws informs us, that those to whom†† the Saxons gave the name of Coples, were by the Normans called Counts, or companions, because they shared the justiciary fines with the King. Thus we see, that at all times the Edition: current; Page: [392] duty of a vassal‡‡ towards his lord, was to bear arms§§, and to try his peers in his court.

One of the reasons which produced this connexion between the judiciary right and that of leading the forces against the enemy, was because the person who led them exacted at the same time the payment of the fiscal duties, which consisted in some carriage services due by the freemen, and in general in certain judiciary profits, of which we shall treat hereafter.

The lords had the right of administring justice in their fief, by the same principle as the counts had it in their counties. And indeed the counties in the several variations that happened at different times, always followed the variations of the fiefs; both were governed by the same plan, and by the same principles. In a word, the counts in their counties were lords, and the lords in their seignories were counts.

It has been a mistake to consider the counts as civil officers, and the dukes as military commanders. Both were equally civil and military officers: the whole difference consisted in the duke’s having several counts under him, though there were counts who had no duke over them, as we learn from Fredegarius*

It will be imagined perhaps that the government of the Franks must have been very severe at that time, since the same officers were invested with a military and civil power, nay, even with a fiscal authority, over the subjects; which in the Edition: current; Page: [393] preceding books I have observed to be distinguishing marks of despotism.

But we must not believe that the counts pronounced judgment by themselves, and administered justice in the same manner as the bashaws in Turky; in order to judge affairs, they assembled a kind of assizes, where the principal men appeared.

To the end we may thoroughly understand what relates to the judicial proceedings, in the formulas, in the laws of the barbarians, and in the capitularies, it is proper to observe that the functions of the count, of the Grafio or fiscal judge, and the Centenarius, were the same; that the judges, the Rathimburgers, and the sheriffs, were the same persons under different names. These were the counts assistants, and were generally seven in number; and as he was obliged to have twelve persons to judge, he filled up the number with the principal men.

But whoever had the jurisdiction, the king, the count, the Grafio, the Centenarius, the lords, or the clergy, they never tried causes alone; and this usage, which derived its origin from the forests of Germany, was still continued even after the fiefs had assumed a new form.

With regard to the fiscal power, its nature was such, that the count could hardly abuse it. The rights of the prince in respect to the freemen, were so simple, that they consisted only, as we have already observed, in certain carriages which were demanded of them on some public occasions. And Edition: current; Page: [394] as for the judiciary rights, there were laws which prevented* misdemeanours.

CHAP. XIX.: Of Compositions among the barbarous Nations.

SINCE it is impossible to have any tolerable notion of our political law, unless we are thoroughly acquainted with the laws and manners of the German nations, I shall therefore pause here a while, in order to enquire into those manners and laws.

It appears by Tacitus, that the Germans knew only two capital crimes; they hanged traitors, and drowned cowards; these were the only public crimes among those people. When a man had injured another, the relations of the person injured took share in the quarrel, and the offence was cancelled by a satisfaction. This satisfaction was made to the person offended when capable of receiving it: or to the relations if they had been injured in common, or if by the decease of the party injured, the satisfaction had devolved to them.

In the manner mentioned by Tacitus, these satisfactions were made by the mutual agreement of the parties; hence in the codes of the barbarous nations these satisfactions are called compositions.

The law of the Frisians is the only one I find that has left the people in that situation, in which every family at variance was in some measure in the state of nature, and in which being unrestrained either by a political or civil law, they might give a loose Edition: current; Page: [395] to their revenge, till they had obtained satisfaction. Even this law was moderated; a regulation was made that the person whose life was sought after should be unmolested in his own house, as also in going and coming from church, and from the court where causes were tried.*

The compilers of the Salic law cite an ancient usage of the Franks, by which a person who had dug a corpse out of the ground, in order to strip it, should be banished from society, till the relations had consented to his being re-admitted. And as before that time strict orders were issued to every one, even to the offender’s own wife, not to give him a morsel of bread, or to receive him under their roof; such a person was in respect to others, and others in respect to him, in a state of nature, till an end was put to this state by a composition.

This excepted, we find that the sages of the different barbarous nations thought of determining by themselves, what would have been too long and too dangerous to expect from the mutual agreement of the parties. They took care to fix the value of the composition which the party injured was to receive. All those barbarian laws are in this respect most admirably exact; the several cases are minutely§ distinguished, the circumstances are weighed, the law substitutes itself in the place of the person injured, and insists upon the same satisfaction as he himself would have demanded in cold blood.

By the establishing of those laws, the German nations quitted that state of nature, in which they seemed to have lived in Tacitus’s time.

Rotharis declares in the law of the Lombards, Edition: current; Page: [396] that he had increased the compositions anciently accustomed for wounds, to the end that the wounded person being fully satisfied, all enmities should cease. And indeed, as the Lombards, from a very poor people, were grown rich by the conquest of Italy, the ancient compositions were become frivolous, and reconcilements prevented. I do not question but this was the motive, which obliged the other chiefs of the conquering nations, to make the different codes of laws now extant.

The principal composition was that which the murderer paid to the relations of the deceased. The difference of conditions produced a difference in the compositions: Thus in the law of the Angli, there was a composition of six hundred sous for the murder of an adeling, two hundred for that of a freeman, and thirty for killing a bondman. The largeness therefore of the composition for the life of a man, was one of his chief privileges; for besides the distinction it made of his person, it likewise established a greater security in his favour among rude and boisterous nations.

This we are made sensible of by the law of the Bavarians: it gives the names of the Bavarian families who received a double composition, because they were the first after the Agilolfings. The Agilolfings were of the ducal race, and it was customary with this nation to choose a duke out of that family; these had a quadruple composition. The composition for a duke exceeded by a third, that which had been established for the Agilolfings: “Because he is a duke, says the law, a greater honour is paid to him than to his relations.”

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All these compositions were valued in money. But as those people, especially when they lived in Germany, had very little specie, they might pay it in cattle, corn, moveables, arms, dogs, hawks§, lands, &c. The law itself* frequently determined the value of those things; which explains how it was possible for them to have such a number of pecuniary punishments with so very little money.

These laws were therefore employed in exactly determinating the difference of wrongs, injuries, and crimes; to the end that every one might know how far he had been injured or offended, the reparation he was to receive, and especially that he was to receive no more.

In this light it is easy to conceive, that a person who had taken revenge after having received satisfaction, was guilty of an heinous crime. This contained a public as well as a private offence: it was a contempt of the law of itself; a crime which the legislators never failed to punish.

There was another crime, which above all others was considered as dangerous, when those people lost something of their spirit of independence, and when the kings endeavoured to establish a better civil administration: this was the refusing to give or to Edition: current; Page: [398] receive satisfaction. We find in the different codes of the laws of the Barbarians, that the legislators were peremptory on this article. In effect, a person who refused to receive satisfaction, wanted to preserve his right of prosecution; he who refused to give it left the right of prosecution to the person injured; and this is what the sages had reformed in the institutions of the Germans, whereby people were invited but not compelled to compositions.

