parts to the heart. It contracts those very fibres; consequently it
increases also their force. On the contrary, warm air relaxes and
lengthens the extremes of the fibres; of course it diminishes their
force and elasticity.
People are therefore more vigorous in cold climates. Here the action of
the heart and the reaction of the extremities of the fibres are better
performed, the temperature of the humours is greater, the blood moves
more freely towards the heart, and reciprocally the heart has more
power. This superiority of strength must produce various effects; for
instance, a greater boldness, that is, more courage; a greater sense of
superiority, that is, less desire of revenge; a greater opinion of
security, that is, more frankness, less suspicion, policy, and cunning.
In short, this must be productive of very different tempers. Put a man
into a close, warm place, and for the reasons above given he will feel a
great faintness. If under this circumstance you propose a bold
enterprise to him, I believe you will find him very little disposed
towards it; his present weakness will throw him into despondency; he
will be afraid of everything, being in a state of total incapacity. The
inhabitants of warm countries are, like old men, timorous; the people in
cold countries are, like young men, brave. If we reflect on the late
wars, which are more recent in our memory, and in which we can better
distinguish some particular effects that escape us at a greater distance
of time, we shall find that the northern people, transplanted into
southern regions, did not perform such exploits as their countrymen
who, fighting in their own climate, possessed their full vigour and
This strength of the fibres in northern nations is the cause that the
coarser juices are extracted from their aliments. Hence two things
result: one, that the parts of the chyle or lymph are more proper, by
reason of their large surface, to be applied to and to nourish the
fibres; the other, that they are less proper, from their coarseness, to
give a certain subtilty to the nervous juice. Those people have
therefore large bodies and but little vivacity.
The nerves that terminate from all parts in the cutis form each a
nervous bundle; generally speaking, the whole nerve is not moved, but a
very minute part. In warm climates, where the cutis is relaxed, the ends
of the nerves are expanded and laid open to the weakest action of the
smallest objects. In cold countries the cutis is constinged and the
papillæ compressed: the miliary glands are in some measure paralytic;
and the sensation does not reach the brain, except when it is very
strong and proceeds from the whole nerve at once. Now, imagination,
taste, sensibility, and vivacity depend on an infinite number of small
I have observed the outermost part of a sheep's tongue, where, to the
naked eye, it seems covered with papillæ. On these papillæ I have
discerned through a microscope small hairs, or a kind of down; between
the papillæ were pyramids shaped towards the ends like pincers. Very
likely these pyramids are the principal organ of taste.
I caused the half of this tongue to be frozen, and, observing it with
the naked eye, I found the papillæ considerably diminished: even some
rows of them were sunk into their sheath. The outermost part I examined
with the microscope, and perceived no pyramids. In proportion as the
frost went off, the papillæ seemed to the naked eye to rise, and with
the microscope the miliary glands began to appear.
This observation confirms what I have been saying, that in cold
countries the nervous glands are less expanded: they sink deeper into
their sheaths, or they are sheltered from the action of external
objects; consequently they have not such lively sensations.
In cold countries they have very little sensibility tor pleasure; in
temperate countries, they have more; in warm countries, their
sensibility is exquisite. As climates are distinguished by degrees of
latitude, we might distinguish them also in some measure by those of
sensibility. I have been at the opera in England and in Italy, where I
have seen the same pieces and the same performers: and yet the same
music produces such different effects on the two nations: one is so cold
and phlegmatic, and the other so lively and enraptured, that it seems
It is the same with regard to pain, which is excited by the laceration
of some fibre of the body. The Author of nature has made it an
established rule that this pain should be more acute in proportion as
the laceration is greater: now it is evident that the large bodies and
coarse fibres of the people of the north are less capable of laceration
than the delicate fibres of the inhabitants of warm countries;
consequently the soul is there less sensible of pain. You must flay a
Muscovite alive to make him feel.
From this delicacy of organs peculiar to warm climates it follows that
the soul is most sensibly moved by whatever relates to the union of the
two sexes: here everything leads to this object.
In northern climates scarcely has the animal part of love a power of
making itself felt. In temperate climates, love, attended by a thousand
appendages, endeavours to please by things that have at first the
appearance, though not the reality, of this passion. In warmer climates
it is liked for its own sake, it is the only cause of happiness, it is
In southern countries a machine of a delicate frame but strong
sensibility resigns itself either to a love which rises and is
incessantly laid in a seraglio, or to a passion which leaves women in a
greater independence, and is consequently exposed to a thousand
inquietudes. In northern regions a machine robust and heavy finds
pleasure in whatever is apt to throw the spirits into motion, such as
hunting, travelling, war, and wine. If we travel towards the north, we
meet with people who have few vices, many virtues, and a great share of
frankness and sincerity. If we draw near the south, we fancy ourselves
entirely removed from the verge of morality; here the strongest passions
are productive of all manner of crimes, each man endeavouring, let the
means be what they will, to indulge his inordinate desires. In temperate
climates we find the inhabitants inconstant in their manners, as well as
in their vices and virtues: the climate has not a quality determinate
enough to fix them.
The heat of the climate may be so excessive as to deprive the body of
all vigour and strength. Then the faintness is communicated to the mind;
there is no curiosity, no enterprise, no generosity of sentiment; the
inclinations are all passive; indolence constitutes the utmost
happiness; scarcely any punishment is so severe as mental employment;
and slavery is more supportable than the force and vigour of mind
necessary for human conduct.
3. Contradiction in the Tempers of some Southern Nations. The Indians
are naturally a pusillanimous people; even the children of Europeans
born in India lose the courage peculiar to their own climate. But how
shall we reconcile this with their customs and penances so full of
barbarity? The men voluntarily undergo the greatest hardships, and the
women burn themselves; here we find a very odd compound of fortitude and
Nature, having framed those people of a texture so weak as to fill them
with timidity, has formed them at the same time of an imagination so
lively that every object makes the strongest impression upon them. That
delicacy of organs which renders them apprehensive of death contributes
likewise to make them dread a thousand things more than death: the very
same sensibility induces them to fly and dare all dangers.
As a good education is more necessary to children than to such as have
arrived at maturity of understanding, so the inhabitants of those
countries have much greater need than the European nations of a wiser
legislator. The greater their sensibility, the more it behoves them to
receive proper impressions, to imbibe no prejudices, and to let
themselves be directed by reason.
At the time of the Romans the inhabitants of the north of Europe were
destitute of arts, education, and almost of laws; and yet the good sense
annexed to the gross fibres of those climates enabled them to make an
admirable stand against the power of Rome, till the memorable period in
which they quitted their woods to subvert that great empire.
4. Cause of the Immutability of Religion, Manners, Customs, and Laws in
the Eastern Countries. If to that delicacy of organs which renders the
eastern nations so susceptible of every impression you add likewise a
sort of indolence of mind, naturally connected with that of the body, by
means of which they grow incapable of any exertion or effort, it is easy
to comprehend that when once the soul has received an impression it
cannot change it. This is the reason that the laws, manners, and
customs, even those which seem quite indifferent, such as their mode
of dress, are the same to this very day in eastern countries as they
were a thousand years ago.
5. That those are bad Legislators who favour the Vices of the Climate,
and good Legislators who oppose those Vices. The Indians believe that
repose and non-existence are the foundation of all things, and the end
in which they terminate. Hence they consider entire inaction as the most
perfect of all states, and the object of their desires. To the Supreme
Being they give the title of immovable. The inhabitants of Siam
believe that their utmost happiness consists in not being obliged to
animate a machine, or to give motion to a body.
In those countries where the excess of heat enervates and exhausts the
body, rest is so delicious, and motion so painful, that this system of
metaphysics seems natural; and Foe, the legislator of the Indies,
was directed by his own sensations when he placed mankind in a state
extremely passive; but his doctrine arising from the laziness of the
climate favoured it also in its turn; which has been the source of an
infinite deal of mischief.
The legislators of China were more rational when, considering men not in
the peaceful state which they are to enjoy hereafter, but in the
situation proper for discharging the several duties of life, they made
their religion, philosophy, and laws all practical. The more the
physical causes incline mankind to inaction, the more the moral causes
should estrange them from it.
6. Of Agriculture in warm Climates. Agriculture is the principal labour
of man. The more the climate inclines him to shun this labour, the more
the religion and laws of the country ought to incite him to it. Thus the
Indian laws, which give the lands to the prince, and destroy the spirit
of property among the subjects, increase the bad effects of the climate,
that is, their natural indolence.
7. Of Monkery. The very same mischiefs result from monkery: it had its
rise in the warm countries of the East, where they are less inclined to
action than to speculation.
In Asia the number of dervishes or monks seems to increase together with
the warmth of the climate. The Indies, where the heat is excessive, are
full of them; and the same difference is found in Europe.
In order to surmount the laziness of the climate, the laws ought to
endeavour to remove all means of subsisting without labour: but in the
southern parts of Europe they act quite the reverse. To those who want
to live in a state of indolence, they afford retreats the most proper
for a speculative life, and endow them with immense revenues. These men,
who live in the midst of plenty which they know not how to enjoy, are in
the right to give their superfluities away to the common people. The
poor are bereft of property; and these men indemnify them by supporting
them in idleness, so as to make them even grow fond of their misery.
8. An excellent Custom of China. The historical relations of China
mention a ceremony of opening the ground which the emperor performs
every year. The design of this public and solemn act is to excite the
people to tillage.
Further, the emperor is every year informed of the husbandman who has
distinguished himself most in his profession; and he makes him a
mandarin of the eighth order.
Among the ancient Persians the kings quitted their grandeur and pomp
on the eighth day of the month, called Chorrem-ruz, to eat with the
husbandmen. These institutions were admirably calculated for the
encouragement of agriculture.
9. Means of encouraging Industry. We shall show, in the nineteenth book,
that lazy nations are generally proud. Now the effect might well be
turned against the cause, and laziness be destroyed by pride. In the
south of Europe, where people have such a high notion of the point of
honour, it would be right to give prizes to husbandmen who had excelled
in agriculture; or to artists who had made the greatest improvements in
their several professions. This practice has succeeded in our days in
Ireland, where it has established one of the most considerable linen
manufactures in Europe.
