The Spirit of Laws - Vol. 1

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

BOOK V
THAT THE LAWS GIVEN BY THE LEGISLATOR OUGHT TO BE IN RELATION TO THE PRINCIPLE OF GOVERNMENT

1. -- Idea of this Book

THAT the laws of education should relate to the principle of each government has been shown in the preceding book. Now the same may be said of those which the legislator gives to the whole society. The relation of laws to this principle strengthens the several springs of government; and this principle derives thence, in its turn, a new degree of vigor. And thus it is in mechanics, that action is always followed by reaction.

Our design is, to examine this relation in each government, beginning with the republican state, the principle of which is virtue.


2. -- What is meant by Virtue in a political State

Virtue in a republic is a most simple thing; it is a love of the republic; it is a sensation, and not a consequence of acquired knowledge, a sensation that may be felt by the meanest as Well as by the highest person in the state. When the common people adopt good maxims, they adhere to them more steadily than those whom we call gentlemen. It is very rarely that corruption commences with the former: nay, they frequently derive from their imperfect light a stronger attachment to the established laws and customs.

The love of our country is conducive to a purity of morals, and the latter is again conducive to the former. The less we are able to satisfy our private passions, the more we abandon ourselves to those of a general nature. How comes it that monks are so fond of their order? It is owing to the very

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