God for­bid I should wish to dimi­nish the hor­ror we feel for a crime which reli­gion, mora­lity, and poli­tics all in turn condemn. It should be ban­ned even if it did no more than give to one sex the weak­nes­ses of the other, and pre­pare an igno­mi­nious old age by a sha­me­ful youth. What I will say about it will leave it with all its stig­mas, and bear only on the tyranny which can abuse the very hor­ror we should feel for it.

As it is the nature of this crime to be hid­den, it has often hap­pe­ned that legis­la­tors have puni­shed it on the depo­si­tion of a child. That was to open a very wide door onto calumny. “Justinian,” says Procopius, “publi­shed a law against this crime ; he had those guilty of it sear­ched out, not only since the law, but before. The depo­si­tion of one wit­ness, some­ti­mes a child, some­ti­mes a slave, was suf­fi­cient, espe­cially against the rich and against those who belon­ged to the Green fac­tion.”1

It is odd that in our society three cri­mes : magic, heresy, and the crime against nature – of which it can be pro­ven that the first does not exist ; that the second lends itself to end­less dis­tinc­tions, inter­pre­ta­tions, and limi­ta­tions ; and that the third is very obs­cure – have all been puni­shed by fire.

I ven­ture to assert that the crime against nature will never make much pro­gress in a society if the peo­ple are not already dis­po­sed to it by some cus­tom, as were the Greeks, where young men per­for­med all their exer­ci­ses naked ; as here, where domes­tic edu­ca­tion is no lon­ger cur­rent ; as among the Asiatics, where some indi­vi­duals have a large num­ber of wives whom they dis­dain while others can have none. Let us not pre­pare this crime ; let us ban it by strict policy like all vio­la­tions of mora­lity, and we shall sud­denly see nature either defend her rights or reclaim them. Gentle, amia­ble, and char­ming, she has bes­to­wed plea­su­res with a gene­rous hand, and by sho­we­ring us with delights, she pre­pa­res us for even grea­ter future satis­fac­tions than her delights.

Anecdota sive historia arcana [(’Anecdotes or secret history’. The Greens and Blues were factions of Constantinople which Montesquieu discusses in chapter xx of his Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and of their Decline.]