VIII.6 On the corruption of the principle of monarchy

As demo­cra­cies are doo­med when the peo­ple divest the senate, the magis­tra­tes, and the jud­ges of their func­tions, monar­chies are cor­rup­ted when the pre­ro­ga­ti­ves of guilds or the pri­vi­le­ges of the cities are pro­gres­si­vely strip­ped away. The first case tends to the des­po­tism of all ; the other, to the des­po­tism of one man alone.

“What doo­med the Qin and Suí Cháo dynas­ties,” says a Chinese author, “was that ins­tead of limi­ting them­sel­ves, like the Ancients, to gene­ral over­sight, alone wor­thy of the sove­reign, the prin­ces wan­ted to govern eve­ry­thing directly by them­sel­ves.”1 Here the Chinese author reveals to us the cause of the cor­rup­tion of almost all monar­chies.

The monar­chy is doo­med when a prince belie­ves he shows his power bet­ter by chan­ging the order of things than by fol­lo­wing it, when he takes natu­ral func­tions away from some in order to bes­tow them arbi­tra­rily on others, and when he is more in love with what he fan­cies than with what he wills.

The monar­chy is doo­med when the prince, rela­ting eve­ry­thing exclu­si­vely to him­self, calls the state to his capi­tal, the capi­tal to the court, and the court to his sole per­son.

Finally, it is doo­med when a prince mis­jud­ges his autho­rity, his situa­tion, and the love of his peo­ples, and when he is not fully aware that a monarch should deem him­self secure, as a des­pot should believe him­self in peril.

Compilation of works written under the Mings, related by Father du Halde.