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Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 1 (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. 1.

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This is volume 1 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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vol. i.
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LONDON, Printed for T. Evans, in the Strand; AND W. Davis, in Piccadilly.
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THE interest which good citizens are pleased to take in the Encyclopedia, and the great number of men of letters, who consecrate their labours to it, seem to permit us to regard this work as one of the most proper monuments, to preserve the grateful sentiments of our country, and that respect which is due to the memory of those celebrated men who have done it honour. Persuaded, however, that M. de Montesquieu had a title to expect other panegyrists, and that the public grief deserved to be described by more eloquent pens, we would have concealed within our own breasts our just concern, and respect for his memory; but the acknowledgement of what we owe him we hold too dear to permit us to leave the care of it to others. While a benefactor to mankind by his writings, he also condescended to be so to this work, and our gratitude pretends to no more but only to trace out a few lines at the foot of his statue.

Charles de Secondat, baron of La Brede and of Montesquieu, late president à mortier of the parliament of Bourdeaux, member of the French academy Edition: current; Page: [ii] of sciences and belles lettres of Prussia, and of the Royal Society of London, was born at the castle of La Brede, near Bourdeaux, the 18th of January, 1689, of a noble family of Guyenne. His great great grandfather, John de Secondat, steward of the household to Henry the Second, king of Navarre, and afterwards to Jane, daughter of that king, who married Antony of Bourbon, purchased the estate of Montesquieu for the sum of 10,000 livres, which this princess gave him by an authentic deed, as a reward for his probity and services.

Henry the Third, king of Navarre, afterwards Henry the Fourth, king of France, erected the lands of Montesquieu into a barony, in favour of Jacob de Secondat, son of John, first one of the gentlemen in ordinary of the bedchamber to this prince, and ofterwards colonel of the regiment of Chatillon. John Gaston de Secondat, his second son, having married a daughter of the first president of the parliament of Bourdeaux, purchased the office of president à mortier in this society. He had several children; one of whom entered into the service, distinguished himself in it, and quitted it very early in life. This was the father of Charles de Secondat, author of the Spirit of Laws. These particulars may perhaps appear misplaced at the beginning of the eloge of a philosopher whose name stands so little in need of ancestors; but let us not envy their memory that eclat which this name reflects upon it.

The early marks of his genius, a presage sometimes so deceitful, was not so in Charles de Secondat: he discovered very soon what he one day would be, and his father employed all his attention to cultivate this rising genius, the object of his hope and of his tenderness. At the age of twenty, young Montesquieu already prepared materials for the Edition: current; Page: [iii] Spirit of Laws, by a well-digested extract from those immense volumes which compose the body of the civil law: thus heretofore Newton laid, in his early youth, the foundation of works which have rendered him immortal. The study of jurisprudence, however, though less dry to M. de Montesquieu than to the most part of those who apply to it, because he studied it as a philosopher, was not sufficient for the extent and activity of his genius. He enquired deeply, at the same time, into subjects still more important and more delicate,* and discussed them in silence, with that wisdom, with that decency, and with that equity, which he has since discovered in his works.

A brother of his father, president à mortier of the parliament of Bourdeaux, an able judge and virtuous citizen, the oracle of his own society and of his province, having lost an only son, and wanting to preserve, in his own corps, that elevated spirit which he had endeavoured to infuse into it, left his fortune and his office to M. de Montesquieu. He had been one of the counsellors of the parliament of Bourdeaux since the 24th of February, 1714, and was received president à mortier the 13th of July, 1716.

Some years after, in 1722, during the king’s minority, his society employed him to present remonstrances upon occasion of a new impost. Placed between the throne and the people, he filled, like a respectful subject and courageous magistrate, the employment, so noble, and so little envied, of making the cries of the unfortunate reach the sovereign: the public misery, represented with as much address as force of argument, obtained that justice Edition: current; Page: [iv] which it demanded. This success, it is true, much more unfortunately for the stare than for him, was of as short continuance as if it had been unjust. Scarce had the voice of the people ceased to be heard, but the impost, which had been suppressed, was replaced by another: but the good citizen had done his duty.

He was received the 3d of April, 1716, into the academy of Bourdeaux, which was then only beginning. A taste for music, and for works of pure entertainment, had at first assembled together the members who composed it. M. de Montesquieu believed, with reason, that the rising ardour and talents of his friends might be employed with still greater advantage in physical subjects. He was persuaded that nature, so worthy of being beheld every where, found also, in all places, eyes worthy of viewing her; that, on the contrary, works of taste not admitting of mediocrity, and the metropolis being the center of men of abilities and opportunities of improvement in this way, it was too difficult to gather together, at a distance from it, a sufficient number of distinguished writers. He looked upon the societies for belles lettres, so strangely multiplied in our provinces, as a kind, or rather as a shadow, of literary luxury, which is of prejudice to real opulence, without even presenting us with the appearance of it. Luckily the duke de la Force, by a prize which he had just founded at Bourdeaux, seconded these rational and just designs. It was judged that an experiment properly made would be preferable to a weak discourse or a bad poem; and Bourdeaux got an academy of sciences.

M. de Montesquieu, not at all eager to shew himself to the public, seemed, according to the expression of a great genius, to wait for an age ripe for Edition: current; Page: [v] writing. It was not till 1721, that is to say, at 32 years of age, that he published the Persian Letters. The Siamois, and the serious and comic amusements, might have furnished him with the idea of it; but he excelled his model. The description of oriental manners, real or supposed, of the pride and phlegm of Asiatic love, is but the smallest object of these letters; it only serves, so to speak, as a pretence for a delicate satire upon our manners, and for treating of several important subjects, which the author went to the bottom of, while he only appeared to glance at them. In this kind of moving picture, Usbec chiefly exposes, with as much genteel easiness as energy, whatever amongst us most struck his penetrating eyes: our way of treating the most silly things seriously, and of turning the most important into a joke; our conversations which are so blustering and so frivolous; our impatience even in the midst of pleasure itself; our prejudices and our actions perpetually in contradiction with our understandings; so much love of glory joined with so much respect for the idol of court-favour; our courtiers so mean and so vain; our exterior politeness to, and our real contempt of, strangers, or our affected regard for them; the fantasticness of our tastes, than which there is nothing lower but the eagerness of all Europe to adopt them; our barbarous disdain for the two most respectable occupations of a citizen, commerce and magistracy; our literary disputes, so keen and so useless; our rage for writing before we think, and for judging before we understand. To this picture, which is lively, but without malice, he opposes, in the apologue of the Troglodytes, the description of a virtuous people, become wise by misfortunes: a piece worthy of the portico. In another place, he represents philosophy, which had been a long Edition: current; Page: [vi] time smothered, appearing all of a sudden, regaining, by a rapid progress, the time which he had lost; penetrating even amongst the Russians at the voice of a genius which invites her; while, among other people of Europe, superstition, like a thick atmosphere, prevents that light, which surrounds them on all hands, from reaching them. In fine, by the principles which he has established concerning the nature of ancient and modern government, he presents us with the bud of those bright ideas which have been since developed by the author in his great work.

These different subjects, deprived at present of the graces of novelty, which they had when the Persian Letters first appeared, will for ever preserve the merit of that original character which the author has had the art to give them; a merit by so much the more real, that in this case it proceeds alone from the genius of the writer, and not from that foreign veil with which he covered himself; for Usbec acquired, during his abode in France, not only so perfect a knowledge of our morals, but even so strong a tincture of our manners, that his style makes us often forget his country. This small defect in point of probability was perhaps not without design and address: when he was exposing our follies and vices, he wanted without doubt also to do justice to our advantages. He was fully conscious of the insipidity of a direct panegyric: he has more delicately praised us, by so often assuming our own air to satirize us more agreeably.

Notwithstanding the success of this work, M. de Montesquieu did not openly declare himself the author of it. Perhaps he thought that by this means he would more easily escape that literary satire, which spares anonymous writings the more willingly, Edition: current; Page: [vii] because it is always the person, and not the work, which is the aim of its darts. Perhaps he was afraid of being attacked on account of the pretended contrast of the Persian Letters with the gravity of his office; a sort of reproach, said he, which critics never fail to make, because it requires no effort of genius. But his secret was discovered, and the public already pointed him out to the French academy. The event demonstrated how prudent M. de Montesquieu’s silence had been. Ufbec expresses himself sometimes freely enough, not concerning the fundamentals of Christianity, but about matters which too many people affect to confound with Christianity itself; about the spirit of persecution with which so many Christians have been animated; about the temporal usurpation of ecclesiastic power; about the excessive multiplication of monasteries, which deprive the state of subjects, without giving worshippers to God; about some opinions which have in vain been attempted to be established as principles; about our religious disputes, always violent and always fatal. If he appears any where to touch upon more delicate questions, and which more nearly interest the Christian religion, his reflections, weighed with justice, are in fact very favourable to revelation; because he only shews how little human reason, left to itself, knows concerning these subjects. In a word, among the genuine letters of M. de Montesquieu the foreign printer had inserted some by another hand; and they ought at least, before the author was condemned, to have distinguished which properly belonged to him. Without regard to these considerations, on the one hand, hatred under the name of zeal, and, on the other, zeal without discernment or understanding, rose and united themselves against the Persian Letters. Edition: current; Page: [viii] Informers, a species of men dangerous and base, which even in a wise government are unfortunately sometimes listened to, alarmed, by an unfaithful extract, the piety of the ministry. M. de Montesquieu, by the advice of his friends, supported by the public voice, having offered himself for that place in the French academy vacant by the death of M. de Sacy, the minister wrote a letter to the academy, that his majesty would never agree to the election of the author of the Persian Letters; that he had not read the book; but that persons in whom he placed confidence had informed him of their poisonous and dangerous tendency. M. de Montesquieu perceived what a stroke such an accusation might be to his person, his family, and the tranquility of his life. He neither put so high a price upon literary honours, either keenly to seek them, or to affect to disdain them when they came in his way, nor, in a word, to regard the simple want of them as a misfortune: but a perpetual exclusion, and especially the motives of that exclusion, appeared to him to be an injury. He saw the minister; declared to him that, for particular reasons, he did not own the Persian Letters; but that he would be still farther from disowning a work for which he believed he had no reason to blush; and that he ought to be judged after a reading, and not upon an information. At last the minister did what he ought to have begun with; he read the book, loved the author, and learned to place his confidence better. The French academy was not deprived of one of its greatest ornaments, and France had the happiness to preserve a subject which superstition or calumny was ready to deprive her of; for M. de Montesquieu had declared to the government, that, after that kind of affront which they were about to put upon him, he would Edition: current; Page: [ix] go among foreigners, who with open arms offered to receive him, in quest of that safety, that repose, and perhaps those rewards, which he might have hoped for in his own country. The nation would have deplored this loss, and the disgrace of it would notwithstanding have fallen upon it.

The late marshal d’Estrées, at that time director of the French academy, conducted himself upon this occasion like a virtuous courtier and a person of a truly elevated mind: he was neither afraid of abusing his credit nor of endangering it; he supported his friend and justified Socrates. This act of courage, so dear to learning, so worthy of being imitated at present, and so honourable to the memory of marshal d’Estrées, ought not to have been forgot in his panegyric.

M. de Montesquieu was received the 24th of January, 1728. His oration is one of the best which have been pronounced upon a like occasion: its merit is by so much the greater, that those who were to be received, till then confined by those forms and by those éloges which were in use, and to which a kind of prescription subjected them, had not as yet dared to step over this circle to treat of other subjects, or had not at least thought of comprehending them in it. Even in this state of constraint he had the happiness to succeed. Among several strokes with which his *oration shines, we may easily distinguish the deep-thinking writer by the single portrait of cardinal Richlieu, who taught France the secret of its strength, and Spain that of its weakness; who freed Germany from her chains and gave her new ones. We must admire monsieur de Montesquieu for having been able to overcome the difficulty of his Edition: current; Page: [x] subject, and we ought to pardon those who have not had the same success.

The new academician was by so much the more worthy of this title, that he had not long before renounced every other business to give himself entirely up to his genius and taste. However important the place which he occupied was, with whatever judgement and integrity he might have fulfilled its duties, he perceived that there were objects more worthy of employing his talents; that a citizen is accountable to his country and to mankind for all the good which he can do; and that he could be more useful to one and the other, by instructing them with his writings, than he could be by determining a few particular disputes in obscurity. All these reflections determined him to sell his office. He was no longer a magistrate, and was now only a man of letters.

But, to render himself useful by his works to different nations, it was necessary that he should know them: it was with this view that he undertook to travel; his aim was to examine every where the natural and moral world, to study the laws and constitution of every country; to visit the learned, the writers, the celebrated artists; every where to seek for those rare and singular geniuses whose conversation sometimes supplies the place of many years observation and residence. M. de Montesquieu might have said, like Democritus, “I have forgot nothing to instruct myself: I have quitted my country and travelled over the universe, the better to know truth; I have seen all the illustrious personages of my time.” But there was this difference between the French Democritus and him of Abdera, that the first travelled to instruct men, and the second to laugh at them.

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He first went to Vienna, where he often saw the celebrated prince Eugene. This hero, so fatal to France, (to which he might have been so useful,) after having given a check to the fortune of Lewis XIV. and humbled the Ottoman pride, lived during the peace without pomp, loving and cultivating letters in a court, where they are little honoured, and setting an example to his masters how they should protect them. M. de Montesquieu thought that he could discover in his conversation some remains of affection for his ancient country. Prince Eugene especially discovered it, as much as an enemy could, when he talked of the fatal consequences of that intestine division which has so long troubled the church of France: the statesman foresaw its duration and effects, and foretold it like a philosopher.’

M. de Montesquieu left Vienna to visit Hungary, an opulent and fertile country, inhabited by a haughty and generous nation, the scourge of its tyrants and the support of its sovereigns. As few persons know this country well, he has written with care this part of his travels.

From Germany he went to Italy: he saw at Venice the famous Mr. Law, who had nothing remaining of his grandeur but projects fortunately destined to die away in his own head, and a diamond which he pawned to play at games of hazard. One day the conversation turned on the famous system which Law had invented; an epoch of so many calamities and so many great fortunes, and especially of a remarkable corruption in our morals. As the parliament of Paris, the immediate depository of the laws during a minority, had made some resistance to the Scotch minister on this occasion, M. de Montesquieu asked him why he had never tried to overcome Edition: current; Page: [xii] this resistance by a method almost always infallible in England, by the grand mover of human actions, in a word, by money. These are not, answered Law, geniuses so ardent and so generous as my countrymen, but they are much more incorruplible. We shall add, without any prejudice of national vanity, that a society, which is free for some short limited time, ought to resist corruption more than one which is always so: the first, when it sells its liberty, loses it; the second, so to speak, only lends it, and exercises it even when it is doing so. Thus the circumstances and nature of government give rise to the vices and virtues of nations.

Another person, no less famous, whom M. de Montesquieu saw still oftener at Venice, was count de Bonneval. This man, so known by his adventures, which were not yet at an end, and flattered with conversing with so good a judge, and one so worthy of hearing them, often related to him the remarkable circumstances of his life, recited the military actions in which he had been engaged, and drew the characters of those generals and ministers whom he had known. M. de Montesquieu often recalled to mind these conversations, and related different strokes of them to his friends.

He went from Venice to Rome. In this ancient capital of the world, which is still so in some respects, he applied himself chiefly to examine that which distinguishes it most at present; the works of Raphael, of Titian, and of Michael Angelo. He had not made a particular study of the fine arts, but that expression, which shines in the master-pieces of this kind, infallibly strikes every man of genius. Accustomed to study nature, he knew her again when well imitated, as a like portrait strikes all those who are familiarly acquainted with the original. Edition: current; Page: [xiii] Those productions of art must indeed be wretched whose whole beauty is only discernible by artists.

After having travelled over Italy, M. de Montesquieu came to Switzerland. He carefully examined those vast countries which are watered by the Rhine. There was nothing more for him to see in Germany, for Frederic did not yet reign. He stopped afterwards some time in the United Provinces, an admirable monument what human industry animated by a love of liberty can do. At last he went to England, where he staid three years. Worthy of visiting and entertaining the greatest of men, he had nothing to regret but that he had not made this voyage sooner. Newton and Locke were dead. But he had often the honour of paying his respects to their protectress, the celebrated queen of England, who cultivated philosophy upon a throne, and who properly esteemed and valued M. de Montesquieu. He was no less well received by the nation, which, however, was not obliged to follow the example of its superiors on this occasion. He formed at London intimate friendships with men accustomed to think, and to prepare themselves for great actions by profound studies; with them he instructed himself in the nature of the government, and attained to a thorough knowledge of it. We speak here after the public testimonies which have been given him by the English themselves, so jealous of our advantages, and so little disposed to acknowledge any superiority in us.

As he had examined nothing either with the prejudice of an enthusiast or the austerity of a cynic, he brought back from his travels neither a saucy disdain for foreigners nor a still more misplaced contempt for his own country. It was the result of Edition: current; Page: [xiv] his observations, that Germany was made to travel in, Italy to sojourn in, England to think in, and France to live in.

After his return to his own country, M. de Montesquieu retired for two years to his estate of La Brede He there enjoyed in peace that solitude which our having viewed the tumult and hurry of the world serves to render more agreeable. He lived with himself, after having so long lived in a different way; and, what interests us most, he put the last hand to his work On the Cause of the Grandeur and Declension of the Romans, which appeared in 1734.

Empires, like men, must encrease, decay, and be extinguished. But this necessary revolution has often hidden causes, which the veil of time conceals from us, and which mystery, or their apparent minuteness, has even sometimes hid from the eyes of contemporaries.

Nothing in this respect resembles modern history more than ancient history. That of the Romans, however, deserves, in this respect, to be made an exception of; it presents us with a rational policy, a connected system of aggrandizement, which does not permit us to attribute the fortune of this people to obscure and inferior springs. The causes of the Roman grandeur may then be found in history, and it is the business of the philosopher to discover them. Besides, there are no systems in this study as in that of physic; these are almost always overthrown, because one new and unforeseen experiment can overturn them in an instant: on the contrary, when we carefully collect the facts which the ancient history of a country transmits to us, if we do not always gather together all the materials which we can desire, we can at least hope one day to have more of them. A careful study of history, a study Edition: current; Page: [xv] so important and so difficult, consists in combining in the most perfect manner these defective materials: such would be the merit of an architect, who, from some curious learned remains, should trace, in the most probable manner, the plan of an ancient edifice; supplying, by genius and happy conjectures, what was wanting in those unformed and mutilated ruins.

It is in this point of view that we ought to consider the work of M. de Montesquieu. He finds the causes of the grandeur of the Romans in that love of liberty, of labour, and of their country, which was instilled into them during their infancy; in those intestine divisions which gave an activity to their genius, and which ceased immediately upon the appearance of an enemy; in that constancy after misfortunes, which never despaired of the republic; in that principle they adhered to of never making peace but after victories; in the honour of a triumph, which was a subject of emulation among the generals; in that protection which they granted to those people who rebelled against their kings; in the excellent policy of permitting the conquered to preserve their religion and customs; and that of never having two enemies upon their hands at once, and of bearing every thing of the one till they had destroyed the other. He finds the causes of their declension in the aggrandizement of the state itself: in those distant wars, which, obliging the citizens to be too long absent, made them insensibly lose their republican spirit; in the privilege of being citizens of Rome, granted to so many nations, which made the Roman people at last become a sort of many headed monster; in the corruption introduced by the luxury of Asia; in the proscriptions of Sylla, which debased the genius of the nation, and prepared it for slavery; Edition: current; Page: [xvi] in that necessity which the Romans found themselves in, of having a master while their liberty was become burthensome to them; in that necessity they were obliged to of changing their maxims when they changed their government; in that series of monsters who reigned, almost without interruption, from Tiberius to Nerva, and from Commodus to Constantine; in a word, in the translation and division of the empire, which perished first in the West by the power of barbarians, and which, after having languished several ages in the East, under weak or cruel emperors, insensibly died away, like those rivers which disappear in the sands.

A very small volume was enough for M. de Montesquieu, to explain and unfold so interesting and vast a picture. As the author did not insist upon the detail, and only seized on the most fruitful branches of his subject, he has been able to include, in a very small space, a vast number of objects distinctly perceived, and rapidly presented, without fariguing the reader. While he points out a great deal to us, he leaves us still more to reflect upon; and he might have intitled his book, A Roman History for the Use of Statesmen and Philosophers.

Whatever reputation M. de Montesquieu had acquired by this last work, and by those which had preceded it, he had only cleared the way for a far grander undertaking, for that which ought to immortalize his name, and render it respectable to future ages. He had long ago formed the design, and had meditated for twenty years upon the execution of it; or to speak more properly, his whole life had been a perpetual meditation upon it. He had first made himself in some respect a stranger in his own country, better to understand it at last: he had afterwards travelled over all Europe, and profoundly Edition: current; Page: [xvii] studied the different people who inhabit it. The famous island, which glories so much in her laws, and which makes so bad a use of them, had been to him, in his long tour, what the isle of Crete had formerly been to Lycurgus, a school where he had known well how to instruct himself without approving every thing: in a word, he had, if we may so speak, examined and judged those celebrated nations and men who only exist at present in the annals of the world. It was thus that he attained by degrees to the noblest title which a wise man can deserve, that of legislator of nations.

If he was animated by the importance of his subject, he was at the same time terrified by its extensiveness; he abandoned it, and returned to it again at several intervals. He felt, more than once, as he himself owns, his paternal hands fail him. At last, encouraged by his friends, he collected all his strength, and published The Spirit of Laws.

In this important work, M. de Montesquieu, without insisting, after the example of those who preceded him, upon metaphysical discussions relative to the nature of man, supposed in an abstract state; without confining himself, like others, to consider certain people in certain particular relations or circumstances, takes a view of the inhabitants of the world in the actual state in which they are, and in all the relations which they can stand in to one another. The most part of other writers in this way are almost always either simple moralists, or simple lawyers, or even sometimes simple theologists. As for him, a citizen of all countries, and of all nations, he is less employed about what our duty requires of us, than about the means by which we can be obliged to fulfil it; about the metaphysical perfection of laws, than about that which human Edition: current; Page: [xviii] nature renders man capable of; about laws which have been made, than about those which ought to have been made; about the laws of a particular people, than about those of all nations. Thus, when comparing himself to those who have run before him in this noble and grand career, he might say, with Correggio when he had seen the works of his rivals, And I also, I am a painter.

Filled and penetrated with his subject, the author of the Spirit of Laws comprehends in it so great a number of materials, and treats them with such brevity and depth, that an affiduous and studious reading of it can make us alone perceive the merit of this book. This will especially serve, we venture to say, to make that pretended want of method, with which some readers have accused M. de Montesquieu, disappear; an advantage which they ought not slightly to have accused him of having neglected in a philosophical subject, and in a work of twenty years. Real want of order ought to be distinguished from that which is only apparent. Disorder is when the analogy and connection of ideas are not observed; when conclusions are set up as principles, or precede them; when the reader, after innumerable windings, finds himself at the point whence he set out. Apparent disorder is when the author, putting in their true place the ideas which he makes use of, leaves it to the readers to supply the intermediate ones; and it is thus that M. de Montesquieu believed that he might and ought to make use of them in a book designed for men who thought, whose genius ought to supply voluntary and reasonable omissions.

The order which is perceivable in the grand divisions of the Spirit of Laws takes place no less in the smaller details: we believe that, the more profoundly the work is studied, the more one will be Edition: current; Page: [xix] convinced of it. Faithful to his general divisions, the author refers to each those objects which belong to it exclusively; and, with respect to those which, by different branches, belong to several subjects at once, he has placed, under each division, that branch which properly belongs to it. By this we easily perceive, and without confusion, the influence which the different parts of the subject have upon each other; as, in a tree or system of human knowledge well understood, we may perceive the mutual relation of sciences and arts. This comparison is by so much the more just, that it is the same thing with respect to a plan which we may form to ourselves for examining laws philosophically, as of that order which may be observed in a tree comprehending all the sciences: there will always remain something arbitrary in it; and all that can be required of an author is, that he follow strictly, without deviating from it, that system which he has once formed to himself.

We may say of that obscurity, which is allowable in such a work, the same thing as of want of order. What may be obscure for vulgar readers is not so for those whom the author had in his view. Besides, obscurity which is voluntary is not properly obscurity. M. de Montesquieu being sometimes obliged to present to us truths of great importance, the absolute and direct avowal of which might have shocked without doing any good, has had the prudence to cover them; and, by this innocent artifice, he has concealed them from those to whom they might have been hurtful, without making them lost to men of sagacity.

Among those works which have sometimes furnished him with assistance, and sometimes with clearer views for his own, we may perceive that he Edition: current; Page: [xx] has especially profited from two historians who have thought the most, Tacitus and Plutarch: but, though a philosopher who has read these two authors might have dispensed with a great many others, he did not believe that he ought to neglect or disdain any thing in this way that could be of use to his subject. That reading which we must suppose necessary for the Spirit of Laws is immense; and the rational use which the author has made of such a prodigious multitude of materials will appear still more surprising, when it is known that he was almost entirely deprived of sight, and obliged to have recourse to eyes not his own; this prodigious reading contributes not only to the utility, but to the agreeableness, of the work, Without derogating from the majesty of his subject, M. de Montesquieu has known how to soften its austerity, and procure the reader some moments of repose, whether by facts which are singular and little known, or by delicate allusions, or by those strong and brilliant touches of the pencil, which paint, by one stroke, nations and men.

In a word, (for we will not here play the part of Homer’s commentators,) there are, without doubt, faults in the Spirit of Laws, as there are in every work of genius whose author first dared to clear out for himself a new rout. M. de Montesquieu has been amongst us, for the study of laws, what Descartes was for that of philosophy: he often instructs us, and is sometimes mistaken; and, even when he mistakes, he instructs those who know how to read him. The last edition of his works demonstrates, by the corrections and additions which he has made, that, if he has now and then made a slip, he has been able to find it out, and to rise again. By this he will acquire, at least, a title to a new examination, Edition: current; Page: [xxi] in those places where he was not of the same opinion with his censurers: perhaps, indeed, what he imagined stood most in need of correction has entirely escaped them; so blind commonly is the inclination to do hurt.

But that which is within the reach of all the world is the Spirit of Laws; that which ought to render the author dear to all nations, that which would serve to cover far greater faults than are in it, is that spirit of patriotism which dictated it. The love of the public good, a desire of seeing men happy, discovers itself in it every where; and, had it no other merit but this, which is so rare and so valuable, it would be worthy, on this account alone, to be read by nations and kings. We already perceive, by happy experience, that the fruits of this work are not confined to useless sentiments in the minds of its readers. Though M. de Montesquieu survived the publication of the Spirit of Laws but a short while, he had the satisfaction in some measure to foresee those effects which it begins to produce amongst us; the natural love of Frenchmen for their country turned towards its true object; that taste for commerce, for agriculture, and for useful arts, which insensibly spreads itself in our nation; that general knowledge of the principles of government, which renders people more attached to that which they ought to love. Those who have so indecently attacked this work, perhaps, owe more to it than they imagine. Ingratitude, besides, is the smallest reproach which we have to make to them. It is not without regret, and without blushing for the age we live in, that we proceed to expose them; but this history is of too much consequence to the glory of M. de Montesquieu, and advantage to philosophy, to be Edition: current; Page: [xxii] passed over in silence. May that reproach, which at last covers his enemies, be of use to them!

Scarce had the Spirit of Laws appeared, but it was eagerly sought after on account of the reputation of its author: but, though M. de Montesquieu had written for the good of the people, he ought not to have had the vulgar for his judge. The depth of his subject was a necessary consequence of its importance. However, the strokes which were scattered up and down the work, and which would have been displaced if they had not arisen naturally from the subject, made too many people believe that it was written for them. People sought for an agreeable book, and they only found an useful one; the whole scheme and particular details of which they could not comprehend without some attention. The Spirit of Laws was treated with a deal of light wit; even the title of it was made a subject of pleasantry: in a word, one of the finest literary monuments which our nation ever produced was at first regarded by it with much indifference. It was requisite that the true judges should have time to read it: they very soon correct the errors of the multitude, always ready to change its opinion. That part of the public which teaches dictated to that which listens, to hear how it ought to think and speak; and the suffrages of men of abilities, joined to the echoes which repeated them, formed only one voice over all Europe.

It was then that the open and secret enemies of letters and philosophy (for there are of both kinds) united their darts against this work. Hence that multitude of pamphlets which were aimed against him from all parts, and which we shall not draw out from that oblivion in which they have sunk. If those authors had not taken proper measures to be Edition: current; Page: [xxiii] unknown to posterity, it might be believed that the Spirit of Laws was written amidst a nation of barbarians.

M. de Montesquieu easily despised the dark criticisms of those weak authors who (whether out of a jealousy which they had no title to have, or to satisfy the public ill-nature, which loves satire and contempt) outrageously attack what they cannot attain to; and, more odious on account of the ill which they want to do, than formidable for that which they actually do, do not succeed even in this kind of writing, the facility of which, as well as its object, renders equally mean. He placed works of this kind on the same level with those weekly newspapers of Europe, the encomiums of which have no authority, and their darts no effect; which indolent readers run over without giving credit to, and in which sovereigns are insulted without knowing it, or without deigning to revenge it. But he was not equally indifferent about those principles of irreligion which they accused him of having propagated in the Spirit of Laws. By despising such reproaches he would have believed that he deserved them, and the importance of the object made him shut his eyes at the real meanness of his adversaries. Those men, who really want zeal as much as they are eager to make it appear that they have it, afraid of that light which letters diffuse, not to the prejudice of religion, but to their own disadvantage, took different ways of attacking him; some, by a stratagem which was as puerile as pusillanimous, had written to himself; others, after having attacked him under the mask of anonymous writers, had afterwards fallen by the ears among themselves. M. de Montesquieu, though he was very jealous of confounding them with each other, did not think it proper to lose Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] time, which was precious, in combating them one after another; he contented himself with making an example of him who had most signalized himself by his extravagance. It was the author of an anonymous and periodical paper, who imagined that he had a title to succeed Pascal, because he has succeeded to his opinions; a panegyrist of works which nobody reads, and an apologist of miracles which the secular power put an end to whenever it wanted to do it; who calls the little interest, which people of letters take in his quarrels, impious and scandalous; and hath, by an address worthy of him, alienated from himself that part of the nation whose affections he ought chiefly to have endeavoured to keep. The strokes of this formidable champion were worthy of those views which inspired him: he accused M. de Montesquieu of Spinosism and deism (two imputations which are incompatible); of having followed the system of Pope (of which there is not a word in his works); of having quoted Plutarch, who is not a Christian author; of not having spoken of original sin and of grace. In a word, he pretended that the Spirit of Laws was a production of the constitution Unigenitus; an idea which we may perhaps be suspected of fathering on the critic out of derision. Those who have known M. de Montesquieu, and who understand his work and that of Clement XI. may judge, by this accusation, of the rest.

The unsuccessfulness of this writer ought greatly to discourage him: he wanted to attack a wise man in that place which is most sensible to every good citizen; but he only procured him an addition of glory as a man of letters: the Defence of the Spirit of Laws appeared. This work, on account of that moderation, that truth, that delicacy of ridicule which abound in it, ought to be regarded as a model-in Edition: current; Page: [xxv] this way. M. de Montesquieu, charged by his adversary with atrocious imputations, might easily have rendered him odious; he did better, he made him ridiculous. If we are beholden to an aggressor for that good which he has done us without wanting to do it, we owe him eternal thanks for having procured us this master-piece. But what adds still more to the merit of this precious little piece is this, that the author, without thinking of it, has there drawn a picture of himself; those who knew him think they hear him; and posterity will be convinced, when reading his Defence, that his conversation was not inferior to his writings; an encomium which few great men have deserved.

Another circumstance gave him plainly the advantage in this dispute. The critic, who, as a proof of his attachment to religion, attacks its ministers, loudly accused the clergy of France, and especially the faculty of theology, of indifference for the cause of God, because they did not authentically proscribe so pernicious a work. The faculty had a title to despise the reproach of a nameless writer, but religion was in the question; a commendable delicacy made it resolve to examine the Spirit of Laws. Though it has been employed about it several years, it has not yet pronounced any thing; and, if some slight inadvertencies, which are almost inevitable in so vast a career, should have escaped M. de Montesquieu, the long and scrupulous attention, which they would have required from the most enlightened body of the church, might prove at least how excusable they are; but this body, full of prudence, will do nothing rashly in so important an affair. It knows the grounds of reason and of faith; it knows that the work of a man of letters ought no to be examined like that of a theologist; Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] that the bad consequences, which odious interpretations may draw from a proposition, do not render the proposition blameable in itself; that besides we live in an unlucky age, in which the interests of religion have need of being delicately managed; and that it may do hurt to weak people to throw an ill-timed suspicion of incredulity upon geniuses of the first rank; that, in a word, in spite of this unjust accusation, M. de Montesquieu was always esteemed, visited, and well received, by the greatest and most respectable characters in the church. Would he have preserved among men of worth that esteem which he enjoyed if they had regarded him as a dangerous writer?

While insects plagued him in his own country England erected a monument to his glory. In 1752, M. d’Assier, celebrated for the medals which he has struck in honour of several illustrious men, came from London to Paris to strike one of him. M. de la Tour, an artist of such superior talents, and so respectable for his disinterestedness and greatness of mind, had ardently desired to give a new lustre to his pencil, by transmitting to posterity the portrait of the author of the Spirit of Laws; he only wanted the satisfaction of painting him; and he deserved, like Apelles, that this honour should be reserved for him: but M. de Montesquieu, as sparing of M. de la Tour’s time as he himself was free of it, constantly and politely refused his pressing solicitations. M. d’Assier at first bore with such difficulties. ‘Do you believe,’ said he at last to M. de Montesquieu, ‘that there is not as much pride in refusing my offer as in accepting of it?’ Overcome by his pleasantry, he permitted M. d’Assier to do whatever he would.

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The author of the Spirit of Laws, in fine, was peaceably enjoying his glory, when he fell sick at the beginning of February: his health, naturally delicate, began to decay for some time past, by the slow and almost infallible effect of deep study; by the uneasiness which they had endeavoured to give him on account of his work; in a word, by that kind of life which he was obliged to lead at Paris, which he felt to be fatal to him. But the eagerness with which his company was sought after was too keen not to be sometimes indiscreet; they would, without perceiving it, enjoy him at the expence of himself. Scarce had the news of the danger which he was in spread abroad, but it became the object of the conversation and anxiety of the public. His house was never empty of persons of all ranks who came to enquire about his health, some out of real affection, others to have the appearance of it or to follow the crowd. His majesty, penetrated with the loss which his kingdom was about to sustain, enquired about him several times; a testimony of goodness and justice which does equal honour to the monarch and the subject. M. de Montesquieu’s end was not unworthy of his life. Oppressed with cruel pains, far from a family that was dear to him, and which had not the comfort of closing his eyes, surrounded by some friends and a great crowd of spectators, he preserved to his last moments a calmness and tranquility of soul. In a word, after having performed with decency every duty, full of confidence in the Eternal Being whom he was about to be re-united with, he died with the tranquility of a man of worth, who had never consecrated his talents but to the improvement of virtue and humanity. France and Europe lost him the 10th of February, 1755, aged sixty-six.

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All the public news-papers published this event as a misfortune. We may apply to M. de Montesquieu what was formerly said of an illustrious Roman; that nobody, when told of his death, shewed any joy at it; that nobody even forgot him when he was no more. Foreigners were eager to demonstrate their regrets: my lord Chesterfield, whom it is enough to name, caused to be published in one of the public London papers an article to his honour, an article worthy of the one and of the other; it is the portrait of Anaxagoras drawn by Pericles*. The royal academy of sciences and belles lettres of Prussia, though it is not its custom to pronounce the éloge of foreign members, thought itself bound to do him an honour which it had not before done to any one but the illustrious John Bernouilli. M. de Maupertuis, notwithstanding he was at that time indisposed, performed himself this last duty to his friend, and would not permit an office so dear and so melancholy to fall to the share of any other person. To so many honourable suffrages in favour of M. de Montesquieu, we believe we may add, without indiscretion, those praises which were given him, in presence of one of us, by that very monarch to whom this celebrated academy owes its lustre, Edition: current; Page: [xxix] a prince made to feel those losses which Philosophy sustains, and at the same time to comfort her.

The seventeenth of February, the French academy, according to custom, performed a solemn service for him, at which, notwithstanding the rigour of the season, almost all the learned men of this body, who were not absent from Paris, thought it their duty to assist. They ought, at this melancholy ceremony, to have placed the Spirit of Laws upon his coffin, as heretofore they exposed, opposite to that of Raphael, his last picture of the transfiguration. This simple and affecting ornament would have been a fine funeral oration.

Hitherto we have only considered M. de Montesquieu as a writer and philosopher; it would be to rob him of the half of his glory, to pass over in silence his agreeable personal qualities.

He had, in company, a sweetness and gaiety of temper always the same. His conversation was spirited, agreeable, and instructive, by the great number of men and of nations whom he had known. It was, like his stile, concise, full of wit and sallies, without gall, and without satire. Nobody told a story in a more lively manner, more readily, or with more grace and less affectation; he knew that the conclusion of an agreeable story is always the point in view, he therefore made dispatch to come at it, and produced the effect without having long promised it.

His frequent absence of mind only rendered him more amiable: he always awoke from it by some unexpected stroke which re-animated the languishing conversation; besides, these were never either frolicsome, shocking, or troublesome. The fire of his genius, the great number of ideas with which it was furnished, gave rise to them; but this never Edition: current; Page: [xxx] happened in the midde of an interesting or serious conversation; the desire of pleasing those, in whose company he was, made him attentive to them without affectation and without constraint.

The agreeableness of his conversation not only resembled his character and his genius, but even that kind of method which he observed in his study. Though capable of deep and long-continued meditation, he never exhausted his strength, he always left off application before he felt the least symptom of fatigue*.

He was sensible to glory, but he did not wish to attain it but by deserving it. He never endeavoured to augment his own by those underhand practices, by those dark and shameful methods, which dishonour the character of the man without adding to that of the author.

Worthy of every distinction and of every reward, he asked nothing, and he was not surprised that he was forgot; but he has adventured, even in delicate circumstances, to protect at court men of letters, who were persecuted, celebrated, and unfortunate, and has obtained favours for them.

Though he lived with the great, whether out of necessity, or propriety, or taste, their company was not necessary to his happiness. He retired whenever he could to his estate in the country; he there again with joy met his philosophy, his books, and his Edition: current; Page: [xxxi] repose. Surrounded, at his leisure hours, with country people, after having studied man, in the commerce of the world, and in the history of nations, he studied him also in those simple people whom nature alone has instructed, and he could from them learn something: he conversed chearfully with them; he endeavoured, like Socrates, to find out their genius; he appeared as happy, when conversing with them, as in the most brilliant assemblies, especially when he made up their differences, and comforted them under their distress by his beneficence.

Nothing does greater honour to his memory than the method in which he lived, which some people have pretended to blame as extravagant, in a proud and avaricious age, extremely unfit to find out, and still less to feel, the real benevolent motives of it.

M. de Montesquieu would neither make encroachments upon the fortune of his family, by those supplies which he gave the unfortunate, nor by those considerable expences which his long tour of travelling, the weakness of his sight, and the printing of his works, had exposed him to. He transmitted to his children, without diminution or augmentation, the estate which he received from his ancestors; he added nothing to it but the glory of his name, and the example of his life. He had married, in 1715, dame Jane de Lartigue, daughter of Peter de Lartigue, lieutenant-colonel of the regiment of Molevrier: he had two daughters and one son by her, who, by his character, his morals, and his works, has shewn himself worthy of such a father.

Those who love truth and their country will not be displeased to find some of his maxims here. He thought,

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That every part of the state ought to be equally subject to the laws; but that the privileges of every part of the state ought to be respected when their effects have nothing contrary to that natural right which obliges every citizen equally to concur to the public good: that ancient possession was in this kind the first of titles, and the most inviolable of rights, which it was always unjust, and sometimes dangerous, to want to shake.

That magistrates, in all circumstances, and notwithstanding whatever advantage it might be to their own body, ought never to be any thing but magistrates without partiality and without passion, like the laws which absolve and punish without love and hatred.

In a word, he said, upon occasion of those ecclesiastical disputes which have so much employed the Greek emperors and Christians, that theological disputes, when they are not confined to the schools, infallibly dishonour a nation in the eyes of its neighbours: in fact, the contempt, in which wise men hold those quarrels, does not vindicate the character of their country; because, sages making every where the least noise, and being the smallest number, it is never from them that the nation is judged of.

The importance of those works, which we have had occasion to mention in this panegyric, has made us pass over in silence less considerable ones, which served as a relaxation to our author, and which, in any other person, would have merited an encomium. The most remarkable of them is the Temple of Gnidus, which was very soon published after the Persian Letters. M. de Montesquieu, after having been Horace, Theophrastus, and Lucian, Edition: current; Page: [xxxiii] in those, was an Ovid and Anacreon in this new essay. It is no more the despotic love of the East which he proposes to paint, it is the delicacy and simplicity of pastoral love, such as it is in an unexperienced heart which the commerce of the world has not yet corrupted. The author, fearing, perhaps, that a picture so opposite to our manners should appear too languid and uniform, has endeavoured to animate it by the most agreeable images. He transports the reader into inchanted scenes, the view of which, to say the truth, little interests the lover in his happiest moments, but the description of which still flatters the imagination, when the passions are gratified. Inspired by his subject, he hath adorned his prose with that animated, figurative, and poetic, stile, which the romance of Telemachus gave the first example of amongst us. We do not know why some censurers of the temple of Gnidus have said upon this occasion, that it ought to have been written in verse. The poetic stile, if we understand, as we ought by this word, a stile full of warmth and images, does not stand in need of the uniform march and cadency of versification to be agreeable; but, if we only make this stile to consist in a diction loaded with needless epithets, in the cold and trivial descriptions of the wings and quiver of love, and of such objects, versification will add nothing to the merit of these beaten ornaments; in vain will we look for the life and spirit of it. However this be, the temple of Gnidus being a sort of poem in prose, it belongs to our celebrated writers to determine the rank which it ought to hold: it is worthy of such judges.

We believe, at least, the descriptions in this work may with success stand one of the principal Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv] tests of poetic descriptions, that of being represented on canvass. But what we ought chiefly to observe in the temple of Gnidus is, that Anacreon himself is always the observer and the philosopher there. In the fourth canto the author appears to describe the manners of the Cyberites, and it may easily be perceived that these are our own manners. The preface especially bears the mark of the author of the Persian Letters. When he represents the Temple of Gnidus as a translation from a Greek manuscript, a piece of wit which has been so much disfigured since by bad imitators, he takes occasion to paint by one stroke of his pen the folly of critics and the pedantry of translators. He concludes with these words, which deserve to be repeated: ‘If serious people require some other work of me of a less frivolous nature, I can easily satisfy them; I have been labouring thirty years at a work of twelve pages, which will contain all that we know of metaphysics, politics, and morality; and all that the greatest authors have forgot in the volumes which they have published on these sciences.’

We look upon that particular interest which M. de Montesquieu took in the Encyclopædia, as one of the most honourable rewards of our labour; this work, till the present time, has only been supported by the courage and emulation of its authors. All men of letters ought, as he thought, eagerly to concur in the execution of this most useful undertaking. He gave an example of it, with M. de Voltaire, and several other celebrated writers. Perhaps the opposition which this work has met with, and which reminded him of what had happened to himself, interested him the more in our favour. Edition: current; Page: [xxxv] Perhaps he was sensible, without perceiving it, of that justice which we dared to do him in the first volume of the Encyclopædia, when nobody as yet ventured to say a word in his defence. He prepared for us an article upon taste, which has been found imperfect among his papers. We shall give it to the public in that condition, and treat it with the same respect that antiquity formerly shewed to the last words of Seneca. Death prevented him from giving us any farther marks of his beneficence; and, joining our own griefs with those of all Europe, we might write on his tomb,

Finis vitæ ejus nobis luctuosus, patriæ tristis, extraneis etiam ignotisque non sine cura fuit.

Tacit. in Agric.
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IF, amidst the infinite number of subjects contained in this book, there is any thing which, contrary to my expectation, may possibly offend, I can at least assure the public that it was not inserted with an ill intention, for I am not naturally of a captious temper. Plato thanked Heaven that he was born in the same age with Socrates; and, for my part, I give thanks to God that I was born a subject of that government under which I live, and that it is his pleasure I should obey those whom he has made me love.

I beg one favour of my readers, which I fear will not be granted me; this is, that they will not judge by a few hours reading of the labour of twenty years; that they will approve or condemn the book entire, and not a few particular phrases. If they would search into the design of the author, they can do it no other way so completely as by searching into the design of the work.

I have first of all considered mankind; and the result of my thoughts has been, that, amidst such an infinite diversity of laws and manners, they were not solely conducted by the caprice of fancy.

I have laid down the first principles, and have found that the particular cases apply naturally to them; that the histories of all nations are only consequences of them; and that every particular law is connected with another law, or depends on some other of a more general extent.

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When I have been obliged to look back into antiquity, I have endeavoured to assume the spirit of the ancients, lest I should consider those things as alike which are really different, and lest I should miss the difference of those which appear to be like.

I have not drawn my principles from my prejudices, but from the nature of things.

Here a great many truths will not appear till we have seen the chain which connects them with others. The more we enter into particulars, the more we shall perceive the certainty of the principles on which they are founded. I have not even given all these particulars; for who could mention them all without a most insupportable fatigue!

The reader will not here meet with any of those bold flights which seem to characterise the works of the present age. When things are examined with ever so small a degree of extent, the sallies of imagination must vanish; these generally arise from the mind’s collecting all its powers to view only one side of the subject, while it leaves the other unobserved.

I write not to censure any thing established in any country whatsoever. Every nation will here find the reasons on which its maxims are founded; and this will be the natural inference, that to propose alterations belongs only to those who are so happy as to be born with a genius capable of penetrating into the entire constitution of a state.

It is not a matter of indifference that the minds of people be enlightened. The prejudices of the magistrate have arisen from national prejudice. In a time of ignorance they have committed even the greatest evils without the least scruple; but, in an enlightened age, they even tremble while conferring the greatest blessings. They perceive the ancient abuses, they see how they must be reformed, but Edition: current; Page: [xxxix] they are sensible also of the abuses of the reformation. They let the evil continue if they fear a worse; they are content with a lesser good if they doubt of a greater. They examine into the parts to judge of them in connection; and they examine all the causes to discover their different effects.

Could I but succeed so as to afford new reasons to every man to love his duty, his prince, his country, his laws; new reasons to render him more sensible, in every nation and government, of the blessings he enjoys, I should think myself the most happy of mortals.

Could I but succeed so as to persuade those who command to increase their knowlege in what they ought to prescribe; and those who obey, to find a new pleasure resulting from their obedience; I should think myself the most happy of mortals.

The most happy of mortals should I think myself, could I contribute to make mankind recover from their prejudices. By prejudice, I here mean, not that which renders men ignorant of some particular things, but whatever renders them ignorant of themselves.

It is in endeavouring to instruct mankind that we are best able to practise that general virtue which comprehends the love of all. Man, that flexible being, conforming in society to the thoughts and impressions of others, is equally capable of knowing his own nature, whenever it is laid open to his view, and of losing the very sense of it, when this idea is banished from his mind.

Often have I begun and as often have I laid aside this undertaking. I have a thousand times given the leaves I have written to the *winds; I every day felt my paternal hands fall. I have followed my Edition: current; Page: [xl] object without any fixed plan; I have known neither rules nor exceptions; I have found the truth only to lose it again. But, when I had once discovered my first principles, every thing I sought for appeared; and, in the course of twenty years, I have seen my work begun, growing up, advancing to maturity, and finished.

If this work meets with success, I shall owe it chiefly to the grandeur and majesty of the subject. However, I do not think that I have been totally deficient in point of genius. When I have seen what so many great men both in France and Germany have written before me, I have been lost in admiration, but I have not lost my courage; I have said, with Corregio, And I also am a painter.*

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  • Book I. Of laws in general.
    • CHap. I. Of laws as they relate to different beings, page 1
    • Chap. II. Of the laws of nature, 4
    • Chap. III. Of positive laws, 6
  • Book II. Of laws directly derived from the nature of government.
    • Chap. I. Of the nature of the three different governments, 9
    • Chap. II. Of the republican government, and the laws relative to democracy, 10
    • Chap. III. Of the laws relative to the nature of aristocracy, 16
    • Chap. IV. Of the relation of laws to the nature of monarchical government, 19
    • Chap. V. Of the laws relative to the nature of a despotic government, 22
  • Book III. Of the principles of the three kinds of government.
    • Chap. I. Difference between the nature and principle of government, 24
    • Chap. II. Of the principle of different governments, 24
    • Chap. III. Of the principle of democracy, 25
    • Chap. IV. Of the principle of aristocracy, 28
    • Chap. V. That virtue is not the principle of a monarchical government, 29
    • Chap. VI. In what manner virtue is supplied in a monarchical government, 31
    • Chap. VII. Of the principle of a monarchy, 31
    • Chap. VIII. That honour is not the principle of despotic government, 32
    • Chap. IX. Of the principle of despotic government, 33
    • Chap. X. Difference of obedience in moderate and despotic governments, 34
    • Chap. XI. Reflections on the foregoing, 36
  • Book IV. That the laws of education ought to be relative to the principles of government.
    • Chap. I. Of the laws of education, 37 Edition: current; Page: [xlii]
    • Chap. II. Of education in monarchies, 37
    • Chap. III. Of education in a despotic government, 41
    • Chap. IV. Difference between the effects of ancient and modern education, 42
    • Chap. V. Of education in a republican government, 43
    • Chap. VI. Of some institutions among the Greeks, 44
    • Chap. VII. In what case these singular institutions may be of service, 47
    • Chap. VIII. Explication of a paradox of the ancients, in respect to manners, 48
  • Book V. That the laws given by the legislator ought to be relative to the principle of government.
    • Chap. I. Idea of this book, 51
    • Chap. II. What is meant by virtue in a political state, 52
    • Chap. III. What is meant by a love of the republic in a democracy, 52
    • Chap. IV. In what manner the love of equality and frugality is inspired, 54
    • Chap. V. In what manner the laws establish equality in a democracy, 54
    • Chap. VI. In what manner the laws ought to maintain frugality in a democracy, 58
    • Chap. VII. Other methods for favouring the principle of democracy, 60
    • Chap. VIII. In what manner the laws ought to be relative to the principle of government in an aristocracy, 63
    • Chap. IX. In what manner the laws are relative to their principle in monarchies, 69
    • Chap. X. Of the expedition peculiar to the executive power in monarchies, 70
    • Chap. XI. Of the excellence of a monarchical government, 71
    • Chap. XII. The same subject continued, 73
    • Chap. XIII. An idea of despotic power, 73
    • Chap. XIV. In what manner the laws are relative to the principles of despotic government, 74
    • Chap. XV. The same subject continued, 81
    • Chap. XVI. Of the communication of power, 83
    • Chap. XVII. Of presents, 84
    • Chap. XVIII. Of rewards conferred by the sovereign, 86
    • Chap. XIX. New consequences of the principles of the three governments, 87
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  • Book VI. Consequences of the principles of different governments with respect to the simplicity of civil and criminal laws, the form of judgements, and the inflicting of punishments.
    • Chap. I. Of the simplicity of civil laws in different governments, 91
    • Chap. II. Of the simplicity of criminal laws in different governments, 95
    • Chap. III. In what governments, and in what cases, the judges ought to determine according to the express letter of the law, 96
    • Chap. IV. Of the manner of forming judgements, 97
    • Chap. V. In what governments the sovereign may be judge, 99
    • Chap. VI. That in monarchies the ministers ought not to be judges, 102
    • Chap. VII. Of a single magistrate, 103
    • Chap. VIII. Of accusations in different governments, 104
    • Chap. IX. Of the severity of punishments in different governments, 105
    • Chap. X. Of the ancient French laws, 106
    • Chap. XI. That, when a people are virtuous, few punishments are necessary, 107
    • Chap. XII. Of the power of punishments, 107
    • Chap. XIII. Impotency of the laws of Japan, 110
    • Chap. XIV. Of the spirit of the Roman senate, 113
    • Chap. XV. Of the Roman laws in respect to punishments, 114
    • Chap. XVI. Of the just proportion betwixt punishments and crimes, 116
    • Chap. XVII. Of the question or torture, 118
    • Chap. XVIII. Of pecuniary and corporal punishments, 119
    • Chap. XIX. Of the law of retaliation, 119
    • Chap. XX. Of the punishment of fathers for the crimes of their children, 120
    • Chap. XXI. Of the clemency of the prince, 121
  • Book VII. Consequences of the different principles of the three governments, with respect to the sumptuary laws, luxury, and the condition of women.
    • Chap. I. Of luxury, 122
    • Chap. II. Of sumptuary laws in a democracy, 125
    • Chap. III. Of sumptuary laws in an aristocracy, 126
    • Chap. IV. Of sumptuary laws in a monarchy, 127
    • Chap. V. In what cases sumptuary laws are useful in a monarchy, 129
    • Chap. VI. Of the luxury of China, 130
    • Chap. VII. Fatal consequences of luxury in China, 132 Edition: current; Page: [xliv]
    • Chap. VIII. Of public continency, 133
    • Chap. IX. Of the condition or state of women in different governments, 133
    • Chap. X. Of the domestic tribunal among the Romans, 134
    • Chap. XI. In what manner the institutions changed at Rome, together with the government, 136
    • Chap. XII. Of the guardianship of women among the Romans, 137
    • Chap. XIII. Of the punishment decreed by the emperors against the incontinency of women, 137
    • Chap. XIV. Sumptuary laws among the Romans, 140
    • Chap. XV. Of dowries and nuptial advantages in different constitutions, 140
    • Chap. XVI. An excellent custom of the Samnites, 141
    • Chap. XVII. Of female administration, 142
  • Book VIII. Of the corruption of the principles of the three governments.
    • Chap. I. General idea of this book, 143
    • Chap. II. Of the corruption of the principle of democracy, 143
    • Chap. III. Of the spirit of extreme equality, 146
    • Chap. IV. Particular cause of the corruption of the people, 146
    • Chap. V. Of the corruption of the principle of aristocracy, 147
    • Chap. VI. Of the corruption of the principle of monarchy, 148
    • Chap. VII. The same subject continued, 149
    • Chap. VIII. Danger of the corruption of the principle of monarchical government, 150
    • Chap. IX. How ready the nobility are to defend the throne, 151
    • Chap. X. Of the corruption of the principle of despotic government, 152
    • Chap. XI. Natural effects of the goodness and corruption of the principles of government, 152
    • Chap. XII. The same subject continued, 154
    • Chap. XIII. The effect of an oath among a virtuous people, 155
    • Chap. XIV. How the smallest change in the constitution is attended with the ruin of its principles, 157
    • Chap. XV. Sure methods of preserving the three principles, 157
    • Chap. XVI. Distinctive properties of a republic, 158
    • Chap. XVII. Distinctive properties of a monarchy, 159
    • Chap. XVIII. Particular case of the Spanish monarchy, 160
    • Chap. XIX. Distinctive properties of a despotic government, 161
    • Chap. XX. Consequence of the preceding chapters, 161
    • Chap. XXI. Of the empire of China, 161
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  • Book IX. Of laws in the relation they bear to a defensive force.
    • Chap. I. In what manner republics provide for their safety, 165
    • Chap. II. That a confederate government ought to be composed of states of the same nature, especially of the republican kind, 167
    • Chap. III. Other requisites in a confederate republic, 168
    • Chap. IV. In what manner despotic governments provide for their security, 169
    • Chap. V. In what manner a monarchical government provides for its security, 169
    • Chap. VI. Of the defensive force of states in general, 170
    • Chap. VII. A reflection, 171
    • Chap. VIII. A particular case, in which the defensive force of a state is inferior to the offensive, 172
    • Chap. IX. Of the relative force of states, 173
    • Chap. X. Of the weakness of neighbouring states, 173
  • Book X. Of laws in the relation they bear to offensive force.
    • Chap. I. Of offensive force, 174
    • Chap. II. Of war, 174
    • Chap. III. Of the right of conquest, 176
    • Chap. IV. Some advantages of a conquered people, 178
    • Chap. V. Gelon, king of Syracuse, 180
    • Chap. VI. Of conquests made by a republic, 181
    • Chap. VII. The same subject continued, 182
    • Chap. VIII. The same subject continued, 183
    • Chap. IX. Of conquests made by a monarchy, 183
    • Chap. X. Of one monarchy that subdues another, 184
    • Chap. XI. Of the manners of a conquered people, 185
    • Chap. XII. Of a law of Cyrus, 185
    • Chap. XIII. Alexander, 185
    • Chap. XIV. Charles XII. 186
    • Chap. XV. New methods of preserving a conquest, 192
    • Chap. XVI. Of conquests made by a despotic prince, 193
    • Chap. XVII. The same subject continued, 194
  • Book XI. Of the laws that form political liberty, with regard to the constitution.
    • Chap. I. A general idea, 195
    • Chap. II. Different significations given to the word liberty, 195
    • Chap. III. In what liberty consists, 196
    • Chap. IV. The same subject continued, 197 Edition: current; Page: [xlvi]
    • Chap. V. Of the end or view of different governments, 197
    • Chap. VI. Of the constitution of England, 198
    • Chap. VII. Of the monarchies we are acquainted with, 212
    • Chap. VIII. Why the ancients had not a clear idea of monarchy, 213
    • Chap. IX. Aristotle’s manner of thinking, 214
    • Chap. X. What other politicians thought, 215
    • Chap. XI. Of the kings of the heroic times of Greece, 215
    • Chap. XII. Of the government of the kings of Rome, and in what manner the three powers were there distributed, 217
    • Chap. XIII. General reflections on the state of Rome after the expulsion of its kings, 219
    • Chap. XIV. In what manner the distribution of the three powers began to change after the expulsion of the kings, 221
    • Chap. XV. In what manner Rome, while in the flourishing state of the republic, suddenly lost its liberty, 224
    • Chap. XVI. Of the legislative powers in the Roman republic, 225
    • Chap. XVII. Of the executive power in the same republic, 227
    • Chap. XVIII. Of the judiciary power in the Roman government, 229
    • Chap. XIX. Of the government of the Roman provinces, 237
    • Chap. XX. End of this book, 239
  • Book XII. Of the laws that form political liberty, as relative to the subject.
    • Chap. I. Idea of this book, 240
    • Chap. II. Of the liberty of the subject, 241
    • Chap. III. The same subject continued, 242
    • Chap. IV. That liberty is favoured by the nature and proportion of punishments, 242
    • Chap. V. Of certain accusations that require particular moderation and prudence, 246
    • Chap. VI. Of the crime against nature, 248
    • Chap. VII. Of the crime of high-treason, 249
    • Chap. VIII. Of the bad application of the name of Sacrilege and High-treason, 250
    • Chap. IX. The same subject continued, 252
    • Chap. X. The same subject continued, 253
    • Chap. XI. Of thoughts, 253
    • Chap. XII. Of indiscreet speeches, 254
    • Chap. XIII. Of writings, 256
    • Chap. XIV. Breach of modesty in punishing crimes, 257 Edition: current; Page: [xlvii]
    • Chap. XV. Of the infranchisement of slaves in order to accuse their master, 258
    • Chap. XVI. Of calumny in respect to the crime of high-treason, 258
    • Chap. XVII. Of the revealing of conspiracies, 259
    • Chap. XVIII. How dangerous it is, in republics, to be too severe in punishing the crime of high-treason, 260
    • Chap. XIX. In what manner the use of liberty is suspended in a republic, 262
    • Chap. XX. Of laws favourable to the liberty of the subject in a republic, 263
    • Chap. XXI. Of the cruelty of laws in respect to debtors in a republic, 263
    • Chap. XXII. Of things that strike at liberty in monarchies, 265
    • Chap. XXIII. Of spies in monarchies, 266
    • Chap. XXIV. Of anonymous letters, 267
    • Chap. XXV. Of the manner of governing in monarchies, 268
    • Chap. XXVI. That, in a monarchy, the prince ought to be of easy access, 269
    • Chap. XXVII. Of the manners of a monarch, 269
    • Chap. XXVIII. Of the regard which monarchs owe to their subjects, 270
    • Chap. XXIX. Of the civil laws proper for mixing a little liberty in a despotic government, 271
    • Chap. XXX. The same subject continued, 272
  • Book XIII. Of the relation which the levying of taxes, and the greatness of the public revenues, have to liberty.
    • Chap. I. Of the revenues of the state, 273
    • Chap. II. That it is bad reasoning to say that the greatness of the taxes is good in its own nature, 274
    • Chap. III. Of taxes in countries where part of the people are villains or bondmen, 275
    • Chap. IV. Of a republic in the like case, 275
    • Chap. V. Of a monarchy in the like case, 276
    • Chap. VI. Of a despotic government in the like case, 276
    • Chap. VII. Of taxes in countries where villainage is not established, 277
    • Chap. VIII. In what manner the illusion is preserved, 279
    • Chap. IX. Of a bad kind of impost, 280
    • Chap. X. That the greatness of taxes depends on the nature of the government, 281
    • Chap. XI. Of fiscal punishments, 281 Edition: current; Page: [xlviii]
    • Chap. XII. Relation between the greatness of taxes and liberty, 283
    • Chap. XIII. In what governments taxes are capable of increase, 284
    • Chap. XIV. That the nature of the taxes is relative to the government, 286
    • Chap. XV. Abuse of liberty, 286
    • Chap. XVI. Of the conquests of the Mahometans, 287
    • Chap. XVII. Of the augmentation of troops, 287
    • Chap. XVIII. Of an exemption from taxes, 288
    • Chap. XIX. Which is most suitable to the prince and to the people, the letting out to farm, or the administration of the revenues, 289
    • Chap. XX. Of the farmers of the revenues, 291
  • Book XIV. Of laws as relative to the nature of the climate.
    • Chap. I. General idea, 292
    • Chap. II. Of the difference of men in different climates, 292
    • Chap. III. Contradiction in the characters of some southern nations, 297
    • Chap. IV. Cause of the immutability of religion, manners, customs, and laws, in the eastern countries, 298
    • Chap. V. That those are bad legislators who favour the vices of the climate, and good legislators who oppose those vices, 298
    • Chap. VI. Of the cultivation of lands in warm climates, 299
    • Chap. VII. Of monkery, 300
    • Chap. VIII. An excellent custom of China, 300
    • Chap. IX. Means of encouraging industry, 301
    • Chap. X. Of the laws relative to the sobriety of the people, 301
    • Chap. XI. Of the laws relative to the distempers of the climate, 303
    • Chap. XII. Of the laws against suicides, 306
    • Chap. XIII. Effects arising from the climate of England, 306
    • Chap. XIV. Other effects of the climate, 308
    • Chap. XV. Of the different confidence which the laws have in the people, according to the difference of climates, 309
  • Book XV. In what manner the laws of civil slavery are relative to the nature of the climate.
    • Chap. I. Of civil slavery, 310
    • Chap. II. Origin of the right of slavery among the Roman civilians, 311 Edition: current; Page: [xlix]
    • Chap. III. Another origin of the right of slavery, 314
    • Chap. IV. Another origin of the right of slavery, 314
    • Chap. V. Of the slavery of the negroes, 315
    • Chap. VI. The true origin of the right of slavery, 316
    • Chap. VII. Another origin of the right of slavery, 317
    • Chap. VIII. Inutility of slavery among us, 318
    • Chap. IX. Several kinds of slavery, 319
    • Chap. X. Regulations necessary in respect to slavery, 319
    • Chap. XI. Abuses of slavery, 320
    • Chap. XII. Danger from the multitude of slaves, 321
    • Chap. XIII. Of armed slaves, 322
    • Chap. XIV. The same subject continued, 323
    • Chap. XV. Precautions to be used in moderate governments, 323
    • Chap. XVI. Regulations between masters and slaves, 326
    • Chap. XVII. Of infranchisements, 327
    • Chap. XVIII. Of freedmen and eunuchs, 330
  • Book XVI. How the laws of domestic slavery have a relation to the nature of the climate.
    • Chap. I. Of domestic servitude, 331
    • Chap. II. That, in the countries of the south, there is a natural inequality between the two sexes, 332
    • Chap. III. That a plurality of wives depends greatly on the means of supporting them, 333
    • Chap. IV. That the law of polygamy is an affair that depends on calculation, 334
    • Chap. V. The reason of a law of Malabar, 335
    • Chap. VI. Of polygamy considered in itself, 336
    • Chap. VII. Of an equality of treatment in case of many wives, 337
    • Chap. VIII. Of the separation of women from men, 337
    • Chap. IX. Of the connection between domestic and political government, 338
    • Chap. X. The principle on which the morals of the East are founded, 339
    • Chap. XI. Of domestic slavery independently of polygamy, 341
    • Chap. XII. Of natural modesty, 342
    • Chap. XIII. Of jealousy, 343
    • Chap. XIV. Of the eastern manner of domestic government, 343
    • Chap. XV. Of divorce and repudiation, 344
    • Chap. XVI. Of repudiation and divorce amongst the Romans, 345
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  • Book XVII. How the laws of political servitude have a relation to the nature of the climate.
    • Chap. I. Of political servitude, 349
    • Chap. II. The difference between nations in point of courage, 349
    • Chap. III. Of the climate of Asia, 350
    • Chap. IV. The consequences resulting from this, 353
    • Chap. V. That, when the people in the north of Asia, and those of the north of Europe, have conquered, the effects of the conquest were not the same, 354
    • Chap. VI. A new physical cause of the slavery of Asia, and of the liberty of Europe, 356
    • Chap. VII. Of Africa and America, 357
  • Book XVIII. Of laws in the relation they bear to the nature of the soil.
    • Chap. I. How the nature of the soil has an influence on the laws, 358
    • Chap. II. The same subject continued, 359
    • Chap. III. What countries are best cultivated, 360
    • Chap. IV. New effects of the fertility and barrenness of countries, 361
    • Chap. V. Of the inhabitants of islands, 361
    • Chap. VI. Of countries raised by the industry of men, 362
    • Chap. VII. Of the works of men, 363
    • Chap. VIII. The general relation of laws, 363
    • Chap. IX. Of the soil of America, 364
    • Chap. X. Of the number of men with regard to the manner in which they procure subsistence, 364
    • Chap. XI. Of savage nations and nations of barbarians, 365
    • Chap. XII. Of the law of nations amongst people who do not cultivate the earth, 365
    • Chap. XIII. Of the civil laws of those nations which do not cultivate the earth, 366
    • Chap. XIV. Of the political state of the people who do not cultivate the lands, 367
    • Chap. XV. Of the people who know the use of money, 367
    • Chap. XVI. Of civil laws amongst people who know not the use of money, 368
    • Chap. XVII. Of political laws amongst nations which have not the use of money, 368
    • Chap. XVIII. Of the power of superstition, 369 Edition: current; Page: [li]
    • Chap. XIX. Of the liberty of the Arabs, and the servitude of the Tartars, 370
    • Chap. XX. Of the law of nations as practised by the Tartars, 371
    • Chap. XXI. The civil law of the Tartars, 372
    • Chap. XXII. Of a civil law of the German nations, 372
    • Chap. XXIII. Of the ornaments of royalty, 379
    • Chap. XXIV. Of the marriages of the kings of the Franks, 380
    • Chap. XXV. Childeric, 380
    • Chap. XXVI. Of the times when the kings of the Franks became of age, 381
    • Chap. XXVII. The same subject continued, 382
    • Chap. XXVIII. Of the sanguinary temper of the kings of the Franks, 384
    • Chap. XXIX. Of the national assemblies of the Franks, 385
    • Chap. XXX. Of the authority of the clergy under the first race, 386
  • Book XIX. Of laws in relation to the principles which form the general spirit, the morals, and customs of a nation.
    • Chap. I. Of the subject of this book, 387
    • Chap. II. That it is necessary people’s minds should be prepared for the reception of the best laws, 387
    • Chap. III. Of tyranny, 388
    • Chap. IV. Of the general spirit of mankind, 389
    • Chap. V. How far we should be attentive lest the general spirit of the nation should be changed, 389
    • Chap. VI. That every thing ought not to be corrected, 390
    • Chap. VII. Of the Athenians and Lacedæmonians, 391
    • Chap. VIII. Effects of a social temper, 391
    • Chap. IX. Of the vanity and pride of nations, 392
    • Chap. X. Of the characters of the Spaniards and Chinese, 393
    • Chap. XI. A reflection, 394
    • Chap. XII. Of customs and manners in a despotic state, 394
    • Chap. XIII. Of the customs of the Chinese, 395
    • Chap. XIV. What are the natural means of changing the manners and customs of a nation, 396
    • Chap. XV. The influence of domestic government on the political, 398
    • Chap. XVI. How some legislators have confounded the principles which govern mankind, 398
    • Chap. XVII. Of the peculiar quality of the Chinese government, 400
    • Chap. XVIII. A consequence drawn from the preceding chapter, 401 Edition: current; Page: [lii]
    • Chap. XIX. How this union of religion, laws, manners, and customs, amongst the Chinese, was produced, 402
    • Chap. XX. An explication of a paradox relating to the Chinese, 404
    • Chap. XXI. How the laws ought to have a relation to manners and customs, 405
    • Chap. XXII. The same subject continued, 405
    • Chap. XXIII. How the laws are founded on the manners of a people, 406
    • Chap. XXIV. The same subject continued, 407
    • Chap. XXV. The same subject continued, 408
    • Chap. XXVI. The same subject continued, 408
    • Chap. XXVII. How the laws contribute to form the manners, customs, and character, of a nation, 408
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CHAP. I.: Of the Relation of Laws to different Beings.

