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It should be premised, moreover, that the scope of Montesquieu's work is, as declared by himself, to describe the spirit of existing laws. Taking the world as it had previously been, and as it then was, he traces the relations between the laws of different countries and the circumstances of those countries.(18) The propositions which he lays down, therefore, do not represent an ideal of his own—they are, in his view, a concentrated extract of the legislative experience of mankind.
In characterizing republics, he says that appointment by lot is of the nature of democracy-election by votes is of the nature of aristocracy.(*) He lays it down that the best aristocracy is that in which the part of the people which has no share in the governing power is so small and poor, that the dominant part has no interest in oppressing it.(0) He considers a monarchy as characterized by the powers intermediate between the prince and the people. The fundamental maxim of a monarchy is—No monarch, no nobility; no nobility, no monarch.' Without a nobility, the monarch becomes a despot. The power of the clergy, though dangerous in a republic, is wholesome in a monarchy, especially in one which verges to despotism.() It is essential to despotism, he thinks, that the despot should be lazy, ignorant, and voluptuous, and that he should, in practice, delegate all the powers of government to a single minister, who becomes like an Oriental vizier. (2)
(78) See i. 3.
This seems to be his meaning, though he says : Le suffrage par le sort est de la nature de la democratie.' Appointment by lot evidently excludes voting; This distinction between aristocracies and democracies seems to be borrowed from Aristotle's Politics. It has little reference to modern, or even to mediæval institutions.-See Pol. iv. 15.
(80) i. 3.
· Abolissez dans une monarchie les prérogatives des seigneurs, du clergé, de la noblesse et des villes, vous aurez bientôt un état populaire, ou bien un état despotique.' From the reference made to the example of England, he seems here to treat England as an 'état populaire,' and not as a monarchy. Elsewhere, however, he makes an “etat popu. laire' synonymous with democracy.-See ii. 3, 4. In v. 19, England is referred to as a country 'où la république se cache sous la forme de la monarchie.'
(82) ii. 5. It is difficult to know to which head of Montesquieu's division the government of Rome under Augustus, of England under Crom
He next proceeds to describe the principles of the several forms of government. The principle of a government is its motive power—the human passions which set it in action. A monarchy and a despotism (he says) may be maintained without a great amount of honesty. The power of the law in the former, the prince's arm in the latter, preserve order. But in a democracy another engine of government is necessary : viz., virtue. (83) In an aristocracy, virtue is less necessary. The people are kept down by the laws, but it is difficult to compel submission among the nobles themselves, who form a body of equals. Hence, a spirit of moderation, founded on virtue, is the principle of an aristocracy. (84) In monarchies, virtue is banished by the influence of courtiers, in whose character the bad part of human nature predominates :(86) its place is supplied by honour, which aims at preferences and distinctions.(86) Ambition is pernicious in a republic, but is beneficial in a monarchy.(In a despotism, virtue is unnecessary, and honour would be dangerousfear is the principle of this form of government.(18) despotism, the action of the governing power is more direct and resistless than in a monarchy; there are fewer compromises and remonstrances; but in both, the nature of the power wielded by the one ruler is the same. The only difference is, that in a monarchy the prince is more enlightened, and the ministers
well, and of France under Napoleon, ought to be referred. (He considers the government of Domitian as a despotism, on account of its military character.-iii
. 9.) If these governments were despotisms, the character which he assigns to the despot is wholly inapplicable to them. Even those Oriental despots who founded dynasties, such as Cyrus, do not correspond with his description. In truth, the distinction which Montesquieu makes between monarchies and despotisms is one which it is nearly impossible to draw. Every government
is, to a great extent, administered according to law. A despot may set aside the law when he thinks fit; but in ninetynine cases out of a hundred, he does not think fit. If we confine our. selves to a single act of a government, we can say whether it is in accordance with law or not; but it is impossible to say generally, that a government is not administered according to law. There may be a habit of disregarding the law when it suits the wishes or supposed interest of the government. (83) iii. 3.
(84) ii. 4. (85) iii. 5.
(86) ii. 6. (87) iii. 7.
(88) iii. 9.
more able, than in a despotism.(69) Such, he adds, are the principles of the three governments ; but he does not expect to find them in every case.
