No Comment, Quotation — July 12, 2008, 7:23 am

Montesquieu – The Corruption of Principles and the Decline of the State

marius

La corruption de chaque gouvernement commence presque toujours par celle des principes…

Lorsque les principes du gouvernement sont une fois corrompus, les meilleures lois deviennent mauvaises, et se tournant contre l’État; lorsque les principes en sont sains, les mauvaises ont l’effet des bonnes; la force du principe entraîne tout…

Il y a peu de lois qui ne soient bonnes, lorsque l’État n’a point perdu ses principes; et, comme disoit Épicure en parlant des richesses: «Ce n’est point la liqueur qui est corrompue, c’est le vase.»

The corruption of each government begins almost always with the corruption of its principles…

Once the principles of a government have been corrupted, even the best laws become bad and will turn against the State; whereas when the principles remain healthy, bad laws may have the effect of good ones; the force of principle carries everything with it…

Few laws are not good when the State has not lost its principles; and, as Epicurus relates in speaking of wealth: “It is not the liquor which has become corrupted, but the vessel that holds it.”

–Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, De l’Espirit des lois, bk viii, chs i, xi (1748) in: Œuvres complètes, vol. 2, pp. 349, 357, 359 (R. Caillois ed. 1951)(S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

April 2017

You Can Run …

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Never Would I Ever

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The March on Everywhere

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Defender of the Community

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Echt Deutsch

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Boy Without a Country

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The March on Everywhere·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Photograph (detail) © Nima Taradji/Polaris
Post
The Forty-Fifth President·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Photograph (detail) by Philip Montgomery
Article
Defender of the Community·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Illustration (detail) by Katherine Streeter
Article
The Boy Without a Country·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Illustration (detail) by Shonagh Rae
Article
Asphalt Gardens·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In a city that is rapidly pricing out the poor, NYCHA’s housing projects are a last bastion of affordable shelter, with an average monthly rent of $509
Photograph (detail) © Samuel James

Amount three New York men owe in restitution for stealing rock lobsters off the coast of South Africa:

$54,900,000

AIDS researchers were working to develop genetically modified tomatoes that naturally produce an edible HIV vaccine.

Trump said that he might not have been elected president “if it wasn’t for Twitter."

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today