XVIII.13 On civil laws among peoples who do not cultivate the land

It is prin­ci­pally the dis­tri­bu­tion of lands that bloats the civil code. In nations where ther has been no such dis­tri­bu­tion, there will be very few civil laws.

One can call the ins­ti­tu­tions of such peo­ples ethos rather than laws.

In nations of this type, old men who remem­ber things of the past have great autho­rity ; one can­not be dis­tin­gui­shed by pro­perty, but by assis­tance and by coun­sel.

These peo­ples roam and dis­perse into gra­zing lands or forests. Mariage there will not be as depen­da­ble as in our socie­ties, where it is fixed by the dwel­ling, and where the wife main­tains a house ; they can the­re­fore more rea­dily change wives, have mul­ti­ple wives, and some­ti­mes min­gle indif­fe­rently like ani­mals.

Pastoral peo­ples can­not dis­tance them­sel­ves from their herds, which pro­vide their sub­sis­tence, nor will they be able to sepa­rate from their wives who look after them. All this must the­re­fore work toge­ther, all the more so since, living ordi­na­rily on great plains where there are few sui­ta­ble sites to set­tle, their wives, their chil­dren, and their herds would become the prey of their ene­mies.

Their laws will deter­mine the dis­tri­bu­tion of booty, and will, like our Salic laws, address in par­ti­cu­lar the busi­ness of thefts.