part of the coast of Africa which extends from the bottom of the gulf,
where stands the town of Heroum, as far as Dira, that is, to the strait
now known by the name of Babelmandel. Thence to the promontory of
Aromatia, situate at the entrance of the Red Sea, the coast had
never been surveyed by navigators: and this is evident from what
Artemidorus tells us, that they were acquainted with the places on
that coast, but knew not their distances: the reason of which is, they
successively gained a knowledge of those ports by land, without sailing
from one to the other.
Beyond this promontory, at which the coast along the ocean commenced,
they knew nothing, as we learn from Eratosthenes and Artemidorus.
Such was the knowledge they had of the coasts of Africa in Strabo's
time, that is, in the reign of Augustus. But after the prince's decease,
the Romans found out the two capes Raptum and Prassum, of which Strabo
makes no mention, because they had not as yet been discovered. It is
plain that both those names are of Roman origin.
Ptolemy, the geographer, flourished under Adrian and Antoninus Pius; and
the author of the Periplus of the Red Sea, whoever he was, lived a
little after. Yet the former limits known Africa to Cape Prassum,
which is in about the 14th degree of south latitude; while the author of
the Periplus confines it to Cape Raptum, which is nearly in the
tenth degree of the same latitude. In all likelihood the latter took his
limit from a place then frequented, and Ptolemy his from a place with
which there was no longer any communication.
What confirms me in this notion is that the people about Cape Prassum
were Anthropophagi. Ptolemy takes notice of a great number of
places between the port or emporium Aromatum and Cape Raptum, but leaves
an entire blank between Capes Raptum and Prassum. The great profits of
the East India trade must have occasioned a neglect of that of Africa.
In fine, the Romans never had any settled navigation; they had
discovered these several ports by land expeditions, and by means of
ships driven on that coast; and as at present we are well acquainted
with the maritime parts of Africa, but know very little of the inland
country, the ancients, on the contrary, had a very good knowledge of the
inland parts, but were almost strangers to the coasts.
I said that the Phoenicians sent by Necho and Eudoxus under Ptolemy
Lathyrus had made the circuit of Africa; but at the time of Ptolemy, the
geographer, those two voyages must have been looked upon as fabulous,
since he places after the Sinus Magnus, which I apprehend to be the
Gulf of Siam, an unknown country, extending from Asia to Africa, and
terminating at Cape Prassum, so that the Indian Ocean would have been no
more than a lake. The ancients who discovered the Indies towards the
north, advancing eastward, placed this unknown country to the south.
11. Of Carthage and Marseilles. The law of nations which prevailed at
Carthage was very extraordinary: all strangers who traded to Sardinia
and towards Hercules' Pillars this haughty republic sentenced to be
drowned. Her civil polity was equally surprising; she forbade the
Sardinians to cultivate their lands, upon pain of death. She increased
her power by her riches, and afterwards her riches by her power. Being
mistress of the coasts of Africa, which are washed by the Mediterranean,
she extended herself along the ocean. Hanno, by order of the senate of
Carthage, distributed thirty thousand Carthaginians from Hercules'
Pillars as far as Cerne. This place, he says, is as distant from
Hercules' Pillars as the latter from Carthage. This situation is
extremely remarkable. It lets us see that Hanno limited his settlements
to the 25th degree of north latitude; that is, to two or three degrees
south of the Canaries.
Hanno being at Cerne undertook another voyage, with a view of making
further discoveries towards the south. He took but little notice of the
continent. He followed the coast for twenty-six days, when he was
obliged to return for want of provisions. The Carthaginians, it seems,
made no use of this second enterprise. Scylax says that the sea is
not navigable beyond Cerne, because it is shallow, full of mud and
sea-weeds: and, in fact, there are many of these in those
latitudes. The Carthaginian merchants mentioned by Scylax might find
obstacles which Hanno, who had sixty vessels of fifty oars each, had
surmounted. Difficulties are at most but relative; besides, we ought not
to confound an enterprise in which bravery and resolution must be
exerted with things that require no extraordinary conduct.
