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their fortunes to make; because they are obliged, with an inferior force, to resist that which is superior; because they live in perpetual fear of having their dominions taken from them; and because their interest, being more strictly united with that of their subjects, must enlighten them with respect to the various parts of their administration. Thus we might, in consequence of what I have said, prepare Geographico-political maps of the merit of the princes in the several empires of the East. Their understanding, measured by the scale of their power, would decrease in proportion to the extent and strength of their empires, to the difficulty of penetrating into them, and to the degree of absolute authority they have over their subjects; this scale being once established, would afford us very just conclusions. The Sophis and Moguls, for example, would be placed in the lowest rank; because, excepting some in singular circumstances, where they have accidentally had a good education, the most powerful must commonly be the most ignorant.”1
Under a despotical government, it is farther evident that an unlimited authority, in many respects, must be delegated by the vizier to his inferior officers. There is no established law but the will of the sovereign, and as this cannot be known in every instance, magistrates will necessarily follow their own, Hence the whole country will groan under the oppression of little despots, and of the most intolerable of all despots, men who are themselves slaves to their employers.
In some despotic governments the Prince is considered as proprietor of all the lands, and heir to all his subjects. Here, the extreme of servitude is felt, and every inducement, even to the practice of the lucrative arts and the acquisition of property, is taken away. Agriculture is neglected, and the earth is left in a state of nature. “Under this form of government,” says Ricaut, speaking of the Ottoman empire, “nothing is repaired or improved. Houses are built only for the necessity of habitation; there is no such thing as digging of ditches, or planting of trees; everything is drawn from, but nothing re
De L'Esprit, Essai IV. chap. xiv.
stored to the earth : the land lies untilled, and the whole country becomes a desert.”1
The river Menam, in the kingdom of Siam, overflows annually like the Nile, depositing a quantity of slime, which proves a rich manure. The river seems to rise gradually as the rice grows, and retires to its channel, when the rice, approaching to maturity, needs no longer to be watered. Nature beside has bestowed on that rich country variety of delicious fruits, requiring scarce any culture. “In such a paradise,” says Lord Kames, “ would one imagine that the Siamites are a miserable people ?” “ The government,” says the same author in answer to his own question, “ the government is despotic, and the people are slaves. They must work for their monarch six months every year, without wages, and even without receiving any food from him. What renders them still more miserable is, that they have no protection either for their persons or their goods. The grandees are exposed to the rapacity of the king and his courtiers, and the lower ranks are exposed to the rapacity of the grandees. When a man has the misfortune to possess a tree remarkable for good fruit, he is required, in the name of the king or a courtier, to preserve the fruit for their use. Every proprietor of a garden in the neighbourhood of the capital, must pay a yearly sum to the keeper of the elephants, otherwise it will be laid waste by those animals, whom it is high treason to molest. From the seaport of Mergnin to the capital, one travels ten or twelve days, through immense plains of a rich soil, finely watered. That country appears to have been formerly cultivated, but is now quite depopulated, and left to tigers and elephants. Formerly an immense commerce was carried on in that fertile country: historians attest, that in the middle of the sixteenth century above a thousand foreign ships frequented its ports annually. But the king, tempted with so much riches, endeavoured to engross all the commerce of his country, by which means he annihilated successively mines, manufactures, and even agriculture. The country is depopulated, and few remain there but beggars.”In this manner, the unlimited desire of power and of wealth frustrates its own designs. The real grandeur of a sovereign can only be founded on the wealth, the happiness, and the attachment of his subjects, and these can only be secured by civil liberty. When the savages of Louisiana wish for the fruit of a tree, they lay the axe to its root. “Behold," says Montesquieu,“ an emblem of despotic government!"* “A sentiment,” as Dr. Warton has well remarked, “worthy of the spirit of Demosthenes, and an image worthy of the genius of Homer.”
1 State of the Ottoman Empire, quoted by Montesquieu, [Esprit, &c., V. xiv.] This precarious state of property naturally produces usury and exorbitant interest, as each person will raise the value of his money in propor
tion to the danger he sees in lending it. Hence poverty is deprived even of the resource of borrowing, and extensive commerce is rendered impracticable.
* See on this subject Raynal, (Histoire Philosophique, &c ,] Book ix.