I have just now made mention of a text of the Salic law, in which the legislator left the party offended at liberty to receive or refuse satisfaction; it is the law§ by which a person who had stript a dead body, was expelled society; till the relations upon receiving satisfaction, petitioned for his being re-admitted. It was owing to the respect they had for sacred things, that the compilers of the Salic laws did not meddle with the ancient usage.

It would have been absolutely unjust to grant a composition to the relations of a robber killed in the fact, or to the relations of a woman who had be repudiated for the crime of adultery. The law* of the Bavarians allowed no composition in the like case, but punished the relations who sought revenge.

It is no rare thing to meet with compositions for involuntary actions in the codes of the laws of the Barbarians. The law of the Lombards is generally very prudent; it ordained, that in those cases the composition should be according to the person’s generosity; Edition: current; Page: [399] and that the relations should no longer be permitted to pursue their revenge.

Clotharius the second made a very wise decree: he forbade the person robbed to receive any clandestine composition, and without an order from the judge. We shall presently see the motive of this law.

CHAP. XX.: Of what was afterwards called the Jurisdiction of the Lords.

BESIDE the composition which they were obliged to pay to the relations for murders or injuries, they were also under a necessity of paying a certain duty, which the codes of the barbarian laws call fredum. We have no term in our modern language to express it; yet I intend to treat of it at large; and in order to give an idea of it, I begin with defining it a recompence for the protection granted against the right of prosecution. Even to this day, fred, in the Swedish language, signifies peace.

The administration of justice among those rude and unpolished nations, was nothing more than granting to the person who had committed an offence, a protection against the prosecution of the party offended, and obliging the latter to accept of the satisfaction due to him: insomuch that among the Germans, contrary to the practice of all other nations, justice was administered in order to protect the criminal against the party injured.

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The codes of the Barbarian laws have given us the cases in which the freda might be demanded. When the relations could not prosecute, they allow of no fredum; and indeed, when there was no prosecution, there could be no composition for a protection against it. Thus, in the law of the§ Lombards, if a person happened to kill a freeman by chance, he paid the value of the man killed, without the fredum; because as he had killed him involuntarily, it was not the case in which the relations were allowed the right of prosecution. Thus in the law of the* Ripuarians, when a person was killed with a piece of wood, or with any instrument made by a man, the instrument or the wood were deemed culpable, and the relations seized upon them for their own use, but were not allowed to demand the fredum.

In like manner, when a beast happened to kill a man, the same law established a composition without the fredum, because the relations of the deceased were not offended.

In fine, it was ordained by the Salic law, that a child who had commited a fault before the age of twelve, should pay the composition without the fredum: as he was not yet able to bear arms, he could not be in the case in which the party injured, or his relations, had a right to demand satisfaction.

It was the criminal that paid the fredum for the peace and security, of which he had been deprived by his crime, and which he might recover by protection. But a child did not lose this security; he was not a man, and consequently could not be expelled from human society.

This fredum was a local right in favour of the person Edition: current; Page: [401] who was judge of the district. Yet the law of the Ripuarians§ forbade him to demand it himself: it ordained, that the party who had gained the cause should receive it and carry it to the exchequer, to the end that there might be a lasting peace, says the law, among the Ripuarians.

The greatness of the fredum was proportioned to the degree of* protection: thus the fredum for the king’s protection was greater than what was granted for the protection of the count, or of the other judges.

Here I see the origin of the jurisdiction of the lords. The fiefs comprized very large territories, as appears from a vast number of records. I have already proved that the kings raised no taxes on the lands belonging to the division of the Franks; much less could they reserve to themselves any duties on the fiefs. Those who obtained them, had in this respect a full and perfect enjoyment, reaping every possible emolument from them. And as one of the most considerable emoluments was the justiciary profits freda, which were received according to the usage of the Franks, it followed from thence, that the person seized of the fief, was also seized of the jurisdiction, the exercise of which consisted of the compositions made to the relations, and of the profits accruing to the lord; it was nothing more than ordering the payment of the compositions of the law, and demanding the legal fines.

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We find by the formularies containing confirmation of the perpetuity of a fief in favour of a feudal lord*, or of the privileges of fiefs in favour of churches, that the fiefs were possessed of this right. This appears also from an infinite number of charters mentioning a prohibition to the king’s judges or officers of entering upon the territory in order to exercise any act of judicature whatsoever, or to demand any judiciary emolument. When the king’s judges could no longer make any demand in a district, they never entered it; and those to whom this district was left, performed the same functions as had been exercised before by the judges.

The king’s judges are forbidden also to oblige the parties to give security for their appearing before them: it belonged therefore to the person who had received the territory in fief, to demand this security. They mention also, that the king’s commissaries shall not insist upon being accommodated with a lodging; in effect, they no longer exercised any function in those districts.

The administration therefore of justice, both in the old and new fiefs, was a right inherent in the very fief itself, a lucrative right which constituted a part of it. For this reason it had been considered at all times in this light; from whence this maxim arose, that jurisdictions are patrimonial in France.

Some have thought that the jurisdictions derived their origin from the manumissions made by the kings and lords, in favour of their bondmen. But the German nations, and those descended from them, are not the only people who manumitted their bondmen, Edition: current; Page: [403] and yet they are the only people that established patrimonial jurisdictions. Besides, we find by the formularies* of Marculfus that there were freemen dependent on these jurisdictions in the earliest times: the bondmen were therefore subject to the jurisdiction, because they were upon the territory; and they did not give rise to the fiefs for having been annexed to the fief.

Others have taken a shorter cut: the lords, say they, and this is all they say, usurped the jurisdictions. But are the nations descended from Germany the only people in the world that usurped the rights of princes? We are sufficiently informed by history, that several other nations have encroached upon their sovereigns; and yet we find no other instance of what we call the jurisdiction of the lords. The origin of it is therefore to be traced in the usages and customs of the Germans.

Whoever has the curiosity to look into Loyseau will be surprised at the manner in which this author supposes the lords to have proceeded, in order to form and usurp their different jurisdictions. They must have been the most artful people in the world; they must have robbed and plundered, not after the manner of a military nation, but as the country justices and the attornies rob one another. Those brave warriors must be said to have formed a general system of politics throughout all the provinces of the kingdom, and in so many other countries in Europe: Loyseau makes them reason, as he himself reasoned in his closet.

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Once more: if the jurisdiction was not a dependence of the fief, how come we every where to find, that the service of the fief was to attend the king or the lord both in their courts and in the army?

CHAP. XXI.: Of the territorial Jurisdiction of the Churches.

THE churches acquired a very considerable property. We find that our kings gave them great seignories, that is, great fiefs; and we find jurisdictions established at the same time in the demesnes of those churches. From whence could so extraordinary a privilege derive its origin? It must certainly have been in the nature of the grant: the church land had this privilege, because it had not been taken from it. A seignory was given to the church; and it was allowed to enjoy the same privileges, as if it had been granted to a vassal. It was also subjected to the same service as it would have paid to the state if it had been given to a layman, according to what we have already observed.

