The Spirit of Laws - Vol. 1

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

BOOK XX
OF LAWS IN RELATION TO COMMERCE CONSIDERED IN ITS NATURE AND DISTINCTIONS

I. -- Of Commerce

THE following subjects deserve to be treated in a more extensive manner than the nature of this work will permit.a Fain would I glide down a gentle river, but I am carried away by a torrent.

Commerce is a cure for the most destructive prejudices; for it is almost a general rule, that wherever we find agreeable manners, there commerce flourishes; and that wherever there is commerce, there we meet with agreeable manners.

Let us not be astonished, then, if our manners are now less savage than formerly. Commerce has everywhere diffused a knowledge of the manners of all nations: these are compared one with another, and from this comparison arise the greatest advantages.

Commercial laws, it may be said, improve manners for the same reason that they destroy them. They corrupt the purest morals.b This was the subject of Plato's complaints; and we every day see that they polish and refine the most barbarous.


2. -- Of the Spirit of Commerce

Peace is the natural effect of trade. Two nations who traffic with each other become reciprocally dependent; for if one has an interest in buying, the other has an interest in selling; and thus their union is founded on their mutual necessities.

But if the spirit of commerce unites nations, it does not in

____________________
a
This book was the beginning of the second part of "The Spirit of Laws" in all the editions published during the life of the author. -- Ed.
b
Cæsar said of the Gauls that they were spoiled by the neighborhood and commerce of Marseilles; insomuch that they who formerly always conquered the Germans had now become inferior to them. -- "War of the Gauls," lib. VI.

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