Montesquieu

Augustus, while in Egypt, had the tomb of Alexander ope­ned ; when he was asked whe­ther he wan­ted them to open those of the Ptolemys, he said he had wan­ted to see the king and not the dead ; thus, in the his­tory of this second dynasty, we seek Pépin and Charlemagne : we would like to see the kings and not the dead.

A prince, play­thing of his pas­sions and the dupe even of his vir­tues, a prince who never knew his strength nor his weak­ness, who was una­ble to win either fear or love, who with few vices in his heart had all sorts of flaws in his mind, took in hand the reins of the empire that Charlemagne had held.1

Louis the Debonaire, mixing all the conces­sions of an old hus­band with all the weak­nes­ses of an old king, put a disor­der in his family that brought on the fall of the monar­chy. He cons­tantly chan­ged the sha­res he had meted to his chil­dren. Yet these sha­res had been confir­med in turn by his oaths, those of his chil­dren, and those of the lords. This was to try to tempt the loyalty of his sub­jects ; it was to try to intro­duce uncer­tainty, scru­ples and equi­vo­ca­tions into obe­dience ; it was to confuse the various rights of prin­ces and make their tit­les uncer­tain, espe­cially at a time when, for­tres­ses being rare, the first ram­part of autho­rity was troth sworn and troth recei­ved.

The empe­ror’s chil­dren, to main­tain their sha­res, soli­ci­ted the clergy, and gave them rights unheard of until then. Those rights were spe­cious ; they brought the clergy in to gua­ran­tee some­thing they had wan­ted them to autho­rize. Agobard noti­fied Louis the Debonaire that he had sent Lothaire to Rome to have him decla­red empe­ror, and that he had made dis­tri­bu­tions to his chil­dren after consul­ting hea­ven during three days of fas­ting and prayer.2 What could a super­sti­tious prince do, atta­cked by super­sti­tion itself ? What a defeat sove­reign autho­rity absor­bed twice, in the impri­son­ment of this prince and in his public peni­tence, is evi­dent ; they had wan­ted to degrade the king, and they degra­ded royalty.3

[In the 1758 edition, the Annex 24 is inserted here.]

See his letters.

[In the 1758 edition, chapter XX continues as follows (Annex 25).]