The Spirit of the Laws

By Baron De Montesquiteu; Frederic R. Coudert et al. | Go to book overview

BOOK XIX
OF LAWS IN RELATION TO THE PRINCIPLES WHICH FORM THE GENERAL SPIRIT, THE MORALS, AND CUSTOMS OF A NATION

1.--Of the Subject of this Book

THIS subject is very extensive. In that crowd of ideas which presents itself to my mind, I shall be more attentive to the order of things than to the things themselves. I shall be obliged to wander to the right and to the left, that I may investigate and discover the truth.


2.--That it is necessary People's Minds should be prepared for the Reception of the best Laws

Nothing could appear more insupportable to the Germans than the tribunal of Varus.a That which Justinianb erected amongst the Lazi, to proceed against the murderers of their king, appeared to them as an affair most horrid and barbarous. Mithridates,c haranguing against the Romans, reproached them more particularly for their law proceedings.d The Parthians could not bear with one of their kings who, having been educated at Rome, rendered himself affable and easy of access to all.e Liberty itself has appeared intolerable to those nations who have not been accustomed to enjoy it. Thus pure air is sometimes disagreeable to such as have lived in a fenny country.

Balbi, a Venetian, being at Pegu, was introduced to the king.f When the monarch was informed that they had no king

____________________
a
They cut out the tongues of the advocates, and cried, "Viper, don't hiss," --Tacitus.
b
Agathias, lib. IV.
c
Justin, lib. XXXVIII.
d
"Calumnias litium."--Justin, lib. XXXVIII.
e
"Prompti aditus, nova comitas, ignotæ Parthis virtutes, nova vitia."-- Tacitus.
f
He has described this interview, which happened in 1596, in the " Col­lection of Voyages for the establishment of an India Company," vol. iii. part I. p. 33.

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