The relation of Hanno's voyage is a fine fragment of antiquity. It was
written by the very man that performed it.
His recital is not mingled with ostentation. Great commanders write
their actions with simplicity; because they receive more glory from
facts than from words.
The style is agreeable to the subject; he deals not in the marvellous.
All he says of the climate, of the soil, the behaviour, the manners of
the inhabitants, correspond with what is every day seen on this coast of
Africa; one would imagine it the journal of a modern sailor.
He observed from his fleet that in the day-time there was a prodigious
silence on the continent, that in the night he heard the sound of
various musical instruments, and that fires might then be everywhere
seen, some larger than others. Our relations are conformable to
this; it has been discovered that in the day the savages retire into the
forests to avoid the heat of the sun, that they light up great fires in
the night to disperse the beasts of prey, and that they are passionately
fond of music and dancing.
The same writer describes a volcano with all the phenomena of Vesuvius;
and relates that he captured two hairy women, who chose to die rather
than follow the Carthaginians, and whose skins he carried to Carthage.
This has been found not void of probability.
This narration is so much the more valuable as it is a monument of Punic
antiquity; and hence alone it has been regarded as fabulous. For the
Romans retained their hatred of the Carthaginians, even after they had
destroyed them. But it was victory alone that decided whether we ought
to say the Punic or the Roman faith.
Some moderns have imbibed these prejudices. What has become, say
they, of the cities described by Hanno, of which even in Pliny's time
there remained no vestiges? But it would have been a wonder indeed if
any such vestiges had remained. Was it a Corinth or Athens that Hanno
built on those coasts? He left Carthaginian families in such places as
were most commodious for trade, and secured them as well as his hurry
would permit against savages and wild beasts. The calamities of the
Carthaginians put a period to the navigation of Africa; these families
must necessarily then either perish or become savages. Besides, were the
ruins of these cities even still in being, who is it that would venture
into the woods and marshes to make the discovery? We find, however, in
Scylax and Polybius that the Carthaginians had considerable settlements
on those coasts. These are the vestiges of the cities of Hanno; there
are no others, for the same reason that there are no others of Carthage
The Carthaginians were in the high road to wealth; and had they gone so
far as four degrees of north latitude, and fifteen of longitude, they
would have discovered the Gold Coast. They would then have had a trade
of much greater importance than that which is carried on at present on
that coast, at a time when America seems to have degraded the riches of
all other countries. They would there have found treasures of which they
could never have been deprived by the Romans.
Very surprising things have been said of the riches of Spain. If we may
believe Aristotle, the Phoenicians who arrived at Tartessus found so
much silver there that their ships could not hold it all; and they made
of this metal their meanest utensils. The Carthaginians, according to
Diodorus, found so much gold and silver in the Pyrenean mountains,
that they adorned the anchors of their ships with it. But no foundation
can be built on such popular reports. Let us therefore examine the facts
We find in a fragment of Polybius, cited by Strabo, that the silver
mines at the source of the river Bætis, in which forty thousand men were
employed, produced to the Romans twenty-five thousand drachmas a day,
that is, about five million livres a year, at fifty livres to the mark.
The mountains that contained these mines were called the Silver
Mountains: which shows they were the Potosi of those times. At
present, the mines of Hanover do not employ a fourth part of the
workmen, and yet they yield more. But as the Romans had not many copper
mines, and but few of silver; and as the Greeks knew none but the Attic
mines, which were of little value, they might well be astonished at
In the war that broke out for the succession of Spain, a man called the
Marquis of Rhodes, of whom it was said that he was ruined in gold mines
and enriched in hospitals, proposed to the court of France to open
the Pyrenean mines. He alleged the example of the Tyrians, the
Carthaginians, and the Romans. He was permitted to search, but sought in
vain; he still alleged, and found nothing.