10. Of the Laws in relation to the Sobriety of the People. In warm
countries the aqueous part of the blood loses itself greatly by
perspiration; it must therefore be supplied by a like liquid. Water
is there of admirable use; strong liquors would congeal the globules
of blood that remain after the transuding of the aqueous humour.
In cold countries the aqueous part of the blood is very little evacuated
by perspiration. They may therefore make use of spirituous liquors,
without which the blood would congeal. They are full of humours;
consequently strong liquors, which give a motion to the blood, are
proper for those countries.
The law of Mahomet, which prohibits the drinking of wine, is therefore
fitted to the climate of Arabia: and indeed, before Mahomet's time,
water was the common drink of the Arabs. The law which forbade the
Carthaginians to drink wine was a law of the climate; and, indeed, the
climate of those two countries is pretty nearly the same.
Such a law would be improper for cold countries, where the climate seems
to force them to a kind of national intemperance, very different from
personal ebriety. Drunkenness predominates throughout the world, in
proportion to the coldness and humidity of the climate. Go from the
equator to the north pole, and you will find this vice increasing
together with the degree of latitude. Go from the equator again to the
south pole, and you will find the same vice travelling south,
exactly in the same proportion.
It is very natural that where wine is contrary to the climate, and
consequently to health, the excess of it should be more severely
punished than in countries where intoxication produces very few bad
effects to the person, fewer to the society, and where it does not make
people frantic and wild, but only stupid and heavy. Hence those laws
which inflicted a double punishment for crimes committed in drunkenness
were applicable only to a personal, and not to a national, ebriety. A
German drinks through custom, and a Spaniard by choice.
In warm countries the relaxing of the fibres produces a great evacuation
of the liquids, but the solid parts are less transpired. The fibres,
which act but faintly, and have very little elasticity, are not much
impaired; and a small quantity of nutritious juice is sufficient to
repair them; for which reason they eat very little.
It is the variety of wants in different climates that first occasioned a
difference in the manner of living, and this gave rise to a variety of
laws. Where people are very communicative there must be particular laws,
and others where there is but little communication.
11. Of the Laws in relation to the Distempers of the Climate.
Herodotus informs us that the Jewish laws concerning the leprosy
were borrowed from the practice of the Egyptians. And, indeed, the same
distemper required the same remedies. The Greeks and the primitive
Romans were strangers to these laws, as well as to the disease. The
climate of Egypt and Palestine rendered them necessary; and the facility
with which this disease is spread is sufficient to make us sensible of
the wisdom and sagacity of those laws.
Even we ourselves have felt the effects of them. The Crusades brought
the leprosy amongst us; but the wise regulations made at that time
hindered it from infecting the mass of the people.
We find by the law of the Lombards that this disease was spread in
Italy before the Crusades, and merited the attention of the legislature.
Rotharis ordained that a leper should be expelled from his house,
banished to a particular place, and rendered incapable of disposing of
his property; because from the very moment he had been turned out of his
house he was reckoned dead in the eye of the law. In order to prevent
all communication with lepers, they were rendered incapable of civil
I am apt to think that this disease was brought into Italy by the
conquests of the Greek emperors, in whose armies there might be some
soldiers from Palestine or Egypt. Be that as it may, the progress of it
was stopped till the time of the Crusades.
It is related that Pompey's soldiers returning from Syria brought a
distemper home with them not unlike the leprosy. We have no account of
any regulation made at that time; but it is highly probable that some
such step was taken, since the distemper was checked till the time of
It is now two centuries since a disease unknown to our ancestors was
first transplanted from the new world to ours, and came to attack human
nature even in the very source of life and pleasure. Most of the
principal families in the south of Europe were seen to perish by a
distemper that had grown too common to be ignominious, and was
considered in no other light than in that of its being fatal. It was the
thirst of gold that propagated this disease; the Europeans went
continually to America, and always brought back a new leaven of it.
Reasons drawn from religion seemed to require that this punishment of
guilt should be permitted to continue; but the infection had reached the
bosom of matrimony, and given the vicious taint even to guiltless
As it is the business of legislators to watch over the health of the
citizens, it would have been a wise part in them to have stopped this
communication by laws made on the plan of those of Moses.
The plague is a disease whose infectious progress is much more rapid.
Egypt is its principal seat, whence it spreads over the whole globe.
Most countries in Europe have made exceedingly good regulations to
prevent this infection, and in our times an admirable method has been
contrived to stop it; this is by forming a line of troops round the
infected country, which cuts off all manner of communication.
The Turks, who have no such regulations, see the Christians escape
this infection in the same town, and none but themselves perish; they
buy the clothes of the infected, wear them, and proceed in their old
way, as if nothing had happened. The doctrine of a rigid fate, which
directs their whole conduct, renders the magistrate a quiet spectator;
he thinks that everything comes from the hand of God, and that man has
nothing more to do than to submit.
12. Of the Laws against Suicides. We do not find in history that the
Romans ever killed themselves without a cause; but the English are apt
to commit suicide most unaccountably; they destroy themselves even in
the bosom of happiness. This action among the Romans was the effect of
education, being connected with their principles and customs; among the
English it is the consequence of a distemper, being connected with
the physical state of the machine, and independent of every other cause.
In all probability it is a defect of the filtration of the nervous
juice: the machine, whose motive faculties are often unexerted, is weary
of itself; the soul feels no pain, but a certain uneasiness in existing.
Pain is a local sensation, which leads us to the desire of seeing an end
of it; the burden of life, which prompts us to the desire of ceasing to
exist, is an evil confined to no particular part.
It is evident that the civil laws of some countries may have reasons for
branding suicide with infamy: but in England it cannot be punished
without punishing the effects of madness.
13. Effects arising from the Climate of England. In a nation so
distempered by the climate as to have a disrelish of everything, nay,
even of life, it is plain that the government most suitable to the
inhabitants is that in which they cannot lay their uneasiness to any
single person's charge, and in which, being under the direction rather
of the laws than of the prince, it is impossible for them to change the
government without subverting the laws themselves.
And if this nation has likewise derived from the climate a certain
impatience of temper, which renders them incapable of bearing the same
train of things for any long continuance, it is obvious that the
government above mentioned is the fittest for them.
It is quite a different thing from levity, which makes people undertake
or drop a project without cause; it borders more upon obstinacy, because
it proceeds from so lively a sense of misery that it is not weakened
even by the habit of suffering.
This temper in a free nation is extremely proper for disconcerting the
projects of tyranny, which is always slow and feeble in its
commencement, as in the end it is active and lively; which at first only
stretches out a hand to assist, and exerts afterwards a multitude of
arms to oppress.
Slavery is ever preceded by sleep. But a people who find no rest in any
situation, who continually explore every part, and feel nothing but
pain, can hardly be lulled to sleep.
Politics is a smooth file, which cuts gradually, and attains its end by
a slow progression. Now the people of whom we have been speaking are
incapable of bearing the delays, the details, and the coolness of
negotiations: in these they are more unlikely to succeed than any other
nation; hence they are apt to lose by treaties what they obtain by their
14. Other Effects of the Climate. Our ancestors, the ancient Germans,
lived in a climate where the passions were extremely calm. Their laws
decided only in such cases where the injury was visible to the eye, and
went no further. And as they judged of the outrages done to men from the
greatness of the wound, they acted with no other delicacy in respect to
the injuries done to women. The law of the Alemans on this subject
is very extraordinary. If a person uncovers a woman's head, he pays a
fine of fifty sous; if he uncovers her leg up to the knee, he pays the
same; and double from the knee upwards. One would think that the law
measured the insults offered to women as we measure a figure in
geometry; it did not punish the crime of the imagination, but that of
the eye. But upon the migration of a German nation into Spain, the
climate soon found a necessity for different laws. The law of the
Visigoths inhibited the surgeons to bleed a free woman, except either
her father, mother, brother, son, or uncle was present. As the
imagination of the people grew warm, so did that of the legislators; the
law suspected everything when the people had become suspicious.
These laws had, therefore, a particular regard for the two sexes. But in
their punishments they seem rather to humour the revengeful temper of
private persons than to administer public justice. Thus, in most cases,
they reduced both the criminals to be slaves to the offended relatives
or to the injured husband; a free-born woman who had yielded to the
embraces of a married man was delivered up to his wife to dispose of her
as she pleased. They obliged the slaves, if they found their
master's wife in adultery, to bind her and carry her to her husband;
they even permitted her children to be her accusers, and her slaves
to be tortured in order to convict her. Thus their laws were far better
adapted to refine, even to excess, a certain point of honour than to
form a good civil administration. We must not, therefore, be surprised
if Count Julian was of opinion that an affront of that kind ought to be
expiated by the ruin of his king and country: we must not be surprised
if the Moors, with such a conformity of manners, found it so easy to
settle and to maintain themselves in Spain, and to retard the fall of
15. Of the different Confidence which the Laws have in the People,
according to the Difference of Climates. The people of Japan are of so
stubborn and perverse a temper that neither their legislators nor
magistrates can put any confidence in them: they set nothing before
their eyes but judgments, menaces, and chastisements; every step they
take is subject to the inquisition of the civil magistrate. Those laws
which out of five heads of families establish one as a magistrate over
the other four; those laws which punish a family or a whole ward for a
single crime; those laws, in fine, which find nobody innocent where one
may happen to be guilty, are made with a design to implant in the people
a mutual distrust, and to make every man the inspector, witness, and
judge of his neighbour's conduct.
On the contrary, the people of India are mild, tender, and
compassionate. Hence their legislators repose great confidence in them.
They have established very few punishments; these are not severe,
nor are they rigorously executed. They have subjected nephews to their
uncles, and orphans to their guardians, as in other countries they are
subjected to their fathers; they have regulated the succession by the
acknowledged merit of the successor. They seem to think that every
individual ought to place entire confidence in the good nature of his
They enfranchise their slaves without difficulty, they marry them, they
treat them as their children. Happy climate which gives birth to
innocence, and produces a lenity in the laws!
1. This appears even in the countenance: in cold weather people look
2. We know that it shortens iron.
3. Those for the succession to the Spanish monarchy.
4. For instance, in Spain.
5. "One hundred European soldiers," says Tavernier, "would without any
great difficulty beat a thousand Indian soldiers."
