particular place in the theatre; they had those which could only be
enjoyed by men who had children, and which none could deprive them of
but such as had a greater number.
These privileges were very extensive. The married men who had the most
children were always preferred, whether in the pursuit or in the
exercise of honours, The consul who had the most numerous offspring
was the first who received the fasces; he had his choice of the
provinces: the senator who had most children had his name written
first in the catalogue of senators, and was the first in giving his
opinion in the senate. They might even stand sooner than ordinary
for an office, because every child gave a dispensation of a year. If
an inhabitant of Rome had three children, he was exempted from all
troublesome offices. The freeborn women who had three children, and
the freedwomen who had four, passed out of that perpetual tutelage
in which they had been held by the ancient laws of Rome.
As they had rewards, they had also penalties. Those who were not
married could receive no advantage from the will of any person that was
not a relative; and those who, being married, had no children, could
receive only half. The Romans, says Plutarch, marry only to be
heirs, and not to have them.
The advantages which a man and his wife might receive from each other by
will were limited by law. If they had children of each other, they
might receive the whole; if not, they could receive only a tenth part of
the succession on the account of marriage; and if they had any children
by a former venter, as many tenths as they had children.
If a husband absented himself from his wife on any other cause than the
affairs of the republic, he could not inherit from her.
The law gave to a surviving husband or wife two years to marry
again, and a year and a half in case of a divorce. The fathers who
would not suffer their children to marry, or refused to give their
daughters a portion, were obliged to do it by the magistrates.
They were not allowed to betroth when the marriage was to be deferred
for more than two years: and as they could not marry a girl till she
was twelve years old, they could not be betrothed to her till she was
ten. The law would not suffer them to trifle to no purpose; and
under a pretence of being betrothed, to enjoy the privileges of married
It was contrary to law for a man of sixty to marry a woman of fifty.
As they had given great privileges to married men, the law would not
suffer them to enter into useless marriages. For the same reason, the
Calvisian Senatus Consultum declared the marriage of a woman above fifty
with a man less than sixty to be unequal: so that a woman of fifty
years of age could not marry without incurring the penalties of these
laws. Tiberius added to the rigour of the Papian law, and prohibited
men of sixty from marrying women under fifty; so that a man of sixty
could not marry in any case whatsoever, without incurring the penalty.
But Claudius abrogated this law made under Tiberius.
All these regulations were more conformable to the climate of Italy than
to that of the North, where a man of sixty years of age has still a
considerable degree of strength, and where women of fifty are not always
That they might not be unnecessarily limited in the choice they were to
make, Augustus permitted all the freeborn citizens who were not
senators to marry freedwomen. The Papian law forbade the
senators marrying freedwomen, or those who had been brought up to
the stage; and from the time of Ulpian, free-born persons were
forbidden to marry women who had led a disorderly life, who had played
in the theatre, or who had been condemned by a public sentence. This
must have been established by a decree of the senate. During the time of
the republic they had never made laws like these, because the censors
corrected this kind of disorder as soon as it arose, or else prevented
Constantine made a law in which he comprehended, in the prohibition
of the Papian law, not only the senators, but even such as had a
considerable rank in the state, without mentioning persons in an
inferior station: this constituted the law of those times. These
marriages were therefore no longer forbidden, except to the free-born
comprehended in the law of Constantine. Justinian, however, abrogated
the law of Constantine, and permitted all sorts of persons to
contract these marriages; and thus we have acquired so fatal a liberty.
It is evident that the penalties inflicted on such as married contrary
to the prohibition of the law were the same as those inflicted on
persons who did not marry. These marriages did not give them any civil
advantage; for the dowry was confiscated after the death of the
Augustus having adjudged the succession and legacies of those whom these
laws had declared incapable, to the public treasury, they had the
appearance rather of fiscal than of political and civil laws. The
disgust they had already conceived at a burden which appeared too heavy
was increased by their seeing themselves a continual prey to the avidity
of the treasury. On this account, it became necessary, under Tiberius,
that these laws should be softened; that Nero should lessen the
rewards given out of the treasury to the informers; that Trajan
should put a stop to their plundering; that Severus should also
moderate these laws; and that the civilians should consider them as
odious, and in all their decisions deviate from the literal rigour.
Besides, the emperors enervated these laws by the privileges they
granted of the rights of husbands, of children, and of three children.
More than this, they gave particular persons a dispensation from the
penalties of these laws. But the regulations established for the
public utility seemed incapable of admitting an alleviation.
It was highly reasonable that they should grant the rights of children
to the vestals, whom religion retained in a necessary virginity:
they gave, in the same manner, the privilege of married men to
soldiers, because they could not marry. It was customary to exempt
the emperors from the constraint of certain civil laws. Thus Augustus
was freed from the constraint of the law which limited the power of
enfranchising, and of that which set bounds to the right of
bequeathing by testament. These were only particular cases; but, at
last, dispensations were given without discretion, and the rule itself
became no more than an exception.
The sects of philosophers had already introduced in the empire a
disposition that estranged them from business -- a disposition which
could not gain ground in the time of the republic, when everybody
was employed in the arts of war and peace. Hence arose an idea of
perfection, as connected with a life of speculation; hence an
estrangement from the cares and embarrassments of a family. The
Christian religion coming after this philosophy fixed, if I may make use
of the expression, the ideas which that had only prepared.
Christianity stamped its character on jurisprudence; for empire has ever
a connection with the priesthood. This is visible from the Theodosian
code, which is only a collection of the decrees of the Christian
A panegyrist of Constantine said to that emperor, "Your laws were
made only to correct vice and to regulate manners: you have stripped the
ancient laws of that artifice which seemed to have no other aim than to
lay snares for simplicity."
It is certain that the alterations made by Constantine took their rise
either from sentiments relating to the establishment of Christianity, or
from ideas conceived of its perfection. From the first proceeded those
laws which gave such authority to bishops, and which have been the
foundation of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction; hence those laws which
weakened paternal authority by depriving the father of his property
in the possessions of his children. To extend a new religion, they were
obliged to take away the dependence of children, who are always least
attached to what is already established.