The Carthaginians, being masters of the gold and silver trade, were
willing to be so of the lead and pewter. These metals were carried by
land from the ports of Gaul upon the ocean to those of the
Mediterranean. The Carthaginians were desirous of receiving them at the
first hand; they sent Himilco to make a settlement in the isles called
Cassiterides, which are imagined to be those of Scilly.
These voyages from Bætica into England have made some persons imagine
that the Carthaginians knew the compass: but it is very certain that
they followed the coasts. There needs no other proof than Himilco's
being four months in sailing from the mouth of the Bætis to England;
besides, the famous piece of history of the Carthaginian pilot who,
being followed by a Roman vessel, ran aground, that he might not show
her the way to England, plainly intimates that those vessels were
very near the shore when they fell in with each other.
The ancients might have performed voyages that would make one imagine
they had the compass, though they had not. If a pilot was far from land,
and during his voyage had such serene weather that in the night he could
always see a polar star and in the day the rising and setting of the
sun, it is certain he might regulate his course as well as we do now by
the compass: but this must be a fortuitous case, and not a regular
method of navigation.
We see in the treaty which put an end to the first Punic war that
Carthage was principally attentive to preserve the empire of the sea,
and Rome that of the land. Hanno, in his negotiation with the
Romans, declared that they should not be suffered even to wash their
hands in the sea of Sicily; they were not permitted to sail beyond the
promontorium pulchrum; they were forbidden to trade in Sicily, Sardinia,
and Africa, except at Carthage: an exception that proves there was
no design to favour them in their trade with that city.
In early times there had been very great wars between Carthage and
Marseilles on the subject of fishing. After the peace they entered
jointly into economical commerce. Marseilles at length grew jealous,
especially as, being equal to her rival in industry, she had become
inferior to her in power. This is the motive of her great fidelity to
the Romans. The war between the latter and the Carthaginians in Spain
was a source of riches to Marseilles, which had now become their
magazine. The ruin of Carthage and Corinth still increased the glory of
Marseilles, and had it not been for the civil wars, in which this
republic ought on no account to have engaged, she would have been happy
under the protection of the Romans, who were not the least jealous of
12. The Isle of Delos. Mithridates. Upon the destruction of Corinth by
the Romans, the merchants retired to Delos, an island which from
religious considerations was looked upon as a place of safety:
besides, it was extremely well situated for the commerce of Italy and
Asia, which, since the reduction of Africa and the weakening of Greece,
had grown more important.
From the earliest times the Greeks, as we have already observed, sent
colonies to Propontis and to the Euxine Sea -- colonies which retained
their laws and liberties under the Persians. Alexander, having
undertaken his expedition against the barbarians only, did not molest
these people. Neither does it appear that the kings of Pontus, who
were masters of many of those colonies, ever deprived them of their own
The power of those kings increased as soon as they subdued those
cities. Mithridates found himself able to hire troops on every
side; to repair his frequent losses; to have a multitude of workmen,
ships, and military machines; to procure himself allies; to bribe those
of the Romans, and even the Romans themselves; to keep the barbarians of
Asia and Europe in his pay; to continue the war for many years, and
of course to discipline his troops, he found himself able to train them
to arms, to instruct them in the military art of the Romans, and to
form considerable bodies out of their deserters; in a word, he found
himself able to sustain great losses, and to be frequently defeated,
without being ruined; neither would he have been ruined if the
voluptuous and barbarous king had not destroyed, in his prosperous days,
what had been done by the great prince in times of adversity.
Thus it was that when the Romans had arrived at their highest pitch of
grandeur, and seemed to have nothing to apprehend but from the ambition
of their own subjects, Mithridates once more ventured to contest the
mighty point, which the overthrow of Philip, of Antiochus, and of
Perseus had already decided. Never was there a more destructive war: the
two contending parties, being possessed of great power, and receiving
alternate advantages, the inhabitants of Greece and of Asia fell a
sacrifice in the quarrel, either as foes, or as friends of Mithridates.
