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MONTESQUIEU. OF THE LAWS OF EDUCATION.
M. de SECONDAT, Baron Montesquieu, was born in 168", of an ancient and noble family, at the Chateau de la Brede, near Bordeaux. He early devoted himself to literature and civil law. In 1714 he was made councilor of the parliament of Bordeaux, and in 1716, its president. In 1721 appeared his Lettres Persannes; in 1728 he was elected to the Academie Français, and about the same time he visited Vienna, attached to the embassy of Lord Waldgrave, and, soon after, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, and Great Britain. On his return he meditated and wrote the Causes of the Grandeur and Decline of the Roman Empire, which was published in 1733, and followed in 1748, by his Esprit des Loix, which was translated into the different languages of Europe. An English translation appeared then, which went through many editions. The extracts which follow, on Education, being from the sixth edition issued in 1772. He died in 175.).
EDUCATION SHOULD BE IN HARMONY WITH THE GOVERNMENT. I. The laws of education are the first impressions we receive; and, as they prepare us for civil life, each particular family ought to be governed pursuant to the plan of the great family which comprehends them all.
If the people in general have a principle, their constituent parts, that is, the several families, will have one also. The laws of edifcation will be therefore different in each species of government; in monarchies they will have honor for their object; in republics, virtue; in despotic governments, fear.
II. In monarchies the principal branch of education is not taught in colleges or academies. It in some measure commences when we enter the world; for this is the school of what we call honor, that universal preceptor which ought every where to be our guide.
Here it is that we constantly see and hear three things : “that we should have a certain nobleness in our virtues, a kind of frankness in our morals, and a particular politeness in our behavior."
The virtues we are here taught, are less what we owe to others, than to ourselves; they are not so much what assimilates us to, as what distinguishes us from, our fellow citizens.
Here the actions of men are not judged as good, but as shining; not as just, but as great; not as reasonable, but as extraordinary.
When honor here meets with anything noble in our actions, it is either a judge that approves them, or a sophist by whom they are excused.
It allows of gallantry when united with the idea of sensible affection, or with that of conquest; this is the reason why we never meet with so strict a purity of morals in monarchies as in republican governments.
It allows of cunning and craft, when joined with the idea of greatness of soul or importance of affairs; as for instance, in politics with whose finesses it is far from being offended.
It does not forbid adulation, but when separate from the idea of a large for tune, and connected only with the sense of our mean condition.
With regard to morals, I have observed that the education of monarchics ought to admit of a certain frankness and open carriage. Truth therefore in conversation is a necessary point. But is it for the sake of truth? By no
Truth is requisite only because a person habituated to veracity, has an air of boldness and freedom. In fact, a man of this stamp seems to lay stress only on the things themselves, and not on the manner in which others receive them.
Hence it is, that as much as this kind of frankness is commended, so much that of the common people is despised, which has nothing but truth and simplicity for its object.
In fine, the education of monarchies requires a certain politeness of behavior. Men born for society, are born to please one another; and a person that would break through the rules of decorum, by shocking those he conversed with, would so far lose the public esteem as to become incapable of doing any good. But politeness, generally speaking, does not derive its original from so pure a
It rises from a desire of distinguishing ourselves. It is pride that renders us polite: we feel a pleasing vanity in being remarked for a behavior that shows in some measure we are not meanly born, and that we have not been bred up with those who in all ages have been considered as the scum of the people.
Politeness, in monarchies, is naturalized at court. One man excessively great renders everybody else little. Hence that regard which is paid to our fellow subjects; hence that politeness, which is as pleasing to those by whom, as to those towards whom it is practiced ; because it gives people to understand, that a person actually belongs, or at least deserves to belong, to the court.
A court-air consists in quitting a real for a borrowed greatness. The latter pleases the courtier more than his own. It inspires him with a certain disdainful modesty, which shows itself externally, but whose pride diminishes insensibly in proportion to its distance from the source of this greatness.
At court we find a delicacy of taste in everything, a delicacy arising from the constant use of the superfluities of an affluent fortune, from the variety, and especially the satiety of pleasures, from the multiplicity, and even confusion, of fancies ; whick, if they are but agreeable, are always well received.
