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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Montesquieu
By Jean le Rond d’Alembert (1717–1783)
 
From the Eulogy published in the ‘Encyclopédie’

THE INTEREST which good citizens are pleased to take in the ‘Encyclopédie,’ and the great number of men of letters who consecrate their labors to it, authorize us to regard this work as the most proper monument to preserve the grateful sentiments of our country, and that respect which is due to the memory of those celebrated men who have done it honor. Persuaded, however, that M. de Montesquieu had a title to expect other panegyrics, and that the public grief deserved to be described by more eloquent pens, we should have paid his great memory the homage of silence, had not gratitude compelled us to speak. A benefactor to mankind by his writings, he was not less a benefactor to this work, and at least we may place a few lines at the base of his statue, as it were.  1
  Charles de Secondat, baron of La Brède and of Montesquieu, late life-President of the Parliament of Bordeaux, member of the French Academy of Sciences, of the Royal Academy and Belles-Lettres of Prussia, and of the Royal Society of London, was born at the castle of La Brède, near Bordeaux, the 18th of January, 1689, of a noble family of Guyenne. His great-great-grandfather, John de Secondat, steward of the household to Henry the Second, King of Navarre, and afterward to Jane, daughter of that king, who married Antony of Bourbon, purchased the estate of Montesquieu for the sum of ten thousand livres, which this princess gave him by an authentic deed, as a reward for his probity and services.  2
  Henry the Third, King of Navarre, afterward Henry the Fourth, King of France, erected the lands of Montesquieu into a barony, in favor of Jacob de Secondat, son of John, first a gentleman in ordinary of the bedchamber to this prince, and afterward colonel of the regiment of Châtillon. John Gaston de Secondat, his second son, having married a daughter of the first president of the Parliament of Bordeaux, purchased the office of perpetual president in this society. He had several children, one of whom entered the service, distinguished himself, and quitted it very early in life. This was the father of Charles de Secondat, author of the ‘Spirit of Laws.’ These particulars may seem superfluous in the eulogy of a philosopher who stands so little in need of ancestors; but at least we may adorn their memory with that lustre which his name reflects upon it.  3
  The early promise of his genius was fulfilled in Charles de Secondat. He discovered very soon what he desired to be, and his father cultivated this rising genius, the object of his hope and of his tenderness. At the age of twenty, young Montesquieu had already prepared materials for the ‘Spirit of Laws,’ by a well-digested extract from the immense body of the civil law; as Newton had laid in early youth the foundation of his immortal works. The study of jurisprudence, however, though less dry to M. de Montesquieu than to most who attempt it, because he studied it as a philosopher, did not content him. He inquired deeply into the subjects which pertain to religion, and considered them with that wisdom, decency, and equity, which characterize his work.  4
  A brother of his father, perpetual president of the Parliament of Bordeaux, an able judge and virtuous citizen, the oracle of his own society and of his province, having lost an only son, left his fortune and his office to M. de Montesquieu.  5
  Some years after, in 1722, during the king’s minority, his society employed him to present remonstrances upon occasion of a new impost. Placed between the throne and the people, like a respectful subject and courageous magistrate he brought the cry of the wretched to the ears of the sovereign—a cry which, being heard, obtained justice. Unfortunately, this success was momentary. Scarce was the popular voice silenced before the suppressed tax was replaced by another; but the good citizen had done his duty.  6
  He was received the 3d of April, 1716, into the new academy of Bordeaux. A taste for music and entertainment had at first assembled its members. M. de Montesquieu believed that the talents of his friends might be better employed in physical subjects. He was persuaded that nature, worthy of being beheld everywhere, could find everywhere eyes worthy to behold her; while it was impossible to gather together, at a distance from the metropolis, distinguished writers on works of taste. He looked upon our provincial societies for belles-lettres as a shadow of literature which obscures the reality. The Duke de la Force, by a prize which he founded at Bordeaux, seconded these rational views. It was decided that a good physical experiment would be better than a weak discourse or a bad poem; and Bordeaux got an Academy of Sciences.  7
