part of the world, to the insults with which she has been abused in the
9. 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 her cause, and
considered it the highest glory bravely to die and to forgive.
10. 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.
11. 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 everything 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 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
When the ancients would cite 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 everything right.
The laws of Poland have likewise their Insurrection: but the
inconveniences thence arising plainly show 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 bore a
relation to a very important 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 had 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
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."
12. 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; Sulla to the
senators only: Cotta to the senators, knights, and public treasurers;
Cæsar excluded the latter; Antony made decuries of senators, knights,
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 whatsoever 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
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.
13. The Effect of an Oath among virtuous People. There is no nation,
says Livy, that has been longer uncorrupted than the Romans; no
nation where moderation and poverty have been longer respected.
Such was the influence of an oath among those people that nothing bound
them more strongly 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.
14. 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 its 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 burdensome; 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
15. Sure Methods of preserving the three Principles. I shall not be able
to make myself rightly understood till the reader has perused the four
16. 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.
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 any 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.
17. Distinctive Properties of a Monarchy. A monarchical state ought to
be of 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 scarcely 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 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
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.
18. 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 of the king of Spain were not in a humour to refuse his gold.
19. 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 necessarily multiply in a state in proportion to its
20. 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.
21. 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. 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 bastinadoed.
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 mandarins. I
likewise appeal to another unexceptional 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 show 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
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 surprisingly 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 be rather 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 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
stripped 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 has 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.
1. See Plutarch in Timoleon and Dion.
2. It was that of the Six Hundred, of whom mention is made by Diodorus,
3. Upon the expulsions of the tyrants, they made citizens of strangers
and mercenary troops, which gave rise to civil wars. -- Aristotle,
Politics, v. 3. The people having been the cause of the victory over the
Athenians, the republic was changed. -- Ibid., 4. The passion of two
young magistrates, one of whom carried off the other's boy, and in
revenge the other debauched his wife, was attended with a change in the
form of this republic. -- Ibid.
6. The aristocracy is changed into an oligarchy.
7. Venice is one of those republics that has enacted the best laws for
correcting the inconveniences of an hereditary aristocracy.
8. Justin attributes the extinction of Athenian virtue to the death of
Epaminondas. Having no further emulation, they spent their revenues in
feasts, frequentius coenam, quam castra visentes. Then it was that the
Macedonians emerged from obscurity, 9, 1. 6.
9. Compilation of works made under the Mings, related by Father Du
Halde, Description of China, ii, p. 648.
10. During the reign of Tiberius statues were erected to, and triumphal
ornaments conferred on, informers; which debased these honours to such a
degree that those who had really merited them disdained to accept them.
Frag. of Dio, lviii. 14, taken from the Extract of Virtues and Vices, by
Constantine Porphyrogenitus. See in Tacitus in what manner Nero, on the
discovery and punishment of a pretended conspiracy, bestowed triumphal
ornaments on Petronius Turpilianus, Nerva, and Tigellinus. -- Annals,
xiv. 72. See likewise how the generals refused to serve, because they
condemned the military honours: pervulgatis triumphi insignibus --
Ibid., xiii. 53.
11. In this state the prince knew extremely well the principle of his
16. Plutarch, Whether a Man Advanced in Years Ought to Meddle with
17. Republic, v.
18. The Gymnic art was divided into two parts, dancing and wrestling. In
Crete they had the armed dances of the Curetes; at Sparta they had those
of Castor and Pollux; at Athens the armed dances of Pallas, which were
extremely proper for those that were not yet of age for military
service. Wrestling is the image of war, said Plato Laws, vii. He
commends antiquity for having established only two dances, the pacific
and the Pyrrhic. See how the latter dance was applied to the military
art, Plato, ibid.
19. Aut libidinosce. Ladæas Lacedamonis palæstras. -- Mutual, iv, 55.
20. Plutarch, in the treatise entitled Questions Concerning the Affairs
of the Romans, question 40.
22. Plutarch, Table Propositions, book ii, question 5.
23. Book i, pref.
24. Livy, iii. 20.
25. Ibid., 32.
26. About a hundred years after.
27. See xi, 12.
28. See Dio, xxxviii, Cicero in Plutarch, Cicero to Atticus, iv. 10, 15.
Asconius on Cicero, De Divinatione.
29. As when a petty sovereign supports himself between two great powers
by means of their mutual jealousy; but then he has only a precarious
30. See M. Le Clerc, the History of the United Provinces.
31. "It is the cudgel that governs China," says Father Du Halde, Disc.
de la Chine, ii, p. 134.
32. Among others, De Lange's account.
33. Of the Family of Sourniama, Edifying Letters, coll. xviii.
34. See in Father Du Halde how the missionaries availed themselves of
the authority of Canhi to silence the mandarins, who constantly declared
that by the laws of the country no foreign worship could be established
in the empire.
35. See Lettres persanes, 210.
36. See the order of Tsongtou for tilling the land, in the Edifying
Book IX. Of Laws in the Relation They Bear to a Defensive Force
1. 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 inconvenience 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 further associations, till they arrive
at 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 had arrived at her highest
pitch of grandeur, it was the associations beyond the Danube and the
Rhine -- associations formed by the terror of her arms -- that enabled
the barbarians to resist her.
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
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 with regard to its external situation,
by means of the association, it possesses all the advantages of large
2. 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 that they were petty monarchies, that had no union
or 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 shows us that it
is much more imperfect than that of Holland and Switzerland.
The spirit of monarchy is war and enlargement of dominion: peace and
moderation are 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 Amphyktyons.
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.
3. 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
provinces of different extent of territory, which have each one voice.
The cities of Lycia contributed to the expenses 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.
4. 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 Wallachians, and formerly the
Transylvanians, between themselves and their enemies.
5. 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 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 entrust their officers with such a command, as none
of them have any affection for the prince or his government.
6. 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 state 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
But when a vast empire, like Persia, is attacked, it is several months
before the troops are assembled 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 scarcely
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
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.
7. A Reflection. The enemies of a great prince, whose reign was
protracted to an unusual length, have very often accused 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
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
enterprise of this kind, which if defeated in one country would be
unsuccessful everywhere else; and if once unsuccessful, would be so for
8. 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 more easily overcome, than in
their own country. The same was observed of the Romans; the same of the
Carthaginians; and the same will happen to every power that sends armies
to distant countries, in order to reunite 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.
9. 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.
During the reign of Louis 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. Aragon 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.
10. Of the Weakness of neighbouring States. Whensoever a state lies
contiguous to another that happens to be in its decline, the former
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 rebuffs 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.
1. It is composed of about fifty different republics, all different from
one another. -- M. Janisson, State of the United Provinces.
2. Civil liberty, goods, wives, children, temples, and even
Book X. Of Laws in the Relation They Bear to Offensive Force
1. 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.
2. 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.
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.
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
The right of war, therefore, 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
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
3. 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 everything 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 in
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 now followed; 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: thence they 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 a conqueror
had a right to destroy the state; 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
There is no such thing as a right of reducing people to slavery, save
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