It is unpredictable and fast-paced and really, really interesting. And I do not even consider myself a Science Fiction fan! I will gobble up anything she writes from now on. Louise Penny! Even though part of me wants to read her books slowly so that I can enjoy them longer, I raced through them. I read A Great Reckoning in a day.
Started at 11AM and finished at 11PM. Totally agree! It made a 9-hour train ride evaporate. Mellissa, I just want to say that Your book, Well Fed 2, is my book of choice everyday! Love it!! Thank you for the lovely compliment. I loved the structure and the story was interesting. And the ending blew my mind a little! The structure made it impossible to put down, right?! Late to the party, but When Breath Becomes Air — so heartbreaking and so beautiful and so well written.
Would you say any of the rest are pretty squeaky clean when it comes to language? Yes, the second one is what I meant. I agree with What She Knew but I was a little disappointing in the ending. It definitely had me staying up passed bedtime though! It took me more like 2 days, but it was so hard to put down. It is so beautifully written and I loved so many of the characters. Very suspenseful second half of the book. Highly recommend! It was more psychological than the first one, and Cassie is a great protagonist.
Loved them. I love your list and your awesome blog and these are all on my TBR list! I crave books that pull me in, make me forget the outside world. Full immersion, heck yea. On a totally unrelated note but because these are books I reread , Goodreads now has an easy way to mark rereads without an exceptionally convuluted way of adding editions that someone pointed out to me just days ago.
If you have added editions, or noted number of times read previously, they have taken this into account. Wow, great list! An eclectic group of books, lol. Homegoing was a 24 hour book for me! Such a great family saga throughout the years. The beginning stories were shocking and heartbreaking. I had to know how they ended! Heads up — Big Little Lies has a lot of strong language in it. I was practically hyperventilating during the climax. And had NO fingernails or cuticles left. I LOVE it! Sometimes shifting perspectives can be distracting, but in this one, I find it keeps the pace up and makes it up-put-downable.
Bless you for this list! I am emerging from new-baby fog and I needed a jump start back into reading. This post did the trick. Thanks, my favorite blogger! Thanks for this. I agree! I was a wreck when I finished and immediately emailed the author and she responded right away:.
I read one of her other novels, Secrets of a Charmed Life, and loved it. Have you read it, too? Yes, I have! I kept discovering the brilliance of the themes as I thought more and more about it. Rules of Civility is one of my favorite books, What Alice Forgot is fantastic. I just finished I Let You Go. I am glad I kept reading. Dark Matter is in my library wait list already too. I know its old but I would put the twilight series on this list, especially the first book.
Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart is my favorite 4th of July memory- the day I sat out on the patio in the gorgeous sunshine and read that book beginning to end! The pacing and need to know that everything will be okay will make you race through it, though the subject matter may leave you wanting to put it down. Behind Closed Doors surprised me that it was unputdownable, too!
I recently read Small Great Things. It ripped my heart out, made me angry, made me cry…so many emotions! It left me questioning so many things about myself. Thanks for reminding me it was there! I love everything she writes, but that one never left my hands until I turned the last page. Oh, and tickled to see a Sliding Doors reference. Loved that movie. One more in-put-downable: The Heartbreaker by Susan Howatch. I chose What Alice Forgot for this category, not expecting to like it very much. But I did! I read it every chance I could get.
I guess I have good taste! I am loving everything by Wallace Stegner, but I have been putting off reading Angle of Repose because I know I will just want to curl up on the couch and read until I finish it, but I am too, too busy right now. I am only about 75 pages into it. We are leaving on a trip on Tuesday so I plan to read it on the plane for hours.
Rogers so much I could not put it down. One author no one has mentioned so far is Sharyn McCrumb, who writes books set in northeast Tennessee where I live. I read her latest Prayers the Devil Answers in one day last summer. Jane Eyre is my favorite book. Jane Steele was one of my absolute favorite books of It was so much fun! I loved all the callbacks to Eyre.
I am constantly recommending it to people. Love it, love it, love it. Glad to see I Let You Go on this list. I dreamed of the characters the night before I finished the book. I have just finished Stir by Jessica Fechtor. She honestly shares her fears and feelings after a brain aneurysm at age It felt like a Jane Austen -lite- book and was great fun. Love this post! Any thoughts if Dark Matter might be an appropriate read for high school students?
I did the same thing! I also love this post and loaded up my library accounts with requests. Allison—I would hand it out to high schoolers, although probably 16 and older. I read it last summer and it was compelling, although I did not understand much of the science. It does contain murders in the story.
I think older teens would love it. Thanks for this and other lists—I love your blog and have been digging into archives these past few days! I really enjoyed it — and it literally took me 24 hours. I had a hard time getting into Guernsey. Finally I got it on Audible and that was the key. I keep meaning to start that Donna Leon series. Readers with good taste keep mentioning it in the same breath as books I love—especially Louise Penny.
Thanks for the nudge! Jones or Sarah Addison Allen. Oh my word, Second Chance Summer was a one day read for me, too. And then I sobbed and sobbed at the end! Loved that book. Well this list was dangerous to my TBR list! I spent last Friday night happy reading Maybe in Another Life. I also loved the reading experience of I Let You Go. Oh how I love that book! A Man Called Ove was my most recent unputdownable. This was my experience with Allen, too. I hope so! The former because it was reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird and the latter because I really just wanted to know what happened!!
I read this last year it was amazing. I also love The Death series, but I have listened to all of them. The reader is awesome and she has done every one in the series. I keep hearing great things about Juniper. The Greene book is not new-I read it years ago, but obviously it stuck with me!
It is laugh out loud funny at times. I remember trying to read aloud some parts to my family and being unable to because I was laughing so hard! So well written both of her parents are award winning journalists , and so compelling. Great fiction that reads like John Grisham, but sheds light on an important, tough topic of sex-trafficking. This is well written and very good. I love John Grisham, so thanks for the Across the Sun recommendation.
I listen to audio books all the time so I can still cook, clean up, and take my dogs for a walk while still getting my book fix. Your post came at THE perfect time— we are leaving soon for a quick get away and I needed to load my Kindle. I bought 8 of the books you recommended. An ownvoices title, it won the Stonewall Award in the YA category. The Stonewall Book Awards are given annually to English-language works of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience. This book is eye-opening and important to read. I loved Amanda and felt her emotions were wrenching and understandable.
Brutal story with believable characters. Not for the faint of heart. This book received at least 6 starred reviews from different library journals and ended up on a few Best Books of It is very special. Dark Matter is definitely unputdownable. I read Sleeping Giants, it was just ok for me.
Excuse me, that seems rather unkind and uncalled for. Readers do not judge other readers. Have you never been so engrossed in a book that you do not move from the couch all day? If not, I am very sorry for you indeed. Is it in the length of the sentences? The number of pages? The thoughts within? Even the simplest of prose can contain the most challenging of ideas. I am all for challenging and pushing oneself to greater heights of reading, but not at the cost of tearing others down. I hope they bring you as much enjoyment as my assortment will provide me!