The laws made with a view to Christian perfection were more particularly
those by which the penalties of the Papian laws were abolished; the
unmarried were equally exempted from them, with those who, being
married, had no children.
"These laws were established," says an ecclesiastical historian,
"as if the multiplication of human species was an effect of our care;
instead of being sensible that the number is increased or diminished
according to the order of Providence."
Principles of religion have had an extraordinary influence on the
propagation of the human species. Sometimes they have promoted it, as
among the Jews, the Mahometans, the Gaurs, and the Chinese; at others
they have put a damp to it, as was the case of the Romans upon their
conversion to Christianity.
They everywhere incessantly preached continency; a virtue the more
perfect because in its own nature it can be practised but by very few.
Constantine had not taken away the decimal laws which granted a greater
extent to the donations between man and wife, in proportion to the
number of their children. Theodosius, the younger, abrogated even these
Justinian declared all those marriages valid which had been prohibited
by the Papian laws. These laws required people to marry again:
Justinian granted privileges to those who did not marry again.
By the ancient institutions, the natural right which every one had to
marry and beget children could not be taken away. Thus when they
received a legacy, on condition of not marrying, or when a patron
made his freedman swear that he would neither marry nor beget
children, the Papian law annulled both the condition and the oath.
The clauses on continuing in widowhood established among us contradict
the ancient law, and descend from the constitutions of the emperors,
founded on ideas of perfection.
There is no law that contains an express abrogation of the privileges
and honours which the Romans had granted to marriages, and to a number
of children. But where celibacy had the pre-eminence, marriage could not
be held in honour; and since they could oblige the officers of the
public revenue to renounce so many advantages by the abolition of the
penalties, it is easy to perceive that with yet greater ease they might
put a stop to the rewards.
The same spiritual reason which had permitted celibacy soon imposed it
even as necessary. God forbid that I should here speak against celibacy
as adopted by religion; but who can be silent when it is built on
libertinism; when the two sexes, corrupting each other even by the
natural sensations themselves, fly from a union which ought to make them
better, to live in that which always renders them worse?
It is a rule drawn from nature, that the more the number of marriages is
diminished, the more corrupt are those who have entered into that state;
the fewer married men, the less fidelity is there in marriage; as when
there are more thieves, more thefts are committed.
22. Of the Exposing of Children. The Roman policy was very good in
respect to the exposing of children. Romulus, says Dionysius
Halicarnassus, laid the citizens under an obligation to educate all
their male children, and the eldest of their daughters. If the infants
were deformed and monstrous, he permitted the exposing them, after
having shown them to five of their nearest neighbours.
Romulus did not suffer them to kill any infants under three years
old: by which means he reconciled the law that gave to fathers the
right over their children of life and death with that which prohibited
their being exposed.
We find also in Dionysius Halicarnassus that the law which obliged
the citizens to marry, and to educate all their children, was in force
in the 277th year of Rome; we see that custom had restrained the law of
Romulus which permitted them to expose their younger daughters.
We have no knowledge of what the law of the Twelve Tables (made in the
year of Rome 301) appointed with respect to the exposing of children,
except from a passage of Cicero, who, speaking of the office of
tribune of the people, says that soon after its birth, like the
monstrous infant of the law of the Twelve Tables, it was stifled; the
infant that was not monstrous was therefore preserved, and the law of
the Twelve Tables made no alteration in the preceding institutions.
"The Germans," says Tacitus, "never expose their children; among
them the best manners have more force than in other places the best
laws." The Romans had therefore laws against this custom, and yet they
did not follow them. We find no Roman law that permitted the exposing of
children; this was, without doubt, an abuse introduced towards the
decline of the republic, when luxury robbed them of their freedom, when
wealth divided was called poverty, when the father believed that all was
lost which he gave to his family, and when this family was distinct from
23. Of the State of the World after the Destruction of the Romans. The
regulations made by the Romans to increase the number of their citizens
had their effect while the republic, in the full vigour of her
constitution, had nothing to repair but the losses she sustained by her
courage, by her intrepidity, by her firmness, her love of glory and of
virtue. But soon the wisest laws could not re-establish what a dying
republic, what a general anarchy, what a military government, what a
rigid empire, what a proud despotic power, what a feeble monarchy, what
a stupid, weak, and superstitious court had successively pulled down. It
might, indeed, be said that they conquered the world only to weaken it,
and to deliver it up defenceless to barbarians. The Gothic nations, the
Getes, the Saracens and Tartars by turns harassed them; and soon the
barbarians had none to destroy but barbarians. Thus, in fabulous times,
after the inundations and the deluge, there arose out of the earth armed
men, who exterminated one another.
24. The Changes which happened in Europe with regard to the Number of
the Inhabitants. In the state Europe was in one would not imagine it
possible for it to be retrieved, especially when under Charlemagne it
formed only one vast empire. But by the nature of government at that
time it became divided into an infinite number of petty sovereignties,
and as the lord or sovereign, who resided in his village or city, was
neither great, rich, powerful, nor even safe but by the number of his
subjects, every one employed himself with a singular attention to make
his little country flourish. This succeeded in such a manner that
notwithstanding the irregularities of government, the want of that
knowledge which has since been acquired in commerce, and the numerous
wars and disorders incessantly arising, most countries of Europe were
better peopled in those clays than they are even at present.
I have not time to treat fully of this subject, but I shall cite the
prodigious armies engaged in the Crusades, composed of men of all
countries. Puffendorf says that in the reign of Charles IX there were in
France twenty millions of men.
It is the perpetual reunion of many little states that has produced this
diminution. Formerly, every village of France was a capital; there is at
present only one large one. Every part of the state was a centre of
power; at present all has a relation to one centre, and this centre is
in some measure the state itself.
25. The same Subject continued. Europe, it is true, has for these two
ages past greatly increased its navigation; this has both procured and
deprived it of inhabitants. Holland sends every year a great number of
mariners to the Indies, of whom not above two-thirds return; the rest
either perish or settle in the Indies. The same thing must happen to
every other nation concerned in that trade.