When we review, in this manner, the tendency of despotism with respect to the happiness of mankind, it cannot fail to excite our wonder how such a species of government should be suffered to exist, or by what fascination millions of men should continue for ages under its yoke. It appears, however, from the fact, that the thing is possible, and that the human mind may be so trained by education, or subdued by external circumstances, as to lose all sense of its natural rights in a childish admiration of rank and magnificence, or in a servile depression and abjectness of spirit. Tacitus informs us, that in the reign of Tiberius, the servility and adulation even of the higher orders was carried to such an excess, as to become disgusting to the tyrant himself. “ Ceterum tempora illa adeo infecta, et adulatione sordida fuêre, ut non modo primores civitatis, quibus claritudo sua obsequiis protegenda erat; sed omnes cousulares, magna pars eorum qui prætura functi, multique etiam pedarii sepatores certatim insurgerent, fædaque et nimia censerent. Memoriæ proditur, Tiberium, quoties curiâ egrederetur, Græcis verbis in hunc modum eloqui solitum :- homines ad servitutem paratos! Scilicet etiam illum, qui libertatem publicam nollet, tam projectæ servientium patientiæ tædebat.”2
1 Kames' Sketches, Vol. I. p. 399. [Book II. sketch iii.]
? Annales, III. Ixv.
The principles in human nature on which education operates in producing this servility, were undoubtedly intended for the most valuable purposes ; to fit men for government, and to give to wisdom and virtue an ascendant over the physical force of the multitude. That they have produced more good than harm, on the whole, there is no reason to doubt; but experience shews, that in some unfortunate combinations of circumstances they may be rendered subservient to the establishment of a political order, infinitely more ruinous to the happiness and the virtue of mankind, than anarchy itself. The latter may, indeed, for a time, dissolve still more completely the moral elements of social life; but the violence and bloodshed which it inevitably occasions, lead, sooner or later, by a natural and necessary process, to their own correction. The chief danger which attends it, in its ultimate result, arises from the strong tendency of the human mind to pass from one extreme to another, and which has repeatedly, in the past history of our species, hurried men at once from the insubordination and misrule of a lawless licentiousness, into the dead and hopeless repose which despotism secures.
Montesquieu has said, that the Principle of Despotism is Fear. I before observed, [p. 379, seq.,] that by the principle of a government, this author seems to have meant that national character which is favourable to the government, and which contributes to support it. In the present instance, therefore, Montesquieu's observation implies, that the most striking feature in the character of a people reduced to political slavery, is a universal timidity, jealousy, and mutual distrust; and the more we reflect on the remark, we shall be the more sensible of its significancy and importance. That in a despotism, the government could not subsist for a moment, unless the sovereign and his inferior officers were objects of dread to the body of the people, is a consideration too obvious to have formed the leading idea in Montesquieu's mind, when he stated this as a fundamental maxim in the theory of government. It is more than probable, that what he chiefly alluded to was the mutual
* [Esprit, &c., Liv. III. chap. ix.]
dread and distrust diffused among the members of the community by the jealousy of the prince,-a jealousy which renders it necessary in such an establishment, to prevent every combination, which, by making the subjects conscious of their own strength, might excite a spirit of liberty, and which naturally suggests the dreadful policy of destroying, as far as possible, the easy intercourse of social life, and even the confidence of domestic society. Such was the feeling of Tiberius when he called spies and informers the guardians of the state ; and such was the condition of the Roman people during that melancholy period which led Tacitus to lament that “his Annals must want the grandeur and the variety of those histories which detail the transactions of free states; being little more,” as he himself observes, “ than the disgusting repetition of continued acts of cruelty, accusations, breaches of trust, violated friendships, and the ruin of the innocent.”1
The idea which despotic governments have themselves entertained of the necessity of maintaining their empire over men, by a skilful management of their opinions and habits, appears remarkably from the anxious care they have uniformly taken to prevent every circumstance which might diminish the influence of royalty over the mind, by too great a familiarity with the person, or even with the name of the sovereign, and to check every idea which, by the most remote association, might lead men to conceptions unfavourable to the established authority. At Rome, it was high treason to sell a statue of an emperor ; and it was doubted whether it was not high treason to hit an emperor's statue with a stone thrown at random.?
The account which Herodian gives of the funeral rites which were observed at Rome upon the death of an emperor, illustrates still more remarkably the anxiety of despotical governments to consecrate the prince in the opinion of his subjects.3
1 Lib. IV. cap. xxxiii., quoted (George) Gregory, p. 345.
Sketches, Vol. I. p. 397.—[Book II. sk. iii.]
(Historia,] Lib. IV., qnoted by Kames, Sketches, Vol. I. p. 398.—[Book II. sk. iii.]
? [Pandectæ,] Lib. V., Ad Legem Julian Majestatis, quoted by Kames,