It is cus­to­mary in des­po­tic coun­tries never to approach anyone above your­self, even kings, without giving him a pre­sent. The empe­ror of Mogol1 does not receive the peti­tions of his sub­jects unless he has recei­ved some­thing from them. Such prin­ces go so far as to cor­rupt their own cle­mency.

It must be so in a govern­ment where no one is a citi­zen, in a govern­ment where eve­ryone is imbued with the idea that the super­ior owes nothing to the infe­rior, in a govern­ment where men believe them­sel­ves bound only by the punish­ments which some apply to others, in a govern­ment where there is lit­tle busi­ness, and it is rare that anyone needs to appear before one of the greats to make requests of him, and even less com­plaints.

In a repu­blic, pre­sents are some­thing repu­gnant, because vir­tue has no need of them. In a monar­chy, honor is a more power­ful motive than pre­sents. But in the des­po­tic state, where there is nei­ther honor nor vir­tue, one can be moved to action only by expec­ta­tion of the ame­ni­ties of life.

In his thoughts on the repu­blic that Plato2 would have those who receive pre­sents for doing their duty be puni­shed by death. “One should accept none,” he said, “nei­ther for good things, nor for bad.”

It was a bad Roman law3 that allo­wed magis­tra­tes to accept small pre­sents4 pro­vi­ded they not amount to more than one hun­dred crowns in the whole year. Those to whom nothing is given desire nothing ; those to whom a lit­tle is given soon desire a lit­tle more, and then much more. Besides, it is easier to convince the man who is sup­po­sed to take nothing but takes some­thing, than the one who takes more when he should take less, and always finds pre­texts, excu­ses, and plau­si­ble cau­ses for doing

Recueil des voyages qui ont servi à l’établissement de la Compagnie des Indes (vol. I, p. 80).

Book XII of Laws.

Leg. 5, § ad leg. Jul. repet.