LAWS, in their most general signification, are the necessary relations arising from the nature of things. In this sense, all beings have their laws; the Deity his* laws, the material world its laws, the intelligence superior to man their laws, the beasts their laws, man his laws.

They who assert, that a blind fatality produced the various effects we behold in this world, talk very absurdly; for can any thing be more unreasonable than to pretend that a blind fatality could be productive of intelligent beings?

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There is then a primitive reason; and laws are the relations subsisting between it and different beings, and the relations of these to one another.

God is related to the universe as creator and preserver: the laws by which he created all things are those by which he preserves them. He acts according to these rules, because he knows them; he knows them, because he made them; and he made them, because they are relative to his wisdom and power.

Since we observe that the world, though formed by the motion of matter, and void of understanding, subsists through so long a succession of ages, its motions must certainly be directed by invariable laws: and, could we imagine another world, it must also have constant rules, or it would inevitably perish.

Thus the creation, which seems an arbitrary act, supposeth laws as invariable as those of the fatality of the atheists. It would be absurd to say, that the Creator might govern the world without those rules, since without them it could not subsist.

These rules are a fixed and invariable relation. In bodies moved, the motion is received, increased, diminished, lost, according to the relations of the quantity of matter and velocity: each diversity is uniformity; each change is constancy.

Particular intelligent beings may have laws of their own making; but they have some likewise which they never made. Before there were intelligent beings, they were possible; they had therefore possible relations, and consequently possible laws. Before laws were made, there were relations of possible justice. To say that there is nothing just or unjust, but what is commanded or forbidden by positive laws, is the same as saying that, before the describing of a circle, all the radii were not equal.

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We must therefore acknowledge relations of justice antecedent to the positive law by which they are established: as for instance, that, if human societies existed, it would be right to conform to their laws; if there were intelligent beings that had received a benefit of another being, they ought to shew their gratitude; if one intelligent being had created another intelligent being, the latter ought to continue in its original state of dependence; if one intelligent being injures another, it deserves a retaliation; and so on.

But the intelligent world is far from being so well governed as the physical: for, though the former has also its laws, which of their own nature are invariable, it does not conform to them so exactly as the physical world. This is because, on the one hand, particular intelligent beings are of a finite nature, and consequently liable to error; and, on the other, their nature requires them to be free agents. Hence they do not steadily conform to their primitive laws; and even those of their own instituting they frequently infringe.

Whether brutes be governed by the general laws of motion, or by a particular movement, we cannot determine. Be that as it may, they have not a more intimate relation to God than the rest of the material world; and sensation is of no other use to them, than in the relation they have either to other particular beings, or to themselves.

By the allurement of pleasure they preserve the individual, and by the same allurement they preserve their species. They have natural laws, because they are united by sensation; positive laws they have none, because they are not connected by knowledge: and yet they do not invariably conform to their natural laws: these are better observed by Edition: current; Page: [4] vegetables, that have neither understanding nor sense.

Brutes are deprived of the high advantages which we have; but they have some which we have not. They have not our hopes; but they are without our fears: they are subject, like us, to death, but without knowing it: even most of them are more attentive than we to self-preservation, and do not make so bad a use of their passions.

Man, as a physical being, is, like other bodies, governed by invariable laws. As an intelligent being, he incessantly transgresses the laws established by God, and changes those of his own instituting. He is left to his private direction, though a limited being, and subject, like all finite intelligences, to ignorance and error: even his imperfect knowledge he loseth; and, as a sensible creature, he is hurried away by a thousand impetuous passions. Such a being might every instant forget his Creator; God has therefore reminded him of his duty by the laws of religion. Such a being is liable every moment to forget himself; philosophy has provided against this by the laws of morality. Formed to live in society, he might forget his fellow-creatures; legislators have, therefore, by political and civil laws, confined him to his duty.

CHAP. II.: Of the Laws of Nature.

ANTECEDENT to the above-mentioned laws are those of nature; so called because they derive their force entirely from our frame and existence. In order to have a perfect knowledge of these laws, we must consider man before the establishment of society; the laws received in such a state would be those of nature.

The law, which, impressing on our minds the idea of a Creator, inclines us toward him, is the first in importance, Edition: current; Page: [5] though not in order, of natural laws. Man, in a state of nature, would have the faculty of knowing before he had acquired any knowledge. Plain it is that his first ideas would not be of a speculative nature: he would think of the preservation of his being before he would investigate its original. Such a man would feel nothing in himself, at first, but impotency and weakness: his fears and apprehensions would be excessive; as appears from instances (were there any necessity of proving it) of savages found in forests* trembling at the motion of a leaf, and flying from every shadow.

In this state, every man, instead of being sensible of his equality, would fancy himself inferior: there would, therefore, be no danger of their attacking one another; peace would be the first law of nature.

The natural impulse, or desire, which Hobbes attributes to mankind, of subduing one another, is far from being well founded. The idea of empire and dominion is so complex, and depends on so many other notions, that it could never be the first which occurred to the human understanding.

Hobbes enquires, “For what reason men go armed, and have locks and keys to fasten their doors, if they be not naturally in a state of war?” But is it not obvious, that he attributes to mankind, before the establishment of society, what can happen but in consequence of this establishment, which furnishes them with motives for hostile attacks and self-defence?

Next to a sense of his weakness, man would soon find that of his wants. Hence, another law of nature would prompt him to seek for nourishment.

Fear, I have observed, would induce men to shun one another; but the marks of this fear, being reciprocal, Edition: current; Page: [6] would soon engage them to associate. Besides, this association would quickly follow from the very pleasure one animal feels at the approach of another of the same species. Again, the attraction arising from the difference of sexes would enhance this pleasure, and the natural inclination they have for each other would form a third law.

Beside the sense or instinct which man possesses in common with brutes, he has the advantage of acquired knowledge; and thence arises a second tie, which brutes have not. Mankind have therefore a new motive of uniting, and a fourth law of nature results from the desire of living in society.

CHAP. III.: Of positive Laws.

AS soon as mankind enter into a state of society, they lose the sense of their weakness; equality ceases, and then commences the state of war.

Each particular society begins to feel its strength; whence arises a state of war betwixt different nations. The individuals likewise of each society become sensible of their force: hence the principal advantages of this society they endeavour to convert to their own emolument; which constitutes a state of war betwixt individuals.

These two different kinds of states give rise to human laws. Considered as inhabitants of so great a planet, which necessarily contains a variety of nations, they have laws relative to their mutual intercourse, which is what we call the law of nations. As members of a society that must be properly supported, they have laws relative to the governors and the governed; and this we distinguish by the name of politic law. They have also another sort of laws, as they stand in relation to each other; by which is understood the civil law.

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The law of nations is naturally founded on this principle, that different nations ought in time of peace to do one another all the good they can, and in time of war as little injury as possible, without prejudicing their real interests.

The object of war is victory; that of victory is conquest; and that of conquest, preservation. From this and the preceding principle all those rules are derived which constitute the law of nations.

All countries have a law of nations, not excepting the Iroquois themselves, though they devour their prisoners; for they send and receive ambassadors, and understand the rights of war and peace. The mischief is, that their law of nations is not founded on true principles.

Besides the law of nations relating to all societies, there is a polity, or civil constitution, for each, particularly considered. No society can subsist without a form of government. “The united strength of individuals,” as Gravina well observes, “constitutes what we call the body politic.

The general strength may be in the hands of a single person, or of many. Some think that, nature having established paternal authority, the most natural government was that of a single person. But the example of paternal authority proves nothing: for, if the power of a father be relative to a single government, that of brothers after the death of a father, and that of cousin-germans after the decease of brothers, refer to a government of many. The political power necessarily comprehends the union of several families.

Better is it to say, that the government most conformable to nature is that which best agrees with the humour and disposition of the people in whose favour it is established.

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The strength of individuals cannot be united without a conjunction of all their wills. “The conjunction of those wills,” as Gravina again very justly observes, “is what we call the civil state.

Law in general is human reason, inasmuch as it governs all the inhabitants of the earth; the political and civil laws of each nation ought to be only the particular cases in which human reason is applied.

They should be adapted in such a manner to the people for whom they are framed, that it is a great chance if those of one nation suit another.

They should be relative to the nature and principle of each government; whether they form it, as may be said of political laws; or whether they support it, as in the case of civil institutions.

They should be relative to the climate of each country, to the quality of its soil, to its situation and extent, to the principal occupation of the natives, whether husbandmen, huntsmen, or shepherds: they should have a relation to the degree of liberty which the constitution will bear, to the religion of the inhabitants, to their inclinations, riches, numbers, commerce, manners, and customs. In fine, they have relations to each other, as also to their origin, to the intent of the legislator, and to the order of things on which they are established; in all which different lights they ought to be considered.

This is what I have undertaken to perform in the following work. These relations I shall examine, since all these together constitute what I call the Spirit of Laws.

I have not separated the political from the civil institutions; for, as I do not pretend to treat of laws, but of their spirit, and as this spirit consists in the various relations which the laws may have to different objects, it is not so much my business to follow Edition: current; Page: [9] the natural order of laws, as that of these relations and objects.

I shall first examine the relations which laws have to the nature and principle of each government: and, as this principle has a strong influence on laws, I shall make it my study to understand it thoroughly; and, if I can but once establish it, the laws will soon appear to flow from thence as from their source. I shall proceed afterwards to other more particular relations.


CHAP. I.: Of the Nature of three different Governments.

THERE are three species of government; republican, monarchical, and despotic. In order to discover their nature, it is sufficient to recollect the common notion, which supposes three definitions, or rather three facts: “That a republican government is that in which the body or only a part of the people is possessed of the supreme power: monarchy, that in which a single person governs by fixed and established laws: a despotic government, that in which a single person directs every thing by his own will and caprice.”

This is what I call the nature of each government: we must now inquire into those laws which directly conform to this nature, and consequently are the fundamental institutions.

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CHAP. II.: Of the republican Government, and the Laws relative to Democracy.

WHEN the body of the people is possessed of the supreme power, this is called a democracy. When the supreme power is lodged in the hands of a part of the people, it is then an aristocracy.

In a democracy the people are in some respects the sovereign, and in others the subject.

There can be no exercise of sovereignty but by their suffrages, which are their own will: now, the sovereign’s will is the sovereign himself. The laws, therefore, which establish the right of suffrage, are fundamental to this government. And indeed it is as important to regulate, in a republic, in what manner, by whom, to whom, and concerning what, suffrages are to be given, as it is, in a monarchy, to know who is the prince, and after what manner he ought to govern.

Libanius* says, that at “Athens a stranger who intermeddled in the assemblies of the people was punished with death.” This is because such a man usurped the rights of sovereignty.

It is an essential point, to fix the number of citizens who are to form the public assemblies; otherwise it would be uncertain whether the whole or only a part of the people had given their votes. At Sparta the number was fixed to ten thousand. But Rome, designed by Providence to rise from the weakest beginnings to the highest pitch of grandeur; Rome, doomed to experience all the vicissitudes of fortune; Rome, who had sometimes all her inhabitants without her walls, and sometimes all Italy and a considerable part of the world within them; Edition: current; Page: [11] Rome, I say, never fixed* the number; and this was one of the principal causes of her ruin.

The people, in whom the supreme power resides, ought to have the management of every thing within their reach: what exceeds their abilities must be conducted by their ministers.

But they cannot properly be said to have their ministers, without the power of nominating them: it is therefore a fundamental maxim, in this government, that the people should choose their ministers; that is, their magistrates.

They have occasion, as well as monarchs, and even more so, to be directed by a council or senate. But, to have a proper confidence in these, they should have the choosing of the members; whether the election be made by themselves, as at Athens; or by some magistrate deputed for that purpose, as on certain occasions was customary at Rome.

The people are extremely well qualified for choosing those whom they are to intrust with part of their authority. They have only to be determined by things to which they cannot be strangers, and by facts that are obvious to sense. They can tell when a person has fought many battles, and been crowned with success; they are therefore very capable of electing a general. They can tell when a judge is assiduous in his office, gives general satisfaction, and has never been charged with bribery: this is sufficient for choosing a prætor. They are struck with the magnificence or riches of a fellow-citizen: no more is requisite for electing an ædile. These are facts of which they can have better information in a public forum than a monarch in his palace. But are they capable of conducting an intricate affair, of seizing and improving Edition: current; Page: [12] the opportunity and critical moment of action? No; this surpasses their abilities.

Should we doubt of the people’s natural capacity, in respect to the discernment of merit, we need only cast an eye on the series of surprising elections made by the Athenians and Romans; which no one surely will attribute to hazard.

We know that, though the people of Rome assumed to themselves the right of raising plebeians to public offices, yet they never would exert this power; and though, at Athens, the magistrates were allowed, by the law of Aristides, to be elected from all the different classes of inhabitants, there never was a case, says Xenophon*, that the common people petitioned for employments which could endanger either their security or their glory.

As most citizens have sufficient abilities to choose, though unqualified to be chosen, so the people, though capable of calling others to an account for their administration, are incapable of conducting the administration themselves.

The public business must be carried on, with a certain motion, neither too quick nor too slow. But the motion of the people is always either too remiss or too violent. Sometimes, with a hundred thousand arms, they overturn all before them; and sometimes, with a hundred thousand feet, they creep like insects.

In a popular state the inhabitants are divided into certain classes. It is in the manner of making this division that great legislators have signalized themselves; and it is on this the duration and prosperity of democracy have ever depended.

Servius Tullus followed the spirit of aristocracy in the distribution of his classes. We find, in Livy, Edition: current; Page: [13] and in Dionysius Halicarnasseus, in what manner he lodged the right of suffrage in the hands of the principal citizens. He had divided the people of Rome into a hundred and ninety-three centuries, which formed six classes; and, ranking the rich, who were in smaller numbers, in the first centuries; and those in middling circumstances, who were more numerous, in the next, he flung the indigent multitude into the last; and, as each century had but one vote*, it was property rather than numbers that decided the elections.

Solon divided the people of Athens into four classes. In this he was directed by the spirit of democracy, his intention not being to fix those who were to choose, but such as were eligible: therefore, leaving to every citizen the right of election, he made the judges eligible from each of those four classes; but the magistrates he ordered to be chosen only out of the first three, consisting of persons of easy fortunes.

As the division of those who have a right of suffrage is a fundamental law in republics, the manner also of giving this suffrage is another fundamental.

The suffrage by lot is natural to democracy, as that by choice is to aristocracy.

The suffrage by lot is a method of electing that offends no one; but animates each citizen with the pleasing hope of serving his country.

Yet, as this method is in itself defective, it has been the endeavour of the most eminent legislators to regulate and amend it.

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Solon made a law, at Athens, that military employments should be conferred by choice; but that senators and judges should be elected by lot.

The same legislator ordained, that civil magistracies attended with great expence should be given by choice, and the others by lot.

In order, however, to amend the suffrage by lot, he made a rule, that none but those who presented themselves should be elected; that the person elected should be examined by judges,* and that every one should have a right to accuse him if he were unworthy of the office: this participated at the same time of the suffrage by lot, and of that by choice. When the time of their magistracy was expired, they were obliged to submit to another judgement in regard to their conduct. Persons utterly unqualified must have been extremely backward in giving in their names to be drawn by lot.

The law which determines the manner of giving suffrage is likewise fundamental in a democracy. It is a question of some importance, whether the suffrages ought to be public or secret. Cicero observes, that the laws which rendered them secret, towards the close of the republic, were the cause of its decline. But, as this is differently practised in different republics, I shall offer here my thoughts concerning this subject.

The people’s suffrages ought doubtless to be public§; and this should be considered as a fundamental Edition: current; Page: [15] law of democracy. The lower class ought to be directed by those of higher rank, and restrained within bounds by the gravity of eminent personages. Hence, by rendering the suffrages secret in the Roman republic, all was lost: it was no longer possible to direct a populace that sought its own destruction. But, when the body of the nobles are to vote in an aristocracy,* or in a democracy the senate, as the business is then only to prevent intrigues, the suffrages cannot be too secret.

Intriguing in a senate is dangerous: dangerous it is also in a body of nobles; but not so in the people, whose nature is to act through passion. In countries where they have no share in the government, we often see them as much inflamed on the account of an actor, as ever they could be for the welfare of the state. The misfortune of a republic is, when intrigues are at an end; which happens when the people are gained by bribery and corruption: in this case they grow indifferent to public affairs, and avarice becomes their predominant passion. Unconcerned about the government and every thing belonging to it, they quietly wait for their hire.

It is likewise a fundamental law, in democracies, that the people should have the sole power to enact laws. And yet there are a thousand occasions on which it is necessary the senate should have a power of decreeing: nay, it is frequently proper to make some trial of a law before it is established. The constitutions of Rome and Athens were excellent. The decrees of the senate had the force of laws for the Edition: current; Page: [16] space of a year, but did not become perpetual till they were ratified by the consent of the people.

CHAP. III.: Of the Laws relative to the Nature of Aristocracy.

IN an aristocracy the supreme power is lodged in the hands of a certain number of persons. These are invested both with the legislative and executive authority; and the rest of the people are, in respect to them, the same as the subjects of a monarchy in regard to the sovereign.

They do not vote here by lot; for this would be productive of inconveniencies only. And indeed, in a government where the most mortifying distinctions are already established, though they were to be chosen by lot, still they would not cease to be odious: it is the nobleman they envy, and not the magistrate.

When the nobility are numerous, there must be a senate to regulate the affairs which the body of nobles are incapable of deciding, and to prepare others for their decision. In this case it may be said, that the aristocracy is in some measure in the senate, the democracy in the body of the nobles, and the people are a cypher.

It would be a very happy thing, in an aristocracy, if the people, in some measure, could be raised from their state of annihilation. Thus, at Genoa, the bank of St. George being administered by the people* gives them a certain influence in the government, from whence their whole prosperity is derived.

The senators ought by no means to have a right of naming their own members; for this would be Edition: current; Page: [17] the only way to perpetuate abuses. At Rome, which in its early years was a kind of aristocracy, the senate did not fill up the vacant places in their own body: the new members were nominated by the* censors.

In a republic, the sudden rise of a private citizen to exorbitant power produces monarchy, or something more than monarchy. In the latter, the laws have provided for, or in some measure adapted themselves to, the constitution; and the principle of government checks the monarch: but, in a republic, where a private citizen has obtained an exorbitant power, the abuse of this power is much greater, because the laws foresaw it not, and consequently made no provision against it.

There is an exception to this rule, when the constitution is such as to have immediate need of a magistrate invested with an exorbitant power. Such was Rome with her dictators; such is Venice with her state-inquisitors: these are formidable magistrates, who restore, as it were by violence, the state to its liberty. But how comes it that these magistracies are so very different in these two republics? It is because Rome supported the remains of her aristocracy against the people; whereas Venice employs her state-inquisitors to maintain her aristocracy against the nobles. The consequence was, that at Rome the dictatorship could be only of a short duration, as the people act through passion, and not with design. It was necessary that a magistracy of this kind should be exercised with lustre and pomp; the business being to intimidate, and not to punish, the multitude. It was also proper that the dictator should be created only for some particular affair, Edition: current; Page: [18] and for this only should have an unlimited authority, as he was always created upon some sudden emergency. On the contrary, at Venice they have occasion for a permanent magistracy; for here it is that schemes may be set on foot, continued, suspended, and resumed; that the ambition of a single person becomes that of a family, and the ambition of one family that of many. They have occasion for a secret magistracy, the crimes they punish being hatched in secrecy and silence. This magistracy must have a general inquisition; for their business is not to remedy known disorders, but to prevent the unknown. In a word, the latter is designed to punish suspected crimes; whereas the former used rather menaces than punishment, even for crimes that were openly avowed.

In all magistracies the greatness of the power must be compensated by the brevity of the duration. This most legislators have fixed to a year: a longer space would be dangerous, and a shorter would be contrary to the nature of government; for who is it that, in the management even of his domestic affairs, would be thus confined? At Ragusa* the chief magistrate of the republic is changed every month, the other officers every week, and the governor of the castle every day. But this can take place only in a small republic environed by formidable powers, who might easily corrupt such petty and insignificant magistrates.

The best aristocracy is that in which those who have no share in the legislature are so few and inconsiderable, that the governing party have no interest in oppressing them. Thus, when Antipater made a law at Athens, that whosoever was not worth Edition: current; Page: [19] two thousand drachms should have no power to vote, he formed, by this method, the best aristocracy possible; because this was so small a sum, as excluded very few, and not one of any rank or consideration in the city.

Aristocratical families ought, therefore, as much as possible, to level themselves, in appearance, with the people. The more an aristocracy borders on democracy, the nearer it approaches to perfection; and, in proportion as it draws towards monarchy, the more it is imperfect.

But the most imperfect of all is that in which the part of the people that obeys is in a state of civil servitude to those who command; as the aristocracy of Poland, where the peasants are slaves to the nobility.

CHAP. IV.: Of the Relation of Laws to the Nature of monarchical Government.

THE intermediate, subordinate, and dependent powers constitute the nature of monarchical government; I mean of that in which a single person governs by fundamental laws. I said, the intermediate, subordinate, and dependent powers: and indeed, in monarchies, the prince is the source of all power, political and civil. These fundamental laws necessarily suppose the intermediate channels through which the power flows; for, if there be only the momentary and capricious will of a single person to govern the state, nothing can be fixed, and of course there is no fundamental law.

The most natural intermediate and subordinate power is that of the nobility. This, in some measure, seems to be essential to a monarchy, whose Edition: current; Page: [20] fundamental maxim is, No monarch, no nobility; no nobility, no monarch: but there may be a despotic prince.

There are men who have endeavoured, in some countries in Europe, to suppress the jurisdiction of the nobility; not perceiving that they were driving at the very thing that was done by the parliament of England. Abolish the privileges of the lords, the clergy, and cities, in a monarchy, and you will soon have a popular state, or else a despotic government.

The courts of a considerable kingdom in Europe have, for many ages, been striking at the patrimonial jurisdiction of the lords and clergy. We do not pretend to censure these sage magistrates; but we leave it to the public to judge how far this may alter the constitution.

Far am I from being prejudiced in favour of the privileges of the clergy; however, I should be glad their jurisdiction were once fixed. The question is not, whether their jurisdiction was justly established; but, whether it be really established; whether it constitutes a part of the laws of the country, and is in every respect relative to those laws; whether, between two powers acknowledged independent, the conditions ought not to be reciprocal; and whether it be not equally the duty of a good subject to defend the prerogative of the prince, and to maintain the limits which from time immemorial he has prescribed to his authority.

Though the ecclesiastic power be so dangerous in a republic, yet it is extremely proper in a monarchy, especially of the absolute kind. What would become of Spain and Portugal, since the subversion of their laws, were it not for this only barrier against the incursions of arbitrary power? a barrier ever Edition: current; Page: [21] useful when there is no other: for, since a despotic government is productive of the most dreadful calamities to human nature, the very evil that restrains it is beneficial to the subject.

In the same manner as the ocean, threatening to overflow the whole earth, is stopped by weeds and pebbles, that lie scattered along the shore; so monarchs, whose power seems unbounded, are restrained by the smallest obstacles, and suffer their natural pride to be subdued by supplication and prayer.

The English, to favour their liberty, have abolished all the intermediate powers of which their monarchy was composed. They have a great deal of reason to be jealous of this liberty: were they ever to be so unhappy as to lose it, they would be one of the most servile nations upon earth.

Mr. Law, through ignorance both of a republican and monarchical constitution, was one of the greatest promoters of absolute power ever known in Europe. Besides the violent and extraordinary changes owing to his direction, he would fain suppress all the intermediate ranks, and abolish the political communities. He was dissolving* the monarchy by his chimerical reimbursements, and seemed as if he even wanted to redeem the constitution.

It is not enough to have intermediate powers in a monarchy; there must be also a depositary of the laws. This depositary can only be the judges of the supreme courts of justice, who promulge the new laws, and revive the obsolete. The natural ignorance of the nobility, their indolence, and contempt of civil government, require there should be Edition: current; Page: [22] a body invested with a power of reviving and executing the laws, which would be otherwise buried in oblivion. The prince’s council are not a proper depositary: they are naturally the depositary of the momentary will of the prince, and not of the fundamental laws. Besides, the prince’s council is continually changing; it is neither permanent nor numerous; neither has it a sufficient share of the confidence of the people; consequently it is incapable to set them right in difficult conjunctures, or to reduce them to proper obedience.

Despotic governments, where there are no fundamental laws, have no such kind of depositary. Hence it is that religion has generally so much influence in those countries, because it forms a kind of permanent depositary; and, if this cannot be said of religion, it may of the customs that are respected instead of laws.

CHAP. V.: Of the Laws relative to the Nature of a despotic Government.

FROM the nature of despotic power it follows, that the single person, invested with this power, commits the execution of it also to a single person. A man, whom his senses continually inform that he himself is every thing, and his subjects nothing, is naturally lazy, voluptuous, and ignorant. In consequence of this, he neglects the management of public affairs. But, were he to commit the administration to many, there would be continual disputes among them; each would form intrigues to be his first slave, and he would be obliged to take the reins into his own hands. It is, therefore, more Edition: current; Page: [23] natural for him to resign it to a vizir,* and to invest him with the same power as himself. The creation of a vizir is a fundamental law of this government.

It is related of a pope, that he had started an infinite number of difficulties against his election, from a thorough conviction of his incapacity. At length he was prevailed on to accept of the pontificate, and resigned the administration entirely to his nephew. He was soon struck with surprize, and said, “I should never have thought that these things were so easy.” The same may be said of the princes of the East, who, being educated in a prison, where eunuchs corrupt their hearts and debase their understandings, and where they are frequently kept ignorant of their high rank, when drawn forth in order to be placed on the throne, they are at first confounded; but, as soon as they have chosen a vizir, and abandoned themselves in their seraglio to the most brutal passions, pursuing, in the midst of a prostituted court, every capricious extravagance, they could never have dreamt to find matters so easy.

The more extensive the empire, the larger the seraglio; and consequently the more voluptuous the prince. Hence the more nations such a sovereign has to rule, the less he attends to the cares of government; the more important his affairs, the less he makes them the subject of his deliberations.

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CHAP. I.: Difference between the Nature and Principle of Government.

AFTER having examined the laws relative to the nature of each government, we must investigate those which relate to its principle.

There is this difference between* the nature and principle of government, that the former is that by which it is constituted, and the latter that by which it is made to act. One is its particular structure, and the other the human passions which set it in motion.

Now, laws ought to be no less relative to the principle, than to the nature, of each government. We must therefore enquire into this principle, which shall be the subject of this third book.

CHAP. II.: Of the Principle of different Governments.

I have already observed, that it is the nature of a republican government, that either the collective body of the people or particular families should be possessed of the supreme power: of a monarchy, that the prince should have this power, but, in the execution of it, should be directed by established laws: of a despotic government, that a single person should rule according to his own will and caprice. This enables me to discover their three principles, which Edition: current; Page: [25] are naturally derived from thence. I shall begin with a republican government, and in particular with that of democracy.

CHAP. III.: Of the Principle of Democracy.

THERE is no great share of probity necessary to support a monarchical or despotic government: the force of laws, in one, and the prince’s arm, in the other, are sufficient to direct and maintain the whole: but, in a popular state, one spring more is necessary, namely, virtue.

What I have here advanced is confirmed by the unanimous testimony of historians, and is extremely agreeable to the nature of things. For, it is clear, that, in a monarchy, where he, who commands the execution of the laws, generally thinks himself above them, there is less need of virtue than in a popular government, where the person, entrusted with the execution of the laws, is sensible of his being subject to their direction.

Clear it is, also, that a monarch, who, through bad advice or indolence, ceases to enforce the execution of the laws, may easily repair the evil; he has only to follow other advice, or to shake off this indolence. But when, in a popular government, there is a suspension of the laws, (as this can proceed only from the corruption of the republic,) the state is certainly undone.

A very droll spectacle it was, in the last century, to behold the impotent efforts of the English towards the establishment of democracy. As they, who had a share in the direction of public affairs, were void of virtue; as their ambition was enflamed by Edition: current; Page: [26] the success of the most daring of their members; as the prevailing parties were successively animated by the spirit of faction; the government was continually changing; the people, amazed at so many revolutions, in vain attempted to erect a commonwealth. At length, when the country had undergone the most violent shocks, they were obliged to have recourse to the very government which they had so wantonly proscribed.

When Sylla thought of restoring Rome to her liberty, this unhappy city was incapable of that blessing. She had only the feeble remains of virtue, which were continually diminishing: instead of being roused out of her lethargy by Cæsar, Tiberius, Caius, Claudius, Nero, Domitian, she riveted every day her chains; if she struck some blows, her aim was at the tyrant, but not at the usurpation.

The politic Greeks, who lived under a popular government, knew no other support than virtue: the modern inhabitants of that country are entirely taken up with manufacture, commerce, finances, opulence, and luxury.

When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community. The objects of their desires are changed; what they were fond of before is become indifferent; they were free while under the restraint of laws, but they would fain now be free to act against law; and, as each citizen is like a slave who has run away from his master, what was a maxim of equity, he calls rigour; what was a rule of action, he stiles constraint; and to precaution he gives the name of fear. Frugality, and not the thirst of gain, now passes for avarice. Formerly, the wealth of individuals constituted the public treasure, Edition: current; Page: [27] but now this is become the patrimony of private persons. The members of the commonwealth riot on the public spoils, and its strength is only the power of a few and the licentiousness of many.

Athens was possessed of the same number of forces, when she triumphed so gloriously, and when, with so much infamy, she was inslaved. She had twenty thousand citizens§ when she defended the Greeks against the Persians, when she contended for empire with Sparta, and invaded Sicily. She had twenty thousand when Demetrius Phalereus numbered them*, as slaves are told by the head in a market-place. When Philip attempted to lord it over Greece, and appeared at the gates of Athens, she had even then lost nothing but time. We may see, in Demosthenes, how difficult it was to awake her: she dreaded Philip, not as the enemy of her liberty, but of her pleasures. This famous city, which had withstood so many defeats, and, after having been so often destroyed, had as often risen out of her ashes, was overthrown at Chæronea, and, at one blow, deprived of all hopes of resource. What does it avail her, that Philip sends back her prisoners, if he does not return her men? It was ever after as easy to triumph over the Athenian forces as it had been difficult to subdue her virtue.

How was it possible for Carthage to maintain her ground? When Hannibal, upon his being made prætor, endeavoured to hinder the magistrates from plundering the republic, did not they complain of him to the Romans? Wretches, who would fain be citizens without a city, and beholden for their Edition: current; Page: [28] riches to their very destroyers! Rome soon insisted upon having three hundred of their principal citizens as hostages; she obliged them next to surrender their arms and ships; and then she declared war. From the desperate efforts of this defenceless city, one may judge of what she might have performed in her full vigour, and assisted by virtue.

CHAP. IV.: Of the Principle of Aristocracy.

AS virtue is necessary in a popular government, it is requisite, also, under an aristocracy. True it is, that, in the latter, it is not so absolutely requisite.

The people, who, in respect to the nobility, are the same as the subjects with regard to a monarch, are restrained by their laws: they have, therefore, less occasion for virtue than the people in a democracy. But how are the nobility to be restrained? They, who are to execute the laws against their colleagues, will immediately perceive they are acting against themselves. Virtue is, therefore, necessary in this body, from the very nature of the constitution.

An aristocratical government has an inherent vigour, unknown to democracy. The nobles form a body, who, by their prerogative, and for their own particular interest, restrain the people; it is sufficient, that there are laws in being, to see them executed.

But, easy as it may be for the body of the nobles to restrain the people, it is difficult to restrain themselves*. Such is the nature of this constitution, that it seems to subject the very same persons to the power Edition: current; Page: [29] of the laws, and, at the same time, to exempt them.

Now, such a body as this can restrain itself only two ways; either by a very eminent virtue, which puts the nobility, in some measure, on a level with the people, and may be the means of forming a great republic; or by an inferior virtue, which puts them, at least, upon a level with one another; and on this their preservation depends.

Moderation is, therefore, the very soul of this government; a moderation, I mean, founded on virtue, not that which proceeds from indolence and pusillanimity.

CHAP. V.: That Virtue is not the Principle of a monarchical Government.

IN monarchies, policy effects great things with as little virtue as possible. Thus, in the nicest machines, art has reduced the number of movements, springs, and wheels.

The state subsists independently of the love of our country, of the thirst of true glory, of self-denial, of the sacrifice of our dearest interests, and of all those heroic virtues which we admire in the ancients, and to us are known only by story.

The laws supply here the place of those virtues; they are by no means wanted, and the state dispenses with them: an action, performed here in secret, is, in some measure, of no consequence.

Though all crimes be, in their own nature, public, yet there is a distinction between crimes really public and those that are private, which are so called, because they are more injurious to individuals than to the community.

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Now, in republics, private crimes are more public; that is, they attack the constitution more than they do individuals: and, in monarchies, public crimes are more private; that is, they are more prejudicial to private people than to the constitution.

I beg that no one will be offended with what I have been saying; my observations are founded on the unanimous testimony of historians. I am not ignorant that virtuous princes are no such very rare instances; but I venture to affirm, that, in a monarchy, it is extremely difficult for the people to be virtuous*.

Let us compare what the historians of all ages have asserted concerning the courts of monarchs; let us recollect the conversations and sentiments of people of all countries in respect to the wretched character of courtiers; and we shall find, that these are not airy speculations, but truths, confirmed by a sad and melancholy experience.

Ambition in idleness, meanness mixed with pride, a desire of riches without industry, aversion to truth, flattery, perfidy, violation of engagements, contempt of civil duties, fear of the prince’s virtue, hope from his weakness, but, above all, a perpetual ridicule cast upon virtue, are, I think, the characteristics by which most courtiers, in all ages and countries, have been constantly distinguished. Now, it is exceeding difficult for the leading men of the nation to be knaves, and the inferior sort to be honest; for the former to be cheats, and the latter to rest satisfied with being only dupes.

But, if there should chance to be some unlucky honest man among the people, cardinal Richelieu, in his political testament, seems to hint that a prince Edition: current; Page: [31] should take care not to employ him. So true is it, that virtue is not the spring of this government. It is not, indeed, excluded, but it is not the spring of government.

CHAP. VI.: In what Manner Virtue is supplied in a monarchical Government.

BUT it is high time for me to have done with this subject, lest I should be suspected of writing a satire against monarchical government. Far be it from me; if monarchy wants one spring, it is provided with another. Honour, that is, the prejudice of every person and rank, supplieth the place of the political virtue of which I have been speaking, and is every where her representative: here it is capable of inspiring the most glorious actions, and, joined with the force of laws, may lead us to the end of government as well as virtue itself.

Hence, in well-regulated monarchies, they are almost all good subjects, and very few good men; for, to be a good man, a good intention is necessary*, and we should love our country not so much on our own account as out of regard to the community.

CHAP. VII.: Of the Principle of Monarchy.

A monarchical government supposeth, as we have already observed, pre-eminences and ranks, as likewise a noble descent. Now, since it is the nature of Edition: current; Page: [32] honour to aspire to preferments and titles, it is properly placed in this government.

Ambition is pernicious in a republic; but in a monarchy it has some good effects; it gives life to the government, and is attended with this advantage, that it is no way dangerous, because it may be continually checked.

It is with this kind of government as with the system of the universe, in which there is a power that constantly repels all bodies from the center, and a power of gravitation, that attracts them to it. Honour sets all the parts of the body politic in motion, and, by its very action, connects them; thus each individual advances the public good, while he only thinks of promoting his own interest.

True it is, that, philosophically speaking, it is a false honour which moves all the parts of the government; but even this false honour is as useful to the public as true honour could possibly be to private people.

Is it not a very great point, to oblige men to perform the most difficult actions, such as require an extraordinary exertion of fortitude and resolution, without any other recompence than that of glory and applause?

CHAP. VIII.: That Honour is not the Principle of despotic Government.

HONOUR is far from being the principle of despotic government: mankind being here all upon a level, no one person can prefer himself to another; and as, on the other hand, they are all slaves, they can give themselves no sort of preference.

Besides, as honour has its laws and rules; as it knows not how to submit; as it depends, in a great Edition: current; Page: [33] measure, on a man’s own caprice, and not on that of another person; it can be found only in countries in which the constitution is fixed, and where they are governed by settled laws.

How can despotism bear with honour? This glories in the contempt of life, and that is founded in the power of taking it away. How can honour, on the other hand, bear with despotism? The former has its fixed rules and peculiar caprices, but the latter is directed by no rule, and its own caprices are subversive of all others.

Honour, therefore, a thing unknown in arbitrary governments, some of which have not even a proper word to express it*, is the prevailing principle in monarchies; here it gives life to the whole body politic, to the laws, and even to the virtues themselves.

CHAP. IX.: Of the Principle of despotic Government.

AS virtue is necessary in a republic, and, in a monarchy, honour, so fear is necessary in a despotic government: with regard to virtue, there is no occasion for it, and honour would be extremely dangerous.

Here, the immense power of the prince is devolved intirely upon those whom he is pleased to intrust with the administration. Persons, capable of setting a value upon themselves, would be likely to create disturbances. Fear must, therefore, depress their spirits, and extinguish even the least sense of ambition.

A moderate government may, whenever it pleases, and without the least danger, relax its springs: it supports itself by the laws and by its own internal strength. But, when a despotic prince ceases one single moment to lift up his arm, when he cannot Edition: current; Page: [34] instantly demolish those whom he has intrusted with the first employments, all is over: for, as fear, the spring of this government, no longer subsists, the people are left without a protector.

It is probably in this sense the Cadis maintained that the Grand Seignior was not obliged to keep his word or oath, when he limited thereby his authority.

It is necessary that the people should be judged by laws, and the great men by the caprice of the prince; that the lives of the lowest subjects should be safe, and the bashaw’s head ever in danger. We cannot mention these monstrous governments without horror. The Sophi of Persia, dethroned, in our days, by Mahomet, the son of Miriveis, saw the constitution subverted, before this revolution, because he had been too sparing of blood*.

History informs us, that the horrid cruelties of Domitian struck such a terror into the governors, that the people recovered themselves a little under his reign§. Thus a torrent overflows one side of a country, and, on the other, leaves fields untouched, where the eye is refreshed by the prospect of fine meadows.

CHAP. X.: Difference of Obedience in moderate and despotic Governments.

IN despotic states, the nature of government requires the most passive obedience; and, when once the prince’s will is made known, it ought infallibly to produce its effect.

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Here they have no limitations or restrictions; no mediums, terms, equivalents, or remonstrances; no change to propose: man is a creature that blindly submits to the absolute will of the sovereign.

In a country like this, they are no more allowed to represent their apprehensions of a future danger than to impute their miscarriage to the capriciousness of fortune. Man’s portion here, like that of beasts, is instinct, compliance, and punishment.

Little does it then avail to plead the sentiments of nature, filial respect, conjugal or parental tenderness, the laws of honour, or want of health; the order is given, and that is sufficient.

In Persia, when the king has condemned a person, it is no longer lawful to mention his name or to intercede in his favour. Even if the prince were intoxicated, or non compos, the decree must be executed*; otherwise he would contradict himself, and the law admits of no contradiction. This has been the way of thinking in that country in all ages: as the order, which Ahasuerus gave, to exterminate the Jews, could not be revoked, they were allowed the liberty of defending themselves.

One thing, however, may be sometimes opposed to the prince’s will§, namely, religion. They will abandon, nay, they will slay, a parent, if the prince so commands, but he cannot oblige them to drink wine. The laws of religion are of a superior nature, because they bind the sovereign as well as the subject. But, with respect to the law of nature, it is otherwise; the prince is no longer supposed to be a man.

In monarchical and moderate states, the power is limited by its very spring, I mean, by honour, which, like a monarch, reigns over the prince and his people. Edition: current; Page: [36] They will not alledge to their sovereign, the laws of religion; a courtier would be apprehensive of rendering himself ridiculous. But the laws of honour will be appealed to on all occasions. Hence arise the restrictions necessary to obedience: honour is naturally subject to whims, by which the subject’s submission will be ever directed.

Though the manner of obeying be different, in these two kinds of government, the power is the same. On which side soever the monarch turns, he inclines the scale, and is obeyed. The whole difference is, that, in a monarchy, the prince receives instruction, at the same time that his ministers have greater abilities, and are more versed in public affairs, than the ministers of a despotic government.

CHAP. XI.: Reflections on the preceding Chapters.

SUCH are the principles of the three sorts of government: which does not imply, that, in a particular republic, they actually are, but that they ought to be, virtuous: nor does it prove, that, in a particular monarchy, they are actuated by honour; or, in a particular despotic government, by fear; but that they ought to be directed by these principles, otherwise the government is imperfect.

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CHAP. I.: Of the Laws of Education.

THE laws of education are the first impressions we receive; and, as they prepare us for civil life, every private family ought to be governed by the plan of that great household which comprehends them all.

If the people in general have a principle, their constituent parts, that is, the several families, will have one also. The laws of education will be therefore different in each species of government: in monarchies, they will have honour for their object; in republics, virtue; in despotic governments, fear.

CHAP. II.: Of Education in Monarchies.

IN monarchies the principal branch of education is not taught in colleges or academies: it commences, in some measure, at our setting out in the world; for this is the school of what we call honour, that universal preceptor, which ought every where to be our guide.

Here it is that we constantly hear three rules or maxims; viz. that we should have a certain nobleness in our virtues, a kind of frankness in our morals, and a particular politeness in our behaviour.

The virtues we are here taught are less what we owe to others than to ourselves; they are not so Edition: current; Page: [38] much what draws us towards society, as what distinguishes us from our fellow-citizens.

Here the actions of men are judged, not as virtuous, but as shining; not as just, but as great; not as reasonable, but as extraordinary.

When honour here meets with any thing noble in our actions, it is either a judge that approves them, or a sophister by whom they are excused.

It allows of gallantry, when united with the idea of sensible affection, or with that of conquest: this is the reason why we never meet with so strict a purity of morals in monarchies as in republican governments.

It allows of cunning and craft, when joined with the notion of greatness of soul, or importance of affairs; as, for instance, in politics, with whose finesses it is far from being offended.

It does not forbid adulation, but when separate from the idea of a large fortune, and connected only with the sense of our mean condition.

With regard to morals, I have observed, that the education of monarchies ought to admit of a certain frankness and open carriage: truth, therefore, in conversation, is here a necessary point. But is it for the sake of truth? By no means. Truth is requisite only because a person habituated to veracity has an air of boldness and freedom. And, indeed, a man of this stamp seems to lay a stress only on the things themselves, not on the manner in which they are received.

Hence it is, that, in proportion as this kind of frankness is commended, that of the common people is despised, which has nothing but truth and simplicity for its object.

In fine, the education of monarchies requires a certain politeness of behaviour. Man, a social Edition: current; Page: [39] animal, is formed to please in society; and a person that would break through the rules of decency, so as to shock those he conversed with, would lose the public esteem, and become incapable of doing any good.

But politeness, generally speaking, does not derive its original from so pure a source: it rises from a desire of distinguishing ourselves. It is pride that renders us polite: we are flattered with being taken notice of for a behaviour that shews we are not of a mean condition, and that we have not been bred up with those who in all ages are considered as the scum of the people.

Politeness, in monarchies, is naturalised at court. One man excessively great renders every body else little. Hence that regard which is paid to our fellow-subjects: hence that politeness, equally pleasing to those by whom, as to those towards whom, it is practised; because it gives people to understand that a person actually belongs, or at least deserves to belong, to the court.

A court air consists in quitting a real for a borrowed greatness. The latter pleases the courtier more than the former. It inspires him with a certain disdainful modesty, which shews itself externally, but whose pride insensibly diminishes in proportion to its distance from the source of this greatness.

At court we find a delicacy of taste in every thing; a delicacy arising from the constant use of the superfluities of life; from the variety, and especially the satiety, of pleasures; from the multiplicity, and even confusion, of fancies; which, if they are but agreeable, are sure of being well received.

These are the things which properly fall within the province of education, in order to form what Edition: current; Page: [40] we call a man of honour, a man possessed of all the qualities and virtues requisite in this kind of government.

Here it is that honour interferes with every thing, mixing even with people’s manner of thinking, and directing their very principles.

To this whimsical honour it is owing that the virtues are only just what it pleases: it adds rules of its own invention to every thing prescribed to us: it extends or limits our duties according to its own fancy, whether they proceed from religion, politics, or morality.

There is nothing so strongly inculcated, in monarchies, by the laws, by religion, and honour, as submission to the prince’s will: but this very honour tells us, that the prince never ought to command a dishonourable action; because this would render us incapable of serving him.

Crillon refused to assassinate the duke of Guise, but offered to fight him. After the massacre of St. Bartholomew, Charles IX. having sent orders to the governors in the several provinces for the Hugonots to be murdered, viscount Dorte, who commanded at Bayonne, wrote thus to the king: *“Sire, among the inhabitants of this town, and your majesty’s troops, I could not find so much as one executioner: they are honest citizens, and brave soldiers. We jointly, therefore, beseech your majesty to command our arms and lives in things that are practicable.” This great and generous soul looked upon a base action as a thing impossible.

There is nothing that honour more strongly recommends to the nobility, than to serve their prince in a military capacity: and indeed this is their favourite Edition: current; Page: [41] profession, because its dangers, its success, and even its miscarriages, are the road to grandeur. Yet this very law of its own making honour chooses to explain; and, in case of any affront, it requires or permits us to retire.

It insists also that we should be at liberty either to seek or to reject employments; a liberty which it prefers even to an ample fortune.

Honour therefore has its supreme laws, to which education is obliged to conform. The chief of these are, that we are permitted to set a value upon our fortune, but are absolutely forbidden to set any upon our lives.

The second is, that, when we are raised to a post or preferment, we should never do or permit any thing which may seem to imply that we look upon ourselves as inferior to the rank we hold.

The third is, that those things which honour forbids are more rigorously forbidden when the laws do not concur in the prohibition; and those it commands are more strongly insisted upon when they happen not to be commanded by law.

CHAP. III.: Of Education in a despotic Government.

AS education in monarchies tends to raise and ennoble the mind, in despotic governments its only aim is to debase it. Here it must necessarily be servile: even in power such an education will be an advantage, because every tyrant is at the same time a slave.

Excessive obedience supposes ignorance in the person that obeys. The same it supposes in him that Edition: current; Page: [42] commands; for he has no occasion to deliberate, to doubt, to reason; he has only to will.

In despotic states each house is a separate government. As education, therefore, consists chiefly in social converse, it must be here very much limited: all it does is to strike the heart with fear, and to imprint on the understanding a very simple notion of a few principles of religion. Learning here proves dangerous, emulation fatal; and, as to virtue, Aristotle cannot think there is any one virtue belonging to slaves:* if so, education in despotic countries is confined within a very narrow compass.

Here therefore education is in some measure needless: to give something, one must take away every thing; and begin with making a bad subject, in order to make a good slave.

For why should education take pains in forming a good citizen, only to make him share in the public misery? If he loves his country, he will strive to relax the springs of government: if he miscarries, he will be undone: if he succeeds, he must expose himself, the prince, and his country, to ruin.

CHAP. IV.: Difference between the Effects of ancient and modern Education.

MOST of the ancients lived under governments that had virtue for their principle; and, when this was in full vigour, they performed actions unusual in our times, and at which our narrow minds are astonished.

Another advantage their education had over ours; it never was effaced by contrary impressions. Epaminondas, the last year of his life, said, heard, beheld, Edition: current; Page: [43] and performed, the very same things as at the age in which he received the first principles of his education.

In our days we receive three different or contrary educations; namely, of our parents, of our masters, and of the world. What we learn in the latter effaces all the ideas of the former. This in some measure arises from the contrast we experience between our religious and worldly engagements; a thing unknown to the ancients.

CHAP. V.: Of Education in a republican Government.

IT is in a republican government that the whole power of education is required. The fear of despotic governments naturally rises of itself amidst threats and punishments: the honour of monarchies is favoured by the passions, and favours them in its turn: but virtue is a self-renunciation, which is ever arduous and painful.

This virtue may be defined the love of the laws and of our country. As such love requires a constant preference of public to private interest, it is the source of all private virtues; for they are nothing more than this very preference itself.

This love is peculiar to democracies. In these alone the government is intrusted to private citizens. Now, government is like every thing else: to preserve it, we must love it.

Has it ever been heard that kings were not fond of monarchy, or that despotic princes hated arbitrary power?

Every thing, therefore, depends on establishing this love in a republic; and to inspire it ought to be the principal business of education: but the surest Edition: current; Page: [44] way of instilling it into children is for parents to set them an example.

People have it generally in their power to communicate their ideas to their children; but they are still better able to transfuse their passions.

If it happens otherwise, it is because the impressions made at home are effaced by those they have received abroad.

It is not the young people that degenerate: they are not spoilt till those of maturer age are already sunk into corruption.

CHAP. VI.: Of some Institutions among the Greeks.

THE ancient Greeks, convinced of the necessity that people who live under a popular government should be trained up to virtue, made very singular institutions in order to inspire it. Upon seeing, in the life of Lycurgus, the laws that legislator gave to the Lacedæmonians, I imagine I am reading the history of the Sevarambes. The laws of Crete were the model of those of Sparta; and those of Plato reformed them.

Let us reflect here a little on the extensive genius with which those legislators must have been endowed, to perceive that, by striking at received customs, and by confounding all manner of virtues, they should display their wisdom to the universe. Lycurgus, by blending theft with the spirit of justice, the hardest servitude with excess of liberty, the most rigid sentiments with the greatest moderation, gave stability to his city. He seemed to deprive her of all resources, such as arts, commerce, money, walls: ambition prevailed among the citizens, without hopes or improving their fortune: they had natural sentiments Edition: current; Page: [45] without the tie of a son, husband, or father; and chastity was stript even of modesty and shame. This was the road that led Sparta to grandeur and glory; and so infallible were these institutions, that it signified nothing to gain a victory over that republic, without subverting her polity.*

By these laws Crete and Laconia were governed. Sparta was the last that fell a prey to the Macedonians, and Crete to the Romans. The Samnites had the same institutions, which furnished those very Romans with the subject of four and twenty triumphs.

A character so extraordinary in the institutions of Greece has shewn itself lately in the dregs and corruption of modern times. A very honest legislator has formed a people, to whom probity seems as natural as bravery to the Spartans. Mr. Penn is a real Lycurgus; and, though the former made peace his principal aim, as the latter did war, yet they resemble one another in the singular way of living to which they reduced their people, in the ascendant they had over free men, in the prejudices they overcame, and in the passions which they subdued.

Another example we have from Paraguay. This has been the subject of an invidious charge against a society that considers the pleasure of commanding as the only happiness in life: but it will be ever a Edition: current; Page: [46] glorious undertaking to render government subservient to human happiness.§

It is glorious indeed for this society to have been the first in pointing out to those countries the idea of religion joined with that of humanity. By repairing the devastations of the Spaniards, she has begun to heal one of the most dangerous wounds that the human species ever received.

An exquisite sensibility to whatever she distinguishes by the name of honour, joined to her zeal for a religion which is far more humbling in respect to those who receive than to those who preach its doctrines, has set her upon vast undertakings, which she has accomplished with success. She has drawn wild people from their woods, secured them a maintenance, and clothed their nakedness; and, had she only, by this step, improved the industry of mankind, it would have been sufficient to eternize her fame.

They, who shall attempt hereafter to introduce the like institutions, must establish the community of goods, as prescribed in Plato’s Republic; that high respect he required for the gods; that separation from strangers, for the preservation of morals; and an extensive commerce, carried on by the community, and not by private citizens. They must give our arts without our luxury, and our wants without our desires.

They must prescribe money, the effect of which is to swell people’s fortunes beyond the bounds prescribed by nature; to learn to preserve for no purpose what has been idly hoarded up; to multiply without end our desires; and to supply the sterility Edition: current; Page: [47] of nature, of whom we have received very scanty means of inflaming our passions and of corrupting each other.

“The Epidamnians, perceiving their morals depraved by conversing with barbarians, chose a magistrate for making all contracts and sales, in the name and behalf of the city.” Commerce then does not corrupt the constitution, and the constitution does not deprive the society of the advantages of commerce.

CHAP. VII.: In what Case these singular Institutions may be of Service.

INSTITUTIONS of this kind may be proper in republics, because they have virtue for their principle: but, to excite men to honour, in monarchies, or to imprint fear, in despotic governments, less pains are necessary.

Besides, they cannot take place but in a small state*, in which there is a possibility of a general education, and of training up the body of the people like a single family.

The laws of Minos, of Lycurgus, and of Plato, suppose a particular attention and care which the citizens ought to have over one another’s conduct. But an attention of this kind cannot be expected in the confusion and multitude of affairs in which a large nation is intangled.

In institutions of this kind, money, as we have above observed, must be banished. But, in great societies, the multiplicity, variety, embarrassment, and importance, of affairs, as well as the facility of purchasing, and the slowness of exchange, require a Edition: current; Page: [48] common measure. In order to extend or support our power, we must be possessed of the means to which, by the unanimous consent of mankind, this power is annexed.

CHAP. VIII.: Explication of a Paradox of the Ancients, in Respect to Manners.

THAT judicious writer, Polybius, informs us, that music was necessary to soften the manners of the Arcadians, who lived in a cold gloomy country; that the inhabitants of Cynete, who slighted music, were the cruellest of all the Greeks, and that no other town was so immersed in luxury and debauch. Plato is not afraid to affirm, that there is no possibility of making a change in music without altering the frame of government. Aristotle, who seems to have written his politics only in order to contradict Plato, agrees with him, notwithstanding, in regard to the power and influence of music over the manners of the people. This was also the opinion of Theophrastus, of Plutarch§, and of all the ancients; an opinion grounded on mature reflection; being one of the principles of their polity*. Thus it was they enacted laws, and thus they required that cities should be governed.

This, I fancy, must be explained in the following manner. It is observable, that, in the cities of Greece, especially those whose principal object was war, all lucrative arts and professions were considered as unworthy of a freeman. “Most arts (says Xenophon) Edition: current; Page: [49] corrupt and enervate the bodies of those that exercise them; they oblige them to sit under a shade or near the fire. They can find no leisure either for their friends or for the republic.” It was only by the corruption of some democracies that artisans became freemen. This we learn from Aristotle, who maintains, that a well-regulated republic will never give them the right and freedom of the city.

Agriculture was, likewise, a servile profession, and generally practised by the inhabitants of conquered countries; such as the Helotes, among the Lacedæmonians; the Periecians, among the Cretans; the Penestes, among the Thessalians; and other conquered people in other republics.

In fine, every kind of low commerce* was infamous, among the Greeks, as it obliged a citizen to serve and wait on a slave, on a lodger, or a stranger. This was a notion that clashed with the spirit of Greek liberty; hence Plato§, in his laws, orders a citizen to be punished if he attempted to concern himself with trade.

Thus, in the Greek republics, the magistrates were extremely embarrassed. They would not have the citizens apply themselves to trade, to agriculture, or to the arts, and yet they would not have them idle∥∥. They found, therefore, employment for them Edition: current; Page: [50] in gymnic and military exercises; and none else were allowed by their institution. Hence the Greeks must be considered as a society of wrestlers and boxers. Now, these exercises having a natural tendency to render people hardy and fierce, there was a necessity for tempering them with others that might soften their manners*. For this purpose, music, which influences the mind by means of the corporeal organs, was extremely proper. It is a kind of medium between manly exercises, which harden the body, and speculative sciences, which are apt to render us unsociable and sour. It cannot be said that music inspired virtue, for this would be inconceivable; but it prevented the effects of a savage institution, and enabled the soul to have such a share in the education as it could never have had without the assistance of harmony.

Let us suppose, among ourselves, a society of men, so passionately fond of hunting as to make it their sole employment: they would, doubtless, contract thereby a kind of rusticity and fierceness: but, if they happen to imbibe a taste for music, we should quickly perceive a sensible difference in their customs and manners. In short, the exercises used by the Greeks could raise only one kind of passions, viz. fierceness, indignation, and cruelty: but music excites all these, and is, likewise, able to inspire the soul with a sense of pity, lenity, tenderness, and love. Our moral writers, who declaim so vehemently against the stage, sufficiently demonstrate the power of music over the mind.

If the society abovementioned were to have no other music than that of drums and the sound of the Edition: current; Page: [51] trumpet, would it not be more difficult to accomplish this end than by the more melting tones of softer harmony? The ancients were, therefore, in the right, when, under particular circumstances, they preferred one mode to another, in regard to manners.

But some will ask, why should music be pitched upon preferable to any other entertainment? It is because, of all sensible pleasures, there is none that less corrupts the soul. We blush to read, in Plutarch, that the Thebans, in order to soften the manners of their youth, authorised, by law, a passion which ought to be proscribed by all nations.


CHAP. I.: Idea of this Book.

THAT the laws of education ought to be relative to the principle of each government has been shewn in the preceding book. Now, the same may be said of those which the legislator gives to the whole society. The relation of laws to this principle strengthens the several springs of government; and this principle derives from thence, in its turn, a new degree of vigour. And thus it is, in mechanics, that action is always followed by re-action.

Our design is, to examine this relation in each government, beginning with the republican state, whose principle is virtue.

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CHAP. II.: What is meant by Virtue in a political State.

VIRTUE in a republic is a most simple thing; it is a love of the republic; it is a sensation, and not a consequence of acquired knowledge; a sensation that may be felt by the meanest as well as by the highest person in the state. When the common people adopt good maxims, they adhere to them steadier than those we call gentlemen. It is very rare that corruption commences with the former: nay, they frequently derive from their imperfect light a stronger attachment to the established laws and customs.

The love of our country is conducive to a purity of morals, and the latter is again conducive to the former. The less we are able to satisfy our private passions, the more we abandon ourselves to those of a general nature. How comes it that monks are so fond of their order? It is owing to the very cause that renders the order insupportable. Their rule debars them of all those things by which the ordinary passions are fed; there remains, therefore, only this passion for the very rule that torments them: the more austere it is, that is, the more it curbs their inclinations, the more force it gives to the only passion left them.

CHAP. III.: What is meant by a Love of the Republic, in a Democracy.

A love of the republic, in a democracy, is a love of the democracy; as the latter is that of equality.

A love of the democracy is, likewise, that of frugality. Since every individual ought here to enjoy the same happiness and the same advantages, they Edition: current; Page: [53] should, consequently, taste the same pleasures and form the same hopes; which cannot be expected but from a general frugality.

The love of equality, in a democracy, limits ambition to the sole desire, to the sole happiness, of doing greater services to our country than the rest of our fellow-citizens. They cannot all render her equal services, but they all ought to serve her with equal alacrity. At our coming into the world, we contract an immense debt to our country, which we can never discharge.

Hence distinctions here arise from the principle of equality, even when it seems to be removed by signal services or superior abilities.

The love of frugality limits the desire of having, to the study of procuring, necessaries to our family, and superfluities to our country. Riches give a power which a citizen cannot use for himself, for then he would be no longer equal. They likewise procure pleasures which he ought not to enjoy, because these would be also repugnant to the equality.

Thus well-regulated democracies, by establishing domestic frugality, made way, at the same time, for public expences; as was the case at Rome and Athens, when magnificence and profusion arose from the very fund of frugality. And, as religion commands us to have pure and unspotted hands, when we make our offerings to the gods, the laws required a frugality of life, to enable them to be liberal to our country.

The good sense and happiness of individuals depend greatly on the mediocrity of their abilities and fortunes. Therefore, as a republic, where the laws have placed many in a middling station, is composed of wise men, it will be wisely governed; as it is composed of happy men, it will be extremely happy.

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CHAP. IV.: In what Manner the Love of Equality and Frugality is inspired.

THE love of equality and of a frugal œconomy is greatly excited by equality and frugality themselves, in societies, where both these virtues are established by law.

In monarchies and despotic governments, no body aims at equality; this does not so much as enter their thoughts; they all aspire to superiority. People of the very lowest condition desire to emerge from their obscurity, only to lord it over their fellow-subjects.

It is the same with respect to frugality. To love it, we must practise and enjoy it. It is not those who are enervated with pleasure that are fond of a frugal life: were this natural and common, Alcibiades would never have been the admiration of the universe. Neither is it those who envy or admire the luxury of the great: people, that have present to their view none but rich men, or men miserable like themselves, detest their wretched condition, without loving or knowing the real term or point of misery.

A true maxim it is, therefore, that, in order to love equality and frugality in a republic, these virtues must have been previously established by law.

CHAP. V.: In what Manner the Laws establish Equality in a Democracy.

SOME ancient legislators, as Lycurgus and Romulus, made an equal division of lands. A settlement of this kind can never take place but upon the foundation of a new republic, or when the old one is so corrupt, and the minds of the people are so disposed, Edition: current; Page: [55] that the poor think themselves obliged to demand, and the rich obliged to consent to, a remedy of this nature.

If the legislator, in making a division of this kind, does not enact laws, at the same time, to support it, he forms only a temporary constitution; inequality will break in where the laws have not precluded it, and the republic will be utterly undone.

Hence, for the preservation of this equality, it is absolutely necessary there should be some regulation in respect to womens dowries, donations, successions, testamentary settlements, and all other forms of contracting. For, were it once allowed to dispose of our property to whom and how we pleased, the will of each individual would disturb the order of the fundamental law.

Solon, by permitting the Athenians, upon failure of issue*, to leave their estates to whom they pleased, acted contrary to the ancient laws, by which the estates were ordered to continue in the family of the testator, and even contrary to his own laws; for, by abolishing debts, he had aimed at equality.