6. Even the Persians who settle in the Indies contract in the third
generation the indolence and cowardice of the Indians. See Bernier on
the Mogul, i, p. 182.
7. We find by a fragment of Nicolaus Damascenus, collected by
Constantine Porphyrogenitus, that it was an ancient custom in the East
to send to strangle a governor who had given any displeasure; it was in
the time of the Medes.
8. Panamanack: See Kircher.
9. La Loubere, Account of the Kingdom of Siam, p. 446.
10. Foe endeavoured to reduce the heart to a mere vacuum: "We have eyes
and ears, but perfection consists in neither seeing nor hearing; a
mouth, hands, &c., but perfection requires that these members should be
inactive." This is taken from the dialogue of a Chinese philosopher,
quoted by Father Du Halde, iii.
11. Father Du Halde, History of China, i, p. 72.
12. Several of the kings of India do the same. La Loubere, Account of
the Kingdom of Siam, p. 69.
13. Venty, the third emperor of the third dynasty, tilled the lands
himself, and made the empress and his wives employ their time in the
silkworks in his palace. History of China.
14. Hyde, Religion of the Persians.
15. Monsieur Bernier, travelling from Lahore to Cashmere, wrote thus:
"My body is a sieve; scarcely have I swallowed a pint of water, but I
see it transude like dew out of all my limbs, even to my fingers' ends.
I drink ten pints a day, and it does me no manner of harm." -- Bernier,
Travels, ii, p. 261.
16. In the blood there are red globules, fibrous parts, white globules,
and water, in which the whole swims.
17. Plato, Laws, ii; Aristotle, Of the Care of Domestic Affairs;
Eusebius, Evangelical Preparation, xii. 17.
18. This is seen in the Hottentots, and the inhabitants of the most
southern part of Chili.
19. As Pittacus did, according to Aristotle, Politics, ii. 12. He lived
in a climate where drunkenness is not a national vice.
20. Book ii.
21. Book ii. tit. 1, § 3; tit. 18, § 1.
22. Ricaut, State of the Ottoman Empire, p. 284.
23. It may be complicated with the scurvy, which, in some countries
especially, renders a man whimsical and unsupportable to himself. See
Pirard, Voyages, part II, 21.
24. Here I take this word for the design of subverting the established
power, and especially that of democracy; this is the signification in
which it was understood by the Greeks and Romans.
25. Chapter 58, §§ 1, 2.
26. Law of the Visigoths, iii, tit. 4, § 9.
27. Ibid., § 6.
28. Ibid., § 13.
29. See Bernier, ii, p. 140.
30. See in the Edifying Letters, coll. xiv, p. 403, the principal laws
or customs of the inhabitants of the peninsula on this side the Ganges.
31. See Edifying Letters, coll, ix, p. 378.
32. I had once thought that the lenity of slavery in India had made
Diodorus say that there was neither master nor slave in that country;
but Diodorus has attributed to the whole continent of India what,
according to Strabo, xv, belonged only to a particular nation.
Book XV. In What Manner the Laws of Civil Slavery Relate to the Nature
of the Climate
1. Of civil Slavery. Slavery, properly so called, is the establishment
of a right which gives to one man such a power over another as renders
him absolute master of his life and fortune. The state of slavery is in
its own nature bad. It is neither useful to the master nor to the slave;
not to the slave, because he can do nothing through a motive of virtue;
nor to the master, because by having an unlimited authority over his
slaves he insensibly accustoms himself to the want of all moral virtues,
and thence becomes fierce, hasty, severe, choleric, voluptuous, and
In despotic countries, where they are already in a state of political
servitude, civil slavery is more tolerable than in other governments.
Every one ought to be satisfied in those countries with necessaries and
life. Hence the condition of a slave is hardly more burdensome than that
of a subject.
But in a monarchical government, where it is of the utmost importance
that human nature should not be debased or dispirited, there ought to be
no slavery. In democracies, where they are all upon equality; and in
aristocracies, where the laws ought to use their utmost endeavours to
procure as great an equality as the nature of the government will
permit, slavery is contrary to the spirit of the constitution: it only
contributes to give a power and luxury to the citizens which they ought
not to have.
2. Origin of the Right of Slavery among the Roman Civilians. One would
never have imagined that slavery should owe its birth to pity, and that
this should have been excited in three different ways.
The law of nations to prevent prisoners from being put to death has
allowed them to be made slaves. The civil law of the Romans empowered
debtors, who were subject to be ill-used by their creditors, to sell
themselves. And the law of nature requires that children whom a father
in a state of servitude is no longer able to maintain should be reduced
to the same state as the father.
in war is lawful, unless in a case of absolute necessity: but when a man
has made another his slave, he cannot be said to have been under a
necessity of taking away his life, since he actually did not take it
away. War gives no other right over prisoners than to disable them from
doing any further harm by securing their persons. All nations concur
in detesting the murdering of prisoners in cold blood.
Neither is it true that a freeman can sell himself. Sale implies a
price; now when a person sells himself, his whole substance immediately
devolves to his master; the master, therefore, in that case, gives
nothing, and the slave receives nothing. You will say he has a peculium.
But this peculium goes along with his person. If it is not lawful for a
man to kill himself because he robs his country of his person, for the
same reason he is not allowed to barter his freedom. The freedom of
every citizen constitutes a part of the public liberty, and in a
democratic state is even a part of the sovereignty. To sell one's
freedom is so repugnant to all reason as can scarcely be supposed in
any man. If liberty may be rated with respect to the buyer, it is beyond
all price to the seller. The civil law, which authorises a division of
goods among men, cannot be thought to rank among such goods a part of
the men who were to make this division. The same law annuls all
iniquitous contracts; surely then it affords redress in a contract where
the grievance is most enormous.
The third way is birth, which falls with the two former; for if a man
could not sell himself, much less could he sell an unborn infant. If a
prisoner of war is not to be reduced to slavery, much less are his
The lawfulness of putting a malefactor to death arises from this
circumstance: the law by which he is punished was made for his security.
A murderer, for instance, has enjoyed the benefit of the very law which
condemns him; it has been a continual protection to him; he cannot,
therefore, object to it. But it is not so with the slave. The law of
slavery can never be beneficial to him; it is in all cases against him,
without ever being for his advantage; and therefore this law is contrary
to the fundamental principle of all societies.
If it be pretended that it has been beneficial to him, as his master has
provided for his subsistence, slavery, at this rate, should be limited
to those who are incapable of earning their livelihood. But who will
take up with such slaves? As to infants, nature, who has supplied their
mothers with milk, had provided for their sustenance; and the remainder
of their childhood approaches so near the age in which they are most
capable of being of service that he who supports them cannot be said to
give them an equivalent which can entitle him to be their master.
Nor is slavery less opposed to the civil law than to that of nature.
What civil law can restrain a slave from running away, since he is not a
member of society, and consequently has no interest in any civil
institutions? He can be retained only by a family law, that is, by the
3. Another Origin of the Right of Slavery. I would as soon say that the
right of slavery proceeds from the contempt of one nation for another,
founded on a difference in customs.
Lopez de Gama relates that the Spaniards found near St. Martha
several basketsful of crabs, snails, grasshoppers, and locusts, which
proved to be the ordinary provision of the natives. This the conquerors
turned to a heavy charge against the conquered. The author owns that
this, with their smoking and trimming their beards in a different
manner, gave rise to the law by which the Americans became slaves to the
Knowledge humanises mankind, and reason inclines to mildness; but
prejudices eradicate every tender disposition.
4. Another Origin of the Right of Slavery. I would as soon say that
religion gives its professors a right to enslave those who dissent from
it, in order to render its propagation more easy.
This was the notion that encouraged the ravagers of America in their
iniquity. Under the influence of this idea they founded their right
of enslaving so many nations; for these robbers, who would absolutely be
both robbers and Christians, were superlatively devout.
Louis XII was extremely uneasy at a law by which all the negroes of
his colonies were to be made slaves; but it being strongly urged to him
as the readiest means for their conversion, he acquiesced without
5. Of the Slavery of the Negroes. Were I to vindicate our right to make
slaves of the negroes, these should be my arguments:
The Europeans, having extirpated the Americans, were obliged to make
slaves of the Africans, for clearing such vast tracts of land.
Sugar would be too dear if the plants which produce it were cultivated
by any other than slaves.
These creatures are all over black, and with such a flat nose that they
can scarcely be pitied.
It is hardly to be believed that God, who is a wise Being, should place
a soul, especially a good soul, in such a black ugly body.
It is so natural to look upon colour as the criterion of human nature,
that the Asiatics, among whom eunuchs are employed, always deprive the
blacks of their resemblance to us by a more opprobrious distinction.
The colour of the skin may be determined by that of the hair, which,
among the Egyptians, the best philosophers in the world, was of such
importance that they put to death all the red-haired men who fell into
The negroes prefer a glass necklace to that gold which polite nations so
highly value. Can there be a greater proof of their wanting common
It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures to be men, because,
allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow that we ourselves are
Weak minds exaggerate too much the wrong done to the Africans. For were
the case as they state it, would the European powers, who make so many
needless conventions among themselves, have failed to enter into a
general one, in behalf of humanity and compassion?
6. The true Origin of the Right of Slavery. It is time to inquire into
the true origin of the right of slavery. It ought to be founded on the
nature of things; let us see if there be any cases where it can be
In all despotic governments people make no difficulty in selling
themselves; the political slavery in some measure annihilates the civil
According to Mr. Perry, the Muscovites sell themselves very readily:
their reason for it is evident; their liberty is not worth keeping.
At Achim every one is for selling himself. Some of the chief lords
have not less than a thousand slaves, all principal merchants, who have
a great number of slaves themselves, and these also are not without
their slaves. Their masters are their heirs, and put them into trade. In
those states, the freemen being overpowered by the government, have no
better resource than that of making themselves slaves to the tyrants in
This is the true and rational origin of that mild law of slavery which
obtains in some countries: and mild it ought to be, as founded on the
free choice a man makes of a master, for his own benefit; which forms a
mutual convention between the two parties.
7. Another Origin of the Right of Slavery. There is another origin of
the right of slavery, and even of the most cruel slavery which is to be
seen among men.
