The Spirit of Laws - Vol. 1

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

BOOK XVI
HOW THE LAWS OF DOMESTIC SLAVERY BEAR A RELATION TO THE NATURE OF THE CLIMATE

1. -- Of domestic Servitude

SLAVES are established for the family; but they are not a part of it. Thus I distinguish their servitude from that which the women in some countries suffer, and which I shall properly call domestic servitude.


2. -- That in the Countries of the South there is a natural Inequality between the two Sexes

Women, in hot climates, are marriageable at eight, nine, or ten years of age:a thus, in those countries, infancy and marriage generally go together. They are old at twenty: their reason, therefore, never accompanies their beauty. When beauty demands the empire, the want of reason forbids the claim; when reason is obtained, beauty is no more. These women ought then to be in a state of dependence; for reason cannot procure in old age that empire which even youth and beauty could not give. It is, therefore, extremely natural that in these places a man, when no law opposes it, should leave one wife to take another, and that polygamy should be introduced.

In temperate climates, where the charms of women are best preserved, where they arrive later at maturity, and have children at a more advanced season of life, the old age of their husbands in some degree follows theirs; and as they have more reason and knowledge at the time of marriage, if it be only on account of their having continued longer in life, it must natu-

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a
" Mahomet married Cadhisja at five, and took her to his bed at eight years old. In the hot countries of Arabia and the Indies, girls are marriageable at eight years of age, and are brought to bed the year after." -- Prideaux, "Life of Mahomet." We see women in the kingdom of Algiers pregnant at nine, ten, and eleven years of age. "Hist. of the Kingdom of Algiers", by Logiers de Tassis , p. 61.

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