  M. de Montesquieu, careless of reputation, wrote little. It was not till 1721, that is to say, at thirty-two years of age, that he published the ‘Persian Letters.’ The description of Oriental manners, real or supposed, is the least important thing in these letters. It serves merely as a pretense for a delicate satire upon our own customs and for the concealment of a serious intention. In this moving picture, Usbec chiefly exposes, with as much ease as energy, whatever among us most struck his penetrating eyes: our way of treating the silliest things seriously, and of laughing at the most important; our way of talking which is at once so blustering and so frivolous; our impatience even in the midst of pleasure itself; our prejudices and our actions that perpetually contradict our understandings; our great love of glory and respect for the idol of court favor, our little real pride; our courtiers so mean and vain; our exterior politeness to, and our real contempt of strangers; our fantastical tastes, than which there is nothing lower but the eagerness of all Europe to adopt them; our barbarous disdain for the two most respectable occupations of a citizen—commerce and magistracy; our literary disputes, so keen and so useless; our rage for writing before we think, and for judging before we understand. To this picture he opposes, in the apologue of the Troglodytes, the description of a virtuous people, become wise by misfortunes—a piece worthy of the portico. In another place, he represents philosophy, long silenced, suddenly reappearing, regaining rapidly the time which she had lost; penetrating even among the Russians at the voice of a genius which invites her; while among other people of Europe, superstition, like a thick atmosphere, prevents the all-surrounding light from reaching them. Finally, by his review of ancient and modern government, he presents us with the bud of those bright ideas since fully developed in his great work.  8
  These different subjects, no longer novel, as when the ‘Persian Letters’ first appeared, will forever remain original—a merit the more real that it proceeds alone from the genius of the writer; for Usbec acquired, during his abode in France, so perfect a knowledge of our morals, and so strong a tincture of our manners, that his style makes us forget his country. This small solecism was perhaps not unintentional. While exposing our follies and vices, he meant, no doubt, to do justice to our merits. Avoiding the insipidity of a direct panegyric, he has more delicately praised us by assuming our own air in professed satire.  9
  Notwithstanding the success of his work, M. de Montesquieu did not acknowledge it. Perhaps he wished to escape criticism. Perhaps he wished to avoid a contrast of the frivolity of the ‘Persian Letters’ with the gravity of his office; a sort of reproach which critics never fail to make, because it requires no sort of effort. But his secret was discovered, and the public suggested his name for the Academy. The event justified M. de Montesquieu’s silence. Usbec expresses himself freely, not concerning the fundamentals of Christianity, but about matters which people affect to confound with Christianity itself: about the spirit of persecution which has animated so many Christians; about the temporal usurpation of ecclesiastical power; about the excessive multiplication of monasteries, which deprive the State of subjects without giving worshipers to God; about some opinions which would fain be established as principles; about our religious disputes, always violent and often fatal. If he appears anywhere to touch upon questions more vital to Christianity itself, his reflections are in fact favorable to revelation, because he shows how little human reason, left to itself, knows.  10
  Among the genuine letters of M. de Montesquieu the foreign printer had inserted some by another hand. Before the author was condemned, these should have been thrown out. Regardless of these considerations, hatred masquerading as zeal, and zeal without understanding, rose and united themselves against the ‘Persian Letters.’ Informers, a species of men dangerous and base, alarmed the piety of the ministry. M. de Montesquieu, urged by his friends, supported by the public voice, having offered himself for the vacant place of M. de Sacy in the French Academy, the minister wrote “The Forty” that his Majesty would never accept the election of the author of the ‘Persian Letters’; that he had not, indeed, read the book, but that persons in whom he placed confidence had informed him of its poisonous tendency. M. de Montesquieu saw what a blow such an accusation might prove to his person, his family, and his tranquillity. He neither sought literary honors nor affected to disdain them when they came in his way, nor did he regard the lack of them as a misfortune: but a perpetual exclusion, and the motives of that exclusion, appeared to him to be an injury. He saw the minister, and explained that though he did not acknowledge the ‘Persian Letters,’ he would not disown a work for which he had no reason to blush; and that he ought to be judged upon its contents, and not upon mere hearsay. At last the minister read the book, loved the author, and learned wisdom as to his advisers. The French Academy obtained one of its greatest ornaments, and France had the happiness to keep a subject whom superstition or calumny had nearly deprived her of; for M. de Montesquieu had declared to the government that, after the affront they proposed, he would go among foreigners in quest of that safety, that repose, and perhaps those rewards which he might reasonably have expected in his own country. The nation would really have deplored his loss, while yet the disgrace of it must have fallen upon her.  11