There are countries where the excess of heat enervates the body, and
renders men so slothful and dispirited that nothing but the fear of
chastisement can oblige them to perform any laborious duty: slavery is
there more reconcilable to reason; and the master being as lazy with
respect to his sovereign as his slave is with regard to him, this adds a
political to a civil slavery.
Aristotle endeavours to prove that there are natural slaves; but what
he says is far from proving it. If there be any such, I believe they are
those of whom I have been speaking.
But as all men are born equal, slavery must be accounted unnatural,
though in some countries it be founded on natural reason; and a wide
difference ought to be made between such countries, and those in which
even natural reason rejects it, as in Europe, where it has been so
Plutarch, in the Life of Numa, says that in Saturn's time there was
neither slave nor master. Christianity has restored that age in our
8. Inutility of Slavery among us. Natural slavery, then, is to be
limited to some particular parts of the world. In all other countries,
even the most servile drudgeries may be performed by freemen. Experience
verifies my assertion. Before Christianity had abolished civil slavery
in Europe, working in the mines was judged too toilsome for any but
slaves or malefactors: at present there are men employed in them who are
known to live comfortably. The magistrates have, by some small
privileges, encouraged this profession: to an increase of labour they
have joined an increase of gain; and have gone so far as to make those
people better pleased with their condition than with any other which
they could have embraced.
No labour is so heavy but it may be brought to a level with the
workman's strength, when regulated by equity, and not by avarice. The
violent fatigues which slaves are made to undergo in other parts may be
supplied by a skilful use of ingenious machines. The Turkish mines in
the Bannat of Temeswær, though richer than those of Hungary, did not
yield so much; because the working of them depended entirely on the
strength of their slaves.
I know not whether this article be dictated by my understanding or by my
heart. Possibly there is not that climate upon earth where the most
laborious services might not with proper encouragement be performed by
freemen. Bad laws having made lazy men, they have been reduced to
slavery because of their laziness.
9. Several Kinds of Slavery. Slavery is of two kinds, real and personal.
The real annexes the slave to the land, which Tacitus makes the
condition of slaves among the Germans. They were not employed in the
family: a stated tribute of corn, cattle, or other movables, paid to
their master, was the whole of their servitude. And such a servitude
still continues in Hungary, Bohemia, and several parts of Lower Germany.
Personal slavery consists in domestic services, and relates more to the
The worst degree of slavery is when it is at once both real and
personal, as that of the Helotes among the Lacedæmonians. They underwent
the fatigues of the field, and suffered all manner of insults at home.
This helotism is contrary to the nature of things. Real slavery is to be
found only among nations remarkable for their simplicity of life:
all family business being done by the wives and children. Personal
slavery is peculiar to voluptuous nations; luxury requiring the service
of slaves in the house. But helotism joins in the same person the
slavery established by voluptuous nations and that of the most simple.
10. Regulations necessary in respect to Slavery. But of whatsoever kind
the slavery be, the civil laws should endeavour on the one hand to
abolish the abuses of it, and on the other to guard against its dangers.
11. Abuses of Slavery. In Mahometan states, not only the life and
goods of female slaves, but also what is called their virtue or honour,
are at their master's disposal. One of the misfortunes of those
countries is that the greatest part of the nation are born only to be
subservient to the pleasures of the other. This servitude is alleviated
by the laziness in which such slaves spend their days; which is an
additional disadvantage to the state.
It is this indolence which renders the eastern seraglios so delightful
to those very persons whom they were made to confine. People who
dread nothing but labour may imagine themselves happy in those places of
indolence and ease. But this shows how contrary they are to the very
intent of the institution of slavery.
Reason requires that the master's power should not extend to what does
not appertain to his service: slavery should be calculated for utility,
and not for pleasure. The laws of chastity arise from those of nature,
and ought in all nations to be respected.
If a law which preserves the chastity of slaves be good in those states
where an arbitrary power bears down all before it, how much more will it
be so in monarchies, and how much more still in republics?
The law of the Lombards has a regulation which ought to be adopted
by all governments. "If a master debauches his slave's wife, the slave
and his wife shall be restored to their freedom." An admirable
expedient, which, without severity, lays a powerful restraint on the
incontinence of masters!
The Romans seem to have erred on this head. They allowed an unlimited
scope to the master's lusts, and, in some measure, denied their slaves
the privilege of marrying. It is true, they were the lowest part of the
nation; yet there should have been some care taken of their morals,
especially as in prohibiting their marriage they corrupted the morals of
12. Danger from the Multitude of Slaves. The multitude of slaves has
different effects in different governments. It is no grievance in a
despotic state, where the political servitude of the whole body takes
away the sense of civil slavery. Those who are called freedmen in
reality are little more so than they who do not come within that class;
and as the latter, in quality of eunuchs, freedmen, or slaves, have
generally the management of all affairs, the condition of a freedman and
that of a slave are very nearly allied. This makes it therefore almost a
matter of indifference whether in such states the slaves be few or
But in moderate governments it is a point of the highest importance that
there should not be a great number of slaves. The political liberty of
those states adds to the value of civil liberty; and he who is deprived
of the latter is also bereft of the former. He sees the happiness of a
society, of which he is not so much as a member; he sees the security of
others fenced by laws, himself without any protection. He perceives that
his master has a soul, capable of enlarging itself: while his own
labours under a continual depression. Nothing more assimilates a man to
a beast than living among freedmen, himself a slave. Such people as
these are natural enemies of society; and their number must be
It is not therefore to be wondered at that moderate governments have
been so frequently disturbed by the revolts of slaves, and that this so
seldom happens in despotic states.
13. Of armed Slaves. The danger of arming slaves is not so great in
monarchies as in republics. In the former, a warlike people and a body
of nobility are a sufficient check upon these armed slaves; whereas the
pacific members of a republic would have a hard task to quell a set of
men who, having offensive weapons in their hands, would find themselves
a match for the citizens.
The Goths, who conquered Spain, spread themselves over the country, and
soon became very weak. They made three important regulations: they
abolished an ancient custom which prohibited intermarriages with the
Romans; they enacted that all the freedmen belonging to the
Fiscus should serve in war, under penalty of being reduced to slavery;
and they ordained that each Goth should arm and bring into the field the
tenth part of his slaves. This was but a small proportion: besides,
these slaves thus carried to the field did not form a separate body;
they were in the army, and might be said to continue in the family.
14. The same Subject continued. When a whole nation is of a martial
temper, the slaves in arms are less to be feared.
By a law of the Alemans, a slave who had committed a clandestine
theft was liable to the same punishment as a freedman in the like
case; but if he was found guilty of an open robbery, he was only
bound to restore the things so taken. Among the Alemans, courage and
intrepidity extenuated the guilt of an action. They employed their
slaves in their wars. Most republics have been attentive to dispirit
their slaves; but the Alemans, relying on themselves and being always
armed, were so far from fearing theirs that they were rather for
augmenting their courage; they were the instruments either of their
depredations or of their glory.
15. Precautions to be used in Moderate Governments. Lenity and humane
treatment may prevent the dangers to be apprehended from the multitude
of slaves in a moderate government. Men grow reconciled to everything,
and even to servitude, if not aggravated by the severity of the master.
The Athenians treated their slaves with great lenity; and this secured
that state from the commotions raised by the slaves among the austere
It does not appear that the primitive Romans met with any trouble from
their slaves. Those civil broils which have been compared to the Punic
wars were the consequence of their having divested themselves of all
humanity towards their slaves.
A frugal and laborious people generally treat their slaves more kindly
than those who are above labour. The primitive Romans used to live,
work, and eat with their slaves; in short, they behaved towards them
with justice and humanity. The greatest punishment they made them suffer
was to make them pass before their neighbours with a forked piece of
wood on their backs. Their manners were sufficient to secure the
fidelity of their slaves; so that there was no necessity for laws.
But when the Romans aggrandised themselves; when their slaves were no
longer the companions of their labour, but the instruments of their
luxury and pride; as they then wanted morals, they had need of laws. It
was even necessary for these laws to be of the most terrible kind, in
order to establish the safety of those cruel masters who lived with
their slaves as in the midst of enemies.
They made the Sillanian Senatus-Consultum, and other laws, which
decreed that when a master was murdered all the slaves under the same
roof, or in any place so near the house as to be within the hearing of a
man's voice, should, without distinction, be condemned to die. Those who
in this case sheltered a slave, in order to save him, were punished as
murderers; he whom his master ordered to kill him, and who
obeyed, was reputed guilty; even he who did not hinder him from killing
himself was liable to be punished. If a master was murdered on a
journey, they put to death those who were with him and those who
fled. All these laws operated even against persons whose innocence
was proved; the intent of them was to inspire their slaves with a
prodigious respect for their master. They were not dependent on the
civil government, but on a fault or imperfection of the civil
government. They were not derived from the equity of civil laws, since
they were contrary to the principle of those laws. They were properly
founded on the principles of war, with this difference, that the enemies
were in the bosom of the state. The Sillanian Senatus-Consultum was
derived from the law of nations, which requires that a society, however
imperfect, should be preserved.
It is a misfortune in government when the magistrates thus find
themselves under the necessity of making cruel laws; because they have
rendered obedience difficult, they are obliged to increase the penalty
of disobedience, or to suspect the slave's fidelity. A prudent
legislator foresees the ill consequences of rendering the legislature
terrible. The slaves amongst the Romans could have no confidence in the
laws; and therefore the laws could have none in them.
16. Regulations between Masters and Slaves. The magistrates ought to
take care that the slave has his food and raiment; and this should be
regulated by law.
The laws ought to provide that care be taken of them in sickness and old
age. Claudius decreed that the slaves who in sickness had been
abandoned by their masters should, in case they recovered, be
emancipated. This law insured their liberty; but should not there have
been some care also taken to preserve their lives?
When the law permitted a master to take away the life of his slave, he
was invested with a power which he ought to exercise as judge, and not
as master; it was necessary, therefore, that the law should ordain those
formalities which remove the suspicion of an act of violence.
When fathers, at Rome, were no longer permitted to put their children to
death, the magistrates ordained the punishment which the father would
have inflicted. A like custom between the master and his slaves
would be highly reasonable in a country where masters have the power of
life and death.