The law, which prohibited people’s having two inheritances§, was extremely well adapted for a democracy: it derived its origin from the equal distribution of lands and portions made to each citizen. The law would not permit a single man to possess more than a single portion.

From the same source arose those laws by which the next relation was ordered to marry the heiress. This law was given to the Jews after the like distribution. Plato, who grounds his laws on this division, Edition: current; Page: [56] made the same regulation which had been received as a law by the Athenians.

At Athens, there was a law, whose spirit, in my opinion, has not been hitherto rightly understood. It was lawful to marry a sister only by the father’s side, but it was not permitted to espouse a sister by the same venter*. This custom was originally owing to republics, whose spirit would not permit that two portions of land, and consequently two inheritances, should devolve on the same person. A man, who married his sister only by the father’s side, could inherit but one estate, namely, that of his father; but, by espousing his sister by the same venter, it might happen, that his sister’s father, having no male issue, might leave her his estate, and, consequently, the brother, who married her, might be possessed of two.

Little will it avail to object what Philo says, that, although the Athenians were allowed to marry a sister by the father’s side, and not by the mother’s, yet the contrary practice prevailed among the Lacedæmonians, who were permitted to espouse a sister by the mother’s side, and not by the father’s. For I find, in Strabo, that, at Sparta, whenever a woman was married to her brother, she had half his portion for her dowry. Plain it is, that this second law was made in order to prevent the bad consequences of the former. That the estate belonging to the sister’s family might not devolve on the brother’s, they gave half the brother’s estate to the sister for her dowry.

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Seneca, speaking of Silanus, who had married his sister, says, that the permission was limited at Athens, but general at Alexandria. In a monarchical government there was very little concern about any such thing as a division of estates.

Excellent was that law, which, in order to maintain this division of lands in a democracy, ordained, that a father, who had several children, should pitch upon one of them to inherit his portion,§ and leave the others to be adopted, to the end that the number of citizens might always be kept upon an equality with that of the divisions.

Phaleas of Chalcedon contrived a very extraordinary method of rendering all fortunes equal, in a republic where there was the greatest inequality. This was, that the rich should give fortunes with their daughters to the poor, but receive none themselves; and that the poor should receive money for their daughters, instead of giving them fortunes. But I do not remember that a regulation of this kind ever took place in any republic. It lays the citizens under such hard and oppressive conditions, as would make them detest the very equality which they designed to establish. It is proper sometimes that the laws should not seem to tend so directly to the end they propose.

Though real equality be the very soul of a democracy, it is so difficult to establish, that an extreme exactness in this respect would not be always convenient. Sufficient it is to establish a census,* which should reduce or fix the differences to a certain point: it is afterwards the business of particular Edition: current; Page: [58] laws to level, as it were, the inequalities, by the duties laid upon the rich, and by the ease afforded to the poor. It is moderate riches alone that can give or suffer this sort of compensations; for, as to men of over-grown estates, every thing which does not contribute to advance their power and honour is considered by them as an injury.

All inequality in democracies ought to be derived from the nature of the government, and even from the principle of equality. For example, it may be apprehended that people, who are obliged to live by their labour, would be too much impoverished by a public employment, or neglect the duties attending it; that artisans would grow insolent; and that too great a number of freemen would overpower the ancient citizens. In this case the equality in a democracy may be suppressed, for the good of the state. But this is only an apparent equality: for a man ruined by a public employment would be in a worse condition than his fellow-citizens; and this same man, being obliged to neglect his duty, would reduce the rest to a worse condition than himself; and so on.

CHAP. VI.: In what Manner the Laws ought to maintain Frugality in a Democracy.

IT is not sufficient, in a well-regulated democracy, that the divisions of land be equal; they ought also to be small, as was customary among the Romans. “God forbid,” said Curius to his soldiers, “that a citizen should look upon that as a small piece of land which is sufficient to maintain him.”

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As equality of fortunes supports frugality, so the latter maintains the former. These things, though in themselves different, are of such a nature as to be unable to subsist separately: they reciprocally act upon each other: if one withdraws itself from a democracy, the other surely follows it.

True it is, that, when a democracy is founded in commerce, private people may acquire vast riches without a corruption of morals. This is because the spirit of commerce is naturally attended with that of frugality, œconomy, moderation, labour, prudence, tranquility, order, and rule. So long as this spirit subsists, the riches it produces have no bad effect. The mischief is when excessive wealth destroys the spirit of commerce: then it is that the inconveniences of inequality begin to be felt.

In order to support this spirit, commerce should be carried on by the principal citizens: this should be their sole aim and study; this the chief object of the laws: and these very laws, by dividing the estates of individuals in proportion to the increase of commerce, should set every poor citizen so far at his ease, as to be able to work like the rest; and every wealthy citizen in such a mediocrity, as to be obliged to take some pains either in preserving or acquiring a fortune.

It is an excellent law, in a trading republic, to make an equal division of the paternal estate among the children. The consequence of this is, that, how great soever a fortune the father has made, his children, being not so rich as he, are induced to avoid luxury, and to work as he had done. I speak here only of trading republics; for, as to those that have no commerce, the legislator must pursue quite different measures.*

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In Greece there were two sorts of republics; the one military, like Sparta; the other commercial, as Athens. In the former, the citizens were obliged to be idle; in the latter, endeavours were used to inspire them with the love of industry and labour. Solon made idleness a crime, and insisted that each citizen should give an account of his manner of getting a livelihood. And indeed, in a well-regulated democracy, where people’s expences should extend only to what is necessary, every one ought to have it; for how should their wants be otherwise supplied?

CHAP. VII.: Other Methods of favouring the Principle of Democracy.

AN equal division of lands cannot be established in all democracies. There are some circumstances in which a regulation of this nature would be impracticable, dangerous, and even subversive of the constitution. We are not always obliged to proceed to extremes. If it appears that this division of lands, which was designed to preserve the people’s morals, does not suit with the democracy, recourse must be had to other methods.

If a permanent body be established, to serve as a rule and pattern of manners; a senate, to which years, virtue, gravity, and eminent services, procure admittance; the senators, by being exposed to public view like the statues of the gods, must naturally inspire every family with sentiments of virtue.

Above all, this senate must steadily adhere to the ancient institutions, and mind that the people and the magistrates never swerve from them.

The preservation of the ancient customs is a very considerable point in respect to manners. Since a corrupt people seldom perform any memorable actions, Edition: current; Page: [61] seldom establish societies, build cities, or enact laws: on the contrary, since most institutions are derived from people whose manners are plain and simple, to keep up the ancient custom is the way to preserve the original purity of morals.

Besides, if, by some revolution, the state has happened to assume a new form, this seldom can be effected without infinite pains and labour, and hardly ever by idle and debauched persons. Even those who had been the instruments of the revolution were desirous it should be relished; which is difficult to compass without good laws. Hence it is that ancient institutions generally tend to reform the people’s manners, and those of modern date to corrupt them. In the course of a long administration the descent to vice is insensible; but there is no reascending to virtue without making the most generous efforts.

It has been questioned, whether the members of the senate we are speaking of ought to be for life, or only chosen for a time. Doubtless they ought to be for life, as was the custom at Rome,* at Sparta, and even at Athens: for we must not confound the senate at Athens, which was a body that changed every three months, with the Areopagus, whose members, as standing patterns, were established for life.

Let this be therefore a general maxim; that, in a senate designed to be a rule and the depositary, as it were, of manners, the members ought to be chosen for life; in a senate intended for the administration of affairs the members may be changed.

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The spirit, says Aristotle, waxes old, as well as the body. This reflection holds good only in regard to a single magistrate, but cannot be applied to a senatorian assembly.

At Athens, beside the Areopagus, there were guardians of the public morals, as well as of the laws. At Sparta all the old men were censors. At Rome the censorship was committed to two particular magistrates. As the senate watched over the people, the censors were to have an eye over the people and the senate. Their office was to reform the corruptions of the republic, to stigmatize indolence, to censure neglects, and to correct mistakes: as to flagrant crimes, these were left to the punishment of the laws.

That Roman law, which required the accusations in cases of adultery to be public, was admirably well calculated for preserving the purity of morals; it intimidated married women, as well as those who were to watch over their conduct.

Nothing contributes more to the preservation of morals than an extreme subordination of the young to the old. Thus they are both restrained, the former by their respect for those of advanced age, and the latter by their regard for themselves.

Nothing gives a greater force to the laws than a perfect subordination between the citizens and the magistrate. “The great difference which Lycurgus established between Sparta and the other cities (says Xenophon*) consists chiefly in the obedience the citizens shew to the laws: they run when the magistrate calls them. But, at Athens, a rich man would be highly displeased to be thought dependent on the magistrate.”

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Paternal authority is likewise of great use towards the preservation of morals. We have already observed, that, in a republic, there is not so coercive a force as in other governments. The laws must therefore endeavour to supply this defect by some means or other; and this is done by paternal authority.

Fathers, at Rome, had the power of life and death over their children. At Sparta every father had a right to correct another man’s child.

Paternal authority ended, at Rome, together with the republic. In monarchies, where such a purity of morals is not required, they are controuled by no other authority than that of the magistrates.

The Roman laws, which accustomed young people to dependence, established a long minority. Perhaps we are mistaken in conforming to this custom: there is no necessity for so much constraint in monarchies.

This very subordination in a republic might make it necessary for the father to continue in the possession of his children’s fortune during life, as was the custom at Rome. But this is not agreeable to the spirit of monarchy.

CHAP. VIII.: In what Manner the Laws ought to be relative to the Principle of Government in an Aristocracy.

IF the people are virtuous in an aristocracy, they enjoy very near the same happiness as in a popular government, and the state grows powerful. But, as a great share of virtue is very rare where mens Edition: current; Page: [64] fortunes are so unequal, the laws must tend as much as possible to infuse a spirit of moderation, and endeavour to re-establish that equality which was necessarily removed by the constitution.

The spirit of moderation is what we call virtue in an aristocracy; it supplies the place of the spirit of equality in a popular state.

As the pomp and splendor, with which kings are surrounded, form a part of their power, so modesty and simplicity of manners constitute the strength of an aristocratic nobility*. When they affect no distinction, when they mix with the people, dress like them, and with them share all their pleasures, the people are apt to forget their subjection and weakness.

Every government has its nature and principle. An aristocracy must not, therefore, assume the nature and principle of monarchy; which would be the case, were the nobles to be invested with personal privileges distinct from those of their body. Privileges ought to be for the senate, and simple respect for the senators.

In aristocratical governments, there are two principal sources of disorder: excessive inequality between the governors and the governed; and the same inequality between the different members of the body that governs. From these two inequalities hatreds and jealousies arise, which the laws ought ever to prevent or repress.

The first inequality is, chiefly, when the privileges of the nobility are honourable only as they are ignominious to the people. Such was the law, at Rome, by which the patricians were forbidden to marry plebeians*; Edition: current; Page: [65] a law that had no other effect than to render the patricians, on the one side, more haughty, and, on the other, more odious. The reader may see what advantages the tribunes derived from thence in their harangues.

This inequality occurs, likewise, when the condition of the citizens differs with regard to taxes: which may happen four different ways; when the nobles assume the privilege of paying none; when they commit frauds to exempt themselves; when they engross the public money, under pretence of rewards or appointments for their respective employments; in fine, when they render the common people tributary, and divide among their own body the profits arising from the several subsidies. This last case is very rare; an aristocracy so instituted would be the most intolerable of all governments.

While Rome inclined towards an aristocracy, she avoided all these inconveniences. The magistrates never received any emoluments from their office: the chief men of the republic were taxed like the rest, nay, heavier; and sometimes the taxes fell upon them alone. In fine, far from sharing among themselves the revenues of the state, all they could draw from the public treasure, and all the wealth that fortune flung into their laps, they bestowed freely on the people, to be excused from accepting public honours.

It is a fundamental maxim, that largesses are pernicious to the people in a democracy, but salutary in an aristocratical government. The former make them forget they are citizens, the latter bring them to a sense of it.

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If the revenues of the state are not distributed amongst the people, they must be convinced, at least, of their being well administered: to feast their eyes with the public treasure is, with them, the same thing almost as enjoying it. The golden chain displayed at Venice, the riches exhibited at Rome in public triumphs, the treasures preserved in the temple of Saturn, were, in reality, the wealth of the people.

It is a very essential point, in an aristocracy, that the nobles themselves should not levy the taxes. The first order of the state, in Rome, never concerned themselves with it; the levying of taxes was committed to the second; and even this, in process of time, was attended with great inconveniences. In an aristocracy of this kind, where the nobles levied the taxes, the private people would be all at the discretion of persons in public employments, and there would be no such thing as a superior tribunal to check their power. The members, appointed to remove the abuses, would rather enjoy them: the nobles would be like the princes of despotic governments, who confiscate whatever estates they please.

Soon would the profits, hence arising, be considered as a patrimony, which avarice would enlarge at pleasure. The farms would be lowered, and the public revenues reduced to nothing. This is the reason that some governments, without having ever received any remarkable shock, have dwindled away to such a degree, as not only their neighbours, but even their own subjects, have been surprized at it.

The laws should likewise forbid the nobles all kind of commerce: merchants of such unbounded credit would monopolize all to themselves. Commerce is a profession of people who are upon an equality; hence, among despotic states, the most miserable are those in which the prince applies himself to trade.

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The laws of Venice debar the nobles from commerce, by which they might, even innocently, acquire exorbitant wealth.

The laws ought to employ the most effectual means for making the nobles do justice to the people. If they have not established a tribune, they ought to be a tribune themselves.

Every sort of asylum, in opposition to the execution of the laws, destroys aristocracy, and is soon succeeded by tyranny.

They ought always to mortify the lust of dominion. There should be either a temporary or perpetual magistrate to keep the nobles in awe; as the Ephori at Sparta, and the State-Inquistors at Venice, magistrates subject to no formalities. This sort of government stands in need of the strongest springs: thus a mouth of stone§ is open to every informer at Venice; a mouth to which one would be apt to give the appellation of tyranny.

These arbitrary magistrates in an aristocracy bear some analogy to the censorship in democracies, which, of its own nature, is equally independent. And, indeed, the censors ought to be subject to no enquiry in relation to their conduct during their office; they should meet with a thorough confidence, and never be discouraged. In this respect, the practice of the Romans deserved admiration; magistrates of all denominations were accountable for their administration, except the censors*.

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There are two very pernicious things in an aristocracy; excess either of poverty or of wealth in the nobility. To prevent their poverty, it is necessary, above all things, to oblige them to pay their debts in time. To moderate the excess of wealth, prudent and gradual regulations should be made; but no confiscations, no agrarian laws, no expunging of debts; these are productive of infinite mischief.

The laws ought to abolish the right of primogeniture among the nobles, to the end, that, by a continual division of the inheritances, their fortunes may be always upon a level.

There should be no substitutions, no powers of redemption, no rights of majorasgo, or adoption. The contrivances, for perpetuating the grandeur of families, in monarchical governments, ought never to be employed in aristocracies.

When the laws have compassed the equality of families, the next thing is to preserve a proper harmony and union amongst them. The quarrels of the nobility ought to be quickly decided; otherwise the contests of individuals become those of families. Arbiters may terminate, or even prevent the rise of, disputes.

In fine, the laws must not favour the distinctions raised by vanity among families, under pretence that they are more noble or ancient than others: pretences of this nature ought to be ranked among the weaknesses of private persons.

We have only to cast an eye on Sparta; there we may see how the Ephori contrived to check the foibles of the kings, as well as those of the nobility and common people.

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CHAP. IX.: In what Manner the Laws are relative to their Principle in Monarchies.

AS honour is the principle of a monarchical government, the laws ought to be relative to this principle.

They should endeavour to support the nobility; in respect to whom, honour may be, in some measure, deemed both child and parent.

They should render the nobility hereditary; not as a boundary between the power of the prince and the weakness of the people, but as the link which connects them both.

In this government, substitutions, which preserve the estates of families undivided, are extremely useful, though in others not so proper.

Here the power of redemption is of service, as it restores to noble families the lands that had been alienated by the prodigality of a parent.

The lands of the nobility ought to have privileges as well as their persons. The monarch’s dignity is inseparable from that of his kingdom, and the dignity of the nobleman from that of his fief.

All these privileges must be particular to the nobility and incommunicable to the people, unless we intend to act contrary to the principle of government, and to diminish the power of the nobles together with that of the people.

Substitutions are a restraint to commerce; the power of redemption produces an infinite number of processes; every estate in land, that is sold throughout the kingdom, is, in some measure, without an owner for the space of a year. Privileges annexed to fiefs give a power very burthensome to those governments which tolerate them. These are the inconveniences Edition: current; Page: [70] of nobility; inconveniences, however, that vanish when confronted with its general utility. But, when these privileges are communicated to the people, every principle of government is wantonly violated.

In monarchies, a person may leave the bulk of his estate to one of his children; a permission improper in any other government.

The laws ought to favour all kind of commerce consistent with the constitution, to the end that the subjects may, without ruining themselves, be able to satisfy the continual cravings of the prince and his court.

They should establish some regulation, that the manner of collecting the taxes may not be more burthensome than the taxes themselves.

The weight of duties produces labour, labour weariness, and weariness the spirit of indolence.

CHAP. X.: Of the Expedition peculiar to the executive Power in Monarchies.

GREAT is the advantage which a monarchical government has over a republic. As the state is conducted by a single person, the executive power is thereby enabled to act with greater expedition: but, as this expedition may degenerate into rapidity, the laws should use some contrivance to slacken it: they ought not only to favour the nature of each constitution, but likewise to remedy the abuses that might result from this very nature.

Cardinal Richelieu§ advises monarchs to permit no such things as societies or communities that raise Edition: current; Page: [71] difficulties upon every trifle. If this man’s heart had not been bewitched with the love of despotic power, still these arbitrary notions would have filled his head.

The bodies, intrusted with the depositum of the laws, are never more obedient than when they proceed slowly, and use that reflection in the prince’s affairs which can scarcely be expected from the ignorance of a court, or from the precipitation of its councils.

What would have become of the finest monarchy in the world, if the magistrates, by their delays, their complaints, and entreaties, had not checked the rapidity even of their princes virtues, when these monarchs, consulting only the generous impulse of their minds, would fain have given a boundless reward to services performed with an unlimited courage and fidelity?

CHAP. XI.: Of the Excellence of a monarchical government.

MONARCHY has a great advantage over a despotic government. As it naturally requires there should be several orders or ranks of subjects, the state is more permanent, the constitution more steady, and the person of him who governs more secure.

Cicero* is of opinion, that the establishing of the tribunes preserved the republic. “And, indeed, (says he,) the violence of a headless people is more terrible. A chief, or head, is sensible that the affair depends upon himself, and therefore he thinks; but the people, in their impetuosity, are ignorant of the danger into which they hurry Edition: current; Page: [72] themselves.” This reflection may be applied to a despotic government, which is a people without tribunes, and to a monarchy, where the people have some sort of tribunes.

Accordingly, it is observable, that, in the commotions of a despotic government, the people, hurried away by their passions, are apt to push things as far as they can go. The disorders they commit are all extreme; whereas, in monarchies, matters are seldom carried to excess. The chiefs are apprehensive on their own account; they are afraid of being abandoned; and the intermediate dependent powers do not choose that the populace should have too much the upper hand. It rarely happens that the states of the kingdom are entirely corrupted: the prince adheres to these; and the seditious, who have neither will nor hopes to subvert the government, have neither power nor will to dethrone the prince.

In these circumstances, men of prudence and authority interfere; moderate measures are first proposed, then complied with, and things at length are redressed; the laws resume their vigour, and command submission.

Thus all our histories are full of civil wars without revolutions, while the histories of despotic governments abound with revolutions without civil wars.

The writers of the history of the civil wars of some countries, even those who fomented them, sufficiently demonstrate the little foundation princes have to suspect the authority with which they invest particular bodies of men; since, even under the unhappy circumstance of their errors, they sighed only after the laws and their duty, and restrained, more than they were capable of inflaming, the impetuosity of the revolted.

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Cardinal Richelieu, reflecting perhaps that he had too much reduced the states of the kingdom, has recourse to the virtues of the prince and of his ministers for the support of government: but he requires so many things, that indeed there is none but an angel capable of such attention, such resolution, and knowledge; and scarce can we flatter ourselves ever to see such a prince and ministers, no not while monarchy subsists.

As people, who live under a good government, are happier than those who, without rule or leaders, wander about the forests; so monarchs, who live under the fundamental laws of their country, are far happier than despotic princes, who have nothing to regulate either their own passions or those of their subjects.

CHAP. XII.: The same Subject continued.

LET us not look for magnanimity in despotic governments. The prince cannot impart a greatness which he has not himself: with him there is no such thing as glory.

It is in monarchies we behold the subjects encircling the throne, and cheered by the irradiancy of the sovereign: there it is that each person, filling, as it were, a larger space, is capable of exercising those virtues which adorn the soul, not with independence, but with true dignity and greatness.

CHAP. XIII.: An Idea of despotic Power.

WHEN the savages of Louisiana are desirous of fruit, they cut the tree to the root, and gather the Edition: current; Page: [74] fruit.* This is an emblem of despotic government.

CHAP. XIV.: In what Manner the Laws are relative to the Principles of despotic Government.

THE principle of despotic government is fear: but a timid, ignorant, and faint-spirited people have no occasion for a great number of laws.

Every thing ought to depend here on two or three ideas: hence there is no necessity that any new notions should be added. When we want to break a horse, we take care not to let him change his master, his lesson, or his pace. Thus an impression is made on his brain by two or three motions, and no more.

If a prince is shut up in a seraglio, he cannot leave his voluptuous abode without alarming those who keep him confined. They will not bear that his person and power should pass into other hands. He seldom, therefore, wages war in person, and hardly ventures to intrust the command to his generals.

A prince of this stamp, unaccustomed to resistance in his palace, is enraged to see his will opposed by armed force: hence he is generally governed by wrath or vengeance. Besides, he can have no notion of true glory. War, therefore, is carried on, under such a government, in its full natural fury, and less extent is given to the law of nations than in other states.

Such a prince has so many imperfections, that they are afraid to expose his natural stupidity to public view. He is concealed in his palace, and the Edition: current; Page: [75] people are ignorant of his situation. It is lucky for him that the inhabitants of those countries need only the name of a prince to govern them.

When Charles XII. was at Bender, he met with some opposition from the senate of Sweden: upon which he wrote word home that he would send one of his boots to command them. This boot would have governed like a despotic prince.

If the prince is a prisoner, he is supposed to be dead, and another mounts the throne. The treaties made by the prisoner are void; his successor will not ratify them. And, indeed, (as he is the law, the state, and the prince,) when he is no longer a prince, he is nothing: were he not, therefore, deemed to be deceased, the state would be subverted.

One thing which chiefly determined the Turks to conclude a separate peace with Peter I. was the Muscovites telling the vizir, that, in Sweden, another prince had been set upon the throne.

The preservation of the state is only the preservation of the prince, or rather of the palace where he is confined. Whatever does not directly menace this palace, or the capital, makes no impression on ignorant, proud, and prejudiced, minds; and, as for the concatenation of events, they are unable to trace, to foresee, or even to conceive, it. Politics, with its several springs and laws, must here be very much limited; the political government is as simple as the civil.*

The whole is reduced to reconciling the political and civil administration to the domestic government, the officers of state to those of the seraglio.

Such a state is happiest when it can look upon itself as the only one in the world, when it is environed Edition: current; Page: [76] with deserts, and separated from those people whom they call barbarians. Since it cannot depend on the militia, it is proper it should destroy a part of itself.

As fear is the principle of despotic government, its end is tranquillity: but this tranquillity cannot be called a peace; no, it is only the silence of those towns which the enemy is ready to invade.

Since the strength does not lie in the state, but in the army that founded it; in order to defend the state, the army must be preserved, how formidable soever to the prince. How, then, can we reconcile the security of the government to that of the prince’s person?

Observe how industriously the Russian government endeavours to temper its arbitrary power, which it finds more burthensome than the people themselves. They have broke their numerous guards, mitigated criminal punishments, erected tribunals, entered into a knowledge of the laws, and instructed the people. But there are particular causes that will probably once more involve them in the very misery which they now endeavour to avoid.

In those states religion has more influence than any where else: it is fear added to fear. In Mahometan countries it is partly from their religion that the people derive the surprizing veneration they have for their prince.

It is religion that amends, in some measure, the Turkish constitution. The subjects, who have no attachment of honour to the glory and grandeur of the state, are connected with it by the force and principle of religion.

Of all despotic governments there is none that labours more under its own weight than that wherein the prince declares himself proprietor of all the Edition: current; Page: [77] lands, and heir to all his subjects. Hence the neglect of agriculture arises; and, if the prince intermeddles likewise in trade, all manner of industry is ruined.

Under this sort of government nothing is repaired or improved. Houses are built only for the necessity of habitation: there is no digging of ditches, or planting of trees: every thing is drawn from, but nothing restored to, the earth: the ground lies untilled, and the whole country becomes a desert.

Is it to be imagined, that the laws, which abolish the property of land and the succession of estates, will diminish the avarice and cupidity of the great? By no means: they will rather stimulate this cupidity and avarice. The great men will be prompted to use a thousand oppressive methods, imagining they have no other property than the gold and silver which they are able to seize upon by violence or to conceal.

To prevent, therefore, the utter ruin of the state, the avidity of the prince ought to be moderated by some established custom. Thus, in Turkey, the sovereign is satisfied with the right of three per cent. on the value of inheritances. But, as he gives the greatest part of the lands to his soldiery, and disposes of them as he pleases; as he seizes on all the inheritances of the officers of the empire at their decease; as he has the property of the possessions of those who die without issue, and the daughters have only the usufruct; it thence follows that the greatest part of the estates of the country are held in a precarious manner.

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By the laws of Bantam* the king seizes on the whole inheritance, even wife, children, and habitation. In order to elude the cruellest part of this law, they are obliged to marry their children at eight, nine, or ten years of age, and sometimes younger, to the end that they may not be a wretched part of the father’s succession.

In countries where there are no fundamental laws the succession to the empire cannot be fixed. The crown is then elective, and the right of electing is in the prince, who names a successor either of his own or of some other family. In vain would it be to establish here the succession of the eldest son: the prince might always choose another. The successor is declared by the prince himself, or by a civil war. Hence a despotic state is, upon another account, more liable, than a monarchical government, to dissolution.

As every prince of the royal family is held equally capable of being chosen, hence it follows that the prince who ascends the throne immediately strangles his brothers, as in Turkey; or puts out their eyes, as in Persia; or bereaves them of their understanding, as in the Mogul’s country; or, if these precautions are not used, as in Morocco, the vacancy of the throne is always attended with the horrors of a civil war.

By the constitutions of Russia the Czar may choose whom he has a mind for his successor, whether of his own or of a strange family, Such a settlement produces a thousand revolutions, and renders the throne as tottering as the succession is arbitrary. The right of succession being one of those Edition: current; Page: [79] things which are of most importance to the people to know, the best is that which most sensibly strikes them, such as a certain order of birth. A settlement of this kind puts a stop to intrigues, and stifles ambition: the mind of a weak prince is no longer enslaved, nor is he made to speak his will as he is just expiring.

When the succession is established by a fundamental law, only one prince is the successor, and his brothers have neither a real nor apparent right to dispute the crown with him. They can neither pretend to, nor take any advantage of, the will of a father. There is then no more occasion to confine or kill the king’s brother than any other subject.

But, in despotic governments, where the prince’s brothers are equally his slaves and his rivals, prudence requires that their persons be secured; especially in Mahometan countries, where religion considers victory or success as a divine decision in their favour; so that they have no such thing as a monarch de jure, but only de facto.

There is a far greater incentive to ambition in countries where the princes of the blood are sensible, that, if they do not ascend the throne, they must be either imprisoned or put to death, than amongst us, where they are placed in such a station as may satisfy, if not their ambition, at least their moderate desires.

The princes of despotic governments have ever perverted the use of marriage. They generally take a great many wives, especially in that part of the world where absolute power is in some measure naturalized; namely, Asia. Hence they come to have such a multitude of children, that they can hardly have any great affection for them, nor the children for one another.

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The reigning family resembles the state: it is too weak itself, and its head too powerful: it seems very numerous and extensive, and yet is suddenly extinct. Artaxerxes put all his children to death for conspiring against him. It is not at all probable that fifty children should conspire against their father, and much less that this conspiracy should be owing to his having refused to resign his concubine to his eldest son. It is more natural to believe that the whole was an intrigue of those oriental seraglios, where fraud, treachery, and deceit, reign in silence and darkness; and where an old prince, grown every day more infirm, is the first prisoner of the palace.

After what has been said, one would imagine that human nature should perpetually rise up against despotism. But, notwithstanding the love of liberty, so natural to mankind, notwithstanding their innate detestation of force and violence, most nations are subject to this very government. This is easily accounted for. To form a moderate government, it is necessary to combine the several powers; to regulate, temper, and set them in motion; to give, as it were, ballast to one, in order to enable it to counterpoise the other. This is a master-piece of legislation, rarely produced by hazard, and seldom attained by prudence. On the contrary, a despotic government offers itself, as it were, at first sight; it is uniform throughout; and, as passions only are requisite to establish it, this is what every capacity may reach.

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CHAP. XV.: The same Subject continued.

IN warm climates, where despotic power generally prevails, the passions disclose themselves earlier, and are sooner extinguished; the understanding is sooner ripened; they are in less danger of squandering away their fortunes; there is less facility of distinguishing themselves in the world; less communication between young people, who are confined at home; they marry much earlier, and consequently may be sooner of age, than in our European climates. In Turkey, they are of age at fifteen§.

They have no such thing as a cession of goods; in a government where there is no fixed property people depend rather on the person than on his estate.

The cession of goods is naturally admitted in moderate governments*, but especially in republics, because of the greater confidence usually placed in the probity of the citizens, and the lenity and moderation arising from a form of government which every subject seems to have preferred to all others.

Had the legislators of the Roman republic established the cession of goods, they never would have been exposed to so many seditions and civil discords; neither would they have experienced the danger of the evils nor the inconveniency of the remedies.

Poverty, and the precariousness of property, in a despotic state, render usury natural, each person raising the value of his money in proportion to the danger he sees in lending it. Misery, therefore, pours in Edition: current; Page: [82] from all parts into those unhappy countries; they are bereft of every thing, even of the resource of borrowing.

Hence it is, that a merchant, under this government, is unable to carry on an extensive commerce: he lives from hand to mouth; and, were he to encumber himself with a large quantity of merchandises, he would lose more by the exorbitant interest he must give for money than he could possibly get by the goods. Hence they have no laws here relating to commerce; they are all reduced to what is called the bare police.

A government cannot be unjust without having hands to exercise its injustice. Now, it is impossible but these hands will be grasping for themselves. The embezzling of the public money is, therefore, natural in despotic states.

As this is a common crime, under such a government, confiscations are very useful. By these the people are eased; the money drawn by this method being a considerable tribute, which could hardly be raised on the exhausted subject: neither is there, in those countries, any one family which the prince would be glad to preserve.

In moderate governments it is quite a different thing. Confiscations would render property uncertain, would strip innocent children, would destroy a whole family, instead of punishing a single criminal. In republics, they would be attended with the mischief of subverting equality, which is the very soul of this government, by depriving a citizen of his necessary subsistence.

There is a Roman law against confiscations, except in the case of crimen majestatis, or high treason of the most heinous nature. It would be a prudent Edition: current; Page: [83] thing to follow the spirit of this law, and to limit confiscations to particular crimes*. In countries where a local custom has rendered real estates alienable, Bodin very justly observes, that confiscations should extend only to such as are purchased or acquired.

CHAP. XVI.: Of the Communication of Power.

IN a despotic government, the power is communicated entire to the person intrusted with it. The vizir himself is the despotic prince; and each particular officer is the vizir. In monarchies, the power is less immediately applied, being tempered by the monarch as he gives it. He makes such a distribution of his authority, as never to communicate a part of it without reserving a greater share to himself.

Hence, in monarchies, the governors of towns are not so dependent on the governor of the province as not to be still more so on the prince; and the private officers of military bodies are not so far subject to their general as not to owe still a greater subjection to their sovereign.

In most monarchies, it has been wisely regulated, that those, who have an extensive command, should not belong to any military corps; so that, as they have no authority but through the prince’s pleasure, and as they may be employed or not, they are in some measure in the service, and in some measure out of it.

This is incompatible with a despotic government. For, if those who are not actually employed were still invested with privileges and titles, the consequence Edition: current; Page: [84] must be, that there would be a kind of men in the state who might be said to be great of themselves; a thing directly opposite to the nature of this government.

Were the governor of a town independent of the bashaw, expedients would be daily necessary to make them agree; which is highly absurd in a despotic state. Besides, if a particular governor might refuse to obey, how could the other answer for his province with his head?

In this kind of government, authority must ever be wavering; nor is that of the lowest magistrate more steady than that of the despotic prince. Under moderate governments, the law is prudent in all its parts, and perfectly well known, so that even the pettiest magistrates are capable of following it. But, in a despotic state, where the prince’s will is the law, though the prince were wise, yet how could the magistrate follow a will he does not know? he must certainly follow his own.

Again, as the law is only the prince’s will, and as the prince can only will what he knows, the consequence is, that there are an infinite number of people who must will for him, and make their wills keep pace with his.

In fine, as the law is the momentary will of the prince, it is necessary that those who will for him should follow his subitaneous manner of willing.

CHAP. XVII.: Of Presents.

IT is a received custom, in despotic countries, never to address any superior whomsoever, not excepting their kings, without making them a present. Edition: current; Page: [85] The Mogul never receives the petitions of his subjects if they come with empty hands. These princes spoil even their own favours.

But thus it must ever be in a government where no man is a citizen; where they have all a notion that a superior is under no obligation to an inferior; where men imagine themselves bound by no other tie than the chastisements inflicted by one party over another; where, in fine, there is very little to do, and where the people have seldom an occasion of presenting themselves before the great, of offering their petitions, and much less their complaints.

In a republic, presents are odious, because virtue stands in no need of them. In monarchies, honour is a much stronger incentive than presents. But, in a despotic government, where there is neither honour nor virtue, people cannot be determined to act but through hope of the conveniences of life.

It is in conformity to republican ideas, that Plato ordered those who received presents for doing their duty to be punished with death. “They must not take presents (says he) neither for good nor for evil actions.”

A very bad law that was, among the Romans, which gave the magistrates leave to accept of small presents§, provided they did not exceed one hundred crowns the whole year. They, who receive nothing, expect nothing; they, who receive a little, soon covet more; till at length their desires swell to an exorbitant height. Besides, it is much easier to convict a man, who knows himself obliged to accept of no present at all, and yet will accept of something, Edition: current; Page: [86] than a person who takes more when he ought to take less, and who always finds pretexts, excuses, and plausible reasons, in justification of his conduct.

CHAP. XVIII.: Of Rewards conferred by the Sovereign.

IN despotic governments, where, as we have already observed, the principal motive of action is the hope of the conveniences of life, the prince who confers rewards has nothing to bestow but money. In monarchies, where honour alone predominates, the prince’s rewards would consist only of marks of distinction, if the distinctions established by honour were not attended with luxury, which necessarily brings on its wants: the prince, therefore, is obliged to confer such honours as lead to wealth. But, in a republic, where virtue reigns, (a motive self-sufficient, and which excludes all others,) the recompences of the state consist only of public attestations of this virtue.

It is a general rule, that great rewards, in monarchies and republics, are a sign of their decline, because they are a proof of their principles being corrupted, and that the idea of honour has no longer the same force in monarchy, nor the title of citizen the same weight in a republic.

The very worst Roman emperors were those who were most profuse in their largesses; for example, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Commodus, Heliogabalus, and Caracalla. The best, as Augustus, Vespasian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and Pertinax, were œconomists. Under good emperors the state resumed its principles; all other treasures were supplied by that of honour.

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CHAP. XIX.: New Consequences of the Principles of the three Governments.

I cannot conclude this book without making some applications of my three principles.

Quest. 1. It is a question, whether the laws ought to oblige a subject to accept of a public employment. My opinion is, that they ought in a republic, but not in a monarchical government. In the former, public employments are attestations of virtue, depositums with which a citizen is entrusted by his country, for whose sake alone he ought to live, to act, and to think; consequently, he cannot refuse them. In the latter, public offices are testimonies of honour: now, such is the capriciousness of honour, that it chooses to accept of none of these testimonies but when and in what manner it pleases.

The late king of Sardinia inflicted punishments* on his subjects who refused the dignities and public offices of the state. In this he unknowingly followed republican ideas: but his manner of governing, in other respects, sufficiently proves that this was not his intention.

Quest. 2. Secondly, it is questioned, whether a subject should be obliged to accept of a post in the army inferior to that which he held before. Among the Romans, it was usual to see a captain serve the next year under his lieutenant. This is because virtue in republics requires a continual sacrifice of Edition: current; Page: [88] our persons and of our repugnances for the good of the state. But, in monarchies, honour, true or false, will never bear with what it calls degrading itself.

In despotic governments, where honour, posts, and ranks, are equally abused, they indiscriminately make of a prince a scullion, and of a scullion a prince.

Quest. 3. Thirdly, it may be enquired, whether civil and military employments should be conferred on the same person. In republics, I think, they should be joined, but in monarchies separated. In the former, it would be extremely dangerous to make the profession of arms a particular state, distinct from that of civil functions; and, in the latter, no less dangerous would it be to confer these two employments on the same person.

In republics, a person takes up arms only with a view to defend his country and its laws; it is because he is a citizen he makes himself, for a while, a soldier. Were these two distinct states, the person who, under arms, thinks himself a citizen, would soon be made sensible he is only a soldier.

In monarchies, they, whose condition engages them in the profession of arms, have nothing but glory, or, at least, honour or fortune, in view. To men, therefore, like these, the prince should never give any civil employments; on the contrary, they ought to be checked by the civil magistrate, that the same persons may not have, at the same time, the confidence of the people and the power to abuse it.

We have only to cast an eye on a nation that may be justly called a republic disguised under the form of monarchy, and we shall see how jealous they are of making a separate order of the profession of arms, Edition: current; Page: [89] and how the military state is constantly allied with that of the citizen, and even sometimes of the magistrate, to the end that these qualities may be a pledge for their country which should never be forgotten.

The division of civil and military employments, made by the Romans after the extinction of the republic, was not an arbitrary thing: it was a consequence of the change which happened in the constitution of Rome; it was natural to a monarchical government; and, what was only commenced under Augustus, succeeding emperors§ were obliged to finish, in order to temper the military government.

Procopius, therefore, the competitor of Valens, the emperor, was very much to blame, when, conferring the proconsular dignity upon Hormisdas, a prince of the blood-royal of Persia, he restored to this magistracy the military command of which it had been formerly possessed, unless, indeed, he had very particular reasons for so doing. A person, that aspires to the sovereignty, concerns himself less about what is serviceable to the state than what is likely to promote his own interest.

Quest. 4. Fourthly, it is a question, whether public employments should be sold. They ought not, I think, in despotic governments, where the subjects must be instantaneously placed or displaced by the prince.

But, in monarchies, this custom is not at all improper, by reason it is an inducement to engage in that, as a family employment, which would not be undertaken through a motive of virtue: it fixes, likewise, every one to his duty, and renders the several Edition: current; Page: [90] orders of the kingdom more permanent. Suidas* very justly observes, that Anastasius had changed the empire into a kind of aristocracy, by selling all public employments.

Plato cannot bear with this prostitution: “This is exactly (says he) as if a person were to be made a mariner or pilot of a ship for his money. Is it possible that this rule should be bad in every other employment of life and hold good only in the administration of a republic?” But Plato speaks of a republic founded on virtue, and we of a monarchy. Now, in monarchies, (where, though there were no such thing as a regular sale of public offices, still the indigence and avidity of the courtier would equally prompt him to expose them to sale,) chance will furnish better subjects than the prince’s choice. In short, the method of attaining to honours through riches inspires and cherishes industry, a thing extremely wanting in this kind of government.

Quest. 5. The fifth question is, in what kind of government censors are necessary. My answer is, that they are necessary in a republic, where the principle of government is virtue. We must not imagine that criminal actions only are destructive of virtue; it is destroyed also by omissions, by neglects, by a certain coolness in the love of our country, by bad examples, and by the seeds of corruption. Whatever does not openly violate, but elude, the laws; does not subvert, but weaken, them; ought to fall under the enquiry and correction of the censors.

We are surprised at the punishment of the Areopagite for killing a sparrow, which, to escape the pursuit of a hawk, had taken shelter in his bosom. Surprised we are, also, that an Areopagite should put Edition: current; Page: [91] his son to death for pulling out the eyes of a little bird. But let us reflect, that the question here does not relate to a criminal sentence, but to a judgement concerning manners in a republic founded on manners.

In monarchies there should be no censors: the former are founded on honour, and the nature of honour is to have the whole world for its censor. Every man who fails in this article is subject to the reproaches even of those who are void of honour.

Here the censors would be spoilt by the very people whom they ought to correct: they could not prevail against the corruption of a monarchy; the corruption rather would be too strong against them.

Hence it is obvious, that there ought to be no censors in despotic governments. The example of China seems to derogate from this rule: but we shall see, in the course of this work, the particular reasons of that institution.


CHAP. I.: Of the Simplicity of civil Laws in different Governments.

MONARCHIES do not permit of so great a simplicity of laws as despotic governments: for, in monarchies, there must be courts of judicature: these must give their decisions: the decisions must be preserved and learnt, that we may judge in the Edition: current; Page: [92] same manner to-day as yesterday, and that the lives and property of the citizens may be as certain and fixt as the very constitution of the state.

In monarchies, the administration of justice, which decides not only in whatever belongs to life and property, but likewise to honour, demands very scrupulous enquiries. The delicacy of the judge increases in proportion to the increase of his trust, and of the importance of the interests on which he determines.

We must not therefore be surprised to find so many rules, restrictions, and extensions, in the laws of those countries; rules that multiply the particular cases, and seem to make of reason itself an art.

The difference of rank, birth, and condition, established in monarchical governments, is frequently attended with distinctions in the nature of property; and the laws relative to the constitution of this government may augment the number of these distinctions. Hence, among us, goods are divided into real estates, purchases, dowries, paraphernalia, paternal and maternal inheritances; moveables of different kinds; estates held in fee-simple or in tail; acquired by descent or conveyance; allodial, or held by soccage; ground-rents, or annuities. Each sort of goods is subject to particular rules, which must be complied with in the disposal of them. These things must needs diminish the simplicity of the laws.

In our governments the fiefs are become hereditary. It was necessary that the nobility should have a fixt property; that is, the fief should have a certain consistency; to the end that the proprietor might be always in a capacity of serving the prince. This must have been productive of great varieties: for instance, there are countries where fiefs could not be divided among the brothers; in others, the Edition: current; Page: [93] younger brothers may be allowed a more generous subsistence.

The monarch, who knows each of his provinces, may establish different laws, or tolerate different customs. But, as the despotic prince knows nothing, and can attend to nothing, he must take general measures, and govern by a rigid and inflexible will, which, throughout his whole dominions, produces the same effect: in short, every thing bends under his feet.

In proportion as the decisions of the courts of judicature are multiplied in monarchies, the law is loaded with decrees that sometimes contradict one another; either because succeeding judges are of a different way of thinking, or because the same causes are sometimes well, and at other times ill, defended; or, in fine, by reason of an infinite number of abuses, to which all human regulations are liable. This is a necessary evil, which the legislator redresses from time to time, as contrary even to the spirit of moderate governments: for, when people are obliged to have recourse to courts of judicature, this should come from the nature of the constitution, and not from the contradiction or uncertainty of the law.

In governments where there are necessary distinctions of persons there must likewise be privileges. This also diminishes the simplicity, and creates a thousand exceptions.

One of the privileges least burthensome to society, and especially to him who confers it, is that of pleading in one court preferably to another. Here new difficulties arise, when it becomes a question before which court we shall plead.

Far different is the case of the people under despotic governments. In those countries I can see nothing that the legislator is able to decree, or the Edition: current; Page: [94] magistrate to judge. As the lands belong to the prince, it follows that there are scarce any civil laws in regard to landed property. From the right the sovereign has to successions it follows likewise that there are none relating to inheritances. The monopolies, established by the prince for himself in some countries, render all sorts of commercial laws quite useless. The marriages, which they usually contract with female slaves, are the cause that there are scarce any civil laws relating to dowries, or to the particular advantage of married women. From the prodigious multitude of slaves it follows likewise that there are very few who have any such thing as a will of their own, and of course are answerable for their conduct before a judge. Most moral actions, that are only in consequence of a father’s, a husband’s, or a master’s, will, are regulated by them, and not by the magistrates.

I forgot to observe, that, as what we call honour is a thing hardly known in those countries, the several difficulties relating to this article, though of such importance with us, are with them quite out of the question. Despotic power is self-sufficient: round it there is an absolute vacuum. Hence it is, that, when travellers favour us with the description of countries where arbitrary sway prevails, they seldom make mention of civil laws.*

All occasions, therefore, of wrangling and lawsuits are here removed. And to this, in part, it is owing that litigious people, in those countries, are so roughly handled: as the injustice of their demand is neither screened, palliated, nor protected, Edition: current; Page: [95] by an infinite number of laws, of course it is immediately discovered.

CHAP. II.: Of the Simplicity of criminal Laws in different Governments.

WE hear it generally said, that justice ought to be administered with us as in Turkey. Is it possible, then, that the most ignorant of all nations should be the most clear-sighted in a point which it most behoves mankind to know?

If we examine the set forms of justice, with respect to the trouble the subject undergoes, in recovering his property, or in obtaining satisfaction for an injury or affront, we shall find them doubtless too numerous: but, if we consider them in the relation they bear to the liberty and security of every individual, we shall often find them too few, and be convinced that the trouble, expence, delays, and even the very dangers, of our judiciary proceedings, are the price that each subject pays for his liberty.

In Turkey, where little regard is shewn to the honour, life, or estate, of the subject, all causes are speedily decided. The method of determining them is a matter of indifference, provided they be determined. The bashaw, after a quick hearing, orders which party he pleases to be bastinadoed, and then sends them about their business.

Here it would be dangerous to be of a litigious disposition: this supposes a strong desire of obtaining justice, a settled aversion, an active mind, and a steadiness in pursuing one’s point. All this should be avoided in a government where fear ought to be the only prevailing sentiment, and in which popular Edition: current; Page: [96] disturbances are frequently attended with sudden and unforeseen revolutions. Here every man ought to know that the magistrate must not hear his name mentioned, and that his security depends entirely on his being reduced to a kind of annihilation.

But, in moderate governments, where the life of the meanest subject is deemed precious, no man is stript of his honour or property but after a long enquiry; and no man is bereft of life till his very country has attacked him; an attack that is never made without leaving him all possible means of making his defence.

Hence it is, that, when a person renders himself absolute*, he immediately thinks of reducing the number of laws. In a government thus constituted, they are more affected with particular inconveniences than with the liberty of the subject, which is very little minded.

In republics, it is plain, that as many formalities, at least, are necessary as in monarchies. In both governments, they increase in proportion to the value which is set on the honour, fortune, liberty, and life, of the subject.

In republican governments, men are all equal; equal they are, also, in despotic governments: in the former, because they are every thing; in the latter, because they are nothing.

CHAP. III.: In what Governments, and in what Cases, the Judges ought to determine according to the express Letter of the Law.

THE nearer the government approaches towards a republic, the more the manner of judging becomes Edition: current; Page: [97] settled and fixt: hence it was a fault, in the republic of Sparta, for the Ephori to pass such arbitrary judgements, without having any laws to direct them. The first consuls, at Rome, pronounced sentence in the same manner as the Ephori; but the inconveniency of this proceeding was soon felt, and they were obliged to have recourse to express and determinate laws.

In despotic governments there are no laws; the judge himself is his own rule. There are laws in monarchies; and, where these are explicit, the judge conforms to them; where they are otherwise, he endeavours to investigate their spirit. In republics, the very nature of the constitution requires the judges to follow the letter of the law; otherwise, the law might be explained to the prejudice of every citizen, in cases where their honour, property, or life, are concerned.

At Rome, the judges had no more to do than to declare that the person accused was guilty of a particular crime, and then the punishment was found in the laws, as may be seen in divers laws still extant. In England, the jury give their verdict, whether the fact, brought under their cognizance, be proved or not; if it be proved, the judge pronounces the punishment inflicted by the law, and for this he needs only to open his eyes.

CHAP. IV.: Of the Manner of passing Judgement.

HENCE arises the different manner of passing judgement. In monarchies the judges choose the method of arbitration: they deliberate together; they communicate their sentiments for the sake of unanimity; they moderate their opinions, in order to render them conformable to those of others; and Edition: current; Page: [98] the lesser number is obliged to give way to the majority. But this is not agreeable to the nature of a republic. At Rome, and in the cities of Greece, the judges never entered into a consultation; each gave his opinion one of these three ways; I absolve; I condemn; it does not appear clear to me*: this was because the people judged, or were supposed to judge. But the people are far from being civilians; all these restrictions and methods of arbitration are above their reach; they must have only one object, and one single fact, set before them; and then they have only to see whether they ought to condemn, to acquit, or to suspend their judgement.

The Romans introduced fet forms of actions, after the example of the Greeks, and established a rule, that each cause should be directed by its proper action. This was necessary in their manner of judging; it was necessary to fix the state of the question, that the people might have it always before their eyes: otherwise, in a long process, this state of the question would continually change, and be no longer distinguished.

Hence it followed, that the Roman judges granted only the simple demand, without making any addition, deduction, or limitation. But the prætors devised other forms of actions, which were called ex bona fide, where the method of pronouncing sentence was left to the disposition of the judge. This was more agreeable to the spirit of monarchy. Hence it is a saying among the French lawyers, that, in France, all actions are ex bona fide.

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CHAP. V.: In what Governments the Sovereign may be Judge.

MACHIAVEL§ attributes the loss of the liberty of Florence to the people’s not judging in a body in cases of high-treason against themselves, as was customary at Rome. For this purpose they had eight judges: but the few, says Machiavel, are corrupted by a few. I should willingly adopt the maxim of this great man: but as, in those cases, the political interest prevails, in some measure, over the civil, (for it is always an inconveniency that the people should be judges in their own cause,) in order to remedy this evil, the laws must provide as much as possible for the security of individuals.

With this view, the Roman legislators did two things; they gave the persons accused permission to banish themselves before sentence was pronounced; and they ordained, that the goods of those who were condemned should be sacred, to prevent their being confiscated to the people. We shall see, in the XIth book, the other limitations that were set to the judicatory power residing in the people.

Solon knew how to prevent the abuse which the people might make of their power in criminal judgements. He ordained, that the court of Areopagus should re-examine the affair; that, if they believed the party accused was unjustly acquitted*, they should impeach him again before the people; that, if they believed him unjustly condemned, they should prevent the execution of the sentence, and make them Edition: current; Page: [100] re-judge the proceeding. An admirable law, that subjected the people to the censure of the magistracy which they most revered, and even to their own!

In affairs of this kind, it is always proper to throw in some delays, especially when the party accused is under confinement; to the end that the people may grow calm, and give their judgement coolly.

In despotic governments, the prince himself may be judge: but in monarchies this cannot be; the constitution by such means would be subverted, and the dependent intermediate powers annihilated; all set forms of judgement would cease; fear would take possession of the people’s minds, and paleness spread itself over every countenance: the more confidence, honour, affection, and security, in the subject, the more extended is the power of the monarch.

We shall give here a few more reflections on this point. In monarchies, the prince is the party that prosecutes the person accused, and causes him to be punished or acquitted; now, were he himself to sit upon the trial, he would be both judge and party.

In this government the prince has frequently the benefit of confiscation; so that here again, by determining criminal causes, he would be both judge and party.

Farther, by this method, he would deprive himself of the most glorious attribute of sovereignty, namely, that of granting pardon*; for it would be quite ridiculous of him to make and unmake his decisions: surely, he would not choose to contradict himself.

Besides, this would be confounding all ideas; it would be impossible to tell whether a man was acquitted or received his pardon.

Lewis XIII. being desirous to sit in judgement upon the trial of the duke ae la Valette, sent for some Edition: current; Page: [101] members of the parliament and of the privy-council to debate the matter. Upon their being ordered by the king to give their opinion concerning the warrant for his arrest, the president de Believre said, “That he found it very strange a prince should pass sentence upon a subject: that kings had reserved to themselves the power of pardoning, and left that of condemning to their officers: that his majesty wanted to see before him at the bar a person, who, by his decision, was to be hurried away into the other world: that the prince’s countenance should inspire with hopes, and not confound with fears: that his presence alone removed ecclesiastic censures: and that subjects ought not to go away dissatisfied from the sovereign.” When sentence was passed, the same magistrate declared, “This is an unprecedented judgement; to see, contrary to the example of past ages, a king of France, in the quality of a judge, condemning a gentleman to death.”

Again, sentences passed by the prince would be an inexhaustible source of injustice and abuse; the courtiers, by their importunity, would always be able to extort his decisions. Some Roman emperors were so mad as to sit as judges themselves; the consequence was, that no reigns ever so surprized the world with oppression and injustice.

“Claudius, (says Tacitus,) having appropriated to himself the determination of law suits and the function of magistrates, gave occasion to all manner of rapine.” But Nero, upon coming to the empire after Claudius, endeavoured to conciliate the minds of the people, by declaring, “That he would take care not to be judge himself in private causes, Edition: current; Page: [102] that the parties might not be exposed, within the walls of a palace, to the iniquitous influence of a few freedmen§.”

“Under the reign of Arcadius, (says Zozimus,) a swarm of calumniators spread themselves on every side, and infected the court. Upon a person’s decease, it was immediately supposed he had left no children*; and, in consequence of this, his property was given away by a recript. For, as the prince was surprizingly stupid, and the empress excessively enterprizing, she was a slave to the insatiable avarice of her domestics and confidents; insomuch, that, to an honest man, nothing could be more desirable than death.”

“Formerly, (says Procopius,) there used to be very few people at court; but, in Justinian’s reign, as the judges had no longer the liberty of administering justice, their tribunals were deserted, while the prince’s palace resounded with the litigious clamours of the several parties.” Every body knows what a prostitution there was of public judgements, and even of the very laws themselves, at the emperor’s court.

The laws are the eye of the prince; by them he sees what would otherwise escape his observation. Should he attempt the function of a judge, he would not then labour for himself, but for impostors, whose aim is to deceive him.

CHAP. VI.: That, in Monarchies, Ministers ought not to sit as Judges.

IT is, likewise, a very great inconveniency, in monarchies, for the ministers of the prince to sit as Edition: current; Page: [103] judges. We have still instances of states where there is a great number of judges to decide exchequer causes, and where the ministers, nevertheless, (a thing most incredible,) would fain determine them. Many are the reflections that here arise; but this single one will suffice for my purpose.

There is, in the very nature of things, a kind of contrast between a prince’s council and his courts of judicature. The king’s council ought to be composed of a few persons, and the courts of judicature of a great many. The reason is, in the former, things should be undertaken and conducted with a kind of warmth and passion, which can hardly be expected but from four or five men who make it their sole business. On the contrary, in courts of judicature, a certain coolness is requisite, and an indifference, in some measure, to all manner of affairs.

CHAP. VII.: Of a single Magistrate.

A magistracy of this kind cannot take place but in a despotic government. We have an instance, in the Roman history, how far a single magistrate may abuse his power. Might it not be very well expected that Appius, on his tribunal, should contemn all laws, after having violated that of his own enacting? Livy has given us the iniquitous distinction of the decemvir. He had suborned a man to reclaim Virginia, in his presence, as his slave: Virginia’s relations insisted, that, by virtue of his own law, she should be consigned to them till the definitive judgement was passed. Upon which, he declared, that his law had been enacted only in favour of the father; Edition: current; Page: [104] and that, as Virginius was absent, no application could be made of it to the present case.

CHAP. VIII.: Of Accusation in different Governments.

AT Rome§ it was lawful for one citizen to accuse another: this was agreeable to the spirit of a republic, where each citizen ought to have an unlimited zeal for the public good, and is supposed to hold all the rights of his country in his own hands. Under the emperors the republican maxims were still pursued; and instantly appeared a pernicious tribe, a swarm of informers. Crafty wicked men, who could stoop to any indignity to serve the purposes of their ambition, were sure to busy themselves in the search of criminals whose condemnation might be agreeable to the prince: this was the road to honour and preferment: but luckily we are strangers to it in our country.

We have at present an admirable law, namely, that by which the prince, who is established for the execution of the laws, appoints an officer in each court of judicature to prosecute all sorts of crimes in his name: hence the profession of informers is a thing unknown to us; for, if this public avenger were suspected to abuse his office, he would soon be obliged to mention his author.

By Plato’s laws*, those who neglect to inform or assist the magistrates are liable to punishment. This would not be so proper in our days. The public prosecutor warches for the safety of the citizens; he proceeds in his office while they enjoy their quiet and ease.

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CHAP. IX.: Of the Severity of Punishments in different Governments.

THE severity of punishments is fitter for despotic governments, whose principle is terror, than for a monarchy or a republic, whose spring is honour and virtue.

In moderate governments, the love of one’s country, shame, and the fear of blame, are restraining motives, capable of preventing a multitude of crimes. Here the greatest punishment of a bad action is conviction. The civil laws have, therefore, a softer way of correcting, and do not require so much force and severity.

In those states, a good legislator is less bent upon punishing, than preventing, crimes; he is more attentive to inspire good morals than to inflict penalties.

It is a constant remark of the Chinese authors, that, the more the penal laws were increased in their empire, the nearer they drew towards a revolution. This is because punishments were augmented in proportion as the public morals were corrupted.

It would be an easy matter to prove, that, in all, or almost all, the governments of Europe, penalties have increased or diminished in proportion as those governments favoured or discouraged liberty.

In despotic governments, people are so unhappy as to have a greater dread of death than regret for the loss of life; consequently, their punishments ought to be more severe. In moderate states, they are more afraid of losing their lives than apprehensive of the pain of dying; those punishments, therefore, which deprive them simply of life, are sufficient.

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Men, in excess of happiness or misery, are equally inclinable to severity; witness conquerors and monks. It is mediocrity alone, and a mixture of prosperous and adverse fortune, that inspire us with lenity and pity.

What we see practised by individuals is equally observable in regard to nations. In countries inhabited by savages, who lead a very hard life, and in despotic governments, where there is only one person on whom fortune lavishes her favours, while the miserable subjects lie exposed to her insults, people are equally cruel. Lenity reigns in moderate governments.

When, in reading history, we observe the cruelty of the sultans in the administration of justice, we shudder at the very thought of the miseries of human nature.

In moderate governments, a good legislator may make use of every thing by way of punishment. Is it not very extraordinary, that one of the chief penalties, at Sparta, was to deprive a person of the power of lending out his wife, or of receiving the wife of another man, and to oblige him to have no company at home but virgins? In short, whatever the law calls a punishment, is such effectively.

CHAP. X.: Of the ancient French Laws.

IN the ancient French laws we find the true spirit of monarchy. In cases relating to pecuniary mulcts, the common people are less severely punished than the nobility: but in criminal cases it is quite the Edition: current; Page: [107] reverse; the nobleman loses his honour and his voice in court, while the peasant, who has no honour to lose, undergoes a corporal punishment.

CHAP. XI.: That, when People are virtuous, few Punishments are necessary.

THE people of Rome had some share of probity. Such was the force of this probity, that the legislator had frequently no farther occasion than to point out the right road, and they were sure to follow it. One would imagine, that, instead of precepts, it was sufficient to give them counsels.

The punishments of the regal laws, and those of the twelve tables, were almost all abolished in the time of the republic, in consequence either of the Valerian§ or of the Porcian law. It was never observed that this step did any manner of prejudice to the civil administration.

This Valerian law, which restrained the magistrates from using violent methods against a citizen that had appealed to the people, inflicted no other punishment on the person who infringed it than that of being reputed a dishonest man.*

CHAP. XII.: Of the Power of Punishments.

EXPERIENCE shews, that, in countries remarkable for the lenity of their laws, the spirit of Edition: current; Page: [108] the inhabitants is as much affected, by slight penalties, as in other countries by severer punishments.

If an inconveniency or abuse arises in the state, a violent government endeavours suddenly to redress it; and, instead of putting the old laws in execution, it establishes some cruel punishment, which instantly puts a stop to the evil. But the spring of government hereby loses its elasticity; the imagination grows accustomed to the severe as well as the milder punishment; and, as the fear of the latter diminishes, they are soon obliged, in every case, to have recourse to the former. Robberies on the high-way were grown common in some countries. In order to remedy this evil, they invented the punishment of breaking upon the wheel; the terror of which put a stop, for a while, to this mischievous practice: but, soon after, robberies on the highways became as common as ever.

Desertion, in our days, was grown to a very great height: in consequence of which it was judged proper to punish those delinquents with death; and yet their number did not diminish. The reason is very natural: a soldier, accustomed to venture his life, despises, or affects to despise, the danger of losing it: he is habituated to the fear of shame: it would have been, therefore, much better to have continued a punishment which branded him with infamy for life: the penalty was pretended to be increased, while it really diminished.

Mankind must not be governed with too much severity: we ought to make a prudent use of the means which nature has given us to conduct them. If we enquire into the cause of all human corruptions, we shall find that they proceed from the impunity Edition: current; Page: [109] of criminals, and not from the moderation of punishments.

Let us follow nature, who has given shame to man for his scourge; and let the heaviest part of the punishment be the infamy attending it.

But, if there be some countries where shame is not a consequence of punishment, this must be owing to tyranny, which has inflicted the same penalties on villains and honest men.

And, if there are others where men are deterred only by cruel punishments, we may be sure that this must, in a great measure, arise from the violence of the government, which has used such penalties for slight transgressions.

It often happens, that a legislator, desirous of remedying an abuse, thinks of nothing else: his eyes are open only to this object, and shut to its inconveniences. When the abuse is redressed, you see only the severity of the legislator: yet there remains an evil in the state, that has sprung from this severity; the minds of the people are corrupted and become habituated to despotism.

Lysander having obtained a victory over the Athenians, the prisoners were ordered to be tried, in consequence of an accusation, brought against that nation, of having thrown all the captives of two galleys down a precipice, and of having resolved, in full assembly, to cut off the hands of those whom they should chance to make prisoners. The Athenians were therefore all massacred, except Adymantes, who had opposed this decree. Lysander reproached Philocles, before he was put to death, with having depraved the people’s minds, and given lessons of cruelty to all Greece.

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“The Argives (says Plutarch) having put fifteen hundred of their citizens to death, the Athenians ordered sacrifices of expiation, that it might please the gods to turn the hearts of the Athenians from so cruel a thought.”

There are two sorts of corruption; one when the people do not observe the laws; the other when they are corrupted by the laws: an incurable evil, because it is in the very remedy itself.

CHAP. XIII.: Insufficiency of the Laws of Japan.

EXCESSIVE punishments may even corrupt a despotic government: of this we have an instance in Japan.

Here almost all crimes are punished with death,§ because disobedience to so great an emperor as that of Japan is reckoned an enormous crime. The question is not so much to correct the delinquent, as to vindicate the authority of the prince. These notions are derived from servitude, and are owing especially to this, that, as the emperor is universal proprietor, almost all crimes are directly against his interests.

They punish with death lies spoken before the magistrate; a proceeding contrary to natural defence.

Even things which have not the appearance of a crime are severely punished: for instance, a man that ventures his money at play is put to death.

True it is, that the character of this people, so amazingly obstinate, capricious, and resolute, as to Edition: current; Page: [111] defy all dangers and calamities, seems to absolve their legislators from the imputation of cruelty, notwithstanding the severity of their laws. But are men, who have a natural contempt of death, and who rip open their bellies for the least fancy; are such men, I say, mended or deterred, or rather are they not hardened, by the continual prospect of punishments?

The relations of travellers inform us, with respect to the education of the Japanese, that children must be treated there with mildness, because they become hardened to punishment; that their slaves must not be too roughly used, because they immediately stand upon their defence. Would not one imagine that they might easily have judged of the spirit, which ought to reign in their political and civil government, from that which should prevail in their domestic concerns?

A wise legislator would have endeavoured to reclaim people by a just temperature of punishments and rewards; by maxims of philosophy, morality, and religion, adapted to those characters; by a proper application of the rules of honour; and by the enjoyment of ease and tranquillity of life: and, should he have entertained any apprehension that their minds, being inured to the cruelty of punishments, would no longer be restrained by those of a milder nature, he would have conducted himself* in another manner, and gained his point by degrees: in particular cases, that admitted of any indulgence, he would have mitigated the punishment, till he should have been able to extend this mitigation to all cases.

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But these are springs to which despotic power is a stranger: it may abuse itself, and that is all it can do. In Japan it has made its utmost effort, and has surpassed even itself in cruelty.

As the minds of the people grew wild and intractable, they were obliged to have recourse to the most horrid severity.

This is the origin, this the spirit, of the laws of Japan. They had more fury, however, than force. They succeeded in the extirpation of Christianity: but such unaccountable efforts are a proof of their insufficiency. They wanted to establish a good polity, and they have shewn greater marks of their weakness.

We have only to read the relation of the interview between the emperor and the deyro at Meaco. The number of those who were suffocated or murdered in that city by ruffians is incredible: young maids and boys were carried off by force, and found afterwards exposed in public places, at unseasonable hours, quite naked, and sewed in linen bags, to prevent their knowing which way they had passed; robberies were committed in all parts; the bellies of horses were ripped open, to bring their riders to the ground; and coaches were overturned, in order to strip the ladies. The Dutch, who were told they could not pass the night on the scaffolds without exposing themselves to the danger of being assassinated, came down, &c.