We must not judge of Europe as of a particular state engaged alone in an
extensive navigation. This state would increase in people, because all
the neighbouring nations would endeavour to have ashare in this
commerce, and mariners would arrive from all parts. Europe, separated
from the rest of the world by religion, by vast seas and deserts,
cannot be repaired in this manner.
26. Consequences. From all this we may conclude that Europe is at
present in a condition to require laws to be made in favour of the
propagation of the human species. The politics of the ancient Greeks
incessantly complain of the inconveniences attending a republic, from
the excessive number of citizens; but the politics of this age call upon
us to take proper means to increase ours.
27. Of the Law made in France to encourage the Propagation of the
Species. Louis XIV appointed particular pensions to those who had ten
children, and much larger to such as had twelve. But it is not
sufficient to reward prodigies. In order to communicate a general
spirit, which leads to the propagation of the species, it is necessary
for us to establish, like the Romans, general rewards, or general
28. By what means we may remedy a Depopulation. When a state is
depopulated by particular accidents, by wars, pestilence, or famine,
there are still resources left. The men who remain may preserve the
spirit of industry; they may seek to repair their misfortunes, and
calamity itself may make them become more industrious. This evil is
almost incurable when the depopulation is prepared beforehand by
interior vice and a bad government. When this is the case, men perish
with an insensible and habitual disease; born in misery and weakness, in
violence or under the influence of a wicked administration, they see
themselves destroyed, and frequently without perceiving the cause of
their destruction. Of this we have a melancholy proof in the countries
desolated by despotic power, or by the excessive advantages of the
clergy over the laity.
In vain shall we wait for the succour of children yet unborn to
re-establish a state thus depopulated. There is not time for this; men
in their solitude are without courage or industry. With land sufficient
to nourish a nation, they have scarcely enough to nourish a family. The
common people have not even a property in the miseries of the country,
that is, in the fallows with which it abounds. The clergy, the prince,
the cities, the great men, and some of the principal citizens insensibly
become proprietors of all the land which lies uncultivated; the families
who are ruined have left their fields, and the labouring man is
In this situation they should take the same measures throughout the
whole extent of the empire which the Romans took in a part of theirs;
they should practise in their distress what these observed in the midst
of plenty; that is, they should distribute land to all the families who
are in want, and procure them materials for clearing and cultivating it.
This distribution ought to be continued so long as there is a man to
receive it, and in such a manner as not to lose a moment that can be
29. Of Hospitals. A man is not poor because he has nothing, but because
he does not work. The man who without any degree of wealth has an
employment is as much at his ease as he who without labour has an income
of a hundred crowns a year. He who has no substance, and yet has a
trade, is not poorer than he who, possessing ten acres of land, is
obliged to cultivate it for his subsistence. The mechanic who gives his
art as an inheritance to his children has left them a fortune, which is
multiplied in proportion to their number. It is not so with him who,
having ten acres of land, divides it among his children.
In trading countries, where many men have no other subsistence but from
the arts, the state is frequently obliged to supply the necessities of
the aged, the sick, and the orphan. A well-regulated government draws
this support from the arts themselves. It gives to some such employment
as they are capable of performing; others are taught to work, and this
teaching of itself becomes an employment.
The alms given to a naked man in the street do not fulfil the
obligations of the state, which owes to every citizen a certain
subsistence, a proper nourishment, convenient clothing, and a kind of
life not incompatible with health.
Aurungzebe, being asked why he did not build hospitals, said, "I will
make my empire so rich that there shall be no need of hospitals."
He ought to have said, "I will begin by rendering my empire rich, and
then I will build hospitals."
The riches of the state suppose great industry. Amidst the numerous
branches of trade it is impossible but that some must suffer, and
consequently the mechanics must be in a momentary necessity.
Whenever this happens, the state is obliged to lend them a ready
assistance, whether it be to prevent the sufferings of the people, or to
avoid a rebellion. In this case hospitals, or some equivalent
regulations, are necessary to prevent this misery.
But when the nation is poor, private poverty springs from the general
calamity, and is, if I may so express myself, the general calamity
itself. All the hospitals in the world cannot cure this private poverty;
on the contrary, the spirit of indolence, which it constantly inspires,
increases the general, and consequently the private, misery.
Henry VIII, resolving to reform the Church of England, ruined the
monks, of themselves a lazy set of people, that encouraged laziness in
others, because, as they practised hospitality, an infinite number of
idle persons, gentlemen and citizens, spent their lives in running from
convent to convent. He demolished even the hospitals, in which the lower
people found subsistence, as the gentlemen did theirs in the
monasteries. Since these changes, the spirit of trade and industry has
been established in England.
At Rome, the hospitals place every one at his ease except those who
labour, except those who are industrious, except those who have land,
except those who are engaged in trade. I have observed that wealthy
nations have need of hospitals, because fortune subjects them to a
thousand accidents; but it is plain that transient assistances are much
better than perpetual foundations. The evil is momentary; it is
necessary, therefore, that the succour should be of the same nature, and
that it be applied to particular accidents.
1. Dryden, Lucr.
2. The Garamantes.
3. Book i. 8.
4. Pater est quem nuptiæ demonstrant.
5. For this reason, among nations that have slaves, the child almost
always follows the station or condition of the mother.
6. Father Du Halde, i, p. 165.
7. Ibid, ii, p. 121.
8. Aristotle, Politics, vi. 4.
9. Ibid., iii. 5.
10. Thomas Gage, A New Survey of the West Indies, p. 345, 3rd ed.
11. Ibid., p. 97, 3rd ed.
12. Book xvi. 4.
13. See Kempfer, who gives a computation of the people of Meaco.
14. Collection of Voyages that Contributed to the Establishment of the
East India Company, i, p. 347.
15. Japan is composed of a number of isles, where there are many banks,
and the sea is there extremely full of fish.