These are the things which properly fall within the province of education, in order to form what we call a man of honor, a man possessed of all the qualities and virtues requisite in this kind of government.
Here it is that honor interferes with everything, mixing, even with people's manner of thinking and feeling, and directing their very principles.
To this whimsical honor it is owing, that the virtues are only just what it pleases, and as it pleases; it adds rules of its own invention to everything prescribed to us; it extends or limits our daties according to its own fancy, whether they proceed from religion, politics, or morality.
There is nothing so strongly inculcated in monarchies, by the laws, by relig. ion, and honor, as submission to the prince's will; but this very honor tells us, that the prince ought never to command a dishonorable action, because this would render us incapable to serve him.
Grillon refused to assassinate the Duke of Guise, but he offered Henry III. to fight him. After the massacre of St. Bartholomew, Charles IX. having sent orders to all the governors in the 'several provinces for the Huguenots to be murdered, Viscount Dorte, who commanded at Bayonne, wrote thus to the king: “Sire, among the inhabitants of this town, and your Majesty's troops, I could only find honest citizens and brave soldiers, but not one executioner: we jointly therefore beseech your Majesty to command our arms and lives in things that are practicable.” This great and generous soul looked upon a base action as a thing impossible.
There is no hing that honor more strongly recommends to the nobility, than to serve their prince in a mixitary capacity. In fact, this is their favorite profession, because its dangers, its success, and even its misfortunes, are the road to grandeur. And yet this very law of its own making, honor chooses to explain; and if it happens to be affronted, requires or permits us to retire.
It insists also, that we should be at liberty either to seek or to reject employments; a liberty which it prefers even to an ample fortune.
Honor therefore has its supreme laws, to which education is obliged to conform. The chief of these are, that we are allowed to set a value upon our fortune, but it is absolutely forbidden to set any value upon our lives.
The second is, that when we are raised to a post or rank, we should never do or permit anything which may seem to imply that we look upon ourselves as inferior to the rank we hold.
The third is, that those things which honor forbids are more rigorously forbidden, when the laws do not concur in the prohibition; and those it commands are more strongly insisted upon, when they happen not to be enjoined by law.
III. As education in monarchies tends only io raise and cnnoble the mind, so in despotic government its only aim is to debase it. Here it must necessarily be servile; even in power such an education will be an advantage, because every tyrant is at the same time a slave.
Excessive obedience supposes ignorance in the person that obeys : the same it supposes in him that commands; for he has no occasion to deliberate, to doubt, to reason; he has only to will.
In de potic states each house is a separate government. As education therefore consists chiefly in social converse, it must be here very much limited ; all it dues is to strike the heart with fear, and to imprint in the understanding a very simple notion of a few principles of religion "Learning here proves dangerous, emulation fatal; and as to virtue, Aristotle cannot think there is any one virtue belonging to slaves; if so, education in despotic countries is confined within a very narrow compass.
Here therefore education is in some measure needless : To give something, one must take away everything; and begin with making a bad subject, in order to make a good slave.
For why should education take pains in forming a good citizen, only to make him share in the public misery? If he loves his country, he will strive to relax the springs of government: if he miscarries, he will be undone; if he succeeds, he must expose himself, the prince, and his country to ruin.
IV. Most of the ancients lived under governments that had virtue for their principle; and when this was in full vigor, they performed things unseen in our times, and such as are capable of astonishing our little souls.
Another advantage their education had over ours; it never was effaced by contrary impressions. Epaminondas, the last year of his life, said, heard, saw, and performed the very same things as at the age in which he received the first principles of his education
In our days we receive three different or contrary educations, namely, of our parents, of our masters, and of the world. What we learn in the latter effaces all the ideas of the former. This in some measure arises from the contrast we experience between our religious and worldly engagements; a thing unknown to the ancients.
V. It is in a republican government that the whole power of education is required. The fear of despotic governments ri-es naturally of itseif amidst threats and punishments; the honor of monarchies is favored by the passions, and favors them in its turn : but virtue is a self-renunciation which is always arduous. This virtue may be defined, the love of the laws and of our country. As this love requires a constant preference of public to private interest, it is the source of all particular virtues: for they are nothing more than this very preference.
