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Title: Slavery
Original Title: Esclavage
Volume and Page: Vol. 5 (1755), pp. 934–5:939
Author: Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt (biography)
Translator: Naomi J. Andrews [Santa Clara University,]
Subject terms:
Natural law
Original Version (ARTFL): Link

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Citation (MLA): Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Slavery." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Naomi J. Andrews. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2012. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <>. Trans. of "Esclavage," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 5. Paris, 1755.
Citation (Chicago): Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Slavery." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Naomi J. Andrews. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2012. (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Esclavage," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 5:934–5:939 (Paris, 1755).

Slavery is the establishment of a right founded on force which renders one man property to another man, who is absolute master of his life, his goods, and his liberty.

This definition applies almost equally to civil slavery , and to political slavery : in order to sketch its origin, nature, and foundation, I will borrow many things from the author of l’Esprit des lois, without stopping at borrowing the sturdiness of his principles, because I can add nothing to his glory.

All men are born free; in the beginning they only had one name, one condition. In the times of Saturn and of Rhea, according to Plutarch, there were neither masters nor slaves, nature made them all equal. But this natural equality was gradually set aside and servitude was introduced by degrees, probably founded originally on free contracts, although necessity must have been its source and origin.

When, as a necessary result of the multiplication of the human race, we began to leave behind the simplicity of previous centuries, we sought new means of increasing leisure, and of acquiring surplus goods. There is much evidence that rich men hired the poor to work for them in exchange for a fixed wage. This resource having appeared very useful to both of them, several among them resolved to ensure their state and to enter permanently on the same footing into another’s family, on condition that he furnish food and all other necessities of life. Thus servitude was originally formed by free consent, and by a contract of labor in exchange for goods: do ut fascias . This arrangement was limited to certain things, according to the laws of each country, and the contracts of the interested parties. In essence, such slaves were only properly servitors or mercenaries, similar enough to our domestic servants.

But we didn’t stay that way for long; we found too much advantage in having someone else do that which we would have been obliged to do ourselves. As we sought to expand forces under arms, we established the custom of granting to prisoners of war life and bodily liberty, on condition that they serve forever in the capacity of slaves those into whose hands they had fallen.

As one maintains some residual animosity toward the unfortunates whom one reduced to slavery through force of arms, they were ordinarily treated with much rigor. Cruelty seemed excusable toward people at whose hands one had risked the same fate; it is thus easy to imagine being able to kill such slaves with impunity, as a result of anger or for the slightest error.

This license having once been authorized, it was extended under an even less plausible pretext to those who were born from these slaves, and even to those purchased or acquired in some other manner. Thus servitude came to be naturalized, so to speak, through the lot of war. Those whom fortune favored, and who were left in the state in which nature had created them, were called free. By contrast, those whom weakness and misfortune had subjected to the victors, were called slaves. The philosopher-judges of the merit of men’s actions regard as charitable the conduct of this victor who enslaves his vanquished instead of ending his life.

Slavery was introduced by the law of the strongest, that law of war in offense of nature, and by ambition, thirst for conquest, love of domination and apathy. To the shame of humanity, it has been accepted by almost all of the world’s peoples. Indeed, we could hardly cast our eyes on sacred History without discovering the horrors of servitude. The profane histories of the Greeks, of the Romans, and of all the other peoples who are considered civilized, are all monuments to this ancient injustice exercised with more or less violence across the face of the world, in all times, places, and nations.

There are two kinds of slavery or servitude, real and personal: real servitude includes the slave in the value of land; personal servitude concerns the care of the house, and relates more to the person of the master. The extreme abuse of slavery is when it is at once personal and real. Such was the servitude of foreigners among the Jews, against whom they practiced the harshest treatments. Moses cried in vain to them: “you will not have full dominion over your slaves; you will not oppress them.” His exhortations never succeeded in alleviating the hardness of his ferocious nation, so he strove through his laws to find a remedy.

He began by fixing the term of enslavement, and by ordering that it could only endure until the Jubilee year for foreigners, and for Hebrews only for six years (Leviticus 25:39).

One of the principle reasons for his institution of the Sabbath was to obtain relief for servants and slaves (Exodus 20 and 23, Deuteronomy 16).

He then decreed that no one could sell his own liberty, unless he was reduced to absolutely no livelihood. He mandated that when slaves purchased themselves, their past service had to be accounted for, just as when revenues already realized from sold land were counted in the price of purchase, the former proprietor recovered them. Deuteronomy, chapter xv. Leviticus, chapter xxv.

If a master put out an eye or broke a tooth of his slave (and even more so, of course, if he did something worse), the slave should have his freedom in restitution for this loss.

