Commerce in different Governmentsby Montesquieu
TRADE has some relation to forms of government.
A monarchy is generally founded on luxury. Its principal view is to procure everything that can contribute to the pride, pleasure, and capricious whims of the nation.
A republic is commonly founded on economy. Its merchants have an eye to all the nations of the earth. They bring from one what is wanted by another. The republics of Tyre, Carthage, Athens, Marseilles, Florence, Venice, and Holland, engaged in commerce.
Commerce has a natural relation to a republican government; to monarchies it is only occasional.
- It is founded on the practice of gaining little, and even less than other nations.
- It remedies this by gaining incessantly.
- It can hardly be carried on by a people swallowed up in luxury; who spend much, and see nothing but objects of grandeur.
Cicero said “that he did not like that the same people should be both the lords and factors of the whole earth.” It supposes that everyone in the state, and the whole state collectively, both always thought of:
- grand views, and
- small ones.
This is a contradiction. This is not because the noblest enterprises are completed also in those states which subsist by œconomical commerce. They even have an intrepidity not to be found in monarchies.
The real reason is that one branch of commerce leads to another – from small to the moderate, the moderate to the great. Thus, he who has gratified his desire of gaining a little, raises himself to a situation where he can gain a lot. Besides, the grand enterprises of merchants are always connected with the affairs of the public.
- In monarchies, these public affairs distrust the merchants.
- In free states, these public affairs appear to give safety.
Great commercial enterprises therefore are not for monarchical, but for republican governments. In short, having greater certainty, such as the possession of property, makes them undertake everything.
- They flatter themselves with the hopes of receiving great advantages from the smiles of fortune.
- They think themselves sure of what they have already acquired.
- They boldly expose it, in order to acquire more.
- They risk nothing but as the means of obtaining.
I am not saying that monarchies should not do œconomical commerce. I just mean that a monarchy naturally has less tendency towards commerce.
I also do not mean that republics should not have the commerce of luxury. I just mean that luxury is less connected with their constitution. In a despotic state, luxuries do not happen naturally at all.
As a general Rule:
- a nation in slavery labours more to preserve than to acquire.
- a free nation labours more to acquire than to preserve.