There may be a republic without virtue, a monarchy without honour, and a despotism without fear; but without its proper principle, each government would be imperfect.(90)
He next proceeds to apply these distinctions. The laws of education, he says, have a different object in each of the three forms of government. In monarchies, it is honour; in republics, virtue; in a despotism, fear.(") In monarchies, honour, which permits gallantry, is the standard of manners, and, hence, private morality is never so pure in monarchies as in republics. (2) In monarchies, education strives to elevate the feelings—in despotisms, to depress them and make men servile. In a despotism, every house is a separate empire, and education is limited to inculcating fear, and teaching the elements of religion.(93) Education is most important in republics. In these, it teaches patriotism and attachment to the law. These feelings are particularly manifested in democracies.(4)
The next subject is the relation of the laws to each form of government.(95) Virtue, in a republic, means the love of the republic ;() in a democracy, the love of the republic is a love of the democracy, and a love of a democracy is a love of equality and frugality. The love of equality in a democracy limits each man's ambition to the desire of rendering greater services to his country than the other citizens; while the love of frugality limits the desire of wealth to an endeavour to obtain necessaries for one's self, and superfluities for the state.(**) In monarchies and despotisms no one aims at equality or frugality. In a democracy, these ends ought, as far as possible, to be attained by an equal division of the land into small lots.
In a commercial democracy, however, there may be persons of great wealth, without corruption of manners; the reason is, that the spirit of commerce produces frugality, economy, industry, moderation, wisdom, and order.(98) In an aristocracy, the spirit of moderation takes the place of the spirit of equality in a democracy. Modesty and simplicity of manners form the strength of aristocratic nobles. The two chief sources of disturbances in aristocratic states are extreme inequality between those who govern and those who are governed, and the same inequality between different members of the governing body.
An aristocracy in which the nobles divide among themselves taxes levied upon the people, is the most harsh of all governments. Distributions made among the people are pernicious in a democracy, but beneficial in an aristocracy. In an aristocracy, the nobles ought to be prohibited from engaging in trade—for trade is the profession of men who are equal.(") Honour being the principle of a monarchy, the laws ought to be so framed as to maintain the hereditary importance of the nobles. (100) Monarchical government has a great advantage over republican government in this respect, that its affairs being managed by one person, there is greater rapidity in the execution. It has likewise a great advantage over a despotic government, because, in a monarchy, the orders intermediate between the prince and the people give greater solidity to the constitution and security to the subject.(101) In a despotism, whose principle is fear, the laws are few and simple: the despot himself rarely makes war in person, and is afraid of trusting its management to his
(98) v. 4-7.
(100) v. 9. (101) v. 10, 11. In the time of Montesquieu, the solidity of the French monarchy was still undoubted. The Esprit des Lois was published just fifty-one years before the breaking out
of the French revolution. Niebuhr remarks, that . Montesquieu lived at a time when men had grown weary of repose, and not having known a revolution for many generations, longed for one to season the insipidity of life.'— History of Rome, vol. ii. p. 131, Eng. tr. In the time of Montesquieu, the French monarchy was believed, both by natives and foreigners, to rest on an immovable basis ; nobody feared a revolution, but, on the other hand, it can hardly be said with truth that a revolution was generally desired.
lieutenants.(107) In a despotism, all that is required is to reconcile the political and civil government with the domestic government—the officers of the state with those of the seraglio. Religiou has more influence in a despotism than in any other stateit is one fear added to another.(103)
Presents to rulers are odious in a republic, because virtue does not require them. In a monarchy, honour is a motive more powerful than presents; but in a despotic state it is customary to give presents, because, where there is neither honour nor virtue, a ruler can only be influenced by wealth.(104) In a despotic government, the prince rewards only by gifts of money. In a monarchy, the rewards are distinctions, and also honours, which lead to fortune. In a republic, the state rewards only by testimonials of virtue.(105) Offices ought to be saleable in a monarchy, but not in a despotism. (106)
Severity of punishment suits a despotic government, whose principle is fear, better than a monarchy and a republic, which depend on honour and virtue. (107) Clemency is the distinctive quality of monarchs. In republics, it is less necessary. despotic state, it is less used, because the grandees must be restrained by examples of severity. (109) In republics, private crimes are more public—that is, they affect the constitution more than individuals. In monarchies, public crimes are more private—that is, they affect the fortunes of individuals more than the constitution. (109) Satirical writings are hardly known in despotic states. In a democracy they are permitted: in a monarchy they are prohibited, but not by severe penalties. An aristocracy is the government which proscribes them with the greatest severity.(')
(102) This seems one of the most singular of Montesquieu's generalizations, and most manifestly repugnant to experience. It is not even true of the Oriental despots, whom he had principally in his mind. (103) v. 14.
(104) v. 17. (105) v. 18.
(106) v. 19. (107) vi. 9.
(108) vi. 21. (109) iii. 5.
(10) xü. 13.