Montesquieu

Thus, under a govern­ment by many, it is often use­ful for the sta­tion of the eman­ci­pa­ted to be somew­hat lower than that of the free­born, and for the laws to strive to coun­ter their disaf­fec­tion for their sta­tion. But under the govern­ment of one man alone, when luxury and arbi­trary power reign, there is nothing to be done in this res­pect : the eman­ci­pa­ted almost always find them­sel­ves above free men. They domi­nate at the prince’s court and in the pala­ces of the great ; and since they have stu­died their mas­ter’s weak­nes­ses and not his vir­tues, they have him reign not by his vir­tues but by his weak­nes­ses. Such were the eman­ci­pa­ted in Rome in the time of the empe­rors.

When the prin­ci­pal sla­ves are eunuchs, wha­te­ver pri­vi­lege they be gran­ted, they can hardly be regar­ded as eman­ci­pa­ted. For since they can­not have fami­lies, they are by their nature atta­ched to a family, and it is only by a sort of fic­tion that they can be consi­de­red as citi­zens.

Nevertheless, there are coun­tries where they are given all the magis­tra­cies : “In Tonkin,”1 says Dampierre, “all the civil and mili­tary man­da­rins are eunuchs.”2 They have no fami­lies, and while they are natu­rally greedy, the mas­ter or prince ulti­ma­tely pro­fits from their very greed.

The same Dampierre tells us that in that coun­try the eunuchs can­not do without women, and that they marry.3 The law that allows them to marry can only be based, on the one hand, on the consi­de­ra­tion in which men like them are held, and on the other, on the contempt in which women are held.

Thus the magis­tra­cies are entrus­ted to such per­sons because they have no family, and on the other hand they are allo­wed to marry because they hold the magis­tra­cies.

It is then that the remai­ning sen­ses try obs­ti­na­tely to com­pen­sate for those that have been lost, and that the enter­pri­ses of des­pair are a sort of sen­sual plea­sure. Thus, in Milton, that spi­rit who has nothing left but desi­res, acu­tely aware of his degra­da­tion, tries to make use of his very impo­tence.

We find in the his­tory of China a large num­ber of laws to deny all civil and mili­tary func­tions to eunuchs ; but they keep coming back. It seems that eunuchs in the Orient are a neces­sary evil.

It used to be that way in China. The two Mohammedan Arabs who travelled there in the ninth century say “eunuch” when they mean the governor of a city.

[Dampier,] Vol. III, p. 91. [Although the quotation marks are in the original, this does not appear to be a direct quotation.]

Vol. III, p. 94.