16. China abounds in rivers.
17. See Father Du Halde, ii, pp. 139, 142. ff.
18. The greatest number of the proprietors of land, says Bishop Burnet,
finding more profit in selling their wool than their corn, inclosed
their estates; the commons, ready to perish with hunger, rose up in
arms; they insisted on a division of the lands; the young king even
wrote on this subject. And proclamations were made against those who
inclosed their lands. -- Abridgment of the History of the Reformation,
pp. 44. 83.
19. Dampier, Voyages, ii, p. 41.
20. Ibid., p. 167.
21. See the Collection of Voyages that Contributed to the Establishment
of the East India Company, v, part I, pp. 182, 188.
22. In valour, discipline, and military exercises.
23. The Gauls, who were in the same circumstances, acted in the same
24. Laws, v.
25. Republic, v.
26. Politics, vii. 16.
28. Ibid., iii. 5.
29. Sixty pounds sterling.
30. Book vi. 12.
31. Book vii, p. 496.
32. I have treated of this in the Considerations on the Causes of the
Rise and Declension of the Roman Grandeur, 13.
33. Book lvi.
34. Book ii.
35. In the year of Rome 277.
36. See what was done in this respect in Livy, xlv; the Epitome of Livy,
lix; Aulus Gellius, i. 6; Valerius Maximus, ii. 9.
37. It is in Aulus Gellius, i. 6.
38. See what I have said in Book v. 19.
39. Cæsar, after the Civil War, having made a survey of the Roman
citizens, found there were no more than one hundred and fifty thousand
heads of families. -- Florus, Epitome of Livy, dec. 12.
40. See Dio, xliii., and Xiphilinus in August.
41. Dio, lib. xliii.; Suetonius, Life of Cæsar, 22; Appian, On the Civil
47. I have abridged this speech, which is of tedious length; it is to be
found in Dio, lvi.
48. Marcus Papius Mutilus and Q. Poppæus Sabinus. -- Dio, lvi.
50. Ulpian, Fragment, tit. 14, distinguishes very rightly between the
Julian and the Papian law.
51. James Godfrey has made a collection of these.
52. The 35th is cited in Leg. 19, ff. de ritu nuptiarum.
53. Book ii. 15.
54. Dionysius Halicarnassus.
55. The deputies of Rome, who were sent to search into the laws of
Greece, went to Athens, and to the cities of Italy.
56. Aulus Gellius, ii. 15.
57. Suetonius, Life of Augustus, 44.
58. Tacitus, ii. 51: Ut numerus liberorum in candidatis præpolleret,
quod lex jubebat.
59. Aulus Gellius, ii. 15.
60. Tacitus, Annals, xv. 19.
61. See Leg. 6, § 5, De Decurion.
62. See Leg. 2, ff. de minorib.
63. Leg. i, § 3, Leg. 2, ff. de vacatione et excusat. munerum.
64. Ulpian, Fragment., tit. 29, § 3.
65. Plutarch, Numa.
66. See the Ulpian, Fragment., tit. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, which compose
one of the most valuable pieces of the ancient civil law of the Romans.
67. Sozomenus, i. 9. They could receive from their relatives. -- Ulpian,
Fragment., tit. 16, § i.
68. Sozomenus, i. 9; and Leg. unic., Cod. Theod. de infirm, poenis
cælib. et orbit.
69. Of the Love of Fathers towards their Children.
70. See a more particular account of this in Ulpian. Fragment., tit. 15,
71. Ibid., tit. 16, § 1.
72. Ibid., tit. 14. It seems the first Julian laws allowed three years.
-- Speech of Augustus, in Dio, lvi; Suetonius, Life of Augustus, 34.
Other Julian laws granted but one year: the Papian law gave two. --
Ulpian, Fragment., tit. 14. These laws were not agreeable to the people;
Augustus, therefore, softened or strengthened them as they were more or
less disposed to comply with them.
73. This was the 35th head of the Papian law. -- Leg. 19, ff.de ritu
74. See Dio, liv, year 736; Suetonius, in Octavio, 34.
75. Dio, liv; and in the same Dio, the speech of Augustus, lvi.
76. Ulpian, Fragment., tit. 16, and Leg. 27, Cod. de nuptiis.
77. Ulpian, Fragment., tit. 16, § 3.
78. See Suetonius, Life of Claudius, 23.
79. Ibid., 23, and Ulpian, Fragment., tit. 16, § 3.
80. Dio, liv; Ulpian, Fragment., tit. 13.
81. Augustus's speech, in Dio, lvi.
82. Ulpian, Fragment., 13, and the Leg. 44. ff. de ritu nuptiarum.
Book XXIV. Of Laws in relation to Religion Considered in Itself, and in
1. Of Religion in General. As amidst several degrees of darkness we may
form a judgment of those which are the least thick, and among precipices
which are the least deep, so we may search among false religions for
those that are most conformable to the welfare of society; for those
which, though they have not the effect of leading men to the felicity of
another life, may contribute most to their happiness in this.
I shall examine, therefore, the several religions of the world, in
relation only to the good they produce in civil society, whether I speak
of that which has its root in heaven, or of those which spring from the
As in this work I am not a divine but a political writer, I may here
advance things which are not otherwise true than as they correspond with
a worldly manner of thinking, not as considered in their relation to
truths of a more sublime nature.
With regard to the true religion, a person of the least degree of
impartiality must see that I have never pretended to make its interests
submit to those of a political nature, but rather to unite them; now, in
order to unite, it is necessary that we should know them.
The Christian religion, which ordains that men should love each other,
would, without doubt, have every nation blest with the best civil, the
best political laws; because these, next to this religion, are the
greatest good that men can give and receive.
2. A Paradox of M. Bayle's. M. Bayle has pretended to prove that it
is better to be an Atheist than an Idolater; that is, in other words,
that it is less dangerous to have no religion at all than a bad one. "I
had rather," said he, "it should be said of me that I had no existence
than that I am a villain." This is only a sophism founded on this, that
it is of no importance to the human race to believe that a certain man
exists, whereas it is extremely useful for them to believe the existence
of a God. From the idea of his non-existence immediately follows that of
our independence; or, if we cannot conceive this idea, that of
disobedience. To say that religion is not a restraining motive, because
it does not always restrain, is equally absurd as to say that the civil
laws are not a restraining motive. It is a false way of reasoning
against religion to collect, in a large work, a long detail of the evils
it has produced if we do not give at the same time an enumeration of the
advantages which have flowed from it. Were I to relate all the evils
that have arisen in the world from civil laws, from monarchy, and from
republican government, I might tell of frightful things. Were it of no
advantage for subjects to have religion, it would still be of some, if
princes had it, and if they whitened with foam the only rein which can
restrain those who fear not human laws.
