Chapter 1

How Republics provide for their Safety

by Montesquieu Icon

A small republic is destroyed by a foreign force.

A large one is ruined by an internal imperfection.

Democracies and aristocracies are equally liable to these.

This is why mankind has been obliged to live constantly under the government of a single person until they developed a confederate republic. Such a constitution has:

  • all the internal advantages of a republican government
  • the external force of a monarchical government

A confederate republic is a convention by which petty states agree to become members of a larger one, which they intend to establish.

  • It is a kind of assemblage of societies, that create a new one capable of increasing through further associations, till they gain the power to secure the whole body.

For a long time, these associations:

  • contributed to Greek prosperity
  • were used by the Romans to attack the world
  • were used by the world, such as the Germans, to withstand the Romans

Thus, Germany, Holland, and the Swiss Cantons, are considered in Europe as perpetual confederate republics.

The associations of cities were formerly more necessary than in our times. A weak defenceless 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 property.

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.

If a single member attempts to usurp the supreme power, he could not be supposed to have an equal authority a nd credit in all the confederate states. Were he to have too great an influ ence over one, this would alarm the rest; were he to subdue a part, that wh ich would still remain free might oppose him with forces independent of tho se which he had usurped, and overpower him before he could be settled in hi s usurpation.

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.

This government is composed of petty republics, it enjoys the internal happiness of each.

Because of its association, it has all the advantages of large monarchies with regard to its external situation.

Chapter 2: A Confederate Government Should be Republican

THE Canaanites were destroyed because they were petty monarchies that had no union nor confederacy for common defence. A confederacy is not agreeable to the nature of petty monarchies.

The confederate republic of Germany consists of:

  • free cities, and
  • petty states subject to different princes.

It is led by a chief who is the magistrate and the monarch of the union. It is therefore much more imperfect than that of Holland and Swisserland.

The spirit of monarchy is war and enlargement of dominion.

The spirit of a republic is peace and moderation.

These two kinds of government cannot naturally subsist in a confederate republic.

Thus in the Roman history, t hat, when the Veientes had chosen a king, they were immediately abandoned by all the other petty republics of Tuscany.

Greece was undone as soon as the kings of Macedon obtained a seat among the Amphictyons.

Chapter 3: Other Requisites in a Confederate Republic

IN the republic of Holland, one province cannot conclude an alliance without the consent of the others.

This excellent law is necessary in a confederate republic. It is lacking in the Germanic confederacy, where it would have prevented the misfortunes caused by the imprudence, ambition, or avarice of a single member. A confederate republic would be dissolved by such a member.

It is difficult for the united states to be all of equal power and extent.

The Lycian republic was an association of 23 towns.

  • The large ones had 3 votes in the common council
  • The middling ones had 2
  • The small towns had 1

The Dutch republic consists of 7 princes of different extent of territory, which have each one vote.

The cities of Lycia contributed to the expences of the state according to the proportion of suffrages. The provinces of the united Netherlands cannot follow this proportion. They must be directed by that of their power.

In Lycia, the judges and town magistrates were elected by the common council, and according to the proportion already mentioned.

In the republic of Holland, they are not chosen by the common council, but each town names its magistrates.

I think that the system of Lycia is the best for a confederate republic.

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