Montesquieu
 

XXIV.3 That moderate government is more compatible with the Christian religion, and despotic government with the Mohammedan religion

The Christian reli­gion is ini­mi­cal to pure des­po­tism because, kind­ness being so often coun­se­led in the Gospel, it oppo­ses the des­po­tic wrath with which the prince would get his way and prac­tice his cruel­ties.

As this reli­gion for­bids a plu­ra­lity of wives, its prin­ces are less enclo­sed, less sepa­ra­ted from their sub­jects, and conse­quently more human ; they are more dis­po­sed to dis­ci­pline them­sel­ves, and more capa­ble of rea­li­zing that they can­not do eve­ry­thing.

While Mohammedan prin­ces are cons­tantly impo­sing or suf­fe­ring death, the reli­gion of the Christians makes prin­ces less timid, and the­re­fore less cruel. The prince relies on his sub­jects, and the sub­jects on the prince. How mar­ve­lous it is : the Christian reli­gion, which seems to have no other end than feli­city in the after­life, also pro­vi­des for our hap­pi­ness in this one.

It is the Christian reli­gion that, des­pite the great­ness of the empire and the vice of the cli­mate, has pre­ven­ted des­po­tism from esta­bli­shing itself in Ethiopia, and car­ried to the cen­ter of Africa the ways of Europe and her laws.

The here­di­tary prince of Ethiopia enjoys a prin­ci­pa­lity and gives to other sub­jects the exam­ple of love and obe­dience. Not far away we see Mohammedanism having the chil­dren of the king of Sennar locked up1 : at his death the coun­cil sends them to be slaugh­te­red in favor of the one who mounts the throne.

Let us think of the conti­nual mas­sa­cres of Greek and Roman kings and chiefs, and on the other hand the des­truc­tion of peo­ples and cities by those same chiefs : Timor Beg and Genghis Khan, who rava­ged Asia ; and we shall see that we owe to Christianity both a cer­tain poli­ti­cal law in govern­ment and a cer­tain law of nations in war, for which human­kind can­not be too gra­te­ful.

It is thanks to this law of nations that, among us, vic­tory lea­ves these impor­tant things to van­qui­shed peo­ples : life, liberty, laws, pos­ses­sions, and always reli­gion, when they are not being will­fully blind.

We can say that the peo­ples of Europe are not today more disu­ni­ted than the peo­ples and armies were in the Roman empire when it had become des­po­tic and mili­tary, or the armies among them­sel­ves ; on the one hand, the armies were at war with one other, and on the other they were allo­wed to pillage the cities and divide up or confis­cate the lands.

Relation on Ethiopia by Mr. Ponce, physician, in 4th volume of Lettres édifiantes et curieuses.