  M. de Montesquieu was received the 24th of January, 1728. His oration is one of the best ever pronounced here. Among many admirable passages which shine out in its pages is the deep-thinking writer’s characterization of Cardinal Richelieu, “who taught France the secret of its strength, and Spain that of its weakness; who freed Germany from her chains and gave her new ones.”  12
  The new Academician was the worthier of this title, that he had renounced all other employments to give himself entirely up to his genius and his taste. However important was his place, he perceived that a different work must employ his talents; that the citizen is accountable to his country and to mankind for all the good he may do; and that he could be more useful by his writings than by settling obscure legal disputes. He was no longer a magistrate, but only a man of letters.  13
  But that his works should serve other nations, it was necessary that he should travel, his aim being to examine the natural and moral world, to study the laws and constitution of every country; to visit scholars, writers, artists, and everywhere to seek for those rare men whose conversation sometimes supplies the place of years of observation. M. de Montesquieu might have said, like Democritus, “I have forgot nothing to instruct myself; I have quitted my country and traveled over the universe, the better to know truth; I have seen all the illustrious personages of my time.” But there was this difference between the French Democritus and him of Abdera, that the first traveled to instruct men, and the second to laugh at them.  14
  He went first to Vienna, where he often saw the celebrated Prince Eugene. This hero, so fatal to France (to which he might have been so useful), after having checked the advance of Louis XIV. and humbled the Ottoman pride, lived without pomp, loving and cultivating letters in a court where they are little honored, and showing his masters how to protect them.  15
  Leaving Vienna, the traveler visited Hungary, an opulent and fertile country, inhabited by a haughty and generous nation, the scourge of its tyrants and the support of its sovereigns. As few persons know this country well, he has written with care this part of his travels.  16
  From Germany he went to Italy. At Venice he met the famous Mr. Law, of whose former grandeur nothing remained but projects fortunately destined to die away unorganized, and a diamond which he pawned to play at games of hazard. One day the conversation turned on the famous system which Law had invented; the source of so many calamities, so many colossal fortunes, and so remarkable a corruption in our morals. As the Parliament of Paris had made some resistance to the Scotch minister on this occasion, M. de Montesquieu asked him why he had never tried to overcome this resistance by a method almost always infallible in England, by the grand mover of human actions—in a word, by money. “These are not,” answered Law, “geniuses so ardent and so generous as my countrymen; but they are much more incorruptible.” It is certainly true that a society which is free for a limited time ought to resist corruption more than one which is always free: the first, when it sells its liberty, loses it; the second, so to speak, only lends it, and exercises it even when it is thus parting with it. Thus the circumstances and nature of government give rise to the vices and virtues of nations.  17
  Another person, no less famous, whom M. de Montesquieu saw still oftener at Venice, was Count de Bonneval. This man, so well known for his adventures, which were not yet at an end, delighted to converse with so good a judge and so excellent a hearer, often related to him the military actions in which he had been engaged, and the remarkable circumstances of his life, and drew the characters of generals and ministers whom he had known.  18
  He went from Venice to Rome. In this ancient capital of the world he studied the works of Raphael, of Titian, and of Michael Angelo. Accustomed to study nature, he knew her when she was translated, as a faithful portrait appeals to all who are familiar with the original.  19
  After having traveled over Italy, M. de Montesquieu came to Switzerland and studied those vast countries which are watered by the Rhine. There was the less for him to see in Germany that Frederick did not yet reign. In the United Provinces he beheld an admirable monument of what human industry animated by a love of liberty can do. In England he stayed three years. Welcomed by the greatest men, he had nothing to regret save that he had not made his journey sooner. Newton and Locke were dead. But he had often the honor of paying his respects to their patroness, the celebrated Queen of England, who cultivated philosophy upon a throne, and who properly esteemed and valued M. de Montesquieu. Nor was he less well received by the nation. At London he formed intimate friendships with the great thinkers. With them he studied the nature of the government, attaining profound knowledge of it.  20
  As he had set out neither as an enthusiast nor a cynic, he brought back neither a disdain for foreigners nor a contempt for his own country. It was the result of his observations that Germany was made to travel in, Italy to sojourn in, England to think in, and France to live in.  21