I shall here give one instance more from the same nation. The emperor, having abandoned himself to infamous pleasures, lived unmarried, and was consequently in danger of dying without issue. The deyro sent him two beautiful damsels; one he married Edition: current; Page: [113] out of respect, but would not meddle with her. His nurse caused the finest women of the empire to be sent for; but all to no purpose. At length, an armourer’s daughter having pleased his fancy, he determined to espouse her, and had a son. The ladies belonging to court, enraged to see a person of such mean extraction preferred to themselves, stifled the child. The crime was concealed from the emperor; for he would have deluged the land with blood. The excessive severity of the laws hinders, therefore, their execution: when the punishment surpasses all measure, they are frequently obliged to prefer impunity to it.

CHAP. XIV.: Of the Spirit of the Roman Senate.

UNDER the consulate of Acilius Glabrio and Piso the Acilian law was made, to prevent the intriguing for places. Dio says,§ that the senate engaged the consuls to propose it, by reason that C. Cornelius, the tribune, had resolved to cause more severe punishments to be established against this crime; to which the people seemed greatly inclined. The senate rightly judged, that immoderate punishments would strike indeed a terror into people’s minds, but must have also this effect, that there would be nobody afterwards to accuse or condemn; whereas, by proposing moderate penalties, there would be always judges and accusers.

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CHAP. XV.: Of the Roman Laws in Respect to Punishments.

I am strongly confirmed in my sentiments, upon finding the Romans on my side; and I think that punishments are connected with the nature of government, when I behold this great people changing, in this respect, their civil laws, in proportion as they altered their form of government.

The regal laws made for fugitives, slaves, and vagabonds, were very severe. The spirit of a republic would have required that the decemvirs should not have inserted those laws in their twelve tables; but men who aimed at tyranny were far from conforming to a republican spirit.

Livy says, in relation to the punishment of Metius Suffetius, dictator of Alba, (who was condemned, by Tullius Hostilius, to be fastened to two chariots drawn by horses, and to be torn asunder,) that this was the first and last punishment in which the remembrance of humanity seemed to have been lost. He is mistaken: the twelve tables are full of very cruel laws.*

The design of the decemvirs appears more conspicuous in the capital punishment pronounced against libellers and poets. This is not agreeable to the genius of a republic, where the people like to see the great men humbled: but persons who aimed at the subversion of liberty were afraid of writings that might revive its spirit

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After the expulsion of the decemvirs, almost all the penal laws were abolished. It is true, they were not expressly repealed; but, as the Porcian law had ordained that no citizen of Rome should be put to death, they were of no farther use.

This is exactly the time to which we may refer what Livy says of the Romans, that no people were ever fonder of moderation in punishments.

But, if, to the lenity of the penal laws, we add the right which the party accused had of withdrawing before judgement was pronounced, we shall find that the Romans followed the spirit which I have observed to be natural to a republic.

Sylla, who confounded tyranny, anarchy, and liberty, made the Cornelian laws. He seemed to have contrived regulations merely with a view to create new crimes. Thus, distinguishing an infinite number of actions by the name of murder, he found murderers in all parts; and, by a practice but too much followed, he laid snares, sowed thorns, and opened precipices, wheresoever the citizens set their feet.

Almost all Sylla’s laws contained only the interdiction of fire and water. To this Cæsar added the confiscation of goods*, because the rich, by preserving their estates in exile, became bolder in the perpetration of crimes.

The emperors, having established a military government, soon found that it was as terrible to the prince as to the subject; they endeavoured, therefore, to temper it; and with this view had recourse to dignities, and to the respect with which those dignities were attended.

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The government thus drew nearer a little to monarchy, and punishments were divided into three classes; those which related to the principal persons in the state, which were very mild; those which were inflicted on persons of an inferior rank, and which were more severe; and, in fine, such as concerned only persons of the lowest condition§, which were the most rigorous.

Maximinus, that fierce, that stupid, prince, increased the rigour of the military government which he ought to have softened. The senate was informed, says Capitolinus, that some had been crucified, others exposed to wild beasts, or sewed up in the skins of beasts lately killed, without any manner of regard to their dignity. It seemed as if he wanted to exercise the military discipline, on the model of which he pretended to regulate the civil administration.

In the Considerations on the Rise and Declension of the Roman Grandeur, we find in what manner Constantine changed the military despotism into a military and civil government, and drew nearer to monarchy. There we may trace the different revolutions of this state, and see how they fell from rigour to indolence, and from indolence to impunity.

CHAP. XVI.: Of the just Proportion betwixt Punishments and Crimes.

IT is an essential point, that there should be a certain proportion in punishments, because it is essential that a great crime should be avoided rather than a smaller, and that which is more pernicious to society rather than that which is less.

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“An impostor*, who called himself Constantine Ducas, raised a great insurrection at Constantinople. He was taken and condemned to be whipt; but, upon informing against several persons of distinction, he was sentenced to be burnt as a calumniator.” It is very extraordinary that they should thus proportion the punishments betwixt the crime of high-treason and that of calumny.

This puts me in mind of a saying of Charles II. king of Great-Britain. He saw a man, one day, standing in the pillory; upon which, he asked what crime the man had committed. He was answered, Please your majesty, he has written a libel against your ministers. The fool! said the king, why did not he write against me? they would have done nothing to him.

“Seventy persons having conspired against the emperor Basil, he ordered them to be whipt, and the hair of their heads and beards to be burnt. A stag, one day, having taken hold of him by the girdle with his horn, one of his retinue drew his sword, cut the girdle, and saved him; upon which, he ordered that person’s head to be cut off, for having, said he, drawn his sword against his sovereign.” Who could imagine that the same prince could ever have passed two such different judgements?

It is a great abuse amongst us to condemn to the same punishment a person that only robs on the highway, and another who robs and murders. Surely, for the public security, some difference should be made in the punishment.

In China, those who add murder to robbery are cut in pieces; but not so the others: to this difference it is owing, that, though they rob in that country, they never murder.

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In Russia, where the punishment of robbery and murder is the same, they always murder. The dead, say they, tell no tales.

Where there is no difference in the penalty, there should be some in the expectation of pardon. In England they never murder on the highway, because robbers have some hopes of transportation, which is not the case in respect to those that commit murder.

Letters of grace are of excellent use in moderate governments. This power which the prince has of pardoning, exercised with prudence, is capable of producing admirable effects. The principle of despotic government, which neither grants nor receives any pardon, deprives it of these advantages.

CHAP. XVII.: Of the Rack.

THE wickedness of mankind makes it necessary for the laws to suppose them better than they really are. Hence the deposition of two witnesses is sufficient in the punishment of all crimes. The law believes them, as if they spoke by the mouth of truth. Thus we judge that every child conceived in wedlock is legitimate; the law having a confidence in the mother, as if she were chastity itself. But the use of the rack against criminals cannot be defended on a like plea of necessity.

We have before us the example of a nation, blessed with an excellent civil government§, where, without any inconveniency, the practice of racking criminals is rejected. It is not, therefore, in its own nature, necessary.

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So many men of learning and genius have written against the custom of torturing criminals, that after them I durst not presume to meddle with the subject. I was going to say, that it might suit despotic states, where whatever inspires fear is the properest spring of government; I was going to say, that the slaves among the Greeks and Romans — But nature cries out aloud, and asserts her rights.

CHAP. XVIII.: Of pecuniary and corporal Punishments.

OUR ancestors, the Germans, admitted of none but pecuniary punishments. Those free and warlike people were of opinion, that their blood ought not to be spilt but with sword in hand. On the contrary, these punishments are rejected by the Japanese*, under pretence that the rich might elude them. But are not the rich afraid of being stripped of their property? And might not pecuniary penalties be proportioned to people’s fortunes? And, in fine, might not infamy be added to those punishments?

A good legislator takes a just medium; he ordains neither always pecuniary, nor always corporal, punishments.

CHAP. XIX.: Of the Law of Retaliation.

THE use of the law of retaliation is very frequent in despotic countries, where they are fond of Edition: current; Page: [120] simple laws. Moderate governments admit of it sometimes; but with this difference, that the former exercise it in full rigour, whereas, among the latter, it ever receives some kind of limitation.

The law of the twelve tables admitted two; first, it never condemned to retaliation but when the plaintiff could not be satisfied in any other manner: secondly, after condemnation they might pay damages and interest, and then the corporal was changed into a pecuniary punishment§.

CHAP. XX.: Of the Punishment of Fathers for the Crimes of their Children.

IN China, fathers are punished for the crimes of their children. This was likewise the custom of Peru; a custom derived from the notion of despotic power.

Little does it signify to say, that, in China, the father is punished for not having exerted that paternal authority which nature has established and the laws themselves have improved. This still supposes that there is no honour among the Chinese. Amongst us, parents, whose children are condemned by the laws of their country, and children*, whose parents have undergone the like fate, are as severely punished by shame, as they would be, in China, by the loss of their lives.

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CHAP. XXI.: Of the Clemency of the Prince.

CLEMENCY is the characteristic of monarchs. In republics, whose principle is virtue, it is not so necessary. In despotic governments, where fear predominates, it is less customary, because the great men are to be restrained by examples of severity. It is more necessary in monarchies, where they are governed by honour, which frequently requires what the very law forbids. Disgrace is here equivalent to chastisement; and even the forms of justice are punishments. This is because particular kinds of penalty are formed by shame, which on every side invades the delinquent.

The great men, in monarchies, are so heavily punished by disgrace, by the loss (though often imaginary) of their fortune, credit, acquaintances, and pleasures, that rigour, in respect to them, is needless: it can tend only to divest the subject of the affection he has for the person of his prince, and of the respect he ought to have for public posts and employments.

As the instability of the great is natural to a despotic government, so their security is interwoven with the nature of monarchy.

So many are the advantages which monarchs gain by clemency, so greatly does it raise their fame and endear them to their subjects, that it is generally happy for them to have an opportunity of displaying it; which, in this part of the world, is seldom wanting.

Some branch, perhaps, of their authority, but never hardly the whole, will be disputed: and, if they sometimes fight for their crown, they do not fight for their life.

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But some may ask, When is it proper to punish, and when to pardon? — This is a point easier felt than prescribed. When there is danger in the exercise of clemency, it is visible: nothing so easy as to distinguish it from that imbecillity which exposes princes to contempt and to the very incapacity of punishing.

The emperor Maurice made a resolution never to spill the blood of his subjects. Anastasius punished no crimes at all. Isaac Angelus took an oath, that no one should be put to death during his reign. Those Greek emperors had forgot that it was not for nothing they were intrusted with the sword.


CHAP. I.: Of Luxury.

LUXURY is ever in proportion to the inequality of fortunes. If the riches of a state are equally divided, there will be no luxury; for it is founded merely on the inconveniences acquired by the labour of others.

In order to have this equal distribution of riches, the law ought to give to each man only what is necessary for nature. If they exceed these bounds, Edition: current; Page: [123] some will spend, and others will acquire; by which means an inequality will be established.

Supposing what is necessary for the support of nature to be equal to a given sum, the luxury of those who have only what is barely necessary will be equal to a cypher: if a person happens to have double that sum, his luxury will be equal to one: he that has double the latter’s substance will have a luxury equal to three: if this be still doubled, there will be a luxury equal to seven: so that the property of the subsequent individual being always supposed double to that of the preceding, the luxury will increase double, and an unit will be always added, in this progression, 0, 1, 3, 7, 15, 31, 63, 127.

In Plato’s republic luxury might have been exactly calculated. There were four sorts of censuses, or rates of estates. The first was exactly the term beyond poverty; the second was double; the third triple; the fourth quadruple to the first. In the first census luxury was equal to a cypher; in the second, to one; in the third, to two; in the fourth, to three; and thus it followed in an arithmetical proportion.

Considering the luxury of different nations with respect to one another, it is, in each state, in a compound proportion to the inequality of fortunes among the subjects, and to the inequality of wealth in different states. In Poland, for example, there is an extreme inequality of fortunes: but the poverty of the whole hinders them from having so much luxury as in a more opulent government.

Luxury is also in proportion to the populousness of the towns, and especially of the capital; so that Edition: current; Page: [124] it is in a compound proportion to the riches of the state, to the inequality of private fortunes, and to the number of people settled in particular places.

In proportion to the populousness of towns, the inhabitants are filled with notions of vanity, and actuated by an ambition of distinguishing themselves by trifles§. If they are very numerous, and most of them strangers to one another, their vanity redoubles, because there are greater hopes of success. As luxury inspires these hopes, each man assumes the marks of a superior condition: but, by endeavouring thus at distinction, every one becomes equal, and distinction ceases; as all are desirous of respect, nobody is regarded.

Hence arises a general inconvenience. Those who excel in a profession set what value they please on their labour: this example is followed by people of inferior abilities; and then there is an end of all proportion between our wants and the means of satisfying them. When I am forced to go to law, I must be able to fee council: when I am sick, I must have it in my power to fee a physician.

It is the opinion of several, that the assembling so great a multitude of people in capital cities is an obstruction to commerce, because the inhabitants are no longer at a proper distance from each other: but I cannot think so; for men have more desires, more wants, more fancies, when they live together.

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CHAP. II.: Of sumptuary Laws in a Democracy.

WE have observed, that, in a republic where riches are equally divided, there can be no such thing as luxury; and, as we have shewn, in the 5th book, that this equal distribution constitutes the excellency of a republican government, hence it follows, that, the less luxury there is in a republic, the more it is perfect. There was none among the old Romans, none among the Lacedæmonians; and, in republics where this equality is not quite lost, the spirit of commerce, industry, and virtue, renders every man able and willing to live on his own property, and consequently prevents the growth of luxury.

The laws concerning the new division of lands, insisted upon so eagerly in some republics, were of the most salutary nature. They are dangerous only as they are subitaneous. By reducing instantly the wealth of some, and increasing that of others, they form a revolution in each family, and must produce a general one in the state.

In proportion as luxury gains ground in a republic, the minds of the people are turned towards their particular interests. Those, who are allowed only what is necessary, have nothing but their own reputation and their country’s glory in view: but a soul depraved by luxury has many other desires, and soon becomes an enemy to the laws that confine it. The luxury in which the garrison of Rhegio began to live was the cause of their massacring the inhabitants.

No sooner were the Romans corrupted than their desires became boundless and immense. Of this we Edition: current; Page: [126] may judge by the price they set on things. A pitcher of Falernian wine* was sold for a hundred Roman denarii; a barrel of salt meat from the kingdom of Pontus cost four hundred; a good cook four talents; and, for boys, no price was reckoned too great. When the whole world, impelled by the force of corruption, is immersed in voluptuousness, what must then become of virtue?

CHAP. III.: Of sumptuary Laws in an Aristocracy.

THERE is this inconvenience in an ill-constituted aristocracy, that the wealth centers in the nobility, and yet they are not allowed to spend; for, as luxury is contrary to the spirit of moderation, it must be banished from thence. This government comprehends, therefore, only people who are extremely poor, and cannot acquire; and people who are vastly rich, and cannot spend.

In Venice they are compelled by the laws to moderation. They are so habituated to parsimony, that none but courtezans can make them part with their money. Such is the method made use of for the support of industry: the most contemptible of women may be profuse without danger, whilst those who contribute to their extravagance consume their days in the greatest obscurity.

Admirable, in this respect, were the institutions of the principal republics of Greece. The rich employed their money in festivals, musical choruses, chariots, horse-races, and chargeable offices. Wealth was therefore as burthensome there as poverty.

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CHAP. IV.: Of sumptuary Laws in a Monarchy.

TACITUS says, “That the Suiones, a German nation, have a particular respect for riches; for which reason they live under the government of one person.” This shews that luxury is extremely proper for monarchies, and that under this government there must be no sumptuary laws.

As riches, by the very constitution of monarchies, are unequally divided, there is an absolute necessity for luxury. Were the rich not to be lavish, the poor would starve. It is even necessary here that the expences of the opulent should be in proportion to the inequality of fortunes, and that luxury, as we have already observed, should increase in this proportion. The augmentation of private wealth is owing to its having deprived one part of the citizens of their necessary support; this must therefore be restored to them.

Hence it is, that, for the preservation of a monarchical state, luxury ought continually to increase, and to grow more extensive, as it rises from the labourer to the artificer, to the merchant, to the magistrate, to the nobility, to the great officers of state, up to the very prince; otherwise the nation will be undone.

In the reign of Augustus a proposal was made in the Roman senate, which was composed of grave magistrates, learned civilians, and of men whose heads were filled with the notion of the primitive times, to reform the manners and luxury of women. It is curious to see, in Dio, with what art this prince eluded the importunate sollicitations of those Edition: current; Page: [128] senators. This was because he was founding a monarchy, and dissolving a republic.

Under Tiberius, the ædiles proposed, in the senate, the re-establishment of the ancient sumptuary laws.§ This prince, who did not want sense, opposed it. “The state (said he) could not possibly subsist in the present situation of things. How could Rome, how could the provinces, live? We were frugal while we were only masters of one city: now we consume the riches of the whole globe, and employ both the masters and their slaves in our service.” He plainly saw that sumptuary laws would not suit the present form of government.

When a proposal was made, under the same emperor, to the senate, to prohibit the governors from carrying their wives with them into the provinces, because of the dissoluteness and irregularity which followed those ladies, the proposal was rejected. It was said, “that the examples of ancient austerity had been changed into a more agreeable method of living.” They found there was a necessity for different manners.

Luxury is therefore absolutely necessary in monarchies; as it is also in despotic states. In the former, it is the use of liberty; in the latter, it is the abuse of servitude. A slave, appointed by his master to tyrannize over other wretches of the same condition, uncertain of enjoying, to-morrow, the blessings of to-day, has no other felicity than that of glutting the pride, the passions, and voluptuousness, of the present moment.

Hence arises a very natural reflexion. Republics end with luxury; monarchies with poverty.*

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CHAP. V.: In what Cases sumptuary Laws are useful in a Monarchy.

WHETHER it was from a republican spirit, or from some other particular circumstance, sumptuary laws were made in Arragon, in the middle of the thirteenth century. James the First ordained, that neither the king, nor any of his subjects, should have above two sorts of dishes at a meal, and that each dish should be dressed only one way, except it were game of their own killing.

In our days sumptuary laws have been also enacted in Sweden; but with a different view from those of Arragon.

A government may make sumptuary laws with a view to absolute frugality. This is the spirit of sumptuary laws in republics; and the very nature of the thing shews that such was the design of those of Arragon.

Sumptuary laws may likewise be established with a design to promote a relative frugality. When a government, perceiving that foreign merchandizes, being at too high a price, will require such an exportation of home manufactures, as to deprive them of more advantages, by the loss of the latter, than they can receive from the possession of the former, they will forbid their being introduced: and this is the spirit of the laws which in our days have been passed in Sweden. Such are the sumptuary laws proper for monarchies.

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In general, the poorer a state, the more it is ruined by its relative luxury, and consequently the more occasion it has for relative sumptuary laws. The richer a state, the more it thrives by its relative luxury; for which reason, it must take particular care not to make any relative sumptuary laws. This we shall better explain in the book on commerce*; here we treat only of absolute luxury.

CHAP. VI.: Of the Luxury of China.

SUMPTUARY laws may, in some governments, be necessary, for particular reasons. The people, by the influence of the climate, may grow so numerous, and the means of subsisting may be so uncertain, as to render an universal application to agriculture extremely necessary. As luxury, in those countries, is dangerous, their sumptuary laws should be very severe. In order, therefore, to be able to judge whether luxury ought to be encouraged or proscribed, we should examine, first, what relation there is between the number of people and the facility they have of procuring subsistence. In England, the soil produces more grain than is necessary for the maintenance of such as cultivate the land, and of those who are employed in the woollen manufactures. This country may be therefore allowed to have some trifling arts, and consequently luxury. In France, likewise, there is corn enough for the support of the husbandman and of the manufacturer. Besides, a foreign trade may bring in so many necessaries, in return for toys, that there is no danger to be apprehended from luxury.

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On the contrary, in China, the women are so prolific, and the human species multiplies so fast, that the lands, though never so much cultivated, are scarcely sufficient to support the inhabitants. Here, therefore, luxury is pernicious, and the spirit of industry and œconomy is as requisite as in any republic*. They are obliged to pursue the necessary arts, and to shun those of luxury and pleasure.

This is the spirit of the excellent decrees of the Chinese emperors. “Our ancestors (says an emperor of the family of the Tangs) held it as a maxim, that, if there was a man who did not work, or a woman that was idle, somebody must suffer cold or hunger in the empire.” And on this principle he ordered a vast number of the monasteries of bonzes to be destroyed.

The third emperor of the one-and-twentieth dynasty, to whom some precious stones were brought that had been found in a mine, ordered it to be shut up, not choosing to fatigue his people with working for a thing that could neither feed nor clothe them.

“So great is our luxury, says Kiayventi, that people adorn with embroidery the shoes of boys and girls whom they are obliged to sell.” Is employing so many people in making cloaths for one person the way to prevent a great many from wanting cloaths? There are ten men who eat the fruits of the earth to one employed in agriculture; and is this the means to preserve numbers from wanting nourishment?

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CHAP. VII.: Fatal Consequences of Luxury in China.

IN the history of China, we find it has had twenty-two successive dynasties; that is, it has experienced twenty-two general, without mentioning a prodigious number of particular, revolutions. The three first dynasties lasted a long time, because they were wisely administered, and the empire had not so great an extent as it afterwards obtained. But we may observe, in general, that all those dynasties began very well. Virtue, attention, and vigilance, are necessary in China; these prevailed in the commencement of the dynasties and failed in the end. It was natural, that emperors, trained up in military toil, who had compassed the dethroning of a family immersed in pleasure, should adhere to virtue, which they had found so advantageous, and be afraid of voluptuousness, which they knew had proved so fatal to the family dethroned. But, after the three or four first princes, corruption, luxury, indolence, and pleasure, possessed their successors; they shut themselves up in a palace; their understanding was impaired; their life was shortened; the family declined; the grandees rose up; the eunuchs gained credit; none but children were set on the throne; the palace was at variance with the empire; a lazy set of people, that dwelled there, ruined the industrious part of the nation; the emperor was killed or destroyed by an usurper, who founded a family, the third or fourth successor of which went and shut himself up in the very same palace.

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CHAP. VIII.: Of public Continency.

SO many are the imperfections that attend the loss of virtue in women, and so greatly are their minds depraved when this principal guard is removed, that, in a popular state, public incontinency may be considered as the last of miseries, and as a certain fore-runner of a change in the constitution.

Hence it is that the sage legislators of republican states have ever required of women a particular gravity of manners. They have proscribed not only vice, but the very appearance of it. They have banished even all commerce of gallantry; a commerce that produces idleness, that renders the women corrupters even before they are corrupted, that gives a value to trifles, and debases things of importance; a commerce, in fine, that makes people act entirely by the maxims of ridicule, in which the women are so perfectly skilled.

CHAP. IX.: Of the Condition or State of Women in different Governments.

IN monarchies women are subject to very little restraint; because, as the distinction of ranks calls them to court, there they assume a spirit of liberty, which is almost the only one tolerated in that place. Each courtier avails himself of their charms and passions, in order to advance his fortune: and, as their weakness admits not of pride, but of vanity, luxury constantly attends them.

In despotic governments, women do not introduce, but are themselves an object of, luxury. They must be in a state of the most rigorous servitude. Every Edition: current; Page: [134] one follows the spirit of the government, and adopts in his own family the customs he sees elsewhere established. As the laws are very severe and executed on the spot, they are afraid lest the liberty of women should expose them to danger. Their quarrels, indiscretions, repugnances, jealousies, piques, and that art, in fine, which little souls have of interesting great ones, would be attended there with fatal consequences.

Besides, as princes, in those countries, make a sport of human nature, they allow themselves a multitude of women; and a thousand considerations oblige them to keep those women in close confinement.

In republics women are free by the laws, and restrained by manners; luxury is banished from thence, and with it corruption and vice.

In the cities of Greece, where they were not under the restraint of a religion, which declares, that, even amongst men, regularity of manners is a part of virtue; where a blind passion triumphed with a boundless insolence, and love appeared only in a shape which we dare not mention, while marriage was considered as nothing more than simple friendship*; such was the virtue, simplicity, and chastity, of women, in those cities, that, in this respect, hardly any people were ever known to have had a better and wiser polity.

CHAP. X.: Of the domestic Tribunal among the Romans.

THE Romans had no particular magistrates, like the Greeks, to inspect the conduct of women. The Edition: current; Page: [135] censors had not an eye over them but as over the rest of the republic. The institution of the domestic tribunal§ supplied the magistracy established among the Greeks.

The husband summoned the wife’s relations, and tried her in their presence. This tribunal preserved the manners of the republic, and, at the same time, those very manners maintained this tribunal. For it decided not only in respect to the violation of the laws, but also of manners: now, in order to judge of the violation of the latter, manners are requisite.

The penalties inflicted by this tribunal ought to be, and actually were, arbitrary: for all that relates to manners, and to the rules of modesty, can hardly be comprised under one code of laws. It is easy, indeed, to regulate by laws what we owe to others, but it is very difficult to comprise all we owe to ourselves.

The domestic tribunal inspected the general conduct of women. But there was one crime, which, beside the animadversion of this tribunal, was likewise subject to a public accusation: this was adultery: whether that, in a republic, so great a depravation of manners interested the government; or whether the wife’s immorality might render the husband’s suspected; or whether, in fine, they were afraid lest Edition: current; Page: [136] even honest people might choose that this crime should rather be concealed than punished.

CHAP. XI.: In what Manner the Institutions changed at Rome together with the Government.

AS manners were supposed by the domestic tribunal, they were also supposed by the public accusation: and hence it is that these two things fell together with the public manners, and ended with the republic*.

The establishing of perpetual questions, that is, the division of jurisdiction among the prætors, and the custom, gradually introduced, of the prætors determining all causes themselves, weakened the use of the domestic tribunal. This appears by the surprize of historians, who look upon the decisions, which Tiberius caused to be given by this tribunal, as singular facts, and as a renewal of the ancient course of pleading.

The establishment of monarchy and the change of manners put, likewise, an end to public accusations. It might be apprehended, lest a dishonest man, affronted at the slight shewn him by a woman, vexed at her refusal, and irritated even by her virtue, should form a design to destroy her. The Julian law ordained, that a woman should not be accused of adultery till after her husband had been charged with favouring her irregularities; which limited greatly, and annihilated, as it were, this sort of accusation.

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Sixtus Quintus seemed to have been desirous of reviving the public accusation. But there needs very little reflection to see that this law would be more improper in such a monarchy as his than in any other.

CHAP. XII.: Of the Guardianship of Women among the Romans.

THE Roman laws subjected women to a perpetual guardianship, except they were under cover and subject to the authority of a husband*. This guardianship was given to the nearest of the male relations; and, by a vulgar expression, it appears they were very much confined. This was proper for a republic, but not at all necessary in a monarchy.

That the women among the ancient Germans were likewise under a perpetual tutelage, appears from the different codes of the laws of the barbarians§. This custom was communicated to the monarchies founded by those people, but was not of a long duration.

CHAP. XIII.: Of the Punishments decreed by Emperors against the Incontinency of Women.

THE Julian law ordained a punishment against adultery. But so far was this law, any more than those afterwards made on the same account, from being a mark of regularity of manners, that, on the contrary, it was a proof of their depravation.

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The whole political system, in regard to women, received a change in the monarchical state. The question was no longer to oblige them to a regularity of manners, but to punish their crimes. That new laws were made to punish their crimes was owing to their leaving those transgressions unpunished which were not of so criminal a nature.

The frightful dissolution of manners obliged, indeed, the emperors to enact laws, in order to put some stop to lewdness; but it was not their intention to establish a general reformation. Of this, the positive facts related by historians are a much stronger proof than all these laws can be of the contrary. We may see, in Dio, the conduct of Augustus on this occasion, and in what manner he eluded, both in his prætorian and censorian office, the repeated instances that were made him §for that purpose.

It is true, that we find, in historians, very rigid sentences, passed in the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, against the lewdness of some Roman ladies. But, by shewing us the spirit of those reigns, at the same time, they demonstrate the spirit of those decisions.

The principal design of Augustus and Tiberius was to punish the dissoluteness of their relations. It was not their immorality they punished, but a Edition: current; Page: [139] particular crime of impiety or high-treason* of their own invention, which served to promote a respect for majesty, and answered their private revenge. Hence it is that the Roman historians inveigh so bitterly against this tyranny.

The penalty of the Julian law was small. The emperors insisted that, in passing sentence, the judges should increase the penalty of the law. This was the subject of the invectives of historians. They did not examine whether the women were deserving of punishment, but whether they had violated the law, in order to punish them.

One of the most tyrannical proceedings of Tiberius was the abuse he made of the ancient laws. When he wanted to extend the punishment of a Roman lady beyond that inflicted by the Julian law, he revived the domestic tribunal.

These regulations in respect to women concerned only senatorial families, but not the common people. Pretences were wanted to accuse the great, which were constantly furnished by the dissolute behaviour of the ladies.

In fine, what I have above observed, namely, that regularity of manners is not the principle of monarchy, was never better verified than under those first emperors; and whoever doubts of it needs only read Tacitus, Suetonius, Juvenal, or Martial.

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CHAP. XIV.: Sumptuary Laws among the Romans.

WE have spoken of public incontinence, because it is the inseparable companion of luxury. If we leave the motions of the heart at liberty, how shall we be able to restrain the weaknesses of the mind?

At Rome, besides the general institutions, the censors prevailed on the magistrates to enact several particular laws for maintaining the frugality of women. This was the design of the Fannian, Licinian, and Oppian, laws. We may see, in Livy,§ the great ferment the senate was in when the women insisted upon the revocation of the Oppian law. The abrogation of this law is fixed upon, by Valerius Maximus, as the period from whence we may date the luxury of the Romans.

CHAP. XV.: Of Dowries and nuptial Advantages in different Constitutions.

DOWRIES ought to be considerable in monarchies, in order to enable husbands to support their rank and the established luxury. In republics, where luxury should never reign,* they ought to be moderate: but there should be hardly any at all in despotic governments, where women are in some measure slaves.

The community of goods, introduced by the French laws, between man and wife, is extremely well adapted to a monarchical government; because Edition: current; Page: [141] the women are thereby interested in domestic affairs, and compelled, as it were, to take care of their family. It is less so in a republic, where women are possessed of more virtue. But it would be quite absurd in despotic governments, where the women themselves generally constitute a part of the master’s property.

As women are in a state that furnishes sufficient inducements to marriage, the advantages which the law gives them over the husband’s property are of no service to society: but, in a republic, they would be extremely prejudicial, because riches are productive of luxury. In despotic governments the profits accruing from marriage ought to be mere subsistence, and no more.

CHAP. XVI.: An excellent Custom of the Samnites.

THE Samnites had a custom, which, in so small a republic, and especially in their situation, must have been productive of admirable effects. The young people were all convened in one place, and their conduct was examined. He that was declared the best of the whole assembly had leave given him to take which girl he pleased for his wife; the second best chose after him; and so on. Admirable institution! The only recommendation, that young men could have on this occasion, was their virtue and the services done their country. He who had the greatest share of these endowments chose which girl he liked out of the whole nation. Love, beauty, chastity, virtue, birth, and even wealth itself, were all, in some measure, the dowry Edition: current; Page: [142] of virtue. A nobler and grander recompence, less chargeable to a petty state, and more capable of influencing both sexes, could scarce be imagined.

The Samnites were descended from the Lacedæmonians; and Plato, whose institutes are only an improvement of those of Lycurgus, enacted nearly the same law.*

CHAP. XVII.: Of Female-Administration.

IT is contrary to reason and nature that women should reign in families, as was customary among the Ægyptians; but not that they should govern an empire. In the former case, the state of their natural weakness does not permit them to have the preeminence; in the latter, their very weakness generally gives them more lenity and moderation; qualifications fitter for a good administration than roughness and severity.

In the Indies they are very easy under a female government; and it is settled that, if the male issue be not of a mother of the same blood, the females born of a mother of the blood-royal must succeed. And then they have a certain number of persons who assist them to bear the weight of the government. According to Mr. Smith, they are very easy in Africa under a female administration. If, to this, we add the example of England and Russia, we shall find that they succeed alike both in moderate and despotic governments.

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CHAP. I.: General Idea of this Book.

THE corruption of each government generally begins with that of the principles.

CHAP. II.: Of the Corruption of the Principles of Democracy.

THE principle of democracy is corrupted, not only when the spirit of equality is extinct, but likewise when they fall into a spirit of extreme equality, and when each citizen would fain be upon a level with those whom he has chosen to command him. Then the people, incapable of bearing the very power they have delegated, want to manage every thing themselves, to debate for the senate, to execute for the magistrate, and to decide for the judges.

When this is the case virtue can no longer subsist in the republic. The people are desirous of exercising the functions of the magistrates; who cease to be revered. The deliberations of the senate are slighted: all respect is then laid aside for the senators, and consequently for old age. If there is no more respect for old age, there will be none presently for parents: deference to husbands will be likewise thrown off, and submission to masters. This licentiousness will soon become general, and the trouble of command be as fatiguing as that of obedience. Wives, children, slaves, will shake off all Edition: current; Page: [144] subjection. No longer will there be any such things as manners, order, or virtue.

We find, in Xenophon’s Banquet, a very lively description of a republic in which the people abused their equality. Each guest gives, in his turn, the reason why he is satisfied. “Content I am, says Chamides, because of my poverty. When I was rich, I was obliged to pay my court to informers, knowing I was more liable to be hurt by them than capable of doing them harm. The republic constantly demanded some new tax of me; and I could not decline paying. Since I am grown poor, I have acquired authority; nobody threatens me; I rather threaten others. I can go or stay where I please. The rich already rise from their seats and give me the way. I am a king; I was before a slave: I paid taxes to the republic; now it maintains me: I am no longer afraid of losing, but I hope to acquire.”

The people fall into this misfortune when those in whom they confide, desirous of concealing their own corruption, endeavour to corrupt them. To disguise their own ambition, they speak to them only of the grandeur of the state; to conceal their own avarice, they incessantly slatter theirs.

The corruption will increase among the corrupters, and likewise among those who are already corrupted. The people will divide the public money among themselves, and, having added the administration of affairs to their indolence, will be for blending their poverty with the amusements of luxury. But, with their indolence and luxury, nothing but the public treasure will be able to satisfy their demands.

We must not be surprized to see their suffrages given for money. It is impossible to make great largesses to the people without great extortion: and, Edition: current; Page: [145] to compass this, the state must be subverted. The greater the advantages they seem to derive from their liberty, the nearer they approach towards the critical moment of losing it. Petty tyrants arise, who have all the vices of a single tyrant. The small remains of liberty soon become insupportable; a single tyrant starts up, and the people are stripped of every thing, even of the profits of their corruption.

Democracy hath, therefore, two excesses to avoid; the spirit of inequality, which leads to aristocracy or monarchy; and the spirit of extreme equality, which leads to despotic power, as the latter is completed by conquest.

True it is, that those, who corrupted the Greek republics, did not always become tyrants. This was because they had a greater passion for eloquence than for the military art. Besides, there reigned an implacable hatred in the breasts of the Greeks against those who subverted a republican government; and, for this reason, anarchy degenerated into annihilation, instead of being changed into tyranny.

But Syracuse, being situated in the midst of a great number of petty states, whose government had been changed from oligarchy to tyranny, and being governed by a senate* scarcely ever mentioned in history, underwent such miseries as are the consequence of a more than ordinary corruption. This city, ever a prey to licentiousness or oppression, equally labouring under the sudden and alternate succession of liberty and servitude, and, notwithstanding Edition: current; Page: [146] her external strength, constantly determined to a revolution by the least foreign power; this city, I say, had in her bosom an immense multitude of people, whose fate it was to have always this cruel alternative, either of choosing a tyrant to govern them, or of acting the tyrant themselves.

CHAP. III.: Of the Spirit of extreme Equality.

AS distant as heaven is from earth, so is the true spirit of equality from that of extreme equality. The former does not imply that every body should command, or that no one should be commanded, but that we obey or command our equals. It endeavours not to shake off the authority of a master, but that its masters should be none but its equals.

In the state of nature, indeed, all men are born equal; but they cannot continue in this equality: society makes them lose it, and they recover it only by the protection of the laws.

Such is the difference between a well regulated democracy and one that is not so, that, in the former, men are equal only as citizens, but, in the latter, they are equal also as magistrates, as senators, as judges, as fathers, as husbands, or as masters.

The natural place of virtue is near to liberty; but it is not nearer to excessive liberty than to servitude.

CHAP. IV.: Particular Cause of the Corruption of the People.

GREAT success, especially when chiefly owing to the people, intoxicates them to such a degree that it is impossible to contain them within bounds. Jealous of their magistrates, they soon become jealous Edition: current; Page: [147] likewise of the magistracy; enemies to those who govern, they soon prove enemies also to the constitution. Thus it was that the victory over the Persians, in the straits of Salamis, corrupted the republic of Athens; and thus the defeat of the Athenians ruined the republic of Syracuse.

Marseilles never experienced those great transitions from lowness to grandeur; this was owing to the prudent conduct of that republic, who always preserved her principles.

CHAP. V.: Of the Corruption of the Principle of Aristocracy.

ARISTOCRACY is corrupted if the power of the nobles becomes arbitrary: when this is the case, there can no longer be any virtue either in the governors or the governed.

If the reigning families observe the laws, it is a monarchy with several monarchs, and, in its own nature, one of the most excellent; for almost all these monarchs are tied down by the laws. But, when they do not observe them, it is a despotic state, swayed by a great many despotic princes.

In the latter case, the republic consists only in the nobles: the body governing is the republic; and the body governed is the despotic state; which form two of the most heterogeneous bodies in the world.

The extremity of corruption is when the power of the nobles becomes hereditary§; for then they can hardly have any moderation. If they are only a few, their power is greater, but their security less; if they are a larger number, their power is less, and their security greater: insomuch, that power goes on increasing, Edition: current; Page: [148] and security diminishing, up to the very despotic prince, who is encircled with excess of power and danger.

The great number, therefore, of nobles, in an hereditary aristocracy, renders the government less violent: but, as there is less virtue, they fall into a spirit of supineness and negligence, by which the state loses all its strength and activity.

An aristocracy may maintain the full vigour of its constitution, if the laws be such as are apt to render the nobles more sensible of the perils and fatigues, than of the pleasure, of command; and if the government be in such a situation as to have something to dread, while security shelters under its protection, and uncertainty threatens from abroad.

As a certain kind of confidence forms the glory and stability of monarchies, republics, on the contrary, must have something to apprehend*. A fear of the Persians supported the laws of Greece. Carthage and Rome were alarmed and strengthened by each other. Strange, that, the greater security those states enjoyed, the more, like stagnated waters, they were subject to corruption!

CHAP. VI.: Of the Corruption of the Principle of Monarchy.

AS democracies are subverted when the people despoil the senate, the magistrates, and judges, of their functions, so monarchies are corrupted when the prince insensibly deprives societies or cities of Edition: current; Page: [149] their privileges. In the former case, the multitude usurps the power, in the latter, it is usurped by a single person.

“The destruction of the dynasties of Tsin and Soüi (says a Chinese author) was owing to this, the princes, instead of confining themselves, like their ancestors, to a general inspection, the only one worthy of a sovereign, wanted to govern every thing immediately by themselves.”

The Chinese author gives us, in this instance, the cause of the corruption of almost all monarchies.

Monarchy is destroyed, when a prince thinks he shews a greater exertion of power in changing, than in conforming to, the order of things; when he deprives some of his subjects of their hereditary employments to bestow them arbitrarily upon others; and when he is fonder of being guided by fancy than judgement.

Again, it is destroyed, when the prince, directing every thing entirely to himself, calls the state to his capital, the capital to his court, and the court to his own person.

It is destroyed, in fine, when the prince mistakes his authority, his situation, and the love of his people; and when he is not fully persuaded that a monarch ought to think himself secure, as a despotic prince ought to think himself in danger.

CHAP. VII.: The same Subject continued.

THE principle of monarchy is corrupted, when the first dignities are marks of the first servitude, when the great men are deprived of public respect, and rendered the low tools of arbitrary power.

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It is still more corrupted, when honour is set up in contradiction to honours, and when men are capable of being loaded, at the very same time, with infamy and with dignities.

It is corrupted, when the prince changes his justice into severity; when he puts, like the Roman emperors, a Medusa’s head on his breast; and when he assumes that menacing and terrible air which Commodus ordered to be given to his statues§.

Again, it is corrupted, when mean and abject souls grow vain of the pomp attending their servitude, and imagine that the motive which induces them to be entirely devoted to their prince exempts them from all duty to their country.

But if it be true, (and indeed the experience of all ages has shewn it,) that, in proportion as the power of the monarch becomes boundless and immense, his security diminishes, is the corrupting of this power, and the altering of its very nature, a less crime than that of high-treason against the prince?

CHAP. VIII.: Danger of the Corruption of the Principle of monarchical Government.

THE danger is not when the state passes from one moderate to another moderate government, (as from Edition: current; Page: [151] a republic to a monarchy, or from a monarchy to a republic,) but when it precipitates from a moderate to a despotic government.

Most of the European nations are still governed by the principles of morality. But if, from a long abuse of power, or the fury of conquest, despotic sway should prevail to a certain degree, neither morals nor climate would be able to withstand its baleful influence: and then human nature would be exposed, for some time at least, even in this beautiful part of the world, to the insults with which she has been abused in the other three.

CHAP. IX.: How ready the Nobility are to defend the Throne.

THE English nobility buried themselves, with Charles the first, under the ruins of the throne; and, before that time, when Philip the second endeavoured to tempt the French with the allurement of liberty, the crown was constantly supported by a nobility who think it an honour to obey a king, but consider it as the lowest disgrace to share the power with the people.

The house of Austria has ever used her endeavours to oppress the Hungarian nobility; little thinking how serviceable that very nobility would be one day to her. She would fain have drained their country of money, of which they had no plenty; but took no notice of the men, with whom it abounded. When princes combined to dismember her dominions, the several parts of that monarchy fell motionless, as it were, one upon another. No life was then to be seen but in those very nobles, who, resenting the affronts offered to the sovereign, and forgetting the injuries done to themselves, took up arms to avenge Edition: current; Page: [152] her cause, and considered it as the highest glory bravely to die and to forgive.

CHAP. X.: Of the Corruption of the Principle of despotic Government.

THE principle of despotic government is subject to a continual corruption, because it is, even in its nature, corrupt. Other governments are destroyed by particular accidents, which do violence to the principles of each constitution; this is ruined by its own intrinsic imperfections, when some accidental causes do not prevent the corrupting of its principles. It maintains itself, therefore, only when circumstances, drawn from the climate, religion, situation, or genius of the people, oblige it to conform to order, and to admit of some rule. By these things its nature is forced, without being changed; its ferocity remains; and it is made tame and tractable only for a time.

CHAP. XI.: Natural Effects of the Goodness and Corruption of the Principles of Government.

WHEN once the principles of government are corrupted, the very best laws become bad, and turn against the state: but, when the principles are sound, even bad laws have the same effect as good; the force of the principle draws every thing to it.

The inhabitants of Crete used a very singular method, to keep the principal magistrates dependent on the laws; which was that of insurrection. Part of the citizens rose up in arms, put the magistrates Edition: current; Page: [153] to flight, and obliged them to return to a private life. This was supposed to be done in consequence of the law. One would have imagined that an institution of this nature, which established sedition to hinder the abuse of power, would have subverted any republic whatsoever; and yet it did not subvert that of Crete. The reason is this:*

When the ancients would express a people that had the strongest affection for their country, they were sure to mention the inhabitants of Crete: Our country, said Plato, a name so dear to the Cretans. They called it by a name which signifies the love of a mother for her children. Now, the love of our country sets every thing to right.

The laws of Poland have likewise their insurrection: but the inconveniences thence arising plainly shew that the people of Crete alone were capable of using such a remedy with success.

The gymnic exercises, established among the Greeks, had the same dependence on the goodness of the principle of government. “It was the Lacedæmonians and Cretans (said Plato) that opened those celebrated academies which gave them so eminent a rank in the world. Modesty at first was alarmed; but it yielded to the public utility.” In Plato’s time these institutions were admirable,§ as they had a relation to a very important Edition: current; Page: [154] object, which was the military art. But, when virtue fled from Greece, the military art was destroyed by these institutions; people appeared then on the arena, not for improvement, but for debauch.

Plutarch informs us,* that the Romans in his time were of opinion that those games had been the principal cause of the slavery into which the Greeks were fallen. On the contrary, it was the slavery of the Greeks that corrupted those exercises. In Plutarch’s time their fighting naked in the parks, and their wrestling, infected the young people with a spirit of cowardice, inclined them to infamous passions, and made them mere dancers: but, under Epaminondas, the exercise of wrestling made the Thebans win the famous battle of Leuctra.

There are very few laws which are not good, while the state retains its principles. Here I may apply what Epicurus said of riches: “It is not the liquor, but the vessel, that is corrupted.”

CHAP. XII.: The same Subject continued.

IN Rome the judges were chosen at first from the order of senators. This privilege the Gracchi transferred to the knights: Drusus gave it to the senators and knights; Sylla to the senators only; Cotta to the senators, knights, and public treasurers: Cæsar excluded the latter: Antony made decuries of senators, knights, and centurions.

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When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils, but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles: every other correction is either useless or a new evil. While Rome preserved her principles entire, the judicial power might, without any abuse, be lodged in the hands of senators: but, as soon as this city became corrupt, to whatever body that power was transferred, whether to the senate, to the knights, to the treasurers, to two of those bodies, to all three together, or to any other; matters still went wrong. The knights had no more virtue than the senate; the treasurers no more than the knights; and these as little as the centurions.

After the people of Rome had obtained the privilege of sharing the magistracy with the patricians, it was natural to think that their flatterers would immediately become arbiters of the government. But no such thing ever happened. It was observable, that the very people, who had rendered the plebeians capable of public offices, ever fixed their choice upon the patricians. Because they were virtuous, they were magnanimous; and, because they were free, they had a contempt of power. But, when their morals were corrupted, the more power they were possessed of, the less prudent was their conduct; till, at length, upon becoming their own tyrants and slaves, they lost the strength of liberty, to fall into the weakness and impotency of licentiousness.

CHAP. XIII.: The Effect of an Oath among virtuous People.

THERE is no nation, says Livy, that has been longer uncorrupted than the Romans; no nation Edition: current; Page: [156] where moderation and poverty have been longer respected.

Such was the influence of an oath among those people, that nothing bound them stronger to the laws. They often did more, for the observance of an oath, than they would ever have performed for the thirst of glory, or for the love of their country.

When Quintus Cincinnatus the consul wanted to raise an army in the city against the Æqui and the Volsci, the tribunes opposed him. “Well, said he, let all those, who have taken an oath to the consul of the preceding year, march under my banner.”§ In vain did the tribunes cry out that this oath was no longer binding, and that, when they took it, Quintus was but a private person: the people were more religious than those who pretended to direct them; they would not listen to the distinctions or equivocations of the tribunes.

When the same people thought of retiring to the Sacred Mount, they felt some remorse from the oath they had taken to the consuls that they would follow them into the field. They entered then into a design of killing the consuls, but dropped it when they were given to understand that their oath would still be binding. Now, it is easy to judge of the notion they entertained of the violation of an oath, from the crime they intended to commit.

After the battle of Cannæ the people were seized with such a panic, that they would fain have retired to Sicily: but, Scipio having prevailed upon them to swear they would not stir from Rome, the fear of violating this oath surpassed all other apprehensions. Rome was a ship held by two anchors, religion and morality, in the midst of a furious tempest.

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CHAP. XIV.: How the smallest Change of the Constitution is attended with the Ruin of its Principles.

ARISTOTLE mentions the city of Carthage as a well regulated republic. Polybius tells us,* that there was this inconvenience, at Carthage, in the second Punic war, that the senate had lost almost all their authority. We are informed, by Livy, that, when Hannibal returned to Carthage, he found that the magistrates and the principal citizens had abused their power, and converted the public revenues to their private emolument. The virtue, therefore, of the magistrates, and the authority of the senate, both fell at the same time; and all was owing to the same cause.

Every one knows the wonderful effects of the censorship among the Romans. There was a time when it grew burthensome; but still it was supported, because there was more luxury than corruption. Claudius weakened its authority; by which means the corruption became greater than the luxury, and the censorship dwindled away of itself. After various interruptions and resumptions, it was entirely laid aside till it became altogether useless; that is, till the reigns of Augustus and Claudius.

CHAP. XV.: Sure Methods of preserving the three Principles.

I shall not be able to make myself rightly understood, till the reader has perused the four following chapters.

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CHAP. XVI.: Distinctive Properties of a Republic.

IT is natural for a republic to have only a small territory; otherwise it cannot long subsist. In an extensive republic there are men of large fortunes, and consequently of less moderation: there are trusts too considerable to be placed in any single subject; he has interests of his own; he soon begins to think that he may be happy and glorious by oppressing his fellow-citizens; and that he may raise himself to grandeur on the ruins of his country.

In an extensive republic, the public good is sacrificed to a thousand private views; it is subordinate to exceptions, and depends on accidents. In a small one, the interest of the public is more obvious, better understood, and more within the reach of every citizen; abuses have less extent, and of course are less protected.

The long duration of the republic of Sparta was owing to her having continued in the same extent of territory after all her wars. The sole aim of Sparta was liberty; and the sole advantage of her liberty glory.

It was the spirit of the Greek republics to be as contented with their territories as with their laws. Athens was first fired with ambition, and gave it to Lacedæmon; but it was an ambition rather of commanding a free people than of governing slaves; rather of directing than of breaking the union. All was lost upon the starting up of monarchy, a government whose spirit is more turned to increase of dominion.

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Excepting particular circumstances*, it is difficult for any other than a republican government to subsist longer in a single town. A prince of so petty a state would naturally endeavour to oppress his subjects, because his power would be great, while the means of enjoying it, or of causing it to be respected, would be inconsiderable. The consequence is, he would trample upon his people. On the other hand, such a prince might be easily crushed by a foreign, or even a domestic, force; the people might every instant unite and rise up against him. Now, as soon as the sovereign of a single town is expelled, the quarrel is over; but, if he has many towns, it only begins.

CHAP. XVII.: Distinctive Properties of a Monarchy.

A monarchical state ought to be of a moderate extent. Were it small, it would form itself into a republic; were it very large, the nobility, possessed of great estates, far from the eye of the prince, with a private court of their own, and secure moreover from sudden executions, by the laws and manners of the country, such a nobility, I say, might throw off their allegiance, having nothing to fear from too slow and too distant a punishment.

Thus, Charlemagne had scarce founded his empire when he was obliged to divide it: whether the governors of the provinces refused to obey; or whether, in order to keep them more under subjection, there was a necessity of parcelling the empire into several kingdoms.

After the decease of Alexander, his empire was divided. How was it possible for those Greek and Edition: current; Page: [160] Macedonian chiefs, who were each of them free and independent, or commanders at least of the victorious bands dispersed throughout that vast extent of conquered land, how was it possible, I say, for them to obey?

Attila’s empire was dissolved soon after his death; such a number of kings, who were no longer under restraint, could not resume their fetters.

The sudden establishment of unlimited power is a remedy, which, in those cases, may prevent a dissolution. But how dreadful the remedy, which, after the enlargement of dominion, opens a new scene of misery!

The rivers hasten to mingle their waters with the sea; and monarchies lose themselves in despotic power.

CHAP. XVIII.: Particular Case of the Spanish Monarchy.

LET not the example of Spain be produced against me; it rather proves what I affirm. To preserve America, she did what even despotic power itself does not attempt; she destroyed the inhabitants. To preserve her colony, she was obliged to keep it dependent even for its subsistence.

In the Netherlands, she essayed to render herself arbitrary, and, as soon as she abandoned the attempt, her perplexity increased. On the one hand, the Walloons would not be governed by Spaniards; and, on the other, the Spanish soldiers refused to submit to Walloon officers.

In Italy, she maintained her ground merely by exhausting herself and by enriching that country. For those, who would have been pleased to have got rid Edition: current; Page: [161] of the king of Spain, were not in a humour to refuse his gold.

CHAP. XIX.: Distinctive Properties of a despotic Government.

A large empire supposes a despotic authority in the person who governs. It is necessary that the quickness of the prince’s resolutions should supply the distance of the places they are sent to; that fear should prevent the remissness of the distant governor or magistrate; that the law should be derived from a single person, and should shift continually, according to the accidents which incessantly multiply in a state in proportion to its extent.

CHAP. XX.: Consequence of the preceding Chapters.

IF it be therefore the natural property of small states to be governed as a republic; of middling ones, to be subject to a monarch; and of large empires, to be swayed by a despotic prince; the consequence is, that, in order to preserve the principles of the established government, the state must be supported in the extent it has acquired, and that the spirit of this state will alter in proportion as it contracts or extends its limits.

CHAP. XXI.: Of the Empire of China.

BEFORE I conclude this book, I shall answer an objection that may be made to the foregoing doctrine.

Our missionaries inform us that the government of the vast empire of China is admirable, and that it has a proper mixture of fear, honour, and virtue. Edition: current; Page: [162] Consequently, I must have given an idle distinction, in establishing the principles of the three governments.

But I cannot conceive what this honour can be, among a people who act only through fear of being bastinaded.

Again, our merchants are far from giving us any such accounts of the virtue so much talked of by the missionaries; we need only consult them in relation to the robberies and extortions of the mandarines. I likewise appeal to another unexceptionable witness, the great lord Anson.

Besides, father Perennin’s letters, concerning the emperor’s proceedings against some of the princes of the blood§, who had incurred his displeasure by their conversion, plainly shew us a settled plan of tyranny, and barbarities committed by rule, that is, in cold blood.

We have, likewise, monsieur de Mairan’s, and the same father Perennin’s, letters on the government of China. I find, therefore, that, after a few proper questions and answers, the whole mystery is unfolded.

Might not our missionaries have been deceived by an appearance of order? Might not they have been struck with that constant exercise of a single person’s will? an exercise by which they themselves are governed, and which they are so pleased to find in the courts of the Indian princes; because, as they go thither only in order to introduce great changes, it is much easier to persuade those princes that there are no bounds to their power, than to convince the people that there are none to their submission.

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In fine, there is frequently some kind of truth even in errors themselves. It may be owing to particular, and perhaps very extraordinary, circumstances, that the Chinese government is not so corrupt as one might naturally expect. The climate, and some other physical causes, may, in that country, have had so strong an influence on their morals, as, in some measure, to produce wonders.

The climate of China is surprizingly favourable to the propagation of the human species. The women are the most prolific in the whole world. The most barbarous tyranny can put no stop to the progress of propagation. The prince cannot say there, like Pharaoh, “Let us deal wisely with them lest they multiply.” He would rather be reduced to Nero’s wish, that mankind had all but one head. In spite of tyranny, China, by the force of its climate, will be ever populous, and triumph over the tyrannical oppressor.

China, like all other countries that live chiefly upon rice, is subject to frequent famines. When the people are ready to starve, they disperse, in order to seek for nourishment: in consequence of which, gangs of robbers are formed on every side. Most of them are extirpated in their very infancy, others swell, and are likewise suppressed. And yet, in so great a number of such distant provinces, some band or other may happen to meet with success. In that case, they maintain their ground, strengthen their party, form themselves into a military body, march up to the capital, and place their leader on the throne.

From the very nature of things, a bad administration is here immediately punished. The want of subsistence, in so populous a country, produces sudden disorders. The reason why the redress of abuses, Edition: current; Page: [164] in other countries, is attended with such difficulty, is, because their effects are not immediately felt; the prince is not informed in so sudden and sensible a manner as in China.

The emperor of China is not taught, like our princes, that, if he governs ill, he will be less happy in the other life, less powerful and less opulent in this. He knows, that, if his government be not just, he will be stript both of empire and life.

As China grows every day more populous, notwithstanding the exposing of children*, the inhabitants are incessantly employed in tilling the lands for their subsistence. This requires a very extraordinary attention in the government. It is their perpetual concern that every man should have it in his power to work, without the apprehension of being deprived of the fruits of his labour. Consequently, this is not so much a civil, as a domestic, government.

Such has been the origin of those regulations which have been so greatly extolled. They wanted to make the laws reign in conjunction with despotic power; but whatever is joined to the latter loses all its force. In vain did this arbitrary sway, labouring under its own inconveniences, desire to be fettered; it armed itself with its chains, and is become still more terrible.

China is therefore a despotic state, whose principle is fear. Perhaps, in the earliest dynasties, when the empire had not so large an extent, the government might have deviated a little from this spirit; but the case is otherwise at present.

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CHAP. I.: In what Manner Republics provide for their Safety.

IF a republic be small, it is destroyed by a foreign force; if it be large, it is ruined by an internal imperfection.

To this twofold inconveniency democracies and aristocracies are equally liable, whether they be good or bad. The evil is in the very thing itself, and no form can redress it.

It is therefore very probable that mankind would have been, at length, obliged to live constantly under the government of a single person, had they not contrived a kind of constitution that has all the internal advantages of a republican, together with the external force of a monarchical, government. I mean, a confederate republic.

This form of government is a convention, by which several petty states agree to become members of a larger one, which they intend to establish. It is a kind of assemblage of societies, that constitute a new one, capable of increasing by means of farther associations, till they arrive to such a degree of power, as to be able to provide for the security of the whole body.

It was these associations that so long contributed to the prosperity of Greece. By these the Romans attacked the whole globe; and by these alone the whole globe withstood them. For, when Rome was arrived to her highest pitch of grandeur, it was the associations beyond the Danube and the Rhine, associations Edition: current; Page: [166] formed by the terror of her arms, that enabled the barbarians to resist her.

From hence it proceeds that Holland, Germany, and the Swiss Cantons, are considered in Europe as perpetual republics.

The associations of cities were formerly more necessary than in our times. A weak defenceless town was exposed to greater danger. By conquest, it was deprived not only of the executive and legislative power, as at present, but moreover of all human property.

A republic of this kind, able to withstand an external force, may support itself without any internal corruption; the form of this society prevents all manner of inconveniences.

If a single member should attempt to usurp the supreme power, he could not be supposed to have an equal authority and credit in all the confederate states. Were he to have too great an influence over one, this would alarm the rest; were he to subdue a part, that which would still remain free might oppose him with forces independent of those which he had usurped, and overpower him before he could be settled in his usurpation.

Should a popular insurrection happen in one of the confederate states, the others are able to quell it. Should abuses creep into one part, they are reformed by those that remain sound. The state may be destroyed on one side and not on the other; the confederacy may be dissolved, and the confederates preserve their sovereignty.

As this government is composed of petty republics, it enjoys the internal happiness of each; and, Edition: current; Page: [167] with regard to its external situation, by means of the association, it possesseth all the advantages of large monarchies.

CHAP. II.: That a confederate Government ought to be composed of States of the same Nature, especially of the republican Kind.

THE Canaanites were destroyed by reason they were petty monarchies, that had no union nor confederacy for their common defence: and, indeed, a confederacy is not agreeable to the nature of petty monarchies.

As the confederate republic of Germany consists of free cities, and of petty states subject to different princes, experience shews us, that it is much more imperfect than that of Holland and Swisserland.

The spirit of monarchy is war and enlargement of dominion: peace and moderation is the spirit of a republic. These two kinds of government cannot naturally subsist in a confederate republic.

Thus we observe, in the Roman history, that, when the Veientes had chosen a king, they were immediately abandoned by all the other petty republics of Tuscany. Greece was undone as soon as the kings of Macedon obtained a seat among the Amphictyons.

The confederate republic of Germany, composed of princes and free towns, subsists by means of a chief, who is, in some respects, the magistrate of the union, in others, the monarch.

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CHAP. III.: Other Requisites in a confederate Republic.

IN the republic of Holland, one province cannot conclude an alliance without the consent of the others. This law, which is an excellent one, and even necessary in a confederate republic, is wanting in the Germanic constitution, where it would prevent the misfortunes that may happen to the whole confederacy through the imprudence, ambition, or avarice, of a single member. A republic, united by a political confederacy, has given itself entirely up, and has nothing more to resign.

It is difficult for the united states to be all of equal power and extent. The Lycian* republic was an association of twenty-three towns; the large ones had three votes in the common council, the middling ones two, and the small towns one. The Dutch republic consists of seven princes of different extent of territory, which have each one voice.

The cities of Lycia contributed to the expences of the state according to the proportion of suffrages. The provinces of the united Netherlands cannot follow this proportion; they must be directed by that of their power.

In Lycia, the judges and town magistrates were elected by the common council, and according to the proportion already mentioned. In the republic of Holland, they are not chosen by the common council, but each town names its magistrates. Were I to give a model of an excellent confederate republic, I should pitch upon that of Lycia.

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CHAP. IV.: In what Manner despotic Governments provide for their Security.

AS republics provide for their security by uniting, despotic governments do it by separating, and by keeping themselves, as it were, single. They sacrifice a part of the country; and, by ravaging and desolating the frontiers, they render the heart of the empire inaccessible.

It is a received axiom, in geometry, that the greater the extent of bodies, the more their circumference is relatively small. This practice, therefore, of laying the frontiers waste, is more tolerable in large than in middling states.

A despotic government does all the mischief to itself that could be committed by a cruel enemy whose arms it were unable to resist.

It preserves itself, likewise, by another kind of separation, which is by putting the most distant provinces into the hands of a great vassal. The Mogul, the king of Persia, and the emperors of China, have their feudatories; and the Turks have found their account in putting the Tartars, the Moldavians, the Walachians, and formerly the Transylvanians, between themselves and their enemies.

CHAP. V.: In what Manner a monarchical Government provides for its Security.

A monarchy never destroys itself like a despotic government. But a kingdom of a moderate extent is liable to sudden invasions: it must therefore have fortresses to defend its frontiers, and troops to garrison Edition: current; Page: [170] those fortresses. The least spot of ground is disputed with military skill and resolution. Despotic states make incursions against one another: it is monarchies only that wage war.

Fortresses are proper for monarchies: despotic governments are afraid of them. They dare not intrust their officers with such a command, as none of them have any affection for the prince or his government.

CHAP. VI.: Of the defensive Force of States in general.

TO preserve a state in its due force, it must have such an extent, as to admit of a proportion between the celerity with which it may be invaded, and that with which it may defeat the invasion. As an invader may appear on every side, it is requisite that the states should be able to make, on every side, its defence; consequently it should be of a moderate extent, proportioned to the degree of velocity that nature has given to man, to enable him to move from one place to another.

France and Spain are exactly of a proper extent. They have so easy a communication for their forces, as to be able to convey them immediately to what part they have a mind: the armies unite and pass with rapidity from one frontier to another, without any apprehension of such difficulties as require time to remove.

It is extremely happy for France that the capital stands near to the different frontiers in proportion to their weakness; and the prince has a better view of each part of his country, according as it is more exposed.

But, when a vast empire, like Persia, is attacked, it is several months before the troops are assembled Edition: current; Page: [171] in a body; and then they are not able to make such forced marches, for that space of time, as they could for fifteen days. Should the army on the frontiers be defeated, it is soon dispersed, because there is no neighbouring place of retreat. The victor, meeting with no resistance, advances with all expedition, sits down before the capital, and lays siege to it, when there is scarce time sufficient to summon the governors of the provinces to its relief. Those who foresee an approaching revolution hasten it by their disobedience: for men, whose fidelity is entirely owing to the danger of punishment, are easily corrupted as soon as it becomes distant; their aim is their own private interest: the empire is subverted, the capital taken, and the conqueror disputes the several provinces with the governors.

The real power of a prince does not consist so much in the facility he meets with in making conquests, as in the difficulty an enemy finds in attacking him, and, if I may so speak, in the immutability of his condition. But the increase of territory obliges a government to lay itself more open to an enemy.

As monarchs, therefore, ought to be endued with wisdom in order to increase their power, they ought likewise to have an equal share of prudence to confine it within bounds. Upon removing the inconveniences of too small a territory, they should have their eye constantly on the inconveniences which attend its extent.

CHAP. VII.: A Reflexion.

THE enemies of a great prince, whose reign was protracted to an unusual length, have very often accused Edition: current; Page: [172] him, rather, I believe, from their own fears, than upon any solid foundation, of having formed and carried on a project of universal monarchy. Had he attained his aim, nothing would have been more fatal to his subjects, to himself, to his family, and to all Europe. Heaven, that knows our true interests, favoured him more, by preventing the success of his arms, than it could have done by crowning him with victories. Instead of raising him to be the only sovereign in Europe, it made him happier by rendering him the most powerful.

The subjects of this prince, who, in travelling abroad, are never affected but with what they have left at home; who, on quitting their own habitations, look upon glory as their chief object, and, in distant countries, as an obstacle to their return; who disgust you even by their good qualities, because they are tainted with so much vanity; who are capable of supporting wounds, perils, and fatigues, but not of foregoing their pleasures; who are supremely fond of gaiety, and comfort themselves for the loss of a battle by a song upon the general; those subjects, I say, would never have the solidity requisite for an enterprize of this kind; which, if defeated in one country, would be unsuccessful every where else; and, if once unsuccessful, would be so for ever.

CHAP. VIII.: A particular Case, in which the defensive Force of a State is inferior to the offensive.

