Montesquieu

In warm cli­ma­tes, where des­po­tism ordi­na­rily rei­gns, pas­sions are more promptly felt, and more promptly assua­ged1 ; the mind is more advan­ced ; the perils of the dis­si­pa­tion of assets are less great ; one can less rea­dily dis­tin­guish one­self, there is less inter­course among the young peo­ple kept inside the house ; one mar­ries ear­lier, and can the­re­fore enter majo­rity ear­lier than in our European cli­ma­tes. In Turkey, majo­rity begins at fif­teen.2

Cession of assets can­not obtain there ; in a govern­ment where no one’s for­tune is assu­red, one lends rather to the per­son than to assets. It enters natu­rally into mode­rate govern­ments,3 and espe­cially into repu­blics, because of the grea­ter confi­dence one must have in the pro­bity of the citi­zens, and the well-being which a form of govern­ment which eve­ryone seems to have cho­sen for him­self must ins­pire.

If in the Roman repu­blic legis­la­tors had esta­bli­shed the ces­sion of goods,4 they would not have fal­len into so many sedi­tions and civil dis­cords, and would not have suf­fe­red the dan­gers of the damage nor the perils of the repa­ra­tions.

Poverty and the uncer­tainty of for­tu­nes in des­po­tic sta­tes natu­ra­lize usury, each state rai­sing the cost of its money in pro­por­tion to the risk of len­ding it. Misery the­re­fore comes from all sides in those unhappy coun­tries ; one is depri­ved of eve­ry­thing, even the resource of bor­ro­wing.

Because of this, there is no way for a mer­chant to conduct much busi­ness ; he lives from one day to the next. If he took on too much mer­chan­dise, he would lose more from the inte­rest he paid to pur­chase it than he would earn on the mer­chan­dise. Thus, laws on com­merce have no place ; they come down to sim­ple poli­ti­cal order.

There is no way the govern­ment can be unjust without having hands to carry out its injus­ti­ces ; but it is impos­si­ble for those hands not to work for them­sel­ves. Embezzlement is the­re­fore natu­ral in des­po­tic sta­tes.

This crime being the usual one, confis­ca­tions are use­ful. That is how the peo­ple are conso­led ; the money deri­ved from it is a consi­de­ra­ble tri­bute which the prince would have dif­fi­culty levying on rui­ned sub­jects : in that coun­try there is not even any family one wants to pre­serve.

In mode­rate sta­tes it is com­ple­tely dif­fe­rent. Confiscations would make pos­ses­sion of pro­perty uncer­tain ; they would des­poil inno­cent chil­dren, they would des­troy a family when the only pur­pose was to punish an offen­der. They would harm repu­blics by taking away the equa­lity which is their soul, by depri­ving a citi­zen of his phy­si­cal neces­si­ties.5

One Roman law6 would spe­cify confis­ca­tion only in the case of lese-majesty against the king him­self. It would often be very wise to fol­low the spi­rit of that law, and limit confis­ca­tions to cer­tain cri­mes. In coun­tries where a local cus­tom has dis­po­sed of inhe­ri­ted pro­per­ties, Bodin7 quite rightly says that only acqui­red pro­perty should be confis­ca­ted.

See the book [XIV] on the laws in their relation to the nature of the climate.

Laguilletière, Lacedæmon Ancient and Modern, p. 463.

The same is true of temporization of good-faith bankruptcies.

It was not established until the Julian law De cessione bonorum [‘on the cession of goods’] ; prison was avoided, and the ignominious splitting up of property.

It seems to me they were too fond of confiscations in the republic of Athens.

’Authentica’ ?, « De bona damnatorum » (Code De bonis damnatorum).

Book V, ch. iii.