  After returning to his own country, M. de Montesquieu retired for two years to his estate of La Brède, enjoying that solitude which a life in the tumult and hurry of the world but makes the more agreeable. He lived with himself, after having so long lived with others; and finished his work ‘On the Cause of the Grandeur and Decline of the Romans,’ which appeared in 1734.  22
  Empires, like men, must increase, decay, and be extinguished. But this necessary revolution may have hidden causes which the veil of time conceals from us.  23
  Nothing in this respect more resembles modern history than ancient history. That of the Romans must, however, be excepted. It presents us with a rational policy, a connected system of aggrandizement, which will not permit us to attribute the great fortune of this people to obscure and inferior sources. The causes of the Roman grandeur may then be found in history, and it is the business of the philosopher to discover them. Besides, there are no systems in this study, as in that of physics, which are easily overthrown, because one new and unforeseen experiment can upset them in an instant. On the contrary, when we carefully collect the facts, if we do not always gather together all the desired materials, we may at least hope one day to obtain more. A great historian combines in the most perfect manner these defective materials. His merit is like that of an architect, who, from a few remains, traces the plan of an ancient edifice; supplying, by genius and happy conjectures, what was wanting in fact.  24
  It is from this point of view that we ought to consider the work of M. de Montesquieu. He finds the causes of the grandeur of the Romans in that love of liberty, of labor, and of country, which was instilled into them during their infancy; in those intestine divisions which gave an activity to their genius, and which ceased immediately upon the appearance of an enemy; in that constancy after misfortunes, which never despaired of the republic; in that principle they adhered to of never making peace but after victories; in the honor of a triumph, which was a subject of emulation among the generals; in that protection which they granted to those peoples who rebelled against their kings; in the excellent policy of permitting the conquered to preserve their religion and customs; and the equally excellent determination never to have two enemies upon their hands at once, but to bear everything from the one till they had destroyed the other. He finds the causes of their declension in the aggrandizement of the State itself: in those distant wars, which, obliging the citizens to be too long absent, made them insensibly lose their republican spirit; in the too easily granted privilege of being citizens of Rome, which made the Roman people at last become a sort of many-headed monster; in the corruption introduced by the luxury of Asia; in the proscriptions of Sylla, which debased the genius of the nation, and prepared it for slavery; in the necessity of having a master while their liberty was become burdensome to them; in the necessity of changing their maxims when they changed their government; in that series of monsters who reigned, almost without interruption, from Tiberius to Nerva, and from Commodus to Constantine; lastly, in the translation and division of the empire, which perished first in the West by the power of barbarians, and after having languished in the East, under weak or cruel emperors, insensibly died away, like those rivers which disappear in the sands.  25
  In a very small volume M. de Montesquieu explained and unfolded his picture. Avoiding detail, and seizing only essentials, he has included in a very small space a vast number of objects distinctly perceived, and rapidly presented, without fatiguing the reader. While he points out much, he leaves us still more to reflect upon; and he might have entitled his book, ‘A Roman History for the Use of Statesmen and Philosophers.’  26
  Whatever reputation M. de Montesquieu had thus far acquired, he had but cleared the way for a far grander undertaking—for that which ought to immortalize his name, and commend it to the admiration of future ages. He had meditated for twenty years upon its execution; or, to speak more exactly, his whole life had been a perpetual meditation upon it. He had made himself in some sort a stranger in his own country, the better to understand it. He had studied profoundly the different peoples of Europe. The famous island, which so glories in her laws, and which makes so bad a use of them, proved to him what Crete had been to Lycurgus—a school where he learned much without approving everything. Thus he attained by degrees to the noblest title a wise man can deserve, that of legislator of nations.  27
  If he was animated by the importance of his subject, he was at the same time terrified by its extent. He abandoned it, and returned to it again and again. More than once, as he himself owns, he felt his paternal hands fail him. At last, encouraged by his friends, he resolved to publish the ‘Spirit of Laws.’  28