Delos was involved in the general fatality, and commerce failed on every
side: which was a necessary consequence, the people themselves being
The Romans, in pursuance of a system of which I have spoken
elsewhere, acting as destroyers, that they might not appear as
conquerors, demolished Carthage and Corinth; a practice by which they
would have ruined themselves had they not subdued the world. When the
kings of Pontus became masters of the Greek colonies on the Euxine Sea,
they took care not to destroy what was to be the foundation of their own
13. Of the Genius of the Romans as to Maritime Affairs. The Romans laid
no stress on anything but their land forces, who were disciplined to
stand firm, to fight on one spot, and there bravely to die. They could
not like the practice of seamen, who first offer to fight, then fly,
then return, constantly avoid danger, often make use of stratagem, and
seldom of force. This was not suitable to the genius of the Greeks
much less to that of the Romans.
They destined therefore to the sea only those citizens who were not
considerable enough to have a place in their legions. Their marines
were commonly freedmen.
At this time we have neither the same esteem for land forces nor the
same contempt for those of the sea. In the former, art has
decreased; in the latter, it has augmented: now things are
generally esteemed in proportion to the degree of ability requisite to
14. Of the Genius of the Romans with respect to Commerce. The Romans
were never distinguished by a jealousy for trade. They attacked Carthage
as a rival, not as a commercial nation. They favoured trading cities
that were not subject to them. Thus they increased the power of
Marseilles by the cession of a large territory. They were vastly afraid
of barbarians, but had not the least apprehension from a trading people.
Their genius, their glory, their military education, and the very form
of their government estranged them from commerce.
In the city, they were employed only about war, elections, factions, and
law-suits; in the country, about agriculture; and as for the provinces,
a severe and tyrannical government was incompatible with commerce.
But their political constitution was not more opposed to trade than
their law of nations. "The people," says Pomponius, the civilian,
"with whom we have neither friendship, nor hospitality nor alliance, are
not our enemies; however, if anything belonging to us falls into their
hands, they are the proprietors of it; freemen become their slaves; and
they are upon the same terms with respect to us."
Their civil law was not less oppressive. The law of Constantine,
after having stigmatised as bastards the children of a mean rank who had
been married to those of a superior station, confounds women who retail
merchandise with slaves, with the mistresses of taverns, with actresses,
with the daughters of those who keep public stews, or who had been
condemned to fight in the amphitheatre; this had its origin in the
ancient institutions of the Romans.
I am not ignorant that men prepossessed with these two ideas (that
commerce is of the greatest service to a state, and that the Romans had
the best-regulated government in the world) have believed that these
people greatly honoured and encouraged commerce; but the truth is, they
seldom troubled their heads about it.
15. Of the Commerce of the Romans with the Barbarians. The Romans having
erected a vast empire in Europe, Asia, and Africa, the weakness of the
people and the tyranny of their laws united all the parts of this
immense body. The Roman policy was then to avoid all communication with
those nations whom they had not subdued: the fear of carrying to them
the art of conquering made them neglect the art of enriching themselves.
They made laws to hinder all commerce with barbarians. "Let nobody,"
said Valens and Gratian, "send wine, oil, or other liquors to the
barbarians, though it be only for them to taste." "Let no one carry gold
to them," add Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius; "rather, if
they have any, let our subjects deprive them of it by stratagem." The
exportation of iron was prohibited on pain of death.
Domitian, a prince of great timidity, ordered the vines in Gaul to be
pulled up, from fear, no doubt, lest their wines should draw
thither the barbarians. Probus and Julian, who had no such fears, gave
orders for their being planted again.
I am sensible that upon the declension of the Roman empire the
barbarians obliged the Romans to establish staple towns, and to trade
with them. But even this is a proof that the minds of the Romans were
averse to commerce.