The churches had therefore the right of demanding the payment of compositions in their territory; and of insisting upon the fredum; and as those rights necessarily implied that of hindering the king’s officers from entering upon the territory, to demand these fréda and to exercise acts of judicature, the right which ecclesiastics had of administering justice in their own territory, was called immunity, in the style of the formularies*, of the charters, and of the capitularies.

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The law of the Ripuarians forbids the freedmen of the churches, to hold the assembly for administering justice in any other place than in the church where they were manumitted. The churches had therefore jurisdictions even over freemen, and held their placita in the earliest times of the monarchy.

I find in the lives of the saints§, that Clovis gave to a certain holy person a power over a district of six leagues, and exempted it from all manner of jurisdiction. This, I believe, is a falsity, but it is a falsity of a very ancient date; both the truth and the fiction contained in that life are relative to the customs and laws of those times, and it is these customs* and laws we are investigating.

Clotharius II. orders†† the bishops or the nobility who are possessed of estates in distant parts, to chuse upon the very spot those who are to administer justice, or to receive the judiciary emoluments.

The same prince‡‡ regulates the judiciary power between the ecclesiastic courts and his officers. The capitulary of Charlemaign in the year 802 prescribes to the bishops and abbots, the qualifications necessary for their officers of justice. Another capitulary∥∥ of the same prince inhibits the royal officers, to exercise any jurisdiction over§§ those who are employed in Edition: current; Page: [406] manuring church-lands, except they entered into that state by fraud, and to exempt themselves from contributing to the public charges. The bishops assembled at Rheims made a declaration*, that the vassals belonging to the respective churches are within their immunity. The capitulary of Charlemaign in the year 806 ordains that the churches should have both criminal and civil jurisdiction over those who live upon their lands. In fine, as the capitulary of Charles the Bald distinguishes between the king’s jurisdiction, that of the lords, and that of the church; I shall say nothing farther upon this subject.

CHAP. XXII.: That the Jurisdictions were established before the End of the second Race.

IT has been pretended that the vassals usurped the jurisdiction in their seignories, during the confusion of the second race. Those who chuse rather to form a general proposition than to examine it, found it easier to say that the vassals did not possess, than to discover how they came to possess. But the jurisdictions do not owe their origin to usurpations; they Edition: current; Page: [407] are derived from the primitive establishment, and not from its corruption.

“He who kills a freeman, says* the law of the Bavarians, shall pay a composition to his relations, if he has any; if not, he shall pay it to the duke, or to the person under whose protection he had put himself in his life-time.” It is well known what it was to put one’s self under the protection of another for a benefice.

“He who had been robbed of his bondman, says the law of the Alemans, shall have recourse to the prince to whom the robber is subject; to the end that he may obtain a composition.”

“If a centenarius, says the decree of Childebert, finds a robber in another hundred than his own, or in the limits of our faithful vassals, and does not drive him out, he shall be answerable for the robber, or purge himself by oath.” There was therefore a difference between the district of the centenarii and that of the vassals.

This decree of Childebert explains the constitution of Clotharius in the same year, which being given for the same case and fact, differs only in the terms; the constitution calling in truste, what by the decree is stiled in terminis fidelium nostrorum. Messieurs Bignon and Ducange§ who pretend that in Edition: current; Page: [408] truste signified another king’s demesne, are mistaken in their conjecture.

Pepin, king of Italy, in a constitution** that had been made as well for the Franks as for the Lombards, after imposing penalties on the counts and other royal officers, for prevarications or delays in the administration of justice, ordains†† that if it happens that a Frank or a Lombard possessed of a fief is unwilling to administer justice, the judge to whose district he belongs, shall suspend the exercise of his fief, and in the mean time, either the judge or his commissary shall administer justice.

It appears by a capitulary* of Charlemaign, that the kings did not levy the freda in all places. Another capitulary of the same prince shews the feudal laws, and feudal court to have been already established. Another of Lewis the Debonnaire ordains, that when a person possessed of a fief, does not administer justice, or hinders it from being administered, the king’s commissaries shall live upon him at discretion, till justice be administered. I shall likewise quote two capitularies of Charles the Bald, one of the Edition: current; Page: [409] year 861; where we find the particular jurisdictions established, with judges and subordinate officers; and the other§ of the year 864, where he makes a distinction between his own seignories and those of private persons.

We have not the original grants of the fiefs, because they were established by the partition, which is known to have been made among the conquerors. It cannot therefore be proved by original contracts, that the jurisdictions were at first annexed to the fiefs: but if in the formularies of the confirmations, or of the translations of those fiefs in perpetuity, we find, as already hath been observed, that the jurisdiction was there established; this judiciary right must certainly have been inherent in the fief, and one of its chief privileges.

We have a far greater number of records, that establish the patrimonial jurisdiction of the clergy in their districts, than there are to prove that of the benefices or fiefs of the feudal lords; for which two reasons may be assigned. The first, that most of the records now extant were preserved or collected by the monks, for the use of their monasteries. The second, that the patrimony of the several churches having been formed by particular grants, and by a kind of exception to the order established, they were obliged to have charters granted to them; whereas the concessions made to the feudal lords being consequences of the political order, they had no occasion to demand, and much less to preserve, a particular charter. Nay, the kings were oftentimes satisfied with making a simple delivery with the scepter, as appears from the life of St. Maur.

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But the third formulary* of Marculfus sufficiently proves, that the privileges of immunity, and consequently that of jurisdiction, were common to both the clergy and the laity, since it is made for both. The same may be said of the constitution of Clotharius II.

CHAP. XXIII.: General Idea of the Abbé Du Bos’s Book on the Establishment of the French Monarchy in Gaul.

BEFORE I finish this book, it will not be im, proper to write a few strictures on the Abbé du Bos’s performance, because my notions are perpetually contrary to his; and if he has hit on the truth, I must have missed it.

This performance has imposed upon a great many, because it is penned with art; because the point in question is constantly supposed; because the more it is deficient in proofs, the more it abounds in probabilities; and, in fine, because an infinite number of conjectures are laid down as principles, and from thence other conjectures are inferred as consequences. The reader forgets he has been doubting, in order to begin to believe. And as a prodigious fund of erudition is interspersed, not in the system, but around it, the mind is taken up with the appendages, and neglects the principal. Besides, such a vast multitude of researches hardly permit one to imagine that nothing has been found; the length of the way makes us think that we are arrived at our journey’s end.

But when we examine the matter thoroughly, we find an immense colossus with earthen feet; and it is Edition: current; Page: [411] the earthen feet that render the colossus immense. If the Abbé du Bos’s system had been well grounded, he would not have been obliged to write three tedious volumes to prove it; he would have found every thing within his subject; and without wandering on every side in quest of what was extremely foreign to it, even reason itself would have undertaken to range this in the same chain with the other truths. Our history and laws would have told him; “Do not take so much trouble, we shall be your vouchers.”