  In this important work M. de Montesquieu, without insisting, like his predecessors, upon metaphysical discussions, without confining himself, like them, to consider certain people in certain particular relations or circumstances, takes a view of the actual inhabitants of the world in all their conceivable relations to each other. Most other writers in this way are either simple moralists, or simple lawyers, or even sometimes simple theologists. As for him, a citizen of all nations, he cares less what duty requires of us than what means may constrain us to do it; about the metaphysical perfection of laws, than about what man is capable of; about laws which have been made, than about those which ought to have been made; about the laws of a particular people, than about those of all peoples. Thus, when comparing himself to those who have run before him in this noble and grand career, he might say, with Correggio, when he had seen the works of his rivals, “And I, too, am a Painter.”  29
  Filled with his subject, the author of the ‘Spirit of Laws’ comprehends so many materials, and treats them with such brevity and depth, that assiduous reading alone discloses its merit. This study will make that pretended want of method, of which some readers have accused M. de Montesquieu, disappear. Real want of order should be distinguished from what is apparent only. Real disorder confuses the analogy and connection of ideas; or sets up conclusions as principles, so that the reader, after innumerable windings, finds himself at the point whence he set out. Apparent disorder is when the author, putting his ideas in their true place, leaves it to the readers to supply intermediate ones. M. de Montesquieu’s book is designed for men who think, for men capable of supplying voluntary and reasonable omissions.  30
  The order perceivable in the grand divisions of the ‘Spirit of Laws’ pervades the smaller details also. By his method of arrangement we easily perceive the influence of the different parts upon each other; as, in a system of human knowledge well understood, we may perceive the mutual relation of sciences and arts. There must always remain something arbitrary in every comprehensive scheme, and all that can be required of an author is, that he follow strictly his own system.  31
  For an allowable obscurity the same defense exists. What may be obscure to the ignorant is not so for those whom the author had in mind. Besides, voluntary obscurity is not properly obscurity. Obliged to present truths of great importance, the direct avowal of which might have shocked without doing good, M. de Montesquieu has had the prudence to conceal them from those whom they might have hurt without hiding them from the wise.  32
  He has especially profited from the two most thoughtful historians, Tacitus and Plutarch; but, though a philosopher familiar with these authors might have dispensed with many others, he neglected nothing that could be of use. The reading necessary for the ‘Spirit of Laws’ is immense; and the author’s ingenuity is the more wonderful because he was almost blind, and obliged to depend on other men’s eyes. This prodigious reading contributes not only to the utility, but to the agreeableness of the work. Without sacrificing dignity, M. de Montesquieu entertains the reader by unfamiliar facts, or by delicate allusions, or by those strong and brilliant touches which paint, by one stroke, nations and men.  33
  In a word, M. de Montesquieu stands for the study of laws, as Descartes stood for that of philosophy. He often instructs us, and is sometimes mistaken; and even when he mistakes, he instructs those who know how to read him. The last edition of his works demonstrates, by its many corrections and additions, that when he has made a slip, he has been able to rise again.  34
  But what is within the reach of all the world is the spirit of the ‘Spirit of Laws,’ which ought to endear the author to all nations, to cover far greater faults than are his. The love of the public good, a desire to see men happy, reveals itself everywhere; and had it no other merit, it would be worthy, on this account alone, to be read by nations and kings. Already we may perceive that the fruits of this work are ripe. Though M. de Montesquieu scarcely survived the publication of the ‘Spirit of Laws,’ he had the satisfaction to foresee its effects among us; the natural love of Frenchmen for their country turned toward its true object; that taste for commerce, for agriculture, and for useful arts, which insensibly spreads itself in our nation; that general knowledge of the principles of government, which renders people more attached to that which they ought to love. Even the men who have indecently attacked this work perhaps owe more to it than they imagine. Ingratitude, besides, is their least fault. It is not without regret and mortification that we expose them; but this history is of too much consequence to M. de Montesquieu and to philosophy to be passed over in silence. May that reproach, which at last covers his enemies, profit them!  35