But … but … Ethan Frome! Narrative of the Life of an American Slave! The Metamorphosis! The Old Man and the Sea! Heart of Darkness! The Awakening! The Little Prince! Henry James! But some amazing authors through the centuries have written works that they hoped and prayed and intended their audiences would consume quickly whether by reading or listening , in a day or two aka 24 hours or even in one sitting. I read to be entertained, to escape, or to be edified. Easy or hard? Fast or slow? Reading is reading. I have a couple of these books right now!
Great list — the only downside is my Amazon wish list is getting bigger all the time! The Likeness is my favorite Tana French book. Hands down. What a great post! Theres a couple there that ive gone and added to my amazon wish list! I love reading and this post has just fueled my addiction! I am choosing this book for my April book club selection, because it will definitely make for a terrific discussion. What a fun post topic! Reading is personal… so personal. The Alex awards go to ten books written for adults that are considered great crossover books into the YA world.
Great comment, Barb! I read Small Great Things in 24 hours….. Same here, Carol! It was painful but in a good way. I am so glad I read this one and hope the lessons I learned stick with me as well as continue to develop. Love, LOVE this list! Great book that I highly recommend.
Read it this year as part of my PopSugar Reading Challenge! I just saved a bunch of these picks, so thank you. Also, I need to say that The Sea of Tranquility is absolutely nothing like Eleanor and Park with the exception of the two main characters starting off as unlikely friends.
Not sure where you saw that comparison. I love this list, and have added all but 2 to my TBR! She has become a fast favorite. Tana French is one of my favorites, too. I read the first two Murder Squads and agree that The Likeness is a little farfetched, but it captivated me none the less. Just let go and enjoy the ride. Oh boy, now I have to request some of these at my library!
I read Behind Closed Doors by B. Based on what you said, neither is overwhelming with profanity or gore, although both are certainly present in each. You have to read Bird Box by Josh Malerman, I am not usually a fan of books that scare me but this book I could not put down!!! It was so good! I love your list! Now I know what to get next time I go to the Library, Thank you!!!! It felt too modern at times for the a s setting there was one mention of a woman being out and about in tight jeans, which would have a been a major fashion faux pas and not even how jeans were made! Towles has said that he values story over historical accuracy although he was specifically referencing Moscow at the time, not rules.
However: I think sometimes authors painstakingly check their facts, much more than we give them credit for. I just finished When Breath Becomes Air. You will need a few tissues for this. This is about a young doctor who is diagnosed with lung cancer. Simply amazing how he became such a big star of a great show. Thank you Anne for this wonderful post!!! Your the best!!! There are three books in this series, each one I loved and devoured. None of these are my cup of tea.
I stayed up way too late reading it! I can sit and read the day away! I read Good As Gone last night in under five hours! I am excited to try some books on your list. I love Unputdownable books. I have started listening to Audible while I cook and drive and am reading way more than I used to.
Excited to try a few of yours. It was probably my favorite of the year. Both of these last two have a common thread and I feel entertained and dare I say, educated at the same time. All three of these are excellent. If you are struggling with only one audiobook a month, hoopla has a good selection available and you can access them through your local library!
I was just going to suggest checking with your library for downloadable audiobooks. Beth, I was extremely happy to discover that there are now several apps that are free that allow you to check out audio books from the library. They seem to accept any library card in the country. That allows me to listen to many more books than I could afford to otherwise. Check them out.
Would have been one but one but it was during the week and I had work. Such a fun read. Races, long odds, war, shark attacks, and starvation. Lovely post, and great recommendations! Such an interesting list! I made a note of 14 of these — will definitely be checking them out! Thanks for this! I love a good nail biter! They are different than books listed here, but a fun escape to worlds only imagined.
I ended up staying up all night because I could not put it down. I love all Neal Shusterman! His newest book Scythe, YA dystopian adventure did not disappoint. Set in a society where death, war, hunger have been conquered…His Unwind trilogy are my favorite dystopian novels. I read Scythe in less than two days! I could never read a real book in 24 hours no matter how good it was. Too many kids to give me that kind of nice quality time with a book. I completely agree with the Nightingale being an amazing book.
Another one that I would say was just as good and in this category of historical fiction is The Orphan Train. Happy reading! It is a very well-crafted book and fun reading. It is also a very good book for a book group discussion. I find myself thinking of Jeannette Walls frequently and I wonder if her story will, in fact, be made into a movie as mentioned. An inspirational, yet sad story. TY so much to all the contributors—have added these titles to my list as well as some of the other suggestions.
I cant believe no Colleen Hoover book was included on this list! Colleen Hoover is my favorite author. However, just be warned she writes about unhealthy relationships so some people may not like her books. The Shack! We were on vacation a few years ago and it was a suggestion on my kindle. I was raised catholic and religion is such a touchy subject!! But I bought it!!! Read it in less than 24 hours. Beautiful book. Very touching.
Gave me a new perspective on my faith!! Sad but beautiful. And Defending Jacob! Thank you for the blog!!! One of my favorites. I was reading it at work and i would finish a chapter and so oh he did it. I drove my co-workers nuts! Completely agree. I started reading Defending Jacob on the flight to our D. Same kind of different as me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. Check it out before you see the movie. The Nazi Officers Wife. For me this was beyond belief, I was half way through the book before I realized it was a true story.
We have no concept of what people went through during WW2. I always forget about that author yup loved what I read. Still alice was so good and inside the obriens was also good. I still need to read her Anthony book. I have recently fallen in love with Susanna Kearsley. I forgot about going to sleep and finished the book around a. I loved it so much, I read it again on Saturday! What a great story! Through a Glass Darkly, Karleen Cohen. Literally read the book in 24 hours, did not sleep. Amazing book. Awesome list! I love that book! I might need to read it again! That was one of them!
I have read a lot of books that I wanted to keep reading but they were too thickl to finish in a day. Also an all time favorite for me is Midwives by Chris Bohajalian. Empty Mansions was great. Colossus non-fiction. He even makes you feel a little sorry for him. May I send you a complimentary copy? Anything by Elena Ferrante. I could not put down the Neopolitan novels. The story of Lila and Elena through the years was captivating.
Another one that I just could not put down. Replay, by Ken Grimwood. Came out in the s, but I reread it recently and it still holds up. And again? I read this the first time when I was supposed to be studying for a final the next day; I intended to read a couple chapters, but read the whole thing and never did get any studying done. After the final which I did well on, whew! I went home and read Replay all over again. I finished it feeling informed, empathetic and inspired.
One of my best reads in my entire life. Sea of Tranquility, yes!!!! I recommend Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. Danielle-I agree about Jodi Picoult. I have pulled some all-nighters because of her-so much fun! To go along with the Jodi Picoult theme of these last few comments, I read the entirety of Small Great Things yesterday. It was incredibly riveting and eye-opening — it provides a sharp acknowledgement of contemporary racism and its effects. It was phenomenal. Look forward to books on your list! I second The Nightingale! Loved it. And love this list. Just having trouble deciding where to begin!
