Montesquieu
 

XII.19 How the use of freedom is suspended in a republic

In sta­tes that make the most of free­dom, there are laws which vio­late it against one indi­vi­dual in order to main­tain it for all. Such are what are cal­led bills of attain­der in England.1 They are rela­ted to those laws of Athens which legis­la­ted against an indi­vi­dual,2 pro­vi­ded they were voted on by six thou­sand citi­zens. They are rela­ted to those laws that were made in Rome against indi­vi­dual citi­zens which were cal­led pri­vi­le­ges.3 These were pas­sed only in the major assem­blies of the peo­ple. But in wha­te­ver man­ner the peo­ple approve them, Cicero wants them abo­li­shed, because the strength of law consists only in its being writ­ten for eve­ryone.4 I concede, howe­ver, that the prac­tice of the freest peo­ples who have ever exis­ted on earth makes me believe there are cases where a veil must momen­ta­rily be cast over free­dom, as one hides the sta­tues of the gods.

The author of the continuation of Rapin Thoyras defines the bill of attainder as a judgment which, approved by the two houses and signed by the king, becomes an act by which the accused is declared convicted of high treason, with no further formality or appeal. (Vol. II, p. 266.) [The edition of 1758 adds Annex 5 here.]

Legem de singulari aliquo ne rogato nisi sex millibus ita visum (Andocides, De mysteriis : it is ostracism).

De privatis hominibus latæ [‘proposed concerning private individuals’] (Cicero, De legibus, book III).

Scitum est jussum in omnes [‘What [the law] decrees is a command to all’] (Cicero, ibid.).