Some Advantages of a conquered Peopleby Montesquieu
INSTEAD of inferring such destructive consequences from the right of conquest, much better would it have been for politicians to mention the advantages which this very right may sometimes give to a conquered people; advantages which would be more sensibly and mor e universally experienced, were our law of nations exactly followed, and es tablished in every part of the globe.
Conquered countries generally degenerate from their original institution.
- corruption creeps in
- the execution of the laws becomes neglected,
- the government grows oppressive.
Who can question but such a state would be a gainer, and derive some advantages from the very conquest itself, if it did not prove destruct ive?
When a government is arrived to that degree of corruption as to be inc apable of reforming itself, it would not lose much by being new moulded. A conqueror, who enters triumphant into a country, where the moneyed men have , by a variety of artifices, insensibly arrived at innumerable ways of encr oaching on the public; where the miserable people, who see abuses grown int o laws, are ready to sink under the weight of oppression, yet think they ha ve no right to apply for redress; a conqueror, I say, may make a total chan ge; and then the tyranny of those wretches will be the first thing exposed to his resentment.
We have beheld, for instance, countries oppressed by the farmers of the revenues, and eased afterwards by the conqu eror, who had neither the engagements nor wants of the legitimate prince. E ven the abuses have been often redressed without any interposition of the c onqueror.
Sometimes the frugality of a conquering nation has enabled them to allow the conquered those necessaries of which t hey had been deprived under a lawful prince.
A conquest may destroy pernicious prejud ices, and lay, if I may presume to use the expression, the nation under a b etter genius.
What good might not the Spaniards have d one to the Mexicans? They had a mild religion to impart to them, but they f illed their heads with a frantic superstition= they might have set slaves a t liberty; they made free men slaves= they might have undeceived them with regard to the abuse of human sacrifices; instead of that, they destroyed th em. Never should I have finished, were I to recount all the good they might have done, and all the mischief they committed.
It is a conqueror’s business to repair a part of the mischief he has occasioned. The right, therefore, of c onquest I define thus= a necessary, lawful, but unhappy, power, which leave s the conqueror under a heavy obligation of repairing the injuries done to humanity.
Chapter 5: Gelon, King of Syracuse
THE noblest treaty of peace ever mention ed in history is, in my opinion, that which Gelon made with the Carthaginia ns. He insisted upon their abolishing the custom of sacrificing their child renE280A1. Glorious indeed! After having defeated three hundred thousand Carthaginians, he req uired a condition that was advantageous only to themselves; or, rather, he stipulated in favour of human nature.
The Bactrians exposed their aged fathers to be devoured by large mastiffs= a custom suppressed by AlexanderE288A5, whereby he obtaine d a signal triumph over superstition.