The law of Moses was extremely severe. If a man struck his servant so
that he died under his hand, he was to be punished; but, if he survived
a day or two, no punishment ensued, because he was his money.
Strange that a civil institution should thus relax the law of nature!
By a law of the Greeks, a slave too severely treated by his master
might insist upon being sold to another. In later times there was a law
of the same nature at Rome. A master displeased with his slave, and
a slave with his master, ought to be separated.
When a citizen uses the slave of another ill, the latter ought to have
the liberty of complaining before the judge. The laws of Plato, and
of most nations, took away from slaves the right of natural defence. It
was necessary then that they should give them a civil defence.
At Sparta slaves could have no justice against either insults or
injuries. So excessive was their misery, that they were not only the
slaves of a citizen, but also of the public; they belonged to all, as
well as to one. At Rome, when they considered the injury done to a
slave, they had regard only to the interest of the master. In the
breach of the Aquilian law they confounded a wound given to a beast and
that given to a slave; they regarded only the diminution of their value.
At Athens, he who had abused the slave of another was punished
severely, and sometimes even with death. The law of Athens was very
reasonable in not adding the loss of security to that of liberty.
17. Of Enfranchisements. It is easy to perceive that many slaves in a
republican government create a necessity of making many free. The evil
is, if they have too great a number of slaves they cannot keep them in
due bounds; if they have too many freedmen, they cannot live, and must
become a burden to the republic: besides, it may be as much in danger
from the multitude of freedmen as from that of slaves. It is necessary,
therefore, that the law should have an eye to these two inconveniences.
The several laws and decrees of the senate made at Rome, both for and
against slaves, sometimes to limit, and at other times to facilitate,
their enfranchisement, plainly show the embarrassment in which they
found themselves in this respect. There were even times in which they
durst not make laws. When, under Nero, they demanded of the senate
permission for the masters to reduce again to slavery the ungrateful
freedmen, the emperor declared that it was their duty to decide the
affairs of individuals, and to make no general decree.
Much less can I determine what ought to be the regulations of a good
republic in such an affair; this depends on too many circumstances. Let
us, however, make some reflections.
A considerable number of freedmen ought not suddenly to be made by a
general law. We known that among the Volsinienses the freedmen,
becoming masters of the suffrages, enacted an abominable law, which gave
them the right of lying the first night with the young women married to
There are several ways of insensibly introducing new citizens into a
republic. The laws may favour the acquiring a peculium, and put slaves
into a condition of buying their liberty: they may prescribe a term to
servitude, like those of Moses, which limited that of the Hebrew slaves
to six years. It is easy to enfranchise every year a certain number
of those slaves who, by their age, health, or industry, are capable of
getting a subsistence. The evil may be even cured in its root, as a
great number of slaves are connected with the several employments which
are given them; to divide among the free-born a part of these
employments, for example, commerce or navigation, is diminishing the
number of slaves.
When there are many freedmen, it is necessary that the civil laws should
determine what they owe to their patron, or that these duties should be
fixed by the contract of enfranchisement.
It is certain that their condition should be more favoured in the civil
than in the political state; because, even in a popular government, the
power ought not to fall into the hands of the vulgar.
At Rome, where they had so many freedmen, the political laws with regard
to them were admirable. They gave them very little, and excluded them
almost from nothing: they had even a share in the legislature, but the
resolutions they were capable of taking were almost of no weight. They
might bear a part in the public offices, and even in the dignity of the
priesthood; but this privilege was in some sort rendered useless by
the disadvantages they had to encounter in the elections. They had a
right to enter into the army; but they were to be registered in a
certain class of the census before they could be soldiers. Nothing
hindered the freedmen from being united by marriage with the
families of the free-born; but they were not permitted to mix with those
of the senator. In short, their children were free-born, though they
were not so themselves.
18. Of Freedmen and Eunuchs. Thus in a republican government it is
frequently of advantage that the situation of the freedmen be but little
below that of the free-born, and that the laws be calculated to remove a
dislike of their condition. But in a despotic government, where luxury
and arbitrary power prevail, they have nothing to do in this respect;
the freedmen generally finding themselves above the free-born. They rule
in the court of the prince, and in the palaces of the great; and as they
study the foibles and not the virtues of their master, they lead him
entirely by the former, not by the latter. Such were the freedmen of
Rome in the times of the emperors.
When the principal slaves are eunuchs, let never so many privileges be
granted them, they can hardly be regarded as freedmen. For as they are
incapable of having a family of their own, they are naturally attached
to that of another: and it is only by a kind of fiction that they are
considered as citizens.
And yet there are countries where the magistracy is entirely in their
hands. "In Tonquin," says Dampier, "all the mandarins, civil and
military, are eunuchs." They have no families, and though they are
naturally avaricious, the master or the prince benefits in the end by
this very passion.
Dampier tells us, too, that in this country the eunuchs cannot live
without women, and therefore marry. The law which permits their marriage
may be founded partly on their respect for these eunuchs, and partly on
their contempt of the fair sex.
Thus they are trusted with the magistracy, because they have no family;
and permitted to marry, because they are magistrates.
Then it is that the sense which remains would fain supply that which
they have lost; and the enterprises of despair become a kind of
enjoyment. So, in Milton, that spirit who has nothing left but desires,
enraged at his degradation, would make use of his impotency itself.
We see in the history of China a great number of laws to deprive eunuchs
of all civil and military employments; but they always returned to them
again. It seems as if the eunuchs of the east were a necessary evil.
1. Justinian, Institutes, i.
2. Excepting a few cannibals.
3. I mean slavery in a strict sense, as formerly among the Romans, and
at present in our colonies.
4. Biblioth. Ang., xiii, part II, art. 3.
5. See Solis, History of the Conquest of Mexico, and Garcilasso de la
Vega, History of the Conquest of Peru.
6. Labat, New Voyage to the Isles of America, iv, p. 114, 1728, 12mo.
7. Present State of Russia.
8. Dampier, Voyages, iii.
9. Politics, i. 5.
10. As may be seen in the mines of Hartz, in Lower Saxony, and in those
11. De Moribus Germanorum, 25.
12. Tacitus, De Moribus Germanorum, 20, says the master is not to be
distinguished from the slave by any delicacy of living.
13. Sir John Chardin, Travels to Persia.
14. Sir John Chardin, ii, in his description of the market of Izagour.
15. Book i, tit. 32, § 5.
16. The revolt of the Mamelukes was a different case; this was a body of
the militia who usurped the empire.
17. Law of the Visigoths, iii, tit. 1, § 1.
18. Ibid., v, tit. 7, § 20.
19. Ibid., v, tit. 2, § 9.
20. Law of the Alemans, 5, § 3.
21. Ibid., § 5, per virtutem.
22. "Sicily," says Florus, "suffered more in the Servile than in the
Punic war." -- iii. 19.
23. See the whole title of the senat. cons. Sillan., ff.
24. Leg. Si quis, § 12, ff. de senat. cons. Sillan.
25. When Antony commanded Eros to kill him, it was the same as
commanding him to kill himself; because, if he had obeyed, he would have
been punished as the murderer of his master.
26. Leg. i, § 22, ff. de senat. cons. Sillan.
27. Leg. i, § 31, ff. ibid., xxix, tit. 5.
28. Xiphilin, In Claudio.
29. See Leg. 3, in Cod., De Patria potestate, by the Emperor Alexander.
30. Exod., 21. 20, 21.
31. Plutarch, On Superstition.
32. See the constitution of Antoninus Pius, Institutes, i, tit. 7.
33. Laws, Book ix.
34. This was frequently the spirit of the laws of those nations who came
out of Germany, as may be seen by their codes.
35. Demosthenes, Orat. contra Midian, p. 610, Frankfort, 1604.
36. Tacitus, Annals, xiii. 27.
37. Freinshemius, Supplement, dec. 2, v.
38. Exod., 21.
39. Tacitus, Annals, xiii. 27.
40. Augustus's speech in Dio, lvi.
41. It was formerly the same in China. The two Mahometan Arabs who
travelled thither in the ninth century use the word eunuch whenever they
speak of a governor of the city.
Book XVI. How the Laws of Domestic Slavery Bear a Relation to the Nature
of the Climate
1. Of domestic Servitude. Slaves are established for the family; but
they are not a part of it. Thus I distinguish their servitude from that
which the women in some countries suffer, and which I shall properly
call domestic servitude.
2. That in the Countries of the South there is a natural Inequality
between the two Sexes. Women, in hot climates, are marriageable at
eight, nine, or ten years of age; thus, in those countries, infancy
and marriage generally go together. They are old at twenty: their reason
therefore never accompanies their beauty. When beauty demands the
empire, the want of reason forbids the claim; when reason is obtained,
beauty is no more. These women ought then to be in a state of
dependence; for reason cannot procure in old age that empire which even
youth and beauty could not give. It is therefore extremely natural that
in these places a man, when no law opposes it, should leave one wife to
take another, and that polygamy should be introduced.
In temperate climates, where the charms of women are best preserved,
where they arrive later at maturity, and have children at a more
advanced season of life, the old age of their husbands in some degree
follows theirs; and as they have more reason and knowledge at the time
of marriage, if it be only on account of their having continued longer
in life, it must naturally introduce a kind of equality between the two
sexes; and, in consequence of this, the law of having only one wife.
In cold countries the almost necessary custom of drinking strong liquors
establishes intemperance amongst men. Women, who in this respect have a
natural restraint, because they are always on the defensive, have
therefore the advantage of reason over them.
Nature, which has distinguished men by their reason and bodily strength,
has set no other bounds to their power than those of this strength and
reason. It has given charms to women, and ordained that their ascendancy
over man shall end with these charms: but in hot countries, these are
found only at the beginning, and never in the progress of life.
Thus the law which permits only one wife is physically conformable to
the climate of Europe, and not to that of Asia. This is the reason why
Mahometanism was so easily established in Asia, and with such difficulty
extended in Europe; why Christianity is maintained in Europe, and has
been destroyed in Asia; and, in fine, why the Mahometans have made such
progress in China, and the Christians so little. Human reasons, however,
are subordinate to that Supreme Cause who does whatever He pleases, and
renders everything subservient to His will.
