The Spirit of Laws - Vol. 1

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

BOOK XXI

----- Docuit quœ maximus Atlas. -- VIRGIL, Æneid.



OF LAWS IN RELATION TO COMMERCE, CONSIDERED IN THE REVOLUTIONS IT HAS MET WITH IN THE WORLD

1. -- Some general Considerations

THOUGH commerce be subject to great revolutions, yet it is possible that certain physical causes, as the quality of the soil, or the climate, may fix its nature forever.

We at present carry on the trade of the Indies merely by means of the silver which we send thither. The Romans carried annually thither about fifty millions of sesterces;a and this silver, as ours is at present, was exchanged for merchandise, which was brought to the West. Every nation that ever traded to the Indies has constantly carried bullion and brought merchandise in return.b

It is nature itself that produces this effect. The Indian have their hearts adapted to their manner of living. Our luxury cannot be theirs; nor theirs our wants. Their climate demands and permits hardly anything which comes from ours. They go in a great measure naked; such clothes as they have the country itself furnishes; and their religion, which is deeply rooted, gives them an aversion for those things that serve for our nourishment. They want, therefore, nothing but our bullion to serve as the medium of value; and for this they give us merchandise in return, with which the frugality of the people and the nature of the country furnish them in great abundance. Those ancient authors who have mentioned the Indies describe them just as we now find them, as to their policy, customs, and manners.c The Indies have ever been the same Indies they

____________________
a
Pliny, lib. VI. cap. xxiii.
b
See Pausanias, Laconia, sine III. cap. xii.
c
See Pliny, book VI. chap. xix., and Strabo, book XV.

-331-

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