IT was a saying of the lord of Coucy to king Charles V. “that the English are never weaker, nor easier overcome, than in their own country.” The same was observed of the Romans; the same of Edition: current; Page: [173] the Carthaginians; and the same will happen to every power that sends armies to distant countries, in order to re-unite, by discipline and military force, those who are divided among themselves by political or civil interests. The state finds itself weakened by the disorder that still continues, and more so by the remedy.

The lord of Coucy’s maxim is an exception to the general rule, which disapproves of wars against distant countries: and this exception confirms likewise the rule, because it takes place only with regard to those by whom such wars are undertaken.

CHAP. IX.: Of the relative Force of States.

ALL grandeur, force, and power, are relative. Care, therefore, must be taken, that, in endeavouring to increase the real grandeur, the relative be not diminished.

Under the reign of Lewis XIV. France was at its highest pitch of relative grandeur. Germany had not yet produced such powerful princes as have since appeared in that country. Italy was in the same case. England and Scotland were not yet formed into one united kingdom. Arragon was not joined to Castile: the distant branches of the Spanish monarchy were weakened by it, and weakened it in their turn: and Muscovy was as little known in Europe as Crim-Tartary.

CHAP. X.: Of the Weakness of neighbouring States.

WHENSOEVER a state lies contiguous to another that happens to be in its decline, the former Edition: current; Page: [174] ought to take particular care not to precipitate the ruin of the latter, because this is the happiest situation imaginable; nothing being so convenient as for one prince to be near another who receives for him all the rebuff and insults of fortune: and it seldom happens that, by subduing such a state, the real power of the conqueror is as much increased as the relative is diminished.


CHAP. I.: Of offensive Force.

OFFENSIVE force is regulated by the law of nations; which is the political law of each country, considered in its relation to every other.

CHAP. II.: Of War.

THE life of governments is like that of man. The latter has a right to kill in case of natural defence; the former have a right to wage war for their own preservation.

In the case of natural defence I have a right to kill, because my life is, in respect to me, what the life of my antagonist is to him. In the same manner a state wages war, because its preservation is like that of any other being.

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With individuals the right of natural defence does not imply a necessity of attacking. Instead of attacking, they need only have recourse to proper tribunals. They cannot, therefore, exercise this right of defence, but in sudden cases, when immediate death would be the consequence of waiting for the assistance of the law. But, with states, the right of natural defence carries along with it sometimes the necessity of attacking; as, for instance, when one nation sees that a continuance of peace will enable another to destroy her, and that to attack that nation instantly is the only way to prevent her own destruction.

From thence it follows, that petty states have oftener a right to declare war than great ones, because they are oftener in the case of being afraid of destruction.

The right, therefore, of war is derived from necessity and strict justice. If those who direct the conscience or councils of princes do not abide by this maxim, the consequence is dreadful. When they proceed on arbitrary principles of glory, convenience, and utility, torrents of blood must overspread the earth.

But, above all, let them not plead such an idle pretext as the glory of the prince: his glory is nothing but pride; it is a passion, and not a legitimate right.

It is true the fame of his power might increase the strength of his government; but it might be equally increased by the reputation of his justice.

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CHAP. III.: Of the Right of Conquest.

FROM the right of war comes that of conquest; which is the consequence of that right, and ought therefore to follow its spirit.

The right the conqueror has over a conquered people is directed by four sorts of laws; the law of nature, which makes every thing tend to the preservation of the species; the law of natural reason, which teaches us to do to others what we would have done to ourselves; the law that forms political societies, whose duration nature has not limited; and, in fine, the law derived from the nature of the thing itself. Conquest is an acquisition, and carries with it the spirit of preservation and use, not of destruction.

The inhabitants of a conquered country are treated by the conqueror one of the four following ways: either he continues to rule them according to their own laws, and assumes to himself only the exercise of the political and civil government; or he gives them new political and civil government; or he destroys and disperses the society; or, in fine, he exterminates the people.

The first way is conformable to the law of nations nowfollowed; the fourth is more agreeable to the law of nations followed by the Romans; in respect to which, I leave the reader to judge how far we have improved upon the ancients. We must give due commendations to our modern refinements in reason, religion, philosophy, and manners.

The authors of our public law, guided by ancient histories, without confining themselves to cases of strict necessity, have fallen into very great errors. They have adopted tyrannical and arbitrary principles, by supposing the conquerors to be invested with I know not what right to kill: from thence they Edition: current; Page: [177] have drawn consequences as terrible as the very principle, and established maxims which the conquerors themselves, when possessed of the least grain of sense, never presumed to follow. It is a plain case, that, when the conquest is completed, the conqueror has no longer a right to kill, because he has no longer the plea of natural defence and self-preservation.

What has led them into this mistake is, that they imagined the conqueror had a right to destroy the state; from whence they inferred, that he had a right to destroy the men that compose it: a wrong consequence from a false principle. For, from the destruction of the state, it does not at all follow, that the people, who compose it, ought to be also destroyed. The state is the association of men, and not the men themselves; the citizen may perish, and the man remain.

From the right of killing, in the case of conquest, politicians have drawn that of reducing to slavery; a consequence as ill grounded as the principle.

There is no such thing as a right of reducing people to slavery, but when it becomes necessary for the preservation of the conquest. Preservation, and not servitude, is the end of conquest; though servitude may happen sometimes to be a necessary means of preservation.

Even in that case it is contrary to the nature of things that the slavery should be perpetual. The people enslaved ought to be rendered capable of becoming subjects. Slavery in conquests is an accidental thing. When, after the expiration of a certain space of time, all the parts of the conquering state are connected with the conquered nation, by custom, marriages, laws, associations, and by a certain conformity of disposition, there ought to be an end of the slavery. For the rights of the conqueror are Edition: current; Page: [178] founded entirely on the opposition between the two nations in those very articles, whence prejudices arise and the want of mutual confidence.

A conqueror, therefore, who reduces the conquered people to slavery, ought always to reserve to himself the means (for means there are without number) of restoring them to their liberty.

These are far from being vague and uncertain notions. Thus our ancestors acted; those ancestors who conquered the Roman empire. The laws they made in the heat and transport of passion, and in the insolence of victory, were gradually softened; those laws were at first severe, but were afterwards rendered impartial. The Burgundians, Goths, and Lombards, would have the Romans continue a conquered people; but the laws of Euric, Gundebald, and Rotharis, made the Romans and barbarians fellow-citizens.*

Charlemagne, to tame the Saxons, deprived them of their liberty and property. Lewis the Debonnaire made them a free people; and this was one of the most prudent regulations during his whole reign. Time and servitude had softened their manners, and they ever after adhered to him with the greatest fidelity.

CHAP. IV.: Some Advantages of a conquered People.

INSTEAD of inferring such destructive consequences from the right of conquest, much better would it have been for politicians to mention the advantages which this very right may sometimes give to a conquered people; advantages which would be Edition: current; Page: [179] more sensibly and more universally experienced, were our law of nations exactly followed, and established in every part of the globe.

Conquered countries are, generally speaking, degenerated from their original institution. Corruption has crept in, the execution of the laws has been neglected, and the government is grown oppressive. Who can question but such a state would be a gainer, and derive some advantages from the very conquest itself, if it did not prove destructive? When a government is arrived to that degree of corruption as to be incapable of reforming itself, it would not lose much by being new moulded. A conqueror, who enters triumphant into a country, where the moneyed men have, by a variety of artifices, insensibly arrived at innumerable ways of encroaching on the public; where the miserable people, who see abuses grown into laws, are ready to sink under the weight of oppression, yet think they have no right to apply for redress; a conqueror, I say, may make a total change; and then the tyranny of those wretches will be the first thing exposed to his resentment.

We have beheld, for instance, countries oppressed by the farmers of the revenues, and eased afterwards by the conqueror, who had neither the engagements nor wants of the legitimate prince. Even the abuses have been often redressed without any interposition of the conqueror.

Sometimes the frugality of a conquering nation has enabled them to allow the conquered those necessaries of which they had been deprived under a lawful prince.

A conquest may destroy pernicious prejudices, and lay, if I may presume to use the expression, the nation under a better genius.

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What good might not the Spaniards have done to the Mexicans? They had a mild religion to impart to them, but they filled their heads with a frantic superstition: they might have set slaves at liberty; they made free men slaves: they might have undeceived them with regard to the abuse of human sacrifices; instead of that, they destroyed them. Never should I have finished, were I to recount all the good they might have done, and all the mischief they committed.

It is a conqueror’s business to repair a part of the mischief he has occasioned. The right, therefore, of conquest I define thus: a necessary, lawful, but unhappy, power, which leaves the conqueror under a heavy obligation of repairing the injuries done to humanity.

CHAP. V.: Gelon, King of Syracuse.

THE noblest treaty of peace ever mentioned in history is, in my opinion, that which Gelon made with the Carthaginians. He insisted upon their abolishing the custom of sacrificing their children. Glorious indeed! After having defeated three hundred thousand Carthaginians, he required a condition that was advantageous only to themselves; or, rather, he stipulated in favour of human nature.

The Bactrians exposed their aged fathers to be devoured by large mastiffs: a custom suppressed by Alexander, whereby he obtained a signal triumph over superstition.

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CHAP. VI.: Of Conquests made by a Republic.

IT is contrary to the nature of things, that, in a confederate government, one state should make any conquest over another, as in our days we have seen in Swisserland.§ In mixt confederate republics, where the association is between petty republics and monarchies of a small extent, this is not so absurd.

Contrary it is also to the nature of things that a democratical republic should conquer towns which cannot enter into the sphere of its democracy. It is necessary that the conquered people should be capable of enjoying the privileges of sovereignty, as was settled in the very beginning among the Romans. The conquest ought to be limited to the number of citizens fixt for the democracy.

If a democratical republic subdues a nation in order to govern them as subjects, it exposes its own liberty, because it intrusts too great a power to those who are appointed to the command of the conquered provinces.

How dangerous would have been the situation of the republic of Carthage had Hannibal made himself master of Rome! What would not he have done in his own country had he been victorious, — he who caused so many revolutions in it after his defeat?*

Hanno could never have dissuaded the senate from sending succours to Hannibal had he used no other argument than his own jealousy. The Carthaginian senate, whose wisdom is so highly extolled by Aristotle, (and which has been evidently proved Edition: current; Page: [182] by the prosperity of that republic,) could never have been determined by other than solid reasons. They must have been stupid not to see that an army, at the distance of three hundred leagues, would necessarily be exposed to losses which required reparation.

Hanno’s party insisted that Hannibal should be delivered up to the Romans. They could not at that time be afraid of the Romans; they were therefore apprehensive of Hannibal.

It was impossible, some will say, for them to imagine that Hannibal had been so successful. But how was it possible for them to doubt of it? Could the Carthaginians, a people spread over all the earth, be ignorant of what was transacting in Italy? No: they were sufficiently acquainted with it, and for that reason they did not care to send supplies to Hannibal.

Hanno became more resolute after the battle of Trebia, after the battle of Thrasimenus, after that of Cannæ: it was not his incredulity that increased, but his fear.

CHAP. VII.: The same Subject continued.

THERE is still another inconvenience in conquests made by democracies. Their government is ever odious to the conquered states. It is apparently monarchical: but, in reality, it is much more oppressive than monarchy, as the experience of all ages and countries evinces.

The conquered people are in a melancholy situation: they neither enjoy the advantages of a republic, nor those of a monarchy.

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What has been here said of a popular state is applicable to aristocracy.

CHAP. VIII.: The same Subject continued.

WHEN a republic, therefore, keeps another nation in subjection, it should endeavour to repair the inconveniences arising from the nature of its situation, by giving it good laws, both for the political and civil government of the people.

We have an instance of an island in the Mediterranean, subject to an Italian republic, whose political and civil laws, with regard to the inhabitants of that island, were extremely defective. The act of indemnity,* by which it ordained that no one should be condemned to bodily punishment in consequence of the private knowledge of the governor, ex informata conscientia, is still recent in every body’s memory. There have been frequent instances of the people’s petitioning for privileges: here the sovereign grants only the common right of all nations.

CHAP. IX.: Of Conquests made by a Monarchy.

IF a monarchy can long subsist before it is weakened by its increase, it will become formidable; and its strength will remain entire while pent up by the neighbouring monarchies.

It ought not, therefore, to aim at conquests beyond the natural limits of its government. So soon as it has passed these limits it is prudence to stop.

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In this kind of conquest things must be left as they were found; the same courts of judicature, the same laws, the same customs, the same privileges: there ought to be no other alteration than that of the army and of the name of the sovereign.

When a monarchy has extended its limits by the conquest of neighbouring provinces, it should treat those provinces with great lenity.

If a monarchy has been long endeavouring at conquests, the provinces of its ancient demesne are generally ill-used: they are obliged to submit both to the new and to the ancient abuses, and to be depopulated by a vast metropolis that swallows up the whole. Now, if, after having made conquests round this demesne, the conquered people were treated like the ancient subjects, the state would be undone; the taxes, sent by the conquered provinces to the capital, would never return; the inhabitants of the frontiers would be ruined, and consequently the frontiers would be weaker; the people would be disaffected; and the subsistence of the armies designed to act and remain there would become more precarious.

Such is the necessary state of a conquering monarchy; a shocking luxury in the capital; misery in the provinces somewhat distant; and plenty in the most remote. It is the same with such a monarchy as with our planet; fire at the center, verdure on the surface, and, between both, a dry, cold, and barren, earth.

CHAP. X.: Of one Monarchy that subdues another.

SOMETIMES one monarchy subdues another. The smaller the latter, the better it is over-awed by Edition: current; Page: [185] fortresses; and, the larger it is, the better will it be preserved by colonies.

CHAP. XI.: Of the Manners of a conquered People.

IT is not sufficient, in those conquests, to let the conquered nation enjoy their own laws; it is perhaps more necessary to leave them also their manners, because people in general have a stronger attachment to these than to their laws.

The French have been driven nine times out of Italy, because, as historians say, of their insolent familiarities with the fair sex. It is too much for a nation to be obliged to bear, not only with the pride of conquerors, but with their incontinence and indiscretion: these are, without doubt, most grievous and intolerable, as they are the source of infinite outrages.

CHAP. XII.: Of a Law of Cyrus.

FAR am I from thinking that a good law which Cyrus made to oblige the Lydians to practise none but mean or infamous professions. It is true, he directed his attention to an object of the greatest importance; he thought of guarding against revolts, and not invasions: but invasions will soon come, when the Persians and Lydians unite and corrupt each other. I would therefore much rather support, by laws, the simplicity and rudeness of the conquering nation, than the effeminacy of the conquered.

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Aristodemus, tyrant of Cumæ, used all his endeavours to banish courage, and to enervate the minds of youth. He ordered that boys should let their hair grow in the same manner as girls; that they should deck it with flowers, and wear long robes of different colours down to their heels; that, when they went to their masters of music and dancing, they should have women with them to carry their umbrelloes, perfumes, and fans, and to present them with combs and looking-glasses whenever they bathed. This education lasted till the age of twenty; an education that could be agreeable to none but to a petty tyrant, who exposes his sovereignty to defend his life.

CHAP. XIII.: Charles XII.

THIS prince, who depended entirely on his own strength, hastened his ruin by forming designs that could never be executed but by a long war; a thing which his kingdom was unable to support.

It was not a declining state he undertook to subvert, but a rising empire. The Russians made use of the war, he waged against them, as of a military school. Every defeat brought them nearer to victory; and, losing abroad, they learnt to defend themselves at home.

Charles, in the deserts of Poland, imagined himself sovereign of the whole world. Here he wandered, and with him, in some measure, wandered Sweden; whilst his capital enemy acquired new strength against him, locked him up, made settlements along the Baltic, destroyed or subdued Livonia.

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Sweden was like a river, whose waters are cut off at the fountain-head, in order to change its course.

It was not the affair of Pultova that ruined Charles. Had he not been destroyed at that place, he would in another. The casualties of fortune are easily repaired; but who can be guarded against events that incessantly arise from the nature of things?

But neither nature nor fortune was ever so much against him as he himself.

He was not directed by the present situation of things, but by a kind of plan of his forming; and even this he followed very ill. He was not an Alexander; but he would have made an excellent soldier under that monarch.

Alexander’s project succeeded because it was prudently concerted. The bad success of the Persians in their several invasions of Greece, the conquests of Agesilaus, and the retreat of the ten thousand, had shewn to demonstration the superiority of the Greeks in their manner of fighting and in their arms; and it was well known that the Persians were too proud to be corrected.

It was no longer possible for them to weaken Greece by divisions: Greece was then united under one head, who could not pitch upon a better method of rendering her insensible of her servitude, than by flattering her vanity with the destruction of her hereditary enemy, and with the hopes of the conquest of Asia.

An empire, cultivated by the most industrious nation in the world, that followed agriculture from a principle of religion; an empire, abounding with every conveniency of life; furnished the enemy with all necessary means of subsisting.

It was easy to judge, by the pride of those kings, who in vain were mortified by their numerous defeats, Edition: current; Page: [188] that they would precipitate their ruin by their forwardness in venturing battles; and that the flattery of their courtiers would never permit them to doubt of their grandeur.

The project was not only wise, but wisely executed. Alexander, in the rapidity of his conquests, even in the imperuosity of his passion, had, if I may so express myself, a flash of reason by which he was directed, and which those, who would fain have made a romance of his history, and whose minds were more corrupt than his, could not conceal from our view. Let us descend more minutely into his history.

CHAP. XIV.: Alexander.

HE did not set out upon his expedition till he had secured Macedonia against the neighbouring barbarians and completed the reduction of Greece; he availed himself of this conquest for no other end than for the execution of his grand enterprize; he rendered the jealousy of the Lacedæmonians of no effect; he attacked the maritime provinces; he caused his land forces to keep close to the sea coast, that they might not be separated from his fleet; he made an admirable use of discipline against numbers; he never wanted provisions; and, if it be true, that victory gave him every thing, he, in his turn, did every thing to obtain it.

In the beginning of his enterprize, a time when the least check might have proved his destruction, he trusted very little to fortune; but, when his reputation was established by a series of prosperous events, he sometimes had recourse to temerity. When, before his departure for Asia, he marched against the Triballians and Illyrians, you find he Edition: current; Page: [189] waged war* against those people in the very same manner as Cæsar afterwards conducted that against the Gauls. Upon his return to Greece, it was in some measure against his will that he took and destroyed Thebes. When he invested the city, he wanted the inhabitants to come into terms of peace; but they hastened their own ruin. When it was debated whether he should attack the Persian fleet, it is Parmenio that shews his presumption, Alexander his wisdom. His aim was to draw the Persians from the sea-coast, and to lay them under a necessity of abandoning their marine, in which they had a manifest superiority. Tyre being from principle attached to the Persians, who could not subsist without the commerce and navigation of that city, Alexander destroyed it. He subdued Egypt, which Darius had left bare of troops, while he was assembling immense armies in another world.

To the passage of the Granicus Alexander owed the conquest of the Greek colonies; to the battle of Issus, the reduction of Tyre and Egypt; to the battle of Arbela, the empire of the world.

After the battle of Issus, he suffered Darius to escape, and employed his time in securing and regulating his conquests: after the battle of Arbela, he pursued him so close as to leave him no place of shelter in his empire. Darius enters his towns, his provinces, to quit them the next moment; and Alexander marches with such rapidity, that the empire of the world seems to be rather the prize of an Olympian race than the fruit of a great victory.

In this manner he carried on his conquests; let us now see how he preserved them.

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He opposed those who would have had him treat the Greeks as masters§ and the Persians as slaves. He thought only of uniting the two nations, and of abolishing the distinctions of a conquering and a conquered people. After he had completed his victories, he relinquished all those prejudices that had helped him to obtain them. He assumed the manners of the Persians, that he might not chagrine them too much by obliging them to conform to those of the Greeks. It was this humanity which made him shew so great a respect for the wife and mother of Darius; and this that made him so continent. What a conqueror! he is lamented by all the nations he has subdued! What an usurper! at his death, the very family he has cast from the throne is all in tears. These were the most glorious passages in his life, and such as history cannot produce an instance of in any other conqueror.

Nothing consolidates a conquest more than the union formed between the two nations by marriages. Alexander chose his wives from the nation he had subdued; he insisted on his courtiers doing the same; and the rest of the Macedonians followed the example. The Franks and Burgundians permitted those marriages: the Visigoths forbad them in Spain, and afterwards allowed them*. By the Lombards they were not only allowed but encouraged. When the Romans wanted to weaken Macedonia, they ordered that there should be no inter-marriages between the people of different provinces.

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Alexander, whose aim was to unite the two nations, thought fit to establish in Persia a great number of Greek colonies. He built, therefore, a multitude of towns; and so strongly were all the parts of this new empire cemented, that, after his decease, amidst the disturbances and confusion of the most frightful civil wars, when the Greeks had reduced themselves, as it were, to a state of annihilation, not a single province of Persia revolted.

To prevent Greece and Macedon from being too much exhausted, he sent a colony of Jews to Alexandria: the manners of those people signified nothing to him, provided he could be sure of their fidelity.

He not only suffered the conquered nations to retain their own customs and manners, but likewise their civil laws; and frequently the very kings and governors to whom they had been subject. The Macedonians he placed at the head of the troops, and the natives of the country at the head of the government; rather choosing to run the hazard of a particular disloyalty (which sometimes happened) than of a general revolt.

He paid a great respect to the ancient traditions, and to all the public monuments of the glory or vanity of nations. The Persian monarchs having destroyed the temples of the Greeks, Babylonians, and Egyptians, Alexander rebuilt them§. Few nations submitted to his yoke to whose religion he did not conform: and his conquests seem to have been intended only to make him the particular monarch of each nation, and the first inhabitant of each city. The aim of the Romans, in conquest, was, to destroy; Edition: current; Page: [192] his, to preserve: and, wherever he directed his victorious arms, his chief view was to atchieve something, from whence that country might derive an increase of prosperity and power. To attain this end, he was enabled, first of all, by the greatness of his genius; secondly, by his frugality and private œconomy; thirdly, by his profusion in matters of importance. He was close and reserved in his private expences, but generous to the highest degree in those of a public nature. In regulating his household, he was the private Macedonian; but, in paying the troops, in sharing his conquests with the Greeks, and in his largesses to every soldier in his army, he was Alexander.

He committed two very bad actions, in setting Persepolis on fire, and slaying Clitus; but he rendered them famous by his repentance. Hence it is that his crimes are forgot, while his regard for virtue was recorded: they were considered rather as unlucky accidents, than as his own deliberate acts. Posterity, struck with the beauty of his mind, even in the midst of his irregular passion, can view him only with pity, but never with an eye of hatred.

Let us draw a comparison between him and Cæsar. The Roman general, by attempting to imitate the Asiatic monarch, flung his fellow-citizens into a state of despair for a matter of mere ostentation; the Macedonian prince, by the same imitation, did a thing which was quite agreeable to his original scheme of conquest.

CHAP. XV.: New Methods of preserving a Conquest.

WHEN a monarch has subdued a large country, he may make use of an admirable method, equally Edition: current; Page: [193] proper for moderating despotic power and for preserving the conquest: it is a method practised by the conquerors of China.

In order to prevent the vanquished nation from falling into despair, the victors from growing insolent and proud, the government from becoming military, and to contain the two nations within their duty, the Tartar family, now on the throne of China, has ordained that every military corps in the provinces should be composed half of Chinese and half Tartars, to the end that the jealousy between the two nations may keep them within bounds. The courts of judicature are likewise half Chinese and half Tartars. This is productive of several good effects. 1. The two nations are a check to one another. 2. They both preserve the civil and military power, and one is not destroyed by the other. 3. The conquering nation may spread itself without being weakened and lost. It is likewise enabled to withstand civil and foreign wars. The want of so wise an institution as this has been the ruin of almost all the conquerors that ever existed.

CHAP. XVI.: Of Conquests made by a despotic Prince.

WHEN a conquest happens to be vastly large, it supposes a despotic power; and then the army dispersed in the provinces is not sufficient. There should be always a body of faithful troops near the prince, ready to fall instantly upon any part of the empire that may chance to waver. This military corps ought to awe the rest, and to strike terror into those, who, through necessity, have been intrusted with any authority in the empire. The emperor of China has always a large body of Tartars near his Edition: current; Page: [194] person, ready upon all occasions. In India, in Turkey, in Japan, the prince has always a body-guard, independent of the other regular forces. This particular corps keeps the dispersed troops in awe.

CHAP. XVII.: The same Subject continued.

WE have observed, that the countries subdued by a despotic monarch ought to be held by a vassal. Historians are very lavish of their praises on the generosity of those conquerors who restored the princes to the throne whom they had vanquished. Extremely generous, then, were the Romans, who made such a number of kings, in order to have instruments of slavery*. A proceeding of that kind is absolutely necessary. If the conqueror intends to preserve the country which he has subdued, neither the governors he sends will be able to contain the subjects within duty, nor he himself the governors. He will be obliged to strip his ancient patrimony of troops in order to secure his new dominions. The miseries of each nation will be common to both; civil broils will spread themselves from one to the other. On the contrary, if the conqueror restores the legitimate prince to the throne, he will of course have an ally; by the junction of whose forces his own power will be augmented. We have a recent instance of this in Shah Nadir, who conquered the Mogul, seized his treasures, and left him in possession of Indostan.

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CHAP. I.: A general Idea.

I make a distinction between the laws that establish political liberty, as it relates to the constitution, and those by which it is established, as it relates to the citizen. The former shall be the subject of this book; the latter I shall examine in the next.

CHAP. II.: Different Significations of the Word, Liberty.

THERE is no word that admits of more various significations, and has made more different impressions on the human mind, than that of liberty. Some have taken it for a facility of deposing a person on whom they had conferred a tyrannical authority: others, for the power of choosing a superior whom they are obliged to obey; others, for the right of bearing arms, and of being thereby enabled to use violence: others, in fine, for the privilege of being governed by a native of their own country, or by their own laws.* A certain nation, for a long time, thought liberty consisted in the privilege of wearing a long beard. Some have annexed this name to one form of government exclusive Edition: current; Page: [196] of others: those who had a republican taste applied it to this species of polity: those who liked a monarchical state gave it to monarchy. Thus they have all applied the name of liberty to the government most suitable to their own customs and inclinations; and as, in republics, the people have not so constant and so present a view of the causes of their misery, and as the magistrates seem to act only in conformity to the laws, hence liberty is generally said to reside in republics, and to be banished from monarchies. In fine, as in democracies the people seem to act almost as they please, this sort of government has been deemed the most free, and the power of the people has been confounded with their liberty.

CHAP. III.: In what Liberty consists.

IT is true that, in democracies, the people seem to act as they please; but political liberty does not consist in an unlimited freedom. In governments, that is, in societies directed by laws, liberty can consist only in the power of doing what we ought to will, and in not being constrained to do what we ought not to will.

We must have continually present to our minds the difference between independence and liberty. Liberty is a right of doing whatever the laws permit; and, if a citizen could do what they forbid, he would be no longer possessed of liberty, because all his fellow-citizens would have the same power.

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CHAP. IV.: The same Subject continued.

DEMOCRATIC and aristocratic states are not in their own nature free. Political liberty is to be found only in moderate governments; and even in these it is not always found. It is there only when there is no abuse of power: but constant experience shews us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority as far as it will go. Is it not strange, though true, to say, that virtue itself has need of limits?

To prevent this abuse, it is necessary, from the very nature of things, power should be a check to power. A government may be so constituted, as no man shall be compelled to do things to which the law does not oblige him, nor forced to abstain from things which the law permits.

CHAP. V.: Of the End or View of different Governments.

THOUGH all governments have the same general end, which is that of preservation, yet each has another particular object. Increase of dominion was the object of Rome; war, that of Sparta; religion, that of the Jewish laws; commerce, that of Marseilles; public tranquillity, that of the laws of China*; navigation, that of the laws of Rhodes; natural liberty, that of the policy of the savages; in general, the pleasures of the prince, that of despotic states; that of monarchies, the prince’s and the kingdom’s glory: the independence of individuals Edition: current; Page: [198] is the end aimed at by the laws of Poland; from thence results the oppression of the whole.

One nation there is also in the world, that has, for the direct end of its constitution, political liberty. We shall presently examine the principles on which this liberty is founded: if they are sound, liberty will appear in its highest perfection.

To discover political liberty in a constitution, no great labour is requisite. If we are capable of seeing it where it exists, it is soon found, and we need not go far in search of it.

CHAP. VI.: Of the Constitution of England.

IN every government there are three sorts of power: the legislative; the executive in respect to things dependent on the law of nations; and the executive in regard to matters that depend on the civil law.

By virtue of the first, the prince or magistrate enacts temporary or perpetual laws, and amends or abrogates those that have been already enacted. By the second, he makes peace or war, sends or receives embassies, establishes the public security, and provides against invasions. By the third, he punishes criminals, or determines the disputes that arise between individuals. The latter we shall call the judiciary power, and the other, simply, the executive power of the state.

The political liberty of the subject is a tranquillity of mind arising from the opinion each person has of his safety. In order to have this liberty, it is requisite the government be so constituted as one man need not be afraid of another.

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When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.

Again, there is no liberty if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary controul; for the judge would be then the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.

There would be an end of every thing, were the same man, or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals.

Most kingdoms in Europe enjoy a moderate government, because the prince, who is invested with the two first powers, leaves the third to his subjects.

In Turkey, where these three powers are united in the sultan’s person, the subjects groan under the most dreadful oppression.

In the republics of Italy, where these three powers are united, there is less liberty than in our monarchies. Hence their government is obliged to have recourse to as violent methods, for its support, as even that of the Turks; witness the state-inquisitors,* and the lion’s mouth into which every informer may at all hours throw his written accusations.

In what a situation must the poor subject be, under those republics! The same body of magistrates are possessed, as executors of the laws, of the whole Edition: current; Page: [200] power they have given themselves in quality of legislators. They may plunder the state by their general determinations; and, as they have likewise the judiciary power in their hands, every private citizen may be ruined by their particular decisions.

The whole power is here united in one body; and, though there is no external pomp that indicates a despotic sway, yet the people feel the effects of it every moment.

Hence it is that many of the princes of Europe, whose aim has been levelled at arbitrary power, have constantly set out with uniting, in their own persons, all the branches of magistracy, and all the great offices of state.

I allow, indeed, that the mere hereditary aristocracy of the Italian republics does not exactly answer to the despotic power of the Eastern princes. The number of magistrates sometimes moderates the power of the magistracy; the whole body of the nobles do not always concur in the same design; and different tribunals are erected, that temper each other. Thus, at Venice, the legislative power is in the council, the executive in the pregadi, and the judiciary in the quarantia. But the mischief is, that these different tribunals are composed of magistrates all belonging to the same body; which constitutes almost one and the same power.

The judiciary power ought not to be given to a standing senate; it should be exercised by persons taken from the body of the people,* at certain times of the year, and consistently with a form and manner prescribed by law, in order to erect a tribunal that should last only so long as necessity requires.

By this method, the judicial power, so terrible to mankind, not being annexed to any particular state Edition: current; Page: [201] or profession, becomes, as it were, invisible. People have not then the judges continually present to their view; they fear the office, but not the magistrate.

In accusations of a deep and criminal nature, it is proper the person accused should have the privilege of choosing, in some measure, his judges, in concurrence with the law; or, at least, he should have a right to except against so great a number, that the remaining part may be deemed his own choice.

The other two powers may be given rather to magistrates or permanent bodies, because they are not exercised on any private subject; one being no more than the general will of the state, and the other the execution of that general will.

But, though the tribunals ought not to be fixt, the judgements ought; and to such a degree, as to be ever conformable to the letter of the law. Were they to be the private opinion of the judge, people would then live in society without exactly knowing the nature of their obligations.

The judges ought likewise to be of the same rank as the accused, or, in other words, his peers; to the end, that he may not imagine he is fallen into the hands of persons inclined to treat him with rigour.

If the legislature leaves the executive power in possession of a right to imprison those subjects who can give security for their good behaviour, there is an end of liberty; unless they are taken up in order to answer, without delay, to a capital crime; in which case they are really free, being subject only to the power of the law.

But, should the legislature think itself in danger, by some secret conspiracy against the state, or by a correspondence with a foreign enemy, it might authorize the executive power, for a short and limited time, to imprison suspected persons, who, in that Edition: current; Page: [202] case, would lose their liberty only for a while, to preserve it for ever.

And this is the only reasonable method that can be substituted to the tyrannical magistracy of the Ephori, and to the state inquisitors of Venice, who are also despotical.

As, in a country of liberty, every man who is supposed a free agent ought to be his own governor, the legislative power should reside in the whole body of the people. But, since this is impossible in large states, and in small ones is subject to many inconveniences, it is fit the people should transact by their representatives what they cannot transact by themselves.

The inhabitants of a particular town are much better acquainted with its wants and interests than with those of other places; and are better judges of the capacity of their neighbours than of that of the rest of their countrymen. The members, therefore, of the legislature should not be chosen from the general body of the nation; but it is proper, that, in every considerable place, a representative should be elected by the inhabitants.

The great advantage of representatives is, their capacity of discussing public affairs. For this, the people collectively are extremely unfit, which is one of the chief inconveniences of a democracy.

It is not at all necessary that the representatives, who have received a general instruction from their constituents, should wait to be directed on each particular affair, as is practised in the diets of Germany. True it is, that, by this way of proceeding, the speeches of the deputies might, with greater propriety, be called the voice of the nation; but, on the other hand, this would occasion infinite delays; would give each deputy a power of controlling the assembly; Edition: current; Page: [203] and, on the most urgent and pressing occasions, the wheels of government might be stopped by the caprice of a single person.

When the deputies, as Mr. Sidney well observes, represent a body of people, as in Holland, they ought to be accountable to their constituents; but it is a different thing in England, where they are deputed by boroughs.

All the inhabitants of the several districts ought to have a right of voting at the election of a representative, except such as are in so mean a situation as to be deemed to have no will of their own.

One great fault there was in most of the ancient republics, that the people had a right to active resolutions, such as require some execution, a thing of which they are absolutely incapable. They ought to have no share in the government but for the choosing of representatives, which is within their reach. For, though few can tell the exact degree of men’s capacities, yet there are none but are capable of knowing, in general, whether the person they choose is better qualified than most of his neighbours.

Neither ought the representative body to be chosen for the executive part of government, for which it is not so fit; but for the enacting of laws, or to see whether the laws in being are duly executed; a thing suited to their abilities, and which none indeed but themselves can properly perform.

In such a state, there are always persons distinguished by their birth, riches, or honours: but, were they to be confounded with the common people, and to have only the weight of a single vote, like the rest, the common liberty would be their slavery, and they would have no interest in supporting it, as most of the popular resolutions would be against them. The share they have, therefore, in the legislature ought to Edition: current; Page: [204] be proportioned to their other advantages in the state; which happens only when they form a body that has a right to check the licentiousness of the people, as the people have a right to oppose any encroachment of theirs.

The legislative power is, therefore, committed to the body of the nobles, and to that which represents the people; each having their assemblies and deliberations apart, each their separate views and interests.

Of the three powers abovementioned, the judiciary is, in some measure, next to nothing: there remain, therefore, only two: and, as these have need of a regulating power to moderate them, the part of the legislative body composed of the nobility is extremely proper for this purpose.

The body of the nobility ought to be hereditary. In the first place, it is so in its own nature; and, in the next, there must be a considerable interest to preserve its privileges: privileges, that, in themselves, are obnoxious to popular envy, and of course, in a free state, are always in danger.

But, as an hereditary power might be tempted to pursue its own particular interests, and forget those of the people, it is proper, that, where a singular advantage may be gained by corrupting the nobility, as in the laws relating to the supplies, they should have no other share in the legislation than the power of rejecting, and not that of resolving.

By the power of resolving, I mean, the right of ordaining by their own authority, or of amending what has been ordained by others. By the power of rejecting, I would be understood to mean, the right of annulling a resolution taken by another; which was the power of the tribunes at Rome. And, though the person possessed of the privilege of rejecting may likewise have the right of approving, yet this approbation Edition: current; Page: [205] passes for no more than a declaration that he intends to make no use of his privilege of rejecting, and is derived from that very privilege.

The executive power ought to be in the hands of a monarch, because this branch of government, having need of dispatch, is better administered by one than by many: on the other hand, whatever depends on the legislative power, is oftentimes better regulated by many than by a single person.

But, if there were no monarch, and the executive power should be committed to a certain number of persons, selected from the legislative body, there would be an end of liberty, by reason the two powers would be united; as the same persons would sometimes possess, and would be always able to possess, a share in both.

Were the legislative body to be a considerable time without meeting, this would likewise put an end to liberty. For, of two things, one would naturally follow; either that there would be no longer any legislative resolutions, and then the state would fall into anarchy; or that these resolutions would be taken by the executive power, which would render it absolute.

It would be needless for the legislative body to continue always assembled. This would be troublesome to the representative, and moreover would cut out too much work for the executive power, so as to take off its attention to its office, and oblige it to think only of defending its own prerogatives and the right it has to execute.

Again, were the legislative body to be always assembled, it might happen to be kept up only by filling the places of the deceased members with new representatives; and, in that case, if the legislative body were once corrupted, the evil would be past all Edition: current; Page: [206] remedy. When different legislative bodies succeed one another, the people, who have a bad opinion of that which is actually sitting, may reasonably entertain some hopes of the next: but, were it to be always the same body, the people, upon seeing it once corrupted, would no longer expect any good from its laws; and, of course, they would either become desperate or fall into a state of indolence.

The legislative body should not meet of itself. For a body is supposed to have no will but when it is met: and besides, were it not to meet unanimously, it would be impossible to determine which was really the legislative body, the part assembled, or the other. And, if it had a right to prorogue itself, it might happen never to be prorogued; which would be extremely dangerous, in case it should ever attempt to encroach on the executive power. Besides, there are seasons (some more proper than others) for assembling the legislative body: it is fit, therefore, that the executive power should regulate the time of meeting, as well as the duration, of those assemblies, according to the circumstances and exigences of a state, known to itself.

Were the executive power not to have a right of restraining the encroachments of the legislative body, the latter would become despotic: for, as it might arrogate to itself what authority it pleased, it would soon destroy all the other powers.

But it is not proper, on the other hand, that the legislative power should have a right to stay the executive. For, as the execution has its natural limits, it is useless to confine it: besides, the executive power is generally employed in momentary operations. The power, therefore, of the Roman tribunes was faulty, as it put a stop not only to the legislation, Edition: current; Page: [207] but likewise to the executive part of government; which was attended with infinite mischiefs.

But, if the legislative power, in a free state, has no right to stay the executive, it has a right, and ought to have the means, of examining in what manner its laws have been executed; an advantage which this government has over that of Crete and Sparta, where the Cosmi and the Ephori gave no account of their administration.

But, whatever may be the issue of that examination, the legislative body ought not to have a power of arraigning the person, nor, of course, the conduct, of him who is entrusted with the executive power. His person should be sacred, because, as it is necessary, for the good of the state, to prevent the legislative body from rendering themselves arbitrary, the moment he is accused or tried there is an end of liberty.

In this case, the state would be no longer a monarchy, but a kind of republic, though not a free government. But, as the person, intrusted with the executive power, cannot abuse it without bad counsellors, and such as hate the laws as ministers, though the laws protect them, as subjects these men may be examined and punished: an advantage which this government has over that of Gnidus, where the law allowed of no such thing as calling the Amymones* to an account, even after their administration; and therefore the people could never obtain any satisfaction for the injuries done them.

Though, in general, the judiciary power ought not to be united with any part of the legislative, yet Edition: current; Page: [208] this is liable to three exceptions, founded on the particular interest of the party accused.

The great are always obnoxious to popular envy; and, were they to be judged by the people, they might be in danger from their judges, and would moreover be deprived of the privilege, which the meanest subject is possessed of in a free state, of being tried by his peers. The nobility, for this reason, ought not to be cited before the ordinary courts of judicature, but before that part of the legislature which is composed of their own body.

It is possible that the law, which is clear-sighted in one sense, and blind in another, might, in some cases, be too severe. But, as we have already observed, the national judges are no more than the mouth that pronounces the words of the law, mere passive beings, incapable of moderating either its force or rigour. That part, therefore, of the legislative body, which we have just now observed to be a necessary tribunal on another occasion, is also a necessary tribunal in this: it belongs to its supreme authority to moderate the law in favour of the law itself, by mitigating the sentence.

It might also happen, that a subject, intrusted with the administration of public affairs, may infringe the rights of the people, and be guilty of crimes which the ordinary magistrates either could not, or would not, punish. But, in general, the legislative power cannot try causes; and much less can it try this particular case, where it represents the party aggrieved, which is the people. It can only, therefore, impeach. But before what court shall it bring its impeachment? Must it go and demean itself before the ordinary tribunals, which are its inferiors, and, being composed moreover of men who are chosen from the people as well as itself, will naturally Edition: current; Page: [209] be swayed by the authority of so powerful an accuser? No: in order to preserve the dignity of the people and the security of the subject, the legislative part which represents the people must bring in its charge before the legislative part which represents the nobility, who have neither the same interests nor the same passions.

Here is an advantage which this government has over most of the ancient republics where this abuse prevailed, that the people were at the same time both judge and accuser.

The executive power, pursuant to what has been already said, ought to have a share in the legislature by the power of rejecting; otherwise it would soon be stripped of its prerogative. But, should the legislative power usurp a share of the executive, the latter would be equally undone.

If the prince were to have a part in the legislature by the power of resolving, liberty would be lost. But, as it is necessary he should have a share in the legislature for the support of his own prerogative, this share must consist in the power of rejecting.

The change of government at Rome was owing to this, that neither the senate, who had one part of the executive power, nor the magistrates, who were entrusted with the other, had the right of rejecting, which was entirely lodged in the people.

Here, then, is the fundamental constitution of the government we are treating of. The legislative body being composed of two parts, they check one another by the mutual privilege of rejecting. They are both restrained by the executive power, as the executive is by the legislative.

These three powers should naturally form a state of repose or inaction: but, as there is a necessity for Edition: current; Page: [210] movement in the course of human affairs, they are forced to move, but still in concert.

As the executive power has no other part in the legislative than the privilege of rejecting, it can have no share in the public debates. It is not even necessary that it should propose; because, as it may always disapprove of the resolutions that shall be taken, it may likewise reject the decisions on those proposals which were made against its will.

In some ancient commonwealths, where public debates were carried on by the people in a body, it was natural for the executive power to propose and debate in conjunction with the people; otherwise their resolutions must have been attended with a strange confusion.

Were the executive power to determine the raising of public money otherwise than by giving its confent, liberty would be at an end; because it would become legislative in the most important point of legislation.

If the legislative power were to settle the subsidies, not from year to year, but for ever, it would run the risk of losing its liberty, because the executive power would be no longer dependent; and, when once it was possessed of such a perpetual right, it would be a matter of indifference whether it held it of itself or of another. The same may be said if it should come to a resolution of intrusting, not an annual, but a perpetual, command of the fleets and armies to the executive power.

To prevent the executive power from being able to oppress, it is requisite that the armies with which it is intrusted should consist of the people, and have the same spirit as the people, as was the case at Rome till the time of Marius. To obtain this end, there are only two ways; either that the persons Edition: current; Page: [211] employed in the army should have sufficient property to answer for their conduct to their fellow-subjects, and be enlisted only for a year, as was customary at Rome; or, if there should be a standing-army composed chiefly of the most despicable part of the nation, the legislative power should have a right to disband them as soon as it pleased; the soldiers should live in common with the rest of the people; and no separate camp, barracks, or fortress, should be suffered.

When once an army is established, it ought not to depend immediately on the legislative, but on the executive, power; and this from the very nature of the thing, its business consisting more in action than deliberation.

It is natural for mankind to set a higher value upon courage than timidity, on activity than prudence, on strength than counsel. Hence the army will ever despise a senate, and respect their own officers: they will naturally slight the orders sent them by a body of men whom they look upon as cowards, and therefore unworthy to command them: so that, as soon as the troops depend entirely on the legislative body, it becomes a military government; and, if the contrary has ever happened, it has been owing to some extraordinary circumstances. It is because the army was always kept divided; it is because it was composed of several bodies, that depended each on a particular province; it is because the capital towns were strong places, defended by their natural situation, and not garrisoned with regular troops. Holland, for instance, is still safer than Venice; she might drown or starve the revolted troops; for, as they are not quartered in towns capable of furnishing them with necessary subsistence, this subsistence is of course precarious.

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In perusing the admirable treatise of Tacitus on the manners of the Germans,* we find it is from that nation the English have borrowed the idea of their political government. This beautiful system was invented first in the woods.

As all human things have an end, the state we are speaking of will lose its liberty, will perish. Have not Rome, Sparta, and Carthage, perished? It will perish when the legislative power shall be more corrupt than the executive.

It is not my business to examine whether the English actually enjoy this liberty, or not. Sufficient it is for my purpose to observe, that it is established by their laws; and I inquire no farther.

Neither do I pretend by this to undervalue other governments, nor to say that this extreme political liberty ought to give uneasiness to those who have only a moderate share of it. How should I have any such design; I who think that even the highest refinement of reason is not always desirable, and that mankind generally find their account better in mediums than in extremes?

Harrington, in his Oceana, has also enquired into the utmost degree of liberty to which the constitution of a state may be carried. But, of him, indeed, it may be said, that, for want of knowing the nature of real liberty, he busied himself in pursuit of an imaginary one; and that he built a Chalcedon, though he had a Byzantium before his eyes.

CHAP. VII.: Of the Monarchies we are acquainted with.

THE monarchies we are acquainted with have not, like that we have been speaking of, liberty for Edition: current; Page: [213] their direct view: the only aim is the glory of the subject, of the state, and of the sovereign. But from hence there results a spirit of liberty, which, in those states, is capable of archieving as great things, and of contributing as much, perhaps, to happiness, as liberty itself.

Here the three powers are not distributed and founded on the model of the constitution above-mentioned: they have each a particular distribution, according to which they border more or less on political liberty; and, if they did not border upon it, monarchy would degenerate into despotic government.

CHAP. VIII.: Why the Ancients had not a clear Idea of Monarchy.

THE ancients had no notion of a government founded on a body of nobles, and much less on a legislative body composed of the representatives of the people. The republics of Greece and Italy were cities that had each their own form of government, and convened their subjects within their walls. Before Rome had swallowed up all the other republics, there was scarce any where a king to be found, no, not in Italy, Gaul, Spain, or Germany; they were all petty states or republics. Even Africa itself was subject to a great commonwealth, and Asia Minor was occupied by Greek colonies. There was, therefore, no instance of deputies of towns or assemblies of the states: one must have gone as far as Persia to find a monarchy.

I am not ignorant that there were confederate republics, in which several towns sent deputies to an assembly; but I affirm there was no monarchy on that model.

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The first plan, therefore, of the monarchies we are acquainted with was thus formed. The German nations, that conquered the Roman empire, were certainly a free people. Of this we may be convinced by only reading Tacitus On the Manners of the Germans. The conquerors spread themselves over all the country; living mostly in the fields, and very little in towns. When they were in Germany, the whole nation was able to assemble. This they could no longer do, when dispersed through the conquered provinces. And yet, as it was necessary that the nation should deliberate on public affairs, pursuant to their usual method before the conquest, they had recourse to representative. Such is the origin of the Gothic government amongst us. At first, it was mixt with aristocracy and monarchy; a mixture attended with this inconveniency, that the common people were bond-men. The custom afterwards succeeded of granting letters of infranchisement, and was soon followed by so perfect a harmony between the civil liberty of the people, the privileges of the nobility and clergy, and the prince’s prerogative, that I really think there never was in the world a government so well tempered as that of each part of Europe, so long as it lasted. Surprizing, that the corruption of the government of a conquering nation should have given birth to the best species of constitution that could possibly be imagined by man!

CHAP. IX.: Aristotle’s Manner of thinking.

ARISTOTLE is greatly puzzled in treating of monarchy*. He makes five species; and he does Edition: current; Page: [215] not distinguish them by the form of constitution, but by things merely accidental, as the virtues and vices of the prince; or by things extrinsecal, such as tyranny usurped or inherited.

Among the number of monarchies, he ranks the Persian empire and the kingdom of Sparta. But is it not evident that the one was a despotic state and the other a republic?

The ancients, who were strangers to the distribution of the three powers in the government of a single person, could never form a just idea of monarchy.

CHAP. X.: What other Politicians thought.

TO temper monarchy, Arybas, king of Epirus, found no other remedy than a republic. The Molossi, not knowing how to limit the same power, made two kings; by which means the state was weakened more than the prerogative: they wanted rivals, and they created enemies.

Two kings were tolerable no where but at Sparta; here they did not form, but were only a part of, the constitution.

CHAP. XI.: Of the Kings of the heroic Times of Greece.

IN the heroic times of Greece, a kind of monarchy arose that was not of long duration. Those, who had been inventors of arts, who had fought in their country’s cause, who had established societies, or distributed lands among the people, obtained the Edition: current; Page: [216] regal power, and transmitted it to their children. They were kings, priests, and judges. This was one of the five species of monarchy mentioned by Aristotle; and the only one that can give us any idea of the monarchical constitution. But the plan of this constitution is opposite to that of our modern monarchies.

The three powers were there distributed in such a manner, that the people were the legislature*, and the king had the executive, together with the judiciary, power; whereas, in modern monarchies, the prince is invested with the executive and legislative powers, or, at least, with part of the legislative, but does not act in a judiciary capacity.

In the government of the kings of the heroic times, the three powers were ill-distributed. Hence those monarchies could not long subsist. For, as soon as the people got the legislative power into their hands, they might, as they every where did, upon the very least caprice, subvert the regal authority.

Among a free people, possessed of the legislative power, and enclosed within walls, where every thing tending towards oppression appears still more odious, it is the master-piece of legislation to know where to place properly the judiciary power. But it could not be in worse hands than in those of the person to whom the executive power had been already committed. From that very instant the monarch became terrible. But, at the same time, as he had no share in the legislature, he could make no defence against it; thus his power was, in one sense, too great, in another, too little.

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They had not as yet discovered that the true function of a prince was to appoint judges, and not to sit as judge himself. The opposite policy rendered the government of a single person insupportable. Hence all these kings were banished. The Greeks had no notion of the proper distribution of the three powers in the government of one person; they could see it only in that of many; and this kind of constitution they distinguished by the name of polity.

CHAP. XII.: Of the Government of the Kings of Rome, and in what Manner the three Powers were there distributed.

THE government of the kings of Rome had some relation to that of the kings of the heroic times of Greece. Its subversion, like the latter’s, was owing to its general defect, though, in its own particular nature, it was exceeding good.

In order to give an adequate idea of this government, I shall distinguish that of the first five kings, that of Servius Tullus, and that of Tarquin.

The crown was elective; and, under the five first kings, the senate had the greatest share in the election.

Upon the king’s decease, the senate examined whether they should continue the established form of government. If they thought proper to continue it, they named a magistrate taken from their own body, who chose a king: the senate were to approve of the election, the people to confirm it, and the augurs to declare the approbation of the gods. If any of these three conditions were wanting, they were obliged to proceed to another election.

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The constitution was a mixture of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy; and such was the harmony of power, that there was no instance of jealousy or dispute in the first reigns. The king commanded the armies, and had the direction of the sacrifices; he had the power of determining civil and criminal§ causes; he called the senate together, convened the people, laid some affairs before the latter, and regulated the rest with the senate*.

The authority of the senate was very great. The kings oftentimes pitched upon senators with whom they sat in judgement; and they never laid any affair before the people till it had been previously debated in that august assembly.

The people had the right of choosing magistrates, of consenting to the new laws, and, with the king’s permission, of making war and peace: but they had not the judicial power. When Tullus Hostilius referred the trial of Horatius to the people, he had his particular reasons, which may be seen in Dionysius Halicarnasseus§§.

The constitution altered under∥∥ Servius Tullus. The senate had no share in his election; he caused himself to be proclaimed by the people; he resigned the power of hearing civil causes, reserving none to himself but those of a criminal nature; he laid all Edition: current; Page: [219] affairs directly before the people; eased them of the taxes, and imposed the whole burthen on the patricians. Hence, in proportion as he weakened the regal, together with the senatorian, power, he augmented that of the plebeians*.

Tarquin would neither be chosen by the senate nor by the people: he considered Servius Tullus as an usurper, and seized the crown as his hereditary right. He destroyed most of the senators; those who remained he never consulted; nor did he even so much as summon them to assist at his decisions. Thus his power increased: but the odium of that power received a new addition, by usurping also the authority of the people, against whose consent he enacted several laws. The three powers were, by these means, re-united in his person; but the people, at a critical minute, recollected that they were legislators, and there was an end of Tarquin.

CHAP. XIII.: General Reflections on the State of Rome after the Expulsion of its Kings.

IT is impossible to be tired of so agreeable a subject as ancient Rome: thus strangers, at present, leave the modern palaces of that celebrated capital to visit the ruins; and thus the eye, after recreating itself with the view of flowery meads, is pleased with the wild prospect of rocks and mountains.

The patrician families were at all times possessed of great privileges. These distinctions, which were considerable under the kings, became much more important after their expulsion. Hence arose the Edition: current; Page: [220] jealousy of the plebeians, who wanted to reduce them. The contest struck at the constitution without weakening the government; for it was very indifferent of what family were the magistrates, provided the magistracy preserved its authority.

An elective monarchy, like that of Rome, necessarily supposeth a powerful aristocratic body to support it; without which it changes immediately into tyranny or into a popular state. But a popular state has no need of this distinction of families to maintain itself. To this it was owing that the patricians, who were a necessary part of the constitution under the regal government, became a superfluous branch under the consuls; the people could suppress them without hurting themselves, and change the constitution without corrupting it.

After Servius Tullus had reduced the patricians, it was natural that Rome should fall from the regal hands into those of the people. But the people had no occasion to be afraid of relapsing under a regal power by reducing the patricians.

A state may alter two different ways; either by the amendment, or by the corruption, of the constitution. If it has preserved its principles, and the constitution changes, this is owing to its amendment; if, upon changing the constitution, its principles are lost, this is because it has been corrupted.

The government of Rome, after the expulsion of the kings, should naturally have been a democracy. The people had already the legislative power in their hands; it was their unanimous consent that had expelled the Tarquins; and, if they had not continued steady to those principles, the Tarquins might easily have been restored. To pretend that their design in expelling them was to render themselves slaves to a few families, is quite absurd. The situation, therefore, Edition: current; Page: [221] of things required that Rome should have formed a democracy, and yet this did not happen. There was a necessity that the power of the principal families should be tempered, and that the laws should have a bias to democracy.

The prosperity of states is frequently greater, in the insensible transition from one constitution to another, than in either of those constitutions. Then it is that all the springs of government are upon the stretch; that the citizens assert their claims; that friendships or enmities are formed amongst the jarring parties; and that there is a noble emulation between those who defend the ancient, and those who are strenuous in promoting the new, constitution.

CHAP. XIV.: In what Manner the Distribution of the three Powers began to change, after the Expulsion of the Kings.

THERE were four things that greatly prejudiced the liberty of Rome. The patricians had engrossed to themselves all public employments whatever; an exorbitant power was annexed to the consulate; the people were often insulted; and, in fine, they had scarce any influence at all left in the public suffrages. These four abuses were redressed by the people.

1st. It was regulated, that the plebeians might aspire to some magistracies; and by degrees they were rendered capable of them all, except that of interrex.

2d. the consulate was dissolved into several other magistracies: prætors were created, on whom the power was conferred of trying private causes; quæstors* were nominated for determining those of a criminal Edition: current; Page: [222] nature, ædiles were established for the civil administration; treasurers were made for the management of the public money; and, in fine, by the creation of censors, the consuls were divested of that part of the legislative power which regulates the morals of the citizens, and the transient polity of the different bodies of the state. The chief privileges left them were, to preside in the great meetings of the people, to assemble the senate, and to command the armies.

3d. The sacred laws appointed tribunes, who had a power of checking the encroachments of the patricians, and prevented not only private, but likewise public, injuries.

In fine, the plebeians increased their influence in the general assemblies. The people of Rome were divided in three different manners; by centuries, by curiæ, and by tribes; and, whenever they gave their votes, they were convened one of those three ways.

In the first, the patricians, the leading men, the rich, and the senate, which was very near the same thing, had almost the whole authority; in the second they had less, and less still in the third.

The division into centuries was a division rather of estates and fortunes than of persons. The whole people were distributed into a hundred and ninety-three centuries, which had each a single vote. The patricians and leading men composed the first ninety-eight centuries; and the other ninety-five consisted of the remainder of the citizens. In this division, therefore, the patricians were masters of the suffrages.

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In the division into curiæ§, the patricians had not the same advantages: some, however, they had; for it was necessary to consult the augurs, who were under the direction of the patricians; and no proposal could be made there to the people unless it had been previously laid before the senate, and approved of by a senatus consultum. But, in the division into tribes, they had nothing to do either with the augurs or with the decrees of the senate; and the patricians were excluded.

Now, the people endeavoured constantly to have those meetings by curiæ which had been customary by centuries; and by tribes, those they used to have before by curiæ: by which means, the direction of public affairs soon devolved from the patricians to the plebeians.

Thus, when the plebeians obtained the power of trying the patricians, a power which commenced in the affair of Coriolanus, they insisted upon assembling by tribes*, and not by centuries: and, when the new magistracies of tribunes and ædiles were established in favour of the people, the latter obtained that they should meet by curiæ, in order to nominate them; and, after their power was quite settled, they gained so far their point as to assemble by tribes, to proceed to this nomination.

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CHAP. XV.: In what Manner Rome, in the flourishing State of that Republic, suddenly lost its Liberty.

IN the heat of the contests between the patricians and plebeians, the latter insisted upon having fixt laws, to the end that the public judgements should no longer be the effects of capricious will or arbitrary power. The senate, after a great deal of resistance, acquiesced, and decemvirs were nominated to compose those laws. It was thought proper to grant them an extraordinary power, because they were to give laws to parties whose views and interests it was almost impossible to unite. The nomination of all magistrates was suspended; and the decemvirs were chosen in the comitia sole administrators of the republic. Thus they found themselves invested with the consular and with the tribunitian power. By one, they had the privilege of assembling the senate; by the other, that of convening the people: but they assembled neither senate nor people. Ten men only of the republic had the whole legislative, the whole executive, and the whole judiciary, power. Rome saw herself enslaved by as cruel a tyranny as that of Tarquin. When Tarquin trampled on the liberty of that city, she was seized with indignation at the power he had usurped; when the decemvirs exercised every act of oppression, she was astonished at the extraordinary power she had granted.

What a strange system of tyranny! A tyranny carried on by men who had obtained the political and military power merely from their knowledge in civil affairs; and who, at that very juncture, stood in need of the courage of those citizens to protect them abroad, who so tamely submitted to domestic oppression.

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The spectacle of Virginia’s death, whom her father immolated to chastity and liberty, put an end to the power of the decemvirs. Every man became free, because every man had been injured: each shewed himself a citizen, because each had the tie of a parent. The senate and the people resumed a liberty which had been committed to ridiculous tyrants.

No people were so easily moved with public spectacles as the Romans. That of the impurpled body of Lucretia put an end to the regal government. The debtor, who appeared in the forum covered with wounds, caused an alteration in the republic. The decemvirs owed their expulsion to the tragedy of Virginia. To condemn Manlius, it was necessary to keep the people from seeing the Capitol. Cæsar’s bloody garment flung Rome again into slavery.

CHAP. XVI.: Of the legislative Power in the Roman Republic.

THERE were no rights to contest under the decemvirs; but, upon the restoration of liberty, jealousies revived; and, so long as the patricians had any privileges left, they were sure to be stripped of them by the plebeians.

The mischief would not have been so great had the plebeians been satisfied with this success; but they also injured the patricians as citizens. When the people assembled by curiæ, or centuries, they were composed of senators, patricians, and plebeians. In their disputes the plebeians gained this point, that they alone, without patricians or senate, should enact the laws called plebiscita; and Edition: current; Page: [226] the assemblies, in which they were made, had the name of comitia by tribes. Thus there were cases in which the patricians* had no share in the legislative power, but were subject to the legislation of another body of the state. This was the extravagance of liberty. The people, to establish a democracy, acted against the very principles of that government. One would have imagined that so exorbitant a power must have destroyed the authority of the senate. But Rome had admirable institutions. Two of these were especially remarkable; one by which the legislative power of the people was established, and the other by which it was limited.

The censors, and, before them, the consuls, modelled and created, as it were, every five years, the body of the people: they exercised the legislation on the very part that was possessed of the legislative power. “Tiberius Gracchus (says Cicero) caused the free-men to be admitted into the tribes, not by the force of his eloquence, but by a word, by a gesture; which had he not effected, the republic, whose drooping head we are at present scarce able to uphold, would not even exist.”

On the other hand, the senate had the power of rescuing, as it were, the republic out of the hands of the people, by creating a dictator, before whom the sovereign bowed his head, and the most popular laws were silent.§

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CHAP. XVII.: Of the executive Power in the same Republic.

JEALOUS as the people were of their legislative power, yet they had no great uneasiness about the executive. This they left almost intirely to the senate and to the consuls, reserving scarce any thing more to themselves than the right of choosing the magistrates, and of confirming the acts of the senate and of the generals.

Rome, whose passion was to command, whose ambition was to conquer, whose commencement and progress were one continued usurpation, had constantly affairs of the greatest weight upon her hands; her enemies were ever conspiring against her, or she against her enemies.

As she was obliged to behave on the one hand with heroic courage, and on the other with consummate prudence, it was requisite, of course, that the management of affairs should be committed to the senate. Thus the people disputed every branch of the legislative power with the senate, because they were jealous of their liberty; but they had no disputes about the executive, because they were animated with the love of glory.

So great was the share the senate took in the executive power, that, as Polybius informs us, foreign nations imagined that Rome was an aristocracy. The senate disposed of the public money, and farmed out the revenue; they were arbiters of the affairs of their allies; they determined war or peace, and directed, in this respect, the consuls; they fixed the number of the Roman and of the allied troops, disposed of the provinces and armies to Edition: current; Page: [228] the consuls or prætors, and, upon the expiration of the year of command, had the power of appointing successors; they decreed triumphs, received and sent embassies; they nominated, rewarded, punished, and were judges of kings, declared them allies of the Roman people, or stripped them of that title.

The consuls levied the troops which they were to carry into the field; had the command of the forces by sea and land; disposed of the forces of the allies; were invested with the whole power of the republic in the provinces; gave peace to the vanquished nations, imposed conditions on them, or referred them to the senate.

In the earliest times, when the people had some share in the affairs relating to war or peace, they exercised rather their legislative than their executive power. They scarce did any thing else but confirm the acts of the kings, and, after their expulsion, those of the consuls or senate. So far were they from being the arbiters of war, that we have instances of its having been often declared, notwithstanding the opposition of the tribunes. But, growing wanton in their prosperity, they increased their executive power. Thus they* created the military tribunes, the nomination of whom, till then, had belonged to the generals; and, some time before the first Punic war, they decreed, that only their own body should have the right of declaring war.

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CHAP. XVIII.: Of the judiciary Power in the Roman Government.

THE judiciary power was given to the people, to the senate, to the magistrates, and to particular judges. We must see in what manner it was distributed, beginning with their civil affairs.

The consuls had the judiciary power after the expulsion of the kings, as the prætors were judges after the consuls. Servius Tullus had divested himself of the power of determining of civil causes, which was not resumed by the consuls, except in some very rare cases, for that reason called extraordinary§. They were satisfied with naming the judges and establishing the several tribunals. By a discourse of Appius Claudius, in Dionysius Halicarnasseus, it appears, that, so early as the 259th year of Rome, this was looked upon as a settled custom among the Romans; and it is not tracing it very high to refer it to Servius Tullus.

Every year, the prætor made a list of such as he chose for the office of judges during his magistracy. A sufficient number was pitched upon for each cause; a custom very near the same as that now practised in England. And what was extremely favourable to liberty* was, the prætor’s fixing the judges with the Edition: current; Page: [230] consent of the parties. The great number of exceptions, that can be made in England, amounts pretty near to this very custom.

The judges decided only the questions* relating to matter of fact: for example, whether a sum of money had been paid or not; whether an act had been committed or not. But, as to questions of law, as these required a certain capacity, they were always carried before the tribunal of the centumvirs§.

The kings reserved to themselves the judgement of criminal affairs, and in this were succeeded by the consuls. It was in consequence of this authority that Brutus put his children, and all those who were concerned in the Tarquinian conspiracy, to death. This was an exorbitant power. The consuls, already invested with the military command, extended the exercise of it even to civil affairs; and their procedures, being stripped of all forms of justice, were rather exertions of violence than legal judgements.

This gave rise to the Valerian law, by which it was made lawful to appeal to the people from every decision of the consuls that endangered the life of a citizen. The consuls had no longer a power of pronouncing sentence in capital cases against a Roman citizen, without the consent of the people.

We see, in the first conspiracy for the restoration of the Tarquins, that the criminals were tried by Brutus the consul; in the second, the senate and comitia were assembled to try them.

The laws, distinguished by the name of sacred, allowed the plebeians the privilege of choosing tribunes; Edition: current; Page: [231] from whence was formed a body, whose pretensions at first were immense. It is hard to determine which was greater, the insolence of the plebeians in demanding, or the condescension of the senate in granting. The Valerian law allowed of appeals to the people; that is, to the people composed of senators, patricians, and plebeians. The plebeians made a law that appeals should be brought before their own body. A question was soon after started, whether the plebeians had a right to try a patrician: this was the subject of a dispute to which the impeachment of Coriolanus gave rise, and which ended with that affair. When Coriolanus was accused by the tribunes before the people, he insisted, contrary to the spirit of the Valerian law, that, as he was a patrician, none but the consuls had a power to try him: on the other hand, the plebeians also, contrary to the spirit of that same law, pretended, that none but their body were empowered to be his judges, and accordingly they pronounced sentence upon him.

