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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
In what Manner Republics Provide for their Safety
By Montesquieu (1689–1755)
 
From ‘The Spirit of Laws’: Translation of Thomas Nugent

IF a republic be small, it is destroyed by a foreign force; if it be large, it is ruined by an internal imperfection.  1
  To this twofold inconveniency democracies and aristocracies are equally liable, whether they be good or bad. The evil is in the very thing itself, and no form can redress it.  2
  It is therefore very probable that mankind would have been, at length, obliged to live constantly under the government of a single person, had they not contrived a kind of constitution that has all the internal advantages of a republican, together with the external force of a monarchical government. I mean a confederate republic.  3
  This form of government is a convention, by which several petty States agree to become members of a larger one which they intend to establish. It is a kind of assemblage of societies that constitute a new one, capable of increasing by means of further associations, till they arrive at such a degree of power as to be able to provide for the security of the whole body.  4
  It was these associations that so long ago contributed to the prosperity of Greece. By these the Romans attacked the whole globe; and by these alone the whole globe withstood them. For when Rome had attained her highest pitch of grandeur, it was the associations beyond the Danube and the Rhine,—associations formed by the terror of her arms,—that enabled the barbarians to resist her. From hence it proceeds that Holland, Germany, and the Swiss Cantons are considered in Europe as perpetual republics.  5
  The associations of cities were formerly more necessary than in our times. A weak defenseless town was exposed to greater danger. By conquest, it was deprived not only of the executive and legislative power, as at present, but moreover of all human rights.  6
  A republic of this kind, able to withstand an external force, may support itself without any internal corruption; the form of this society prevents all manner of inconveniences.  7
  If a single member should attempt to usurp the supreme power, he could not be supposed to have an equal authority and credit in all the confederate States. Were he to have too great an influence over one, this would alarm the rest; were he to subdue a part, that which would still remain free might oppose him with forces independent of those which he had usurped, and overpower him before he could be settled in his usurpation.  8
  Should a popular insurrection happen in one of the confederate States, the others are able to quell it. Should abuses creep into one part, they are reformed by those that remain sound. The State may be destroyed on one side and not on the other; the confederacy may be dissolved, and the confederates preserve their sovereignty.  9
  As this government is composed of petty republics, it enjoys the internal happiness of each; and with regard to its external situation, by means of the association it possesses all the advantages of large monarchies.  10
 
 
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