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which he fixes, and which he distinguishes accurately from that excess so justly condemned as usury.

Population and the number of inhabitants have an immediate connexion with commerce; and marriages, having population as their object, under this article M. de Montesquieu goes to the bottom of this important subject. That which favours propagation most is general chastity: experience proves, that illicit amours contribute very little, and even sometimes are prejudicial to it. The consent of fathers has with justice been required in marriages : nevertheless some restrictions ought to be added, for the law ought in general to favour marriage. That law which forbids the marriage of mothers with their sons, is, independently of the precepts of religion, a very good civil law; for, without mentioning several other reasons, the parties being of very different ages, these sort of marriages can rarely have propagation as their object. That law which forbids the marriage of a father with a daughter is founded upon very different reasons. However (only speaking in a political sense), it is not so indispensably necessary to the object of population as the other, because the power of propagating continucs much longer in men ; and the other custom has, besides, been established among certain nations which the light of christianity had not enlightened. As nature of herself prompts to marriage, that must be a bad government which is obliged to encourage it. Liberty, security, moderate taxes, banishing of luxury, are the true principles and supports of populousness. However, laws may, with success, be made to encourage marriage, when, in spite of corruption, there is still something remaining in the people which attaches them to the love of their country. Nothing is finer than the laws of Augustus, to promote the propagation of the species. Unfortunately he made those laws in the decline, or rather after the downfall of the republic; and the dispirited citizens must have foreseen, that they would no longer propagate any thing but slaves : and, indeed, the execution of those laws was very faint during all the time of the Pagan Emperors. At last Constantine abolished them when he became a Christian; as if christianity had had in view to dispeople the world when it recommended the perfection of celibacy to a small number.

The establishment of hospitals, according to the different spirit of these foundations, may be hurtful or favourable to population. There may, and indeed there ought to be hospitals in a state where the most part of the citizens are maintained by their industry; because this industry may sometimes be unsuccessful; but that relief which those hospitals give, ought to be only temporary, not to encourage beggary and idleness. The people are first to be made rich, and then hospitals to be built for unforeseen and pressing occasions. Unhappy are those countries where the multitude of hospitals and of monasteries, which are only a kind of perpetual hospitals, makes all the world live at ease but those who work !

M. de Montesquieu has hitherto only spoken of human laws; he now proceeds to those of religion, which, in almost all states, compose so essential an object of government. Every where he breaks forth into praises of christianity; he points out its advantages and its grandeur; he endeavours to make it beloved; he maintains that it is not impossible, as Bayle has pretended, that a society of perfect christians should actually form a durable state. But he also thought that he might be permitted to examine what different religions, humanly speaking, might have, suitable or unsuitable to the genius and situation of those people which profess them. It is in this point of view that we must read all that he has wrote upon this article, and which has been the subject of so many unjust declamations. It is especially surprising that, in an age which presumes to call so many ochers barbarous, what he has said of toleration should be objected to him as a crime; as if approving and tolerating a religion were the same; as if the gospel itself did not forbid every other way of propagating it, but that of meekness and persuasion. Those in whose heart superstition has not extinguished every sentiment of compassion and justice, will not be able to read, without being moved, the Remonstrance to the Inquisitors, that, odious tribunal, which outrageously affronts religion when it appears to avenge it.

In a word, after having treated in particular of the different kinds of laws which men can have, there remains nothing more than to compare them all together, and to examine them in their relation with those things concerning which they prescribe rules.

Men are governed by different kinds of laws; hy natural law, common to each individual; by the divine law, which is that of religion ; by the ecclesiastical law, which is that of the policy of religion ; by the civil law, which is that of the members of the same society; by the political law, which is that of the government of that society; by the law of nations,

which is that of societies with respect to each other. These laws have each their distinct objects, which are carefully not to be confounded. That which belongs to the one ought never to be regulated by the other, lest disorder and injustice should be introduced into the principles which govern men. In a word, those principles which prescribe the nature of the laws, and which determine their objects, ought to prevail also in the manner of composing them. A spirit of moderation ought, as much as possible, to dictate all their different dispositions. Laws that are properly made will be conformed to the intention of the legislator, even when they appear to be in opposition to it. Such was the famous law of Solon, by which all who should not take some part in the public tumults were declared infamous. It prevented seditions, or rendered them useful by forcing all the members of the republic to attend to its true interests. Even the ostracism was a good law; for, on one hand it was honourable to the citizen who was the object of it, and prevented on the other, the effects of ambition: besides, a great number of suffrages was necessary, and they could only banish every fifth year. Laws which appear the same, have often neither the same motive, nor the same effect, nor the same equity. The form of government, different conjunctures, and the genius of the people, quite change them. In a word, the style of laws ought to be simple and grave. They may dispense with giving reasons, because the reason is supposed to exist in the mind of the legislator; but when they give reasons, they ought to be built upon evident principles: they ought not to resemble that law which, prohibiting blind people to plead, gives this as a reason-because they cannot see the ornaments of magistracy.

M. de Montesquieu, to point out by examples the application of his principles, has chosen two different people, the most celebrated in the world, and those whose history most interests us; the Romans and the French. He does not dwell but upon one point of the jurisprudence of the first, that which regards succession. With regard to the French, he enters into a greater detail concerning the origin and revolutions of their civil laws, and the different usages abolished or still subsisting, which have been the consequences of them. He principally enlarges upon the feudal laws, that kind of government unknown to all antiquity, which will perhaps for ever be so to future ages, and which has done so much good and so much ill. He especially considers these laws in the relation which they have with the establishment and revolution of the French monarchy. He proves, against the Abbé du Bos, that the Franks actually entered as conquerors among the Gauls; and that it is not true, as this author pretends, that they had been called by the people to succeed to the rights of the Roman Emperors who oppressed them: a detail profound, exact and curious, but in which it is impossible for us to follow him.

Such is the general analysis, but a very imperfect one, of M. de Montesquieu's work, on the Spirit of Laws.




JE ne puis m'empecher, Monsieur, de vous faire mes remerciments. Je vous les avois déjà faits, parceque vous m'aviez traduit ; je vous les fais à present, parceque vous m'aviez si bien traduit. Votre traduction n'a de defauts que ceux de l'original, et ces defauts sont à moy; et je dois vous être bien obligé de ce que vous empechez si bien de les voir. Il semble que vous ayes roulu traduire aussi mon stile, et vous y avez mis cette resemblance, qualem decet esse sororum. Quand vous verrez Monsieur Domville, je vous prie de vouloir bien lui faire mes compliments. J'ai l'honneur d'être, Monsieur, avec une parfaite reconnoissance,


Votre tres humble,
Et tres obeissant serviteur,

A Paris, ce 18 Octobre, 1750.



I CANNOT help returning you thanks; indeed I had already thanked you for rendering my work into English; but now I thank you once more for having done it so well. Your translation has no blemishes but those of the original, which are to be charged to my account; and I am much obliged to you for your ability in concealing them from the public eye. It would seem that you intended also to translate my stile'; for there is exactly that resemblance, qualem decet esse sororum. When you see Mr. Domville, I beg you will pay my compliments to him. I have the honour of being, with the most grateful acknowledgment,

Your most humble and

Obedient Servant,


Paris, the 18th of Oct. 1750.

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