This love is peculiarly proper to democracies. In these alone the government is intrusted to private citizens. Now, government is like everything else; to preserve it, we must love it.
Has it ever been heard, that kings were not fond of monarchy, or that despotic princes hated arbitrary power?
Everything therefore depends on establishing this love in a republic, and to inspire it, ought to be the principal business of education : but the surest way of instilling it into children, is for parents to set them an example.
People have it generally in their power to communicate their ideas to their children: but they are still better able to transfuse their passions.
If it happens otherwise, it is because the impressions made at home are effaced by those they have received abroad.
It is not the young people that degenerate : they are not spoiled till those of maturer age are already sunk into corruption.
VI. The ancient Greeks, convinced of the necessity that people who live under a popular government should be trained up to virtue, made very singular in. stitutions in order to inspire it. Upon seeing in the life of Lycurgus the laws
that legislator gave to the Lacedæmonians, I imagine I am reading the history of the Sevarambes. The laws of Crete were the model of those of Sparta, and those of Plato a reformation of them.
Let us reflect here a little on the extensive genius with which those ators must have been endowed, to perceive that by stri-ing at received customs, and by confounding all manner of virtues, they should display their wisdom to the universe. Lycurgus, by blending these with the spirit of justice, the hardest servitude with excess of liberty, the most rigid sentiments with the greatest moderation, gave stability to his city. He seemed to deprive her of all her resources, such as arts, commerce, money, walls : ambition prevailed among the citizens without hopes of improving their fortune; they had natural sentiments without the tie of a son, busband, father; and chastity was stripped even of modesty and shame. This was the road that led Sparta to grandeur and glory; and so infallible were her institutions, that it signified nothing to gain a victory over her without subverting her polity:
By these laws Crete and Laconia were governed. Sparta was the last that fell a prey to the Macedonians, and Crete to the Romans. The Samnites had the same institutions, which furnished those very Romans with the subject of four and twenty triumphs.
A character so extraordinary in the institutions of Greece, has shown itself lately in the dregs and corruption of our modern times. A very honest legislator has formed a people to whom probity scems as natural as bravery to the Spartang. Mr. Penn was a real Lycurgus; and though the former made
his principal aim, as the latter did war, yet they resembled one another in the singular way of living to which they reduced their people, in the ascendant they had over free men, in the prejudices and the passions they subdued.
Another example we have from Paraguay. This has been the subject of an invidious charge against a society that considers the pleasure of commanding as the only happiness in life: but it will be always a glorious undertaking, to render government subservient to human happiness.
It is glorious indeed for this society, to have been the first in pointing out to those countries the idca of religion joined with that of humanity. By repairing the devastations of the Spaniards, she has begun to heal one of the most dan. gerous wounds that the human species ever received.
An exquisite sensibility to whatever she distinguishes by the name of honor, her zcal for religion which much more humbles those who hear than those that preach it, have set her upon vaste undertakings, which she has accomplished with
She has drawn wild people from their woods, sccured them a maintain. ance, and clothed their nakedness; and had she only by this means improved the industry of mankind, it would have been sufficient to eternize her fame.
Those who shall attempt hereafter to introduce such institutions as these, must establish the community of goods, as prescribed in Plato's republic; that high respect he required for the gods; that separation from strangers for the preservation of people's morals; and an extensive commerce carried on by the community, and not by private crizens; they must give our arts without our luxury, and our wants without our desires.
They must proscribe money, the effect of which is to swell people's fortunes beyond the bounds prescribed by nature, to learn to preserve for no purpose what has been idly hoarded up; to multiply without end our desires, and to supply the sterility of natures, of whom we have received very scanty means of in. flaming our passions, and of corrupting each other.
“ The Epidamnians, perceiving their morals depraved by conversing with barbarians, chose a magistrate for making all contracts and sales in the name and behalf of the city." Commerce then does not corrupt the constitution, and the constitution does not deprive the society of the advantages of commerce.
