XIX.2 How necessary it is, for the best laws, that minds be prepared

, par Stewart

Nothing seemed more unbearable to the Germans than the tribunal of Varus. [1] The one which Justinian set up [2] among the Lazi to try their king’s murderer seemed to them something horrible and barbaric. Mithridates, orating against the Romans, [3] reproaches them above all for the formalities of their justice. [4] The Parthians could not bear this king, who, having been raised in Rome, became affable and accessible to everyone. [5] Liberty itself seemed unbearable to peoples who were unaccustomed to enjoying it. So it is that pure air is sometimes harmful to those who have lived in marshy lands.

A Venetian named Balbi, being in Pegu, [6] was introduced into the king’s presence. When the king learned that there was no king in Venice, he burst out laughing so hard that he was taken with a cough, and had great difficulty speaking with his courtiers. Who is the legislator who could propose popular government to peoples of the sort ?


[1“They cut out the lawyers’ tongues, and said : Viper, cease thy hissing” (Tacitus).

[2Agathias, book IV.

[3Justinus, book XXXVIII.

[4Calumnias litium (ibid.).

[5Prompti aditus, nova comitas, ignotœ Parthis virtutes, nova vitia (Tacitus [Annals, book II, ch. ii]).

[6He described it in 1596 (Recueil des voyages qui ont servi à l’établissement de la Compagnie des Indes, vol. III, part 1, p. 33).