II.5 On laws relative to the nature of the despotic state

It results from the nature of des­po­tic power that the man who alone wields it like­wise has it wiel­ded by one man alone. A man whose five sen­ses cons­tantly tell him that he is eve­ry­thing and others are nothing is natu­rally lethar­gic, igno­rant, and sen­sual. So he aban­dons admi­nis­tra­tion. But if he entrus­ted it to seve­ral men, there would be dis­pu­tes among them ; they would plot to be first among the sla­ves ; the prince would be obli­ged to resume his mana­ge­ment. It is the­re­fore sim­pler to aban­don it to a vizier1 who will from the start have the same autho­rity as he. In this state, the esta­blish­ment of a vizier is a fun­da­men­tal law.

It is said that a pope upon his elec­tion, convin­ced of his own ina­de­quacy, was at first extre­mely reluc­tant. He finally accep­ted, and pla­ced all the busi­ness in the hands of his nephew. He was admi­ring of him, saying : “I would never have belie­ved it could be so easy.” So it is with Eastern prin­ces. When they are taken from the pri­son where the eunuchs have wea­ke­ned their heart and mind and often left them in igno­rance even of their own situa­tion, to place them on the throne, they are at first taken aback ; but once they have named a vizier, and have deli­ve­red them­sel­ves in their sera­glio to the most bru­tish pas­sions ; when in the midst of a demo­ra­li­zed court they have fol­lo­wed their most foo­lish whim­sies, they would never have belie­ved it could be so easy.

The more the empire is exten­ded, the more the sera­glio grows, and conse­quently the more besot­ted is the prince with plea­su­res. Thus, in these sta­tes, the more peo­ples the prince has to govern, the less he thinks about govern­ment ; the grea­ter the mat­ters to be deci­ded, the less they are pon­de­red.

The kings of the Orient always have viziers, according to Mr. Chardin [VI, 92].