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

particular judge, if such there be, to take the governor's advice, to

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particular judge, if such there be, to take the governor's advice, to
the end that the civil and ecclesiastical power may be tempered also by
the political authority.

30. 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 Maldivians[78] 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[79] 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[80] on which we have already

descanted,[81] positively declare that they will show no favour to those
who shall presume to petition them in behalf of the guilty.[82] 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 despotic power, which has ever considered the subjects as
slaves[83] 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 pashas and extortioners.


1. Politics, ii. 8.

2. Tarquinius Priscus. See Dionysius Halicarnassus, iv.

3. As early as the year 560.

4. Aristotle, Politics, ii. 12. He gave his laws at Thurium in the 84th


5. See Aristides, Orat. in Minervam.

6. Dionysius Halicarnassus on the judgment of Coriolanus, vii.

7. Minervæ calculus.

8. St. Louis made such severe laws against those who swore that the pope

thought himself obliged to admonish him for it. This prince moderated
his zeal, and softened his laws. See his Ordinances.

9. Father Rougerel.

10. Nicetas, Life of Manuel Comnenus, iv.

11. Ibid.

12. Theophylactus, History of the Emperor Maurice, 11.

13. Secret History.

14. Father Du Halde, i, p. 43.

15. Father Parennin in the Edifying Letters.

16. Book xxix.

17. Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius. This is the second in the Cod.

de crimin. sacril.

18. Sacrilegii instar est dubitare an is dignus sit quem elegerit

imperator. -- Cod. de crimin. sacril. This law has served as a model to
that of Roger in the constitution of Naples, tit. 4.

19. Leg. 5, ad leg. Jul. Majest.

20. Arcadius and Honorius.

21. Memoirs of Montresor, i, p. 238, Cologne, 1723.

22. Nam ipsi pars corporis nostri sunt -- The same law of the Cod., ad

leg. Jul. Majest.

23. It is the 9th of the Cod. Theod. de falsa moneta.

24. Etiam ex aliis causis majestatis crimina cessant meo sæculo -- Leg.

1. Cod., ix, tit. 8, ad leg. Jul. Majest.

25. Alienam sectæ meæ solicitudinem concepisti. -- Leg. 2, Cod., iii,

tit. 4, ad leg. Jul. Majest.

26. Leg. 4, § 1, ff. ad leg., Jul. Majest., xlviii, tit. 4.

27. See Leg. 5, § 2, ff. ibid.

28. Ibid., § 1.

29. Aliudve quid simile admiserint -- Leg. 6, ff. ad leg. Jul. Majest.

30. In the last law, ff. ad leg. Jul. de adulteriis.

31. See Burnet, History of the Reformation.

32. Plutarch, Dionysius.

33. The thought must be joined with some sort of action.

34. Si non tale sit delictum in quod vel scriptura legis descendit vel

ad exemplum legis vindicandum est, says Modestinus in Leg. 7, § 3, ff.
ad leg. Jul. Majest.

35. In 1740.

36. Nec lubricum linguæ ad poenam facile trahendum est. -- Modestinus,

in Leg. 7, § 3, ff. ad leg. Jul. Majest.

37. Si id ex levitate processerit, contemnendum est; si ex insania,

miseratione dignissimum; si ab injuria, remittendum. -- Leg. unica. Cod.
si quis Imperat. maled.

38. Tacitus, Annals, i. 72. This continued under the following reigns.

See the first law in the Cod. de famosis libellis.

39. Tacitus, Annals, iv. 34.

40. The law of the Twelve Tables.

41. Suetonius, Life of Tiberius, 61.

42. Collection of Voyages that Contributed to the Establishment of the

East India Company, v, part II.

43. Ibid., p. 496.

44. Dio, in Xiphilin., lv. 5. Tacitus, Annals, ii. 30, iii. 67,

attributes this law, not to Augustus, but to Tiberius.

45. Flavius Vopiscus in his Life, 9.

46. Sulla made a law of majesty, which is mentioned in Cicero's

Orations, Pro Cluentio, art. 3; In Pisonem, art. 21; and against Verres,
art. 5. Familiar Epistles, iii, 11. Cæsar and Augustus inserted them in
the Julian Laws; others made additions to them.

47. Et quo quis distinctior accusator, eo magis honores assequebatur, ac

veluti sacrosanctus erat. -- Tacitus,Annals, iv. 36.

48. Deut., 13. 6-9.

49. Collection of Voyages that Contributed to the Establishment of the

East India Company, v, part II, p. 423.

50. Dionysius Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, viii.

51. Tyranno occiso quinque ejus proximos cognatione magistratus necato.

-- Cicero, De Invent. ii. 29.