Some particular reasons induced Valentinian to permit polygamy in the
empire. That law, so improper for our climates, was abrogated by
Theodosius, Arcadius, and Honorius.
3. That a Plurality of Wives greatly depends on the Means of supporting
them. Though in countries where polygamy is once established the number
of wives is principally determined by the opulence of the husband, yet
it cannot be said that opulence established polygamy in those states,
since poverty may produce the same effect, as I shall prove when I come
to speak of the savages.
Polygamy, in powerful nations, is less a luxury in itself than the
occasion of great luxury. In hot climates they have few wants, and it
costs little to maintain a wife and children; they may therefore have
a great number of wives.
4. That the Law of Polygamy is an affair that depends on Calculation.
According to the calculations made in several parts of Europe, there are
here born more boys than girls; on the contrary, by the accounts we
have of Asia, there are there born more girls than boys. The law
which in Europe allows only one wife, and that in Asia which permits
many, have therefore a certain relation to the climate.
In the cold climates of Asia there are born, as in Europe, more males
than females; and hence, say the Lamas, is derived the reason of that
law which amongst them permits a woman to have many husbands.
But it is difficult for me to believe that there are many countries
where the disproportion can be great enough for any exigency to justify
the introducing either the law in favour of many wives or that of many
husbands. This would only imply that a majority of women, or even a
majority of men, is more conformable to nature in certain countries than
I confess that if what history tells us be true, that at Bantam there
are ten women to one man, this must be a case particularly favourable
In all this I only give their reasons, but do not justify their customs.
5. The Reason of a Law of Malabar. In the tribe of the Naires, on the
coast of Malabar, the men can have only one wife, while a woman, on the
contrary, may have many husbands. The origin of this custom is not I
believe difficult to discover. The Naires are the tribe of nobles, who
are the soldiers of all those nations. In Europe soldiers are forbidden
to marry; in Malabar, where the climate requires greater indulgence,
they are satisfied with rendering marriage as little burdensome to them
as possible: they give one wife amongst many men, which consequently
diminishes the attachment to a family, and the cares of housekeeping,
and leaves them in the free possession of a military spirit.
6. Of Polygamy considered in itself. With regard to polygamy in general,
independently of the circumstances which may render it tolerable, it is
not of the least service to mankind, nor to either of the two sexes,
whether it be that which abuses or that which is abused. Neither is it
of service to the children; for one of its greatest inconveniences is,
that the father and mother cannot have the same affection for their
offspring; a father cannot love twenty children with the same tenderness
as a mother can love two. It is much worse when a wife has many
husbands; for then paternal love only is held by this opinion, that a
father may believe, if he will, or that others may believe, that certain
children belong to him.
They say that the Emperor of Morocco has women of all colours, white,
black, and tawny, in his seraglio. But the wretch has scarcely need of a
Besides, the possession of so many wives does not always prevent their
entertaining desires for those of others; it is with lust as with
avarice, whose thirst increases by the acquisition of treasure.
In the reign of Justinian, many philosophers, displeased with the
constraint of Christianity, retired into Persia. What struck them the
most, says Agathias, was that polygamy was permitted amongst men who
did not even abstain from adultery.
May I not say that a plurality of wives leads to that passion which
nature disallows? for one depravation always draws on another. I
remember that in the revolution which happened at Constantinople, when
Sultan Achmet was deposed, history says that the people, having
plundered the Kiaya's house, found not a single woman; they tell us that
at Algiers, in the greatest part of their seraglios, they have none
7. Of an Equality of Treatment in case of many Wives. From the law which
permitted a plurality of wives followed that of an equal behaviour to
each. Mahomet, who allowed of four, would have everything, as
provisions, dress, and conjugal duty, equally divided between them. This
law is also in force in the Maldivian isles, where they are at
liberty to marry three wives.
The law of Moses even declares that if any one has married his son
to a slave, and this son should afterwards espouse a free woman, her
food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage shall he not diminish. They
might give more to the new wife, but the first was not to have less than
she had before.
8. Of the Separation of Women from Men. The prodigious number of wives
possessed by those who live in rich and voluptuous countries is a
consequence of the law of polygamy. Their separation from men, and their
close confinement, naturally follow from the greatness of this number.
Domestic order renders this necessary; thus an insolvent debtor seeks to
conceal himself from the pursuit of his creditors. There are climates
where the impulses of nature have such force that morality has almost
none. If a man be left with a woman, the temptation and the fall will be
the same thing; the attack certain, the resistance none. In these
countries, instead of precepts, they have recourse to bolts and bars.
One of the Chinese classic authors considers the man as a prodigy of
virtue who, finding a woman alone in a distant apartment, can forbear
making use of force.
9. Of the Connection between domestic and political Government. In a
republic the condition of citizens is moderate, equal, mild, and
agreeable; everything partakes of the benefit of public liberty. An
empire over the women cannot, among them, be so well exerted; and where
the climate demands this empire, it is most agreeable to a monarchical
government. This is one of the reasons why it has ever been difficult to
establish a popular government in the East.
On the contrary, the slavery of women is perfectly conformable to the
genius of a despotic government, which delights in treating all with
severity. Thus at all times have we seen in Asia domestic slavery and
despotic government walk hand in hand with an equal pace.
In a government which requires, above all things, that a particular
regard be paid to its tranquillity, and where the extreme subordination
calls for peace, it is absolutely necessary to shut up the women; for
their intrigues would prove fatal to their husbands. A government which
has not time to examine into the conduct of its subjects views them with
a suspicious eye, only because they appear and suffer themselves to be
Let us only suppose that the levity of mind, the indiscretions, the
tastes and caprices of our women, attended by their passions of a higher
and a lower kind, with all their active fire, and in that full liberty
with which they appear amongst us, were conveyed into an eastern
government, where would be the father of a family who could enjoy a
moment's repose? The men would be everywhere suspected, everywhere
enemies; the state would be overturned, and the kingdom overflowed with
rivers of blood.
10. The Principle on which the Morals of the East are founded. In the
case of a multiplicity of wives, the more a family ceases to be united,
the more ought the laws to reunite its detached parts in a common
centre; and the greater the diversity of interests, the more necessary
is it for the laws to bring them back to a common interest.
This is more particularly done by confinement. The women should not only
be separated from the men by the walls of the house, but they ought also
to be separated in the same enclosure, in such a manner that each may
have a distinct household in the same family. Hence each derives all
that relates to the practice of morality, modesty, chastity, reserve,
silence, peace, dependence, respect, and love; and, in short, a general
direction of her thoughts to that which, in its own nature, is a thing
of the greatest importance, a single and entire attachment to her
Women have naturally so many duties to fulfil -- duties which are
peculiarly theirs -- that they cannot be sufficiently excluded from
everything capable of inspiring other ideas; from everything that goes
by the name of amusements; and from everything which we call business.
We find the manners more pure in the several parts of the East, in
proportion as the confinement of women is more strictly observed. In
great kingdoms there are necessarily great lords. The greater their
wealth, the more enlarged is their ability of keeping their wives in an
exact confinement, and of preventing them from entering again into
society. Hence it proceeds that in the empires of Turkey, Persia, of the
Mogul, China, and Japan, the manners of their wives are admirable.
But the case is not the same in India, where a multitude of islands and
the situation of the land have divided the country into an infinite
number of petty states, which from causes that we have not here room to
mention are rendered despotic.
There are none there but wretches, some pillaging and others pillaged.
Their grandees have very moderate fortunes, and those whom they call
rich have only a bare subsistence. The confinement of their women cannot
therefore be very strict; nor can they make use of any great precautions
to keep them within due bounds; hence it proceeds that the corruption of
their manners is scarcely to be conceived.
We may there see to what an extreme the vices of a climate indulged in
full liberty will carry licentiousness. It is there that nature has a
force and modesty a weakness, which exceeds all comprehension. At
Patan the wanton desires of the women are so outrageous, that the
men are obliged to make use of a certain apparel to shelter them from
their designs. According to Mr. Smith, things are not better
conducted in the petty kingdoms of Guinea. In these countries the two
sexes lose even those laws which properly belong to each.
11. Of domestic Slavery independently of Polygamy. It is not only a
plurality of wives which in certain places of the East requires their
confinement, but also the climate itself. Those who consider the
horrible crimes, the treachery, the dark villainies, the poisonings, the
assassinations, which the liberty of women has occasioned at Goa and in
the Portuguese settlements in the Indies, where religion permits only
one wife; and who compare them with the innocence and purity of manners
of the women of Turkey, Persia, Hindostan, China, and Japan, will
clearly see that it is frequently as necessary to separate them from the
men, when they have but one, as when they have many.
These are things which ought to be decided by the climate. What purpose
would it answer to shut up women in our northern countries, where their
manners are naturally good; where all their passions are calm; and where
love rules over the heart with so regular and gentle an empire that the
least degree of prudence is sufficient to conduct it?
It is a happiness to live in those climates which permit such freedom of
converse, where that sex which has most charms seems to embellish
society, and where wives, reserving themselves for the pleasures of one,
contribute to the amusement of all.
12. Of natural Modesty. All nations are equally agreed in fixing
contempt and ignominy on the incontinence of women. Nature has dictated
this to all. She has established the attack, and she has established too
the resistance; and having implanted desires in both, she has given to
the one boldness, and to the other shame. To individuals she has granted
a long succession of years to attend to their preservation: but to
continue the species, she has granted only a moment.
It is then far from being true that to be incontinent is to follow the
laws of nature; on the contrary, it is a violation of these laws, which
can be observed only by behaving with modesty and discretion.
Besides, it is natural for intelligent beings to feel their
imperfections. Nature has, therefore, fixed shame in our minds -- a
shame of our imperfections.
When, therefore, the physical power of certain climates violates the
natural law of the two sexes, and that of intelligent beings, it belongs
to the legislature to make civil laws, with a view to opposing the
nature of the climate and re-establishing the primitive laws.
13. Of Jealousy. With respect to nations, we ought to distinguish
between the passion of jealousy and a jealousy arising from customs,
manners, and laws. The one is a hot raging fever; the other, cold, but
sometimes terrible, may be joined with indifference and contempt.
