Superphysics Superphysics
Chapter 1

Offensive Force and War

by Montesquieu Icon
5 minutes  • 1033 words
Table of contents

OFFENSIVE force is regulated by the law of nations which is the political law of each country relative to other countries.

Chapter 2: War

THE life of governments is like that of man.

I have a right to kill for natural defence because my life is, in respect to me, what the life of my an tagonist is to him.

A government has a right to wage war for its own preservation. A state wages war, because its preservation is like that of any other being.

With individuals, the right of natural defence does not imply a necessity of attacking. Instead, they need only have recourse to proper tribunals. Therefore, they can only exercise this right of defence in sudden cases when immediate death would be the consequence of waiting for the assistance of the law.

But with states, the right of natural defence might require a pre-emptive strike against the enemy.

Thus, petty states have a right to declare war more often than big states because they are more often afraid of destruction.

Therefore, the right of war is derived from necessity and strict justice.

If those who direct the conscience or councils of princes do not abide by this maxim, the consequence is dreadful. When they proceed on arbitrary principles of glory, convenience, and utility, torrents of blood must overspread the earth.

But, above all, let them not plead such an idle pretext as the glory of the prince= his glory is nothing but pride; it is a passion, and not a legitimate right.

It is true the fame of his power might increase the strength of his government; but it might be equally increased b y the reputation of his justice.

Chapter 3: The Right of Conquest

FROM the right of war comes that of conquest.

The right the conqueror has over a conquered people is directed by four sorts of laws:

  1. The law of nature= this makes everything tend to the preservation of the species

  2. The law of natural reason= this teaches us to do to others what we would have done to ourselves

  3. The law that forms political societies, whose duration nature has not limited

  4. The law derived from the nature of the thing itself

Conquest is an acquisition. It carries with it the spirit of preservation and use, not of destruction.

The inhabitants of a conquered country are treated by the conqueror in one of the following ways:

  1. He continues to rule them according to their own laws, and assumes to himself only the exercise of the political and civil government
  • This is conformable to the law of nations now followed.
  1. He gives them new po litical and civil government
  1. He destroys and disperses the society

  2. He exterminates the people

  • This is followed by the Romans. This shows how far we have improved over the ancients. We must commend our modern refinements in reason, religion, philosophy, and manners.

The authors of our public law, guided by ancient histories, without confining themselves to cases of strict necessity, have fallen into very great errors.

They have adopted tyrannical and ar bitrary principles, by supposing the conquerors to be invested with I know not what right to kill= from thence they have drawn consequences as terri ble as the very principle, and established maxims which the conquerors them selves, when possessed of the least grain of sense, never presumed to follow. It is a plain case, that, when the conquest is completed, the conqueror has no longer a right to kill, because he has no longer the plea of natural defence and self-preservation.

What has led them into this mistake is, that they imagined the conqueror had a right to destroy the state; from whe nce they inferred, that he had a right to destroy the men that compose it= a wrong consequence from a false principle.

For, from the destruction of th e state, it does not at all follow, that the people, who compose it, ought to be also destroyed. The state is the association of men, and not the men themselves; the citizen may perish, and the man remain.

From the right of killing, in the case o f conquest, politicians have drawn that of reducing to slavery; a consequen ce as ill grounded as the principle.

There is no such thing as a right of red ucing people to slavery, but when it becomes necessary for the preservation of the conquest. Preservation, and not servitude, is the end of conquest; though servitude may happen sometimes to be a necessary means of preservati on.

Even in that case it is contrary to the nature of things that the slavery should be perpetual. The people enslaved ought to be rendered capable of becoming subjects.

Slavery in conquests is an accidental thing. When, after the expiration of a certain space of time, all the parts of the conquering state are connected with the conquered nat ion, by custom, marriages, laws, associations, and by a certain conformity of disposition, there ought to be an end of the slavery.

For the rights of the conqueror are founded entirely on the opposition between the two nati ons in those very articles, whence prejudices arise and the want of mutual confidence.

A conqueror, therefore, who reduces the conquered people to slavery, ought always to reserve to himself the means ( for means there are without number) of restoring them to their liberty.

These are far from being vague and uncer tain notions. Thus our ancestors acted; those ancestors who conquered the R oman empire.

The laws they made in the heat and transport of passion, and i n the insolence of victory, were gradually softened; those laws were at fir st severe, but were afterwards rendered impartial.

The Burgundians, Goths, and Lombards, would have the Romans continue a conquered people. But the laws of Euric, Gundebald, and Rotharis, made the Romans and barbarians fellow-citizens.

To tame the Saxons:

  • Charlemagne deprived them of their liberty and property
  • Lewis the Debonnaire made them a free people. This was one of the most prudent regulations during his whole reign.

Time and servitude had softened their manners. They ever after adhered to him with the greatest fidelity.

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