Montesquieu

In the case of mul­ti­pli­city of wives, the more the family cea­ses to be an entity, the more the laws must connect those deta­ched parts to a cen­ter ; and the more various inte­rests are, the bet­ter it is for the laws to bring them back to a com­mon inte­rest.

This is accom­pli­shed prin­ci­pally by confi­ne­ment. Women must not only be sepa­ra­ted from men by enclo­sing the house, they must also be sepa­ra­ted within this same harem, in such a way that they cons­ti­tute a sort of indi­vi­dual family within the family. Whence deri­ves for the women the whole prac­tice of mora­lity, of modesty, chas­tity, reserve, silence, peace, depen­dency, res­pect, and love ; in short, a gene­ral direc­tion of sen­ti­ments towards the best thing in the world by its nature, which is uni­que attach­ment to one’s family.

The women natu­rally have to ful­fill so many duties which are pro­per to them that they can­not be sepa­ra­ted enough from eve­ry­thing that could give them other thoughts, all those things we treat as amu­se­ments, and those we call busi­ness.

We find purer morals in the various sta­tes of the Orient in pro­por­tion to the stric­ter confi­ne­ment of women. In the great sta­tes there are neces­sa­rily great lords. The grea­ter means they have, the more able they are to keep the women strictly confi­ned and pre­vent them from re-ente­ring society. That is why women’s morals are admi­ra­ble in the Turkish, Persian, Mogul, Chinese, and Japanese empi­res.

The same can­not be said of the Indies, which the infi­nite num­ber of islands and the situa­tion of the ter­rain have divi­ded into an infi­nite num­ber of small sta­tes, made des­po­tic by a large num­ber of cau­ses which we have not time to list here.

There, only the wret­ched loot, and only the wret­ched are loo­ted. Those who are cal­led great have but very small means ; those who are cal­led weal­thy scar­cely have their sub­sis­tence ; the confi­ne­ment of women can­not be so strict there, such great pre­cau­tions can­not be taken to contain them : the cor­rup­tion of their morals is beyond ima­gi­na­tion.

It is there we see the point to which the vices of the cli­mate, lar­gely unfet­te­red, can carry disor­der. It is there that nature has a force, and modesty a weak­ness, beyond our unders­tan­ding. In Patani1 the lubri­city of the women2 is so great that the men are for­ced to fashion a cer­tain appa­ra­tus to shield them­sel­ves from their enter­pri­ses. In that coun­try the two sexes lose even their own laws.

Recueil des voyages qui ont servi à l’établissement de la Compagnie des Indes, vol. II, part II, p. 196.

In the Maldives, fathers marry daughters at age ten or eleven, because it is a great sin, they say, to let them suffer a need for men (Voyages de François Pyrard, ch. xii). In Bantam, as soon as a daughter is thirteen or fourteen she must be married if she is not to lead a dissolute life (Recueil des voyages qui ont servi à l’établissement de la Compagnie des Indes, p. 348).