The one, an abuse of love, derives its source from love itself. The
other depends only on manners, on the customs of a nation, on the laws
of the country, and sometimes even on religion.
It is generally the effect of the physical power of the climate; and, at
the same time, the remedy of this physical power.
14. Of the Eastern Manner of domestic Government. Wives are changed so
often in the East that they cannot have the power of domestic
government. This care is, therefore, committed to the eunuchs, whom they
entrust with their keys and the management of their families. "In
Persia," says Sir John Chardin, "married women are furnished with
clothes as they want them, after the manner of children." Thus that care
which seems so well to become them, that care which everywhere else is
the first of their concern, does not at all regard them.
15. Of Divorce and Repudiation. There is this difference between a
divorce and a repudiation, that the former is made by mutual consent,
arising from a mutual antipathy; while the latter is formed by the will,
and for the advantage of one of the two parties, independently of the
will and advantage of the other.
The necessity there is sometimes for women to repudiate, and the
difficulty there always is in doing it, render that law very tyrannical
which gives this right to men without granting it to women. A husband is
the master of the house; he has a thousand ways of confining his wife to
her duty, or of bringing her back to it; so that in his hands it seems
as if repudiation could be only a fresh abuse of power. But a wife who
repudiates only makes use of a dreadful kind of remedy. It is always a
great misfortune for her to go in search of a second husband, when she
has lost the most part of her attractions with another. One of the
advantages attending the charms of youth in the female sex is that in an
advanced age the husband is led to complacency and love by the
remembrance of past pleasures.
It is then a general rule that in all countries where the laws have
given to men the power of repudiating, they ought also to grant it to
women. Nay, in climates where women live in domestic slavery, one would
think that the law ought to favour women with the right of repudiation,
and husbands only with that of divorce.
When wives are confined in a seraglio, the husband ought not to
repudiate on account of an opposition of manners; it is the husband's
fault if their manners are incompatible.
Repudiation on account of the barrenness of the woman ought never to
take place except where there is only one wife: when there are many,
this is of no importance to the husband.
A law of the Maldivians permitted them to take again a wife whom they
had repudiated. A law of Mexico forbade their being reunited
under pain of death. The law of Mexico was more rational than that of
the Maldivians: at the time even of the dissolution, it attended to the
perpetuity of marriage; instead of this, the law of the Maldivians
seemed equally to sport with marriage and repudiation.
The law of Mexico admitted only of divorce. This was a particular reason
for their not permitting those who were voluntarily separated to be ever
reunited. Repudiation seems chiefly to proceed from a hastiness of
temper, and from the dictates of passion; while divorce appears to be an
affair of deliberation.
Divorces are frequently of great political use: but as to the civil
utility, they are established only for the advantage of the husband and
wife, and are not always favourable to their children.
16. Of Repudiation and Divorce amongst the Romans. Romulus permitted a
husband to repudiate his wife, if she had committed adultery, prepared
poison, or procured false keys. He did not grant to women the right of
repudiating their husbands. Plutarch calls this a law extremely
As the Athenian law gave the power of repudiation to the wife as
well as to the husband, and as this right was obtained by the women
among the primitive Romans, notwithstanding the law of Romulus, it is
evident that this institution was one of those which the deputies of
Rome brought from Athens, and which were inserted in the laws of the
Cicero says that the reasons of repudiation sprang from the law of the
Twelve Tables. We cannot then doubt but that this law increased the
number of the reasons for repudiation established by Romulus.
The power of divorce was also an appointment, or at least a consequence,
of the law of the Twelve Tables. For from the moment that the wife or
the husband had separately the right of repudiation, there was a much
stronger reason for their having the power of quitting each other by
The law did not require that they should lay open the causes of
divorce In the nature of the thing, the reasons for repudiation
should be given, while those for a divorce are unnecessary; because,
whatever causes the law may admit as sufficient to break a marriage, a
mutual antipathy must be stronger than them all.
The following fact, mentioned by Dionysius Halicarnassus, Valerius
Maximus, and Aulus Gellius, does not appear to me to have the
least degree of probability: though they had at Rome, say they, the
power of repudiating a wife, yet they had so much respect for the
auspices that nobody for the space of five hundred and twenty years ever
made use of this right, till Carvilius Ruga repudiated his, because
of her sterility. We need only be sensible of the nature of the human
mind to perceive how very extraordinary it must be for a law to grant
such right to a whole nation, and yet for nobody to make use of it.
Coriolanus, setting out on his exile, advised his wife to marry a
man more happy than himself. We have just been seeing that the law of
the Twelve Tables and the manners of the Romans greatly extended the law
of Romulus. But to what purpose were these extensions if they never made
use of a power to repudiate? Besides, if the citizens had such a respect
for the auspices that they would never repudiate, how came the
legislators of Rome to have less than they? And how came the laws
incessantly to corrupt their manners?
All that is surprising in the fact in question will soon disappear, only
by comparing two passages in Plutarch. The regal law permitted a
husband to repudiate in the three cases already mentioned, and "it
enjoined," says Plutarch, "that he who repudiated in any other case
should be obliged to give the half of his substance to his wife, and
that the other half should be consecrated to Ceres." They might then
repudiate in all cases, if they were but willing to submit to the
penalty. Nobody had done this before Carvilius Ruga, who, as
Plutarch says in another place, "put away his wife for her sterility
two hundred and thirty years after Romulus." That is, she was repudiated
seventy-one years before the law of the Twelve Tables, which extended
both the power and causes of repudiation.
The authors I have cited say that Carvilius Ruga loved his wife, but
that the censors made him take an oath to put her away, because of her
barrenness, to the end that he might give children to the republic; and
that this rendered him odious to the people. We must know the genius and
temper of the Romans before we can discover the true cause of the hatred
they had conceived against Carvilius. He did not fall into disgrace with
the people for repudiating his wife; this was an affair that did not at
all concern them. But Carvilius had taken an oath to the censors, that
by reason of the sterility of his wife he would repudiate her to give
children to the republic. This was a yoke which the people saw the
censors were going to put upon them. I shall discover, in the
prosecution of this work, the repugnance which they always felt to
regulations of the like kind. But whence can such a contradiction
between those authors arise? It is because Plutarch examined into a
fact, and the others have recounted a prodigy.
1. "Mahomet married Cadhisja at five, and took her to his bed at eight
years old. In the hot countries of Arabia and the Indies, girls are
marriageable at eight years of age, and are brought to bed the year
after." -- Prideaux, Life of Mahomet. We see women in the kingdom of
Algiers pregnant at nine, ten, and eleven years of age. -- Laugier de
Tassis, History of the Kingdom of Algiers, p. 61.
2. See Jornandes, De Regno et tempor. success., and the ecclesiastic
3. See Leg. 7. Cod., De Judæis et Cælicolis, and Nov. 18, cap. v.
4. In Ceylon a man may live on ten sols a month; they eat nothing there
but rice and fish. Collection of Voyages that Contributed to the
Establishment of the East India Company, ii, part 1.
5. Dr. Arbuthnot finds that in England the number of boys exceeds that
of girls; but people have been to blame to conclude that the case is the
same in all climates.
6. See Kempfer, who relates that upon numbering the people of Meaco
there were found 182,072 males, and 223,573 females.
7. Father Du Halde, History of China, iv, p. 4.
8. Albuzeir-el-hassen, one of the Mahometan Arabs who, in the ninth
century, went into India and China, thought this custom a prostitution.
And indeed nothing could be more contrary to the ideas of a Mahometan.
9. Collection of Voyages that Contributed to the Establishment of the
East India Company, i.
10. See Francis Pirard, 27. Edifying Letters, coll. iii, x, on the
Malleami on the coast of Malabar. This is considered as an abuse of the
military profession, as a woman, says Pirard, of the tribe of the
Bramins never would marry many husbands.
11. This is the reason why women in the East are so carefully concealed.
12. Life and Actions of Justinian, p. 403.
13. Laugier de Tassis, History of the Kingdom of Algiers.
14. See Pirard, Voyages, 12.
15. Exod., 21. 10, 11.
16. "It is an admirable touch-stone, to find by oneself a treasure, and
to know the right owner; or to see a beautiful woman in a lonely
apartment; or to hear the cries of an enemy, who must perish without our
assistance." -- Translation of a Chinese piece of morality, which may be
seen in Du Halde, iii, p. 151.
17. Collection of Voyages that Contributed to the Establishment of the
East India Company, ii, part II, p. 196.
18. In the Maldivian isles the fathers marry their daughters at ten and
eleven years of age, because it is a great sin, say they, to suffer them
to endure the want of a husband. See Pirard, 12. At Bantam, as soon as a
girl is twelve or thirteen years old, she must be married, if they would
not have her lead a debauched life. Collection of Voyages that
Contributed to the Establishment of the East India Company, p. 348.
19. Voyage to Guinea, part II, p. 192. "When the women happen to meet
with a man, they lay hold of him, and threaten to make a complaint to
their husbands if he slight their addresses. They steal into a man's
bed, and wake him; and if he refuses to comply with their desires, they
threaten to suffer themselves to be caught in flagranti."
20. Mahomet desired his followers to watch their wives; a certain Iman,
when he was dying, said the same thing; and Confucius preached the same
21. It does not follow hence that repudiation on account of sterility
should be permitted amongst Christians.
22. They took them again preferably to any other, because in this case
there was less expense. -- Pirard, Travels.
23. Solis, History of the Conquest of Mexico, p. 499.
25. This was a law of Solon.
26. Mimam res suas sibi habere jussit, ex duodecim tabulis causam
addidit. -- Philipp, ii. 69.
27. Justinian altered this, Nov. 117, cap. x.
28. Book ii.
29. Book ii. 4.
30. Book iv. 3.
31. According to Dionysius Halicarnassus and Valerius Maximus; and five
hundred and twenty-three, according to Aulus Gellius. Neither did they
agree in placing this under the same consuls.
32. See the Speech of Veturia in Dionysius Halicarnassus, viii.
33. Plutarch, Romulus.
35. Indeed sterility is not a cause mentioned by the law of Romulus: but
to all appearance he was not subject to a confiscation of his effects,
since he followed the orders of the censors.