A prince who loves and fears religion is a lion, who stoops to the hand
that strokes, or to the voice that appeases him. He who fears and hates
religion is like the savage beast that growls and bites the chain which
prevents his flying on the passenger. He who has no religion at all is
that terrible animal who perceives his liberty only when he tears in
pieces and when he devours.
The question is not to know whether it would be better that a certain
man or a certain people had no religion than to abuse what they have,
but to know what is the least evil, that religion be sometimes abused,
or that there be no such restraint as religion on mankind.
To diminish the horror of Atheism, they lay too much to the charge of
idolatry. It is far from being true that when the ancients raised altars
to a particular vice, they intended to show that they loved the vice;
this signified, on the contrary, that they hated it. When the
Lacedæmonians erected a temple to Fear, it was not to show that this
warlike nation desired that he would in the midst of battle possess the
hearts of the Lacedæmonians. They had deities to whom they prayed not to
inspire them with guilt; and others whom they besought to shield them
3. That a moderate Government is most agreeable to the Christian
Religion, and a despotic Government to the Mahometan. The Christian
religion is a stranger to mere despotic power. The mildness so
frequently recommended in the Gospel is incompatible with the despotic
rage with which a prince punishes his subjects, and exercises himself in
As this religion forbids the plurality of wives, its princes are less
confined, less concealed from their subjects, and consequently have more
humanity: they are more disposed to be directed by laws, and more
capable of perceiving that they cannot do whatever they please.
While the Mahometan princes incessantly give or receive death, the
religion of the Christians renders their princes less timid, and
consequently less cruel. The prince confides in his subjects, and the
subjects in the prince. How admirable the religion which, while it only
seems to have in view the felicity of the other life, continues the
happiness of this!
It is the Christian religion that, in spite of the extent of the empire
and the influence of the climate, has hindered despotic power from being
established in Ethiopia, and has carried into the heart of Africa the
manners and laws of Europe.
The heir to the empire of Ethiopia enjoys a principality and gives to
other subjects an example of love and obedience. Not far thence may we
see the Mahometan shutting up the children of the King of Sennar, at
whose death the council sends to murder them, in favour of the prince
who mounts the throne.
Let us set before our eyes, on the one hand, the continual massacres of
the kings and generals of the Greeks and Romans, and, on the other, the
destruction of people and cities by those famous conquerors Timur Beg
and Jenghiz Khan, who ravaged Asia, and we shall see that we owe to
Christianity, in government, a certain political law; and in war, a
certain law of nations -- benefits which human nature can never
It is owing to this law of nations that among us victory leaves these
great advantages to the conquered, life, liberty, laws, wealth, and
always religion, when the conqueror is not blind to his own interest.
We may truly say that the people of Europe are not at present more
disunited than the people and the armies, or even the armies among
themselves were, under the Roman empire when it had become a despotic
and military government. On the one hand, the armies engaged in war
against each other, and, on the other, they pillaged the cities, and
divided or confiscated the lands.
4. Consequences from the Character of the Christian Religion, and that
of the Mahometan. From the characters of the Christian and Mahometan
religions, we ought, without any further examination, to embrace the one
and reject the other: for it is much easier to prove that religion ought
to humanise the manners of men than that any particular religion is
It is a misfortune to human nature when religion is given by a
conqueror. The Mahometan religion, which speaks only by the sword, acts
still upon men with that destructive spirit with which it was founded.
The history of Sabbaco, one of the pastoral kings of Egypt, is very
extraordinary. The tutelar god of Thebes, appearing to him in a dream,
ordered him to put to death all the priests of Egypt. He judged that the
gods were displeased at his being on the throne, since they commanded
him to commit an action contrary to their ordinary pleasure; and
therefore he retired into Ethiopia.
5. That the Catholic Religion is most agreeable to a Monarchy, and the
Protestant to a Republic. When a religion is introduced and fixed in a
state, it is commonly such as is most suitable to the plan of government
there established; for those who receive it, and those who are the cause
of its being received, have scarcely any other idea of policy than that
of the state in which they were born.
When the Christian religion, two centuries ago, became unhappily divided
into Catholic and Protestant, the people of the north embraced the
Protestant, and those of the south adhered still to the Catholic.
The reason is plain: the people of the north have, and will for ever
have, a spirit of liberty and independence, which the people of the
south have not; and therefore a religion which has no visible head is
more agreeable to the independence of the climate than that which has
established, the revolutions were made pursuant to the several plans of
political government. Luther having great princes on his side would
never have been able to make them relish an ecclesiastical authority
that had no exterior pre-eminence; while Calvin, having to do with
people who lived under republican governments, or with obscure citizens
in monarchies, might very well avoid establishing dignities and
Each of these two religions was believed to be perfect; the Calvinist
judging his most conformable to what Christ had said, and the Lutheran
to what the Apostles had practised.
6. Another of M. Bayle's Paradoxes. M. Bayle, after having abused all
religions, endeavours to sully Christianity: he boldly asserts that true
Christians cannot form a government of any duration. Why not? Citizens
of this profession being infinitely enlightened with respect to the
various duties of life, and having the warmest zeal to fulfil them, must
be perfectly sensible of the rights of natural defence. The more they
believe themselves indebted to religion, the more they would think due
to their country. The principles of Christianity, deeply engraved on the
heart, would be infinitely more powerful than the false honour of
monarchies, than the humane virtues of republics, or the servile fear of
It is astonishing that this great man should not be able to distinguish
between the orders for the establishment of Christianity and
Christianity itself; and that he should be liable to be charged with not
knowing the spirit of his own religion. When the legislator, instead of
laws, has given counsels, this is because he knew that if these counsels
were ordained as laws they would be contrary to the spirit of the laws
7. Of the Laws of Perfection in Religion. Human laws, made to direct the
will, ought to give precepts, and not counsels; religion, made to
influence the heart, should give many counsels, and few precepts.