This was moderated by the law of the twelve tables; whereby it was ordained, that none but the great assemblies of the people should try a citizen in capital cases. Hence the body of the plebeians, or (which amounts to the very same) the comitia by tribes, had no longer any power of hearing criminal causes, except such as were punished with fines. To inflict a capital punishment, a law was requisite; but, to condemn to a pecuniary mulct, there was occasion only for a plebiscitum.

This regulation of the law of the twelve tables was extremely prudent. It produced an admirable balance between the body of the plebeians and the Edition: current; Page: [232] senate: for, as the full judiciary power of both depended on the greatness of the punishment and the nature of the crime, it was necessary they should both agree.

The Valerian law abolished all the remains of the Roman government any way relative to that of the kings of the heroic times of Greece. The consuls were divested of the power to punish crimes. Though all crimes are public, yet we must distinguish between those which more nearly concern the mutual intercourse of citizens, and those which more immediately interest the state in the relation it bears to its subjects. The first are called private; the second, public. The latter were tried by the people; and, in regard to the former, they named, by particular commission, a quæstor for the prosecution of each crime. The person chosen by the people was frequently one of the magistrates, sometimes a private man. He was called the quæstor of parricide, and is mentioned in the law of the twelve tables.

The quæstor nominated the judge of the question, who drew lots for the judges, and regulated the tribunal, in which he presided.

Here it is proper to observe what share the senate had in the nomination of the quæstor, that we may see how far the two powers were balanced. Sometimes the senate caused a dictator to be chosen, in order to exercise the office of quæstor§; at other times they ordained that the people should be convened by a tribune, with a view of proceeding to Edition: current; Page: [233] the nomination of a quæstor: and, in fine, the people frequently appointed a magistrate to make his report to the senate concerning a particular crime, and to desire them to name a quæstor, as may be seen in the judgement upon Lucius Scipio* in Livy.

In the year of Rome 604, some of these commissions were rendered permanent. All criminal causes were gradually divided into different parts; to which they gave the name of perpetual questions. Different prætors were created, to each of whom some of those questions were assigned. They had a power, conferred upon them for the term of a year, of trying such criminal causes as were any way relative to those questions, and then they were sent to govern their province.

At Carthage the senate of the hundred was composed of judges who enjoyed that dignity for life: But, at Rome, the prætors were annual; and the judges were not even for so long a term, but were nominated for each cause. We have already shewn, in the sixth chapter of this book, how favourable this regulation was to liberty in particular governments.

The judges were chosen from the order of senators, till the time of the Gracchi. Tiberius Gracchus caused a law to pass, that they should be taken from the equestrian order; a change so very considerable, that the tribune boasted of having cut, by one rogation only, the sinews of the senatorian dignity.

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It is necessary to observe, that the three powers may be very well distributed in regard to the liberty of the constitution, though not so well in respect to the liberty of the subject. At Rome the people had the greatest share of the legislative, a part of the executive, and part of the judiciary, power; by which means they had so great a weight in the government, as required some other power to balance it. The senate, indeed, had part of the executive power, and some share of the legislative§; but this was not sufficient to counterbalance the weight of the people. It was necessary that they should partake of the judiciary power; and accordingly they had a share when the judges were chosen from among the senators. But, when the Gracchi deprived the senators of the judicial power, the senate were no longer able to withstand the people. To favour, therefore, the liberty of the subject, they struck at that of the constitution: but the former perished with the latter.

Infinite were the mischiefs that from thence arose. The constitution was changed at a time when the fire of civil discord had scarce left any such thing as a constitution. The knights ceased to be that middle order which united the people to the senate; and the chain of the constitution was broke.

There were even particular reasons against transferring the judiciary power to the equestrian order. The constitution of Rome was founded on this principle, that none should be inlisted as soldiers but such as were men of sufficient property to answer for their conduct to the republic. The knights, as persons of the greatest property, formed the cavalry Edition: current; Page: [235] of the legions. But, when their dignity increased, they refused to serve any longer in that capacity, and another kind of cavalry was obliged to be raised. Thus Marius inlisted all sorts of people into his army, and soon after the republic was lost.*

Besides, the knights were the farmers of the revenue; men whose great rapaciousness increased the public calamities. Instead of giving to such as those the judicial power, they ought to have been constantly under the eye of the judges. This we must say in commendation of the ancient French laws, that they have acted towards the officers of the revenue with as great a diffidence as would be observed between enemies. When the judiciary power at Rome was transferred to the publicans, there was then an end of all virtue, polity, laws, and government.

Of this we find a very ingenuous description in some fragments of Diodorus Siculus and Dio. “Mutius Scevola (says Diodorus) wanted to revive the ancient manners and the laudable custom of sober and frugal living; for his predecessors, having entered into a contract with the farmers of the revenue, who at that time were possessed of the judiciary power at Rome, had infected the province with all manner of corruption. But Scevola made an example of the publicans, and imprisoned those by whom others had been confined.”

Dio informs us, that Publius Rutilius, his lieutenant, was equally obnoxious to the equestrian order, and that, upon his return, they accused him of having received some presents, and condemned him Edition: current; Page: [236] to a fine; upon which he instantly made a cession of his goods. His innocence appeared in this, that he was found to be worth a great deal less than what he was charged with having extorted, and he shewed a just title to what he possessed: but he would not live any longer in the same city with such profligate wretches.

The Italians, says Diodorus again, bought up whole droves of slaves in Sicily, to till their lands, and to take care of their cattle; but refused them a necessary subsistence. These wretches were then forced to go and rob on the highways, armed with lances and clubs, covered with beasts skins, and followed by large mastiffs. Thus the whole province was laid waste, and the inhabitants could not call any thing their own but what was secured by fortresses. There was neither proconsul nor prætor that could or would oppose this disorder, or that presumed to punish these slaves, because they belonged to the knights, who, at Rome, were possessed of the judiciary power§. And yet this was one of the causes of the war of the slaves. But I shall add only one word more. A profession, deaf and inexorable, that can have no other view than lucre, that was always asking and never granting, that impoverished the rich and increased even the misery of the poor; such a profession, I say, should never have been intrusted with the judiciary power at Rome.

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CHAP. XIX.: Of the Government of the Roman Provinces.

SUCH was the distribution of the three powers in Rome. But they were far from being thus distributed in the provinces: liberty prevailed in the center, and tyranny in the extreme parts.

While Rome extended her dominions no farther than Italy, the people were governed as confederates, and the laws of each republic were preserved. But, when she enlarged her conquests, and the senate had no longer an immediate inspection over the provinces, nor the magistrates residing at Rome were any longer capable of governing the empire, they were obliged to send prætors and proconsuls. Then it was that the harmony of the three powers was lost. The persons appointed to that office were intrusted with a power which comprehended that of all the Roman magistracies; nay, even that of the people. They were despotic magistrates, extremely well adapted to the distance of the places to which they were destined. They exercised the three powers; and were, if I may presume to use the expression, the bashaws of the republic.

We have elsewhere observed, that, in a commonwealth, the same magistrate ought to be possessed of the executive power, as well civil as military. Hence a conquering republic can hardly communicate her government, and rule the conquered state according to her own constitution. And, indeed, as the magistrate she sends to govern is invested with the executive power, both civil and military, he must also have the legislative: for who is it that could make laws without him? It is necessary, therefore, that Edition: current; Page: [238] the governor she sends be intrusted with the three powers, as was practised in the Roman provinces.

It is more easy for a monarchy to communicate its government, because the officers it sends have, some the civil, and others the military, executive power; which does not necessarily imply a despotic authority.

It was a privilege of the utmost consequence to a Roman citizen to have none but the people for his judges. Were it not for this, he would have been subject, in the provinces, to the arbitrary power of a proconsul or of a proprætor. The city never felt the tyranny, which was exercised only on conquered nations.

Thus, in the Roman world, as at Sparta, the freemen enjoyed the highest degree of liberty, while those who were slaves laboured under the extremity of servitude.

While the citizens paid taxes they were raised with great justice and equality. The regulation of Servius Tullus was observed, who had distributed the people into six classes, according to their difference of property, and fixed the several shares of the public imposts in proportion to that which each person had in the government. Hence they bore with the greatness of the tax, because of their proportionable greatness of credit; and consoled themselves for the smallness of their credit, because of the smallness of the tax.

There was also another thing worthy of admiration, which is, that, as Servius Tullus’s division into classes was in some measure the fundamental principle of the constitution, it thence followed that an equal levying of the taxes was so connected with this fundamental principle, that the one could not be abolished without the other.

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But, while the city paid the taxes as she pleased, or paid none at all*, the provinces were plundered by the knights, who were the farmers of the public revenue. We have already made mention of their oppressive extortions, with which all history abounds.

“All Asia (says Mithridates) expects me as her deliverer; so great is the hatred which the rapaciousness of the proconsuls, the consiscations made by the officers of the revenue, and the quirks and cavils of judicial proceedings, have excited against the Romans.”

Hence it was that the strength of the provinces did not increase, but rather weakened, the strength of the republic. Hence it was that the provinces looked upon the loss of the liberty of Rome as the epocha of their own freedom.

CHAP. XX.: The End of this Book.

I should be glad to inquire into the distribution of the three powers in all the moderate governments we are acquainted with, in order to calculate the degrees of liberty which each may enjoy. But we must not always exhaust a subject, so as to leave no work at all for the reader. My business is not to make people read, but to make them think.

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CHAP. I.: Idea of this Book.

IT is not sufficient to have treated of political liberty as relative to the constitution; we must examine it likewise in the relation it bears to the subject.

We have observed, that, in the former case, it arises from a certain distribution of the three powers; but, in the latter, we must consider it in another light. It consists in security, or in the opinion people have of their security.

The constitution may happen to be free, and the subject not. The subject may be free, and not the constitution. In those cases the constitution will be free by right, and not in fact; the subject will be free in fact, and not by right.

It is the disposition only of the laws, and even of the fundamental laws, that constitutes liberty in relation to the constitution. But, as it regards the subject, manners, customs, or received examples, may give rise to it, and particular civil laws may encourage it, as we shall presently observe.

Farther; as, in most states, liberty is more checked or depressed than their constitution requires, it is proper to treat of the particular laws that, in each constitution, are apt to assist or check the principle of liberty, which each state is capable of receiving.

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CHAP. II.: Of the Liberty of the Subject.

PHILOSOPHICAL liberty consists in the free exercise of the will; or, at least, if we must speak agreeably to all systems, in an opinion that we have the free exercise of our will. Political liberty consists in security; or, at least, in the opinion that we enjoy security.

This security is never more dangerously attacked than in public or private accusations. It is therefore on the goodness of criminal laws that the liberty of the subject principally depends.

Criminal laws did not receive their full perfection all at once. Even in places where liberty has been most sought after it has not been always found. Aristotle* informs us, that, at Cumæ, the parents of the accuser might be witnesses. So imperfect was the law, under the kings of Rome, that Servius Tullus pronounced sentence against the children of Ancus Martius, who were charged with having assassinated the king his father-in-law. Under the first kings of France, Clotarius made a law, that nobody should be condemned without being heard; which shews that a contrary custom had prevailed in some particular case, or among some barbarous people. It was Charondas that first established penalties against false witnesses. When the subject has no fence to secure his innocence, he has none for his liberty.

The knowledge already acquired in some countries, or that may be hereafter attained in others, Edition: current; Page: [242] concerning the surest rules to be observed in criminal judgements, is more interesting to mankind than any other thing in the world.

Liberty can be founded on the practice of this knowledge only; and, supposing a state to have the best laws imaginable in this respect, a person tried under that state, and condemned to be hanged the next day, would have much more liberty than a bashaw enjoys in Turkey.

CHAP. III.: The same Subject continued.

THOSE laws, which condemn a man to death on the deposition of a single witness, are fatal to liberty. In right reason there should be two; because a witness who affirms, and the accused who denies, make an equal balance, and a third must incline the scale.

The Greeks§ and Romans required one voice more to condemn: but our French laws insist upon two. The Greeks pretend that their custom was established by the Gods*; but this more justly may be said of ours.

CHAP. IV.: That Liberty is favoured by the Nature and Proportion of Punishments.

LIBERTY is in its highest perfection when criminal laws derive each punishment from the particular nature of the crime. There are then no arbitrary decisions; the punishment does not flow from the capriciousness of the legislator, but from the Edition: current; Page: [243] very nature of the thing; and man uses no violence to man.

There are four sorts of crimes. Those of the first species are prejudicial to religion; the second, to morals; the third, to the public tranquility; and the fourth, to the security of the subject. The punishments inflicted for these crimes ought to proceed from the nature of each of these species.

In the class of crimes that concern religion I rank only those which attack it directly, such as all simple sacrileges: for, as to crimes that disturb the exercise of it, they are of the nature of those which prejudice the tranquility or security of the subject, and ought to be referred to those classes.

In order to derive the punishment of simple sacrileges from the nature of the thing, it should consist in depriving people of the advantages conferred by religion, in expelling them out of the temples, in a temporary or perpetual exclusion from the society of the faithful, in shunning their presence, in execrations, comminations, and conjurations.

In things that prejudice the tranquility or security of the state, secret actions are subject to human jurisdiction: but, in those which offend the Deity, where there is no public act, there can be no criminal matter; the whole passes betwixt man and God, who knows the measure and time of his vengeance. Now, if magistrates, confounding things, should inquire also into hidden sacrileges, this inquisition would be directed to a kind of action that does not at all require it; the liberty of the subject would be subverted by arming the zeal of timorous, as well as of presumptuous, consciences against him.

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The mischief arises from a notion, which some people have entertained, of revenging the cause of the Deity. But we must honour the Deity, and leave him to avenge his own cause. And, indeed, were we to be directed by such a notion, where would be the end of punishments? If human laws are to avenge the cause of an infinite Being, they will be directed by his infinity, and not by the weakness, ignorance, and caprice, of man.

An historian of Provence relates a fact, which furnishes us with an excellent description of the consequences that may arise, in weak capacities, from the notion of avenging the Deity’s cause. A Jew was accused of having blasphemed against the virgin Mary; and, upon conviction, was condemned to be flead alive. A strange spectacle was then exhibited: gentlemen masked, with knives in their hands, mounted the scaffold, and drove away the executioner, in order to be the avengers themselves of the honour of the blessed virgin. — I do not here choose to anticipate the reflections of the reader.

The second class consists of those crimes which are prejudicial to morals. Such is the violation of public or private continence; that is, of the police directing the manner in which the pleasure annexed to the conjunction of the sexes is to be enjoyed. The punishment of those crimes ought to be also derived from the nature of the thing. The privation of such advantages as society has attached to the purity of morals, fines, shame, necessity of concealment, public infamy, expulsion from home and society, and, in fine, all such punishments as belong to a corrective jurisdiction, are sufficient to repress the temerity of the two sexes. In effect, these things are Edition: current; Page: [245] less founded on malice than on carelessness and self-neglect.

We speak here of none but crimes which relate merely to morals; for, as to those that are also prejudicial to the public security, such as rapes, they belong to the fourth species.

The crimes of the third class are those which disturb the public tranquility. The punishments ought therefore to be derived from the nature of the thing, and to be relative to this tranquility; such as imprisonment, exile, and other like chastisements, proper for reclaiming turbulent spirits and obliging them to conform to the established order.

I confine those crimes that injure the public tranquility to things which imply a bare offence against the police; for, as to those which, by disturbing the public peace, attack at the same time the security of the subject, they ought to be ranked in the fourth class.

The punishments inflicted upon the latter crimes are such as are properly distinguished by that name. They are a kind of retaliation, by which the society refules security to a member who has actually or intentionally deprived another of his security. These punishments are derived from the nature of the thing, founded on reason, and drawn from the very source of good and evil. A man deserves death when he has violated the security of the subject so far as to deprive, or attempt to deprive, another man of his life. This punishment of death is the remedy, as it were, of a sick society. When there is a breach of security with regard to property, there may be some reasons for inflicting a capital punishment: but it would be much better, and perhaps more natural, that crimes committed against the security of property should be punished with the loss Edition: current; Page: [246] of property; and this ought indeed to be the case if mens fortunes were common or equal. But, as those who have no property of their own are generally the readiest to attack that of others, it has been found necessary, instead of a pecuniary, to substitute a corporal, punishment.

All that I have here advanced is founded in nature, and extremely favourable to the liberty of the subject.

CHAP. V.: Of certain Accusations that require particular Moderation and Prudence.

IT is an important maxim, that we ought to be very circumspect in the prosecution of witchcraft and heresy. The accusation of these two crimes may be vastly injurious to liberty, and productive of infinite oppression, if the legislator knows not how to set bounds to it. For, as it does not directly point at a person’s actions, but at his character, it grows dangerous in proportion to the ignorance of the people; and then a man is sure to be always in danger, because the most unexceptionable conduct, the purest morals, and the constant practice of every duty in life, are not a sufficient security against the suspicion of his being guilty of the like crimes.

Under Manuel Comnenus, the protestator* was accused of having conspired against the emperor, and of having employed, for that purpose, some secrets that render men invisible. It is mentioned, in the life of this emperor, that Aaron was detected, as he was poring over a book of Solomon’s, the Edition: current; Page: [247] reading of which was sufficient to conjure up whole legions of devils. Now, by supposing a power in witchcraft to rouse the infernal spirits to arms, people look upon a man whom they call a sorcerer as the person in the world most likely to disturb and subvert society; and, of course, they are disposed to punish him with the utmost severity.

But their indignation increases when witchcraft is supposed to have a power of subverting religion. The history of Constantinople* informs us, that, in consequence of a revelation, made to a bishop, of a miracle’s having ceased because of the magic practices of a certain person, both that person and his son were put to death. On how many surprizing things did not this single crime depend! — That revelations should not be uncommon; that the bishop should be favoured with one; that it was real; that there had been a miracle in the case; that this miracle had ceased; that there was an art magic; that magic could subvert religion; that this particular person was a magician; and, in fine, that he had committed that magic act.

The emperor Theodorus Lascaris attributed his illness to witchcraft. Those who were accused of this crime had no other resource left than to handle a red hot iron without being hurt. Thus, among the Greeks, a person ought to have been a sorcerer, to be able to clear himself of the imputation of witchcraft. Such was the excess of their stupidity, that, to the most dubious crime in the world, they joined the most dubious proofs of innocence.

Under the reign of Philip the Long the Jews were expelled from France, being accused of having poisoned the springs with their lepers. So absurd an Edition: current; Page: [248] accusation ought to make us doubt of all those that are founded on public hatred.

I have not here asserted that heresy ought not to be punished; I said only that we ought to be extremely circumspect in punishing it.

CHAP. VI.: Of the Crime against Nature.

GOD forbid that I should have the least inclination to diminish the public horror against a crime which religion, morality, and civil government, equally condemn. It ought to be proscribed were it only for its communicating to one sex the weaknesses of the other, and for leading people, by a scandalous prostitution of their youth, to an ignominious old age. What I shall say concerning it will no ways diminish its infamy, being levelled only against the tyranny that may abuse the very horror we ought to have against the vice.

As a natural circumstance of this crime is secrecy, there are frequent instances of its having been punished by legislators upon the deposition of a child. This was opening a very wide door to calumny. “Justinian (says Procopius*) published a law against this crime: he ordered an inquiry to be made, not only against those who were guilty of it after the enacting of that law, but even before. The deposition of a single witness, sometimes of a child, sometimes of a slave, was sufficient, especially against such as were rich, and against those of the green faction.”

It is very odd that these three crimes, witchcraft, heresy, and that against nature; (of which, the first might easily be proved not to exist; the second, to Edition: current; Page: [249] be susceptible of an infinite number of distinctions, interpretations, and limitations; the third, to be often obscure and uncertain;) it is very odd, I say, that these three crimes should, amongst us, be punished with fire.

I may venture to affirm, that the crime against nature will never make any great progress in society, unless people are prompted to it by some particular custom; as among the Greeks, where the youths of that country performed all their exercises naked; as amongst us, where domestic education is disused; as among the Asiatics, where particular persons have a great number of women whom they despise, while others can have none at all. Let there be no customs preparatory to this crime; let it, like every other violation of morals, be severely proscribed by the civil magistrate; and nature will soon defend or resume her rights. Nature, that fond, that indulgent, parent, has strewed her pleasures with a bounteous hand; and, while she fills us with delights, she prepares us, by means of our issue, (in whom we see ourselves, as it were, reproduced,) she prepares us, I say, for future satisfactions of a more exquisite kind than those very delights.

CHAP. VII.: Of the Crime of High-Treason.

IT is determined, by the laws of China, that whosoever shews any disrespect to the emperor is to be punished with death. As they do not mention in what this disrespect consists, every thing may furnish a pretext to take away a man’s life, and to exterminate any family whatsoever.

Two persons of that country, who were employed to write the court-gazette, having inserted some circumstances Edition: current; Page: [250] relating to a certain fact that were not true, it was pretended that to tell a lie in the courtgazette was a disrespect shewn to the court; in consequence of which they were put to death*. A prince of the blood having inadvertently made some mark on a memorial signed with the red pencil by the emperor, it was determined that he had behaved disrespectfully to the sovereign; which occasioned one of the most terrible persecutions against that family that ever was recorded in history.

If the crime of high-treason be indeterminate, this alone is sufficient to make the government degenerate into arbitrary power. I shall descant more largely on this subject when I come to treat of the composition of laws.

CHAP. VIII.: Of the bad Application of the Name of Sacrilege and High-Treason.

IT is likewise a shocking abuse to give the appellation of high-treason to an action that does not deserve it. By an imperial law§ it was decreed, that those who called in question the prince’s judgement, or doubted of the merit of such as he had chosen for a public office, should be prosecuted as guilty of sacrilege. Surely it was the cabinet-council and the prince’s favourites who invented that crime. By another law it was determined that whosoever made any attempt to injure the ministers and officers belonging to the sovereign should be deemed Edition: current; Page: [251] guilty of high-treason, as if he had attempted to injure the sovereign himself. This law is owing to two princes*, remarkable for their weakness; princes who were led by their ministers, as flocks by shepherds; princes who were slaves in the palace, children in the council, strangers to the army; princes, in fine, who preserved their authority only by giving it away every day. Some of those favourites conspired against their sovereigns. Nay, they did more; they conspired against the empire; they called in barbarous nations; and, when the emperors wanted to stop their progress, the state was so enfeebled, as to be under a necessity of infringing the law, and of exposing itself to the crime of high-treason, in order to punish those favourites.

And yet this is the very law which the judge of Monsieur de Cinq-Mars built upon, when, endeavouring to prove that the latter was guilty of the crime of high-treason for attempting to remove cardinal Richelieu from the ministry, he says, “Crimes that aim at the persons of ministers are deemed, by the imperial constitutions, of equal consequence with those which are levelled against the emperor’s own person. A minister discharges his duty to his prince and to his country: to attempt, therefore, to remove him, is endeavouring to deprive the former one of his arms, and the latter of part of its power.” It is impossible for the meanest tools of power to express themselves in more servile language.

By another law of Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius§, false coiners are declared guilty of high-treason. Edition: current; Page: [252] But is not this confounding the ideas of things? Is not the very horror of high-treason diminished by giving that name to another crime?

CHAP. IX.: The same Subject continued.

PAULINUS having written to the emperor Alexander, that “he was preparing to prosecute, for high-treason, a judge who had decided contrary to his edict,” the emperor answered, “that under his reign there was no such thing as indirect high-treason*.”

Faustinian wrote to the same emperor, that, as he had sworn by the prince’s life never to pardon his slave, he found himself thereby obliged to perpetuate his wrath, lest he should incur the guilt of læsa majestas; upon which the emperor made answer, “Your fears are groundless, and you are a stranger to my principles.”

It was determined, by a senatus-consultum, that whosoever melted down any of the emperor’s statues, which happened to be rejected, should not be deemed guilty of high-treason. The emperors, Severus and Antoninus, wrote to Pontius§, that those who sold unconsecrated statues of the emperor should not be charged with high-treason. The same princes wrote to Julius Cassianus, that, if a person, in flinging a stone, should by chance strike one of the emperor’s statues, he should not be liable to a prosecution for high-treason. The Julian law requires this sort of limitations; for, in virtue Edition: current; Page: [253] of this law, the crime of high-treason was charged, not only upon those who melted down the emperor’s statues, but likewise on those who committed any such like action*, which made it an arbitrary crime. When a number of crimes of læsa majestas had been established, they were obliged to distinguish the several sorts. Hence Ulpian, the civilian, after saying that the accusation of læsa majestas did not die with the criminal, adds, that this does not relate to all the treasonable acts established by the Julian law, but only to that which implies an attempt against the empire or against the emperor’s life.

CHAP. X.: The same Subject continued.

THERE was a law passed in England, under Henry VIII. by which whoever predicted the king’s death was declared guilty of high-treason. This law was extremely vague: the terror of despotic power is so great, that it recoils upon those who exercise it. In this king’s last illness the physicians would not venture to say he was in danger; and surely they acted very right.

CHAP. XI.: Of Thoughts.

MARSYAS dreamt that he had cut Dionysius’s throat§. Dionysius put him to death, pretending that he would never have dreamt of such a thing by night if he had not thought of it by day. This was Edition: current; Page: [254] a most tyrannical action; for, though it had been the subject of his thoughts, yet he had made no attempt towards it. The laws do not take upon them to punish any other than overt acts.

CHAP. XII.: Of indiscreet Speeches.

NOTHING renders the crime of high-treason more arbitrary than declaring people guilty of it for indiscreet speeches. Speech is so subject to interpretation; there is so great a difference between indiscretion and malice; and frequently so little is there of the latter in the freedom of expression, that the law can hardly subject people to a capital punishment for words, unless it expressly declares what words they are*.

Words do not constitute an overt act; they remain only in idea. When considered by themselves, they have generally no determinate signification; for this depends on the tone in which they are uttered. It often happens that, in repeating the same words, they have not the same meaning: this depends on their connection with other things; and sometimes more is signified by silence than by any expression whatever. Since there can be nothing so equivocal and ambiguous as all this, how is it possible to convert it into a crime of high-treason? Wherever this law is established, there is an end, not only of liberty, but even of its very shadow.

In the manifesto of the late Czarina against the family of the D’Olgoruckys, one of these princes is condemned to death for having uttered some indecent Edition: current; Page: [255] words concerning her person; another, for having maliciously interpreted her imperial laws, and for having offended her sacred person by disrespectful expressions.

Not that I pretend to diminish the just indignation of the public against those who presume to stain the glory of their sovereign: what I mean is, that, if despotic princes are willing to moderate their power, a milder chastisement would be more proper, on those occasions, than the charge of high-treason, a thing always terrible even to innocence itself.

Overt acts do not happen every day; they are exposed to the eye of the public; and a false charge with regard to matters of fact may be easily detected. Words, carried into action, assume the nature of that action. Thus a man, who goes into a public market-place to incite the subject to revolt, incurs the guilt of high-treason, because the words are joined to the action, and partake of its nature. It is not the words that are punished, but an action in which words are employed. They do not become criminal, but when they are annexed to a criminal action. Every thing is confounded if words are construed into a capital crime, instead of considering them only as a mark of that crime.

The emperors, Theodosius, Arcadius, and Honorius, wrote thus to Rufinus, who was præfectus prætorio: “Though a man should happen to speak amiss of our person, or government, we do not intend to punish him§: if he has spoken through levity, we must despise him; if through folly, we must pity him; and, if he wrongs us, we must forgive him. Therefore, leaving things as Edition: current; Page: [256] they are, you are to inform us accordingly, that we may be able to judge of words by persons, and that we may duly consider whether we ought to punish or overlook them.”

CHAP. XIII.: Of Writings.

IN writings there is something more permanent than in words; but, when they are no way preparative to high-treason, they cannot amount to that charge.

And yet Augustus and Tiberius subjected satyrical writers to the same punishment as for having violated the law of majesty; Augustus, because of some libels that had been written against persons of the first quality; Tiberius, because of those which he suspected to have been written against himself. Nothing was more fatal to Roman liberty. Cremutius Cordus was accused of having called Cassius, in his annals, the last of the Romans.

Satyrical writings are hardly known in despotic governments, where dejection of mind on the one hand, and ignorance on the other, afford neither abilities, nor will, to write. In democracies they are not hindered, for the very same reason which causes them to be prohibited in monarchies: being generally levelled against men of power and authority, they flatter the malignancy of the people, who are the governing party. In monarchies they are forbidden; but rather as a subject of civil animadversion, than as a capital crime. They may amuse the general malevolence, please the malcontents, diminish the envy against public employments, give the Edition: current; Page: [257] people patience to suffer, and make them laugh at their sufferings.

But no government is so averse to satyrical writings as the aristocratical. There the magistrates are petty sovereigns, but not great enough to despise affronts. If, in a monarchy, a satyrical stroke is designed against the prince, he is placed on such an eminence that it does not reach him; but an aristocratical lord is pierced to the very heart. Hence the decemvirs, who formed an aristocracy, punished satyrical writings with death*.

CHAP. XIV.: Breach of Modesty in punishing Crimes.

THERE are rules of modesty observed by almost every nation in the world: now, it would be very absurd to infringe these rules in the punishment of crimes, the principal view of which ought always to be the establishment of order.

Was it the intent of those oriental nations who exposed women to elephants trained up for an abominable kind of punishment, was it, I say, their intent to establish one law by the breach of another?

By an ancient custom of the Romans it was not permitted to put girls to death till they were ripe for marriage. Tiberius found out an expedient of having them debauched by the executioner, before they were brought to the place of punishment: that bloody and subtle tyrant destroyed the morals of the people, to preserve their customs.

When the magistrates of Japan caused women to be exposed naked in the market-places, and obliged Edition: current; Page: [258] them to go upon all four like beasts, modesty was shocked: but, when they wanted to compel a mother --- when they wanted to force a son --- I cannot proceed: even nature herself is struck with horror.

CHAP. XV.: Of the Infranchisement of Slaves, in Order to accuse their Master.

AUGUSTUS made a law, that the slaves of those who conspired against his person should be sold to the public, that they might depose against their master§. Nothing ought to be neglected which may contribute to the discovery of a heinous crime: it is natural, therefore, that, in a government where there are slaves, they should be allowed to inform; but they ought not to be admitted as witnesses.

Vindex discovered the conspiracy that had been formed in favour of Tarquin; but he was not admitted a witness against the children of Brutus. It was right to give liberty to a person who had rendered so great a service to his country; but it was not given him with a view of enabling him to render this service.

Hence the emperor Tacitus ordained, that slaves should not be admitted as witnesses against their masters, even in the case of high-treason: a law which was not inserted in Justinian’s compilement.

CHAP. XVI.: Of Calumny, with Regard to the Crime of High-Treason.

TO do justice to the Cæsars, they were not the first devisers of the horrid laws which they enacted. Edition: current; Page: [259] It is Sylla* that taught them that calumniators ought not to be punished: but the abuse was soon carried to such excess as to reward them.

CHAP. XVII.: Of the Revealing of Conspiracies.

IF thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, thou shalt surely kill him, thou shalt stone him. This law of Deuteronomy cannot be a civil law among most of the nations known to us, because it would pave the way for all manner of wickedness.

No less severe is the law of several countries, which commands the subjects, on pain of death, to disclose conspiracies in which they are not even so much as concerned. When such a law is established in a monarchical government, it is very proper it should be under some restrictions.

It ought not to be applied, in its full severity, but to the strongest cases of high-treason. In those countries it is of the utmost importance not to confound the different degrees of this crime. In Japan, where the laws subvert every idea of human reason, the crime of concealment is applied even to the most ordinary cases.

A certain relation§ makes mention of two young ladies, who were shut up for life in a box thick set Edition: current; Page: [260] with pointed nails; one for having had a love intrigue, and the other for not disclosing it.

CHAP. XVIII.: How dangerous it is, in Republics, to be too severe in punishing the Crime of High-Treason.

AS soon as a republic has compassed the destruction of those who wanted to subvert it, there should be an end of terrors, punishments, and even of rewards.

Great punishments, and consequently great changes, cannot take place without investing some citizens with an exorbitant power. It is therefore more adviseable, in this case, to exceed in lenity, than in severity; to banish but few, rather than many; and to leave them their estates, instead of making a vast number of confiscations. Under pretence of avenging the republic’s cause, the avengers would establish tyranny. The business is not to destroy the rebel, but the rebellion. They ought to return as quick as possible into the usual track of government, in which every one is protected by the laws, and no one injured.

The Greeks set no bounds to the vengeance they took of tyrants, or of those they suspected of tyranny: they put their children to death; nay, sometimes five of their nearest relations*; and they proscribed an infinite number of families. By such means their republics suffered the most violent shocks: exiles, or the return of the exiled, were always epochas that indicated a change of the constitution.

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The Romans had more sense. When Cassius was put to death for having aimed at tyranny, the question was proposed, whether his children should undergo the same fate: but they were preserved. “They, says Dionysius Halicarnasseus, who wanted to change this law at the end of the Marsian and civil laws, and to exclude from public offices the children of those who had been proscribed by Sylla, are very much to blame.”

We find, in the wars of Marius and Sylla, to what excess the Romans had gradually carried their barbarity. Such scenes of cruelty, it was hoped, would never be revived. But, under the triumvirs, they committed greater acts of oppression, though with some appearance of lenity; and it is provoking to see what sophisms they make use of to cover their inhumanity. Appian has given us§ the formula of the proscriptions. One would imagine they had no other aim than the good of the republic; with such calmness do they express themselves; such advantages do they point out to the state; such expediency do they shew in the means they adopt; such security do they promise to the opulent; such tranquility to the poor; so apprehensive do they seem of endangering the lives of the citizens; so desirous of appeasing the soldiers; such felicity, in fine, do they presage to the commonwealth*.

Rome was drenched in blood when Lepidus triumphed over Spain: yet, by an unparallelled absurdity, he ordered public rejoicings in that city, upon pain of proscription.

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CHAP. XIX.: In what Manner the Use of Liberty is suspended in a Republic.

IN countries where liberty is most esteemed there are laws by which a single person is deprived of it, in order to preserve it for the whole community. Such are, in England, what they call bills of attainder§. These are relative to those Athenian laws by which a private person was condemned*, provided they were made by the unanimous suffrage of six thousand citizens. They are relative also to those laws which were made at Rome against private citizens, and were called privileges. These were never passed but in the great meetings of the people. But, in what manner soever they were enacted, Cicero was for having them abolished, because the force of a law consists in its being made for the whole community. I must own, notwithstanding, that the practice of the freest nation that ever existed induces me to think that there are cases in which a veil should be drawn for a while over liberty, as it was customary to cover the statues of the gods.

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CHAP. XX.: Of Laws favourable to the Liberty of the Subject in a Republic.

IN popular governments it often happens that accusations are carried on in public, and every man is allowed to accuse whomsoever he pleases. This rendered it necessary to establish proper laws, in order to protect the innocence of the subject. At Athens, if an accuser had not the fifth part of the votes on his side, he was obliged to pay a fine of a thousand drachms. Æschines, who accused Ctesiphon, was condemned to pay this fine§. At Rome a false accuser was branded with infamy*, by marking the letter K on his forehead. Guards were also appointed to watch the accuser, in order to prevent his corrupting either the judges or the witnesses.

I have already taken notice of that Athenian and Roman law, by which the party accused was allowed to withdraw before judgement was pronounced.

CHAP. XXI.: Of the Cruelty of Laws, in Respect to Debtors, in a Republic.

GREAT is the superiority which one fellow-subject has already over another, by lending him money, which the latter borrows in order to spend, and, of course, has no longer in his possession. What must be the consequence if the laws of a republic Edition: current; Page: [264] make a farther addition to this servitude and subjection?

At Athens and Rome* it was first permitted to sell such debtors as were insolvent. Solon redressed this abuse at Athens, by ordaining that no man’s body should answer for his civil debts. But the decemvirs did not reform the same custom at Rome; and, though they had Solon’s regulation before their eyes, yet they did not choose to follow it. This is not the only passage of the law of the twelve tables in which the decemvirs shew their design of checking the spirit of democracy.

Often did those cruel laws against debtors throw the Roman republic into danger. A man, all covered with wounds, made his escape from his creditor’s house, and appeared in the forum§. The people were moved with this spectacle, and other citizens, whom their creditors durst no longer confine, broke loose from their dungeons. They had promises made them, which were all broke. The people, upon this, having withdrawn to the Sacred Mount, obtained not an abrogation of those laws, but a magistrate to defend them. Thus they quitted a state of anarchy, but were scon in danger of falling under tyranny. Manlius, to render himself popular, was going to set those citizens at liberty, who by their inhuman creditors had been reduced to slavery. Manlius’s designs were prevented; but without remedying the evil. Particular laws facilitated to debtors the means of paying; and, in Edition: current; Page: [265] the year of Rome 428, the consuls proposed a law*, which deprived creditors of the power of confining their debtors in their own houses. An usurer, by name Papirius, attempted to corrupt the chastity of a young man named Publius, whom he kept in irons. Sextus’s crime gave to Rome its political liberty: that of Papirius gave it also the civil.

Such was the fate of this city, that new crimes confirmed the liberty which those of a more ancient date had procured it. Appius’s attempt upon Virginia flung the people again into that horror against tyrants with which the misfortune of Lucretia had first inspired them. Thirty-seven years after the crime of the infamous Papirius an action of the like criminal nature was the cause of the people’s retiring to the Janiculum§, and of giving new vigour to the law made for the safety of debtors.

Since that time creditors were oftener prosecuted by debtors for having violated the laws against usury, than the latter were sued for refusing to pay them.

CHAP. XXII.: Of Things that strike at Liberty in Monarchies.

LIBERTY often has been weakened in monarchies by a thing of the least use in the world to Edition: current; Page: [266] the prince: this is the naming of commissioners to try a private person.

The prince himself derives so very little advantage from those commissioners, that it is not worth while to change, for their sake, the common course of things. He is morally sure that he has more of the spirit of probity and justice than his commissioners, who think themselves sufficiently justified by his nomination and orders, by a vague interest of state, and even by their very apprehensions.

Upon the arraigning of a peer, under Henry VIII. it was customary to try him by a committee of the house of lords: by which means he put to death as many peers as he pleased.

CHAP. XXIII.: Of Spies in Monarchies.

SHOULD I be asked whether there is any necessity for spies in monarchies, my answer would be, that the usual practice of good princes is not to employ them. When a man obeys the laws, he has discharged his duty to his prince: he ought at least to have his own house for an asylum, and the rest of his conduct should be exempt from inquiry. The trade of a spy might perhaps be tolerable were it practised by honest men; but the necessary infamy of the person is sufficient to make us judge of the infamy of the thing. A prince ought to act towards his subjects with candour, frankness, and confidence. He that has so much disquiet, suspicion, and fear, is an actor embarrassed in playing his part. When he finds that the laws are generally observed and respected, he may judge himself safe. The behaviour of the public answers for that of every individual. Let him not be afraid: he Edition: current; Page: [267] cannot imagine how natural it is for his people to love him. And how should they do otherwise than love him, since he is the source of almost all bounties and favours; punishments being generally charged to the account of the laws? He never shews himself to his people but with a serene countenance: they have even a share of his glory, and they are protected by his power. A proof of his being beloved is, that his subjects have a confidence in him: what the minister refuses, they imagine the prince would have granted. Even under public calamities they do not accuse his person: they are apt to complain of his being misinformed or beset by corrupt men: Did the prince but know, say the people: these words are a kind of invocation, and a proof of the confidence they have in his person.

CHAP. XXIV.: Of anonymous Letters.

THE Tartars are obliged to put their names to their arrows, that the arm may be known which shoots them. When Philip of Macedon was wounded at the siege of a certain town, these words were found on the javelin: After has given this mortal wound to Philip*. If they who accuse a person did it merely to serve the public, they would not carry their complaint to the prince, who may be easily prejudiced; but to the magistrates, who have rules that are formidable only to calumniators. But, if they are unwilling to leave the laws open between them and the accused, it is a presumption they have reason to be afraid of them; and the least punishment they ought to suffer is, not to be credited. Edition: current; Page: [268] No notice, therefore, should ever be taken of those letters, except in cases that admit not of the delays of the ordinary course of justice, and in which the prince’s welfare is concerned. Then it may be imagined that the accuser has made an effort, which has untied his tongue. But, in other cases, one ought to say, with the emperor Constantius: “We cannot suspect a person who has wanted an accuser, whilst he did not want an enemy.”

CHAP. XXV.: Of the Manner of governing in Monarchies.

THE royal authority is a spring that ought to move with the greatest freedom and ease. The Chinese boast of one of their emperors, who governed, they say, like the heavens; that is, by his example.

There are some cases in which a sovereign ought to exert the full extent of his power, and others in which he should reduce it within narrower limits. The sublimity of administration consists in knowing the proper degree of power which should be exerted on different occasions.

The whole felicity of monarchies consists in the opinion which the subjects entertain of the lenity of the government. A weak minister is ever ready to remind us of our slavery. But, granting even that we are slaves, he should endeavour to conceal our misery from us. All he can say or write is, that the prince is uneasy, that he is surprised, and that he will redress all grievances. There is a certain ease in commanding: the prince ought only to encourage, and let the laws menace*.

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CHAP. XXVI.: That, in a Monarchy, the Prince ought to be of easy Access.

THE utility of this maxim will appear from the inconveniency attending the contrary practice. “The Czar Peter I. says the sieur Perry, has published a new edict, by which he forbids any of his subjects to offer him a petition till after having presented it to two of his officers. In case of refusal of justice, they may present him a third; but upon pain of death if they are in the wrong. After this no one ever presumed to offer a petition to the Czar.”

CHAP. XXVII.: Of the Manners of a Monarch.

THE manners of a prince contribute as much as the laws themselves to liberty: like these, he may transfer men into brutes, and brutes into men. If he prefers free and generous spirits, he will have subjects: if he likes base dastardly souls, he will have slaves. Would he know the great art of ruling, let him call honour and virtue to attend his person, and let him encourage personal merit. He may even sometimes cast an eye on talents and abilities. Let him not be afraid of those rivals who are called men of merit; he is their equal when once he loves them. Let him gain the hearts of his people, without subduing their spirits. Let him render himself popular: he ought to be pleased with the affections of the lowest of his subjects; for they too are men. The common people require so very Edition: current; Page: [270] little condescension, that it is fit they should be humoured; the infinite distance between the sovereign and them will surely prevent them from giving him any uneasiness. Let him be exorable to supplication, and resolute against demands. Let him be sensible, in fine, that his people have his refusals, while his courtiers enjoy his favours.

CHAP. XXVIII.: Of the Regard which Monarchs owe to their Subjects.

PRINCES ought to be extremely circumspect with regard to raillery. It pleases with moderation, because it is an introduction to familiarity; but a satirical raillery is less excusable in them than in the meanest of their subjects; for it is they alone that give a mortal wound.

Much less should they offer a public affront to any of their subjects: kings were instituted to pardon and to punish; but never to insult.

When they affront their subjects their treatment is more cruel than that of the Turk or the Muscovite. The insults of these are a humiliation, not a disgrace: but both must follow from the insolent behaviour of monarchs.

Such is the prejudice of the eastern nations, that they look upon an affront from the prince as the effect of paternal goodness; and such, on the contrary, is our way of thinking, that, besides the cruel vexation of being affronted, we despair of ever being able to wipe off the disgrace.

Princes ought to be overjoyed to have subjects to whom honour is dearer than life; an incitement to fidelity as well as to courage.

They should remember the misfortunes that have happened to sovereigns for insulting their subjects, Edition: current; Page: [271] the revenge of Chærea, of the eunuch Narses, of count Julian, and, in fine, of the duchess of Montpensier, who, being enraged against Henry III. for having published some of her private failings, tormented him during her whole life.

CHAP. XXIX.: Of the civil Laws proper for mixing some Portion of Liberty in a despotic Government.

THOUGH despotic governments are of their own nature every where the same, yet, from circumstances, from a religious opinion, from prejudice, from received examples, from a particular turn of mind, from manners or morals, it is possible they may admit of a considerable difference.

It is useful that some particular notions should be established in those governments: thus, in China, the prince is considered as the father of his people; and, at the commencement of the empire of the Arabs, the prince was their preacher*.

It is proper there should be some sacred book to serve for a rule; as the Koran among the Arabs, the books of Zoroaster among the Persians, the Vedam among the Indians, and the Classic Books among the Chinese. The religious code supplies the civil, and fixes the extent of arbitrary sway.

It is not at all amiss that, in dubious cases, the judges should consult the ministers of religion: thus, in Turkey, the Cadis consult the Mollachs. But, if it is a capital crime, it may be proper for the particular judge, if such there be, to take the governor’s advice, to the end that the civil and ecclesiastic power may be tempered also by the political authority.

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CHAP. XXX.: The same Subject continued.

NOTHING but the very excess and rage of despotic power ordained that the father’s disgrace should drag after it that of his wife and children: they are wretched enough already, without being criminals. Besides, the prince ought to leave suppliants or mediators between himself and the accused, to assuage his wrath, or to inform his justice.

It is an excellent custom of the Maldavians, that, when a lord is disgraced, he goes every day to pay his court to the king, till he is taken again into favour: his presence disarms the prince’s indignation.

In some despotic governments they have a notion that it is trespassing against the respect due to their prince to speak to him in favour of a person in disgrace. These princes seem to use all their endeavours to deprive themselves of the virtue of clemency.

Arcadius and Honorius, by a law§ on which we have already descanted, positively declare that they will shew no favour to those who shall presume to petition them in behalf of the guilty*. This was a very bad law indeed, since it is bad even under a despotic government.

The custom of Persia, which permits every man that pleases to leave the kingdom is excellent; and, though the contrary practice derives its origin from Edition: current; Page: [273] despotic power, which has ever considered the subjects as slaves, and those who quit the country as fugitives, yet the Persian practice is useful even to a despotic government, because the apprehension of people’s withdrawing for debt restrains or moderates the oppressions of bashaws and extortioners.


CHAP. I.: Of the public Revenues.

THE public revenues are a portion that each subject gives of his property, in order to secure or enjoy the remainder.

To fix these revenues in a proper manner, regard should be had both to the necessities of the state and to those of the subject. The real wants of the people ought never to give way to the imaginary wants of the state.

Imaginary wants are those which flow from the passions and the weakness of the governors, from the vain conceit of some extraordinary project, from the inordinate desire of glory, and from a certain impotence of mind incapable of withstanding the impulse of fancy. Often have ministers of a restless Edition: current; Page: [274] disposition imagined that the wants of their own mean and ignoble souls were those of the state.

Nothing requires more wisdom and prudence than the regulation of that portion of which the subject is deprived, and that which he is suffered to retain.

The public revenues should not be measured by the people’s abilities to give, but by what they ought to give; and, if they are measured by their abilities to give, it should be considered what they are able to give for a constancy.

CHAP. II.: That it is bad Reasoning to say that the Greatness of Taxes is good in its own Nature.

THERE have been instances, in particular monarchies, of petty states, exempt from taxes, that have been as miserable as the circumjacent places which groaned under the weight of exactions. The chief reason of this is, that the petty state can hardly have any such thing as industry, arts, or manufactures, because of its being subject to a thousand restraints from the great state by which it is environed. The great state is blessed with industry, manufactures, and arts; and establishes laws by which those several advantages are procured. The petty state becomes, therefore, necessarily poor, let it pay never so few taxes.

And yet some have concluded, from the poverty of those petty states, that, in order to render the people industrious, they should be loaded with taxes. But it would be a juster inference, that they ought to pay no taxes at all. None live here but wretches who retire from the neighbouring parts to avoid working; wretches, who, disheartened by labour, make their whole felicity consist in idleness.

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The effect of wealth in a country is to inspire every heart with ambition: that of poverty is to give birth to despair. The former is excited by labour; the latter is soothed by indolence.

Nature is just to all mankind, and repays them for their industry: she renders them industrious by annexing rewards in proportion to their labour. But, if an arbitrary prince should attempt to deprive people of nature’s bounty, they would fall into a disrelish of industry; and then indolence and inaction must be their only happiness.

CHAP. III.: Of Taxes in Countries where Part of the People are Villains or Bondmen.

THE state of villainage is sometimes established after a conquest. In that case the bondman or villain that tills the land ought to have a kind of partnership with his master. Nothing but a communication of loss or profit can reconcile those who are doomed to labour to such as are blessed with a state of affluence.

CHAP. IV.: Of a Republic in the like Case.

WHEN a republic has reduced a nation to the drudgery of cultivating her lands, she ought never to suffer the free subject to have a power of increasing the tribute of the bondman. This was not permitted at Sparta. Those brave people thought the Helotes* would be more industrious in cultivating their lands, upon knowing that their servitude was not to increase: they imagined likewise that the Edition: current; Page: [276] masters would be better citizens, when they desired no more than what they were accustomed to enjoy.

CHAP. V.: Of a Monarchy in the like Case.

WHEN the nobles of a monarchical state cause the lands to be cultivated for their own use by a conquered people, they ought never to have a power of increasing the service or tribute*. Besides, it is right the prince should be satisfied with his own demesne and the military service. But, if he wants to raise taxes on the vassals of his nobility, the lords of the several districts ought to be answerable for the tax, and be obliged to pay it for the vassals, by whom they may be afterwards reimbursed. If this rule be not followed, the lord and the collectors of the public taxes will harrass the poor vassal by turns, till he perishes with misery, or flies into the woods.

CHAP. VI.: Of a despotic Government in the like Case.

THE foregoing rule is still more indispensably necessary in a despotic government. The lord, who is every moment liable to be stripped of his lands and his vassals, is not so eager to preserve them.

When Peter I. thought proper to follow the custom of Germany, and to demand his taxes in money, he made a very prudent regulation, which is still followed in Russia. The gentleman levies the tax on the peasant, and pays it to the Czar. If the Edition: current; Page: [277] number of peasants diminishes, he pays all the same; if it increases, he pays no more; so that it is his interest not to worry or oppress his vassals.

CHAP. VII.: Of Taxes in Countries where Villainage is not established.

WHEN the inhabitants of a state are all free subjects, and each man enjoys his property with as much right as the prince his sovereignty, taxes may then be laid either on persons, on lands, on merchandizes, on two of these, or on all three together.

In the taxing of persons, it would be an unjust proportion to conform exactly to that of property. At Athens the people were divided into four classes. Those who drew five hundred measures of liquid or dry fruit from their estates paid a talent* to the public; those who drew three hundred measures paid half a talent; those who had two hundred measures paid ten minæ; those of the fourth class paid nothing at all. The tax was fair, though it was not proportionable: if it did not follow the measure of peoples property, it followed that of their wants. It was judged that every man had an equal share of what was necessary for nature; that whatsoever was necessary for nature ought not to be taxed; that to this succeeded the useful, which ought to be taxed, but less than the superfluous; and that the largeness of the taxes on what was superfluous prevented superfluity.

In the taxing of lands, it is customary to make lifts or registers, in which the different classes of Edition: current; Page: [278] estates are ranged. But it is very difficult to know these differences, and still more so to find people that are not interested in mistaking them. Here therefore are two sorts of injustice, that of the man and that of the thing. But if in general the tax be not exorbitant, and the people continue to have plenty of necessaries, these particular acts of injustice will do no harm. On the contrary, if the people are permitted to enjoy only just what is necessary for subsistence, the least disproportion will be of the greatest consequence.

If some subjects do not pay enough, the mischief is not so great; their convenience and ease turn always to the public advantage: if some private people pay too much, their ruin redounds to the public detriment. If the government proportions its fortune to that of individuals, the ease and conveniency of the latter will soon make its fortune rise. The whole depends upon a critical moment: shall the state begin with impoverishing the subjects to enrich itself, or had it better wait to be enriched by its subjects? Is it more adviseable for it to have the former or the latter advantage? Which shall it chuse; to begin, or to end, with opulence?

The duties felt least by the people are those on merchandize, because they are not demanded of them in form. They may be so prudently managed, that the people themselves shall hardly know they pay them. For this purpose it is of the utmost consequence that the person who sells the merchandize should pay the duty. He is very sensible that he does not pay it for himself; and the consumer, who pays it in the main, confounds it with the price. Some authors have observed that Nero had abolished the duty of the five and twentieth part arising from Edition: current; Page: [279] the sale of slaves*; and yet he had only ordained that it should be paid by the seller instead of the purchaser; this regulation, which left the impost intire, seemed nevertheless to suppress it.

There are two states in Europe where the imposts are very heavy upon liquors; in one the brewer alone pays the duty, in the other it is levied indiscriminately upon all the consumers; in the first no body feels the rigor of the impost, in the second it is looked upon as a grievance. In the former the subject is sensible only of the liberty he has of not paying, in the latter he feels only the necessity that compels him to pay.

Farther, the obliging the consumers to pay requires a perpetual rummaging and searching into their houses. Now nothing is more contrary than this to liberty; and those who establish these sorts of duties have not surely been so happy as to hit upon the best method of collecting the revenue.

CHAP. VIII.: In what Manner the Deception is preserved.

IN order to make the purchaser confound the price of the commodity with the impost, there must be some proportion between the impost and the value of the commodity; for which reason there ought not to be an excessive duty upon merchandizes of little value. There are countries in which the duty exceeds seventeen or eighteen times the value of the commodity. In this case the prince removes the disguise: his subjects plainly see they are dealt with Edition: current; Page: [280] in an unreasonable manner; which renders them most exquisitely sensible of their servile condition.

Besides, the prince, to be able to levy a duty so disproportioned to the value of the commodity, must be himself the vender, and the people must not have it in their power to purchase it elsewhere: a practice subject to a thousand inconveniencies.

Smuggling being in this case extremely lucrative, the natural and most reasonable penalty, namely, the confiscation of the merchandize, becomes incapable of putting a stop to it; especially as this very merchandize is intrinsically of an inconsiderable value. Recourse must therefore be had to extravagant punishments, such as those inflicted for capital crimes. All proportion then of penalties is at an end. Persons, that cannot really be considered as vicious, are punished like the most infamous criminals; which, of all things in the world, is the most contrary to the spirit of a moderate government.

Again, in proportion as people are tempted to cheat the farmer of the revenues, the more the latter is enriched, and the former impoverished. To put a stop to smuggling, the farmer must be invested with extraordinary means of oppressing, and then the country is ruined.

CHAP. IX.: Of a bad kind of Impost.

WE shall here, by the way, take notice of an impost laid in particular countries on the different articles of civil contracts. As these are things subject to very nice disquisitions, a vast deal of knowledge is necessary to make any tolerable defence against the farmer of the revenues, who interprets, Edition: current; Page: [281] in that case, the regulations of the prince, and exercises an arbitrary power over people’s fortunes. Experience has demonstrated that a duty on the paper, on which the deeds are drawn, would be of far greater service.

CHAP. X.: That the Greatness of Taxes depends on the Nature of the Government.

TAXES ought to be very light in despotic governments; otherwise who would be at the trouble of tilling the land? Besides, how is it possible to pay heavy duties in a government that makes no manner of return to the different contributions of the subject?

The exorbitant power of the prince, and the extreme depression of the people, require that there should not be even a possibility of the least mistake between them. The taxes ought to be so easy to collect, and so clearly settled, as to leave no opportunity for the collectors to increase or diminish them. A portion of the fruits of the earth, a capitation, a duty of so much per cent. on merchandizes, are the only taxes suitable to that government.

Merchants in despotic countries ought to have a personal safeguard, to which all due respect should be paid. Without this they would be too weak to dispute with the custom-house officers.

CHAP. XI.: Of Confiscations.

WITH respect to confiscations, there is one thing very particular, that, contrary to the general Edition: current; Page: [282] custom, they are more severe in Europe than in Asia. In Europe not only the merchandizes, but even sometimes the ships and carriages are confiscated; which is never practised in Asia. This is because in Europe the merchant can have recourse to magistrates, who are able to shelter him from oppression; in Asia the magistrates themselves would be the greatest oppressors. What remedy could a merchant have against a bashaw, who was determined to confiscate his goods?

The prince therefore checks his own power, finding himself under a necessity of acting with some kind of lenity. In Turkey they raise only a single duty for the importation of goods, and afterwards the whole country is open to the merchant. Smuggling is not attended with confiscation or increate of duty. In China* they never look into the baggage of those who are not merchants. Defrauding the customs in the territory of the Mogul is not punished with confiscation, but with doubling the duty. The Princes of Tartary, who reside in towns, impose scarce any duty at all on the goods that pass through their country. In Japan, it is true, to cheat the customs is a capital crime; but this is because they have particular reasons for prohibiting all communication with foreigners; hence the fraud is rather a contravention of the laws made for the security of the government than of those of commerce.

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CHAP. XII.: Relation between the Weight of Taxes and Liberty.

IT is a general rule that taxes may be heavier in proportion to the liberty of the subject, and that there is a necessity for reducing them in proportion to the increase of slavery. This has always been and always will be the case. It is a rule derived from nature that never varies. We find it in all parts, in England, in Holland, and in every state where liberty gradually declines, till we come to Turky. Swisserland seems to be an exception to this rule, because they pay no taxes; but the particular reason for that exemption is well known, and even confirms what I have advanced. In those barren mountains provisions are so dear, and the country is so populous, that a Swiss pays four times more to nature, than a Turk does to the sultan.

A conquering people, such as were formerly the Athenians and the Romans, may rid themselves of all taxes, as they reign over vanquished nations. Then, indeed, they do not pay in proportion to their liberty, because in this respect they are no longer a people, but a monarch.

But the general rule still holds good. In moderate governments there is an indemnity for the weight of the taxes, which is liberty. In despotic countries* there is an equivalent for liberty, which is the lightness of the taxes.

In some monarchies in Europe there are particular provinces, which, from the very nature of Edition: current; Page: [284] their civil government, are in a more flourishing condition than the rest. It is pretended that these provinces are not sufficiently taxed, because, through the goodness of their government, they are able to be taxed higher: hence the ministers seem constantly to aim at depriving them of this very government, from whence a diffusive blessing is derived, which redounds even to the prince’s advantage.

CHAP. XIII.: In what Government Taxes are capable of Increase.

TAXES may be increased in most republics, because the citizen, who thinks he is paying himself, chearfully submits to them, and moreover is generally able to bear their weight from the nature of the government.

In a monarchy taxes may be increased, because the moderation of the government is capable of procuring opulence: it is a recompence, as it were, granted to the prince for the respect he shews to the laws. In despotic governments they cannot be increased, because there can be no increase of the extremity of slavery.

CHAP. XIV.: That the Nature of the Taxes is relative to the Government.

A CAPITATION is more natural to slavery; a duty on merchandizes is more natural to liberty, by reason it has not so direct a relation to the person.

It is natural in a despotic government for the prince not to give money to his soldiers, or to Edition: current; Page: [285] those belonging to his court, but to distribute lands amongst them, and, of course, that there should be very few taxes. But, if the prince gives money, the most natural tax he can raise is a capitation, which can never be considerable. For, as it is impossible to make different classes of the contributors, because of the abuses that might arise from thence, considering the injustice and violence of the government, they are under an absolute necessity of regulating themselves by the rate of what even the poorest and most wretched are able to contribute.

The natural tax of moderate governments is the duty laid on merchandizes. As this is really paid by the consumer, though advanced by the merchant, it is a loan which the latter has already made to the former. Hence the merchant must be considered on the one side as the general debtor of the state, and on the other as the creditor of every individual. He advances to the state the duty which the consumer will some time or other refund; and he has paid for the consumer the duty which he has advanced for the merchandize. It is therefore obvious, that, in proportion to the moderation of the government, to the prevalence of the spirit of liberty, and to the security of private fortunes, a merchant has it in his power to advance money to the state, and to pay considerable duties for individuals. In England a merchant lends really to the government fifty or sixty pounds sterling for every tun of wine he imports. Where is the merchant that would dare do any such thing in a country like Turky? And, were he so presumptuous, how could he do it with a crazy or shattered fortune?

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CHAP. XV.: Abuse of Liberty.

TO these great advantages of liberty it is owing that liberty itself has been abused. Because a moderate government has been productive of admirable effects, this moderation has been laid aside; because great taxes have been raised, they wanted to carry them to excess: and, ungrateful to the hand of liberty of whom they received this present, they addressed themselves to slavery who never grants the least favour.

Liberty produces excessive taxes; the effect of excessive taxes is slavery; and slavery produces a diminution of tribute.

Most of the edicts of the eastern monarchs are to exempt every year some province of their empire from paying tribute*. The manifestations of their will are favours. But in Europe the edicts of princes are disagreeable even before they are seen, because they always make mention of their own wants, but not a word of ours.

From an unpardonable indolence in the ministers of those countries, owing to the nature of the government, and frequently to the climate, the people derive this advantage, that they are not incessantly plagued with new demands. The public expence does not increase, because the ministers do not form new projects; and, if some by chance are formed, they are such as are soon executed. The governors of the state do not perpetually torment the people; for they do not perpetually torment themselves. But it is impossible there should be any fixed rule in our finances, since we always Edition: current; Page: [287] know that we shall have something or other to execute, without ever knowing what it is.

It is no longer customary with us to give the appellation of a great minister to a wise dispenser of the public revenues, but to a person of dexterity and cunning, who is clever at finding out what we call the ways and means.

CHAP. XVI.: Of the Conquests of the Mahometans.

IT was this excess of taxes* that occasioned the prodigious facility with which the Mahometans carried on their conquests. Instead of a continual series of extortions, devised by the subtle avarice of the Greek emperors, the people were subjected to a simple tribute, which was paid and collected with ease. Thus they were far happier in obeying a barbarous nation than a corrupt government, in which they suffered every inconvenience of lost liberty with all the horror of present slavery.

CHAP. XVII.: Of the Augmentation of Troops.

A NEW distemper has spread itself over Europe, infecting our princes, and inducing them to keep up an exorbitant number of troops. It has its redoublings, and of necessity becomes contagious. For, as soon as one prince augments his forces, the rest of course do the same; so that nothing is gained thereby but the public ruin. Each monarch keeps as many armies on foot as if his people were in danger of being exterminated; and they give the Edition: current; Page: [288] name of peace* to this general effort of all against all. Thus is Europe ruined to such a degree, that, were private people to be in the same situation as the three most opulent powers of this part of the globe, they would not have necessary subsistance. We are poor with the riches and commerce of the whole world; and soon, by thus augmenting our troops, we shall be all soldiers, and be reduced to the very same situation as the Tartars.

Great princes, not satisfied with hiring or buying troops of petty states, make it their business on all sides to pay subsidies for alliances, that is, generally to throw away their money.

The consequence of such a situation is the perpetual augmentation of taxes; and the mischief, which prevents all future remedy, is, that they reckon no more upon their revenues, but in waging war against their whole capital. It is no unusual thing to see governments mortgage their funds even in time of peace, and to employ what they call extraordinary means to ruin themselves; means so extraordinary indeed, that such are hardly thought on by the most extravagant young spendthrift.

CHAP. XVIII.: Of an Exemption from Taxes.

THE maxim of the great eastern empires of exempting such provinces, as have very much suffered, from taxes, ought to be extended to monarchical states. There are some indeed where this practice is established; yet the country is more Edition: current; Page: [289] oppressed than if no such rule took place; because, as the prince levies still neither more nor less, the state becomes bound for the whole. In order to ease a village that pays badly, they load another that pays better; the former is not relieved, and the latter is ruined. The people grow desperate between the necessity of paying, for fear of exactions, and the danger of paying, for fear of new burdens.

A well-regulated government ought to set aside, for the first article of its expence, a determinate sum to answer contingent cases. It is with the public as with individuals, who are ruined when they live up exactly to their income.

With regard to an obligation for the whole, amongst the inhabitants of the same village, some pretend*, that it is but reasonable, because there is a possibility of a fraudulent combination on their side: but was it ever heard that upon mere supposition we are to establish a thing in itself unjust and ruinous to the state?

CHAP. XIX.: Which is most suitable to the Prince and to the People, the farming the revenues, or managing them by commission?

THE managing of the revenues by commission is like the conduct of a good father of a family, who collects his own rents himself with œconomy and order.

By this management of the revenues the prince is at liberty to press or retard the levy of the taxes, either according to his own wants or to Edition: current; Page: [290] those of his people. By this he saves to the state the immense profits of the farmers, who impoverish it a thousand ways. By this he prevents the people from being mortified with the sight of sudden fortunes. By this the public money passes through few hands, goes directly to the treasury, and consequently makes a quicker return to the people. By this the prince avoids an infinite number of bad laws, extorted from him by the importunate avarice of the farmers, who pretend to offer a present advantage for regulations pernicious to posterity.

As the moneyed man is always the most powerful, the farmer renders himself arbitrary even over the prince himself: he is not the legislator, but he obliges the legislator to give laws.

I acknowledge that it is sometimes of use to farm out a new duty; for there is an art in preventing frauds which motives of interest suggest to the farmers, but commissioners never think on. Now, the manner of levying it being once established by the farmer, it may afterwards be safely entrusted to a commission. In England, the management of the excise and of the post-office was borrowed from that of the farmers of the revenue.

In republics, the revenues of the state are generally managed by commission. The contrary practice was a great defect in the Roman government. In despotic governments, the people are infinitely happier where this management is established; witness Persia and China. The unhappiest of all are those where the prince farms out his sea-ports and trading Edition: current; Page: [291] cities. The history of monarchies abounds with mischiefs done by the farmers of the revenue.