I agree that there is value in reading books by authors from a wide variety of backgrounds. That said accusations and shame rarely achieve the desired result — they are more likely to make people defensive than affect change. You know what? You and Laura are exactly right. I should have responded differently. With less of a throwaway comment, and more along the lines of attempting to be helpful. Thank you for pointing that out. When we choose to erase race from the conversation, we have a default to whiteness.
It means that People of Color are excluded. In terms of suggested titles, I will happily provide some. I will get back with some others. Thanks again for the suggestion. I appreciate you taking the time to respond. Here are some books by authors of color that fit this blog post theme. It was absolutely delightful. Hope others chime in as well. I have some serious reading to do.
Not a 24 hour read—but well worth the time. People are loving this Facebook post and all the great shares. SO many amazing books. Jemisin Person recommended pretty much anything the author writes How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon Said it was her best read in all of As someone said on the Facebook post, that is one badass list. And folks can alternate, if they choose, to take in more of the richness of writers in America. Thanks to those who are actually open and interested in doing this.
I hope you find some great reads on all these lists. Great list! I can never put her books down and tend to reread them! I highly suggest it! Thank you! You are absolutely right. I responded above to Brandyn, but wanted to make sure you saw that comment. I totally agree Sarah D. If a book sounds good I read it. The color of the author never even crosses my mind! I read for the story! Add to this Girl on Train. The movie was good but the book is incredible.
I love this list and will look for these. I feel the same way! Loved Girl on a Train. The Nightingale….. A must-read and one I hope they make into a movie. I loved this book! Both are amazing books! Talk about plot twists! I was reading the same ideas over and over. I pay more attention to the authors I choose now, and my reading lists is much healthier because of it—and my world view more complete.
I promise this is my very last comment. And how smart you are, Criss! I just tripped over this post that listed 34 books by Women of Color. Inclusion has real consequences. They are all new releases for Added them to my long long TBR list. Thanks for sharing. This list is may cause my TBR to topple over! A few years ago I read The secret keeper by Kate Morton and loved it!! Well written and suspenseful right to the final chapter. The Secret Keeper was very good!
My all time favorite is September by Rosamunde Pilcher. Like most of her books it makes one long to be in the Scottish countryside. More of a character study than a driving plot. Also excellent was Shell Seekers. Love this author. I loved Shell Seekers too. Pilcher is an excellent writer, well able to reel you into a new world. I think her The Secret Place is just as good. Both are about friendship—it seems to be what she does best. I just joined today so I will be adding more titles that I love.
This novel managed to break my heart then patch it up only to make my heart get back in the ring for round two. I read this books years ago and still I recommend it to everyone. Definitely one of those that touch your heart and linger near your soul. Oh how I loved this book. I listened to it and the two readers were amazing. A must read or listen!! Portrayed complicated people with kindness.
Also listened to the audiobook. Frederik Backman is a magical writer! I cannot stop thinking about Ove! I just came across this page from someone that shared this on Facebook, and boy I must say I am so happy to have stumbled upon that link and your blog! What a homey and cozy feel you have here, and I will be sure to check your entires day after day. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. The writing style and the story of this memoir make it absolutely un-putdownable. Just saved your list to come back to. Also, not a mystery, but gripping, is my memoir about fighting cancer during my first pregnancy: Tiger in rather Dark.
Liked reading many of the comments on the different selections. I may have to try a few. I love to read books relating to Holocaust and that sad era. If anyone knows of any plese tell me titles. The boy in the striped pajamas. From Cardinals to Crows by T. Tate Publishing.
The author is a personal friend of mine. The Girl in the Train — Paula Hawkins. You are right-on about these — I read 3 of them in the last 5 days! And have another to pick up at the library tonight. Whenever I need a suggestion of what to read, I always find many good options here? I just picked up that book from library yesterday to read for my mystery books for March.
Hope I like it. Behind Closed Doors by P. I definitely finished it the same day that I started. I was like this with Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. I recommend it to everyone! It was unputdownable by many reviewers on Goodreads and Amazon! What a great list! Not only were half of these book already on my list, but almost all of these books are written by women! Love this list — great books for my daily walks in the woods. Hopefully that means you get credit for recommending them.
Super Powereds and Red Rising are my all time favorites. Time just flew by listening to these books. Written in I found it at a thrift store. Compelling historical account. Available via bookstores or Amazon. Amazing story of a family on a journey of grief and healing. Perhaps the best description is given by Sister Helen Prejean, C. This family drama is a must-read that teaches us about the true nature of justice and our very humanity.
I was left breathless by the end. Not only was this an amazing read, it revolutionized my life, as well.
Unputdownable: 17 books I read in 24 hours or less (because they were just that good)
I could not put down The Bookshop on the Corner by J. Colgan and Murder at the Brightwell by A. Looking forward to the others in this series. The Gifting by K. I got it free from Amazon but will definitely be buying the other books in the trilogy. Think Frank Peretti or Stephen King but not as heavy.
I have found almost every single one of the Ian Rutledge mysteries by Charles Todd to be un-put-downable. I rarely sit down and read a book in one sitting but yesterday I almost finished The Dry. I think you recommended this book on one of your podcasts. You said Reese Weatherspoon bought the movie rights before it even went to press.
In the my comment I was using voice text. Great list, read 3 on this list and put 3 more on hold at the library. My 24 hour reads are always Michael Connelly and Karin Slaughter. Yellow Crocus, Laila Ibrahim — historical fiction about a Southern black woman working for wealthy Plantation owners. Could not put down! And although it took me a little longer than that, because of work, I tore through The Royal We, too.
Great book quick read. Can not put it down. Sweet and touching! Something that I cannot stand is when chapters alternate between different characters points of view. You should try Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King…. An oldie but a goodie. Both great books! Each has been memorable. Took me longer than 24 hours because frankly, it often made me uncomfortable. Very timely subject matter, exploring racism and white supremacy with an unforgettable story.
Months later… I am still pondering this book. It will leave you with a respect for our Military. I loved Unbroken! Love,Water,Memory by Jennie Shortridge. Reading this was a wonderful way to get lost in a weekend spent turning pages! Have read it at least 10 times and shared with many friends over the years. Reading again this weekend. Oh my. I Love, love, love the Proud Breed. I too have read many times and passed along to friends. I currently have two hard copies one to keep and one to give away.
I called her Sombrawolfdog. Both excellent in their own right. The ending is so totally unexpected! Natchez Burning by Greg Iles is amazing!!! It was fantastic. Your suggestions, and those in the comments, have helped me put my summer reading list together!!
Just did not like it at all. Same author. Stunningly beautiful prose,and I actually learned things about the Russian Revolution. I like this Second Towles better than Rules. A Gentleman in Moscow was my favorite book last year. Have you started savoring Dickens yet?
Did anybody feel the same? One of my many favorites of last year. Thanks for the recommendations. I wish there was more of it! It is a classy classic horror story unlike anything you have ever read. Very well written and full of Southern lifestyles and elegance. He knows his setting well, too. This is one of the best and most unsettling books I have read. He is or was one of the ten or so masters of the genre. Not sure how I stumbled across this post, but thanks!