Another of this legislator’s laws holds that if a master strikes his slave, and the slave dies under the rod, the master must be punished as guilty of homicide: although it is true that the law adds that if the slave lives one or two days, the master is exempt from the penalty. The reason for this law was perhaps that when the slave did not die in the field, one could presume that the master did not intend to kill him; and thus that he could be seen as punished enough in having lost the slave’s value or the service that he would have gotten from him: at least this is what we are led to believe by the commentary on the text, because the slave is his money.

Anyway, it was a very unusual nation, according to M. de Montesquieu, where civil law loosened natural law. That’s not what Saint Paul thought about this issue, when, preaching the enlightenment of the Gospel, he offered this principle of nature and of religion that should be deeply engraved in the hearts of all men: Masters (Letter to Colossians, iv, 1), render to your slaves that which the law and equity demand of you, knowing that you have a master in heaven; that is to say a master that pays no mind to these distinctions of conditions, forged by pride and injustice.

The Lacedemonians were the first in Greece who would introduce the use of slaves, or who first reduced to servitude the Greeks that they had made prisoners of war: they would go even further (and I regret very much that I cannot pull the curtain on this part of their history), they treated their Helots with every last barbarity. These peoples, inhabitants of Spartan territory, having been vanquished during their revolt by the Spartans, were condemned to perpetual slavery , with prohibitions against their masters freeing them or selling them outside the land: thus the Helots found themselves subjected to all of the work outside of the house, and all sorts of insults inside the house. Their misfortune extended to the point that they were not only the slaves of a citizen, but of also of the public. Many peoples only experienced real slavery , because their women and children did domestic work. Other peoples experienced personal slavery , because luxury demanded service of slaves in the house; but here we find in the same individuals both real and personal slavery .

It was not the same among the other peoples of Greece; slavery there was extremely gentle, and even the slaves most rudely treated by their masters could ask to be sold to someone else. We learn this from Plutarch, De superstitione , p. 66. t. I., édition de Wechel.

The Athenians in particular, reports Xenophon, dealt with their slaves with much gentleness: they punished severely, sometimes even with death, those who beat the slave of another. The law of Athens, rightly, did not want to add loss of security to that of liberty; likewise, we do not find that slaves disturbed this republic, as they shook Lacedaemon.

It is easy to see that only humanity exercised toward slaves can prevent, in a moderate government, the dangers that one fears from their too great numbers. Men become accustomed to servitude, provided that their master is not harder than their servitude: nothing more fully confirms this truth, than the state of slaves among the Romans during the beautiful days of the republic; consideration of this state deserves our attention for a few moments.

The first Romans treated their slaves with more goodness than had any other people: the masters regarded them as their companions; they lived, worked, and ate with them. The greatest chastisement that they inflicted on a slave who had committed some fault was to attach a forked rod to his back or his chest, to extend his arms to the two ends of the fork, and to lead him about in public places; this was an ignominious penalty, and nothing more so: morals sufficed to maintain the slaves’ fidelity.

Far from preventing by the force of law the multiplication of these living, animated economic organs, on the contrary they favored it with all of their might, and joined them with a kind of marriage called contuberniis . In this manner they filled their houses with domestics of both sexes and populated the state with innumerable people. The children of slaves eventually composed the fortune of their master, born in trust around him; he alone was charged with their upkeep and their education. The fathers, freed from this burden, followed the inclinations of nature, and reproduced without fear of a large family. They saw without jealousy a happy society, of which they regarded themselves as members. They believed that their soul could be elevated like that of their master, and they did not sense the difference that existed between the condition of a slave and that of a free man. It was often the case that generous masters taught exercises, music, and Greek letters to those among their slaves who showed talents; Terence and Phaedra are very good examples of this kind of education.

The republic created for itself an infinite advantage in this nation of slaves, or rather of subjects: each of them had their peculium , that is to say his small treasure, his small fund, that he possessed on conditions that his master determined. With this peculium he worked on the side according to his talents; this one established a bank, that one devoted himself to the sea trade; one sold retail merchandise, the other applied himself to some mechanical art, leasing or adding value to land. There were none who weren’t devoted to making grow their peculium , which simultaneously procured an easing of present servitude and the hope of future liberty. All these means spread abundance, animating the arts and industry.

These slaves, once enriched, freed themselves and became citizens; the republic renewed itself ceaselessly, and received into its heart new families at the rate that the ancients destroyed each other. Such were the good days of slavery , as long as the Romans preserved their morals and their integrity.