16. Of the Commerce of the Romans with Arabia and the Indies. The trade
to Arabia Felix, and that to the Indies, were the two branches, and
almost the only ones, of their foreign commerce. The Arabians were
possessed of immense riches, which they found in their seas and forests;
and as they sold much and purchased little, they drew to themselves the
gold and silver of the Romans. Augustus, being well apprised
of that opulence, resolved they should be either his friends or his
enemies. With this view he sent Ælius Gallus from Egypt into Arabia.
This commander found the people indolent, peaceable, and unskilled in
war. He fought battles, laid sieges to towns, and lost but seven of his
men by the sword; but the perfidy of his guides, long marches, the
climate, want of provisions, distempers, and ill-conduct, caused the
ruin of his army.
He was therefore obliged to be content with trading to Arabia, in the
same manner as other nations; that is, with giving them gold and silver
in exchange for their commodities. The Europeans trade with them still
in the same manner; the caravans of Aleppo and the royal vessel of Suez
carry thither immense sums.
Nature had formed the Arabs for commerce, not for war; but when those
quiet people came to be near neighbours to the Parthians and the Romans,
they acted as auxiliaries to both nations. Ælius Gallus found them a
trading people; Mahomet happened to find them trained to war; he
inspired them with enthusiasm, which led them to glory and conquest.
The commerce of the Romans to the Indies was very considerable.
Strabo had been informed in Egypt that they employed in this
navigation one hundred and twenty vessels; this commerce was carried on
entirely with bullion. They sent thither annually fifty millions of
sesterces. Pliny says that the merchandise brought thence was sold
at Rome at cent. per cent profit. He speaks, I believe, too generally;
if this trade had been so vastly profitable, everybody would have been
willing to engage in it, and then it would have been at an end.
It will admit of a question, whether the trade to Arabia and the Indies
was of any advantage to the Romans. They were obliged to export their
bullion thither, though they had not, like us, the resource of America,
which supplies what we send away. I am persuaded that one of the reasons
of their increasing the value of their specie by establishing base coin
was the scarcity of silver, owing to the continual exportation of it to
the Indies: and though the commodities of this country were sold at Rome
at the rate of cent. per cent, this profit of the Romans, being obtained
from the Romans themselves, could not enrich the empire.
It may be alleged, on the other hand, that this commerce increased the
Roman navigation, and of course their power; that new merchandise
augmented their inland trade, gave encouragement to the arts, and
employment to the industrious; that the number of subjects multiplied in
proportion to the new means of support; that this new commerce was
productive of luxury, which I have proved to be as favourable to a
monarchical government as fatal to a commonwealth; that this
establishment was of the same date as the fall of their republic; that
the luxury of Rome had become necessary; and that it was extremely
proper that a city which had accumulated all the wealth of the universe
should refund it by its luxury.
Strabo says that the Romans carried on a far more extensive
commerce with the Indies than the kings of Egypt; but it is very
extraordinary that those people who were so little acquainted with
commerce should have paid more attention to that of India than the
Egyptian kings, whose dominions lay so conveniently for it. The reason
of this must be explained.
After the death of Alexander, the kings of Egypt established a maritime
commerce with the Indies; while the kings of Syria, who were possessed
of the more eastern provinces, and consequently of the Indies,
maintained that commerce of which we have taken notice in the sixth
chapter, which was carried on partly by land, and partly by rivers, and
had been further facilitated by means of the Macedonian colonies;
insomuch that Europe had communication with the Indies both by Egypt and
by Syria. The dismembering of the latter kingdom, whence was formed that
of Bactriana, did not prove in any way prejudicial to this commerce.
