Montesquieu
 

XXX.23 General idea of the book on the establishment of the French monarchy in the Gauls, by the abbé Dubos

It is appro­priate, before I end this book, for me to make some exa­mi­na­tion of the work of the abbé Dubos, because my thoughts are cons­tantly oppo­sed to his ; and if he has found the truth, I have not.

That work has taken many peo­ple in, because it is writ­ten with consi­de­ra­ble art, because it end­lessly assu­mes what is in ques­tion ; because the more evi­dence it lacks, the more it mul­ti­plies pro­ba­bi­li­ties ; because an infi­nite num­ber of conjec­tu­res are posi­ted as prin­ci­ples, and it draws other conjec­tu­res as conse­quen­ces. The rea­der for­gets that he has had doubts and begins to believe. And as end­less eru­di­tion is pla­ced, not within the sys­tem, but along­side the sys­tem, the mind is dis­trac­ted by acces­so­ries, and for­gets to attend to the prin­ci­pal. Besides, such a quan­tity of research does not per­mit the rea­der to ima­gine that it has tur­ned up nothing ; the length of the jour­ney implies that the des­ti­na­tion has been rea­ched.

But when we exa­mine clo­sely, we find an immense colos­sus which has feet of clay ; and it is because the feet are of clay that the colos­sus is immense. Had the abbé Dubos’s sys­tem had a good foun­da­tion, he would not have been obli­ged to write three mor­tal volu­mes to prove it ; he would have found it all in his sub­ject ; and without going sear­ching in every direc­tion for what was very far off, rea­son itself would have assu­med the bur­den of pla­cing this truth in the chain of other truths. History and our laws would have said to him : “Do not put your­self to such trou­ble ; we will tes­tify for you.”