Montesquieu
 

XIII.12 The relation of the amount of tributes to liberty

The gene­ral rule is : hea­vier tri­bu­tes can be levied in pro­por­tion to the sub­jects’ free­dom, and they have to be mode­ra­ted to the degree that ser­vi­tude increa­ses. This has always been the case and always will be. It is a rule taken from nature which never varies ; we find it in every coun­try : in England, in Holland, and in all the sta­tes of decli­ning free­dom down to Turkey. Switzerland seems to be an excep­tion, because no tri­bu­tes are paid there ; but we know the par­ti­cu­lar rea­son for that, and it even confirms what I am saying. In those bar­ren moun­tains, food is so costly, and the coun­try is so popu­la­ted, that a Swiss pays nature four times more than a Turk pays the sul­tan.

A domi­nee­ring peo­ple, such as the Athenians and the Romans, can exempt itself from all taxes because it rei­gns over sub­ject nations. In conse­quence it does not pay in pro­por­tion to its free­dom, because in this res­pect it is not a peo­ple but a monarch.

But the gene­ral rule still remains. In mode­rate sta­tes there is a com­pen­sa­tion for the bur­den of tri­bu­tes, which is liberty. In des­po­tic sta­tes1 there is an equi­va­lent for liberty, which is the modesty of the tri­bu­tes.

In cer­tain European monar­chies we see some pro­vin­ces2 which by the nature of their poli­ti­cal govern­ment are in bet­ter condi­tion than the others. One always ima­gi­nes that they do not pay enough, because by an effect of the qua­lity of their govern­ment they could pay more, and the idea always ari­ses of taking from them this very govern­ment that pro­du­ces this bene­fit, which is sha­red, which spreads afar, and which it would be much bet­ter to enjoy.

In Russia, tributes are modest ; they have been raised since the despotism has moderated. See History of the Tatars, part II.

The pays d’États. [Regions so designated are “those which have preserved the right of regulating taxes by the order of deputies of the notables of Provence, like Burgundy, Britanny, Languedoc ?, as opposed to pays d’élection, which are “those where they are regulated by elected and other officers created for this purpose” (Trévoux).]