VII. Institutions of this kind may be proper in republics, because they have virtue for their principle; but to excite men to honor in monarchies, or to imprint fear in despotic governments, less pains is necessary.
Besides, they cannot take place but in a small state, in which there is a possibility of a general education, and of training up the body of the people like a single family.
The laws of Minos, of Lycurgus, and of Plato, suppose a particular attention and care which the citizens ought to have over one another's conduct. But
an attention of this kind cannot be expected in the confusion and multitude of affairs in which a large nation is entangled.
In institutions of this kind, money, as we have observed, must be banished. But in great societies, the multiplicity, variety, embarrassment, and importance of affairs, as well as the facility of purchasing, and the slowness of exchange, require a common measure. In order to extend or support our power, we must be possessed of the means to which, by the unanimous consent of mankind, this power is annexed.
That judicious writer Polybius informs us, that Music was necessary to soften the manners of the Arcadians, who lived in a cold, gloomy country ; that the inhabitants of Cynete, who slighted music, were the cruelest of all the Greeks, and that no other town was so immersed in luxury and debauch Plato is not afraid to affirm, that there is no possibility of making a change in masic, without changing likewise the frame of governinent. Aristotle, who seems to have wrote his politics only in order to contradict Plato, agrees with him notwithstanding, in regard to the power and influence of music over the manners of the people. This was also the opinion of Theophrastus, of Plutarch, and of all the ancients; an opinion grounded on mature reflection; being one of the principles of their politics. Thus it was they enacted laws, and thus they required that cities should be governed.
This I fancy may be explained in the following manner. Tť is observable, that in the cities of Greece, especially those whose principal object was war, all lucrative arts and professions were considered as unworthy of a freeman. “Most arts," says Zenophon, "corrupt and enervate the bodies of those that exercise them; they oblige them to sit under a shade or near the fire. They can find no leisure, either for their friends, or for the republic.” It was only by the corruption of some democracies that artisans become freemen. This we learn from Aristotle, who maintains, that a well-regulated republic will never give them the right and freedom of the city.
Agriculture was likewise a servile profession, and generally practiced by the inhabitants of conquered countries. Such as the Helotes among the Lacedæmo. nians, the Pariecians among the Cretans, the Penestes among the Thessalians, and other conquered people in other republics.
In fine, every kind of low commerce was infamous among the Greeks; as it obliged a citizen to serve and wait on a slave, on a lodger, on a stranger. This was a notion that clashed with the spirit of Greek liberty: hence Plato in his laws orders a citizen to be punished, who should concern himself with trade.
Thus in Greek republics the magistrates were extremely cinbarrassed. They would not have the citizens apply themselves to trade, to agriculture, or to the arts; and yet they would not have them id!c. They found therefore employ. ment for them in gymnastic and military exercises ; and none else were allowed by their institution. Hence the Greeks must be considered as a society of wrestlers and boxers. Now, these exercises having a natural tendency to render people hardy and fierce, there was a necessity for tempering them with others that might soften their manners. For this purpose, music, which influences the mind by means of the corporeal organs, was extremely proper. It is a kind of medium between the bodily exercises that renders men fierce and hardy, and speculative sciences that render them unsociable and sour; it cannot be said that music inspired virtue, for this would be inconceivable: but it prevented the effects of a savage institution, and enabled the soul to have such a share in the education, as it could never have had without the assistance of harmony.
Let us suppose among ourselves a society of men so passionately fond of hunting, as to make it their sole employment; these people would doubtless contract thereby a kind of rusticity and fierceness. But if they happened to receive a taste for music, we should quickly perceive a sensible difference in their customs and manners. In short, the exercises used by the Greeks excited only one kind of passions, viz: fierceness, anger, and cruelty. But music excites thein all; and is able to inspire the soul with a sense of pity, lenity, tenderness, and love. Our moral writers, who declaim so vehemently against the stage, sufficiently demonstrate the power of music over the soul.
If the society above-mentioned were to have no other music than that of drums and the sound of the trumpet, would it not be more difficult to accomplish this end, than by the more melting tones of softer harmony? The ancients were therefore in the right, when under particular circumstances they preferred one mode to another in regard to manners,