I had read a few of these and enjoyed them, so downloaded a couple of these as audiobooks and have loved them! Haha Katie. I only listen to books or I would never get anything done. I too, came across this site and am downloading as many books as I can. Listening to What She Knew, which someone on here recommended. Hi Sandy, I use Overdrive a lot. I have several library cards. Though he lived with the great, whether out of necessity, or propriety, or taste, their company was not necessary to his happiness.
He retired whenever he could to his estate in the country; he there again with joy met his philosophy, his books, and his Edition: current; Page: [ xxxi ] repose.
Surrounded, at his leisure hours, with country people, after having studied man, in the commerce of the world, and in the history of nations, he studied him also in those simple people whom nature alone has instructed, and he could from them learn something: he conversed chearfully with them; he endeavoured, like Socrates, to find out their genius; he appeared as happy, when conversing with them, as in the most brilliant assemblies, especially when he made up their differences, and comforted them under their distress by his beneficence.
Nothing does greater honour to his memory than the method in which he lived, which some people have pretended to blame as extravagant, in a proud and avaricious age, extremely unfit to find out, and still less to feel, the real benevolent motives of it. He transmitted to his children, without diminution or augmentation, the estate which he received from his ancestors; he added nothing to it but the glory of his name, and the example of his life. He had married, in , dame Jane de Lartigue, daughter of Peter de Lartigue, lieutenant-colonel of the regiment of Molevrier: he had two daughters and one son by her, who, by his character, his morals, and his works, has shewn himself worthy of such a father.
Those who love truth and their country will not be displeased to find some of his maxims here. He thought,. That every part of the state ought to be equally subject to the laws; but that the privileges of every part of the state ought to be respected when their effects have nothing contrary to that natural right which obliges every citizen equally to concur to the public good: that ancient possession was in this kind the first of titles, and the most inviolable of rights, which it was always unjust, and sometimes dangerous, to want to shake.
That magistrates, in all circumstances, and notwithstanding whatever advantage it might be to their own body, ought never to be any thing but magistrates without partiality and without passion, like the laws which absolve and punish without love and hatred. In a word, he said, upon occasion of those ecclesiastical disputes which have so much employed the Greek emperors and Christians, that theological disputes, when they are not confined to the schools, infallibly dishonour a nation in the eyes of its neighbours: in fact, the contempt, in which wise men hold those quarrels, does not vindicate the character of their country; because, sages making every where the least noise, and being the smallest number, it is never from them that the nation is judged of.
The importance of those works, which we have had occasion to mention in this panegyric, has made us pass over in silence less considerable ones, which served as a relaxation to our author, and which, in any other person, would have merited an encomium. The most remarkable of them is the Temple of Gnidus, which was very soon published after the Persian Letters. It is no more the despotic love of the East which he proposes to paint, it is the delicacy and simplicity of pastoral love, such as it is in an unexperienced heart which the commerce of the world has not yet corrupted.
The author, fearing, perhaps, that a picture so opposite to our manners should appear too languid and uniform, has endeavoured to animate it by the most agreeable images. He transports the reader into inchanted scenes, the view of which, to say the truth, little interests the lover in his happiest moments, but the description of which still flatters the imagination, when the passions are gratified. Inspired by his subject, he hath adorned his prose with that animated, figurative, and poetic, stile, which the romance of Telemachus gave the first example of amongst us.
We do not know why some censurers of the temple of Gnidus have said upon this occasion, that it ought to have been written in verse. The poetic stile, if we understand, as we ought by this word, a stile full of warmth and images, does not stand in need of the uniform march and cadency of versification to be agreeable; but, if we only make this stile to consist in a diction loaded with needless epithets, in the cold and trivial descriptions of the wings and quiver of love, and of such objects, versification will add nothing to the merit of these beaten ornaments; in vain will we look for the life and spirit of it.
However this be, the temple of Gnidus being a sort of poem in prose, it belongs to our celebrated writers to determine the rank which it ought to hold: it is worthy of such judges. We believe, at least, the descriptions in this work may with success stand one of the principal Edition: current; Page: [ xxxiv ] tests of poetic descriptions, that of being represented on canvass.
But what we ought chiefly to observe in the temple of Gnidus is, that Anacreon himself is always the observer and the philosopher there. In the fourth canto the author appears to describe the manners of the Cyberites, and it may easily be perceived that these are our own manners. The preface especially bears the mark of the author of the Persian Letters. When he represents the Temple of Gnidus as a translation from a Greek manuscript, a piece of wit which has been so much disfigured since by bad imitators, he takes occasion to paint by one stroke of his pen the folly of critics and the pedantry of translators.
We look upon that particular interest which M. All men of letters ought, as he thought, eagerly to concur in the execution of this most useful undertaking. He gave an example of it, with M. Perhaps the opposition which this work has met with, and which reminded him of what had happened to himself, interested him the more in our favour. He prepared for us an article upon taste, which has been found imperfect among his papers. We shall give it to the public in that condition, and treat it with the same respect that antiquity formerly shewed to the last words of Seneca.
Death prevented him from giving us any farther marks of his beneficence; and, joining our own griefs with those of all Europe, we might write on his tomb,. IF, amidst the infinite number of subjects contained in this book, there is any thing which, contrary to my expectation, may possibly offend, I can at least assure the public that it was not inserted with an ill intention, for I am not naturally of a captious temper.
Plato thanked Heaven that he was born in the same age with Socrates; and, for my part, I give thanks to God that I was born a subject of that government under which I live, and that it is his pleasure I should obey those whom he has made me love. I beg one favour of my readers, which I fear will not be granted me; this is, that they will not judge by a few hours reading of the labour of twenty years; that they will approve or condemn the book entire, and not a few particular phrases.
If they would search into the design of the author, they can do it no other way so completely as by searching into the design of the work. I have first of all considered mankind; and the result of my thoughts has been, that, amidst such an infinite diversity of laws and manners, they were not solely conducted by the caprice of fancy.
I have laid down the first principles, and have found that the particular cases apply naturally to them; that the histories of all nations are only consequences of them; and that every particular law is connected with another law, or depends on some other of a more general extent. When I have been obliged to look back into antiquity, I have endeavoured to assume the spirit of the ancients, lest I should consider those things as alike which are really different, and lest I should miss the difference of those which appear to be like.
I have not drawn my principles from my prejudices, but from the nature of things. Here a great many truths will not appear till we have seen the chain which connects them with others. The more we enter into particulars, the more we shall perceive the certainty of the principles on which they are founded. I have not even given all these particulars; for who could mention them all without a most insupportable fatigue! The reader will not here meet with any of those bold flights which seem to characterise the works of the present age.
I write not to censure any thing established in any country whatsoever. Every nation will here find the reasons on which its maxims are founded; and this will be the natural inference, that to propose alterations belongs only to those who are so happy as to be born with a genius capable of penetrating into the entire constitution of a state. It is not a matter of indifference that the minds of people be enlightened.
