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enrich one of Tamerlane's collectors of revenue; another will screw up to the crime of high treason, speaking contemptuously of the mistress of a rajah's chief valet; a third will extort from the farmer a moiety of his harvest, and dispute with him the right to the remainder; in short, there will be laws by which a Tartar serjeant will be authorized to seize your children even in the cradle-to make one, who is robust, a soldier to convert another, who is weak, into a eunuch— and thus to leave the father and mother without assistance and without consolation.
But which would be preferable, being Tamerlane's dog, or his subject? It is evident, that the condition of his dog would be by far the better one.
LAWS (SPIRIT OF).
It would be admirable, if from all the books upon laws by Bodin, Hobbes, Grotius, Puffendorf, Montesquieu, Barbeyrac, and Burlamaqui, some general law was adopted by the whole of the tribunals of Europe upon succession, contracts, revenue offences, &c. &c. But neither the citations of Grotius, nor those of Puffendorf, nor those of the Spirit of Laws, have ever led to a sentence in the Chatelet of Paris or the Old Bailey of London. We weary ourselves with Grotius, pass some agreeable moments with Montesquieu; but if process be deemed advisable, we run to our attorney.
It has been said that the letter kills, but that in the
spirit there is life. It is decidedly the contrary in the book of Montesquieu; the spirit is diffusive, and the letter teaches nothing,
False Citations in the Spirit of Laws, and false Consequences drawn from them by the Author.*
It is observed, that "the English, to favour liberty,
The detections of several minor inaccuracies are omitted, the work of Montesquieu having undergone much minute inspection since the publication of this article. Notices of such errors are
have abstracted all the intermediate powers which formed part of their constitution.”
On the contrary, they have preserved the upper house, and the greater part of the jurisdictions which stand between the crown and the people.
"The establishment of a vizier in a despotic state is a fundamental law."
A judicious critic has remarked, that this is as much as to say, that the office of the mayors of the palace was a fundamental office. Constantine was highly despotic, yet had no grand vizier. Louis XIV. was less despotic and had no first minister. The popes are sufficiently despotic, and yet seldom possess them.
"The sale of employments is good in monarchical states, because it makes it the profession of persons of family to undertake employments, which they would not fulfil from disinterested motives alone."
Is it Montesquieu who writes these odious lines? What! because the vices of Francis I. deranged the public finances, must we sell to ignorant young men the right of deciding upon the honour, fortune, and lives of the people? What! is it good, in a monarchy, that the office of magistrate should become a family provision? If this infamy were salutary, some other country would have adopted it as well as France; but there is not another monarchy on earth which has me-. rited the opprobrium. This monstrous anomaly sprang from the prodigality of a ruined and spendthrift monarch, and the vanity of certain citizens whose fathers possessed money; and the wretched abuse has always been weakly attacked, because it was felt that reimbursement would be difficult. It would be a thousand times better, said a great jurisconsult, to sell the treasure of all the convents and the plate of all the churches, than to sell justice. When Francis I. seized the silver grating of St. Martin, he did harm to no one; St. Martin complained not, and parted very easily with his screen; but to sell the place of judge, and at
alone retained, as stand connected with false or illogical consequences.-T.
the same time make the judge swear that he has not bought it, is a base sacrilege.*
Let us complain that Montesquieu has dishonoured his work by such paradoxes—but at the same time let us pardon him. His uncle purchased the office of a provincial president, and bequeathed it to him. Human nature is to be recognised in everything, and there are none of us without weakness.
"Behold how industriously the Muscovite government seeks to emerge from despotism."
Is it in abolishing the patriarchate and the active militia of the strelitzes; in being the absolute master of the troops, of the revenue, and of the church, of which the functionaries are paid from the public treasury alone? or is it proved by making laws to render that power as sacred as it is mighty? It is melancholy, that in so many citations and so many maxims, the contrary of what is asserted should be almost always the truth.+
"The luxury of those who possess the necessaries of life only, will be Zero; the luxury of those who possess as much again, will be equal to one; of those who possess double the means of the latter, three; and so on."