  The ‘Spirit of Laws’ was at once eagerly sought after on account of the reputation of its author; but though M. de Montesquieu had written for thinkers, he had the vulgar for his judge. The brilliant passages scattered up and down the work, admitted only because they illustrated the subject, made the ignorant believe that it was written for them. Looking for an entertaining book, they found a useful one, whose scheme and details they could not comprehend without attention. The ‘Spirit of Laws’ was treated with a deal of cheap wit; even the title of it was made a subject of pleasantry. In a word, one of the finest literary monuments which our nation ever produced was received almost with scurrility. It was requisite that competent judges should have time to read it, that they might correct the errors of the fickle multitude. That small public which teaches, dictated to that large public which listens to hear, how it ought to think and speak; and the suffrages of men of abilities formed only one voice over all Europe.  36
  The open and secret enemies of letters and philosophy now united their darts against this work. Hence that multitude of pamphlets discharged against the author, weapons which we shall not draw from oblivion. If those authors were not forgotten, it might be believed that the ‘Spirit of Laws’ was written amid a nation of barbarians.  37
  M. de Montesquieu despised the obscure criticisms of the curious. He ranked them with those weekly newspapers whose encomiums have no authority, and their darts no effect; which indolent readers run over without believing, and in which sovereigns are insulted without knowing it. But he was not equally indifferent about those principles of irreligion which they accused him of having propagated. By ignoring such reproaches he would have seemed to deserve them, and the importance of the object made him shut his eyes to the meanness of his adversaries. The ultra-zealous, afraid of that light which letters diffuse, not to the prejudice of religion, but to their own disadvantage, took different ways of attacking him; some, by a trick as puerile as cowardly, wrote fictitious letters to themselves; others, attacking him anonymously, had afterwards fallen by the ears among themselves. M. de Montesquieu contented himself with making an example of the most extravagant. This was the author of an anonymous periodical paper, who accused M. de Montesquieu of Spinozism and deism (two imputations which are incompatible); of having followed the system of Pope (of which there is not a word in his works); of having quoted Plutarch, who is not a Christian author; of not having spoken of original sin and of grace. In a word, he pretended that the ‘Spirit of Laws’ was a production of the constitution Unigenitus; a preposterous idea. Those who understand M. de Montesquieu and Clement XI. may judge, by this accusation, of the rest.  38
  This enemy procured the philosopher an addition of glory as a man of letters: the ‘Defense of the Spirit of Laws’ appeared. This work, for its moderation, truth, delicacy of ridicule, is a model. M. de Montesquieu might easily have made his adversary odious; he did better—he made him ridiculous. We owe the aggressor eternal thanks for having procured us this masterpiece. For here, without intending it, the author has drawn a picture of himself; those who knew him think they hear him; and posterity, when reading his ‘Defense,’ will decide that his conversation equaled his writings—an encomium which few great men have deserved.  39
  Another circumstance gave him the advantage. The critic loudly accused the clergy of France, and especially the faculty of theology, of indifference to the cause of God, because they did not proscribe the ‘Spirit of Laws.’ The faculty resolved to examine the ‘Spirit of Laws.’ Though several years have passed, it has not yet pronounced a decision. It knows the grounds of reason and of faith; it knows that the work of a man of letters ought not to be examined like that of a theologian; that a bad interpretation does not condemn a proposition, and that it may injure the weak to see an ill-timed suspicion of heresy thrown upon geniuses of the first rank. In spite of this unjust accusation, M. de Montesquieu was always esteemed, visited, and well received by the greatest and most respectable dignitaries of the Church. Would he have preserved this esteem among men of worth, if they had regarded him as a dangerous writer?  40
  M. de Montesquieu’s death was not unworthy of his life. Suffering greatly, far from a family that was dear to him, surrounded by a few friends and a great crowd of spectators, he preserved to the last his calmness and serenity of soul. After performing with decency every duty, full of confidence in the Eternal Being, he died with the tranquillity of a man of worth, who had ever consecrated his talents to virtue and humanity. France and Europe lost him February 10th, 1755, aged sixty-six.  41
  All the newspapers published this event as a misfortune. We may apply to M. de Montesquieu what was formerly said of an illustrious Roman: that nobody, when told of his death, showed any joy or forgot him when he was no more. Foreigners were eager to demonstrate their regrets: my Lord Chesterfield, whom it is enough to name, wrote an article to his honor—an article worthy of both. It is the portrait of Anaxagoras drawn by Pericles. The Royal Academy of Sciences and Belles-Lettres of Prussia, though it is not its custom to pronounce a eulogy on foreign members, paid him an honor which only the illustrious John Bernoulli had hitherto received. M. de Maupertuis, though ill, performed himself this last duty to his friend, and would not permit so sacred an office to fall to the share of any other. To these honorable suffrages were added those praises given him, in presence of one of us, by that very monarch to whom this celebrated Academy owes its lustre; a prince who feels the losses which Philosophy sustains, and at the same time comforts her.  42