But when expanded through their conquests and their plunder, such that their slaves were no longer their companions in their works, and that they used them to become the instruments of their luxury and their pride, the condition of the slaves changed its complexion entirely. They came to be regarded as the most vile part of the nation, and in consequence no one had any scruples about treating them inhumanely. Because Romans no longer had any morals, they had recourse to laws, which had to be terrible to establish the safety of these cruel masters, living in the midst of their slaves as if in the middle of their enemies.

Under Augustus, which is to say at the beginning of the tyranny, the Syllanien senatorial decree and several other laws were passed that ordained that if a master were to be killed, all of the slaves who were under the same roof or in a place close enough to the house to be able to hear a man’s voice, would be condemned to death. Those who in this case hid a slave to save him would be punished like the murderers. Even those whose master had ordered them to kill him and who had obeyed would be held culpable: he who had not prevented the murder himself would be punished. If a master were killed on a voyage, those who had remained with him were killed as well as those who had fled: we should add that this master, during his life, could kill with impunity his slaves and also torture them. It is true that subsequently there were emperors who mitigated this power. Claudius ordered that ill slaves who were abandoned by their masters would be free if they returned to health. This law assured their liberty in a rare case; it should as well have served to ensure their life, as M. de Montesquieu said so well.

Furthermore, all of these cruel laws that we’ve just described were used even against slaves whose innocence was proven. The laws didn’t depend on civil government, they depended on a vice of civil government. They did not derive from the equity of civil laws, since they were contrary to their principles. They were properly founded on the principle of war, except that in this case the enemies were in the heart of the state. The Syllanien senatorial decree derived, it is said, from the law of nations, which intends that even an imperfect society preserve itself: but a prudent legislator foresees the ill consequences of rendering the legislature terrible. The slaves amongst the Romans could have no confidence in the laws; and therefore the laws could have none in them. In the end the barbarous treatment of the slaves was pushed so far, that it produced the civil war that Florus compared to the Punic wars, and which by its violence shook the Roman Empire to its foundations.

I like to dream that there are still on the earth happy climes whose inhabitants are sweet, tender, and compassionate: such are the Indians of the sub-continent, on this side of the Ganges; they treat their slaves as they treat themselves; they take care of their infants; they marry them and easily give them liberty. In general the slaves of simple working peoples, among whom reigns simplicity of manners, are more happy than everywhere else; they only suffer real slavery , which is less hard for them and more useful for their masters: such were the slaves of the ancient Germans. These peoples, Tacitus said, did not hold them as we do in their houses to make them work there each at a certain task, on the contrary they assigned to each slave his own manor, in which he lived as the father of the family. The only servitude that the master imposed upon him was the obligation to pay a tax in grain, in livestock, in skins, or in fabric: in this manner, the historian adds, you could not distinguish the master from the slave by the pleasures of life.

When they conquered the Gauls, under the name Franks, they would send their slaves to cultivate the lands that thus fell to them: the slaves were called the people of the poet, in Latin gentes potestatis , attached to the land, addicti gleboe [serfs of the land]; and it is from among these serfs that France was thereafter populated. Their multiplication created almost as many villages as there were cultivated farms, and these lands retain the city names that the Romans gave them, and from which came the names village and villains, in Latin villa and villani , to designate the people of the country and of low extraction. One thus sees in France two kinds of slaves, those of the Franks and those of the Gauls, and all went to war, as has been said by M. de Boulainvilliers.

These slaves belonged to their patrons, of whom they were considered to be body men, as it was said then: they became in time subject to rough duties and so attached to the land of their masters that they seemed to be a part of it, such that they could not move elsewhere, nor marry onto the land of another lord without paying what one would call the right of fors-mariage  [1]; and even the children who came from the union of two slaves of different masters were shared, or one of the patrons, to avoid such division, would give another slave in exchange.

A military government where authority is divided among several lords inevitably degenerates into tyranny. This did not fail to happen: the ecclesiastical patrons and the lay patrons everywhere abused their power over their slaves; they weakened theme with too much work, taxes, chores, and with too much ill-treatment. Eventually the unhappy serfs, no longer able to tolerate the heaviness of the yoke, in 1108 staged the famous revolt described by the historians, which ended finally in the attainment of their freedom. Our kings had previously tried without success to soften the state of slavery through their laws.