The latter will possess three times the excess beyond the necessaries of life; but it by no means follows that he will possess three times as many luxuries; for he may be thrice as avaricious, or may employ the superfluity in commerce, or in portions to his daughters. These propositions are not affairs of arithmetic, and such calculations are miserable quackery.‡
"The Samnites had a fine custom, which must have produced admirable results. The young man de
And is not the 'noli episcopari' a profanation of the same kind? It would seem as if in some systems of policy falsehood was necessary and not contingent-intentional and added by way of zest.-T.
† Voltaire is clearly right in regard to Russia; and everything which has occurred since he wrote tends to prove it. Instead of emerging from despotism, the existing policy of Russia is to foster despotism throughout the world.-T.
Voltaire seems quite aware of the axiom, that in political arithmetic two and two do not invariably make four,—T,
clared the most worthy, chose a wife where he pleased; he who had the next number of suffrages in his favour followed, and so on throughout."
The author has mistaken the Sunites, a people of Scythia, for the Samnites, in the neighbourhood of Rome. He quotes a fragment of Nicholas de Demas, preserved by Stobæus: but is the said Nicholas a sufficient authority? This fine custom would moreover be very injurious in a well-governed country; for if the judges should be deceived in the young man declared the most worthy; if the female selected should not like him; or if he were objectionable in the eyes of the girl's parents, very fatal results might follow.
"On reading the admirable work of Tacitus on the manners of the Germans, it will be seen that it is from them the English drew the idea of their political government. That admirable system originated in
The houses of peers and of commons, and the English courts of law and equity, found in the woods! Who would have supposed it? Without doubt, the English owe their squadrons and their commerce to the manners of the Germans; and the sermons of Tillotson to those pious German sorcerers who sacrificed their prisoners, and judged of their success in war by the manner in which the blood flowed. We must believe also, that the English are indebted for their fine manufactures to the laudable practice of the Germans who, as Tacitus observes, preferred robbery to toil.
"Aristotle ranked among monarchies the governments both of Persia and of Lacedemon; but who cannot perceive that the one was a despotism, the other a republic?"
Who, on the contrary, cannot perceive, that Lacedemon had a single king for four hundred years, and two kings until the extinction of the Heraclidæ, a period of about a thousand years? We know that no king was despotic of right, not even in Persia; but every bold and dissembling prince who amasses money, becomes despotic in a little time, either in Persia or Lacedemon; and therefore Aristotle distinguishes every state pos
possessing perpetual and hereditary chiefs, from republics.
People of warm climates are timid, like old men ; those of cold countries are courageous, like young' ones."
We should take great care how general propositions escape us. No one has ever been able to make a Laplander or an Esquimaux warlike, while the Arabs in fourscore years conquered a territory which exceeded that of the whole Roman empire. This axiom of M. Montesquieu is equally erroneous with all the rest on the subject of climate.
"Louis XIII. was extremely averse to pass a law which made the negroes of the French colonies slaves; but when he was given to understand that it was the most certain way of converting them, he consented."
Where did the author pick up this anecdote? The first arrangement for the treatment of the negroes was made in 1673, thirty years after the death of Louis XIII. This resembles the refusal of Francis I. to listen to the project of Christopher Columbus, who had discovered the Antilles before he was born.
"The Romans never exhibited any jealousy on the score of commerce. It was as a rival, not as a commercial nation, that they attacked Carthage.'
It was both as a warlike and as a commercial nation, as the learned Huet proves in his "Commerce of the Ancients," when he shows that the Romans were addicted to commerce a long time before the first punic
"The sterility of the territory of Athens established a popular government there, and the fertility of that of Lacedemon an aristocratical one."
Whence this chimera? From enslaved Athens we still derive cotton, silk, rice, corn, oil, and skins; and from the country of Lacedemon nothing. Athens was twenty times richer than Lacedemon. With respect to the comparative fertility of the soil, it is necessary to visit those countries to appreciateit; but the form of a government is never attributed to the greater or less fertility. Venice had very little corn when her no