When, for instance, it gives rules, not for what is good, but for what
is better; not to direct to what is right, but to what is perfect, it is
expedient that these should be counsels, and not laws: for perfection
can have no relation to the universality of men or things. Besides, if
these were laws, there would be a necessity for an infinite number of
others, to make people observe the first. Celibacy was advised by
Christianity; when they made it a law in respect to a certain order of
men, it became necessary to make new ones every day, in order to oblige
those men to observe it. The legislator wearied himself, and he
wearied society, to make men execute by precept what those who love
perfection would have executed as counsel.
8. Of the Connection between the moral Laws and those of Religion. In a
country so unfortunate as to have a religion that God has not revealed,
it is necessary for it to be agreeable to morality; because even a false
religion is the best security we can have of the probity of men.
The principal points of religion of the inhabitants of Pegu are, not
to commit murder, not to steal, to avoid uncleanliness, not to give the
least uneasiness to their neighbour, but to do him, on the contrary, all
the good in their power. With these rules they think they should be
saved in any religion whatsoever. Hence it proceeds that those people,
though poor and proud, behave with gentleness and compassion to the
9. Of the Essenes. The Essenes made a vow to observe justice to
mankind, to do no ill to any person, upon whatsoever account, to keep
faith with all the world, to hate injustice, to command with modesty,
always to side with truth, and to fly from all unlawful gain.
10. Of the Sect of Stoics. The several sects of philosophy among the
ancients were a species of religion. Never were any principles more
worthy of human nature, and more proper to form the good man, than those
of the Stoics; and if I could for a moment cease to think that I am a
Christian, I should not be able to hinder myself from ranking the
destruction of the sect of Zeno among the misfortunes that have befallen
the human race.
It carried to excess only those things in which there is true greatness
-- the contempt of pleasure and of pain.
It was this sect alone that made citizens; this alone that made great
men; this alone great emperors.
Laying aside for a moment revealed truths, let us search through all
nature, and we shall not find a nobler object than the Antoninuses; even
Julian himself -- Julian (a commendation thus wrested from me will not
render me an accomplice of his apostasy) -- no, there has not been a
prince since his reign more worthy to govern mankind.
While the Stoics looked upon riches, human grandeur, grief,
disquietudes, and pleasures as vanity, they were entirely employed in
labouring for the happiness of mankind, and in exercising the duties of
society. It seems as if they regarded that sacred spirit, which they
believed to dwell within them, as a kind of favourable providence
watchful over the human race.
Born for society, they all believed that it was their destiny to labour
for it; with so much the less fatigue, their rewards were all within
themselves. Happy by their philosophy alone, it seemed as if only the
happiness of others could increase theirs.
11. Of Contemplation. Men being made to preserve, to nourish, to clothe
themselves, and do all the actions of society, religion ought not to
give them too contemplative a life.
The Mahometans become speculative by habit; they pray five times a day,
and each time they are obliged to cast behind them everything which has
any concern with this world: this forms them for speculation. Add to
this that indifference for all things which is inspired by the doctrine
of unalterable fate.
instance, if the severity of the government, if the laws concerning the
property of land, give them a precarious spirit -- all is lost.
The religion of the Gaurs formerly rendered Persia a flourishing
kingdom; it corrected the bad effects of despotic power. The same empire
is now destroyed by the Mahometan religion.
12. Of Penances. Penances ought to be joined with the idea of labour,
not with that of idleness; with the idea of good, not with that of
supereminence; with the idea of frugality, not with that of avarice.
13. Of inexpiable Crimes. It appears from a. passage of the books of the
pontiffs, quoted by Cicero, that they had among the Romans inexpiable
crimes: and it is on this that Zozymus founds the narration so proper
to blacken the motives of Constantine's conversion; and Julian, that
bitter raillery on this conversion in his Cæsars.
The Pagan religion indeed, which prohibited only some of the grosser
crimes, and which stopped the hand but meddled not with the heart, might
have crimes that were inexpiable; but a religion which bridles all the
passions; which is not more jealous of actions than of thoughts and
desires; which holds us not by a few chains but by an infinite number of
threads; which, leaving human justice aside, establishes another kind of
justice; which is so ordered as to lead us continually from repentance
to love, and from love to repentance; which puts between the judge and
the criminal a greater mediator, between the just and the mediator a
great judge -- a religion like this ought not to have inexpiable crimes.
But while it gives fear and hope to all, it makes us sufficiently
sensible that though there is no crime in its own nature inexpiable, yet
a whole criminal life may be so; that it is extremely dangerous to
affront mercy by new crimes and new expiations; that an uneasiness on
account of ancient debts, from which we are never entirely free, ought
to make us afraid of contracting new ones, of filling up the measure,
and going even to that point where paternal goodness is limited.
14. In what Manner Religion has an Influence on Civil Laws. As both
religion and the civil laws ought to have a peculiar tendency to render
men good citizens, it is evident that when one of these deviates from
this end, the tendency of the other ought to be strengthened. The less
severity there is in religion, the more there ought to be in the civil
Thus the reigning religion of Japan having few doctrines, and proposing
neither future rewards nor punishments, the laws to supply these defects
have been made with the spirit of severity, and are executed with an
When the doctrine of necessity is established by religion, the penalties
of the laws ought to be more severe, and the magistrate more vigilant;
to the end that men who would otherwise become abandoned might be
determined by these motives; but it is quite otherwise where religion
has established the doctrine of liberty.
From the inactivity of the soul springs the Mahometan doctrine of
predestination, and from this doctrine of predestination springs the
inactivity of the soul. This, they say, is in the decrees of God; they
must therefore indulge their repose. In a case like this, the magistrate
ought to waken by the laws those who are lulled asleep by religion.