  The 17th of February the French Academy, according to custom, performed a solemn service for him, at which all the learned men of this body assisted. They ought to have placed the ‘Spirit of Laws’ upon his coffin, as heretofore they exposed, opposite to that of Raphael, his Transfiguration. This simple and affecting decoration would have been a fit funeral oration.  43
  M. de Montesquieu had, in company, an unvarying sweetness and gayety of temper. His conversation was spirited, agreeable, and instructive, because he had known so many great men. It was, like his style, concise, full of wit and sallies, without gall, and without satire. Nobody told a story more brilliantly, more readily, more gracefully, or with less affectation.  44
  His frequent absence of mind only made him the more amusing. He always roused himself to reanimate the conversation. The fire of his genius, his prodigality of ideas, gave rise to flashes of speech; but he never interrupted an interesting conversation; and he was attentive without affectation and without constraint. His conversation not only resembled his character and his genius, but had the method which he observed in his study. Though capable of long-continued meditation, he never exhausted his strength; he always left off application before he felt the least symptom of fatigue.  45
  He was sensible to glory, but wished only to deserve it, and never tried to augment his own fame by underhand practices.  46
  Worthy of all distinctions, he asked none, and he was not surprised that he was forgot; but he has protected at court men of letters who were persecuted, celebrated, and unfortunate, and has obtained favors for them.  47
  Though he lived with the great, their company was not necessary to his happiness. He retired whenever he could to the country; there again with joy to welcome his philosophy, his books, and his repose. After having studied man in the commerce of the world, and in the history of nations, he studied him also among those simple people whom nature alone has instructed. From them he could learn something; he endeavored, like Socrates, to find out their genius; he appeared as happy thus as in the most brilliant assemblies, especially when he made up their differences, and comforted them by his beneficence.  48
  Nothing does greater honor to his memory than the economy with which he lived, and which has been blamed as excessive in a proud and avaricious age. He would not encroach on the provision for his family, even by his generosity to the unfortunate, or by those expenses which his travels, the weakness of his sight, and the printing of his works made necessary. He transmitted to his children, without diminution or augmentation, the estate which he received from his ancestors, adding nothing to it but the glory of his name and the example of his life. He had married, in 1715, dame Jane de Lartigue, daughter of Peter de Lartigue, lieutenant-colonel of the regiment of Molevrier, and had by her two daughters and one son.  49
  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 they do not oppose the natural right which obliges every citizen equally to contribute 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 shake; that magistrates, in all circumstances, and notwithstanding their own advantage, ought to be magistrates without partiality and without passion, like the laws which absolve and punish without love or hatred. He said upon occasion of those ecclesiastical disputes which so much employed the Greek emperors and Christians, that theological disputes, when they are not confined to the schools, infallibly dishonor a nation in the eyes of its neighbors: in fact, the contempt in which wise men hold those quarrels does not vindicate the character of their country; because, sages making everywhere the least noise, and being the smallest number, it is never from them that the nation is judged.  50
  We look upon that special interest which M. de Montesquieu took in the ‘Encyclopédie’ as one of the most honorable rewards of our labor. Perhaps the opposition which the work has met with, reminding him of his own experience, interested him the more in our favor. Perhaps he was sensible, without perceiving it, of that justice which we dared to do him in the first volume of the ‘Encyclopédie,’ when nobody as yet had ventured to say a word in his defense. He prepared for us an article upon ‘Taste,’ which has been found unfinished among his papers. We shall give it to the public in that condition, and treat it with the same respect that antiquity formerly showed to the last words of Seneca. Death prevented his giving us any further marks of his approval; and joining our own griefs with those of all Europe, we might write on his tomb:—
        
“Finis vitæ ejus nobis luctuosus, patriæ tristis, extraneis etiam ignotisque non sine cura fuit.”
  51
 
 
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