The spirit of laws by Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu

part of the votes on his side, he was obliged to pay a fine of a

Download 3.53 Mb.
Size3.53 Mb.
1   ...   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   ...   62

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.[58] At Rome, a false accuser was branded with infamy[59] 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.[60]

I have already taken notice of that Athenian and Roman law by which the

party accused was allowed to withdraw before judgment was pronounced.

21. 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 make a further addition to this servitude and

At Athens and Rome[61] it was at first permitted to sell such debtors as

were insolvent. Solon redressed this abuse at Athens[62] by ordaining
that no man's body should answer for his civil debts. But the
decemvirs[63] 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 show their design of checking the spirit of

Often did those cruel laws against debtors throw the Roman republic into

danger. A man covered with wounds made his escape from his creditor's
house and appeared in the forum.[64] 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 broken. The people upon this, having withdrawn to the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 soon in danger of falling into tyranny. Manlius, to render himself
popular, was going to set those citizens at liberty who by their inhuman
creditors[65] had been reduced to slavery. Manlius's designs were
prevented, but without remedying the evil. Particular laws facilitated
to debtors the means of paying;[66] and in the year of Rome 428 the
consuls proposed a law[67] which deprived creditors of the power of
confining their debtors in their own houses.[68] A 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[69] the crime of the infamous Papirius, an
action of the like criminal nature[70] was the cause of the people's
retiring to the Janiculum,[71] 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.

22. 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
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.

23. 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 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 shows 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 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.

24. 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, "Aster has given this mortal wound to Philip."[72]
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. 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."[73]

25. 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

26. That in a Monarchy the Prince ought to be of easy Access. The

utility of this maxim will appear from the inconvenience attending the
contrary practice. "The Czar Peter I," says the Sieur Perry,[75] "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."

27. Of the Manners of a Monarch. The manners of a prince contribute as

much as the laws themselves to liberty; like these he may transform 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 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.

28. 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: 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.

29. Of the civil Laws proper for mixing some portion of Liberty in a

despotic Government. Though despotic governments are of their own nature
everywhere 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.[76]

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 Veda among the Indians, and the classic books among the Chinese. The
religious code supplies the civil and fixes the extent of arbitrary

It is not at all amiss that in dubious cases the judges should consult

the ministers of religion.[77] Thus, in Turkey, the Cadis consult the
Mollahs. But if it is a capital crime, it may be proper for the
Directory: mrhomepage.nsf

Share with your friends:
1   ...   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   ...   62

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page