When religion condemns things which the civil laws ought to permit,
there is danger lest the civil laws, on the other hand, should permit
what religion ought to condemn. Either of these is a constant proof of a
want of true ideas of that harmony and proportion which ought to subsist
Thus the Tartars under Jenghiz Khan, among whom it was a sin and
even a capital crime to put a knife in the fire, to lean against a whip,
to strike a horse with his bridle, to break one bone with another, did
not believe it to be any sin to break their word, to seize upon another
man's goods, to do an injury to a person, or to commit murder. In a
word, laws which render that necessary which is only indifferent have
this inconvenience, that they make those things indifferent which are
The people of Formosa believe that there is a kind of hell, but it
is to punish those who at certain seasons have not gone naked, who have
dressed in calico and not in silk, who have presumed to look for
oysters, or who have undertaken any business without consulting the song
of birds; while drunkenness and debauchery are not regarded as crimes.
They believe even that the debauches of their children are agreeable to
When religion absolves the mind by a thing merely accidental, it loses
its greatest influence on mankind. The people of India believe that the
waters of the Ganges have a sanctifying virtue. Those who die on its
banks are imagined to be exempted from the torments of the other life,
and to be entitled to dwell in a region full of delights; and for this
reason the ashes of the dead are sent from the most distant places to be
thrown into this river. Little then does it signify whether they had
lived virtuously or not, so they be but thrown into the Ganges.
The idea of a place of rewards has a necessary connection with the idea
of the abodes of misery; and when they hope for the former without
fearing the latter, the civil laws have no longer any influence. Men who
think themselves sure of the rewards of the other life are above the
power of the legislator; they look upon death with too much contempt.
How shall the man be restrained by laws who believes that the greatest
pain the magistrate can inflict will end in a moment to begin his
15. How false Religions are sometimes corrected by the Civil Laws.
Simplicity, superstition, or a respect for antiquity have sometimes
established mysteries or ceremonies shocking to modesty: of this the
world has furnished numerous examples. Aristotle says that in this
case the law permits the fathers of families to repair to the temple to
celebrate these mysteries for their wives and children. How admirable
the civil law which in spite of religion preserves the manners
Augustus excluded the youth of either sex from assisting at any
nocturnal ceremony, unless accompanied by a more aged relative; and when
he revived the Lupercalia, he would not allow the young men to run
16. How the Laws of Religion correct the Inconveniences of a political
Constitution. On the other hand, religion may support a state when the
laws themselves are incapable of doing it.
Thus when a kingdom is frequently agitated by civil wars, religion may
do much by obliging one part of the state to remain always quiet. Among
the Greeks, the Eleans, as priests of Apollo, lived always in peace. In
Japan, the city of Meaco enjoys a constant peace, as being a holy
city. Religion supports this regulation, and that empire, which seems to
be alone upon earth, and which neither has nor will have any dependence
on foreigners, has always in its own bosom a trade which war cannot
In kingdoms where wars are not entered upon by a general consent, and
where the laws have not pointed out any means either of terminating or
preventing them, religion establishes times of peace, or cessation from
hostilities, that the people may be able to sow their corn and perform
those other labours which are absolutely necessary for the subsistence
of the state.
Every year all hostility ceases between the Arabian tribes for four
months: the least disturbance would then be an impiety. In former
times, when every lord in France declared war or peace, religion granted
a truce, which was to take place at certain seasons.
17. The same Subject continued. When a state has many causes for hatred,
religion ought to produce many ways of reconciliation. The Arabs, a
people addicted to robbery, are frequently guilty of doing injury and
injustice. Mahomet enacted this law: "If any one forgives the blood
of his brother, he may pursue the malefactor for damages and
interest; but he who shall injure the wicked, after having received
satisfaction, shall, in the day of judgment, suffer the most grievous
The Germans inherited the hatred and enmity of their near relatives: but
these were not eternal. Homicide was expiated by giving a certain number
of cattle, and all the family received satisfaction: a thing extremely
useful, says Tacitus, because enmities are most dangerous among a free
people. I believe, indeed, that their ministers of religion, who
were held by them in so much credit, were concerned in these
Among the inhabitants of Malacca, where no form of reconciliation is
established, he who has committed murder, certain of being assassinated
by the relatives or friends of the deceased, abandons himself to fury,
and wounds or kills all he meets.
18. How the Laws of Religion have the Effect of Civil Laws. The first
Greeks were small nations, frequently dispersed, pirates at sea, unjust
on land, without government and without laws. The mighty actions of
Hercules and Theseus let us see the state of that rising people. What
could religion do more to inspire them with horror against murder? It
declared that the man who had been murdered was enraged against the
assassin, that he would possess his mind with terror and trouble, and
oblige him to yield to him the places he had frequented when alive.
They could not touch the criminal, nor converse with him, without being
defiled: the murderer was to be expelled from the city, and an
expiation made for the crime.
19. That it is not so much the Truth or Falsity of a Doctrine which
renders it useful or pernicious to Men in civil Government, as the Use
or Abuse of it. The most true and holy doctrines may be attended with
the very worst consequences when they are not connected with the
principles of society: and on the contrary, doctrines the most false may
be attended with excellent consequences when contrived so as to be
connected with these principles.
The religion of Confucius disowns the immortality of the soul: and the
sect of Zeno did not believe it. These two sects have drawn from their
bad principles consequences, not just indeed, but most admirable as to
their influence on society. Those of the religion of Tao, and of
Foe, believe the immortality of the soul; but from this sacred
doctrine they draw the most frightful consequences.
The doctrine of the immortality of the soul falsely understood has,
almost in every part of the globe and in every age, engaged women,
slaves, subjects, friends, to murder themselves, that they might go and
serve in the other world the object of their respect or love in this.
Thus it was in the West Indies; thus it was among the Danes; thus it
is at present in Japan, in Macassar, and many other places.