36. In his comparison between Theseus and Romulus.
Book XVII. How the Laws of Political Servitude Bear a Relation to the
Nature of the Climate
1. Of political Servitude. Political servitude does not less depend on
the nature of the climate than that which is civil and domestic; and
this we shall now demonstrate.
2. The Difference between Nations in point of Courage. We have already
observed that great heat enervates the strength and courage of men, and
that in cold climates they have a certain vigour of body and mind, which
renders them patient and intrepid, and qualifies them for arduous
enterprises. This remark holds good, not only between different nations,
but even in the different parts of the same country. In the north of
China people are more courageous than those in the south; and those
in the south of Korea have less bravery than those in the north.
We ought not, then, to be astonished that the effeminacy of the people
in hot climates has almost always rendered them slaves; and that the
bravery of those in cold climates has enabled them to maintain their
liberties. This is an effect which springs from a natural cause.
This has also been found true in America; the despotic empires of Mexico
and Peru were near the Line, and almost all the little free nations
were, and are still, near the Poles.
3. Of the Climate of Asia. The relations of travellers inform us
"that the vast continent of the north of Asia, which extends from forty
degrees or thereabouts to the Pole, and from the frontiers of Muscovy
even to the eastern ocean, is in an extremely cold climate; that this
immense tract of land is divided by a chain of mountains which run from
west to east, leaving Siberia on the north, and Great Tartary on the
south; that the climate of Siberia is so cold that, excepting a few
places, it is unsusceptible of cultivation; and that, though the
Russians have settlements all along the Irtis, they cultivate nothing;
that this country produces only some little firs and shrubs; that the
natives of the country are divided into wretched hordes or tribes, like
those of Canada; that the reason of this cold proceeds, on the one hand,
from the height of the land, and on the other from the mountains, which,
in proportion as they run from south to north, are levelled in such a
manner that the north wind everywhere blows without opposition; that
this wind, which renders Nova Zembia uninhabitable, blowing in Siberia
makes it a barren waste; that in Europe, on the contrary, the mountains
of Norway and Lapland are admirable bulwarks, which cover the northern
countries from the wind; so that at Stockholm, which is about fifty-nine
degrees latitude, the earth produces plants, fruits, and corn; and that
about Abo, which is sixty-one degrees, and even to sixty-three and
sixty-four, there are mines of silver, and the land is fruitful enough."
We see also in these relations "that Great Tartary, situated to the
south of Siberia, is also exceedingly cold; that the country will not
admit of cultivation; that nothing can be found but pasturage for flocks
and herds; that trees will not grow there, but only brambles, as in
Iceland; that there are, near China and India, some countries where
there grows a kind of millet, but that neither corn nor rice will ripen;
that there is scarcely a place in Chinese Tartary at forty-three,
forty-four, and forty-five degrees where it does not freeze seven or
eight months in the year, so that it is as cold as Iceland, though it
might be imagined, from its situation, to be as hot as the south of
France; that there are no cities, except four or five towards the
eastern ocean, and some which the Chinese, for political reasons, have
built near China; that in the rest of Great Tartary there are only a few
situated in Buchar, Turkestan, and Cathay; that the reason of this
extreme cold proceeds from the nature of the nitrous earth, full of
saltpetre and sand, and more particularly from the height of the land.
Father Verbiest found that a certain place, eighty leagues north of the
great wall, towards the source of Kavamhuran, exceeded the height of the
sea near Pekin three thousand geometrical paces; that this height is
the cause that though almost all the great rivers of Asia have their
source in this country, there is, however, so great a want of water that
it can be inhabited only near the rivers and lakes."
These facts being laid down, I reason thus: Asia has properly no
temperate zone, as the places situated in a very cold climate
immediately touch upon those which are exceedingly hot, that is, Turkey,
Persia, India, China, Korea, and Japan.
In Europe, on the contrary, the temperate zone is very extensive, though
situated in climates widely different from each other; there being no
affinity between the climates of Spain and Italy and those of Norway and
Sweden. But as the climate grows insensibly cold upon our advancing from
south to north, nearly in proportion to the latitude of each country, it
thence follows that each resembles the country joining it; that there is
no very extraordinary difference between them, and that, as I have just
said, the temperate zone is very extensive.
Hence it comes that in Asia, the strong nations are opposed to the weak;
the warlike, brave, and active people touch immediately upon those who
are indolent, effeminate, and timorous; the one must, therefore,
conquer, and the other be conquered. In Europe, on the contrary, strong
nations are opposed to the strong; and those who join each other have
nearly the same courage. This is the grand reason of the weakness of
Asia, and of the strength of Europe; of the liberty of Europe, and of
the slavery of Asia: a cause that I do not recollect ever to have seen
remarked. Hence it proceeds that liberty in Asia never increases; whilst
in Europe it is enlarged or diminished, according to particular
The Russian nobility have indeed been reduced to slavery by the ambition
of one of their princes; but they have always discovered those marks of
impatience and discontent which are never to be seen in the southern
climates. Have they not been able for a short time to establish an
aristocratic government? Another of the northern kingdoms has lost its
laws; but we may trust to the climate that they are not lost in such a
manner as never to be recovered.
4. The Consequences resulting from this. What we have now said is
perfectly conformable to history. Asia has been subdued thirteen times;
eleven by the northern nations, and twice by those of the south. In the
early ages it was conquered three times by the Scythians; afterwards it
was subdued once by the Medes, and once by the Persians; again by the
Greeks, the Arabs, the Moguls, the Turks, the Tartars, the Persians, and
the Afghans. I mention only the Upper Asia, and say nothing of the
invasions made in the rest of the south of that part of the world which
has most frequently suffered prodigious revolutions.
In Europe, on the contrary, since the establishment of the Greek and
Phoenician colonies, we know but of four great changes; the first caused
by the conquest of the Romans; the second by the inundation of
barbarians, who destroyed those very Romans; the third by the victories
of Charlemagne; and the last by the invasions of the Normans. And if
this be rightly examined, we shall find, even in these changes, a
general strength diffused through all the parts of Europe. We know the
difficulty which the Romans met with in conquering Europe, and the ease
and facility with which they invaded Asia. We are sensible of the
difficulties the northern nations had to encounter in overturning the
Roman empire; of the wars and labours of Charlemagne; and of the several
enterprises of the Normans. The destroyers were incessantly destroyed.
5. That when the People in the North of Asia and those of the North of
Europe made Conquests, the Effects of the Conquest were not the same.
The nations in the north of Europe conquered as freemen; the people in
the north of Asia conquered as slaves, and subdued as others only to
gratify the ambition of a master.
The reason is that the people of Tartary, the natural conquerors of
Asia, are themselves enslaved. They are incessantly making conquests in
the south of Asia, where they form empires: but that part of the nation
which continues in the country finds that it is subject to a great
master, who, being despotic in the south, will likewise be so in the
north, and exercising an arbitrary power over the vanquished subjects,
pretends to the same over the conquerors. This is at present most
conspicuous in that vast country called Chinese Tartary, which is
governed by the emperor, with a power almost as despotic as that of
China itself, and which he every day extends by his conquests.
We may likewise see in the history of China that the emperors sent
Chinese colonies into Tartary. These Chinese have become Tartars, and
the mortal enemies of China; but this does not prevent their carrying
into Tartary the spirit of the Chinese government.
A part of the Tartars who were conquerors have very often been
themselves expelled; when they have carried into their deserts that
servile spirit which they had acquired in the climate of slavery. The
history of China furnishes us with strong proofs of this assertion, as
does also our ancient history.
Hence it follows that the genius of the Getic or Tartarian nation has
always resembled that of the empires of Asia. The people in these are
governed by the cudgel; the inhabitants of Tartary by whips. The spirit
of Europe has ever been contrary to these manners; and in all ages, what
the people of Asia have called punishment those of Europe have deemed
the most outrageous abuse.
The Tartars who destroyed the Grecian empire established in the
conquered countries slavery and despotic power: the Goths, after
subduing the Roman empire, founded monarchy and liberty.
I do not know whether the famous Rudbeck, who in his Atlantica has
bestowed such praises on Scandinavia, has made mention of that great
prerogative which ought to set this people above all the nations upon
earth; namely, this country's having been the source of the liberties of
Europe -- that is, of almost all the freedom which at present subsists
Jornandes the Goth called the north of Europe the forge of the human
race. I should rather call it the forge where those weapons were framed
which broke the chains of southern nations. In the north were formed
those valiant people who sallied forth and deserted their countries to
destroy tyrants and slaves, and to teach men that, nature having made
them equal, reason could not render them dependent, except where it was
necessary to their happiness.
6. A new physical Cause of the Slavery of Asia, and of the Liberty of
Europe. In Asia they have always had great empires; in Europe these
could never subsist. Asia has larger plains; it is cut out into much
more extensive divisions by mountains and seas; and as it lies more to
the south, its springs are more easily dried up; the mountains are less
covered with snow; and the rivers, being not so large, form more
Power in Asia ought, then, to be always despotic; for if their slavery
was not severe they would soon make a division inconsistent with the
nature of the country.
In Europe the natural division forms many nations of a moderate extent,
in which the ruling by laws is not incompatible with the maintenance of
the state: on the contrary, it is so favourable to it, that without this
the state would fall into decay, and become a prey to its neighbours.
It is this which has formed a genius for liberty that renders every part
extremely difficult to be subdued and subjected to a foreign power,
otherwise than by the laws and the advantage of commerce.
On the contrary, there reigns in Asia a servile spirit, which they have
never been able to shake off, and it is impossible to find in all the
histories of that country a single passage which discovers a freedom of
spirit; we shall never see anything there but the excess of slavery.
7. Of Africa and America. This is what I had to say of Asia and Europe.
Africa is in a climate like that of the south of Asia, and is in the
same servitude. America, being lately destroyed and repeopled by the
nations of Europe and Africa, can now scarcely display its genuine
spirit; but what we know of its ancient history is very conformable to
8. Of the Capital of the Empire. One of the consequences of what we have
been mentioning is, that it is of the utmost importance to a great
prince to make a proper choice of the seat of his empire. He who places
it to the southward will be in danger of losing the north; but he who
fixes it on the north may easily preserve the south. I do not speak of