Montesquieu

Usbek to the same


As the popu­la­tion was gro­wing by the day, the Troglodytes thought the time had come to choose a king for them­sel­ves. They agreed that the crown should be awar­ded to him who was the most just, and all eyes were cast on an elder vene­ra­ble by his age and his depen­da­ble vir­tue. He had not wished to be pre­sent at this assem­bly ; he had with­drawn into his house, his heart heavy with sor­row.1

When they sent depu­ties to him to inform him of the choice they had made of him : God for­bid, he said, that I should do the Troglodytes this wrong, that any should believe there is no one among them more just than I. You award me with the crown ; and if you abso­lu­tely insist, I will have to accept it : but be sure I will die of grief for having at my birth seen the Troglodytes free, and to see them today sub­jects. At these words he began to shed a tor­rent of tears : Oh dread­ful day, he repea­ted, and why have I lived to see this ? Then he cried out in a stern voice : I see what it is, oh Troglodytes : your vir­tue is beco­ming a bur­den to you ; in your pre­sent condi­tion, having no chief, you have to be vir­tuous des­pite your­sel­ves ; other­wise could not sur­vive, and would suc­cumb to the mis­for­tune of your fore­bears. But you find this yoke too heavy ; you would rather be sub­jec­ted to a prince, and obey his laws, less rigid than your ways ; You know that at that point you will be able to content your ambi­tion, to acquire wealth, and to lan­guish lim­ply in the lap of plea­sure ; and that pro­vi­ded you avoid lap­sing into major cri­mes, you will no lon­ger need vir­tue. He pau­sed a moment, and his tears flo­wed more than ever. And what do you expect me to do ? How can I order a Troglodyte to do any­thing ? Do you want him to do a vir­tuous deed because so I order him, when he would do the same without me by the sole incli­na­tion of nature ? Oh Troglodytes, I am at the end of my days, my blood is cold in my veins ; I am soon going to meet your sacred ances­tors ; why do you want me to sad­den them, and be obli­ged to tell them that I have left you under dif­fe­rent yoke from that of vir­tue ?

Erzerum this 10th day of the moon of Gemmadi II, 1711

Supplementary Letter I of 1758 edition

The establishment of the Troglodytes’ monarchy and its interpretation recall the institution of the Hebrew monarchy in I Samuel (I Kings) 8:6-9 and 10:19.