52. Cook viii, p. 547.

53. Of the Civil Wars, iv.

54. It is not sufficient in the courts of justice of that kingdom that

the evidence be of such a nature as to satisfy the judges; there must be
a legal proof; and the law requires the deposition of two witnesses
against the accused. No other proof will do. Now, if a person who is
presumed guilty of high treason should contrive to secrete the
witnesses, so as to render it impossible for him to be legally
condemned, the government then may bring a hill of attainder against
him; that is, they may enact a particular law for that single fact. They
proceed then in the same manner as in all other bills brought into
parliament; it must pass the two houses, and have the king's consent,
otherwise it is not a bill: that is, a sentence of the legislature. The
person accused may plead against the hill by counsel, and the members of
the house may speak in defence of the bill.

55. Legem de singulari aliquo rogato, nisi sex millibus ita visum. --

From Andocidis,De Mysteriis. This is what they call Ostracism.

56. De privis hominibus latæ. -- Cicero,De Leg., iii. 19.

57. Scitum est jussum in omnes. -- Ibid.

58. See Philostratus, i: Lives of the Sophists: Æschines. See likewise

Plutarch and Phocius.

59. By the Remnian law.

60. Plutarch, in a treatise entitled. How a Person May Reap Advantage

from his Enemies.

61. "A great many sold their children to pay their debts." -- Plutarch,


62. Ibid.

63. It appears from history that this custom was established among the

Romans before the Law of the Twelve Tables. -- Livy, dec. 1, ii. 23, 24.

64. Dionysius Halicarnassus. Roman Antiquities, vi.

65. Plutarch, Furius Camillas.

66. See below, xxii. 22.

67. One hundred and twenty years after the law of the Twelve Tables: Eo

anno plebi Romanæ, velut aliud initium libertatis factum est, quod necti
desierunt. -- Livy, viii. 38.

68. Bona debitoris, non corpus obnoxium esset. -- Ibid.

69. The year of Rome 465.

70. That of Plautius who made an attempt upon the body of Veturius. --

Valerius Maximus, vi, 1, art. 9. These two events ought not to be
confounded; they are neither the same persons nor the same times.

71. See a fragment of Dionysius Halicarnassus in the extract of Virtues

and Vices [Historica]; Livy's Epitome, ii., and Freinshemius, ii.

72. Plutarch, Comparison of some Roman and Greek Histories, ii, p. 487.

73. Leg. 6, Cod. Theod. de famosis libellis.

74. "Nerva," says Tacitus, "increased the ease of government."

75. State of Russia, p. 173, Paris, 1717.

76. The Caliphs.

77. History of the Tartars, part III, p. 277, in the remarks.

78. See Francis Pirard.

79. As at present in Persia, according to Sir John Chardin, this custom

is very ancient. "They put Cavades," says Procopius, "into the castle of
oblivion; there is a law which forbids any one to speak of those who are
shut up, or even to mention their name."

80. The fifth law in the Cod. ad leg. Jul. Majest.

81. In the 8th chapter of this book.

82. Frederick copied this law in the Constitutions of Naples, i.

83. In monarchies there is generally a law which forbids those who are

invested with public employments to go out of the kingdom without the
prince's leave. This law ought to be established also in republics. But
in those that have particular institutions the prohibition ought to be
general, in order to prevent the introduction of foreign manners.

Book XIII. Of the Relation Which the Levying of Taxes and the Greatness

of the Public Revenues Bear to Liberty

1. Of the Public Revenues. The public revenues are a portion that each

subject gives of his property, in order to secure or enjoy the

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

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 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.

2. 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.

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 the people
of nature's bounty, they would fall into a disrelish of industry; and
then indolence and inaction must be their only happiness.

3. 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.

4. 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 the power of increasing the tribute of the bondman.
This was not permitted at Sparta. Those brave people thought the
Helotes[1] would be more industrious in cultivating their lands, and
knowing that their servitude was not to increase; they imagined,
likewise, that the masters would be better citizens, when they desired
no more than what they were accustomed to enjoy.

5. 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 the power of increasing the service or
tribute.[2] 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,[3] 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 harass the poor
vassal by turns till he perishes with misery or flies into the woods.

6. 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 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.

7. 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 merchandise, 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.[4] Those who drew five hundred measures of liquid or dried
fruit from their estates paid a talent[5] 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 people's 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 lists or registers, in

which the different classes of 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 convenience 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 advisable for it to have
the former or the latter advantage? Which shall it choose -- to begin or
to end with opulence?

The duties felt least by the people are those on merchandise, 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
merchandise 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 the sale of
slaves;[6] and yet he had only ordained that it should be paid by the
seller instead of the purchaser; this regulation, which left the impost
entire, 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 nobody
feels the rigour 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.

Further, 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.

8. 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
merchandise 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 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 vendor, and the people must
not have it in their power to purchase it elsewhere: a practice subject
to a thousand inconveniences.