CHAP. XXIV.: The same Subject continued. Reflection on the main Part of the System.

THE Abbé du Bos endeavours by all means to explode the opinion that the Franks made the conquest of Gaul. According to his system our kings were invited by the people, and only substituted themselves in the place, and succeeded to the rights, of the Roman emperors.

This pretension cannot be applied to the time when Clovis, upon his entering Gaul, took and plundered the towns; neither is it applicable to the period when he defeated Syagrius the Roman commander, and conquered the country which he held; it can therefore be referred only to the period when Clovis, already master of a great part of Gaul by open force, was called by the choice and affection of the people to the sovereignty over the rest. And it is not enough that Clovis was received, he must have been called; the Abbé du Bos must prove that the people chose rather to live under Clovis, than under the domination of the Romans, or under their own laws. The Romans belonging to that part of Gaul not yet invaded by the Edition: current; Page: [412] Barbarians, were, according to this author, of two sorts; the first were of the Armorican confederacy, who had driven away the emperor’s officers, in order to defend themselves against the Barbarians, and to be governed by their own laws; the second were subject to the Roman officers. Now does the Abbé produce any convincing proofs that the Romans who were still subject to the empire, called in Clovis? Not one. Does he prove that the republic of the Armoricans invited Clovis; or even concluded any treaty with him? Not at all. So far from being able to tell us the fate of this republic, he cannot even so much as prove its existence; and notwithstanding he pretends to trace it from the time of Honorius to the conquest of Clovis, notwithstanding he relates with a most admirable exactness all the events of those times; still this republic remains invisible in ancient authors. For there is a wide difference between proving by a passage of Zozymus*, that under the emperor Honorius, the country of Armorica and the other provinces of Gaul revolted and formed a kind of republic; and shewing us that notwithstanding the different pacifications of Gaul, the Armoricans formed a particular republic, which continued till the conquest of Clovis: and yet this is what he should have demonstrated by strong and substantial proofs, in order to establish his system. For when we behold a conqueror entering a country, and subduing a great part of it by force and open violence, and soon after we find the whole country subdued, without any mention in history of the manner of its being effected, we have sufficient reason to believe that the affair ended as it began.

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When we find he has mistaken this point, it is easy to perceive that his whole system falls to the ground; and as often as he infers a consequence from these principles, that Gaul was not conquered by the Franks, but that the Franks were invited by the Romans, we may safely deny it.

This author proves his principle, by the Roman dignities with which Clovis was invested: he insists that Clovis succeeded to Chilperic his father in the office of magister malitiæ. But these two offices are merely of his own creation. S. Remigius’s letter to Clovis, on which he grounds his opinion, is only a congratulation upon his accession to the crown. When the intent of a writing is so well known, why should we give it another turn?

Clovis, towards the end of his reign, was made consul by the emperor Anastasius: but what right could he receive from an authority that lasted only one year? It is very probable, says our author, that in the same diploma the emperor Anastasius made Clovis proconsul. And, I say, it is very probable he did not. With regard to a fact for which there is no foundation, the authority of him who denies is equal to that of him who affirms. But I have also a reason for denying it. Gregory of Tours, who mentions the consulate, says never a word concerning the proconsulate. And even this proconsulate could have lasted only about six months. Clovis died a year and a half after he was created consul; and we cannot pretend to make the proconsulate an hereditary office. In fine, when the consulate, and, if you will, the proconsulate were conferred upon him, he was already master of the monarchy, and all his rights were established.

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The second proof alledged by the Abbé du Bos, is the renunciation made by the emperor Justinian, in favour of the children and grand-children of Clovis, of all the rights of the empire over Gaul. I could say a great deal concerning this renunciation. We may judge of the regard shewn to it by the kings of the Franks, from the manner in which they performed the conditions of it. Besides, the kings of the Franks were masters, and peaceable sovereigns of Gaul; Justinian had not one foot of ground in that country; the western empire had been destroyed a long time before; and the eastern empire had no right to Gaul, but as representing the emperor of the west. These were rights to rights; the monarchy of the Franks was already founded; the regulation of their establishment was made; the reciprocal rights of the persons and of the different nations who lived in the monarchy, were agreed on; the laws of each nation were given and even reduced into writing. What could therefore that foreign renunciation avail to a government already established?

What can the Abbé mean by making such a parade of the declamations of all those bishops, who amidst the confusion, and total subversion of the state, endeavour to flatter the conqueror? What else is implied by flattering, but the weakness of him who is obliged to flatter? What does rhetoric and poetry prove, but the use of those very arts? Is it possible to help being surprised at Gregory of Tours, who after mentioning the assassinations committed by Clovis, says, that God laid his enemies every day at his feet, because he walked in his ways? Who doubts but the clergy were glad of Clovis’s conversion, and that they even reaped great advantages from it? But who doubts at the same time that the people experienced all the miseries of conquest, and that the Roman government submitted Edition: current; Page: [415] to that of the Franks? The Franks were neither willing nor able to make a total change; and few conquerors were ever seized with so great a degree of madness. But to render all the Abbé du Bos’s consequences true, they must not only have made no change amongst the Romans, but they must have even changed themselves.

I could undertake to prove, by following this author’s method, that the Greeks never conquered Persia. I should set out with mentioning the treaties which some of their cities concluded with the Persians: I should mention the Greeks who were in Persian pay, as the Franks were in the pay of the Romans. And if Alexander entered the Persian territories, besieged, took, and destroyed the city of Tyre, it was only a particular affair like that of Syagrius. But, behold the Jewish pontiff goes forth to meet him. Listen to the oracle of Jupiter Hammon. Recollect how he had been predicted at Gordium. See what a number of towns crowd, as it were, to submit to him; and how all the Satraps and grandees come to pay him obeisance. He put on the Persian dress; this is Clovis’s consular robe. Does not Darius offer him one half of his kingdom? Is not Darius assassinated like a tyrant? Do not the mother and wife of Darius weep at the death of Alexander? Were Quintus Curtius, Arrian, or Plutarch, Alexander’s cotemporaries? Has not the invention of* printing affording us great lights, which those authors wanted? Such is the history of the establishment of the French monarchy in Gaul.

CHAP. XXV.: Of the French Nobility.

THE Abbé du Bos maintains, that at the commencement of our monarchy there was only one Edition: current; Page: [416] order of citizens among the Franks. This assertion, so injurious to the noble blood of our principal families, is equally affronting to the three great houses which successively governed this realm. The origin of their grandeur would not therefore have been lost in the obscurity of time. History might point out the ages when they were plebeian families; and to make Childeric, Pepin, and Hugh Capet gentlemen, we should be obliged to trace their pedigree among the Romans or Saxons, that is, among the conquered nations.

This author grounds* his opinion on the Salic law. By that law, he says, it plainly appears, that there were not two different orders of citizens among the Franks: it allowed a composition of two hundred sous for the murder of any Frank whatsoever; but among the Romans it distinguished the king’s guest, for whose death it gave a composition of three hundred sous, from the Roman proprietor to whom it granted a hundred, and from the Roman tributary to whom it gave only a composition of forty-five. And as the difference of the compositions formed the principal distinction, he concludes that there was but one order of citizens among the Franks, and three among the Romans.

