Montesquieu

In Mohammedan sta­tes one is not only mas­ter of the life and pos­ses­sions of the women sla­ves, but also of what is cal­led their vir­tue or their honor.1 It is one of the mis­for­tu­nes of those coun­tries that the grea­ter part of the nation is born only to serve the sen­sua­lity of the other part. Such ser­vi­tude is rewar­ded by the indo­lence such sla­ves are allo­wed to enjoy, which is yet ano­ther mis­for­tune for the state.

It is this indo­lence that makes these Oriental sera­glios into pla­ces of delight for the very per­sons against whom they are crea­ted.2 People who fear only work can find their hap­pi­ness in these tran­quil pla­ces. But it is clear that even the spi­rit of the esta­blish­ment of sla­very is the­reby belied.

Reason would not have the mas­ter’s power extend beyond things rela­ted to his ser­vice ; sla­very must be for uti­lity, and not for sen­sua­lity. The laws of modesty are part of natu­ral law, and should be evi­dent to every nation on earth.

Now if the law that pre­ser­ves the modesty of sla­ves is good in sta­tes where unli­mi­ted power makes a mockery of eve­ry­thing, how good will it be in monar­chies ? How good will it be in repu­bli­can sta­tes ?

There is a pro­vi­sion in the Law of the Lombards that appears good for all govern­ments : “If a mas­ter sedu­ces the wife of his slave, those sla­ves shall both be free”3 : an admi­ra­ble adap­ta­tion for pre­ven­ting and che­cking the inconti­nence of mas­ters without too much seve­rity.

I do not find that the Romans had a good policy on this mat­ter. They unlea­shed the inconti­nence of mas­ters ; they even more or less depri­ved their sla­ves of the right of mar­riage. They were the basest part of the nation, but howe­ver base, it was good that they should have morals ; and besi­des, by denying them mar­ria­ges, they cor­rup­ted those of the citi­zens.

See Chardin, Voyage de Perse.

See Chardin, vol. II, in his description of the market of Izagour [II, 3–5].

Book I, tit. 32, §5.