Montesquieu
 

V.19 Other consequences of the principles of the three governments

I can­not resist, before conclu­ding this book, making a few more appli­ca­tions of my three prin­ci­ples.

FIRST QUESTION. There is a ques­tion whe­ther the laws should force a citi­zen to accept public func­tions. I say they should in a repu­bli­can, and not in a monar­chi­cal, govern­ment. In the for­mer, magis­tra­cies are tes­ti­mony to vir­tue, trusts which the coun­try dele­ga­tes to a citi­zen, who should live, act and think only for the repu­blic ; hence he can­not refuse them.1 In the lat­ter, magis­tra­cies are tes­ti­mony to honor ; but such is the oddity of honor that can choose to accept none except when it wishes, and in the man­ner it wishes.

The late king of Sardinia2 would puni­shed those who refu­sed the digni­ties and func­tions of his state ; he was, unbek­nownst to him, fol­lo­wing repu­bli­can ideas. His man­ner of gover­ning, moreo­ver, suf­fi­ciently pro­ves that that was not his inten­tion.

SECOND QUESTION. Is it a good maxim that a citi­zen can be obli­ged to accept in the army a posi­tion lower than one he has occu­pied ? Among the Romans, a cap­tain often ser­ved the fol­lo­wing year under his lieu­te­nant.3 That is because in repu­blics vir­tue requi­res a conti­nual sacri­fice of one­self and of one’s aver­sions to the state. But in monar­chies, honor true or false can­not bear what it calls the lowe­ring of one­self.

In des­po­tic govern­ments, where honor, posi­tions, and ranks are equally abu­sed, it is indif­fe­rent to make of a prince a churl, or of a churl a prince.

THIRD QUESTION. Shall civi­lian and mili­tary func­tions be pla­ced on the same head ? They must be com­bi­ned in the repu­blic, and sepa­ra­ted in the monar­chy. In repu­blics it would be quite dan­ge­rous to make the pro­fes­sion of arms into a par­ti­cu­lar estate, dis­tin­gui­shed from that which holds civi­lian func­tions ; and in monar­chies there would be no less peril in assi­gning the two func­tions to the same per­son.

In the repu­blic you take up arms only as defen­der of the laws and the home­land ; it is because you are a citi­zen that you become a sol­dier for a time. If there were two dis­tinct esta­tes, you would make the man who thinks of him­self as a citi­zen under arms aware that he is merely a sol­dier.

In monar­chies, men of war have no objec­tive besi­des glory, or at least honor or for­tune. Care must be taken not to give civi­lian func­tions to such men ; they must on the contrary be contai­ned by the civi­lian magis­tra­tes, and the same men must not have at the same time the confi­dence of the peo­ple and the force with which to abuse it.4

Observe, in a nation where the repu­blic hides under the form of monar­chy, how much they fear a par­ti­cu­lar estate of men of war, and how the war­rior remains still a citi­zen, or even a magis­trate, so these func­tions will be a token for the coun­try, and that one never for­get it.

That divi­sion of magis­tra­cies made by the Romans into civi­lian and mili­tary after the loss of the repu­blic was not some­thing arbi­trary. It was a conse­quence of the change in the cons­ti­tu­tion of Rome ; it was in the nature of the monar­chi­cal govern­ment ; and what was begun under Augustus5 to tem­per the mili­tary govern­ment, the empe­rors fol­lo­wing6 were requi­red to com­plete.

Thus Procopius, a rival of Valens for the empire, was obli­vious to this when, giving to Hormisdas, prince of the royal blood of Persia, the dignity of pro­consul,7 he tur­ned over to that magis­tracy the com­mand of the armies it used to have, unless he had rea­sons of his own. A man who aspi­res to sove­rei­gnty is loo­king less for what is use­ful to the state than what is use­ful to his cause.