Meanwhile Christianity, beginning to gain currency, embraced the most humane sentiments; then our sovereigns, determined to weaken the lords and to free the common people from the yoke of their power, took the side of freeing the slaves. Louis the Fat set the example and in freeing the serfs in 1135 he partly succeeded in reclaiming over his vassals the authority they had previously captured: Louis VIII signaled the beginning of his reign by a similar liberation in 1223; finally Louis X called Hutin [the Quarreler], delivered an edict on this subject that seems to us worthy of being reproduced here:

“Louis, by the grace of God, king of France and of Navarre: to our beloved and loyal supporters... as according to the law of nature each must be born free.... We, considering that our kingdom is called and named the kingdom of the Franks, and desiring that the thing in truth should be recognized in name... by deliberation with our grand council, have ordained and do ordain that generally throughout our realm freedom be given in good and valid conditions and so that all the lords who have body men take our example to make them free, etc. Promulgated at Paris the third of July, year of grace 1315.”

Nevertheless it was not until almost the fifteenth century that slavery was abolished in the majority of Europe: meanwhile it remains in much of Poland, in Hungary, in Bohemia, and in several places in lower Germany; see Les ouvrages de MM. Thomasius et Hertins: there are even some traces in our customs, see Coquille. In any case, practically in the space of the century that followed the abolition of slavery in Europe, the Christian powers having made conquests in lands where they believed it in their interest to have slaves, permitted them to be bought and sold, having forgotten the principles of Nature and of Christianity, which render all men equal.

After having reviewed the history of slavery , from its origin to our days, we now will prove that it damages the liberty of man and that it is contrary to natural and civil law, that it offends the structures of the best governments, and that finally it is useless in and of itself.

The liberty of man is a principle which had been recognized for a long time before the birth of J.C. by all of the nations which have practiced generosity. The natural liberty of man is to know no sovereign power on the earth, and to never be subjected to legislative authority of any kind, but to follow only the laws of Nature: liberty in society is to be submitted to a legislative power established by the consent of the community, and not to be subject to whim, to the inconstant, uncertain, and arbitrary will of a single man in particular.

This liberty, by which one is never subjected to absolute power, is united so closely with the safekeeping of man, that it cannot be separated without destroying at the same time his safety and his life. Whoever attempts therefore to usurp absolute power over another, puts himself thereby in a state of war with him, such that the first can only regard the actions of the other as an obvious attempt upon his life. Indeed, from the moment that a man wants me to submit, despite myself, to his empire, I have reason to presume that if I fall into his hands, he will treat me according to his caprice and have no scruples against killing me when the whim takes him. Liberty is, so to speak, the bulwark of my safekeeping, and the foundation of all the other things that belong to me. Thus, he who, in the state of nature, wants to make me a slave authorizes me to resist by all means in order to ensure the security of my person and my goods.

All men naturally having equal liberty and they cannot be stripped of it unless as a result of some criminal action. Certainly, if a man in the state of nature deserves death for something he has done to another man, who has as a result become the master of his life, the latter trade with him, and use him for service since he holds the guilty man’s life in his hands. In this he does no wrong, because in essence, when the criminal finds that his slavery is more heavy and more annoying than is the loss of his existence, he has it in his power to attain the death that he desires through resistance and disobedience to his master.

What makes the death of a criminal in civil society a legitimate choice is that the law that punishes him has been made for his protection. A murderer, for example, has enjoyed the protection of the law that condemns him; it has protected his life in all instances; he can make no complaint against this law. It would not be the same with the law of slavery . The law that establishes slavery would in all cases be against the slave, without ever being for him, and is thus is contrary to the fundamental principle of all societies.

The rights of property over men and over things are two very different rights. Although all lords say ‘this person here is mine’ of each who is submitted to his domination, the property he has in such a man is not the same as that which he can claim for himself when he says, ‘this thing here is mine.’ Property in a thing carries the full right to make use of it, to consume it, and to destroy it, whether for profit or by caprice; as a result, no matter in what manner one disposes of it, one does it no wrong. But the same expression applied to a person signifies only that the lord has a right, exclusive of others, to govern and to prescribe laws for that person, while at the same time he is himself is severally obligated to this same person; furthermore his power over that person is quite limited.

However grand the injuries that one has received from a man, humanity does not permit, once one has reconciled with him, his reduction to a condition where there no longer remains any trace of the natural equality of all men and as a consequence his treatment as an animal of which one is the master to dispose of at one’s whim. Peoples who treated slaves as a goods which they could dispose of at will were nothing other than barbarians.

Not only can one not have property as such in persons, but furthermore it offends reason that a man who has no power over his own life can give to another, either by his consent or by any convention, the right that he does not himself have. It is therefore not true that a free man can sell himself. A sale presupposes a price; when the slave sells himself, all his goods merge with the property of the master. Thus the master gives nothing, and the slave receives nothing. He would have a peculium , one might answer, but the peculium is attached to the person. The liberty of each citizen is a part of the public liberty: this quality, in a popular state is also a part of the sovereignty. If liberty has a price for the buyer, it is priceless for the seller.