Marinus the Tyrian, quoted by Ptolemy, mentions the discoveries
made in India by means of some Macedonian merchants, who found out new
roads, which had been unknown to kings in their military expeditions. We
find in Ptolemy that they went from Peter's tower as far as
Sera; and the discovery made by mercantile people of so distant a mart,
situated in the north-east part of China, was a kind of prodigy. Hence,
under the kings of Syria and Bactriana, merchandise was conveyed to the
west from the southern parts of India, by the river Indus, the Oxus, and
the Caspian Sea; while those of the more eastern and northern parts were
transported from Sera, Peter's tower, and other staples, as far as the
Euphrates. Those merchants directed their route nearly by the fortieth
degree of north latitude, through countries situated to the west of
China, more civilised at that time than at present, because they had not
as yet been infested by the Tartars.
Now while the Syrian empire was extending its trade to such a distance
by land, Egypt did not greatly enlarge its maritime commerce.
The Parthians soon after appeared, and founded their empire; and when
Egypt fell under the power of the Romans, this empire was at its height,
and had received its whole extension.
The Romans and Parthians were two rival nations, that fought not for
dominion but for their very existence. Between the two empires deserts
were formed and armies were always stationed on the frontiers; so that
instead of there being any commerce, there was not so much as
communication between them. Ambition, jealousy, religion, national
antipathy, and difference of manners completed the separation. Thus the
trade from east to west, which had formerly so many channels, was
reduced to one; and Alexandria becoming the only staple, the trade to
this city was immensely enlarged.
We shall say but one word of their inland trade. Its principal branch
was the corn brought to Rome for the subsistence of the people; but this
was rather a political affair than a point of commerce. On this account
the sailors were favoured with some privileges, because the safety of
the empire depended on their vigilance.
17. Of Commerce after the Destruction of the Western Empire. After the
invasion of the Roman empire one effect of the general calamity was the
destruction of commerce. The barbarous nations at first regarded it only
as an opportunity for robbery; and when they had subdued the Romans,
they honoured it no more than agriculture, and the other professions of
a conquered people.
Soon was the commerce of Europe almost entirely lost. The nobility, who
had everywhere the direction of affairs, were in no pain about it.
The laws of the Visigoths permitted private people to occupy half the
beds of great rivers, provided the other half remained free for nets and
boats. There must have been very little trade in countries conquered by
In those times were established the ridiculous rights of escheatage and
shipwrecks. These men thought that, as strangers were not united to them
by any civil law, they owed them on the one hand no kind of justice, and
on the other no sort of pity.
In the narrow bounds which nature had originally prescribed to the
people of the north, all were strangers to them: and in their poverty
they regarded all only as contributing to their riches. Being
established, before their conquest, on the coasts of a sea of very
little breadth, and full of rocks, from these very rocks they drew their
But the Romans, who made laws for all the world, had established the
most humane ones with regard to shipwrecks. They suppressed the
rapine of those who inhabited the coasts, and what was more still, the
rapacity of their treasuries.
18. A particular Regulation. The law of the Visigoths made, however, one
regulation in favour of commerce. It ordained that foreign
merchants should be judged, in the differences that arose among
themselves, by the laws and by judges of their own nation. This was
founded on an established custom among all mixed people, that every man
should live under his own law -- a custom of which I shall speak more at
large in another place.
19. Of Commerce after the Decay of the Roman Power in the East. The
Mahomedans appeared, conquered, extended, and dispersed themselves.
Egypt had particular sovereigns; these carried on the commerce of India,
and being possessed of the merchandise of this country, drew to
themselves the riches of all other nations. The sultans of Egypt were
the most powerful princes of those times. History informs us with what a
constant and well-regulated force they stopped the ardour, the fire, and
the impetuosity of the crusades.
20. How Commerce broke through the Barbarism of Europe. Aristotle's
philosophy being carried to the west, pleased the subtle geniuses who
were the virtuosi of those times of ignorance. The schoolmen were
infatuated with it, and borrowed from that philosopher a great many
notions on lending upon interest, whereas its source might have been
easily traced in the gospel; in short, they condemned it absolutely and
in all cases. Hence commerce, which was the profession only of mean
persons, became that of knaves; for whenever a thing is forbidden, which
nature permits or necessity requires, those who do it are looked upon as
Commerce was transferred to a nation covered with infamy, and soon
ranked with the most shameful usury, with monopolies, with the levying
of subsidies, and with all the dishonest means of acquiring wealth.