Smuggling being in this case extremely lucrative, the natural and most

reasonable penalty, namely, the confiscation of the merchandise, becomes
incapable of putting a stop to it; especially as this very merchandise
is intrinsically of 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.

9. 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, 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.

10. 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 merchandise, 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.

11. Of Confiscations. With respect to confiscations, there is one thing

very particular that, contrary to the general custom, they are more
severe in Europe than in Asia. In Europe not only the merchandise, 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 pasha who was determined to
confiscate his goods?

The prince, therefore, checks his own power, finding himself under the

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 increase of duty. In China[7] 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
scarcely any duty at all on the goods that pass through their
country.[8] 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[9] is rather a
contravention of the laws made for the security of the government than
of those of commerce.

12. 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 Turkey. Switzerland 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[10] there is an equivalent for liberty, which is the lightness
of the taxes.

In some monarchies in Europe there are particular provinces[11] which

from the very nature of 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, whence a diffusive
blessing is derived, which redounds even to the prince's advantage.

13. In what Government Taxes are capable of Increase. Taxes may be

increased in most republics, because the citizen, who thinks he is
paying himself, cheerfully 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 recompense, as it
were, granted to the prince for the respect he shows to the laws. In
despotic governments they cannot be increased, because there can be no
increase of the extremity of slavery.

14. That the Nature of the Taxes is in Relation to the Government. A

capitation is more natural to slavery; a duty on merchandise is more
natural to liberty, by reason it has not so direct a relation to the

It is natural in a despotic government for the prince not to give money

to his soldiers, or to 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 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 merchandise.

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 sometime or other refund:
and he has paid for the consumer the duty which he has advanced for the
merchandise. 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
Turkey? And were he so presumptuous, how could he do it with a crazy or
shattered fortune?

15. 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.[12] The manifestations of
their wills 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 expense 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 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.

16. Of the Conquests of the Mahometans. It was this excess of taxes[13]

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.

17. 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 name of
peace[14] 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 subsistence. 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.[15]

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 of by the most extravagant young spendthrift.

18. 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 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 expense, 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[16] 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?

19. Which is more 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 economy and order.

By this management of the revenues the prince is at liberty to press or

to retard the levy of the taxes, either according to his own wants or to
those of his people. By this he saves to the state the immense profits
of the farmers, who impoverish it in 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 of. 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.[17] In despotic governments the people are infinitely
happier where this management is established -- witness Persia and
China.[18] The unhappiest of all are those where the prince farms out
his sea-ports and trading 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:[19] that the laws enacted against publicans, which had
hitherto been kept secret, should be promulgated; 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.

20. 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 often

times 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.

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.


1. Plutarch, Notable Sayings of the Lacedæmonians.

2. This is what induced Charlemagne to make his excellent institution

upon this head. See the fifth book of the Capitularies, art. 303.

3. This is the practice in Germany.

4. Pollux, viii. 10, art. 130.

5. Or 60 minæ.

6. Tacitus, Annals, xiii. 31.

7. Father Du Halde, ii, p. 37.

8. History of the Tartars, part III, p. 290.

9. Being willing to trade with foreigners without having any

communication with them, they have pitched upon two nations for that
purpose -- the Dutch for the commerce of Europe, and the Chinese for
that of Asia; they confine the factors and sailors in a kind of prison,
and lay such a restraint upon them as tires their patience.

10. In Russia the taxes are but small; they have been increased since

the despotic power of the prince is exercised with more moderation. See
the History of the Tartars, part II.

11. The Pays d'etats, where the states of the province assemble to

deliberate on public affairs.

12. This is the practice of the emperors of China.

13. See in history the greatness, the oddity, and even the folly of

those taxes. Anastasius invented a tax for breathing, ut quisque pro
haustu æris penderet.

14. True it is that this state of effort is the chief support of the

balance, because it checks the great powers.

15. All that is wanting for this is to improve the new invention of the

militia established in most parts of Europe, and carry it to the same
excess as they do the regular troops.

16. See A Treatise on the Roman Finances, 2, Paris, 1740.

17. Cæsar was obliged to remove the publicans from the province of Asia,

and to establish there another kind of regulation, as we learn from Dio,
xlii. 6; and Tacitus, Annals, i. 76, informs us that Macedonia and
Achaia, provinces left by Augustus to the people of Rome, and
consequently governed pursuant to the ancient plan, obtained to be of
the number of those which the emperor governed by his officers.

18. See Sir John Chardin's Travels through Persia, vi.

19. Tacitus, Annals, xiii. 51.


Book XIV. Of Laws in Relation to the Nature of the Climate

1. 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 in relation both to the variety of those passions and
to the variety of those tempers.

2. Of the Difference of Men in different Climates. Cold air constringes

the extremities of the external fibres of the body;[1] this increases
their elasticity, and favours the return of the blood from the extreme
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