These customs do not so directly proceed from the doctrine of the
immortality of the soul as from that of the resurrection of the body,
whence they have drawn this consequence, that after death the same
individual will have the same wants, the same sentiments, the same
passions. In this point of view, the doctrine of the immortality of the
soul has a prodigious effect on mankind; because the idea of only a
simple change of habitation is more within the reach of the human
understanding, and more adapted to flatter the heart, than the idea of a
It is not enough for religion to establish a doctrine; it must also
direct its influence. This the Christian religion performs in the most
admirable manner, particularly with regard to the doctrines of which we
have been speaking. It makes us hope for a state which is the object of
our belief; not for a state which we have already experienced or known:
thus every article, even the resurrection of the body, leads us to
20. The same Subject continued. The sacred books of the ancient
Persians say, "If you would be holy instruct your children, because all
the good actions which they perform will be imputed to you." They advise
them to marry betimes, because children at the day of judgment will be
as a bridge, over which those who have none cannot pass. These doctrines
were false, but extremely useful.
21. Of the Metempsychosis. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul
is divided into three branches -- that of pure immortality, that of a
simple change of habitation, and that of a metempsychosis, that is, the
system of the Christians, that of the Scythians, and that of the
Indians. We have just been speaking of the first two, and I shall say of
the last that as it has been well or ill explained, it has had good or
bad effects. As it inspires men with a certain horror against bloodshed,
very few murders are committed in the Indies; and though they seldom
punish with death, yet they enjoy a perfect tranquillity.
On the other hand, women burn themselves at the death of their husbands;
thus it is only the innocent who suffer a violent death.
22. That it is dangerous for Religion to inspire an Aversion for Things
in themselves indifferent. A kind of honour established in the Indies by
the prejudices of religion has made the several tribes conceive an
aversion against each other. This honour is founded entirely on
religion; these family distinctions form no civil distinctions; there
are Indians who would think themselves dishonoured by eating with their
These sorts of distinctions are connected with a certain aversion for
other men, very different from those sentiments which naturally arise
from difference of rank; which among us comprehends a love for
The laws of religion should never inspire an aversion to anything but
vice, and above all they should never estrange man from a love and
tenderness for his own species.
The Mahometan and Indian religions embrace an infinite number of people;
the Indians hate the Mahometans, because they eat cows; the Mahometans
detest the Indians because they eat hogs.
23. Of Festivals. When religion appoints a cessation from labour it
ought to have a greater regard to the necessities of mankind than to the
grandeur of the being it designs to honour.
Athens was subject to great inconveniences from the excessive number of
its festivals. These powerful people, to whose decision all the
cities of Greece came to submit their quarrels, could not have time to
despatch such a multiplicity of affairs.
When Constantine ordained that the people should rest on the Sabbath, he
made this decree for the cities, and not for the inhabitants of the
open country; he was sensible that labour in the cities was useful, but
in the fields necessary.
For the same reason, in a country supported by commerce, the number of
festivals ought to be relative to this very commerce. Protestant and
Catholic countries are situated in such a manner that there is more need
of labour in the former than in the latter; the suppression of
festivals is therefore more suitable to Protestant than to Catholic
Dampier observes that the diversions of different nations vary greatly,
according to the climate. As hot climates produce a quantity of
delicate fruits, the barbarians easily find necessaries, and therefore
spend much time in diversions. The Indians of colder countries have not
so much leisure, being obliged to fish and hunt continually; hence they
have less music, dancing and festivals. If a new religion should be
established among these people, it ought to have regard to this in the
institution of festivals.
24. Of the local Laws of Religion. There are many local laws in various
religions; and when Montezuma with so much obstinacy insisted that the
religion of the Spaniards was good for their country, and his for
Mexico, he did not assert an absurdity; because, in fact, legislators
could never help having a regard to what nature had established before
The opinion of the metempsychosis is adapted to the climate of the
Indies. An excessive heat burns up all the country: they can breed
but very few cattle; they are always in danger of wanting them for
tillage; their black cattle multiply but indifferently; and they are
subject to many distempers. A law of religion which preserves them is
therefore more suitable to the policy of the country.
While the meadows are scorched, rice and pulse, by the assistance of
water, are brought to perfection; a law of religion which permits only
this kind of nourishment must therefore be extremely useful to men in
The flesh of cattle in that country is insipid36 but the milk and butter
which they receive from them serve for a part of their subsistence;
therefore the law which prohibits the eating and killing of cows is in
the Indies not unreasonable.
Athens contained a prodigious multitude of people, but its territory was
barren. It was therefore a religious maxim with this people that those
who offered some small presents to the gods honoured them more than
those who sacrificed an ox.
25. The Inconvenience of transplanting a Religion from one Country to
another. It follows hence that there are frequently many inconveniences
attending the transplanting a religion from one country to any other.
"The hog," says M. de Boulainvilliers, "must be very scarce in
Arabia, where there are almost no woods, and hardly anything fit for the
nourishment of these animals; besides, the saltness of the water and
food renders the people most susceptible of cutaneous disorders." This
local law could not be good in other countries, where the hog is
almost a universal, and in some sort a necessary, nourishment.
I shall here make a reflection. Sanctorius has observed that pork
transpires but little, and that this kind of meat greatly binders
the transpiration of other food; he has found that this diminution
amounts to a third. Besides, it is known that the want of
transpiration forms or increases the disorders of the skin. The feeding
on pork ought rather to be prohibited in climates where the people are
subject to these disorders, as in Palestine, Arabia, Egypt, and Libya.
26. The same Subject continued. Sir John Chardin says that there is
not a navigable river in Persia, except the Kur, which is at the
extremity of the empire. The ancient law of the Gaurs which prohibited
sailing on rivers was not therefore attended with any inconvenience in
this country, though it would have ruined the trade of another.
Frequent bathings are extremely useful in hot climates. On this account
they are ordained in the Mahometan law and in the Indian religion. In
the Indies it is a most meritorious act to pray to God in the running
stream; but how could these things be performed in other climates?
When a religion adapted to the climate of one country clashes too much
with the climate of another it cannot be there established; and whenever
it has been introduced it has been afterwards discarded, it seems to all
human appearance as if the climate had prescribed the bounds of the
Christian and the Mahometan religions.
It follows hence, that it is almost always proper for a religion to have