Montesquieu
 

XIV.13 Effects that result from the English climate

In a nation whose soul is so affec­ted by a cli­ma­tic disease that it could extend the disaf­fec­tion for all things even to life itself, it is clear that the govern­ment best sui­ted to peo­ple to whom eve­ry­thing is unbea­ra­ble would be one where they could not blame anyone for what cau­ses their sor­rows, and where, since laws govern rather than men, the laws them­sel­ves would have to be over­tur­ned in order to change the state.

Now if the same nation had fur­ther recei­ved from the cli­mate a cer­tain cha­rac­ter of impa­tience that did not allow it to bear the same things for long, it is clear that the govern­ment which we have just evo­ked would again be the most appro­priate.

That cha­rac­ter of impa­tience is not great by itself, but can become so when it is com­bi­ned with cou­rage.

It is dif­fe­rent from fri­vo­lity, which makes a per­son under­take, and like­wise aban­don, for no rea­son ; it is more like obs­ti­nacy, because it comes from such an intense fee­ling of afflic­tions that it is not dimi­ni­shed even by the habit of bea­ring them.

This cha­rac­ter, in a free nation, would be very capa­ble of dis­concer­ting pro­jects of tyranny,1 which is always slow and weak in its begin­nings, as it is quick and for­ce­ful in its ending ; which first shows only a hand to assist, and later oppres­ses with a mul­ti­tude of arms.

Servitude always begins with sleep. But peo­ple who are at rest in no situa­tion, who are cons­tantly che­cking them­sel­ves out and fin­ding all the pain­ful spots, could hardly go to sleep.

Politics quietly files things down and comes slowly to its goal. Now the men about whom we have been spea­king could never sus­tain the delays, the details, the dis­pas­sio­nate nature of nego­tia­tions ; they would often suc­ceed less in them than any other nation, and would lose by trea­ties what they had won with their wea­pons.

I take this word here as the intention of overturning the established power, and especially democracy ; that is the meaning that the Greeks and Romans gave to it.