The Spirit of Laws - Vol. 1

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

BOOK IV
THAT THE LAWS OF EDUCATION OUGHT TO BE IN RELATION TO THE PRINCIPLES OF GOVERNMENT

1. -- Of the Laws of Education

THE laws of education are the first impressions we receive; and as they prepare us for civil life, every private family ought to be governed by the plan of that great household which comprehends them all.

If the people in general have a principle, their constituent parts, that is, the several families, will have one also. The laws of education will be therefore different in each species of government: in monarchies they will have honor for their object; in republics, virtue; in despotic governments, fear.


2. -- Of Education in Monarchies

In monarchies the principal branch of education is not taught in colleges or academies. It commences, in some measure, at our setting out in the world; for this is the school of what we call honor, that universal preceptor which ought everywhere to be our guide.

Here it is that we constantly bear three rules or maxims, viz., that we should have a certain nobleness in our virtues, a kind of frankness in our morals, and a particular politeness in our behavior.

The virtues we are here taught are less what we owe to others than to ourselves; they are not so much what draws us towards society, as what distinguishes us from our fellow-citizens.

Here the actions of men are judged, not as virtuous, but as shining; not as just, but as great; not as reasonable, but as extraordinary.

-29-

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