The Jews, enriched by their exactions, were pillaged by the tyranny of
princes; which pleased indeed, but did not ease, the people.
What passed in England may serve to give us an idea of what was done in
other countries. King John having imprisoned the Jews, in order to
obtain their wealth, there were few who had not at least one of their
eyes plucked out. Thus did that king administer justice. A certain Jew,
who had a tooth pulled out every day for seven days successively, gave
ten thousand marks of silver for the eighth. Henry III extorted from
Aaron, a Jew at York, fourteen thousand marks of silver, and ten
thousand for the queen, in those times they did by violence what is now
done in Poland with some semblance of moderation. As princes could not
dive into the purses of their subjects because of their privileges, they
put the Jews to the torture, who were not considered as citizens.
At last a custom was introduced of confiscating the effects of those
Jews who embraced Christianity. This ridiculous custom is known only by
the law which suppressed it. The most vain and trifling reasons
were given in justification of that proceeding; it was alleged that it
was proper to try them, in order to be certain that they had entirely
shaken off the slavery of the devil. But it is evident that this
confiscation was a species of the right of amortisation, to recompense
the prince, or the lords, for the taxes levied on the Jews, which ceased
on their embracing Christianity. In those times, men, like lands,
were regarded as property. I cannot help remarking, by the way, how this
nation has been sported with from one age to another: at one time, their
effects were confiscated when they were willing to become Christians;
and at another, if they refused to turn Christians, they were ordered to
In the meantime, commerce was seen to arise from the bosom of vexation
and despair. The Jews, proscribed by turns from every country, found out
the way of saving their effects. Thus they rendered their retreats for
ever fixed; for though princes might have been willing to get rid of
their persons, yet they did not choose to get rid of their money.
The Jews invented letters of exchange; commerce, by this method,
became capable of eluding violence, and of maintaining everywhere its
ground; the richest merchant having none but invisible effects, which he
could convey imperceptibly wherever he pleased.
which they had before connected by main force with knavery, reentered,
if I may so express myself, the bosom of probity.
Thus we owe to the speculations of the schoolmen all the misfortunes
which accompanied the destruction of commerce; and to the avarice
of princes, the establishment of a practice which puts it in some
measure out of their power.
From this time it became necessary that princes should govern with more
prudence than they themselves could ever have imagined; for great
exertions of authority were, in the event, found to be impolitic; and
from experience it is manifest that nothing but the goodness and lenity
of a government can make it flourish.
We begin to be cured of Machiavelism, and recover from it every day.
More moderation has become necessary in the councils of princes. What
would formerly have been called a master-stroke in politics would be
now, independent of the horror it might occasion, the greatest
Happy is it for men that they are in a situation in which, though their
passions prompt them to be wicked, it is, nevertheless, to their
interest to be humane and virtuous.
21. The Discovery of two new Worlds, and in what Manner Europe is
affected by it. The compass opened, if I may so express myself, the
universe. Asia and Africa were found, of which only some borders were
known; and America, of which we knew nothing.
The Portuguese, sailing on the Atlantic Ocean, discovered the most
southern point of Africa; they saw a vast sea, which carried them to the
East Indies. Their danger upon this sea, the discovery of Mozambique,
Melinda, and Calicut, have been sung by Camoens, whose poems make us
feel something of the charms of the Odyssey and the magnificence of the
The Venetians had hitherto carried on the trade of the Indies through
the Turkish dominions, and pursued it in the midst of oppressions and
discouragements. By the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, and those
which were made some time after, Italy was no longer the centre of the
trading world; it was, if I may be permitted the expression, only a
corner of the universe, and is so still. The commerce even of the Levant
depending now on that of the great trading nations to both the Indies,
Italy even in that branch can no longer be considered as a principal.