It is astonishing that his very mistake did not set him right. And indeed, it would have been very extraordinary that the Roman nobility who lived under the domination of the Franks, should have a larger composition; and been persons of much greater importance than the most illustrious among the Franks, and their greatest generals. What probability is Edition: current; Page: [417] there, that the conquering nation should have so little respect for themselves, and so great a regard for the conquered people? Besides, our outhor quotes the laws of other barbarous nations, which proves that they had different orders of citizens. Now it would be a matter of astonishment that this general rule should have failed only among the Franks. Hence he ought to have concluded either that he did not rightly understand, or that he misapplied, the passages of the Salic law; which is actually the case.

Upon opening this law, we find that the composition for the death of an Antrustio*, that is, of the king’s vassal, was fix hundred sous: and that for the death of a Roman, who was the king’s guest, was only three hundred. We find there likewise that the composition for the death of an ordinary Frank was two hundred sous; and for the death of an ordinary Roman§, was only one hundred. For the death of a Roman** tributary, who was a kind of bondman or freedman, they paid a composition of fortyfive sous: but I shall take no notice of this, no more than of the composition for the murder of a Frank bondman or of a Frank freedman, because this third order of persons is out of the question.

What does our author do? He is quite silent with respect to the first order of persons among the Franks, that is the article relating to the Antrustios; and afterwards, upon comparing the ordinary Frank, for whose death they paid a composition of two hundred Edition: current; Page: [418] sous, with those whom he distinguishes under three orders among the Romans, and for whose death they paid different compositions, he finds that there was only one order of citizens among the Franks, and that there were three among the Romans.

As the Abbé is of opinion that there was only one order of citizens among the Franks, it would have been lucky for him that there had been only one order also among the Burgundians, because their kingdom constituted one of the principal branches of our monarchy. But in their codes* we find three sorts of compositions, one for the Burgundian or Roman nobility, the other for the Burgundians or Romans of a middling condition, and the third for those of a lower rank in both nations. He has not quoted this law.

It is very extraordinary to see in what manner he evades those passages which press him hard on all sides. If you speak to him of the grandees, lords, and the nobility: these, he says, are mere distinctions of respect, and not of order; they are things of courtesy, and not legal privileges; or else, he says, those people belonged to the king’s council; nay, they possibly might be Romans: but still there was only one order of citizens among the Franks. On the other hand, if you speak to him of some Franks of an inferior rank, he says, they are bondmen; and thus he interprets the decree of Childebert. But I must stop here a little, to enquire farther into this Edition: current; Page: [419] decree. Our author has rendered it famous by availing himself of it in order to prove two things; the one*, that all the compositions we meet with in the laws of the Barbarians were only civil fines added to corporal punishments, which intirely subverts all the antient records: the other, that all freemen were judged directly and immediately by the king, which is contradicted by an infinite number of passages and authorities informing us of the judiciary order of those times.

This decree, which was made in an assembly of the nation, says, that if the judge finds a notorious robber, he must command him to be tied, in order to be carried before the king, si Francus fucrit; but if he is a weaker person (debilior persona), he shall be hanged on the spot. According to the Abbé du Bos, Francus is a freeman, debilior persona is a bondman. I shall defer entering for a moment into the signification of the word Francus, and begin with examining what can be understood by these words, a weaker person. In all languages whatsoever, every comparison necessarily supposeth three terms, the greatest, the less degree, and the least. If none were here meant but freemen and bondmen, they would have said a bondman, and not a man of less power. Therefore debilior persona does not signify a bondman, but a person of a superior condition to a bondman. Upon this supposition, Francus cannot mean a freeman but a powerful man; and this word is taken here in that acception, because among the Franks there were always men Edition: current; Page: [420] who had greater power than others in the state, and it was more difficult for the judge or count to chastise them. This explication agrees very well with many capitularies*, where we find the cases in which the criminals were to be carried before the king, and those in which it was otherwise.

It is mentioned in the life of Lewis the Debonnaire, written by Tegan, that the bishops were the principal cause of the humiliation of that emperor, especially those who had been bondmen, and such as were born among the Barbarians. Tegan thus addresses Hebo, whom this prince had drawn from the state of servitude, and made archbishop of Rheims. “What recompence did the emperor receive from you for so many benefits? He made you a freeman, but did not enoble you, because he could not give you nobility after having given you your liberty.”

This discourse which proves so strongly the two orders of citizens, does not at all confound the Abbé du Bos. He answers thus: “The meaning of this passage is not, that Lewis the Debonnaire was incapable of introducing Hebo into the order of the nobility. Hebo, as archbishop of Rheims, must have been of the first order, superior to that of the nobility.” I leave the reader to judge, whether this be not the meaning of that passage; I leave him to judge whether there be any question here concerning a precedency of the clergy over the nobility. “This passage proves only,” continues the same writer§, “that the freeborn subjects were qualified Edition: current; Page: [421] as noblemen; in the common acceptation noblemen and men who are free-born have for this long time signified the same thing.” What! because some of our Burghers have lately assumed the quality of noblemen, shall a passage of the life of Lewis the Debonnaire be applied to this sort of people? “And perhaps, (continues he still) Hebo had not been a bondman among the Franks, but among the Saxons, or some other German nation, where the people were divided into several orders.” Then because of the Abbé du Bos’s perhaps there must have been no nobility among the nation of the Franks. But he never applied a perhaps so badly. We have seen that Tegan§ distinguishes the bishops, who had opposed Lewis the Debonnaire, some of whom had been bondmen, and others of a barbarous nation. Hebo belonged to the former and not to the latter. Besides, I do not see how a bondman, such as Hebo, can be said to have been a Saxon or a German; a bondman has no family, and consequently no nation. Lewis the Debonnaire manumitted Hebo; and as bondmen after their manumission, embraced the law of their master, Hebo was become a Frank, and not a Saxon or German.

