III.1 The difference between the nature of the government and its principle

After exa­mi­ning which laws are rela­ted to the nature of each govern­ment, we must see which ones are rela­ted to its prin­ci­ple.

The dif­fe­rence1 bet­ween the nature of the govern­ment and its prin­ci­ple is that its nature is what makes it what it is, and its prin­ci­ple is what makes it work. One is its par­ti­cu­lar struc­ture, and the other the human pas­sions that put it in motion.

Now laws should be not less rela­ted to the prin­ci­ple of each govern­ment than to its nature. We must the­re­fore try to iden­tify that prin­ci­ple. That is what I am set­ting about to do in this book.

This distinction is very important, and I shall draw many consequences from it ; it is the key to innumerable laws.