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

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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.)

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