I have been hitherto acting offensively; it is now time to defend myself. It will be objected to me, that indeed the body of the Antrustios formed a distinct order in the state, from that of the freemen; but as the fiefs were at first precarious, and afterwards for life, this could not form a nobleness of descent, since the privileges were not annexed to an hereditary fief. This is the objection which induced Mr. de Valos to think, that there was only one order of citizens Edition: current; Page: [422] among the Franks; an opinion which the Abbé du Bos has borrowed of him, and which he has absolutely spoiled with so many bad arguments. Be that as it may, it is not the Abbé du Bos that could make this objection. For after having given three orders of Roman nobility, and the quality of the king’s guest for the first, he could not pretend to say that this title was a greater mark of a noble descent than that of Antrustio. But I must give a direct answer. The Antrustios or trusty men were not such because they were possessed of a fief, but they had a fief given them because they were Antrustios or trusty men. The reader may please to recollect what has been said in the beginning of this book. They had not at that time, as they had afterwards, the same fief: but if they had not that, they had another, because the fiefs were given at their birth, and because they were often granted in the assemblies of the nation, and, in fine, because it was the interest of the nobility to receive them, it was likewise the king’s interest to grant them. These families were distinguished by their dignity of trusty men, and by the privilege of being qualified to swear allegiance for a fief. In the following book,* I shall demonstrate from the circumstances of time, that there were freemen who were permitted to enjoy this great privilege, and consequently to enter into the order of nobility. This was not the case at the time of Gontram, and his nephew Childebert; but so it was at the time of Charlemaign. But though in that prince’s reign the freemen were not incapable of possessing fiefs, yet it appears by the above-cited passage of Tegan, that the freedmen were absolutely excluded. Will the Abbé du Bos, who carries us to Turkey, to give us an idea Edition: current; Page: [423] of the ancient French nobility; will he, I say, pretend that they ever complained among the Turks of the elevation of people of low birth to the honours and dignities of the state, as they complained under Lewis the Debonnaire and Charles the Bald? There was no complaint of that kind under Charlemaign. because this prince always distinguished the ancient fron the new families; which Lewis the Debonnaire and Charles the Bald did not.

The public should not forget the obligation it owes to the Abbé du Bos for several excellent performances. It is by these works, and not by his history of the establishment of the French monarchy, we ought to judge of his merit. He committed very great mistakes, because he had more in view the count of Boulainvillier’s work, than his own subject.

From all these strictures I shall draw only one reflection; if so great a man was mistaken, how cautiously ought I to tread?


CHAP. I.: Changes in the offices and in the fiefs. Of the mayors of the palace.

THE counts at first were sent into their districts only for a year; but they soon purchased the continuation of their offices. Of this we have an example in the reign of Clovis’s grandchildren. A person Edition: current; Page: [424] named Peonius* was count in the city of Auxerre; he sent his son Mummolus with money to Gontram, to prevail upon him to continue in his employment; the son gave the money for himself, and obtained the father’s place. The kings had already begun to spoil their own favours.

Though by the laws of the kingdom the fiefs were precarious, yet they were neither given nor taken away in a capricious and arbitrary manner; nay, they were generally one of the principal subjects debated in the national assemblies. It is natural however to imagine that corruption had seized this, as well as the other article; and that the possession of the fiefs, like that of the counties, was continued for money.

I shall shew in the course of this book, that, independently of the grants which the princes made for a certain time, there were others in perpetuity. The court wanted to revoke the former grants; this occasioned a general discontent in the nation, and was soon followed with that famous revolution in the French history, whose first epocha was the amazing spectacle of the execution of Brunechild.

That this queen, who was daughter, sister, and mother to so many kings, a queen to this very day celebrated for public monuments worthy of a Roman Ædile or Proconful, born with an admirable genius for affairs, and endowed with qualities so long respected, should see herself of a sudden exposed to so slow, so ignominious and cruel a torture, by a king whose authority was but indifferently established in the nation, would appear very extraordinary, had she not incurred that nation’s displeasure for some particular cause. Clotharius reproached§ her with the Edition: current; Page: [425] murder of ten kings: but two of them he had put to death himself; the death of some of the others was owing to chance, or to the villany of another queen; and to a nation that had permitted Fredegunda to die in her bed, that had even opposed the punishment of her flagitious crimes, ought to have been very indifferent with respect to those of Brunechild.

She was put upon a camel, and led ignominiously through the army: a certain sign that she had given great offence to those troops. Fredegarius relates, that Protarius*, Brunechild’s favourite, stripped the lords of their property, and filled the exchequer with the plunder; that he humbled the nobility, and that no person could be sure of continuing in any office or employment. The army conspired against him, and he was stabbed in his tent; but Burnechild, either by revenging§ his death, or by pursuing the same plan, became every day more odious to the nation.

Clotharius, ambitious of reigning alone, inflamed moreover with the most furious revenge, and sure of perishing if Brunechild’s children got the upper hand, entered into a conspiracy against himself; and whether it was owing to ignorance, or to the necessity of his circumstances, he became Brunechild’s accuser, and made a terrible example of that princess.

Warnacharius had been the very soul of the conspiracy formed against Brunechild; being at that time mayor of Burgundy, he made Clotharius consent, Edition: current; Page: [426] that he should not be displaced while he lived. By this step the mayor could no longer be in the same case as the French lords before that period; and this authority began to render itself independent of the regal dignity.

It was Brunechild’s unhappy regency, which had exasperated the nation. So long as the laws subsisted in their full force, no one could grumble at having been deprived of a fief, since the law did not bestow it upon him in perpetuity. But when fiefs came to be acquired by avarice, by bad practices and corruption, they complained of being divested by irregular means, of things that had been irregularly acquired. Perhaps if the public good had been the motive of the revocation of those grants, nothing would have been said: but they pretended a regard to order, while they were openly abetting the principles of corruption; the fiscal rights were claimed, in order to lavish the public treasure: and grants were no longer the reward or encouragement of services. Brunechild, from a corrupt spirit, wanted to reform the abuses of the ancient corruption. Her caprices were not owing to weakness; the vassals and the great officers thinking themselves in danger, prevented their own, by her ruin.

We are far from having all the records of the transactions of those days; and the writers of chronicles, who understood very near as much of the history of their time, as our peasants know of ours, are extremely barren. Yet we have a constitution of Clotharius, given in the council of Paris for the reformation of§ abuses, which shews that this prince Edition: current; Page: [427] put a stop to the complaints that had occasioned the revolution. On the one hand, he confirms* all the grants that had been made or confirmed by the kings his predecessors; and on the other, he ordains that whatever had been taken from his vassals, should be restored to them.

This was not the only concession the king made in that council; he enjoined that whatever had been innovated, in opposition to the privileges of the clergy, should be redressed; and he moderated the influence of the court in the elections of bishops. He even reformed the fiscal affairs; ordaining that all the new§ census’s should be abolished, and that they should not levy any** toll established since the death of Gontram, Sigebert, and Chilpheric; that is, he abolished whatever had been done during the regencies of Fredegunda and Brunechild. He forbad the driving of his cattle to graze in private people’s grounds; and we shall presently see that the reformation was still more general, so as to extend even to civil affairs.

CHAP. II.: How the civil Government was reformed.

HITHERTO the nation had given marks of impatience and levity, with regard to the choice or conduct of her masters; she had regulated their differences, and obliged them to come to an agreement Edition: current; Page: [428] amongst themselves. But now she did what before was quite unexampled; she cast her eyes on her actual situation, examined the laws coolly, provided against their insufficiency, repressed violence, and moderated the regal power.

The bold and insolent regencies of Fredegunda and Brunechild, had less surprised than roused the nation. Fredegunda had defended her horrid cruelties, her poisonings and assassinations, by a repetition of the same crimes; and had behaved in such a manner that her outrages were rather of a private than public nature. Fredegunda did more mischief: Brunechild threatened more. In this crisis, the nation was not satisfied with rectifying the feudal system; she was also determined to secure her civil government. For the latter was rather more corrupt than the former; a corruption the more dangerous as it was more inveterate, and connected rather with the abuse of manners than with that of laws.

