Montesquieu

It is in the nature of a repu­blic to have only a small ter­ri­tory ; other­wise it can hardly sub­sist. In a large repu­blic, there are large for­tu­nes, and conse­quently lit­tle mode­ra­tion in the minds ; there are trusts too great to place into the hands of a citi­zen ; inte­rests become indi­vi­dua­li­zed ; a man feels first that he can be happy, great, and glo­rious without his home­land, and soon that he can be great alone on the ruins of his home­land.

In a large repu­blic, the com­mon good is sacri­fi­ced to a thou­sand consi­de­ra­tions, and subor­di­na­ted to excep­tions ; it depends on acci­dents. In a small one, the public good is bet­ter felt, bet­ter known, clo­ser to each citi­zen ; abu­ses are less exten­sive, and conse­quently less pro­tec­ted.

What made Lacedæmon sub­sist so long was that after all the wars she still remai­ned with her ter­ri­tory. The only goal of Lacedæmon was free­dom ; the sole advan­tage of its free­dom was glory.

It was the spi­rit of the Greek repu­blics to content them­sel­ves with their lands as with their laws. Athens acqui­red ambi­tion, and it spread to Lacedæmon ; but it was rather to com­mand free peo­ples than to govern sla­ves, rather to lead the union than to break it up. All was lost when a monar­chy arose, a govern­ment with a spi­rit ten­ding more to expan­sion.

Without par­ti­cu­lar cir­cum­stan­ces,1 it is dif­fi­cult for any govern­ment other than a repu­bli­can one to sub­sist in a sin­gle city. A prince of such a small state would natu­rally seek to oppress, because he would have great autho­rity and few means of enjoying it or com­man­ding res­pect. He would the­re­fore tread hea­vily on his peo­ple. On the other hand, such a prince would easily be oppres­sed by a foreign force, or even a domes­tic force ; the peo­ple could at any moment assem­ble and unite against him. Now, when a prince of a city is dri­ven out of his city, the trial is over ; if he has seve­ral cities, the trial has merely begun.

As when a small sovereign maintains himself between two large states by their mutual jealousy ; but he exists only precariously.