The prejudices of the magistrate have arisen from national prejudice. In a time of ignorance they have committed even the greatest evils without the least scruple; but, in an enlightened age, they even tremble while conferring the greatest blessings. They perceive the ancient abuses, they see how they must be reformed, but Edition: current; Page: [ xxxix ] they are sensible also of the abuses of the reformation. They let the evil continue if they fear a worse; they are content with a lesser good if they doubt of a greater.
They examine into the parts to judge of them in connection; and they examine all the causes to discover their different effects. Could I but succeed so as to afford new reasons to every man to love his duty, his prince, his country, his laws; new reasons to render him more sensible, in every nation and government, of the blessings he enjoys, I should think myself the most happy of mortals. Could I but succeed so as to persuade those who command to increase their knowlege in what they ought to prescribe; and those who obey, to find a new pleasure resulting from their obedience; I should think myself the most happy of mortals.
The most happy of mortals should I think myself, could I contribute to make mankind recover from their prejudices. By prejudice, I here mean, not that which renders men ignorant of some particular things, but whatever renders them ignorant of themselves. It is in endeavouring to instruct mankind that we are best able to practise that general virtue which comprehends the love of all. Man, that flexible being, conforming in society to the thoughts and impressions of others, is equally capable of knowing his own nature, whenever it is laid open to his view, and of losing the very sense of it, when this idea is banished from his mind.
Often have I begun and as often have I laid aside this undertaking. I have followed my Edition: current; Page: [ xl ] object without any fixed plan; I have known neither rules nor exceptions; I have found the truth only to lose it again. But, when I had once discovered my first principles, every thing I sought for appeared; and, in the course of twenty years, I have seen my work begun, growing up, advancing to maturity, and finished. If this work meets with success, I shall owe it chiefly to the grandeur and majesty of the subject. However, I do not think that I have been totally deficient in point of genius.
When I have seen what so many great men both in France and Germany have written before me, I have been lost in admiration, but I have not lost my courage; I have said, with Corregio, And I also am a painter. LAWS, in their most general signification, are the necessary relations arising from the nature of things. They who assert, that a blind fatality produced the various effects we behold in this world, talk very absurdly; for can any thing be more unreasonable than to pretend that a blind fatality could be productive of intelligent beings? There is then a primitive reason; and laws are the relations subsisting between it and different beings, and the relations of these to one another.
God is related to the universe as creator and preserver: the laws by which he created all things are those by which he preserves them. He acts according to these rules, because he knows them; he knows them, because he made them; and he made them, because they are relative to his wisdom and power. Since we observe that the world, though formed by the motion of matter, and void of understanding, subsists through so long a succession of ages, its motions must certainly be directed by invariable laws: and, could we imagine another world, it must also have constant rules, or it would inevitably perish.
Thus the creation, which seems an arbitrary act, supposeth laws as invariable as those of the fatality of the atheists. It would be absurd to say, that the Creator might govern the world without those rules, since without them it could not subsist. These rules are a fixed and invariable relation. In bodies moved, the motion is received, increased, diminished, lost, according to the relations of the quantity of matter and velocity: each diversity is uniformity; each change is constancy. Particular intelligent beings may have laws of their own making; but they have some likewise which they never made.
Before there were intelligent beings, they were possible; they had therefore possible relations, and consequently possible laws. Before laws were made, there were relations of possible justice. To say that there is nothing just or unjust, but what is commanded or forbidden by positive laws, is the same as saying that, before the describing of a circle, all the radii were not equal.
We must therefore acknowledge relations of justice antecedent to the positive law by which they are established: as for instance, that, if human societies existed, it would be right to conform to their laws; if there were intelligent beings that had received a benefit of another being, they ought to shew their gratitude; if one intelligent being had created another intelligent being, the latter ought to continue in its original state of dependence; if one intelligent being injures another, it deserves a retaliation; and so on.
But the intelligent world is far from being so well governed as the physical: for, though the former has also its laws, which of their own nature are invariable, it does not conform to them so exactly as the physical world. This is because, on the one hand, particular intelligent beings are of a finite nature, and consequently liable to error; and, on the other, their nature requires them to be free agents. Hence they do not steadily conform to their primitive laws; and even those of their own instituting they frequently infringe.
Whether brutes be governed by the general laws of motion, or by a particular movement, we cannot determine. Be that as it may, they have not a more intimate relation to God than the rest of the material world; and sensation is of no other use to them, than in the relation they have either to other particular beings, or to themselves.
By the allurement of pleasure they preserve the individual, and by the same allurement they preserve their species. They have natural laws, because they are united by sensation; positive laws they have none, because they are not connected by knowledge: and yet they do not invariably conform to their natural laws: these are better observed by Edition: current; Page: [ 4 ] vegetables, that have neither understanding nor sense. Brutes are deprived of the high advantages which we have; but they have some which we have not.
They have not our hopes; but they are without our fears: they are subject, like us, to death, but without knowing it: even most of them are more attentive than we to self-preservation, and do not make so bad a use of their passions. Man, as a physical being, is, like other bodies, governed by invariable laws.
As an intelligent being, he incessantly transgresses the laws established by God, and changes those of his own instituting. He is left to his private direction, though a limited being, and subject, like all finite intelligences, to ignorance and error: even his imperfect knowledge he loseth; and, as a sensible creature, he is hurried away by a thousand impetuous passions. Such a being might every instant forget his Creator; God has therefore reminded him of his duty by the laws of religion.
Such a being is liable every moment to forget himself; philosophy has provided against this by the laws of morality. Formed to live in society, he might forget his fellow-creatures; legislators have, therefore, by political and civil laws, confined him to his duty. In order to have a perfect knowledge of these laws, we must consider man before the establishment of society; the laws received in such a state would be those of nature. The law, which, impressing on our minds the idea of a Creator, inclines us toward him, is the first in importance, Edition: current; Page: [ 5 ] though not in order, of natural laws.
Man, in a state of nature, would have the faculty of knowing before he had acquired any knowledge. Plain it is that his first ideas would not be of a speculative nature: he would think of the preservation of his being before he would investigate its original. In this state, every man, instead of being sensible of his equality, would fancy himself inferior: there would, therefore, be no danger of their attacking one another; peace would be the first law of nature.
The natural impulse, or desire, which Hobbes attributes to mankind, of subduing one another, is far from being well founded. The idea of empire and dominion is so complex, and depends on so many other notions, that it could never be the first which occurred to the human understanding. Next to a sense of his weakness, man would soon find that of his wants. Hence, another law of nature would prompt him to seek for nourishment. Fear, I have observed, would induce men to shun one another; but the marks of this fear, being reciprocal, Edition: current; Page: [ 6 ] would soon engage them to associate.
Besides, this association would quickly follow from the very pleasure one animal feels at the approach of another of the same species.
Again, the attraction arising from the difference of sexes would enhance this pleasure, and the natural inclination they have for each other would form a third law. Beside the sense or instinct which man possesses in common with brutes, he has the advantage of acquired knowledge; and thence arises a second tie, which brutes have not.