FOURTH QUESTION. Is it a good thing for posi­tions to be venal ? This they must not be in des­po­tic sta­tes, where sub­jects must be pla­ced or remo­ved in a moment by the prince.

Venality is good in monar­chi­cal sta­tes because it cau­ses some­thing which a per­son would not wish to under­take for vir­tue to be exer­ci­sed as a family pro­fes­sion ; because it des­ti­nes each per­son for his duty, and makes the orders of the state more per­ma­nent. Suidas8 sta­tes quite rightly that Anastasios, by sel­ling all the magis­tra­cies, had made the empire into a sort of aris­to­cracy.

Plato9 can­not abide this vena­lity. It is, he says, “as if on a ship you made someone a pilot or a sai­lor for his money. Could that rule pos­si­bly be bad for every other posi­tion in life, and good only for run­ning a repu­blic ?” But Plato is spea­king of a repu­blic foun­ded on vir­tue, and we are spea­king of a monar­chy. Now, in a monar­chy where if the posi­tions are not sold by public requi­re­ment, the indi­gence and avi­dity of cour­tiers would sell them all the same, chance will yield bet­ter sub­jects than the prince’s choice. In short, the man­ner of pro­mo­ting one­self by wealth ins­pi­res and sup­ports indus­try,10 some­thing which this kind of govern­ment greatly needs.

Fifth Question. In which govern­ment should there be cen­sors ? They are requi­red in a repu­blic, where the prin­ci­ple of the govern­ment is vir­tue. It is not cri­mes alone that des­troy vir­tue, but also omis­sions, mis­ta­kes, a degree of tepid­ness in the love of home­land, dan­ge­rous exam­ples, seeds of cor­rup­tion : that which does not offend the laws, but elu­des them ; does not des­troy them, but wea­kens them : all this must be cor­rec­ted by the cen­sors.

We are sur­pri­sed at the punish­ment of that Areopagite who had killed a spar­row which, pur­sued by a hawk, had taken refuge in his bosom. We are sur­pri­sed that the Areopage sent to his death a child who had put out his bird’s eyes. We must note that the issue here is not the condem­na­tion for cri­mes, but a moral judg­ment in a repu­blic based on mora­lity.

In monar­chies there must be no cen­sors : monar­chies are foun­ded on honor, and the nature of honor is to have the whole world as cen­sor. Every man who fails in that is sub­ject to the reproa­ches of those very per­sons who have none.

There, cen­sors would be spoi­led by the very per­sons whom they should cor­rect ; they would not be effec­tive against the cor­rup­tion of a monar­chy, but the cor­rup­tion of a monar­chy would be too strong against them.

It goes without saying that there is no need for cen­sors in des­po­tic govern­ments. The exam­ple of China seems an excep­tion to this rule, but we shall see later in this work the sin­gu­lar rea­sons for that ins­ti­tu­tion.

Plato, in his Republic, book VIII, includes such refusals among signs of corruption in a republic. In his Laws, book VI, he would have them punished merely by a fine ; in Venice they are punished by exile.

Victor Amadeus.

Some centurions having appealed to the people to request the function they had had : “It is just, my companions, said a centurion, that you should regard as honorable every position in which you shall defend the republic.” (Livy, book XLII.)

Ne imperium ad optimos nobilium transferretur, senatum militia vetuit Gallienus, etiam adire exercitum. [‘Lest power be passed to the best of the nobles, Gallienus forbade the senate military service, and even entry to the army.’] (Aurelius Victor, De viris illustribus [Of the greatest men’].)

Augustus deprived senators, proconsuls and governors of the right to bear arms. (Dio, book XXXIII.)

Constantine : see Zosimus, book II.

Ammianus Marcellinus, book XXVI. [Et civilia] more veterum et bella recturo [‘In keeping with old custom, he put him in charge of civil and military affairs’].

Fragments drawn from the Embassies of Constantine Porphyrogenitus.

Republic, book VIII.

The indolence of Spain : all functions are so allotted.