Chapter 1

General laws on Commerce; Africa

by Montesquieu Icon

Commerce is subject to great revolutions. Yet its nature may be forever fixed by physical causes such as:

  • the quality of the soil or
  • the climate

We currently trade with India merely through the silver which we send. The Romans annually had a trade volume with India of about 50,000,000 sesterces in exchange for Indian merchandise

It is Nature itself that produces this effect.

The Indians have their arts adapted to their manner of living.

  • Our luxury cannot be theirs, nor theirs our wants.

Their climate neither demands nor permits hardly any thing which comes from us.

  • They go in naked.
  • Such clothes as they have the country itself furnishes.

Their religion is deeply rooted.

  • It gives them an aversion for those things that serve for our nourishment.

They want, therefore, only our bullion, to serve as the medium of value.

  • For this they give us merchandises in return, with which the frugality of the people, and the nature of the country, furnishes them in great abundance.

The Indies have ever been the same Indies they are at present.

In every period of time, those who traded to that country must carry specie thither, and brought none in return.

Chapter 2: The Africans

Most of the people on the coast of Africa are savages and barbarians because those small countries are separated from each other by vast distances.

  • They do not have industry nor arts.
  • They have a lot of gold from nature.

Every civilized state therefore trades with them to advantage, by raising their esteem for things of no value, and receiving a very high price in return.

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