The history of Gregory of Tours exhibits, on the one hand, a fierce and barbarous nation; and on the other, kings remarkable for the same ferocity of temper. Those princes were bloody, iniquitous, and cruel, because such was the character of the whole nation. If Christianity appeared sometimes to soften their manners, it was only by the circumstances of terror with which this religion alarms the sinner: the church supported herself against them by the miraculous operations of her saints. The kings would not commit sacrilege, because they dreaded the punishments inflicted on that species of guilt; but this excepted, either in the riot of passion, or in the coolness of deliberation, they perpetrated the most horrid crimes and barbarities, where the divine vengeance did not appear so immediately to overtake the criminal. The Franks, as I have already observed, bore with cruel kings, because they were of the Edition: current; Page: [429] same disposition themselves; they were not shocked at the iniquity and extortions of their princes, because this was the national characteristic. There had been many laws established, but it was usual for the king to defeat them all, by a kind of letters called precepts*, which rendered them of no effect; they were somewhat similar to the rescripts of the Roman emperors, whether it be that our kings borrowed this usage of those princes, or whether it was owing to their own natural temper. We see in Gregory of Tours, how they perpetrated murder in cool blood, and put the accused to death, unheard; how they gave precepts for illicit marriages; for transfering successions; for depriving relations of their right; and in fine, marrying consecrated virgins. They did not indeed assume the whole legislative power, but they dispensed with the execution of the laws.

Clotharius’s constitution redressed all these grievances; no one could any longer be condemned without being heard; relations were made to succeed according to the order established by law; all precepts for marrying religious women were declared null;§ and those who had obtained and made use of them, were severely punished. We might know perhaps more exactly his determination with regard to these precepts, if the thirteenth and the two next articles of this decree had not been lost through the injuries of time. We have only the first words of this thirteenth article, ordaining that the precepts shall be observed, which cannot be understood of those he had just abolished by the same law. We have another constitution** by Edition: current; Page: [430] the same prince, which is relative to his decree, and corrects in the same manner, every article of the abuses of the precepts.

True it is that Baluzius finding this constitution without date, and without the name of the place where it was given, attributes it to Clotharius I. But I say it belongs to Clotharius II, for three reasons; 1. It says that the king will preserve the immunities granted to the churches, by his father and grandfather. What immunities could the churches receive from Childeric, grandfather of Clotharius I. who was not a Christian, and who lived even before the foundation of the monarchy? But if we attribute this decree to Clotharius II. we shall find his grandfather to have been this very Clotharius I. who made immense donations to the church, with a view of expiating the murder of his son Cramne, whom he had ordered to be burnt, together with his wife and children.

2. The abuses redressed by this constitution, were still subsisting after the death of Clotharius I. and were even carried to the highest extravagance during the weak reign of Gontram, the cruel administration of Chilperic, and the execrable regencies of Fredegunda and Brunechild. Now can we imagine that the nation would have borne with grievances so solemnly proscribed, without complaining of their continual repetition? Can we imagine she would not have taken the same step as she did afterwards under Childeric II. when upon a repetition of the old grievances, she pressed§ him to ordain that the law and customs in regard to judicial proceedings, should be complied with as formerly.

In fine, as this constitution was made to redress Edition: current; Page: [431] grievances, it cannot relate to Clotharius I. since there were no complaints of that kind in his reign, and his authority was perfectly established throughout the kingdom, especially at the time in which they place this constitution; whereas it agrees extremely well with the events that happened during the reign of Clotharius II. which produced a revolution in the political state of the kingdom. History must be illustrated by the laws, and the laws by history,

CHAP. III.: Authority of the Mayors of the Palace.

I TOOK notice that Clotharius II. had promised not to deprive Warnacharius of his mayor’s place during life; a revolution productive of another effect. Before that time the mayor was the king’s officer, but now he became the officer of the people; he was chosen before by the king, and now by the nation. Before the revolution, Protarius had been made mayor by Theodoric, and* Landeric by Fredegunda; but after that the mayors were chosen by the nation.

We must not therefore confound, as some authors have done, these mayors of the palace with such as were possessed of this dignity before the death of Brunechild; the king’s mayors with those of the kingdom. We see by the law of the Burgundians, that among them the office of mayor was not one of the most respectable in the state; nor was it one of the most eminent§ under the first kings of the Franks.

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Clotharius removed the apprehensions of those who were possessed of employments and fiefs; and when after the death of Warnacharius* he asked the lords assembled at Troyes, who is it they would put in his place; they cried out, they would chuse no one, but suing for his favour, committed them entirely into his hands.

Dagobert reunited the whole monarchy in the same manner as his father; the nation had a thorough confidence in him, and appointed no mayor. This prince finding himself at liberty, and elated by his victories, resumed Brunechild’s plan. But he succeeded so ill, that the vassals of Austrasia let themselves be beaten by the Sclavonians, and returned home, so that the marches of Austrasia were left a prey to the Barbarians.

He determined then to make an offer to the Austrasians, of resigning that country, together with a provincial treasure, to his son Sigebert, and to put the government of the kingdom and of the palace into the hands of Cunibert bishop of Cologne, and of the duke Adalgisus. Fredegarius does not enter into the particulars of the conventions then made; but the king confirmed them all by charters, and Austrasia was immediately secured from danger.

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Dagobert finding himself near his end, recommended his wife Nentechildis, and his son Clovis, to the care of Æga. The Vassals of Neustria and Burgundy chose* this young prince for their king. Æga and Nentechildis had the government of the palace; they restored whatever Dagobert had taken; and complaints ceased in Neustria and Burgundy, as they had ceased in Austrasia.

After the death of Æga, the queen Nentechildis engaged the lords of Burgundy to chuse Floachatus for their mayor. The latter dispatched letters to the bishops and chief lords of the kingdom of Burgundy, by which he promised to preserve their honours and dignities§ for ever, that is, during life. He confirmed his word by oath. This is the period, at which** the author of the treatise of the mayors of the palace fixes the administration of the kingdom by those officers.

Fredegarius being a Burgundian, has entered into a more minute detail, as to what concerns the mayors of Burgundy, at the time of the revolution of which we are speaking, than with regard to the mayors of Austrasia and Neustria. But the conventions made in Burgundy were, for the very same reasons, agreed to in Neustria and Austrasia.

The nation thought it safer to lodge the power in the hands of a mayor whom she chose herself, and to whom she might prescribe conditions, than in those of a king whose power was hereditary.

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CHAP. IV.: Of the Genius of the Nation in regard to the Mayors.

A GOVERNMENT, in which a nation that had an hereditary king, chose a person to exercise the regal authority, seems very extraordinary: but independently of the circumstances of the times, I apprehend that the notions of the Franks in regard to this article were derived from a higher source.

