The Spirit of Laws - Vol. 1

By Charles de Secondat Montesquieu; Thomas Nugent | Go to book overview

BOOK IX
OF LAWS IN THE RELATION THEY BEAR TO A DEFENSIVE FORCE

1. -- In what Manner Republics provide for their Safety

IF a republic be small, it is destroyed by a foreign force; if it be large, it is ruined by an internal imperfection.

To this twofold inconvenience democracies and aristocracies are equally liable, whether they be good or bad. The evil is in the very thing itself, and no form can redress it.

It is, therefore, very probable that mankind would have been, at length, obliged to live constantly under the government of a single person, had they not contrived a kind of constitution that has all the internal advantages of a republican, together with the external force of a monarchical, government. I mean a confederate republic.

This form of government is a convention by which several petty states agree to become members of a larger one, which they intend to establish. It is a kind of assemblage of societies, that constitute a new one, capable of increasing by means of further associations, till they arrive at such a degree of power as to be able to provide for the security of the whole body.

It was these associations that so long contributed to the prosperity of Greece. By these the Romans attacked the whole globe, and by these alone the whole globe withstood them; for when Rome had arrived at her highest pitch of grandeur, it was the associations beyond the Danube and the Rhine -- associations formed by the terror of her arms -- that enabled the barbarians to resist her.

Hence it proceeds that Holland,a Germany, and the Swiss cantons are considered in Europe as perpetual republics.

____________________
a
It is composed of about fifty different republics, all different from one another. -- "State of the United Provinces," by M. Janisson. Voltaire notes upon this remark that Montesquieu has taken each of the independent cities as a republic. -- Ed.

-126-

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