Mankind have therefore a new motive of uniting, and a fourth law of nature results from the desire of living in society. AS soon as mankind enter into a state of society, they lose the sense of their weakness; equality ceases, and then commences the state of war. Each particular society begins to feel its strength; whence arises a state of war betwixt different nations. The individuals likewise of each society become sensible of their force: hence the principal advantages of this society they endeavour to convert to their own emolument; which constitutes a state of war betwixt individuals.
These two different kinds of states give rise to human laws. Considered as inhabitants of so great a planet, which necessarily contains a variety of nations, they have laws relative to their mutual intercourse, which is what we call the law of nations. As members of a society that must be properly supported, they have laws relative to the governors and the governed; and this we distinguish by the name of politic law.
They have also another sort of laws, as they stand in relation to each other; by which is understood the civil law. The law of nations is naturally founded on this principle, that different nations ought in time of peace to do one another all the good they can, and in time of war as little injury as possible, without prejudicing their real interests. The object of war is victory; that of victory is conquest; and that of conquest, preservation. From this and the preceding principle all those rules are derived which constitute the law of nations.
All countries have a law of nations, not excepting the Iroquois themselves, though they devour their prisoners; for they send and receive ambassadors, and understand the rights of war and peace. The mischief is, that their law of nations is not founded on true principles. Besides the law of nations relating to all societies, there is a polity, or civil constitution, for each, particularly considered. No society can subsist without a form of government. The general strength may be in the hands of a single person, or of many.
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Some think that, nature having established paternal authority, the most natural government was that of a single person. But the example of paternal authority proves nothing: for, if the power of a father be relative to a single government, that of brothers after the death of a father, and that of cousin-germans after the decease of brothers, refer to a government of many.
The political power necessarily comprehends the union of several families. Better is it to say, that the government most conformable to nature is that which best agrees with the humour and disposition of the people in whose favour it is established. The strength of individuals cannot be united without a conjunction of all their wills.
Law in general is human reason, inasmuch as it governs all the inhabitants of the earth; the political and civil laws of each nation ought to be only the particular cases in which human reason is applied. They should be adapted in such a manner to the people for whom they are framed, that it is a great chance if those of one nation suit another. They should be relative to the nature and principle of each government; whether they form it, as may be said of political laws; or whether they support it, as in the case of civil institutions. They should be relative to the climate of each country, to the quality of its soil, to its situation and extent, to the principal occupation of the natives, whether husbandmen, huntsmen, or shepherds: they should have a relation to the degree of liberty which the constitution will bear, to the religion of the inhabitants, to their inclinations, riches, numbers, commerce, manners, and customs.
In fine, they have relations to each other, as also to their origin, to the intent of the legislator, and to the order of things on which they are established; in all which different lights they ought to be considered. This is what I have undertaken to perform in the following work. These relations I shall examine, since all these together constitute what I call the Spirit of Laws. I have not separated the political from the civil institutions; for, as I do not pretend to treat of laws, but of their spirit, and as this spirit consists in the various relations which the laws may have to different objects, it is not so much my business to follow Edition: current; Page: [ 9 ] the natural order of laws, as that of these relations and objects.
I shall first examine the relations which laws have to the nature and principle of each government: and, as this principle has a strong influence on laws, I shall make it my study to understand it thoroughly; and, if I can but once establish it, the laws will soon appear to flow from thence as from their source. I shall proceed afterwards to other more particular relations. THERE are three species of government; republican, monarchical, and despotic.
This is what I call the nature of each government: we must now inquire into those laws which directly conform to this nature, and consequently are the fundamental institutions. WHEN the body of the people is possessed of the supreme power, this is called a democracy. When the supreme power is lodged in the hands of a part of the people, it is then an aristocracy. In a democracy the people are in some respects the sovereign, and in others the subject. The laws, therefore, which establish the right of suffrage, are fundamental to this government. And indeed it is as important to regulate, in a republic, in what manner, by whom, to whom, and concerning what, suffrages are to be given, as it is, in a monarchy, to know who is the prince, and after what manner he ought to govern.
It is an essential point, to fix the number of citizens who are to form the public assemblies; otherwise it would be uncertain whether the whole or only a part of the people had given their votes. At Sparta the number was fixed to ten thousand. The people, in whom the supreme power resides, ought to have the management of every thing within their reach: what exceeds their abilities must be conducted by their ministers.
But they cannot properly be said to have their ministers, without the power of nominating them: it is therefore a fundamental maxim, in this government, that the people should choose their ministers; that is, their magistrates. They have occasion, as well as monarchs, and even more so, to be directed by a council or senate. But, to have a proper confidence in these, they should have the choosing of the members; whether the election be made by themselves, as at Athens; or by some magistrate deputed for that purpose, as on certain occasions was customary at Rome.
The people are extremely well qualified for choosing those whom they are to intrust with part of their authority. They have only to be determined by things to which they cannot be strangers, and by facts that are obvious to sense. They can tell when a person has fought many battles, and been crowned with success; they are therefore very capable of electing a general.
These are facts of which they can have better information in a public forum than a monarch in his palace. But are they capable of conducting an intricate affair, of seizing and improving Edition: current; Page: [ 12 ] the opportunity and critical moment of action? No; this surpasses their abilities. As most citizens have sufficient abilities to choose, though unqualified to be chosen, so the people, though capable of calling others to an account for their administration, are incapable of conducting the administration themselves.
The public business must be carried on, with a certain motion, neither too quick nor too slow. But the motion of the people is always either too remiss or too violent. Sometimes, with a hundred thousand arms, they overturn all before them; and sometimes, with a hundred thousand feet, they creep like insects. In a popular state the inhabitants are divided into certain classes.
It is in the manner of making this division that great legislators have signalized themselves; and it is on this the duration and prosperity of democracy have ever depended. Servius Tullus followed the spirit of aristocracy in the distribution of his classes. Solon divided the people of Athens into four classes. As the division of those who have a right of suffrage is a fundamental law in republics, the manner also of giving this suffrage is another fundamental.
The suffrage by lot is natural to democracy, as that by choice is to aristocracy. The suffrage by lot is a method of electing that offends no one; but animates each citizen with the pleasing hope of serving his country. Yet, as this method is in itself defective, it has been the endeavour of the most eminent legislators to regulate and amend it. Solon made a law, at Athens, that military employments should be conferred by choice; but that senators and judges should be elected by lot.
The same legislator ordained, that civil magistracies attended with great expence should be given by choice, and the others by lot. When the time of their magistracy was expired, they were obliged to submit to another judgement in regard to their conduct. Persons utterly unqualified must have been extremely backward in giving in their names to be drawn by lot. The law which determines the manner of giving suffrage is likewise fundamental in a democracy. It is a question of some importance, whether the suffrages ought to be public or secret.
But, as this is differently practised in different republics, I shall offer here my thoughts concerning this subject. The lower class ought to be directed by those of higher rank, and restrained within bounds by the gravity of eminent personages. Hence, by rendering the suffrages secret in the Roman republic, all was lost: it was no longer possible to direct a populace that sought its own destruction. Intriguing in a senate is dangerous: dangerous it is also in a body of nobles; but not so in the people, whose nature is to act through passion.
