Montesquieu

Countries which human indus­try has made inha­bi­ta­ble, and which require the same indus­try in order to exist, call for mode­rate govern­ment. There are prin­ci­pally three of this kind : the two fair pro­vin­ces of Kiang-nan and Chekiang in China, Egypt, and Holland.

The ancient empe­rors of China were not conque­rors. The first thing they did to expand was the one that best pro­ved their wis­dom. The two fai­rest pro­vin­ces of the empire emer­ged from the waters : they were man-made. It was the inex­pres­si­ble fer­ti­lity of those two pro­vin­ces that gave Europe its notions of the feli­city of that vast land. But a conti­nual and neces­sary atten­tion to pro­tec­ting such an impor­tant part of the empire from des­truc­tion requi­red the ethos rather of a wise peo­ple than of a sen­sual peo­ple, rather the legi­ti­mate power of a monarch than the tyran­ni­cal autho­rity of a des­pot. Power had to be mode­rate as it once was in Egypt, and as it still is today in that part of the Turkish empire. Power had to be mode­rate there as it is in Holland, which nature made to look after her­self, and not to be aban­do­ned to negli­gence or caprice.

Thus, des­pite China’s cli­mate, where peo­ple natu­rally lend them­sel­ves to ser­vile obe­dience, des­pite the hor­rors that fol­low the exces­sive size of an empire, China’s first legis­la­tors were obli­ged to make very good laws, and the govern­ment was often obli­ged to fol­low them.