Incensed at the oppressive extortions of the publicans, Nero formed a magnanimous but impracticable scheme of abolishing all kinds of imposts. He did not think of managing the revenues by commissioners, but he made four edicts: that the laws, enacted against publicans, which had hitherto been kept secret, should be promulged; that they should exact no claims for above a year backward; that there should be a prætor established to determine their pretensions without any formality; and that the merchants should pay no duty for their vessels. These were the halcyon days of that emperor.

CHAP. XX.: Of the Farmers of the Revenues.

WHEN the lucrative profession of a farmer of the revenue becomes likewise a post of honour, the state is ruined. It may do well enough in despotic governments, where this employment is oftentimes exercised by the governors themselves. But it is by no means proper in a republic; since a custom of the like nature destroyed that of Rome. Nor is it better in monarchies; nothing being more opposite to the spirit of this government. All the other orders of the state are dissatisfied; honour loses its whole value; the gradual and natural means of distinction are no longer respected; and the very principle of the government is subverted.

It is true, indeed, that scandalous fortunes were raised in former times; but this was one of the calamities of the fifty years war. These riches were then considered as ridiculous; now we admire them.

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Every profession has its particular lot: that of the tax-gatherers is wealth; and wealth is its own reward. Glory and honour fall to the share of that nobility who are sensible of no other happiness. Respect and esteem are for those ministers and magistrates whose whole life is a continued series of labour, and who watch day and night over the welfare of the empire.


CHAP. I.: General Idea.

IF it be true, that the temper of the mind and the passions of the heart are extremely different in different climates, the laws ought to be relative both to the variety of those passions, and to the variety of those tempers.

CHAP. II.: Of the Difference of Men in different Climates.

A cold air* constringes the extremities of the external fibres of the body; this increases their elasticity, and favours the return of the blood from the extreme parts to the heart. It contracts those very fibres; consequently, it increases also their force. On the contrary, a warm air relaxes and lengthens the extremes of the fibres; of course, it diminishes their force and elasticity.

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People are therefore more vigorous in cold climates. Here, the action of the heart and the reaction of the extremities of the fibres are better performed, the temperature of the humours is greater, the blood moves freer towards the heart, and, reciprocally, the heart has more power. This superiority of strength must produce various effects; for instance, a greater boldness, that is, more courage; a greater sense of superiority, that is, less desire of revenge; a greater opinion of security, that is, more frankness, less suspicion, policy, and cunning. In short, this must be productive of very different tempers. Put a man into a close warm place, and, for the reasons above given, he will feel a great faintness. If, under this circumstance, you propose a bold enterprize to him, I believe you will find him very little disposed towards it: his present weakness will throw him into a despondency; he will be afraid of every thing, being in a state of total incapacity. The inhabitants of warm countries are, like old men, timorous; the people in cold countries are, like young men, brave. If we reflect on the late wars, (which are more recent in our memory, and in which we can better distinguish some particular effects, that escape us at a greater distance of time,) we shall find that the northern people, transplanted into southern regions, did not perform such exploits as their countrymen, who, fighting in their own climate, possessed their full vigour and courage.

This strength of the fibres, in northern nations, is the cause that the coarser juices are extracted from their aliments. From hence two things result: one, that the parts of the chyle, or lymph, are more Edition: current; Page: [294] proper, by reason of their large surface, to be applied to, and to nourish, the fibres: the other, that they are less proper, from their coarseness, to give a certain subtlety to the nervous juice. Those people have, therefore, large bodies and but little vivacity.

The nerves, that terminate from all parts in the cutis, form each a nervous bundle; generally speaking, the whole nerve is not moved, but a very minute part. In warm climates, where the cutis is relaxed, the ends of the nerves are expanded, and laid open to the weakest action of the smallest objects. In cold countries, the cutis is constringed and the papillæ compressed; the miliary glands are in some measure paralytic; and the sensation does not reach the brain but when it is very strong, and proceeds from the whole nerve at once. Now, imagination, taste, sensibility, and vivacity, depend on an infinite number of small sensations.

I have observed the outermost part of a sheep’s tongue, where, to the naked eye, it seems covered with papillæ. On these papillæ I have discerned, through a microscope, small hairs, or a kind of down; between the papillæ were pyramids, shaped towards the ends like pincers. Very likely these pyramids are the principal organ of taste.

I caused the half of this tongue to be frozen, and, observing it with the naked eye, I found the papillæ considerably diminished; even some rows of them were sunk into their sheath. The outermost part I examined with the microscope, and perceived no pyramids. In proportion as the frost went off, the papillæ seemed to the naked eye to rise, and with the microscope the miliary glands began to appear.

This observation confirms what I have been saying, that, in cold countries, the nervous glands are less expanded; they sink deeper into their sheaths, Edition: current; Page: [295] or they are sheltered from the action of external objects; consequently, they have not such lively sensations.

In cold countries they have very little sensibility for pleasure; in temperate countries they have more; in warm countries their sensibility is exquisite. As climates are distinguished by degrees of latitude, we might distinguish them also, in some measure, by those of sensibility. I have been at the opera in England and in Italy, where I have seen the same pieces and the same performers, and yet the same music produces such different effects on the two nations; one is so cold and phlegmatic, and the other so lively and enraptured, that it seems almost inconceivable.

It is the same with regard to pain, which is excited by the laceration of some fibre of the body. The Author of nature has made it an established rule, that this pain should be more acute in proportion as the laceration is greater: now, it is evident, that the large bodies and coarse fibres of the people of the North are less capable of laceration than the delicate fibres of the inhabitants of warm countries; consequently, the soul is there less sensible of pain. You must flay a Muscovite alive to make him feel.

From this delicacy of organs, peculiar to warm climates, it follows, that the soul is most sensibly moved by whatever relates to the union of the two sexes: here every thing leads to this object.

In northern climates, scarcely has the animal part of love a power of making itself felt. In temperate climates, love, attended by a thousand appendages, endeavours to please by things that have, at first, the appearance, though not the reality, of this passion. In warmer climates, it is liked for its own sake, it is the only cause of happiness, it is life itself.

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In southern countries, a machine, of a delicate frame but strong sensibility, resigns itself either to a love which rises, and is incessantly laid, in a seraglio; or to a passion which leaves women in a greater independence, and is consequently exposed to a thousand inquietudes. In northern regions, a machine, robust and heavy, finds a pleasure in whatever is apt to throw the spirits into motion; such as hunting, travelling, war, and wine. If we travel towards the North, we meet with people who have few vices, many virtues, and a great share of frankness and sincerity. If we draw near the South, we fancy ourselves intirely removed from the verge of morality: here the strongest passions are productive of all manner of crimes, each man endeavouring, let the means be what they will, to indulge his inordinate desires. In temperate climates, we find the inhabitants inconstant in their manners, as well as in their vices and virtues: the climate has not a quality determinate enough to fix them.

The heat of the climate may be so excessive as to deprive the body of all vigour and strength. Then the faintness is communicated to the mind: there is no curiosity, no enterprize, no generosity of sentiment; the inclinations are all passive; indolence constitutes the utmost happiness; scarcely any punishment is so severe as mental employment; and slavery is more supportable than the force and vigour of mind necessary for human conduct.

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CHAP. III.: Contradiction in the Tempers of some Southern Nations.

THE Indians* are naturally a pusillanimous people: even the children of Europeans, born in India, lose the courage peculiar to their own climate. But how shall we reconcile this with their customs and penances so full of barbarity? The men voluntarily undergo the greatest hardships; and the women burn themselves: here we find a very odd compound of fortitude and weakness.

Nature, having framed these people of a texture so weak as to fill them with timidity, has formed them, at the same time, of an imagination so lively, that every object makes the strongest impression upon them. That delicacy of organs, which renders them apprehensive of death, contributes likewise to make them dread a thousand things more than death: the very same sensibility induces them to fly, and dare, all dangers.

As a good education is more necessary to children than to such as are arrived to a maturity of understanding, so the inhabitants of those countries have much greater need than the European nations of a wise legislator. The greater their sensibility, the more it behoves them to receive proper impressions, to imbibe no prejudices, and to let themselves be directed by reason.

At the time of the Romans, the inhabitants of the North of Europe were destitute of arts, education, and almost of laws: and yet the good sense, annexed to the gross fibres of those climates, enabled them Edition: current; Page: [298] to make an admirable stand against the power of Rome, till the memorable period in which they quitted their woods to subvert that great empire.

CHAP. IV.: Cause of the Immutability of Religion, Manners, Customs, and Laws, in the Eastern Countries.

IF, to that delicacy of organs which renders the eastern nations so susceptible of every impression, you add likewise a sort of indolence of mind, naturally connected with that of the body, by means of which they grow incapable of any exertion or effort, it is easy to comprehend, that, when once the soul has received an impression, she cannot change it. This is the reason that the laws, manners, and customs, even those which seem quite indifferent, such as their mode of dress, are the same to this very day, in eastern countries, as they were a thousand years ago.

CHAP. V.: That those are bad legislators who favour the Vices of the Climate, and good Legislators who oppose those Vices.

THE Indians believe that repose and non-existence are the foundation of all things, and the end in which they terminate. Hence they consider entire inaction as the most perfect of all states, and the object of their desires. To the supreme Being they give the title of immoveable. The inhabitants of Siam believe that their utmost happiness§ consists in Edition: current; Page: [299] not being obliged to animate a machine or to give motion to a body.

In those countries where the excess of heat enervates and exhausts the body, rest is so delicious, and motion so painful, that this system of metaphysics seems natural; and Foe, the legislator of the Indies, was directed by his own sensations, when he placed mankind in a state extremely passive: but his doctrine, arising from the laziness of the climate, favoured it also in its turn; which has been the source of an infinite deal of mischief.

The legislators of China were more rational, when, considering men not in the peaceful state which they are to enjoy hereafter, but in the situation proper for discharging the several duties of life, they made their religion, philosophy, and laws, all practical. The more the physical causes incline mankind to inaction, the more the moral causes should estrange them from it.

CHAP. VI.: Of Agriculture in warm Climates.

AGRICULTURE is the principal labour of man. The more the climate inclines him to shun this labour, the more the religion and laws of the country ought to excite him to it. Thus the Indian laws, which give the lands to the prince, and destroy the spirit of property among the subjects, increase the bad effects of the climate, that is, their natural indolence.

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CHAP. VII.: Of Monkery.

THE very same mischiefs result from monkery: it had its rise in the warm countries of the East, where they are less inclined to action than to speculation.

In Asia, the number of dervises, or monks, seems to increase together with the warmth of the climate. The Indies, where the heat is excessive, are full of them, and the same difference is found in Europe.

In order to surmount the laziness of the climate, the laws ought to endeavour to remove all means of subsisting without labour: but, in the southern parts of Europe, they act quite the reverse; to those, who want to live in a state of indolence, they afford retreats the most proper for a speculative life, and endow them with immense revenues. These men, who live in the midst of a plenty which they know not how to enjoy, are in the right to give their superfluities away to the common people. The poor are bereft of property; and these men indemnify them by supporting them in idleness, so as to make them even grow fond of their misery.

CHAP. VIII.: An excellent Custom of China.

THE historical relations of China mention a ceremony* of opening the grounds, which the emperor performs every year. The design of this Edition: current; Page: [301] public and solemn act is to excite the people to tillage.

Farther, the emperor is every year informed of the husbandman who has distinguished himself most in his profession; and he makes him a mandarin of the eighth order.

Among the ancient Persians, the kings quitted their grandeur and pomp, on the eighth day of the month called Chorrem-ruz, to eat with the husbandmen. These institutions were admirably well calculated for the encouragement of agriculture.

CHAP. IX.: Means of encouraging Industry.

WE shall shew, in the nineteenth book, that lazy nations are generally proud. Now, the effect might well be turned against the cause, and laziness be destroyed by pride. In the South of Europe, where people have such a high notion of the point of honour, it would be right to give prizes to husbandmen who had excelled in agriculture, or to artists who had made the greatest improvements in their several professions. This practice has succeeded in our days in Ireland, where it has established one of the most considerable linen-manufactures in Europe.

CHAP. X.: Of the Laws relative to the Sobriety of the People.

IN warm countries, the aqueous part of the blood loses itself greatly by perspiration; it must, therefore, Edition: current; Page: [302] be supplied by a like liquid. Water is there of admirable use; strong liquors would congeal the globules§ of blood that remain after the transuding of the aqueous humour.

In cold countries, the aqueous part of the blood is very little evacuated by perspiration. They may therefore make use of spirituous liquors, without which the blood would congeal. They are full of humours; consequently, strong liquors, which give a motion to the blood, are proper for those countries.

The law of Mahomet, which prohibits the drinking of wine, is therefore fitted to the climate of Arabia: and, indeed, before Mahomet’s time, water was the common drink of the Arabs. The law, which forbad the Carthaginians to drink wine, was also a law of the climate; and, indeed, the climate of those two countries is pretty near the same.

Such a law would be improper for cold countries, where the climate seems to force them to a kind of national intemperance, very different from personal ebriety. Drunkenness predominates throughout the world in proportion to the coldness and humidity of the climate. Go from the equator to the North pole, and you will find this vice increasing together with the degree of latitude: go from the equator again to the South pole, and you will find the same vice travelling South*, exactly in the same proportion.

It is very natural, that, where wine is contrary to the climate, and consequently to health, the excess of it should be more severely punished than in countries Edition: current; Page: [303] where intoxication produces very few bad effects to the person, fewer to the society, and where it does not make people frantic and wild, but only stupid and heavy. Hence those laws, which inflicted a double punishment for crimes committed in drunkenness, were applicable only to a personal, and not to a national, ebriety. A German drinks through custom, and a Spaniard by choice.

In warm countries, the relaxing of the fibres produces a great evacuation of the liquids, but the solid parts are less transpired. The fibres, which act but faintly, and have very little elasticity, are not much impaired; and a small quantity of nutritious juice is sufficient to repair them; for which reason, they eat very little.

It is the variety of wants, in different climates, that first occasioned a difference in the manner of living, and this gave rise to a variety of laws. Where people are very communicative, there must be particular laws; and others where there is but little communication.

CHAP. XI.: Of the Laws relative to the Distempers of the Climate.

HERODOTUS informs us, that the Jewish laws, concerning the leprosy, were borrowed from the practice of the Egyptians. And, indeed, the same distemper required the same remedies. The Greeks and the primitive Romans were strangers to these laws, as well as to the disease. The climate of Egypt and Palestine rendered them necessary; and the facility with which this disease is spread is Edition: current; Page: [304] sufficient to make us sensible of the wisdom and sagacity of those laws.

Even we ourselves have felt the effects of them. The croisades had brought the leprosy amongst us; but the wise regulations, made at that time, hindered it from infecting the mass of the people.

We find, by the law of the Lombards, that this disease was spread in Italy before the croisades, and merited the attention of the legislature. Rotharis ordained that a leper should be expelled from his house, banished to a particular place, and rendered incapable of disposing of his property; because, from the very moment he had been turned out of his house, he was reckoned dead in the eye of the law. In order to prevent all communication with lepers, they were rendered incapable of civil acts.

I am apt to think that this disease was brought into Italy by the conquests of the Greek emperors, in whose armies there might be some soldiers from Palestine or Egypt. Be that as it may, the progress of it was stopt till the time of the croisades.

It is related, that Pompey’s soldiers, returning from Syria, brought a distemper home with them not unlike the leprosy. We have no account of any regulation made at that time; but it is highly probable that some such step was taken, since the distemper was checked till the time of the Lombards.

It is now two centuries since a disease, unknown to our ancestors, was first transplanted from the new world to ours, and came to attack human nature even in the very source of life and pleasure. Most of the principal families in the South of Europe were seen to perish by a distemper that was grown too common to be ignominious, and was considered in no other Edition: current; Page: [305] light than in that of its being fatal. It was the thirst of gold that propagated this disease; the Europeans went continually to America, and always brought back a new leven of it.

Reasons drawn from religion seemed to require that this punishment of guilt should be permitted to continue; but the infection had reached the bosom of matrimony, and given the vicious taint even to guiltless infants.

As it is the business of legislators to watch over the health of the citizens, it would have been a wise part in them to have stopped this communication by laws made on the plan of those of Moses.

The plague is a disease whose infectious progress is much more rapid. Egypt is its principal seat, from whence it spreads over the whole globe. Most countries in Europe have made exceeding good regulations to prevent this infection, and, in our times, an admirable method has been contrived to stop it; this is, by forming a line of troops round the infected country, which cuts off all manner of communication.

The Turks§, who have no such regulations, see the Christians escape this infection, in the same town, and none but themselves perish: they buy the clothes of the infected, wear them, and proceed in their old way, as if nothing had happened. The doctrine of a rigid fate, which directs their whole conduct, renders the magistrate a quiet spectator; he thinks that every thing comes from the hand of God, and that man has nothing more to do than to submit.

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CHAP. XII.: Of the Laws against Suicides.

WE do not find in history that the Romans ever killed themselves without a cause: but the English are apt to commit suicide most unaccountably; they destroy themselves even in the bosom of happiness. This action, among the Romans, was the effect of education, being connected with their principles and customs; among the English, it is the consequence of a distemper*, being connected with the physical state of the machine, and independent of every other cause.

In all probability, it is a defect of the filtration of the nervous juice: the machine, whose motive faculties are often unexerted, is weary of itself; the soul feels no pain, but a certain uneasiness in existing. Pain is a local sensation, which leads us to the desire of seeing an end of it; the burthen of life, which prompts us to the desire of ceasing to exist, is an evil confined to no particular part.

It is evident that the civil laws of some countries may have reasons for branding suicide with infamy: but, in England, it cannot be punished without punishing the effects of madness.

CHAP. XIII.: Effects arising from the Climate of England.

IN a nation, so distempered by the climate as to have a disrelish of every thing, nay, even of life, it is plain, that the government most suitable to the inhabitants is that in which they cannot lay their uneasiness Edition: current; Page: [307] to any single person’s charge, and in which, being under the direction of the laws rather than of the prince, it is impossible for them to change the government without subverting the laws themselves.

And, if this nation has likewise derived from the climate a certain impatience of temper, which renders them incapable of bearing the same train of things for any long continuance, it is obvious, that the government above-mentioned is the fittest for them.

This impatience of temper is not very considerable of itself; but it may become so when joined with courage.

It is quite a different thing from levity, which makes people undertake or drop a project without cause; it borders more upon obstinacy, because it proceeds from so lively a sense of misery that it is not weakened even by the habit of suffering.

This temper, in a free nation, is extremely proper for disconcerting the projects of tyranny*, which is always slow and feeble in its commencements, as in the end it is active and lively; which at first only stretches out a hand to assist, and exerts afterwards a multitude of arms to oppress.

Slavery is ever preceded by sleep. But a people, who find no rest in any situation, who continually explore every part, and feel nothing but pain, can hardly be lulled to sleep.

Politics are a smooth file, which cuts gradually, and attains its end by a slow progression. Now, the people of whom we have been speaking are incapable of bearing the delays, the details, and the coolness, of negociations: in these they are more unlikely Edition: current; Page: [308] to succeed than any other nation; hence they are apt to lose by treaties what they obtain by their arms.

CHAP. XIV.: Other Effects of the Climate.

OUR ancestors, the ancient Germans, lived under a climate where the passions were extremely calm. Their laws decided only in such cases where the injury was visible to the eye, and went no farther. And, as they judged of the outrages done to men from the greatness of the wound, they acted with no other delicacy in respect to the injuries done to women. The law of the Germans, on this subject, is very extraordinary. If a person uncovers a woman’s head, he pays a fine of fifty sous; if he uncovers her leg up to the knee, he pays the same; and double from the knee upwards. One would think that the law measured the insults offered to women as we measure a figure in geometry; it did not punish the crime of the imagination, but that of the eye. But, upon the migration of a German nation into Spain, the climate soon found a necessity for different laws. The law of the Visigoths inhibited the surgeons to bleed a free woman, except either her father, mother, brother, son, or uncle, was present. As the imagination of the people grew warm, so did that of the legislators; the law suspected every thing when the people were become suspicious.

These laws had, therefore, a particular regard for the two sexes. But, in their punishments, they seem rather to humour the revengeful temper of private persons, than to administer public justice. Thus, in most cases, they reduced both the criminals to be Edition: current; Page: [309] slaves to the offended relations or to the injured husband: a free-born woman, who had yielded to the embraces of a married man, was delivered up to his wife to dispose of her as she pleased. They obliged the slaves§, if they found their master’s wife in adultery, to bind her, and carry her to her husband; they even permitted her children to be her accusers, and her slaves to be tortured in order to convict her. Thus their laws were far better adapted to refine, even to excess, a certain point of honour, than to form a good civil administration. We must not, therefore, be surprized, if count Julian was of opinion, that an affront of that kind ought to be expiated by the ruin of his king and country: we must not be surprized, if the Moors, with such a conformity of manners, found it so easy to settle and to maintain themselves in Spain, and to retard the fall of their empire.

CHAP. XV.: Of the different Confidence which the Laws have in the People, according to the Difference of Climates.

THE people of Japan are of so stubborn and perverse a temper, that neither their legislators nor magistrates can put any confidence in them: they set nothing before their eyes but judgments, menaces, and chastisements; every step they take is subject to the inquisition of the civil magistrate. Those laws, which, out of five heads of families, establish one as a magistrate over the other four; those laws which punish a family or a whole ward for a single crime; those laws, in fine, which find no body innocent where one may happen to be guilty, are made with a Edition: current; Page: [310] design to implant in the people a mutual distrust, and to make every man the inspector, witness, and judge, of his neighbour’s conduct.

On the contrary, the people of India are mild, tender, and compassionate. Hence their legislators repose a great confidence in them. They have established* very few punishments; these are not severe, nor are they rigorously executed. They have subjected nephews to their uncles and orphans to their guardians, as, in other countries, they are subjected to their fathers; they have regulated the succession by the acknowledged merit of the successor. They seem to think that every individual ought to place an intire confidence in the good-nature of his fellow-subjects.

They infranchise their slaves without difficulty; they marry them; they treat them as their children. Happy climate, which gives birth to innocence, and produces a lenity in the laws!


CHAP. I.: Of civil Slavery.

SLAVERY, properly so called, is the establishment of a right which gives to one man such a power Edition: current; Page: [311] over another as renders him absolute master of his life and fortune. The state of slavery is, in its own nature, bad. It is neither useful to the master nor to the slave; not to the slave, because he can do nothing through a motive of virtue; nor to the master, because, by having an unlimited authority over his slaves, he insensibly accustoms himself to the want of all moral virtues, and from thence becomes fierce, hasty, severe, choleric, voluptuous, and cruel.

In despotic countries, where they are already in a state of political servitude, civil slavery is more tolerable than in other governments. Every one ought to be satisfied, in those countries, with necessaries and life. Hence the condition of a slave is hardly more burdensome than that of a subject.

But, in a monarchical government, where it is of the utmost importance that human nature should not be debased nor dispirited, there ought to be no slavery. In democracies, where they are all upon an equality, and in aristocracies, where the laws ought to use their utmost endeavours to procure as great an equality as the nature of the government will permit, slavery is contrary to the spirit of the constitution: it only contributes to give a power and luxury to the citizens which they ought not to have.

CHAP. II.: Origin of the Right of Slavery among the Roman Civilians.

ONE would never have imagined that slavery should owe its birth to pity, and that this should have been excited three different ways.

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The law of nations, to prevent prisoners from being put to death, has allowed them to be made slaves. The civil law of the Romans empowered debtors, who were subject to be ill used by their creditors, to sell themselves. And the law of nature requires, that children, whom a father, in the state of servitude, is no longer able to maintain, should be reduced to the same state as the father.

These reasons of the civilians are all false. It is false that killing in war is lawful, unless in a case of absolute necessity: but, when a man has made another his slave, he cannot be said to have been under a necessity of taking away his life, since he actually did not take it away. War gives no other right over prisoners than to disable them from doing any farther harm, by securing their persons. All nations* concur in detesting the murdering of prisoners in cold blood.

Neither is it true that a freeman can sell himself. Sale implies a price: now, when a person sells himself, his whole substance immediately devolves to his master; the master, therefore, in that case, gives nothing, and the slave receives nothing. You will say he has a peculium. But this peculium goes along with his person. If it is not lawful for a man to kill himself, because he robs his country of his person, for the same reason he is not allowed to barter his freedom. The freedom of every citizen constitutes a part of the public liberty; and, in a democratical state, is even a part of the sovereignty. To sell one’s freedom is so repugnant to all reason as can scarcely be supposed in any man. If liberty may be rated with respect to the buyer, it is beyond all price to the Edition: current; Page: [313] seller. The civil law, which authorizes a division of goods among men, cannot be thought to rank, among such goods, a part of the men who were to make this division. The same law annuls all iniquitous contracts: surely, then, it affords redress in a contract where the grievance is most enormous.

The third way is birth; which falls with the two former: for, if a man could not sell himself, much less could he sell an unborn infant. If a prisoner of war is not to be reduced to slavery, much less are his children.

The lawfulness of putting a malefactor to death arises from this circumstance; the law, by which he is punished, was made for his security. A murderer, for instance, has enjoyed the benefit of the very law which condemns him; it has been a continual protection to him; he cannot therefore object against it. But it is not so with the slave. The law of slavery can never be beneficial to him: it is in all cases against him, without ever being for his advantage: and therefore this law is contrary to the fundamental principle of all societies.

If it be pretended, that it has been beneficial to him, as his master has provided for his subsistence; slavery, at this rate, should be limited to those who are incapable of earning their livelihood. But who will take up with such slaves? As to infants, nature, who has supplied their mothers with milk, had provided for their sustenance; and the remainder of their childhood approaches so near the age in which they are most capable of being of service, that he who supports them cannot be said to give them an equivalent, which can entitle him to be their master.

Nor is slavery less opposite to the civil law than to that of nature. What civil law can restrain a slave from running away, since he is not a member of society, Edition: current; Page: [314] and consequently has no interest in any civil institutions? He can be retained only by a family law, that is, by the master’s authority.

CHAP. III.: Another Origin of the Right of Slavery.

I would as soon say that the right of slavery proceeds from the contempt of one nation for another, founded on a difference in customs.

Lopez de Gamar relates, “that the Spaniards found, near St. Martha, several baskets full of crabs, snails, grashoppers, and locusts, which proved to be the ordinary provision of the natives: this the conquerors turned to a heavy charge against the conquered.” The author owns that this, with their smoking and trimming their beards in a different manner, gave rise to the law by which the Americans became slaves to the Spaniards.

Knowledge humanizes mankind, and reason inclines to mildness, but prejudices eradicate every tender disposition.

CHAP. IV.: Another Origin of the Right of Slavery.

I would as soon say that religion gives its professors a right to enslave those who dissent from it, in order to render its propagation more easy.

This was the notion that encouraged the ravagers of America in their iniquity*. Under the influence of this idea, they founded their right of enslaving so many nations: for these robbers, who would absolutely be both robbers and Christians, were superlatively devout.

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Lewis XIII. was extremely uneasy at a law, by which all the Negroes of his colonies were to be made slaves; but, it being strongly urged to him as the readiest means for their conversion, he acquiesced without farther scruple.

CHAP. V.: Of the Slavery of the Negroes.

WERE I to vindicate our right to make slaves of the Negroes, these should be my arguments.

The Europeans, having extirpated the Americans, were obliged to make slaves of the Africans, for clearing such vast tracts of land.

Sugar would be too dear, if the plants which produce it were cultivated by any other than slaves.

These creatures are all over black, and with such a flat nose, that they can scarcely be pitied.

It is hardly to be believed that God, who is a wise being, should place a soul, especially a good soul, in such a black ugly body.

It is so natural to look upon colour as the criterion of human nature, that the Asiatics, among whom eunuchs are employed, always deprive the blacks of their resemblance to us by a more opprobrious distinction.

The colour of the skin may be determined by that of the hair, which, among the Egyptians, (the best philosophers in the world,) was of such importance, that they put to death all the red-haired men who fell into their hands.

The Negroes prefer a glass necklace to that gold which polite nations so highly value; can there be a greater proof of their wanting common-sense?

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It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures to be men; because, allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow, that we ourselves are not Christians.

Weak minds exaggerate too much the wrong done to the Africans. For, were the case as they state it, would the European powers, who make so many needless conventions among themselves, have failed to enter into a general one, in behalf of humanity and compassion?

CHAP. VI.: The true Origin of the Right of Slavery.

IT is time to enquire into the true origin of the right of slavery. It ought to be founded on the nature of things: let us see if there be any cases where it can be derived from thence.

In all despotic governments, people make no difficulty in selling themselves; the political slavery, in some measure, annihilates the civil liberty.

According to Mr. Perry*, the Muscovites sell themselves very readily: their reason for it is evident; their liberty is not worth keeping.

At Achim, every one is for selling himself. Some of the chief lords have not less than a thousand slaves, all principal merchants, who have a great number of slaves themselves, and these also are not without their slaves. Their masters are their heirs, and put them into trade. In those states, the freemen, being overpowered by the government, have no better resource than that of making themselves slaves to the tyrants in office.

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This is the true and rational origin of that mild law of slavery which obtains in some countries: and mild it ought to be, as founded on the free choice a man makes of a master, for his own benefit; which forms a mutual convention betwixt the two parties.

CHAP. VII.: Another Origin of the Right of Slavery.

THERE is another origin of the right of slavery, and even of the most cruel slavery which is to be seen among men.

There are countries where the excess of heat enervates the body, and renders men so slothful and dispirited that nothing but the fear of chastisement can oblige them to perform any laborious duty: slavery is there more reconcileable to reason; and the master being as lazy, with respect to his sovereign, as his slave is, with regard to him, this adds a political to a civil slavery.

Aristotle endeavours to prove, that there are natural slaves; but what he says is far from proving it. If there be any such, I believe they are those of whom I have been speaking.

But, as all men are born equal, slavery must be accounted unnatural, though, in some countries, it be founded on natural reason; and a wide difference ought to be made betwixt such countries and those in which even natural reason rejects it, as in Europe, where it has been so happily abolished.

Plutarch, in the life of Numa, says, that, in Saturn’s time, there was neither slave nor master. Christianity has restored that age in our climates.

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CHAP. VIII.: Inutility of Slavery among us.

NATURAL slavery, then, is to be limited to some particular parts of the world. In all other countries, even the most servile drudgeries may be performed by freemen.

Experience verifies my assertion. Before Christianity had abolished civil slavery in Europe, working in the mines was judged too toilsome for any but slaves or malefactors; at present, there are men employed in them who are known to live* comfortably. The magistrates have, by some small privileges, encouraged this profession; to an increase of labour they have joined an increase of gain; and have gone so far as to make those people better pleased with their condition than with any other which they could have embraced.

No labour is so heavy but it may be brought to a level with the workman’s strength, when regulated by equity and not by avarice. The violent fatigues which slaves are made to undergo, in other parts, may be supplied by a skilful use of ingenious machines. The Turkish mines, in the Bannat of Temeswear, though richer than those of Hungary, did not yield so much, because the working of them depended entirely on the strength of their slaves.

I know not whether this article be dictated by my understanding or by my heart. Possibly there is not that climate upon earth where the most laborious services might not, with proper encouragement, be performed by freemen. Bad laws having made lazy men, they have been reduced to slavery because of their laziness.

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CHAP. IX.: Several Kinds of Slavery.

SLAVERY is of two kinds, real and personal. The real annexes the slave to the land, which Tacitus makes the condition of slaves among the Germans. They were not employed in the family: a stated tribute of corn, cattle, or other moveables, paid to their master, was the whole of their servitude. And such a servitude still continues in Hungary, Bohemia, and several parts of Lower-Germany.

Personal slavery consists in domestic services, and relates more to the master’s person.

The worst degree of slavery is, when it is at once both real and personal, as that of the Helotes among the Lacedæmonians. They underwent the fatigues of the field, and suffered all manner of insults at home. This Helotism is contrary to the nature of things. Real slavery is to be found only among nations remarkable for their simplicity of life; all family-business being done by the wives and children. Personal slavery is peculiar to voluptuous nations; luxury requiring the service of slaves in the house. But Helotism joins, in the same person, the slavery established by voluptuous nations, and that of the most simple.

CHAP. X.: Regulations necessary in Respect to Slavery.

BUT, of whatsoever kind the slavery be, the civil laws should endeavour, on the one hand, to abolish the abuses of it, and, on the other, to guard against its dangers.

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CHAP. XI.: Abuses of Slavery.

IN Mahometan states, not only the life and goods of female slaves, but also what is called their virtue or honour, are at their master’s disposal. One of the misfortunes of those countries is, that the greatest part of the nation are born only to be subservient to the pleasures of the other. This servitude is alleviated only by the laziness in which such slaves spend their days; which is an additional disadvantage to the state.

It is this indolence which renders the§ eastern seraglios so delightful to those very persons whom they were made to confine. People, who dread nothing but labour, may imagine themselves happy in those places of indolence and ease. But this shews how contrary they are to the very intent of the institution of slavery.

Reason requires that the master’s power should not extend to what does not appertain to his service: slavery should be calculated for utility and not for pleasure. The laws of chastity arise from those of nature, and ought, in all nations, to be respected.

If a law, which preserves the chastity of slaves, be good in those states where an arbitrary power bears down all before it, how much more will it be so in monarchies, and how much more still in republics?

The law of the Lombards has a regulation which ought to be adopted by all governments. “If a master debauch his slave’s wife, the slave and his wife shall be restored to their freedom.” An admirable Edition: current; Page: [321] expedient, which, without severity, lays a powerful restraint on the incontinence of masters!

The Romans seem to have erred on this head. They allowed an unlimited scope to the master’s lusts, and, in some measure, denied their slaves the privilege of marrying. It is true, they were the lowest part of the nation; yet there should have been some care taken of their morals; especially, as, in prohibiting their marriage, they corrupted the morals of the citizens.

CHAP. XII.: Danger from the Multitude of Slaves.

THE multitude of slaves has different effects in different governments. It is no grievance in a despotic state, where the political servitude of the whole body takes away the sense of civil slavery. Those, who are called freemen, in reality, are little more so than they who do not come within that class; and, as the latter, in quality of eunuchs, freedmen, or slaves, have generally the management of all affairs, the condition of a freeman and that of a slave are very nearly allied. This makes it, therefore, almost a matter of indifference, whether, in such states, the slaves be few or numerous.

But, in moderate governments, it is a point of the highest importance that there should not be a great number of slaves. The political liberty of those states adds to the value of civil liberty; and he, who is deprived of the latter, is also bereft of the former. He sees the happiness of a society of which he is not so much as a member; he sees the security of others, fenced by laws, himself without any protection; he perceives that his master has a soul capable of enlarging itself, while his own labours under a continual Edition: current; Page: [322] depression. Nothing more assimilates a man to a beast than living among freemen, himself a slave. Such people as these are natural enemies of the society; and their number must be dangerous.

It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, that moderate governments have been so frequently disturbed by the revolts of slaves; and that this so seldom happens in* despotic states.

CHAP. XIII.: Of armed Slaves.

THE danger of arming slaves is not so great in monarchies as in republics. In the former, a warlike people and a body of nobility are a sufficient check upon these armed slaves; whereas, the pacific members of a republic would have a hard task to quell a set of men, who, having offensive weapons in their hands, would find themselves a match for the citizens.

The Goths, who conquered Spain, spread themselves over the country, and soon became very weak. They made three important regulations: they abolished an ancient custom which prohibited intermarriages with the Romans; they enacted that all the freedmen, belonging to the fiscus, should serve in war, under penalty of being reduced to slavery; and they ordained that each Goth should arm, and bring into the field, the tenth part of his slaves. This was but a small proportion: besides, these slaves, thus carried to the field, did not form a separate body; Edition: current; Page: [323] they were in the army, and might be said to continue in the family.

CHAP. XIV.: The same Subject continued.

WHEN a whole nation is of a martial temper, the slaves in arms are less to be feared.

By a law of the Allemands, a slave, who had committed a clandestine theft§, was liable to the same punishment as a freeman in the like case; but, if he was found guilty of an open robbery, he was only bound to restore the things so taken. Among the Allemands, courage and intrepidity extenuated the guilt of an action. They employed their slaves in their wars. Most republics have been attentive to dispirit their slaves: but the Allemands, relying on themselves, and being always armed, were so far from fearing theirs, that they were rather for augmenting their courage; they were the instruments either of their depredations or of their glory.

CHAP. XV.: Precautions to be used in moderate Governments.

LENITY and humane treatment may prevent the dangers to be apprehended from the multitude of slaves in a moderate government. Men grow reconciled to every thing, and even to servitude, if not aggravated by the severity of the master. The Athenians treated their slaves with great lenity; and this secured that state from the commotions raised by the slaves among the austere Lacedæmonians.

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It does not appear that the primitive Romans met with any trouble from their slaves. Those civil broils, which have been compared to the Punic wars, were the consequence of their having divested themselves of all humanity towards their slaves.*

A frugal and laborious people generally treat their slaves more kindly than those who are above labour. The primitive Romans used to live, work, and eat, with their slaves; in short, they behaved towards them with justice and humanity. The greatest punishment they made them suffer was to make them pass before their neighbours with a forked piece of wood on their backs. Their manners were sufficient to secure the fidelity of their slaves; so that there was no necessity for laws.

But, when the Romans aggrandized themselves, when their slaves were no longer the companions of their labour, but the instruments of their luxury and pride, as they then wanted morals, they had need of laws. It was even necessary for these laws to be of the most terrible kind, in order to establish the safety of those cruel masters who lived with their slaves as in the midst of enemies.

They made the Syllanian senatus-consultum, and other laws, which decreed, that, when a master was murdered, all the slaves under the same roof, or in any place so near the house as to be within the hearing of a man’s voice, should, without distinction, be condemned to die. Those, who, in this case, sheltered a slave, in order to save him, were punished as murderers; he, whom his master ordered Edition: current; Page: [325] to kill him, and who obeyed, was reputed guilty; even he, who did not hinder him from killing himself, was liable to be punished§. If a master was murdered on a journey, they put to death those who were with him and those who fled. All these laws took place even against persons whose innocence was proved; the intent of them was to inspire their slaves with a prodigious respect for their master. They were not dependent on the civil government, but on a fault or imperfection of the civil government. They were not derived from the equity of civil laws, since they were contrary to the principle of those laws. They were properly founded on the principles of war, with this difference, that the enemies were in the bosom of the state. The Syllanian senatus-consultum was derived from the law of nations, which requires that a society, however imperfect, should be preserved.

It is a misfortune in government when the magistrates thus find themselves under a necessity of making cruel laws. Because they have rendered obedience difficult, they are obliged to increase the penalty of disobedience, or to suspect the slave’s sidelity. A prudent legislator foresees the ill consequences of rendering the legislature terrible. The slaves amongst the Romans could have no confidence in the laws; and therefore the laws could have none in them.

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CHAP. XVI.: Regulations between Masters and Slaves.

THE magistrate ought to take care that the slave has his food and raiment; and this should be regulated by law.

The laws ought to provide that care be taken of them in sickness and old age. Claudius* decreed, that the slaves, who, in sickness, had been abandoned by their masters, should, in case they recovered, be emancipated. This law insured their liberty; but should not there have been some care also taken to preserve their lives?

When the law permitted a master to take away the life of his slave, he was invested with a power which he ought to exercise as judge, and not as master; it was necessary, therefore, that the law should ordain those formalities, which remove the suspicion of an act of violence.

When fathers, at Rome, were no longer permitted to put their children to death, the magistrates ordained the punishment which the father would have inflicted. A like custom, between the master and his slaves, would be highly reasonable, in a country where masters have the power of life and death.

The law of Moses was extremely severe. “If a man struck his servant so that he died under his hand, he was to be punished; but, if he survived a day or two, no punishment ensued, because he was his money.” Strange, that a civil institution should thus relax the law of nature.

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By a law of the Greeks, a slave, too severely treated by his master, might insist upon being sold to another. In latter times, there was a law of the same nature§ at Rome. A master, displeased with his slave, and a slave with his master, ought to be separated.

When a citizen uses the slave of another ill, the latter ought to have the liberty of complaining before the judge. The laws of Plato, and of most nations, took away from slaves the right of natural defence: it was necessary then that they should give them a civil defence.

At Sparta, slaves could have no justice against either insults or injuries. So excessive was their misery, that they were not only the slaves of a citizen, but also of the public; they belonged to all as well as to one. At Rome, when they considered the injury done to a slave, they had regard only to the interest* of the master. In the breach of the Aquilian law, they confounded a wound given to a beast and that given to a slave; they regarded only the diminution of their value. At Athens, he who abused the slave of another was punished severely, and sometimes even with death. The law of Athens was very reasonable, in not adding the loss of security to that of liberty.

CHAP. XVII.: Of Infranchisements.

IT is easy to perceive, that many slaves, in a republican government, create a necessity of making Edition: current; Page: [328] many free. The evil is, if they have too great a number of slaves, they cannot keep them in due bounds; if they have too many freed-men, they cannot live, and must become a burthen to the republic: besides, it may be as much in danger from the multitude of freed-men as from that of slaves. It is necessary therefore that the law should have an eye to these two inconveniences.

The several laws and decrees of the senate, made at Rome both for and against slaves, sometimes to limit, and at other times to facilitate, their infranchisement, plainly shew the embarrassment in which they found themselves in this respect. There were even times in which they durst not make laws. When, under Nero, they demanded of the senate a permission for the masters to reduce again to slavery the ungrateful freed-men, the emperor declared, that it was their duty to decide the affairs of individuals, and to make no general decree.

Much less can I determine what ought to be the regulations of a good republic in such an affair; this depends on too many circumstances. Let us however make some reflections.

A considerable number of freed-men ought not suddenly to be made by a general law. We know, that, among the Volsinienses, the freed-men, becoming masters of the suffrages, enacted an abominable law, which gave them the right of lying the first night with the young women married to the free-born.

There are several ways of insensibly introducing new citizens into a republic. The laws may favour the acquiring a peculium, and put slaves into a condition of buying their liberty: they may prescribe a Edition: current; Page: [329] term of servitude, like those of Moses, which limited that of the§ Hebrew slaves to six years. It is easy to enfranchise, every year, a certain number of those slaves, who, by their age, health, or industry, are capable of getting a subsistence. The evil may be even cured in its root. As a great number of slaves are connected with the several employments which are given them, to divide amongst the free born a part of these employments, for example, commerce or navigation, is diminishing the number of slaves.

When there are many freed-men, it is necessary that the civil laws should determine what they owe to their patron, or that these duties should be fixed by the contract of infranchisement.

It is certain, that their condition should be more favoured in the civil than in the political state; because, even in a popular government, the power ought not to fall into the hands of the vulgar.

At Rome, where they had so many freed-men, the political laws, with regard to them, were admirable. They gave them very little, and excluded them almost from nothing: they had even a share in the legislature; but the resolutions they were capable of taking were almost of no weight. They might bear a part in the public offices, and even in the dignity of the priesthood; but this privilege was in some sort rendered useless, by the disadvantages they had to encounter in the elections. They had a right to enter into the army; but they were to be registered in a certain class of the census before they could be soldiers. Nothing hindered the* freedmen from being united by marriage with the families of the free-born; but they were not permitted to Edition: current; Page: [330] mix with those of the senators. In short, their children were free-born, though they were not so themselves.

CHAP. XVIII.: Of Freed-men and Eunuchs.

THUS, in a republican government, it is frequently of advantage, that the situation of the freed-men be but little below that of the free-born, and that the laws be calculated to remove a dislike of their condition. But, in a despotic government, where luxury and arbitrary power prevail, they have nothing to do in this respect; the freed-men generally find themselves above the free-born: they rule in the court of the prince, and in the palaces of the great; and, as they study the foibles, and not the virtues, of their master, they lead him intirely by the former, not by the latter. Such were the freedmen of Rome in the times of the emperors.

When the principal slaves are eunuchs, let never so many privileges be granted them, they can hardly be regarded as freed-men: for, as they are incapable of having a family of their own, they are naturally attached to that of another; and it is only by a kind of fiction that they are considered as citizens.

And yet there are countries where the magistracy is intirely in their hands. “In Tonquin, says Dampier, all the mandarins, civil and military, are eunuchs.” They have no families, and, though they are naturally avaricious, the master or the prince benefits, in the end, by this very passion.

Dampier tells us, too, that, in this country, the eunuchs cannot live without women, and therefore Edition: current; Page: [331] marry. The law which permits their marriage may be founded partly on their respect for these eunuchs, and partly on their contempt of the fair-sex.

Thus they are trusted with the magistracy because they have no family, and permitted to marry because they are magistrates.

Then it is that the sense which remains would fain supply that which they have lost; and the enterprises of despair become a kind of enjoyment. So, in Milton, that spirit, who has nothing left but desires, enraged at his degradation, would make use of his impotency itself.

We see, in the history of China, a great number of laws to deprive eunuchs of all civil and military employments; but they always returned to them again. It seems as if the eunuchs of the East were a necessary evil.


CHAP. I.: Of domestic Servitude.

SLAVES are established for the family, but they are not a part of it. Thus I distinguish their servitude from that which the women, in some countries, suffer, and which I shall properly call domestic servitude.

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CHAP. II.: That, in the Countries of the South, there is a natural Inequality between the two Sexes.

WOMEN, in hot climates, are* marriageable at eight, nine, or ten, years of age: thus, in those countries, infancy and marriage generally go together. They are old at twenty: their reason, therefore, never accompanies their beauty. When beauty demands the empire, the want of reason forbids the claim; when reason is obtained, beauty is no more. These women ought, then, to be in a state of dependence; for reason cannot procure, in old age, that empire which even youth and beauty could not give. It is therefore extremely natural, that, in these places, a man, when no law opposes it, should leave one wife to take another, and that polygamy should be introduced.

In temperate climates, where the charms of women are best preserved, where they arrive later at maturity, and have children at a more advanced season of life, the old age of their husbands in some degree follows theirs; and, as they have more reason and knowledge at the time of marriage, if it be only on account of their having continued longer in life, it must naturally introduce a kind of equality between the two sexes, and, in consequence of this, the law of having only one wife.

In cold countries, the almost necessary custom of drinking strong liquors establishes intemperance amongst men. Women, who, in this respect, have Edition: current; Page: [333] a natural restraint, because they are always on the defensive, have therefore the advantage of reason over them.

Nature, which has distinguished men by their reason and bodily strength, has set no other bounds to their power than those of this strength and reason. It has given charms to women, and ordained that their ascendant over man shall end with these charms: but, in hot countries, these are found only at the beginning, and never in the progress, of life.

Thus the law, which permits only one wife, is physically conformable to the climate of Europe, and not to that of Asia. This is the reason why Mahometanism was so easily established in Asia, and with such difficulty extended in Europe; why Christianity is maintained in Europe and has been destroyed in Asia; and, in fine, why the Mahometans have made such progress in China and the Christians so little. Human reasons, however, are subordinate to that supreme Cause who does whatever he pleases, and renders every thing subservient to his will.

Some particular reasons induced Valentinian to permit polygamy in the empire. That law, so improper for our climates, was abrogated by Theodosius, Arcadius, and Honorius.

CHAP. III.: That a Plurality of Wives greatly depends on the Means of supporting them.

THOUGH, in countries where polygamy is once established, the number of wives is principally determined by the opulence of the husband, yet it cannot be said that opulence established polygamy in Edition: current; Page: [334] those states, since poverty may produce the same effect, as I shall prove when I come to speak of the savages.

Polygamy, in powerful nations, is less a luxury in itself than the occasion of great luxury. In hot climates they have few wants, and it costs little to maintain a wife and children; they may, therefore, have a great number of wives.

CHAP. IV.: That the Law of Polygamy is an Affair that depends on Calculation.

ACCORDING to the calculations made in several parts of Europe, there are here born more boys than girls§; on the contrary, by the accounts we have of Asia, there are there born more girls than boys. The law, which, in Europe, allows only one wife, and that, in Asia, which permits many, have, therefore, a certain relation to the climate.

In the cold climates of Asia, there are born, as in Europe, more males than females; and from hence, say the* lamas, is derived the reason of that law, which, amongst them, permits a woman to have many husbands.

But it is difficult for me to believe that there are many countries where the disproportion can be great enough for any exigency to justify the introducing Edition: current; Page: [335] either the law in favour of many wives, or that of many husbands. This would only imply, that a majority of women, or even a majority of men, is more conformable to nature in certain countries than in others.

I confess, that, if what history tells us be true, that, at Bantam, there are ten women to one man, this must be a case particularly favourable to polygamy.

In all this I only give their reasons, but do not justify their customs.

CHAP. V.: The Reason of a Law of Malabar.

IN the tribe of the Naires, on the coast of Malabar, the men can have only one wife, while a woman, on the contrary, may have many husbands. The origin of this custom is not, I believe, difficult to discover. The Naires are the tribe of nobles, who who are the soldiers of all those nations. In Europe, soldiers are forbid to marry; in Malabar, where the climate requires greater indulgence, they are satisfied with rendering marriage as little burthensome to them as possible: they give one wife amongst many men; which consequently diminishes the attachment to a family and the cares of house-keeping, and leaves them in the free possession of a military spirit.

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CHAP. VI.: Of Polygamy considered in itself.

WITH regard to polygamy in general, independently of the circumstances which may render it tolerable, it is not of the least service to mankind, nor to either of the two sexes, whether it be that which abuses, or that which is abused. Neither is it of service to the children; for one of its greatest inconveniences is, that the father and mother cannot have the same affection for their offspring; a father cannot love twenty children with the same tenderness as a mother can love two. It is much worse when a wife has many husbands; for then paternal love is only held by this opinion, that a father may believe, if he will, or that others may believe, that certain children belong to him.

They say, that the emperor of Morocco has women of all colours, white, black, and tawny, in his seraglio. But the wretch has scarcely need of a single colour.

Besides, the possession of many wives does not always prevent their entertaining desires§ for those of others: it is with lust as with avarice, whose thirst increases by the acquisition of treasure.

In the reign of Justinian, many philosophers, displeased with the constraint of Christianity, retired into Persia. What struck them the most, says Agathias, was, that polygamy was permitted amongst men who did not even abstain from adultery.

May I not say, that a plurality of wives leads to that passion which nature disallows? for one depravation always draws on another. I remember, that, in the revolution which happened at Constantinople, Edition: current; Page: [337] when sultan Achmet was deposed, history says, that, the people having plundered the kiaya’s house, they found not a single woman: they tell us, that, at Algiers*, in the greatest part of their seraglios, they have none at all.

CHAP. VII.: Of an Equality of Treatment in Case of many Wives.

FROM the law which permitted a plurality of wives followed that of an equal behaviour to each. Mahomet, who allowed of four, would have every thing, as provisions, dress, and conjugal duty, equally divided between them. This law is also in force in the Maldivian isles, where they are at liberty to marry three wives.

The law of Moses even declares, that, if any one has married his son to a slave, and this son should afterwards espouse a free woman, her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. They might give more to the new wife, but the first was not to have less than she had before.

CHAP. VIII.: Of the Separation of Women from Men.

THE prodigious number of wives, possessed by those who live in rich and voluptuous countries, is a consequence of the law of polygamy: their separation from men and their close confinement naturally follow from the greatness of this number. Domestic order renders this necessary: thus an insolvent debtor seeks to conceal himself from the pursuit of his creditors. Edition: current; Page: [338] There are climates where the impulses of nature have such force that morality has almost none. If a man be left with a woman, the temptation and the fall will be the same thing; the attack certain, the resistance none. In these countries, instead of precepts, they have recourse to bolts and bars.

One of the Chinese classic authors considers the man as a prodigy of virtue, who, finding a woman alone, in a distant apartment, can forbear making use of force.

CHAP. IX.: Of the Connexion between domestic and political Government.

IN a republic, the condition of citizens is moderate, equal, mild, and agreeable; every thing partakes of the benefit of public liberty. An empire over the women cannot, amongst them, be so well exerted; and, where the climate demands this empire, it is most agreeable to a monarchical government. This is one of the reasons why it has ever been difficult to establish a popular government in the East.

On the contrary, the slavery of women is perfectly conformable to the genius of a despotic government, which delights in treating all with severity. Thus, at all times, have we seen, in Asia, domestic slavery and despotic government walk hand in hand with an equal pace.

In a government which requires, above all things, that a particular regard be paid to its tranquility, and Edition: current; Page: [339] where the extreme subordination calls for peace, it is absolutely necessary to shut up the women; for their intrigues would prove fatal to their husbands. A government, which has not time to examine into the conduct of its subjects, views them with a suspicious eye, only because they appear, and suffer themselves to be known.

Let us only suppose that the levity of mind, the indiscretions, the tastes, and caprices, of our women, attended by their passions of a higher and a lower kind, with all their active fire, and in that full liberty with which they appear amongst us, were conveyed into an eastern government, where would be the father of a family who could enjoy a moment’s repose? the men would be every where suspected, every where enemies; the state would be overturned, and the kingdom overflowed with rivers of blood.

CHAP. X.: The Principle on which the Morals of the East are founded.

IN the case of a multiplicity of wives, the more a family ceases to be united, the more ought the laws to re-unite its detached parts in a common center; and, the greater the diversity of interests, the more necessary it is for the laws to bring them back to a common interest.

This is more particularly done by confinement. The women should not only be separated from the men by the walls of the house, but they ought also to be separated, in the same inclosure, in such a manner, that each may have a distinct household in the same family. From hence each derives all that relates to the practice of morality, modesty, chastity, reserve, silence, peace, dependence, respect, and love; Edition: current; Page: [340] and, in short, a general direction of her thoughts to that which, in its own nature, is a thing of the greatest importance, a single and entire attachment to her family.

Women have naturally so many duties to fulfil, duties which are peculiarly theirs, that they cannot be sufficiently excluded from every thing capable of inspiring other ideas, from every thing that goes by the name of amusements, and from every thing which we call business.

We find the manners more pure, in the several parts of the East, in proportion as the confinement of women is more strictly observed. In great kingdoms, there are necessarily great lords: the greater their wealth, the more enlarged is their ability of keeping their wives in an exact confinement, and of preventing them from entering again into society. From hence it proceeds, that, in the empires of Turkey, Persia, of the Mogul, China, and Japan, the manners of their wives are admirable.

But the case is not the same in India, where a multitude of islands and the situation of the land have divided the country into an infinite number of petty states, which, from causes that we have not here room to mention, are rendered despotic.

There are none there but wretches, some pillaging and others pillaged. Their grandees have very moderate fortunes; and those whom they call rich have only a bare subsistence. The confinement of their women cannot therefore be very strict; nor can they make use of any great precautions to keep them within due bounds: from hence it proceeds that the corruption of their manners is scarcely to be conceived.

We may there see to what an extreme the vices of a climate, indulged in the full liberty, will carry Edition: current; Page: [341] licentiousness. It is there that nature has a force, and modesty a weakness, which exceeds all comprehension. At Patan, the wanton desires* of the women are so outrageous, that the men are obliged to make use of a certain apparel to shelter them from their designs. According to Mr. Smith, things are not better conducted in the petty kingdoms of Guinea. In these countries, the two sexes lose even those laws which properly belong to each.

CHAP. XI.: Of domestic Slavery independently of Polygamy.

IT is not only a plurality of wives which, in certain places of the East, requires their confinement, but also the climate itself. Those, who consider the horrible crimes, the treachery, the dark villanies, the poisonings, the assassinations, which the liberty of women has occasioned at Goa, and in the Portuguese settlements in the Indies, where religion permits only one wife, and who compare them with the innocence and purity of manners of the women of Turkey, Persia, Indostan, China, and Japan, will clearly see that it is frequently as necessary to separate them from the men when they have but one, as when they have many.

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These are things which ought to be decided by the climate. What purpose would it answer to shut up women in our northern countries, where their manners are naturally good, where all their passions are calm, and where love rules over the heart with so regular and gentle an empire, that the least degree of prudence is sufficient to conduct it?

It is a happiness to live in those climates which permit such a freedom of converse; where that sex which has most charms seems to embellish society, and where wives, reserving themselves for the pleasures of one, contribute to the amusement of all.

CHAP. XII.: Of natural Modesty.

ALL nations are equally agreed in fixing contempt and ignominy on the incontinence of women. Nature has dictated this to all: she has established the attack, and she has established too the resistance; and, having implanted desires in both, she has given to the one boldness, and to the other shame. To individuals she has granted a long succession of years to attend to their preservation; but, to continue the species, she has granted only a moment.

It is, then, far from being true, that to be incontinent is to follow the laws of nature: on the contrary, it is a violation of these laws, which can be observed only by behaving with modesty and discretion.

Besides, it is natural for intelligent beings to feel their imperfections: nature has therefore fixed shame in our minds, a shame of our imperfections.

When, therefore, the physical power of certain climates violates the natural law of the two sexes, and that of intelligent beings, it belongs to the legislature to make civil laws, with a view of opposing the Edition: current; Page: [343] nature of the climate and re-establishing the primitive laws.

CHAP. XIII.: Of Jealousy.

WITH respect to nations, we ought to distinguish between the passion of jealousy, and a jealousy arising from customs, manners, and laws. The one is a hot raging fever; the other, cold, but sometimes terrible, may be joined with indifference and contempt.

The one, an abuse of love, derives its source from love itself: the other depends only on manners, on the customs of a nation, on the laws of the country, and sometimes even on religion.*

It is generally the effect of the physical power of the climate, and, at the same time, the remedy of this physical power.

CHAP. XIV.: Of the Eastern Manner of domestic Government.

WIVES are changed so often, in the East, that they cannot have the power of domestic government. This care is, therefore, committed to the eunuchs, whom they intrust with their keys and the management of their families. “In Persia, says sir John Chardin, married women are furnished with clothes as they want them, after the manner of children.” Thus, that care, which seems so well to become them, that care, which, every where else, is the first of their concern, does not at all regard them.

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CHAP. XV.: Of Divorce and Repudiation.

THERE is this difference between a divorce and a repudiation; that the former is made by mutual consent, arising from a mutual antipathy, while the latter is formed by the will, and for the advantage, of one of the two parties, independently of the will and advantage of the other.

The necessity there is sometimes for women to repudiate, and the difficulty there always is in doing it, render that law very tyrannical which gives this right to men without granting it to women. A husband is the master of the house; he has a thousand ways of confining his wife to her duty, or of bringing her back to it; so that, in his hands, it seems as if repudiation could be only a fresh abuse of power. But a wife who repudiates only makes use of a dreadful kind of remedy. It is always a great misfortune for her to go in search of a second husband, when she has lost the most part of her attractions with another. One of the advantages, attending the charms of youth in the female sex, is, that, in an advanced age, the husband is led to complacency and love by the remembrance of past pleasures.

It is then a general rule, that, in all countries where the laws have given to men the power of repudiating, they ought also to grant it to women. Nay, in climates where women live in domestic slavery, one would think that the law ought to favour women with the right of repudiation, and husbands only with that of divorce.

When wives are confined in a seraglio, the husband ought not to repudiate on account of an opposition of manners; it is the husband’s fault if their manners are incompatible.

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Repudiation, on account of the barrenness of the woman, ought never to take place but where there is only one wife*; when there are many, this is of no importance to the husband.

A law of the Maldivians permitted them to take again a wife whom they had repudiated. A law of Mexico forbad their being re-united under pain of death. The law of Mexico was more rational than that of the Maldivians: at the time even of the dissolution, it attended to the perpetuity of marriage; instead of this, the law of the Maldivians seemed equally to sport with marriage and repudiation.

The law of Mexico admitted only of divorce. This was a particular reason for their not permitting those, who were voluntarily separated, to be ever re-united. Repudiation seems chiefly to proceed from a hastiness of temper and from the dictates of passion, while divorce appears to be an affair of deliberation.

Divorces are frequently of great political use; but, as to the civil utility, they are established only for the advantage of the husband and wife, and are not always favourable to their children.

CHAP. XVI.: Of Repudiation and Divorce amongst the Romans.

ROMULUS permitted a husband to repudiate his wife, if she had committed adultery, prepared poison, or procured false keys. He did not grant to women the right of repudiating their husbands. Plutarch calls this, a law extremely severe.

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As the Athenian law gave§ the power of repudiation to the wife as well as to the husband, and as this right was obtained by the women amongst the primitive Romans, notwithstanding the law of Romulus, it is evident that this institution was one of those which the deputies of Rome brought from Athens, and which were inserted into the laws of the twelve tables.

Cicero says that the reasons of repudiation sprung from the law of the twelve tables. We cannot then doubt but that this law increased the number of the reasons for repudiation established by Romulus.

The power of divorce was also an appointment, or at least a consequence, of the law of the twelve tables. For, from the moment that the wife or the husband had separately the right of repudiation, there was a much stronger reason for their having the power of quitting each other by mutual consent.

The law did not require that they should lay open the* causes of divorce. In the nature of the thing, the reasons for repudiation should be given, while those for a divorce are unnecessary; because, whatever causes the law may admit as sufficient to break a marriage, a mutual antipathy must be stronger than them all.

The following fact, mentioned by Dionysius Halicarnassensis, Valerius Maximus, and Aulus Gellius§§, does not appear to me to have the least degree of probability. Though they had, at Rome, say they, the power of repudiating a wife, yet they had so much respect for the auspices that nobody, for the Edition: current; Page: [347] space of five hundred and twenty years, ever made life of this right, till Carvilius Ruga repudiated his because of her sterility. We need only be sensible of the nature of the human mind, to perceive how very extraordinary it must be for a law to grant such right to a whole nation and yet for nobody to make use of it. Coriolanus, setting out on his exile, advised his wife to marry a man more happy than himself. We have just been seeing that the law of the twelve tables and the manners of the Romans greatly extended the law of Romulus. But to what purpose were these extensions, if they never made use of a power to repudiate? Besides, if the citizens had such a respect for the auspices that they would never repudiate, how came the legislators of Rome to have less than they? and how came the laws incessantly to corrupt their manners?

All that is surprizing, in the fact in question, will soon disappear, only by comparing two passages in Plutarch. The regal law* permitted a husband to repudiate in the three cases already mentioned, and “it enjoined, says Plutarch§, that he, who repudiated in any other case, should be obliged to give the half of his substance to his wife, and that the other half should be consecrated to Ceres.” They might then repudiate in all cases, if they were but willing to submit to the penalty. Nobody had done this before Carvilius Ruga, who, as Plutarch says in another place, “put away his wife for her sterility Edition: current; Page: [348] two hundred and thirty years after Romulus.” That is, she was repudiated seventy one years before the law of the twelve tables, which extended both the power and causes of repudiation.

The authors I have cited say, that Carvilius Ruga loved his wife; but that the censors made him take an oath to put her away, because of her barrenness, to the end that he might give children to the republic; and that this rendered him odious to the people. We must know the genius and temper of the Romans before we can discover the true cause of the hatred they had conceived against Carvilius. He did not fall into disgrace with the people for repudiating his wife; this was an affair that did not at all concern them. But Carvilius had taken an oath to the censors, that, by reason of the sterility of his wife, he would repudiate her to give children to the republic. This was a yoke which the people saw the censors were going to put upon them. I shall discover, in the prosecution of this work§, the repugnance which they always felt to regulations of the like kind. But whence can such a contradiction betwixt those authors arise? It is because Plutarch examined into a fact, and the others have recounted a prodigy.

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CHAP. I.: Of political Servitude.

POLITICAL servitude does not less depend on the nature of the climate than on that which is civil and domestic; and this we shall now demonstrate.

CHAP. II.: The Difference between Nations in Point of Courage.

WE have already observed, that great heat enervates the strength and courage of men; and that, in cold climates, they have a certain vigour of body and mind which renders them patient and intrepid, and qualifies them for arduous enterprizes. This remark holds good not only between different nations, but even in the different parts of the same country. In the North of China people are more courageous than those in the South; and those in the South of Corea* have less bravery than those in the North.

We ought not, then, to be astonished, that the effeminacy of the people in hot climates has almost always rendered them slaves, and that the bravery of those in cold climates has enabled them to maintain their liberties. This is an effect which springs from a natural cause.

This has also been found true in America; the despotic empires of Mexico and Peru were near the Edition: current; Page: [350] line; and almost all the little free nations were, and still are, near the poles.

CHAP. III.: Of the Climate of Asia.

THE relations of travellers inform us, “that the vast continent of the North of Asia, which extends from forty degrees, or thereabouts, to the pole, and from the frontiers of Muscovy even to the eastern ocean, is in an extremely cold climate; that this immense tract of land is divided by a chain of mountains which runs from West to East, leaving Siberia on the North and Great-Tartary on the South: that the climate of Siberia is so cold, that, excepting a few places, it is unsusceptible of cultivation; and that, though the Russians have settlements all along the Irtis, they cultivate nothing; that this country produces only some little firs and shrubs; that the natives of the country are divided into wretched hords, or tribes, like those of Canada; that the reason of this cold proceeds, on the one hand, from the height of the land, and, on the other, from the mountains, which, in proportion as they run from South to North, are levelled in such a manner that the North wind every where blows without opposition; that this wind, which renders Nova Zembla uninhabitable, blowing in Siberia, makes it a barren waste: that, in Europe, on the contrary, the mountains of Norway and Lapland are admirable bulwarks, which cover the northern countries from the wind; so that at Stockholm, which is about fifty-nine degrees latitude, the earth Edition: current; Page: [351] produces plants, fruits, and corn; and that about Abo, which is sixty-one degrees, and even to sixty-three and sixty-four, there are mines of silver, and the land is fruitful enough.”