In countries where they have no share in the government, we often see them as much inflamed on the account of an actor, as ever they could be for the welfare of the state. The misfortune of a republic is, when intrigues are at an end; which happens when the people are gained by bribery and corruption: in this case they grow indifferent to public affairs, and avarice becomes their predominant passion.
Unconcerned about the government and every thing belonging to it, they quietly wait for their hire. It is likewise a fundamental law, in democracies, that the people should have the sole power to enact laws. And yet there are a thousand occasions on which it is necessary the senate should have a power of decreeing: nay, it is frequently proper to make some trial of a law before it is established. The constitutions of Rome and Athens were excellent. IN an aristocracy the supreme power is lodged in the hands of a certain number of persons.
These are invested both with the legislative and executive authority; and the rest of the people are, in respect to them, the same as the subjects of a monarchy in regard to the sovereign. They do not vote here by lot; for this would be productive of inconveniencies only. And indeed, in a government where the most mortifying distinctions are already established, though they were to be chosen by lot, still they would not cease to be odious: it is the nobleman they envy, and not the magistrate. When the nobility are numerous, there must be a senate to regulate the affairs which the body of nobles are incapable of deciding, and to prepare others for their decision.
In this case it may be said, that the aristocracy is in some measure in the senate, the democracy in the body of the nobles, and the people are a cypher. It would be a very happy thing, in an aristocracy, if the people, in some measure, could be raised from their state of annihilation. Thus, at Genoa, the bank of St. The senators ought by no means to have a right of naming their own members; for this would be Edition: current; Page: [ 17 ] the only way to perpetuate abuses.
In a republic, the sudden rise of a private citizen to exorbitant power produces monarchy, or something more than monarchy. There is an exception to this rule, when the constitution is such as to have immediate need of a magistrate invested with an exorbitant power. Such was Rome with her dictators; such is Venice with her state-inquisitors: these are formidable magistrates, who restore, as it were by violence, the state to its liberty.
But how comes it that these magistracies are so very different in these two republics? It is because Rome supported the remains of her aristocracy against the people; whereas Venice employs her state-inquisitors to maintain her aristocracy against the nobles. The consequence was, that at Rome the dictatorship could be only of a short duration, as the people act through passion, and not with design. It was necessary that a magistracy of this kind should be exercised with lustre and pomp; the business being to intimidate, and not to punish, the multitude. It was also proper that the dictator should be created only for some particular affair, Edition: current; Page: [ 18 ] and for this only should have an unlimited authority, as he was always created upon some sudden emergency.
On the contrary, at Venice they have occasion for a permanent magistracy; for here it is that schemes may be set on foot, continued, suspended, and resumed; that the ambition of a single person becomes that of a family, and the ambition of one family that of many. They have occasion for a secret magistracy, the crimes they punish being hatched in secrecy and silence. This magistracy must have a general inquisition; for their business is not to remedy known disorders, but to prevent the unknown.
In a word, the latter is designed to punish suspected crimes; whereas the former used rather menaces than punishment, even for crimes that were openly avowed. In all magistracies the greatness of the power must be compensated by the brevity of the duration. This most legislators have fixed to a year: a longer space would be dangerous, and a shorter would be contrary to the nature of government; for who is it that, in the management even of his domestic affairs, would be thus confined?
The best aristocracy is that in which those who have no share in the legislature are so few and inconsiderable, that the governing party have no interest in oppressing them. Aristocratical families ought, therefore, as much as possible, to level themselves, in appearance, with the people. The more an aristocracy borders on democracy, the nearer it approaches to perfection; and, in proportion as it draws towards monarchy, the more it is imperfect.
But the most imperfect of all is that in which the part of the people that obeys is in a state of civil servitude to those who command; as the aristocracy of Poland, where the peasants are slaves to the nobility. THE intermediate, subordinate, and dependent powers constitute the nature of monarchical government; I mean of that in which a single person governs by fundamental laws. I said, the intermediate, subordinate, and dependent powers: and indeed, in monarchies, the prince is the source of all power, political and civil.
These fundamental laws necessarily suppose the intermediate channels through which the power flows; for, if there be only the momentary and capricious will of a single person to govern the state, nothing can be fixed, and of course there is no fundamental law. The most natural intermediate and subordinate power is that of the nobility. This, in some measure, seems to be essential to a monarchy, whose Edition: current; Page: [ 20 ] fundamental maxim is, No monarch, no nobility; no nobility, no monarch: but there may be a despotic prince. There are men who have endeavoured, in some countries in Europe, to suppress the jurisdiction of the nobility; not perceiving that they were driving at the very thing that was done by the parliament of England.
Abolish the privileges of the lords, the clergy, and cities, in a monarchy, and you will soon have a popular state, or else a despotic government. The courts of a considerable kingdom in Europe have, for many ages, been striking at the patrimonial jurisdiction of the lords and clergy. We do not pretend to censure these sage magistrates; but we leave it to the public to judge how far this may alter the constitution.
Far am I from being prejudiced in favour of the privileges of the clergy; however, I should be glad their jurisdiction were once fixed. The question is not, whether their jurisdiction was justly established; but, whether it be really established; whether it constitutes a part of the laws of the country, and is in every respect relative to those laws; whether, between two powers acknowledged independent, the conditions ought not to be reciprocal; and whether it be not equally the duty of a good subject to defend the prerogative of the prince, and to maintain the limits which from time immemorial he has prescribed to his authority.
Though the ecclesiastic power be so dangerous in a republic, yet it is extremely proper in a monarchy, especially of the absolute kind. What would become of Spain and Portugal, since the subversion of their laws, were it not for this only barrier against the incursions of arbitrary power? In the same manner as the ocean, threatening to overflow the whole earth, is stopped by weeds and pebbles, that lie scattered along the shore; so monarchs, whose power seems unbounded, are restrained by the smallest obstacles, and suffer their natural pride to be subdued by supplication and prayer.
The English, to favour their liberty, have abolished all the intermediate powers of which their monarchy was composed. They have a great deal of reason to be jealous of this liberty: were they ever to be so unhappy as to lose it, they would be one of the most servile nations upon earth.
Law, through ignorance both of a republican and monarchical constitution, was one of the greatest promoters of absolute power ever known in Europe. Besides the violent and extraordinary changes owing to his direction, he would fain suppress all the intermediate ranks, and abolish the political communities.
It is not enough to have intermediate powers in a monarchy; there must be also a depositary of the laws. This depositary can only be the judges of the supreme courts of justice, who promulge the new laws, and revive the obsolete. The natural ignorance of the nobility, their indolence, and contempt of civil government, require there should be Edition: current; Page: [ 22 ] a body invested with a power of reviving and executing the laws, which would be otherwise buried in oblivion.
Despotic governments, where there are no fundamental laws, have no such kind of depositary.
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Hence it is that religion has generally so much influence in those countries, because it forms a kind of permanent depositary; and, if this cannot be said of religion, it may of the customs that are respected instead of laws. FROM the nature of despotic power it follows, that the single person, invested with this power, commits the execution of it also to a single person. A man, whom his senses continually inform that he himself is every thing, and his subjects nothing, is naturally lazy, voluptuous, and ignorant.
