Montesquieu

Commerce has a rela­tion­ship with the cons­ti­tu­tion. With the govern­ment of one man alone, it is based on luxury, and its sole pur­pose is to obtain for the nation that enga­ges in it eve­ry­thing that can serve its pride, its delights and its fan­ta­sies. In a plu­ral govern­ment, it is ordi­na­rily based on eco­nomy. The mer­chants, who keep an eye on all the nations of the earth, trans­port to one what they obtain from the other. That is how the repu­blics of Tyre, Carthage, Athens, Marseille, Florence, Venice, and Holland prac­ti­ced com­merce.

This kind of traf­fic invol­ves the plu­ral govern­ment by its nature, and monar­chi­cal govern­ment by oppor­tu­nity. For as it is based only on the prac­tice of ear­ning lit­tle, and even of ear­ning less than any other nation, and of com­pen­sa­ting itself only by ear­ning conti­nually, it is hardly pos­si­ble for it to be prac­ti­ced by a peo­ple among whom luxury is esta­bli­shed, who spend much, and see only objects of gran­deur.

It was with these thoughts that Cicero said so well : “I do not like to see a sin­gle peo­ple at once ruler and agent of the entire world.”1 Indeed we would have to sup­pose that every indi­vi­dual in this state, and even the whole state, always had his head full of grand pro­jects, and that same head filled with small ones, which is contra­dic­tory.

It is not that, in those sta­tes that sub­sist by com­merce of eco­nomy, the grea­test enter­pri­ses are not also under­ta­ken, and that they do not have a bold­ness not found in monar­chies ; and here is why.

One kind of trade leads to ano­ther, small to modest, modest to large ; and he who has been so desi­rous of ear­ning a lit­tle puts him­self in a situa­tion where he is no less desi­rous of ear­ning much.

Besides, the great enter­pri­ses of dea­lers are always neces­sa­rily admixed with public busi­ness. But in monar­chies public busi­ness is as sus­pect to mer­chants as they think it relia­ble in free sta­tes. Great com­mer­cial enter­pri­ses are the­re­fore not for monar­chies, but for repu­bli­can sta­tes.

In a word, the grea­ter cer­tainty of their pro­perty which they think they have in these sta­tes encou­ra­ges all sorts of enter­pri­ses ; and because they are sure of what they have acqui­red, they dare to risk it to acquire more ; their only risk rela­tes to the means of acqui­ring, for men have great expec­ta­tions for their for­tune.

GENERAL RULE. In a nation which is in ser­vi­tude, peo­ple work har­der to pre­serve than to acquire. In a free nation, they work har­der to acquire than to pre­serve.

Nolo eumdem populum, imperatorem et portitorem esse terrarum.