Montesquieu

Usbek to Rhedi in Venice


In Paris liberty and equa­lity reign. Birth, vir­tue, even merit in war, howe­ver brilliant it be, do not save a man from the crowd in which he is sub­mer­ged. Jealousy of rank is unk­nown here. They say that the most impor­tant man in Paris is the one who has the best hor­ses on his car­riage.

A great lord is a man who sees the king, who speaks with minis­ters, who has ances­tors, debts, and annui­ties. If in addi­tion he can conceal his idle­ness with a busy demea­nor or a fei­gned attach­ment for plea­su­res, he deems him­self the hap­piest of all men.

In Persia there are no greats except those to whom the monarch gives some role in the govern­ment.1 Here, there are peo­ple who are great by birth, but they have no influence. The kings do as those skilled wor­kers who in exe­cu­ting their works always use the sim­plest machi­nes.

Favor is the great diety of the French.2 The minis­ter is the high priest, who offers to him many vic­tims. Those who sur­round him are not dres­sed in white ; some­ti­mes sacri­fi­cers and some­ti­mes sacri­fi­ced, they conse­crate them­sel­ves to their idol with all the peo­ple.

Paris this 9th day of the moon of Gemmadi II, 1715

“There is no nobility in Persia, nor anywhere in the Orient, and respect is given only to functions, dignities, extraordinary merit, and particularly to wealth.” (Chardin, VI, 60-61.)

See letter 95.