The Franks were descended from the Germans, of whom Tacitus says, that in the choice of their king they were determined by his noble extraction; and in that of their leader, by his valour. This gives us an idea of the kings of the first race, and of the mayors of the palace; the former were hereditary, the latter elective.

No doubt, but those princes, who stood up in the national assembly, and offered themselves as the conductors of a public enterprize to such as were willing to follow them, united, generally in their own person, both the power of the mayor, and the king’s authority. By the splendour of their descent they had attained the regal dignity; and their military abilities having recommended them to the command of armies, they rose to the power of mayor. By the regal dignity our first kings presided in the courts and assemblies, and enacted laws with the national consent; by the dignity of duke or leader, they undertook expeditions, and commanded the armies.

In order to be acquainted with the genius of the primitive Franks in this respect, we have only to cast an eye on the conduct of Argobastes, a Frank by nation, on whom Valentinian had conferred the command of the army. He confined the emperor to his Edition: current; Page: [435] own palace; where he would suffer nobody to speak to him concerning either civil or military affrirs. Argobastes did at that time what was afterwards practised by the Pepins.

CHAP. V.: In what Manner the Mayors obtained the Command of the Armies.

SO long as the kings commanded their armies in person, the nation never thought of chusing a leader. Clovis and his four sons were at the head of the Franks, and led them on through a series of victories. Theobald son of Theodobert, a young, weak, and sickly prince, was the first* of our kings that confined himself to his palace. He refused to undertake an expedition into Italy against Narses, and had the mortification to see the Franks chuse themselves two chiefs, who led them against the enemy. Of the four sons of Clotharius I. Gontram was the least fond of commanding his armies; the other kings followed this example; and, in order to intrust the command without danger into other hands, they conferred it upon several chiefs or dukes.

Innumerable were the inconveniencies which thence arose; all discipline was lost, no one would any longer Edition: current; Page: [436] obey. The armies were dreadful only to their own country; they were loaden with spoils, before they had reached the enemy. Of these miseries we have a very lively picture in Gregory of Tours*. “How shall we be able to obtain a victory, says Gontram, we who do not so much as keep what our ancestors acquired? Our nation is no longer the same. . . . . .” Strange, that it should be on the decline so early as the reign of Clovis’s grand-children!

It was therefore natural they should determine at last upon an only duke, a duke invested with an authority over this prodigious multitude of feudal lords and vassals, who were now become strangers to their own engagements; a duke who was to establish the military discipline, and to put himself at the head of a nation unhappily practised in making war against itself. This power was conferred on the mayors of the palace.

The original function of the mayors of the palace, was the management of the king’s houshold. They had afterwards, in conjunction with other officers, the political government of fiefs; and at length they obtained the sole disposal of them. They had also the administration of military affairs and the command of the armies; employments necessarily connected with the other two. In those days it was much more difficult to raise than to command the armies; and who but the dispenser of favours could have this authority? In this martial and independent nation, it was prudent to invite, rather than to compel; prudent to give away or to promise the fiefs, that should happen Edition: current; Page: [437] to be vacant by the death of the possessor; prudent, in fine, to reward continually, and to raise a jealousy with regard to preferences. It was therefore right, that the person who had the superintendency of the palace, should also be general of the army.

CHAP. VI.: Second Epocha of the Humiliation of our Kings of the first Race.

AFTER the execution of Brunechild, the mayors were administrators of the kingdom under the sovereigns; and though they had the conduct of the war, yet the kings were always at the head of the armies, and the mayor and the nation fought under their command. But the victory* of duke Pepin over Theodoric and his mayor, completed the degradation of our princes; and that which Charles Martel obtained over Chilperic and his mayor Rainfroy, confirmed it. Austrasia triumphed twice over Neustria and Burgundy; and the mayoralty of Austrasia being annexed as it were to the family of the Pepins, this mayoralty and family became greatly superior to all the rest, The conquerors were then afraid lest some person of credit should seize the king’s person, in order to excite disturbances. For this reason they kept them in the royal palace as in a kind of prison, and once a year shewed them to the people. There they made ordinances, but§ these were such as were dictated by the mayor; they answered ambassadors, Edition: current; Page: [438] but the mayor made the answers. This is the time mentioned by* historians of the government of the mayors over the kings whom they held in subjection.

The extravagant passion of the nation for Pepin’s family went so far, that they chose one of his grandsons, who was yet an infant, for mayor; and put him over one Dagobert, that is, one phantom over another.

CHAP. VII.: Of the great Offices and Fiefs under the Mayors of the Palace.

THE mayors of the palace were far from reviving the precariousness of posts and employments; for indeed their power was owing to the protection which in this respect they had granted to the nobility. Hence the great offices were continued to be given for life, and this usage was every day more firmly established.

But I have some particular reflections to make here in respect to fiefs: and in the first place I do not question but most of them became hereditary from this time.

In the treaty of Andeli, Gontram and his nephew Childebert engage to maintain the donations made to the vassals and churches by the kings his predecessors; and leave is given to the wives, daughters and widows Edition: current; Page: [439] of kings, to dispose by will and in perpetuity of whatever they hold of the exchequer.

Marculfus wrote his formularies at the time of the mayors. We find several in which the kings make donations both to the person and to his heirs: and as the formularies represent the common actions of life, they prove that part of the fiefs were become hereditary towards the end of the first race. They were far from having in those days the idea of an unalienable demesne; this is a modern thing, which they knew neither in theory nor practice.

In proof hereof we shall presently produce positive facts; and if we can point out a time in which there were no longer any benefices for the army, nor any funds for its support; we must certainly conclude that the ancient benefices had been alienated. The time I mean is that of Charles Martel, who founded some new fiefs, which we should carefully distinguish from those of the earliest date.

When the kings began to make grants in perpetuity, either through the corruption which crept into the government, or by reason of the constitution itself, which continually obliged those princes to confer rewards; it was natural they should begin with giving the perpetuity of the fiefs, rather than of the counties. For to deprive themselves of some acres of land was no great matter; but to renounce the right of disposing the great offices, was divesting themselves of their very power.

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CHAP. VIII.: In what Manner the allodial Estates were changed into Fiefs.

THE manner of changing an allodial estate into a fief, may be seen in a formulary of Marculfus*. The owner of the land gave it to the king, who restored it to the donor by way of usufruit, or benefice, and then the latter nominated his heirs to the king.

In order to find out the reasons which induced them thus to change the nature of the allodia, I must trace the source of the ancient privileges of our nobility, a nobility who for these eleven centuries have been ready to undergo every hardship, and to spill their blood in their country’s service.

They who were seized of fiefs enjoyed very great advantages. The composition for the injuries done them was greater than that of freemen. It appears by the formularies of Marculfus, that it was a privilege belonging to the king’s vassal, that whoever killed him should pay a composition of six hundred sous. This privilege was established by the Salic law, and by that of the Ripuarians; and while these two laws ordained a composition of six hundred sous for the murder of the king’s vassal, they gave but