Page:Montesquieu - The spirit of laws.djvu/124
In what manner the Laws ought to It relative to the principle of Government in an Ariftocracy.
y K TF the people are virtuous in an ariftocracy, they Chap. 8. JL en jy ver y near the fame happinefs as in a popu lar government, and the ftate grows powerful. But as a great mare of virtue is a very rare thing where men s fortunes are fo unequal, the laws muft tend as much as poflible to infufe a fpirit of moderation, and endeavour to re-eftablim that equality which was ncccfiarily removed by the conftitution.
The fpirit of moderation is what we call virtue in an ariftocracy ; it fupplies the place of the fpirit of equality in a popular ftate.
As the pomp and fplendor with which kings are furrounded, form a part of their power, fo mo- defty and fimplicity of manners conftitute the ftrength of an ariftocrattc nobility *. When they affect no diftinction, when they mix with the peo ple, drefs like them, and with them fhare all their pleafures, the people are apt .to forget their fubjec- tion and weaknefs.
Every government has its nature and principle. An ariftocracy muft not therefore afiume the na ture and principle of monarchy ; which would be the cafe, were the nobles to be inverted with per- fonal and particular privileges diftinct from thofc
In our days the Venetians, who in many refpe&s may be faid to have a very wife government, decided a difpute between a noble Venetian and a gentleman of Terra firma in refpeft to precedency in a church, by declaring that out of Venice a noble Venetian, had no pre-eminence over any other citizen.