In consequence of this, he neglects the management of public affairs. But, were he to commit the administration to many, there would be continual disputes among them; each would form intrigues to be his first slave, and he would be obliged to take the reins into his own hands. The creation of a vizir is a fundamental law of this government. It is related of a pope, that he had started an infinite number of difficulties against his election, from a thorough conviction of his incapacity.
At length he was prevailed on to accept of the pontificate, and resigned the administration entirely to his nephew. The more extensive the empire, the larger the seraglio; and consequently the more voluptuous the prince. Hence the more nations such a sovereign has to rule, the less he attends to the cares of government; the more important his affairs, the less he makes them the subject of his deliberations. AFTER having examined the laws relative to the nature of each government, we must investigate those which relate to its principle.
One is its particular structure, and the other the human passions which set it in motion. Now, laws ought to be no less relative to the principle, than to the nature, of each government. We must therefore enquire into this principle, which shall be the subject of this third book. I have already observed, that it is the nature of a republican government, that either the collective body of the people or particular families should be possessed of the supreme power: of a monarchy, that the prince should have this power, but, in the execution of it, should be directed by established laws: of a despotic government, that a single person should rule according to his own will and caprice.
This enables me to discover their three principles, which Edition: current; Page: [ 25 ] are naturally derived from thence. I shall begin with a republican government, and in particular with that of democracy. What I have here advanced is confirmed by the unanimous testimony of historians, and is extremely agreeable to the nature of things.
For, it is clear, that, in a monarchy, where he, who commands the execution of the laws, generally thinks himself above them, there is less need of virtue than in a popular government, where the person, entrusted with the execution of the laws, is sensible of his being subject to their direction. Clear it is, also, that a monarch, who, through bad advice or indolence, ceases to enforce the execution of the laws, may easily repair the evil; he has only to follow other advice, or to shake off this indolence.
But when, in a popular government, there is a suspension of the laws, as this can proceed only from the corruption of the republic, the state is certainly undone. A very droll spectacle it was, in the last century, to behold the impotent efforts of the English towards the establishment of democracy. At length, when the country had undergone the most violent shocks, they were obliged to have recourse to the very government which they had so wantonly proscribed.
When Sylla thought of restoring Rome to her liberty, this unhappy city was incapable of that blessing. The politic Greeks, who lived under a popular government, knew no other support than virtue: the modern inhabitants of that country are entirely taken up with manufacture, commerce, finances, opulence, and luxury. When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community. The objects of their desires are changed; what they were fond of before is become indifferent; they were free while under the restraint of laws, but they would fain now be free to act against law; and, as each citizen is like a slave who has run away from his master, what was a maxim of equity, he calls rigour; what was a rule of action, he stiles constraint; and to precaution he gives the name of fear.
Frugality, and not the thirst of gain, now passes for avarice. Formerly, the wealth of individuals constituted the public treasure, Edition: current; Page: [ 27 ] but now this is become the patrimony of private persons. The members of the commonwealth riot on the public spoils, and its strength is only the power of a few and the licentiousness of many.
Athens was possessed of the same number of forces, when she triumphed so gloriously, and when, with so much infamy, she was inslaved.
Aspen Chapel : Of the Spirit
What does it avail her, that Philip sends back her prisoners, if he does not return her men? It was ever after as easy to triumph over the Athenian forces as it had been difficult to subdue her virtue. How was it possible for Carthage to maintain her ground? Wretches, who would fain be citizens without a city, and beholden for their Edition: current; Page: [ 28 ] riches to their very destroyers! From the desperate efforts of this defenceless city, one may judge of what she might have performed in her full vigour, and assisted by virtue. AS virtue is necessary in a popular government, it is requisite, also, under an aristocracy.
True it is, that, in the latter, it is not so absolutely requisite. The people, who, in respect to the nobility, are the same as the subjects with regard to a monarch, are restrained by their laws: they have, therefore, less occasion for virtue than the people in a democracy. But how are the nobility to be restrained? They, who are to execute the laws against their colleagues, will immediately perceive they are acting against themselves. Virtue is, therefore, necessary in this body, from the very nature of the constitution. An aristocratical government has an inherent vigour, unknown to democracy.
The nobles form a body, who, by their prerogative, and for their own particular interest, restrain the people; it is sufficient, that there are laws in being, to see them executed. Such is the nature of this constitution, that it seems to subject the very same persons to the power Edition: current; Page: [ 29 ] of the laws, and, at the same time, to exempt them.
Now, such a body as this can restrain itself only two ways; either by a very eminent virtue, which puts the nobility, in some measure, on a level with the people, and may be the means of forming a great republic; or by an inferior virtue, which puts them, at least, upon a level with one another; and on this their preservation depends. Moderation is, therefore, the very soul of this government; a moderation, I mean, founded on virtue, not that which proceeds from indolence and pusillanimity.
IN monarchies, policy effects great things with as little virtue as possible. Thus, in the nicest machines, art has reduced the number of movements, springs, and wheels. The state subsists independently of the love of our country, of the thirst of true glory, of self-denial, of the sacrifice of our dearest interests, and of all those heroic virtues which we admire in the ancients, and to us are known only by story.
The laws supply here the place of those virtues; they are by no means wanted, and the state dispenses with them: an action, performed here in secret, is, in some measure, of no consequence. Though all crimes be, in their own nature, public, yet there is a distinction between crimes really public and those that are private, which are so called, because they are more injurious to individuals than to the community.
Now, in republics, private crimes are more public; that is, they attack the constitution more than they do individuals: and, in monarchies, public crimes are more private; that is, they are more prejudicial to private people than to the constitution. I beg that no one will be offended with what I have been saying; my observations are founded on the unanimous testimony of historians.
Let us compare what the historians of all ages have asserted concerning the courts of monarchs; let us recollect the conversations and sentiments of people of all countries in respect to the wretched character of courtiers; and we shall find, that these are not airy speculations, but truths, confirmed by a sad and melancholy experience. Now, it is exceeding difficult for the leading men of the nation to be knaves, and the inferior sort to be honest; for the former to be cheats, and the latter to rest satisfied with being only dupes.
So true is it, that virtue is not the spring of this government. It is not, indeed, excluded, but it is not the spring of government. BUT it is high time for me to have done with this subject, lest I should be suspected of writing a satire against monarchical government. Far be it from me; if monarchy wants one spring, it is provided with another. Honour, that is, the prejudice of every person and rank, supplieth the place of the political virtue of which I have been speaking, and is every where her representative: here it is capable of inspiring the most glorious actions, and, joined with the force of laws, may lead us to the end of government as well as virtue itself.
A monarchical government supposeth, as we have already observed, pre-eminences and ranks, as likewise a noble descent. Now, since it is the nature of Edition: current; Page: [ 32 ] honour to aspire to preferments and titles, it is properly placed in this government. Ambition is pernicious in a republic; but in a monarchy it has some good effects; it gives life to the government, and is attended with this advantage, that it is no way dangerous, because it may be continually checked.