We see also, in these relations, “that Great-Tartary, situated to the South of Siberia, is also exceeding cold; that the country will not admit of cultivation; that nothing can be found but pasturage for their flocks and herds; that trees will not grow there, but only brambles, as in Iceland; that there are, near China and India, some countries where there grows a kind of millet, but that neither corn nor rice will ripen; that there is scarcely a place in Chinese Tartary, at forty-three, forty-four, and forty-five, degrees, where it does not freeze seven or eight months in the year, so that it is as cold as Iceland, though it might be imagined, from its situation, to be as hot as the South of France: that there are no cities, except four or five towards the eastern ocean, and some which the Chinese, for political reasons, have built near China; that, in the rest of Great-Tartary, there are only a few, situated in Buchar, Turquestan, and Cathay; that the reason of this extreme cold proceeds from the nature of the nitrous earth, full of saltpetre and sand, and more particularly from the height of the land. Father Verbiest found, that a certain place, eighty leagues North of the great wall, towards the source of Kavamhuran, exceeded the height of the sea near Pekin three thousand geometrical paces; that this height* is the cause that, though almost all the great rivers of Asia have their source in this country, there is, however, so great a want of water, that it can be inhabited only near the rivers and lakes.”

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These facts being laid down, I reason thus. Asia has properly no temperate zone; as the places situated in a very cold climate immediately touch upon those which are exceeding hot; that is, Turkey, Persia, India, China, Corea, and Japan.

In Europe, on the contrary, the temperate zone is very extensive, though situated in climates widely different from each other; there being no affinity between the climates of Spain and Italy and those of Norway and Sweden. But as the climate grows insensibly cold, upon our advancing from South to North, nearly in proportion to the latitude of each country, it thence follows, that each resembles the country joining to it, that there is no very extraordinary difference between them, and that, as I have just said, the temperate zone is very extensive.

From hence it comes, that, in Asia, the strong nations are opposed to the weak; the warlike, brave, and active, people touch immediately on those who are indolent, effeminate, and timorous; the one must, therefore, conquer, and the other be conquered. In Europe, on the contrary, strong nations are opposed to the strong, and those who join to each other have nearly the same courage. This is the grand reason of the weakness of Asia and of the strength of Europe; of the liberty of Europe and of the slavery of Asia: a cause that I do not recollect ever to have seen remarked. From hence it proceeds that liberty, in Asia, never increases; whilst, in Europe, it is enlarged or diminished according to particular circumstances.

The Russian nobility have indeed been reduced to slavery by the ambition of one of their princes; but they have always discovered those marks of impatience and discontent which are never to be seen in the southern climates. Have they not been able, Edition: current; Page: [353] for a short time, to establish an aristocratical government? Another of the northern kingdoms has lost its laws; but we may trust to the climate that they are not lost in such a manner as never to be recovered.

CHAP. IV.: The Consequences resulting from this.

WHAT we have now said is perfectly conformable to history. Asia has been subdued thirteen times; eleven by the northern nations, and twice by those of the South. In the early ages, it was conquered three times by the Scythians; afterwards it was subdued once by the Medes and once by the Persians; again by the Greeks, the Arabs, the Moguls, the Turks, the Tartars, the Persians, and the Afghans. I mention only the Upper-Asia, and say nothing of the invasions made in the rest of the South of that part of the world, which has most frequently suffered prodigious revolutions.

In Europe, on the contrary, since the establishment of the Greek and Phœnician colonies, we know but of four great changes: the first caused by the conquest of the Romans; the second by the inundation of barbarians, who destroyed those very Romans; the third by the victories of Charlemagne; and the last by the invasions of the Normans. And, if this be rightly examined, we shall find, even in these changes, a general strength diffused through all the parts of Europe. We know the difficulty which the Romans met with in conquering Europe, and the ease and facility with which they invaded Asia. We are sensible of the difficulties the northern nations had to encounter in overturning the Roman empire; of the wars and labours of Charlemagne; and of the Edition: current; Page: [354] several enterprizes of the Normans. The destroyers were incessantly destroyed.

CHAP. V.: That, when the People in the North of Asia and those of the North of Europe made Conquests, the Effects of the Conquest were not the same.

THE nations in the North of Europe conquered as freemen; the people in the North of Asia conquered as slaves, and subdued others only to gratify the ambition of a master.

The reason is, that the people of Tartary, the natural conquerors of Asia, are themselves enslaved. They are incessantly making conquests in the South of Asia, where they form empires; but that part of the nation which continues in the country find that they are subject to a great master, who, being despotic in the South, will likewise be so in the North, and, exercising an arbitrary power over the vanquished subjects, pretends to the same over the conquerors. This is at present most conspicuous in that vast country called Chinese Tartary, which is governed by the emperor with a power almost as despotic as that of China itself, and which he every day extends by his conquests.

We may likewise see, in the history of China, that the emperors* sent Chinese colonies into Tartary. These Chinese are become Tartars, and the mortal enemies of China; but this does not prevent their carrying into Tartary the spirit of the Chinese government.

A part of the Tartars, who were conquerors, have very often been themselves expelled, when they have carried into their desarts that servile spirit which Edition: current; Page: [355] they had acquired in the climate of slavery. The history of China furnishes us with strong proofs of this assertion, as does also our ancient history.

From hence it proceeds that the genius of the Getic or Tartarian nation has always resembled that of the empires of Asia. The people in these are governed by the cudgel; the inhabitants of Tartary by whips. The spirit of Europe has ever been contrary to these manners; and, in all ages, what the people of Asia have called punishment, those of Europe have deemed the most outrageous abuse.

The Tartars, who destroyed the Grecian empire, established in the conquered countries slavery and despotic power; the Goths, after subduing the Roman empire, founded monarchy and liberty.

I do not know whether the famous Rudbeck, who, in his Atlantica, has bestowed such praises on Scandinavia, has made mention of that great prerogative which ought to set this people above all the nations upon earth; namely, this country’s having been the source of the liberties of Europe, that is, of almost all the freedom which at present subsists among mankind.

Jornadez the Goth called the North of Europe the forge of the human race. I should rather call it the forge where those weapons were framed which broke the chains of southern nations. In the North were formed those valiant people who sallied forth and deserted their countries to destroy tyrants and slaves, and to teach men, that, nature having made Edition: current; Page: [356] them equal, reason could not render them dependent, except where it was necessary to their happiness.

CHAP. VI.: A new physical Cause of the Slavery of Asia and of the Liberty of Europe.

IN Asia they have always had great empires; in Europe these could never subsist. Asia has larger plains; it is cut out into much more extensive divisions by mountains and seas; and, as it lies more to the South, its springs are more easily dried up; the mountains are less covered with snow; and the rivers, being not§ so large, form more contracted barriers.

Power in Asia ought, then, to be always despotic: for, if their slavery were not severe, they would soon make a division inconsistent with the nature of the country.

In Europe, the natural division forms many nations of a moderate extent, in which the ruling by laws is not incompatible with the maintenance of the state: on the contrary, it is so favourable to it, that, without this, the state would fall into decay, and become a prey to its neighbours.

It is this which has formed a genius for liberty, that renders every part extremely difficult to be subdued and subjected to a foreign power, otherwise than by the laws and the advantage of commerce.

On the contrary, there reigns in Asia a servile spirit, which they have never been able to shake off; and it is impossible to find, in all the histories of that country, a single passage which discovers a freedom Edition: current; Page: [357] of spirit: we shall never see any thing there but the excess of slavery.

CHAP. VII.: Of Africa and America.

THIS is what I had to say of Asia and Europe. Africa is in a climate like that of the South of Asia, and is in the same servitude. America, being lately destroyed, and re-peopled by the nations of Europe and Africa, can now scarcely display its genuine spirit; but what we know of its ancient history is very conformable to our principles.

CHAP. VIII.: Of the Capital of the Empire.

ONE of the consequences of what we have been mentioning is, that it is of the utmost importance to a great prince to make a proper choice of the seat of his empire. He who places it to the southward will be in danger of losing the North; but he who fixes it on the North may easily preserve the South. I do not speak of particular cases. In mechanics, there are frictions by which the effects of the theory are frequently changed or retarded; and policy hath also its frictions.

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CHAP. I.: How the Nature of the Soil has an Influence on the Laws.

THE goodness of the land, in any country, naturally establishes subjection and dependence. The husbandmen, who compose the principal part of the people, are not very jealous of their liberty; they are too busy and too intent on their own private affairs. A country which overflows with wealth is afraid of pillage, afraid of an army. “Who is there that forms this goodly party? said Cicero to Atticus*; are they the men of commerce and husbandry? Let us not imagine that these are averse to monarchy, these, to whom all governments are equal, as soon as they bestow tranquility.”

Thus monarchy is more frequently found in fruitful countries, and a republican government in those which are not so; and this is sometimes a sufficient compensation for the inconveniences they suffer by the sterility of the land.

The barrenness of the Attic soil established there a democracy; and the fertility of that of Lacedæmonia an aristocratical constitution. For, in those times, Greece was averse to the government of a single person; and aristocracy had the nearest resemblance to that government.

Plutarch says, that, the Cilonian sedition having been appeased at Athens, the city fell into its ancient dissensions, and was divided into as many parties as Edition: current; Page: [359] there were kinds of land in Attica. The men who inhabited the eminences would, by all means, have a popular government; those of the flat open country demanded a government composed of the chiefs; and they who were near the sea desired a mixture of both.

CHAP. II.: The same Subject continued.

THESE fertile provinces are always of a level surface, where the inhabitants are unable to dispute against a stronger power: they are then obliged to submit; and, when they have once submitted, the spirit of liberty cannot return; the wealth of the country is a pledge of their fidelity. But, in mountainous districts, as they have but little, they may preserve what they have. The liberty they enjoy, or, in other words, the government they are under, is the only blessing worthy of their defence. It reigns, therefore, more, in mountainous and rugged countries, than in those which nature seems to have most favoured.

The mountaineers preserve a more moderate government, because they are not so liable to be conquered. They defend themselves easily, and are attacked with difficulty; ammunition and provisions are collected and carried against them with great expence, for the country furnishes none. It is, then, a more arduous, a more dangerous, enterprize, to make war against them; and all the laws that can be enacted for the safety of the people are there of least use.

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CHAP. III.: What Countries are best cultivated.

COUNTRIES are not cultivated in proportion to their fertility, but to their liberty; and, if we make an imaginary division of the earth, we shall be astonished to see, in most ages, desarts in the most fruitful parts, and great nations in those where nature seems to refuse every thing.

It is natural for a people to leave a bad soil to seek a better; and not to leave a good soil to go in search of a worse. Most invasions have, therefore, been made in countries which nature seems to have formed for happiness; and, as nothing is more nearly allied than desolation and invasion, the best provinces are most frequently depopulated; while the frightful countries of the North continue always inhabited, from their being almost uninhabitable.

We find, by what historians tell us of the passage of the people of Scandinavia along the banks of the Danube, that this was not a conquest, but only a migration into desart countries.

These happy climates must, therefore, have been depopulated by other migrations, though we know not the tragical scenes that happened.

“It appears, by many monuments of antiquity, says Aristotle, that the Sardinians were a Grecian colony. They were formerly very rich; and Aristeus, so famed for his love of agriculture, was their law-giver. But they are since fallen to decay; for the Carthaginians, becoming their masters, destroyed every thing proper for the nourishment of man, and forbade the cultivation of Edition: current; Page: [361] the lands on pain of death.” Sardinia was not recovered in the time of Aristotle, nor is it to this day.

The most temperate parts of Persia, Turkey, Muscovy, and Poland, have not been able to recover perfectly from the devastations of the Tartars.

CHAP. IV.: New Effects of the Barrenness and Fertility of Countries.

THE barrenness of the earth renders men industrious, sober, inured to hardship, courageous, and fit for war: they are obliged to procure by labour what the earth refuses to bestow spontaneously. The fertility of a country gives ease, effeminacy, and a certain fondness for the preservation of life. It has been remarked, that the German troops, raised in those places where the peasants are rich, as, for instance, in Saxony, are not so good as the others. Military laws may provide against this inconvenience by a more severe discipline.

CHAP. V.: Of the Inhabitants of Islands.

THE inhabitants of islands have a higher relish for liberty than those of the continent. Islands are commonly of a small extent; one part of the people cannot be so easily employed to oppress the other; the sea separates them from great empires; tyranny cannot so well support itself within a small compass; conquerors are stopped by the sea; and the islanders, being without the reach of their arms, more easily preserve their own laws.

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CHAP. VI.: Of Countries raised by the Industry of Man.

THOSE countries which the industry of man has rendered habitable, and which stand in need of the same industry to provide for their subsistence, require a mild and moderate government. There are principally three of this species; the two fine provinces of Kiang-nan and Tcekiang in China, Egypt, and Holland.

The ancient emperors of China were not conquerors. The first thing they did to aggrandize themselves was what gave the highest proof of their wisdom. They raised from beneath the waters two of the finest provinces of the empire; these owe their existence to the labour of man: and it is the inexpressible fertility of these two provinces which has given Europe such ideas of the felicity of that vast country. But a continual and necessary care, to preserve from destruction so considerable a part of the empire, demanded rather the manners of a wise, than of a voluptuous, nation; rather the lawful authority of a monarch, than the tyrannic sway of a despotic prince. Power was, therefore, necessarily moderated in that country, as it was formerly in Egypt, and as it is now in Holland, which nature has made to attend to herself, and not to be abandoned to negligence or caprice.

Thus, in spite of the climate of China, where they are naturally led to a servile obedience, in spite of the apprehensions which follow too great an extent of empire, the first legislators of this country were obliged to make excellent laws, and the government was frequently obliged to follow them.

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CHAP. VII.: Of human Industry.

MANKIND, by their industry, and by the influence of good laws, have rendered the earth more proper for their abode. We see rivers flow where there have been lakes and marshes: this is a benefit which nature has not bestowed; but it is a benefit maintained and supplied by nature. When the Persians§ were masters of Asia, they permitted those, who conveyed a spring to any place which had not been watered before, to enjoy the benefit for five generations; and, as a number of rivulets flowed from mount Taurus, they spared no expence in directing the course of their streams. At this day, without knowing how they came thither, they are found in the fields and gardens.

Thus, as destructive nations produce evils more durable than themselves, the actions of an industrious people are the source of blessings which last when they are no more.

CHAP. VIII.: The general Relation of Laws.

THE laws have a very great relation to the manner in which the several nations procure their subsistence. There should be a code of laws of a much larger extent for a nation attached to trade and navigation than for people who are content with cultivating the earth. There should be a much greater for the latter than for those who subsist by their flocks and herds. There must be a still greater for these than for such as live by hunting.

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CHAP. IX.: Of the Soil of America.

THE cause of there being such a number of savage nations in America is, the fertility of the earth, which spontaneously produces many fruits capable of affording them nourishment. If the women cultivate a spot of land round their cottages, the maiz grows up presently; and hunting and fishing put the men in a state of complete abundance. Besides, black cattle, as cows, buffaloes, &c. thrive there better than carnivorous beasts. The latter have always reigned in Africa.

We should not, I believe, have all these advantages in Europe, if the land were left uncultivated; it would scarcely produce any thing besides forests of oaks and other barren trees.

CHAP. X.: Of Population, in the Relation it bears to the Manner of procuring Subsistence.

LET us see in what proportion countries are peopled where the inhabitants do not cultivate the earth. As the produce of uncultivated land is to that of land improved by culture, so the number of savages in one country is to that of husbandmen in another: and, when the people who cultivate the land cultivate also the arts, this is also in such proportions as would require a minute detail.

They can scarcely form a great nation. If they are herdsmen and shepherds, they have need of an extensive country to furnish subsistence for a small number; if they live by hunting, their number must Edition: current; Page: [365] be still less, and, in order to find the means of life, they must constitute a very small nation.

Their country commonly abounds with forests; which, as the inhabitants have not the art of draining off the waters, are filled with bogs; here each troop canton themselves, and form a petty nation.

CHAP. XI.: Of savage and barbarous Nations.

THERE is this difference between savage and barbarous nations; the former are dispersed in clans, which, for some particular reason, cannot be joined in a body; and the latter are commonly small nations, capable of being united. The savages are generally hunters; the barbarians are herdsmen and shepherds.

This appears plain in the North of Asia. The people of Siberia cannot live in bodies, because they are unable to find subsistence; the Tartars may live in bodies for some time, because their herds and flocks may, for a time, be re-assembled. All the clans may then be re-united; and this is effected when one chief has subdued many others; after which they may do two things, either separate, or set out with a design to make a great conquest in some southern empire.

CHAP. XII.: Of the Law of Nations among People who do not cultivate the Earth.

AS these people do not live in circumscribed territories, many causes of strife arise between them; they quarrel about waste land as we about inheritances. Thus they find frequent occasions for war, in disputes relative either to their hunting, their fishing, Edition: current; Page: [366] the pasture for their cattle, or the violent seizing of their slaves; and, as they are not possessed of landed property, they have many things to regulate by the law of nations, and but few to decide by the civil law.

CHAP. XIII.: Of the civil Law of those Nations who do not cultivate the Earth.

THE division of lands is what principally increases the civil code. Amongst nations where they have not made this division there are very few civil laws.

The institutions of these people may be called manners rather than laws.

Amongst such nations as these, the old men, who remember things past, have great authority: they cannot there be distinguished by wealth, but by wisdom and valour.

These people wander and disperse themselves in pasture grounds or in forests. Marriage cannot there have the security which it has amongst us, where it is fixed by the habitation, and where the wife continues in one house: they may, then, more easily change their wives, possess many, and sometimes mix indifferently, like brutes.

Nations of herdsmen and shepherds cannot leave their cattle, which are their subsistence; neither can they separate themselves from their wives, who look after them. All this ought, then, to go together; especially, as, living generally in a flat open country, where there are few places of considerable strength, their wives, their children, their flocks, may become the prey of their enemies.

Their laws regulate the division of plunder, and have, like our Salique laws, a particular attention to theft.

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CHAP. XIV.: Of the political State of the People who do not cultivate the Land.

THESE people enjoy great liberty. For, as they do not cultivate the earth, they are not fixed, they are wanderers and vagabonds; and, if a chief should deprive them of their liberty, they would immediately go and seek it under another, or retire into the woods, and there live with their families. The liberty of the man is so great, among these people, that it necessarily draws after it that of the citizen.

CHAP. XV.: Of People who know the Use of Money.

ARISTIPPUS, being cast away, swam and got safe to the next shore; where, beholding geometrical figures traced in the sand, he was seized with a transport of joy, judging that he was amongst Greeks, and not in a nation of barbarians.

Should you ever happen to be cast, by some adventure, amongst unknown people, upon seeing a piece of money, you may be assured that you are arrived in a civilized country.

The culture of lands requires the use of money. This culture supposes many inventions and many degrees of knowledge; and we always see ingenuity, the arts, and a sense of want, making their progress with an equal pace. All this conduces to the establishment of a sign of value.

Torrents and eruptions have made the discovery that metals are contained in the bowels of the earth. Edition: current; Page: [368] When once they have been separated, they have easily been applied to their proper use.

CHAP. XVI.: Of civil Laws among People who know not the Use of Money.

WHEN a people have not the use of money, they are seldom acquainted with any other injustice than that which arises from violence; and the weak, by uniting, defend themselves from its effects. They have nothing there but political regulations. But, where money is established, they are subject to that injustice which proceeds from craft; an injustice that may be exercised a thousand ways. Hence they are forced to have good civil laws, which spring up with the new practices of iniquity.

In countries where they have no specie the robber takes only bare moveables, which have no mutual resemblance. But, where they make use of money, the robber takes the signs, and these always resemble each other. In the former, nothing can be concealed, because the robber takes along with him the proofs of his conviction; but, in the latter, it is quite the contrary.

CHAP. XVII.: Of political Laws amongst Nations who have not the Use of Money.

THE greatest security of the liberties of a people, who do not cultivate the earth, is, their not knowing the use of money. What is gained by hunting, fishing, or keeping herds of cattle, cannot be assembled in such great quantity, nor be sufficiently preserved, for one man to find himself in a condition to corrupt Edition: current; Page: [369] many others: but when, instead of this, a man has a sign of riches, he may obtain a large quantity of these signs, and distribute them as he pleases.

The people who have no money have but few wants; and these are supplied with ease, and in an equal manner. Equality is then unavoidable; and from hence it proceeds that their chiefs are not despotic.

CHAP. XVIII.: Of the Power of Superstition.

IF what travellers tell us be true, the constitution of a nation of Louisiana, called the Natches, is an exception to this. Their* chief disposes of the goods of all his subjects, and obliges them to work and toil according to his pleasure. He has a power like that of the Grand Signior, and they cannot even refuse him their heads. When the presumptive heir enters into the world, they devote all the sucking children to his service during life. One would imagine that this is the great Sesostris. He is treated in his cottage with as much ceremony as an emperor of Japan or China.

The prejudices of superstition are superior to all others, and have the strongest influence on the human mind. Thus, though the savage nations have naturally no knowledge of despotic tyranny, still they feel the weight of it. They adore the sun; and, if their chief had not imagined that he was the brother of this glorious luminary, they would have thought him a wretch like themselves.

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CHAP. XIX.: Of the Liberty of the Arabs and the Servitude of the Tartars.

THE Arabs and Tartars are nations of herdsmen and shepherds. The Arabs find themselves in that situation of which we have been speaking, and are therefore free; whilst the Tartars (the most singular people on earth) are involved in a political slavery. I have already given reasons for this, and shall now assign some others.

They have no towns, no forests, and but few marshes; their rivers are generally frozen, and they dwell in a level country of an immense extent. They have pasture for their herds and slocks, and consequently property; but they have no kind of retreat or place of safety. A khan is no sooner overcome than they cut off his head; his children are treated in the same manner, and all his subjects belong to the conqueror. These are not condemned to a civil slavery; for, in that case, they would be a burthen to a simple people, who have no lands to cultivate and no need of any domestic service. They therefore add to the bulk of the nation; but, instead of civil servitude, a political slavery must naturally be introduced amongst them.

It is apparent, that, in a country where the several clans make continual war, and are perpetually conquering each other; in a country, where, by the death of the chief, the body politic of the vanquished clan is always destroyed; the nation in general can Edition: current; Page: [371] enjoy but little freedom; for there is not a single party that must not have been often subdued.

A conquered people may preserve some degree of liberty, when, by the strength of their situation, they are in a state that will admit of capitulating after their defeat. But the Tartars, always defenceless, being once overcome, can never be able to obtain conditions.

I have said, in chap. II. that the inhabitants of cultivated plains are seldom free. Circumstances have occurred to put the Tartars, who dwell in uncultivated plains, in the same situation.

CHAP. XX.: Of the Law of Nations as practised by the Tartars.

THE Tartars appear to be mild and humane amongst themselves, and yet they are most cruel conquerors: when they take cities, they put the inhabitants to the sword, and imagine that they act humanely, if they only sell the people or distribute them amongst their soldiers. They have destroyed Asia, from India even to the Mediterranean; and all the country, which forms the East of Persia, they have rendered a desart.

This law of nations is owing, I think, to the following cause. These people having no towns, all their wars are carried on with eagerness and impetuosity: they fight whenever they hope to conquer; and, when they have no such hope, they join the stronger army. With such customs, it is contrary to the law of nations that a city, incapable of repelling their attack, should stop their progress. They regard not cities as an association of inhabitants, but as places made to bid defiance to their power. They besiege them without military skill, and expose themselves Edition: current; Page: [372] greatly in the attack; and therefore revenge themselves on all those who have spilt their blood.

CHAP. XXI.: The civil Law of the Tartars.

FATHER Du Halde says, that, amongst the Tartars, the youngest of the males is always the heir, by reason, that, as soon as the elder brothers are capable of leading a pastoral life, they leave the house, with a certain number of cattle given them by their father, and build a new habitation. The last of the males, who continues at home with the father, is then his natural heir.

I have heard that a like custom was also observed in some small districts of England: and we find it still in Brittany, in the dutchy of Rohan, where it obtains with regard to ignoble tenures. This is doubtless a pastoral law, conveyed thither by some of the people of Britain, or established by some German nation. By Cæsar and Tacitus we are informed that the latter cultivated but little land.

CHAP. XXII.: Of a civil Law of the German Nations.

I shall here explain how that particular passage of the Salique law, which is commonly distinguished by the term, The Salique Law, relates to the institutions of a people who do not cultivate the earth, or, at least who cultivate it but very little.

The Salique§ law ordains, that, when a man has left children behind him, the males shall succeed to the Salique land in prejudice to the females.

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To understand the nature of those Salique lands, there needs no more than to search into the usages or customs of the Franks, with regard to lands, before they left Germany.

Mr. Echard has very plainly proved that the word Salic is derived from Sala, which signifies a house; and, therefore, that the Salique land was the land belonging to the house. I shall proceed farther, and examine into the nature of the house, and of the land belonging to the house, among the Germans.

“They dwell not in towns, says Tacitus, nor can they bear to have their habitations contiguous to those of others; every one leaves a space or small piece of ground about his house, which is inclosed.” Tacitus is very exact in this account; for many laws of the* barbarian codes have different decrees against those who threw down this inclosure, as well as against such as broke into the house.

We learn, from Tacitus and Cæsar, that the lands cultivated by the Germans were given them only for the space of a year; after which they again became public. They had no other patrimony but the house, and a piece of land within the inclosure that surrounded it. It was this particular patrimony which belonged to the males. And, indeed, how could it belong to the daughters? they were to pass into another habitation.

The Salique land was, then, within that inclosure which belonged to a German house; this was the only property they had. The Franks, after their Edition: current; Page: [374] conquests, acquired new possessions, and continued to call them Salique lands.

When the Franks lived in Germany, their wealth consisted of slaves, flocks, horses, arms, &c. The habitation and the small portion of land adjoining to it were naturally given to the male children who were to dwell there. But afterwards, when the Franks had, by conquest, acquired large tracts of land, they thought it hard that the daughters and their children should be incapable of enjoying any part of them. Hence it was that they introduced a custom of permitting the father to settle the estate, after his death, upon his daughter and her children. They silenced the law; and it appears that these settlements were frequent, since they were entered in the formularies.

Amongst these formularies I find one of a singular nature. A grandfather ordained by will that his grandchildren should share his inheritance with his sons and daughters. What, then, became of the Salique law? In those times, either it could not be observed, or the continual use of nominating the daughters to an inheritance had made them consider their ability to succeed as a case authorized by custom.

The Salique law had not in view a preference of one sex to the other; much less had it a regard to the perpetuity of a family, a name, or the transmission of land: these things did not enter into the heads of the Germans; it was purely an œconomical law, which gave the house, and the land dependent thereon, to the males who should dwell in it, and to whom it consequently was of most service.

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We need here only transcribe the title of the allodial lands of the Salique law, that famous text, of which so many have talked, and which so few have read.

“If a man dies without issue, his father or mother shall succeed him. 2. If he has neither father nor mother, his brother or sister shall succeed him. 3. If he has neither brother nor sister, the sister of his mother shall succeed him. 4. If his mother has no sister, the sister of his father shall succeed him. 5. If his father has no sister, the nearest relation by the male side shall succeed. 6. Not§ any part of the Salique land shall pass to the females; but it shall belong to the males; that is, the male children shall succeed their father.”

It is plain that the first five articles relate to the inheritance of a man who dies without issue; and the sixth to the succession of him who has children.

When a man dies without children, the law ordains that neither of the two sexes shall have the preference to the other, except in certain cases. In the two first degrees of succession, the advantages of the males and females were the same; in the third and fourth, the females had the preference; and the males in the fifth.

Tacitus points out the source of these extravagances: “The sister’s children, says he, are as dear to their uncle as to their own father. There are men who regard this degree of kindred as more strict, and even more holy. They prefer it when they receive hostages.” From hence it proceeds that Edition: current; Page: [376] our earliest historians* speak in such strong terms of the love of the kings of the Franks for their sisters and their sisters children. And, indeed, if the children of the sister were considered, in her brother’s house, as his own children, it was natural for these to regard their aunt as their mother.

The sister of the mother was preferred to the father’s sister; this is explained by other texts of the Salique law. When a woman became a widow, she fell under the guardianship of her husband’s relations; the law preferred to this guardianship the relations by the females before those by the males. Indeed, a woman, who entered into a family, joining herself with those of her own sex, became more united to her relations by the female than by the male. Moreover, when a man killed another, and had not wherewithal to pay the pecuniary penalty, the law permitted him to deliver up his substance, and his relations were to supply the deficiency. After the father, mother, and brother, the sister of the mother was to pay, as if this tie had something in it most tender. Now, the degree of kindred which imposes the burthens ought also to confer the advantages.

The Salique law enjoins, that, after the father’s sister, the succession should be held by the nearest relation male; but, if this relation was beyond the fifth degree, he should not inherit. Thus a female of the fifth degree might inherit to the prejudice of a male of the sixth: and this may be seen in the law of the Ripurian Franks, (a faithful interpreter of the Edition: current; Page: [377] Salique law,) under the title of allodial lands, where it closely adheres to the Salique law on the same subject.

If the father left issue, the Salique law would have the daughters excluded from the inheritance of the Salique land, and determined that it should belong to the male children.

It would be easy for me to prove that the Salique law did not absolutely exclude the daughters from the possession of the Salique land, but only in the case where they were debarred by their brothers. This appears from the letter of the Salique law; which, after having said that the women shall possess none of the Salique land, but only the males, interprets and restrains itself, by adding, “that is, the son shall succeed to the inheritance of the father.”

2. The text of the Salique law is cleared up by the law of the Ripurian Franks, which has also a title§ on allodial lands very conformable to that of the Salique law.

3. The laws of these barbarous nations, who all sprung from Germany, interpret each other, more particularly as they all have nearly the same spirit. The Saxon law enjoined the father and mother to leave their inheritance to their son, and not to their daughter; but, if there were none but daughters, they were to have the whole inheritance.

4. We have two ancient formularies* that state the case in which, according to the Salique law, the daughters were excluded by the males; that is, when they stood in competition with their brother.

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5. Another formulary proves that the daughter succeeded to the prejudice of the grandson; she was therefore excluded only by the son.

6. If daughters had been generally debarred, by the Salique law, from the inheritance of land, it would be impossible to explain the histories, formularies, and charters, which are continually mentioning the lands and possessions of the females under the first race.

People have been wrong in asserting that the Salique lands were fiefs. 1. This head is distinguished by the title of allodial lands. 2. Fiefs at first were not hereditary. 3. If the Salique lands had been fiefs, how could Marculfus treat that custom as impious, which excluded the women from inheriting, when the males themselves did not succeed to fiefs? 4. The charters which have been cited, to prove that the Salique lands were fiefs, only shew that they were freeholds. 5. Fiefs were not established till after the conquest, and the Salique customs existed long before the Franks left Germany. 6. It was not the Salique law that formed the establishment of fiefs, by setting bounds to the succession of females, but it was the establishment of fiefs that prescribed limits to the succession of females and to the regulations of the Salique law.

After what has been said, one would not imagine that the perpetual succession of males to the crown of France should have taken its rise from the Salique law. And yet this is a point indubitably certain. I prove it from the several codes of the barbarous nations. The Salique law and the law of the Burgundians§ debarred the daughters from the right of Edition: current; Page: [379] succeeding to the land in conjunction with their brothers; neither did they succeed to the crown. The law of the Visigoths, on the contrary*, permitted the daughters to inherit the land with their brothers; and the women were capable of inheriting the crown. Amongst these people, the regulations of the civil law had an effect on the political.

This was not the only case in which the political law of the Franks gave way to the civil. By the Salique law, all the brothers succeeded equally to the land; and this was also decreed by a law of the Burgundians. Thus, in the kingdom of the Franks, and in that of the Burgundians, all the brothers succeeded to the crown, if we except a few murders and usurpations, which took place amongst the Burgundians.

CHAP. XXIII.: Of the regal Ornaments among the Franks.

A people who do not cultivate the land have no idea of luxury. We may see, in Tacitus, the admirable simplicity of the German nations: they had no artificial elegancies of dress; their ornaments were derived from nature. If the family of their chief was to be distinguished by any sign, it was no other than that which nature bestowed. The kings of the Franks, of the Burgundians, and the Visigoths, wore their long hair for a diadem.

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CHAP. XXIV.: Of the Marriages of the Kings of the Franks.

I have already mentioned, that, with people who do not cultivate the earth, marriages are less fixed than with others, and that they generally take many wives. “Of all the barbarous nations the Germans were almost the only people who were satisfied with one wife, if we except, says Tacitus, some persons, who, not from a dissoluteness of manners, but because of their nobility, had many.”

This explains the reason why the kings of the first race had so great a number of wives. These marriages were less a proof of incontinence than a consequence of dignity; and it would have wounded them in a tender point to have deprived them of such a prerogative§. This also explains the reason why the example of the kings was not followed by the subjects.

CHAP. XXV.: Childeric.

“THE laws of matrimony, amongst the Germans, says Tacitus, are strictly observed. Vice is not there a subject of ridicule. To corrupt or be corrupted is not called fashion, or the custom of the age. There are few* examples, in this populous nation, of the violation of conjugal faith.”

This was the reason of the expulsion of Childeric: he shocked their rigid virtue, which conquest had not had time to corrupt.

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CHAP. XXVI.: Of the Time when the Kings of the Franks became of Age.

BARBARIANS, who do not cultivate the earth, have, strictly speaking, no jurisdiction; and are, as we have already remembered, rather governed by the law of nations than by civil institutions. They are, therefore, always armed. Thus Tacitus tells us, “that the Germans‡‡ undertook no affairs, either of a public or private nature, unarmed.” They gave their vote by the sound of their arms. As soon as they could carry them, they were presented to the assembly; they put a javelin into their hands, and from that moment they§ were out of their minority: they had been a part of the family, now they became a part of the republic.

“The eagles, said the king of the Ostrogoths, cease to feed their young ones as soon as their wings and talons are formed; the latter have no need of their assistance when they are able themselves to seize their prey: it would be a disgrace, if the young people in our armies were thought to be of an age unfit for managing their estates or regulating the conduct of their lives. It is virtue that constitutes full age among the Goths.”

Childebert II. was* fifteen years old when Gontram, his uncle, declared that he was of age, and Edition: current; Page: [382] capable of governing by himself. We find, in the Ripuarian laws, that the age of fifteen, the ability of bearing arms, and majority, went together. It is there said, “that, if a Ripuarian dies or is killed, and leaves a son behind him, that son can neither prosecute nor be prosecuted till he has completely attained the age of fifteen; and then he may either answer for himself or choose a champion.” It was necessary that his mind should be sufficiently formed to be able to defend himself in court, and that his body should have all the strength that was proper for his defence in single combat. Amongst the Burgundians, who also made use of this combat in their judiciary proceedings, they were of age at fifteen.

Agathias tells us that the arms of the Franks were light: they might, therefore, be of age at fifteen. In succeeding times, the arms they made use of were heavy, and they were already greatly so in the time of Charlemagne, as appears by our capitularies and romances. Those who had fiefs, and were consequently obliged to do military service, were not then of age till they were twenty-one years old.§

CHAP. XXVII.: The same Subject continued.

WE have seen that the Germans did not appear in their assemblies before they were of age; they were a part of the family but not of the republic. This was the reason that the children of Clodomir, king of Orleans, and conqueror of Burgundy, were Edition: current; Page: [383] not proclaimed kings, because they were of too tender an age to be present at the assembly. They were not yet kings, but they had a right to the regal dignity as soon as they were able to bear arms; and, in the mean time, Clotildis, their grandmother, governed the state.* But their uncles, Clotarius and Childebert, assassinated them, and divided their kingdom. This was the cause that, in the following ages, princes in their minority were proclaimed kings immediately after the death of their fathers. Thus duke Gondovald saved Childebert II. from the cruelty of Chilperic, and caused him to be proclaimed king when he was only five years old.

But even in this change they followed the original spirit of the nation; for the public acts did not pass in the name of the young monarch. So that the Franks had a double administration; the one which concerned the person of the infant king, and the other which regarded the kingdom; and in the fiefs there was a difference between the guardianship and the civil administration.

CHAP. XXVIII.: Of Adoption among the Germans.

AS the Germans became of age by the wielding of arms, so they were adopted by the same sign. Thus Gontram, willing to declare his nephew, Childebert, of age, and to adopt him for his son, made use of these words. “I have put this javelin into thy hands as a token that I have given thee all Edition: current; Page: [384] my kingdom.” Then, turning toward the assembly, he added, “You see that my son Childebert is grown a man; obey him.” Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, intending to adopt the king of the Heruli, wrote to him thus: “It is a noble cusstom of ours to be adopted by arms; for men of courage alone deserve to be our children. Such is the efficacy of this act, that whoever is the object of it had rather die than submit to any thing ignominious. Therefore, in compliance with the national usage, and because you are a man of courage, we adopt you for our son by these bucklers, these swords, these horses, which we send you as a present.”

CHAP. XXIX.: Of the sanguinary Temper of the Kings of the Franks.

CLOVIS was not the only prince amongst the Franks who had invaded Gaul. Many of his relations had penetrated into this country with particular tribes; but, as he had met with much greater success, and could grant considerable settlements to such as followed him, the Franks flocked to him from all parts, so that the other chiefs found themselves too weak to resist him. He formed a design of exterminating his whole race, and he succeeded§. He feared, says Gregory of Tours, lest the Franks should choose another chief. His children and successors followed this practice to the utmost of their power. Thus the brother, the uncle, the nephew, and, what is still worse, the father, or the son, were perpetually conspiring against their whole family. The law continually divided the monarchy, while fear, ambition, and cruelty, wanted to re-unite it.

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CHAP. XXX.: Of the national Assemblies of the Franks.

IT has been remarked, above, that nations who do not cultivate the land enjoy great liberty.

This was the case of the Germans. Tacitus says, that they gave their kings, or chiefs, a very moderate degree of power*; and Cæsar adds, farther, that, in times of peace, they had no common magistrates, but their princes administered justice in each village. Thus, as Gregory of Tours sufficiently proves, the Franks in Germany had no king.

“The princes, says Tacitus, deliberate on matters of no great concern, while affairs of importance are submitted to the whole nation; but, in such a manner, that these very affairs, which are under the cognizance of the people, are at the same time laid before the princes.” This custom was observed by them after their conquests, as may be seen§ in all their records.

Tacitus says, that capital crimes might be carried before the assembly. It was the same after the conquest, when the great vassals were tried before that body.

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CHAP. XXXI.: Of the Authority of the Clergy under the first Race.

THE priests of barbarous nations are commonly invested with power, because they have both that authority which is due to them from their religious character, and that influence which, amongst such a people, is the offspring of superstition. Thus we see, in Tacitus, that priests were held in great veneration by the Germans, and that they presided* in the assemblies of the people. They alone were permitted to chastise, to bind, to smite; which they did, not by order of the prince or as his ministers of justice, but as by an inspiration of that Deity ever supposed to be present with those who made war.

We ought not, therefore, to be astonished, when, from the very beginning of the first race, we meet with bishops the dispensers of justice; when we see them appear in the assemblies of the nation; when they have such a prodigious influence on the minds of sovereigns; and when they acquire so large a share of property.

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CHAP. I.: Of the Subject of this Book.

THIS subject is very extensive. In that croud of ideas, which present themselves to my mind, I shall be more attentive to the order of things than to the things themselves. I shall be obliged to wander to the right and to the left, that I may investigate and discover the truth.

CHAP. II.: That it is necessary People’s Minds should be prepared for the Reception of the best Laws.

NOTHING could appear more insupportable to the Germans than the tribunal of Varus. That which Justinian§ erected amongst the Lazi, to proceed against the murderers of their king, appeared to them as an affair the most horrid and barbarous.

Mithridates, haranguing against the Romans, reproached them more particularly for their* law proceedings. The Parthians could not bear with one of their kings, who, having been educated at Rome, rendered himself affable and easy of access to all. Liberty itself has appeared intolerable to Edition: current; Page: [388] those nations who have not been accustomed to enjoy it. Thus a pure air is sometimes disagreeable to such as have lived in a fenny country.

Balbi, a Venetian, being at Pegu, was introduced to the king. When the monarch was informed that they had no king at Venice, he burst into such a fit of laughter that he was seized with a cough, and with difficulty could speak to his courtiers. What legislator could propose a popular government to a people like this?

CHAP. III.: Of Tyranny.

THERE are two sorts of tyranny; one real, which arises from oppression; the other is seated in opinion, and is sure to be felt whenever those who govern establish things shocking to the present ideas of a nation.

Dio tells us that Augustus was desirous of being called Romulus; but, having been informed that the people feared that he would cause himself to be crowned king, he changed his design. The old Romans were averse to a king because they could not suffer any man to enjoy such power; these would not have a king because they could not bear his manners. For, though Cæsar, the triumvirs, and Augustus, were really invested with regal power, they had preserved all the outward appearance of equality, while their private lives were a kind of contrast to the pomp and luxury of foreign monarchs; so that, when the Romans were resolved to have no king, this only signified that they would Edition: current; Page: [389] preserve their customs, and not imitate those of the African and Eastern nations.

The same writer informs us, that the Romans were exasperated against Augustus for making certain laws which were too severe; but, as soon as he had recalled Pylades, the comedian, whom the jarring of different factions had driven out of the city, the discontent ceased. A people of this stamp have a more lively sense of tyranny when a player is banished than when they are deprived of their laws.

CHAP. IV.: Of the general Spirit of Mankind.

MANKIND are influenced by various causes; by the climate, by the religion, by the laws, by the maxims of government, by precedents, morals, and customs; from whence is formed a general spirit of nations.

In proportion as, in every country, any one of these causes acts with more force, the others, in the same degree, are weakened. Nature and the climate rule almost alone over the savages; customs govern the Chinese; the laws tyrannize in Japan; morals had formerly all their influence at Sparta; maxims of government and the ancient simplicity of manners once prevailed at Rome.

CHAP. V.: How far we should be attentive lest the general Spirit of a Nation be changed.

SHOULD there happen to be a country whose inhabitants were of a social temper, open-hearted, chearful, endowed with taste, and a facility of communicating their thoughts; who were sprightly and Edition: current; Page: [390] agreeable; sometimes imprudent, often indiscreet; and, besides, had courage, generosity, frankness, and a certain notion of honour; no one ought to endeavour to restrain their manners by laws, unless he would lay a restraint on their virtues. If, in general, the character be good, the little foibles that may be found in it are of small importance.

They might lay a restraint upon women, enact laws to reform their manners, and to reduce their luxury: but who knows but that, by these means, they might lose that peculiar taste which would be the source of the wealth of the nation, and that politeness which would render the country frequented by strangers?

It is the business of the legislature to follow the spirit of the nation when it is not contrary to the principles of government; for we do nothing so well as when we act with freedom, and follow the bent of our natural genius.

If an air of pedantry be given to a nation that is naturally gay, the state will gain no advantage from it, either at home or abroad. Leave it to do frivolous things in the most serious manner, and with gaiety the things most serious.

CHAP. VI.: That every Thing ought not to be corrected.

LET them but leave us as we are, said a gentleman of a nation which had a very great resemblance to that we have been describing, and nature will repair whatever is amiss. She has given us a vivacity capable of offending and hurrying us beyond the bounds of respect: this same vivacity is corrected by the politeness it procures, inspiring us with a taste of Edition: current; Page: [391] the world, and, above all, for the conversation of the fair-sex.

Let them leave us as we are: our indiscretions, joined to our good-nature, would make the laws which should constrain our sociability not at all proper for us.

CHAP. VII.: Of the Athenians and Lacedæmonians.

THE Athenians, this gentleman adds, were a nation that had some relation to ours. They mingled gaiety with business; a stroke of raillery was as agreeable in the senate as in the theatre. This vivacity, which discovered itself in their councils, went along with them in the execution of their resolves. The characteristic of the Spartans was gravity, seriousness, severity, and silence. It would have been as difficult to bring over an Athenian by teazing as it would a Spartan by diverting him.

CHAP. VIII.: Effects of a sociable Temper.

THE more communicative a people are, the more easily they change their habits, because each is, in a greater degree, a spectacle to the other, and the singularities of individuals are better observed. The climate, which influences one nation to take a pleasure in being communicative, makes it also delight in change; and that, which makes it delight in change, forms its taste.

The society of the fair-sex spoils the manners and forms the taste; the desire of giving greater pleasure than others establishes the embellishments of dress; and the desire of pleasing others more than ourselves gives rise to fashions. This mode is a subject of importance; Edition: current; Page: [392] by giving a trifling turn of mind, it continually increases the branches of its commerce.

CHAP. IX.: Of the Vanity and Pride of Nations.

VANITY is as advantageous to a government as pride is dangerous. To be convinced of this, we need only represent, on the one hand, the numberless benefits which result from vanity, as industry, the arts, fashions, politeness, and taste; on the other, the infinite evils which spring from the pride of certain nations, as laziness, poverty, a total neglect of every thing; in fine, the destruction of the nations which have happened to fall under their government as well as of their own. Laziness§ is the effect of pride; labour a consequence of vanity: the pride of a Spaniard leads him to decline labour; the vanity of a Frenchman to work better than others.

All lazy nations are grave: for those who do not labour regard themselves as the sovereigns of those who do.

If we search amongst all nations, we shall find, that, for the most part, gravity, pride, and indolence, go hand in hand.

The people of Achim are proud and lazy; those who have no slaves hire one, if it be only to carry a quart of rice a hundred paces; they would be dishonoured if they carried it themselves.

In many places, people let their nails grow, that all may see they do not work.

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Women, in the Indies*, believe it shameful for them to learn to read: this is, they say, the business of their slaves, who sing their spiritual songs in the temples of their pagods. In one tribe they do not spin; in another they make nothing but baskets and mats; they are not even to pound rice; and in others they must not go to fetch water. These rules are established by pride; and the same passion makes them followed. There is no necessity for mentioning that the moral qualities, according as they are blended with others, are productive of different effects: thus pride, joined to a vast ambition and notions of grandeur, produced such effects among the Romans as are known to all the world.

CHAP. X.: Of the Character of the Spaniards and Chinese.

THE characters of the several nations are formed of virtues and vices, of good and bad qualities. From the happy mixture of these great advantages result, and frequently where it would be least expected; there are others from whence great evils arise, evils which one would not suspect.

The Spaniards have been, in all ages, famous for their honesty. Justin mentions their fidelity in keeping whatever was entrusted to their care; they have frequently suffered death rather than reveal a secret. They have still the same fidelity for which they were formerly distinguished. All the nations who trade to Cadiz trust their forunes to the Spaniards, and have never yet repented it. But this admirable quality, joined to their indolence, forms a mixture from whence such effects result as to them Edition: current; Page: [394] are most pernicious. The rest of the European nations carry on, in their very sight, all the commerce of their monarchy.

The character of the Chinese is formed of another mixture, directly opposite to that of the Spaniards: the precariousness of their subsistence inspires them with a prodigious activity, and such an excessive desire of gain, that no trading nation can confide in them. This acknowledged infidelity has secured them the possession of the trade to Japan. No European merchant has ever dared to undertake it in their name, how easy soever it might be for them to do it from their maritime provinces in the North.

CHAP. XI.: A Reflection.

I have said nothing here with a view to lessen that infinite distance which must ever be between virtue and vice. God forbid that I should be guilty of such an attempt. I would only make my readers comprehend, that all political are not moral vices; and that all moral are not political vices; and that those, who make laws which shock the general spirit of a nation, ought not to be ignorant of this.

CHAP. XII.: Of Custom and Manners in a despotic State.

IT is a capital maxim, that the manners and customs of a despotic empire ought never to be changed; for nothing would more speedily produce a revolution. The reason is, that, in these states, there are no laws; that is, none that can be properly called Edition: current; Page: [395] so; there are only manners and customs; and, if you overturn these, you overturn all.

Laws are established, manners are inspired; these proceed from a general spirit, those from a particular institution: now, it is as dangerous, nay, more so, to subvert the general spirit as to change a particular institution.

There is less communication in a country where each, either as superior or inferior, exercises, or is oppressed by, arbitrary power, than there is in those where liberty reigns in every station. They do not, therefore, so often change their manners and behaviour. Fixed and established customs have a near resemblance to laws. Thus it is here necessary that a prince or a legislator should less oppose the manners and customs of the people than in any other country upon earth.

Their women are commonly confined, and have no influence in society. In other countries, where they have an intercourse with men, their desire of pleasing, and the desire men also have of giving them pleasure, produce a continual change of customs. The two sexes spoil each other; they both lose their distinctive and essential quality; what was naturally fixt becomes quite unsettled, and their customs and behaviour alter every day.

CHAP. XIII.: Of the Behaviour of the Chinese.

BUT China is the place where the customs of the country can never be changed. Besides, their women being absolutely separated from the men, their customs, like their morals, are taught in the schools. A man of§ letters may be known by his easy address. Edition: current; Page: [396] These things, being once taught by precept and inculcated by grave doctors, become fixed, like the principles of morality, and are never changed.

CHAP. XIV.: What are the natural Means of changing the Manners and Customs of a Nation.

WE have said that the laws were the particular and precise institutions of a legislator, and manners and customs the institutions of a nation in general. From hence it follows, that, when these manners and customs are to be changed, it ought not to be done by laws; this would have too much the air of tyranny: it would be better to change them by introducing other manners and other customs.

Thus, when a prince would make great alterations in his kingdom, he should reform by law what is established by law, and change by custom what is settled by custom; for it is very bad policy to change by law what ought to be changed by custom.

The law which obliged the Muscovites to cut off their beards and to shorten their cloaths, and the rigour with which Peter I. made them crop, even to their knees, the long cloaks of those who entered into the cities, were instances of tyranny. There are means that may be made use of to prevent crimes; these are punishments: there are those for changing our customs, these are examples.

The facility and ease with which that nation has been polished plainly shew that this prince had a worse opinion of his people than they deserved; and that they were not brutes, though he was pleased to call them so. The violent measures which he employed were needless; he would have attained his end as well by milder methods.

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He himself experienced the facility of bringing about these alterations. The women were shut up, and in some measure slaves; he called them to court; he sent them silks and fine stuffs, and made them dress like the German ladies. This sex immediately relished a manner of life which so greatly flattered their taste, their vanity, and their passions; and, by their means, it was relished by the men.

What rendered the change the more easy was, that their manners, at that time, were foreign to the climate, and had been introduced amongst them by conquest and by a mixture of nations. Peter I. in giving the manners and customs of Europe to an European nation, found a facility which he did not himself expect. The empire of the climate is the first, the most powerful, of all empires. He had, then, no occasion for laws to change the manners and customs of his country; it would have been sufficient to have introduced other manners and other customs.

Nations are, in general, very tenacious of their customs; to take them away by violence is to render them unhappy: we should not, therefore, change them, but engage the people to make the change themselves.

All punishment which is not derived from necessity is tyrannical. The law is not a mere act of power; things in their own nature indifferent are not within its province.

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CHAP. XV.: The Influence of domestic Government on the political.

THIS alteration in the manners of women will doubtless have a great influence on the government of Muscovy. One naturally follows the other: the despotic power of the prince is connected with the servitude of women; the liberty of women with the spirit of monarchy.

CHAP. XVI.: How some Legislators have confounded the Principles which govern Mankind.

MANNERS and customs are those habits which are not established by legislators, either because they were not able, or were not willing, to establish them.

There is this difference between laws and manners, that the laws are most adapted to regulate the actions of the subject, and manners to regulate the actions of the man. There is this difference between manners and customs, that the former principally relate to the interior conduct, the latter to the exterior.

These things have been sometimes confounded. Lycurgus made the same code for the laws, manners, and customs; and the legislators of China have done the same.

We ought not to be surprized that the legislators of China and Sparta should confound the laws, manners, and customs: the reason is, their manners represent their laws, and their customs their manners.

The principal object, which the legislators of China had in view, was, to make their subjects live in Edition: current; Page: [399] peace and tranquility. They would have people filled with a veneration for one another, that each should be every moment sensible of his dependence on society, and of the obligations he owed to his fellow-citizens. They therefore gave rules of the most extensive civility.

Thus the inhabitants of the* villages of China practise amongst themselves the same ceremonies as those observed by persons of an exalted station: a very proper method of inspiring mild and gentle dispositions, of maintaining peace and good order, and of banishing all the vices which spring from an asperity of temper. In effect, would not the freeing them from the rules of civility be to search out a method for them to indulge their own humours?

Civility is, in this respect, of more value than politeness. Politeness flatters the vices of others, and civility prevents ours from being brought to light. It is a barrier which men have placed within themselves to prevent the corruption of each other.

Lycurgus, whose institutions were severe, had no regard to civility in forming the external behaviour; he had a view to that warlike spirit with which he would fain inspire his people. A people, who were in a continual state of discipline and instruction, and who were endued with equal simplicity and rigour, atoned by their virtues for their want of complaisance.

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CHAP. XVII.: Of the peculiar Quality of the Chinese Government.

THE legislators of China went farther. They confounded together their religion, laws, manners, and customs; all these were morality, all these were virtue. The precepts relating to these four points were what they called rites; and it was in the exact observance of these that the Chinese government triumphed. They spent their whole youth in learning them, their whole life in the practice. They were taught by their men of letters, they were inculcated by the magistrates; and, as they included all the ordinary actions of life, when they found the means of making them strictly observed, China was well governed.

Two things have contributed to the ease with which these rites are engraved in the hearts and minds of the Chinese; one, the difficulty of writing, which, during the greatest part of their lives, wholly employs their attention, because it is necessary to prepare them to read and understand the books in which they are comprized; the other, that the ritual precepts, having nothing in them that is spiritual, but being merely rules of common practice, are more adapted to convince and strike the mind than things merely intellectual.

Those princes, who, instead of ruling by these rites, governed by the force of punishments, wanted to accomplish that by punishments which it is not in their power to produce, that is, to give habits of morality. By punishments, a subject is very justly Edition: current; Page: [401] cut off from society, who, having lost the purity of his manners, violates the laws: but, if all the world were to lose their moral habits, would these re-establish them? Punishments may be justly inflicted to put a stop to many of the consequences of the general evil, but they will not remove the evil itself. Thus, when the principles of the Chinese government were discarded and morality was banished, the state fell into anarchy, and revolutions succeeded.

CHAP. XVIII.: A Consequence drawn from the preceding Chapter.

FROM hence it follows that the laws of China are not destroyed by conquest. Their customs, manners, laws, and religion, being the same thing, they cannot change all these at once; and, as it will happen that either the conqueror or the conquered must change, in China it has always been the conqueror. For, the manners of the conquering nation not being their customs, nor their customs their laws, nor their laws their religion, it has been more easy for them to conform, by degrees, to the vanquished people, than the latter to them.

There still follows from hence a very unhappy consequence, which is, that it is almost impossible for Christianity ever to be established in China. The vows of virginity, the assembling of women in churches, their necessary communication with the ministers of religion, their participation in the sacraments, auricular confession, extreme unction, the marriage of only one wife, all these overturn the manners Edition: current; Page: [402] and customs of the country, and, with the same blow, strike at their religion and laws.

The Christian religion, by the establishment of charity, by a public worship, by a participation of the same sacraments, seems to demand that all should be united; while the rites of China seem to ordain that all should be separated.

And, as we have seen that this separation§ depends, in general, on the spirit of despotism, this will shew us the reason why monarchies, and indeed all moderate governments, are more consistent with the Christian religion.

CHAP. XIX.: How this Union of Religion, Laws, Manners, and Customs, among the Chinese, was effected.

THE principal object of government, which the Chinese legislators had in view, was the peace and tranquility of the empire: and subordination appeared to them as the most proper means to maintain it. Filled with this idea, they believed it their duty to inspire a respect for parents, and therefore exerted all their power to effect it. They established an infinite number of rites and ceremonies to do them honour when living, and after their death. It was impossible for them to pay such honours to deceased parents without being led to reverence the living. The ceremonies at the death of a father were more nearly related to religion; those for a living parent had a greater relation to the laws, manners, and customs: however, these were only parts of the same code; but this code was very extensive.

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A veneration for their parents was necessarily connected with a suitable respect for all who represented them, such as old men, masters, magistrates, and the sovereign. This respect for parents supposed a return of love towards children, and consequently the same return from old men to the young, from magistrates to those who were under their jurisdiction, and from the emperor to his subjects. This formed the rites, and these rites the general spirit of the nation.

We shall now shew the relation which things, in appearance the most indifferent, may have to the fundamental constitution of China. This empire is formed on the plan of a government of a family. If you diminish the paternal authority, or even if you retrench the ceremonies which express your respect for it, you weaken the reverence due to magistrates, who are considered as fathers; nor would the magistrates have the same care of the people, whom they ought to look upon as their children; and that tender relation, which subsists between the prince and his subjects, would insensibly be lost. Retrench but one of these habits, and you overturn the state. It is a thing in itself very indifferent, whether the daughter-in-law rises every morning to pay such and such duties to her mother-in-law; but, if we consider that these exterior habits incessantly revive an idea necessary to be imprinted on all minds, an idea that forms the ruling spirit of the empire, we shall see that it is necessary that such or such a particular action be performed.

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CHAP. XX.: Explication of a Paradox relating to the Chinese.

IT is very remarkable, that the Chinese, whose lives are guided by rites, are nevertheless the greatest cheats upon earth. This appears chiefly in their trade, which, in spite of its natural tendency, has never been able to make them honest. He who buys of them ought to carry with him his own* weights, every merchant having three sorts; the one heavy, for buying; another light, for selling; and another of the true standard, for those who are upon their guard. It is possible, I believe, to explain this contradiction.

The legislators of China had two objects in view; they were desirous that the people should be submissive and peaceful, and that they should also be laborious and industrious. By the nature of the soil and climate, their subsistence is very precarious; nor can it be any other way secured than by industry and labour.

When every one obeys and every one is employed the state is in a happy situation. It is necessity, and perhaps the nature of the climate, that has given to the Chinese an inconceivable greediness for gain, and laws have never been made to restrain it. Every thing has been forbidden when acquired by acts of violence; every thing permitted when obtained by artifice or labour. Let us not, then, compare the morals of China with those of Europe. Every one, in China, is obliged to be attentive to what will be for his advantage; if the cheat has been watchful over his own interest, he who is the dupe ought to be attentive Edition: current; Page: [405] to his. At Sparta they were permitted to steal; in China they are suffered to deceive.

CHAP. XXI.: How the Laws ought to have a Relation to Manners and Customs.

IT is only singular institutions which thus confound laws, manners, and customs, things naturally distinct and separate: but, though they are in themselves different, there is nevertheless a great relation between them.

Solon being asked if the laws he had given to the Athenians were the best, he replied, “I have given them the best they were able to bear.” A fine expression, that ought to be perfectly understood by all legislators! When divine Wisdom said to the Jews, “I have given you precepts which are not good,” this signified that they had only a relative goodness; which is the sponge that wipes out all the difficulties in the law of Moses.

CHAP. XXII.: The same Subject continued.

WHEN a people have pure and regular manners, their laws become simple and natural. Plato says that Rhadamanthus, who governed a nation extremely religious, finished every process with extraordinary dispatch, administering only the oath on each accusation. But, says the same Plato, when a people are not religious, we should never have recourse to an oath, except he who swears is intirely disinterested, as in the case of a judge and a witness.

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CHAP. XXIII.: How the Laws are founded on the Manners of a People.

AT the time when the manners of the Romans were pure, they had no particular law against the embezzlement of the public money. When this crime began to appear, it was thought so infamous, that, to be condemned to restore what they had taken, was considered as a sufficient disgrace: for a proof of this, see the sentence of L. Scipio.§

CHAP. XXIV.: The same Subject continued.

THE laws, which gave the right of tutelage to the mother, were most attentive to the preservation of the infant’s person; those, which granted it to the next heir, were most attentive to the preservation of the state. When the manners of a people are corrupted, it is much better to give the tutelage to the mother. Amongst those, whose laws confide in the manners of the subjects, the guardianship is granted either to the next heir, or to the mother, and sometimes to both.

If we reflect on the Roman laws, we shall find that the spirit of these was conformable to what I have advanced. At the time when the laws of the twelve tables were made, the manners of the Romans were most admirable. The guardianship was given to the nearest relation of the infant, from a consideration that he ought to have the trouble of the tutelage who might enjoy the advantage of possessing the inheritance. They did not imagine the life of the heir in danger, though it was put into a person’s hands who would reap a benefit by his death. But, Edition: current; Page: [407] when the manners of Rome were changed, her legislators altered their conduct. If, in the pupillary substitution, say Caius and Justinian*, the testator is afraid that the substitute will lay any snares for the pupil, he may leave the vulgar substitution open, and put the pupillary into a part of the testament which cannot be opened till after a certain time. These fears and precautions were unknown to the primitive Romans.

CHAP. XXV.: The same Subject continued.

THE Roman law gave the liberty of making presents before marriage; after marriage they were not allowed. This was founded on the manners of the Romans, who were led to marriage only by frugality, simplicity, and modesty, but might suffer themselves to be seduced by domestic cares, by complacency, and the constant tenour of conjugal felicity.

A law of the Visigoths forbade the man giving more to the woman he was to marry than the tenth part of his substance, and his giving her any thing during the first year of their marriage. This also took its rise from the manners of the country. The legislators were willing to put a stop to that Spanish ostentation which only led them to display an excessive liberality in acts of magnificence.

The Romans, by their laws, put a stop to some of the inconveniences which arose from the most durable empire in the world, that of virtue; the Spaniards, Edition: current; Page: [408] by theirs, would prevent the bad effects of a tyranny the most frail and transitory, that of beauty.

CHAP. XXVI.: The same Subject continued.

THE law of Theodosius and Valentinian drew the causes of repudiation from the ancient manners§ and customs of the Romans. It placed in the number of these causes the behaviour of the husband who beat his wife in a manner that disgraced the character of a freeborn woman. This cause was omitted in the following laws*; for their manners, in this respect, had undergone a change; the eastern customs having banished those of Europe. The first eunuch of the empress, wife to Justinian II. threatened her, says the historian, to chastise her in the same manner as children are punished at school. Nothing but established manners, or those which they were seeking to establish, could raise even an idea of this kind.

We have seen how the laws follow the manners of a people; let us now observe how the manners follow the laws.

CHAP. XXVII.: How the Laws contribute to form the Manners, Customs, and Character, of a Nation.

THE customs of an enslaved people are a part of their servitude; those of a free people are a part of their liberty.

I have spoken, in the eleventh book, of a free people, and have given the principles of their constitution: Edition: current; Page: [409] let us now see the effects which follow from this liberty, the character it is capable of forming, and the customs which naturally result from it.

I do not deny that the climate may have produced great part of the laws, manners, and customs, of this nation; but I maintain that its manners and customs have a close connection with its laws.

As there are, in this state, two visible powers, the legislative and executive, and as every citizen has a will of his own, and may at pleasure assert his independence, most men have a greater fondness for one of these powers than for the other, and the multitude have commonly neither equity nor sense enough to shew an equal affection to both.

And, as the executive power, by disposing of all employments, may give great hopes and no fears, every man, who obtains any favour from it, is ready to espouse its cause; while it is liable to be attacked by those who have nothing to hope from it.

All the passions being unrestrained, hatred, envy, jealousy, and an ambitious desire of riches and honours, appear in their full extent: were it otherwise, the state would be in the condition of a man weakened by sickness, who is without passions because he is without strength.

The hatred which arises between the two parties will always subsist, because it will always be impotent.

These parties being composed of freemen, if the one becomes too powerful for the other, as a consequence of liberty, this other is depressed; while the citizens take the weaker side, with the same readiness as the hands lend their assistance to remove the infirmities and disorders of the body.

Every individual is independent; and, being commonly led by caprice and humour, frequently changes parties: he abandons one, where he left all his Edition: current; Page: [410] friends, to unite himself to another, in which he finds all his enemies: so that, in this nation, it frequently happens that the people forget the laws of friendship as well as those of hatred.

The sovereign is here in the same case with a private person; and, against the ordinary maxims of prudence, is frequently obliged to give his confidence to those who have most offended him, and to disgrace the men who have best served him: he does that by necessity which other princes do by choice.

As we are afraid of being deprived of the blessing we already enjoy, and which may be disguised and misrepresented to us; and as fear always enlarges objects; the people are uneasy under such a situation, and believe themselves in danger even in those moments when they are most secure.

As those, who, with the greatest warmth, oppose the executive power, dare not avow the self-interested motives of their opposition, so much the more do they increase the terrors of the people, who can never be certain whether they are in danger or not. But even this contributes to make them avoid the real dangers to which they may, in the end, be exposed.

But the legislative body, having the confidence of the people, and being more enlightened than they, may calm their uneasiness, and make them recover from the bad impressions they have entertained.

This is the great advantage which this government has over the ancient democracies, in which the people had an immediate power; for, when they were moved and agitated by the orators, these agitations always produced their effect.

But, when an impression of terror has no certain object, it produces only clamour and abuse: it has, however, this good effect, that it puts all the springs of government into motion, and fixes the attention Edition: current; Page: [411] of every citizen: but, if it arises from a violation of the fundamental laws, it is sullen, cruel, and produces the most dreadful catastrophes.

Soon we should see a frightful calm, during which every one would unite against that power which had violated the laws.

If, when the uneasiness proceeds from no certain object, some foreign power should threaten the state, or put its prosperity or its glory in danger, the little interests of party would then yield to the more strong and binding, and there would be a perfect coalition in favour of the executive power.

But, if the disputes were occasioned by a violation of the fundamental laws, and a foreign power should appear, there would be a revolution that would neither alter the constitution nor the form of government. For a revolution formed by liberty becomes a confirmation of liberty.

A free nation may have a deliverer; a nation enslaved can have only another oppressor.

For, whoever is able to dethrone an absolute prince, has a power sufficient to become absolute himself.

As the enjo