Montesquieu

Monarchical govern­ment has a great advan­tage over des­po­tic govern­ment. Since it is in its nature for there to be seve­ral orders under the prince which hold to the cons­ti­tu­tion, the state is more set­tled, the cons­ti­tu­tion more unsha­ka­ble, and the per­son of those who govern more secure.

Cicero belie­ves that the esta­blish­ment of the tri­bu­nes in Rome was the sal­va­tion of the repu­blic. Indeed, he says, “the strength of the peo­ple which has no lea­der is more ter­ri­fying. A lea­der can tell that the mat­ter turns on him, and thinks about it ; but the peo­ple in its impe­tuo­sity does not know the peril into which it leaps.”1 This remark can be applied to a des­po­tic state, which is a peo­ple without tri­bu­nes ; and to a monar­chy, where the peo­ple have tri­bu­nes of a sort.

Indeed we see eve­ryw­here that, in the move­ments of the des­po­tic govern­ment, the peo­ple led by itself always car­ries things as far as they can go. All the disor­ders it com­mits are extreme, whe­reas in monar­chies things are very rarely car­ried to excess. The lea­ders fear for them­sel­ves ; they fear being aban­do­ned ; the depen­dent inter­me­diary autho­ri­ties2 do not want the peo­ple to get too much the upper hand. It is rare for the orders of the state to be enti­rely cor­rup­ted. The prince values these orders, and sedi­tious per­sons who have nei­ther the will nor the hope of over­tur­ning the state nei­ther can nor wish to over­turn the prince.

In these cir­cum­stan­ces, peo­ple who have some wis­dom and autho­rity inter­vene ; they make com­pro­mi­ses and agree­ments, and mend their ways ; the laws regain their vigor and make them­sel­ves heard.

And so it is that all our his­to­ries are full of civil wars without revo­lu­tions ; the his­to­ries of des­po­tic sta­tes are full of revo­lu­tions without civil wars.

Those who have writ­ten the his­tory of the civil wars of some sta­tes, the very ones which have fomen­ted them, prove suf­fi­ciently that prin­ces should not be wary of the autho­rity they leave to cer­tain orders for their ser­vice, since even in their agi­ta­tion they were only year­ning for the laws and for their duty, and res­trai­ning the fire and impe­tuo­sity of the sedi­tious more than they could serve it.3

Cardinal de Richelieu, thin­king per­haps that he had demea­ned the orders of the state too much, to sup­port it has recourse, to the vir­tues of the prince and minis­ters4 ; and he requi­res so many things that in truth only an angel could have so much atten­tion, insight, firm­ness, and know­ledge ; and we can scar­cely flat­ter our­sel­ves that from now to the dis­so­lu­tion of monar­chies there could be a com­pa­ra­ble prince and com­pa­ra­ble minis­ters.

As the peo­ples who live under a good poli­ti­cal order are bet­ter off than those who wan­der with no rule or lea­ders in the forests, so too are monarchs who live under the fun­da­men­tal laws of their state bet­ter off than des­po­tic prin­ces, who have nothing to control the hearts of their peo­ple or their own.

Book III of Laws.

See above the first note of Book II, ch. iv.

Memoirs of the Cardinal de Retz and other histories.

Political Testament.