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Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu
Tuesday, 09 February 2021 13:30

"Countries are well cultivated, not as they are fertile, but as they are free."

The public good consists in every one's having his property … invariably preserved.

When the inhabitants of a state are all free subjects … each man enjoys his property with as much right as the prince…

It is not for the advantage of the public to deprive an individual of his property, or even to retrench the least part of it by a law, or a political regulation.

The spirit of commerce … renders every man willing to live on his own property…

The spirit of trade produces in the mind of a man a certain sense of exact justice, opposite … to robbery…

Commerce is a profession of people who are upon an equality…

The spirit of commerce is naturally attended with that of frugality, economy, moderation, labor, prudence, tranquility, order, and rule. So long as this spirit subsists, the riches it produces have no bad effect.

When a democracy is founded on commerce, private people may acquire vast riches without corruption of morals.

In republics, commerce is commonly founded on economy. Their merchants, having an eye to all the nations of the earth, bring from one what is wanted by another.

It is much better to leave trade open than, by exclusive privileges, to restrain the liberty of commerce.

One nation should never exclude another from trading with it, except for very great reasons … for it is competition which sets a just value on merchandise, and establishes the relation between them.

Commerce has everywhere diffused a knowledge of the manners of all nations: these are compared one with another, and from this comparison arise the greatest advantages.

The history of commerce is that of the communication of people.

Commerce is a cure for the most destructive prejudices … wherever we find agreeable manners, there commerce flourishes; and that wherever there is commerce, there we meet with agreeable manners.

When two nations come into contact with one another they either fight or trade. If they fight, both lose; if they trade, both gain.

Peace is the natural effect of trade. Two nations who traffic with each other become reciprocally dependent … their union is founded on their mutual necessities.

The effect of commerce is riches…

Commerce is of the greatest service to a state…

It is for countries' their advantage to load this commerce with as few obstacles as politics will permit.

With exclusive privileges to particular persons … commerce declined … the profit centered in a few hands, and was not sufficiently extended.

Severe and tyrannical government was incompatible with commerce.

The real wants of the people ought never to give way to the imaginary wants of the state.

Commerce is sometimes destroyed by conquerors, sometimes cramped by monarchs; it traverses the earth, flies from the places where it is oppressed, and stays where it has liberty to breathe…

Because of free trade it became necessary that princes should govern with more prudence than they themselves could ever have imagined; for great exertions of authority were, in the event, found to be impolitic; and from experience it is manifest that nothing but the goodness and lenity of a government can make it flourish … More moderation has become necessary in the councils of princes. What would formerly have been called a master-stroke in politics would be now … the greatest imprudence. Happy is it for men that they are in a situation in which, though their passions prompt them to be wicked, it is, nevertheless, to their interest to be humane and virtuous.


In an extensive republic … there are trusts too considerable to be placed in any single subject; he has interests of his own; he soon begins to think that he may be happy and glorious, by oppressing his fellow-citizens; and that he may raise himself to grandeur on the ruins of his country. In an extensive republic the public good is sacrificed to a thousand private views…


Trade does not require force. Free trade consists simply in letting people buy and sell as they want to buy and sell. It is protection that requires force, for it consists in preventing people from doing what they want to do … What protection teaches us is to do to ourselves in time of peace what enemies seek to do to us in time of war.