The Portuguese traded to the Indies in right of conquest. The
constraining laws which the Dutch at present impose on the commerce of
the little Indian princes had been established before by the
The fortune of the house of Austria was prodigious. Charles V succeeded
to the possession of Burgundy, Castile, and Aragon; he arrived
afterwards at the imperial dignity; and to procure him a new kind of
grandeur, the globe extended itself, and there was seen a new world
paying him obeisance.
Christopher Columbus discovered America; and though Spain sent thither
only a force so small that the least prince in Europe could have sent
the same, yet it subdued two vast empires, and other great states.
While the Spaniards discovered and conquered the west, the Portuguese
pushed their conquests and discoveries in the east. These two nations
met each other; they had recourse to Pope Alexander VI, who made the
celebrated line of partition, and determined the great suit.
But the other nations of Europe would not suffer them quietly to enjoy
their shares. The Dutch chased the Portuguese from almost all their
settlements in the East Indies; and several other nations planted
colonies in America.
The Spaniards considered these newly-discovered countries as the subject
of conquest; while others, more refined in their views, found them to be
the proper subjects of commerce, and upon this principle directed their
proceedings. Hence several nations have conducted themselves with so
much wisdom that they have given a kind of sovereignty to companies of
merchants, who, governing these far-distant countries only with a view
to trade, have made a great accessory power without embarrassing the
The colonies they have formed are under a kind of dependence, of which
there are but very few instances in all the colonies of the ancients;
whether we consider them as holdings of the state itself, or of some
trading company established in the state.
The design of these colonies is to trade on more advantageous conditions
than could otherwise be done with the neighbouring people, with whom all
advantages are reciprocal. It has been established that the
metropolis, or mother country, alone shall trade in the colonies,
and that from very good reason; because the design of the settlement was
the extension of commerce, not the foundation of a city or of a new
Thus it is still a fundamental law of Europe that all commerce with a
foreign colony shall be regarded as a mere monopoly, punishable by the
laws of the country; and in this case we are not to be directed by the
laws and precedents of the ancients, which are not at all
It is likewise acknowledged that a commerce established between the
mother countries does not include a permission to trade in the colonies;
for these always continue in a state of prohibition.
The disadvantage of a colony that loses the liberty of commerce is
visibly compensated by the protection of the mother country, who defends
it by her arms, or supports it by her laws.
Hence follows a third law of Europe, that when a foreign commerce with a
colony is prohibited, it is not lawful to trade in those seas, except in
such cases as are excepted by treaty. Nations who are, with respect to
the whole globe, what individuals are in a state, are governed like the
latter by the laws of nature, and by particular laws of their own
making. One nation may resign to another the sea, as well as the land.
The Carthaginians forbade the Romans to sail beyond certain limits,
as the Greeks had obliged the King of Persia to keep as far distant from
the sea-coast as a horse could gallop.
The great distance of our colonies is not an inconvenience that affects
their safety; for if the mother country, on whom they depend for their
defence, is remote, no less remote are those nations who rival the
mother country, and by whom they may be afraid of being conquered.
Besides, this distance is the cause that those who are established there
cannot conform to the manner of living in a climate so different from
their own; they are obliged therefore to draw from the mother country
all the conveniences of life. The Carthaginians, to render the
Sardinians and Corsicans more dependent, forbade their planting, sowing,
or doing anything of the kind, under pain of death; so that they
supplied them with necessaries from Africa.
The Europeans have compassed the same thing, without having recourse to
such severe laws. Our colonies in the Caribbean islands are under an
admirable regulation in this respect; the subject of their commerce is
what we neither have nor can produce; and they want what is the subject
A consequence of the discovery of America was the connecting Asia and
Africa with Europe; it furnished materials for a trade with that vast