Civil law, which has allowed the division of goods among men, is not empowered to count among the number of goods a section of the men who take part in this division. Civil law, which makes restitution for contracts that contain injuries, cannot help but rectify an agreement that contains the most enormous injury of all. Slavery is therefore no less opposed to civil law than it is to natural law. What civil law could prevent a slave from saving himself from servitude, he who is not part of society and as a consequence is not bound by any civil law? He can only be detained by a law of the family, by the law of the master, that is to say by the law of the strongest.

If slavery offends natural law and civil law, it injures as well the best forms of government: it is contrary to monarchical government, in which it is supremely important not to humble or debase human nature. In democracy, where everyone is equal and in aristocracy, where the laws must work so that everyone is as equal as the nature of government can permit, slaves are against the spirit of the constitution; they only serve to give citizens a power and a luxury which they should not have.

Furthermore, in every government and in every country, no matter how punitive the work that the society there demands, everything can be done with free men by encouraging them through compensation and privileges, in apportioning their work to their capabilities, or in supplementing them with machines that art invents and applies according to needs and locales. See evidence in M. de Montesquieu.

Finally we should further add with this illustrious author that slavery is not useful either for the master or for the slave: for the slave, because he can do nothing out of virtue; for the master, because he contracts with his slaves all kinds of vices and bad habits that are contrary to the laws of society. He unwittingly becomes accustomed to the lack of all moral virtues and he becomes proud, touchy, angry, hard, voluptuous, barbaric.

Thus everything converges to leave to man the dignity which is natural to him. Everything cries out to us that one cannot deprive him of that natural dignity which is liberty. The rule of justice is not founded on power, but on that which conforms to nature. Slavery is not only a humiliating state for those who suffer it, but for humanity itself which is degraded by it.

The principles just posed being unassailable, it will not be difficult to demonstrate that slavery can never be whitewashed on any reasonable grounds, not by the law of war, as thought the roman jurisconsults, by the law of acquisition, nor by that of birth, as some moderns have wanted to persuade us. In a word, nothing in the world can render slavery legitimate.

In past centuries, the law of war was said to authorize that of slavery . According to it, prisoners were made slaves so that they would not be killed; but today we are disabused of this nicety, which consisted of making one’s vanquished one’s slave rather than massacring him. It is understood that this supposed charity is only that of a brigand, which glorifies him for having given life to those whom he has not killed. There is no longer anyone except the Tartars who put their prisoners of war to the sword, and who believe that they are pardoning them when they sell them or distribute them to their soldiers. Among all other peoples, those who have not been stripped of all generous sentiment, it is only permissible to kill in war in the case of necessity. From the time that one man makes another his prisoner, it can no longer be said that it is necessary to kill him since he did not do so originally. The only right that war can grant victors over captives is to be able to ensure that their own people are not in any danger.

The acquisition of slaves by means of money can even less establish the right of slavery , because money and all it represents cannot grant the right to strip someone of his liberty. Furthermore, trafficking in slaves like brutal beasts in order to make a vile living is repulsive to our religion, which has emerged in order to efface all traces of tyranny.

Slavery is certainly no better founded on birth. This claimed right falls with the other two, because if a man could not be bought or sold even less could he sell his unborn child. If a prisoner of war cannot be reduced to servitude, even less his child. In vain would one argue that if the children are conceived and put into the world by a slave mother, the master does them no wrong by claiming them and reducing them to the same condition, since the mother having nothing of her own, her children cannot be nourished except by means of the master before whom they are in a state of servitude and who supplies her with food and other necessities of life. These are only frivolous ideas.

If it is absurd that a man could have over another man a right of property, all the more reason that he cannot have it over that man’s children. Moreover, nature gives milk to mothers and has provided sufficiently for their nourishment. The rest of their childhood is so close to the age when they are most capable of being useful, that one could say that he who feeds them in order to be their master gives them nothing. If he has furnished something for the support of the child, the object is so small that any man, however mediocre might be the faculties of his soul and his body, can in a small number of years earn enough to clear this debt. If slavery was founded on food, it would be reduced to those unable to earn their living, but we don’t find any slaves of that sort.

There could be no justice in an agreement, overt or tacit, by which a slave mother would subject the children that she put into the world to the same condition in which she has fallen, because she cannot stipulate for her children.

It has been said, in order to put this reason for enslaving children in a good light, that they would not exist if the master had wanted to use the right given him by war, to kill their mother. But this is to suppose that which is false, that all those who are taken in war (were it the most just in the world) above all the women in question, could legitimately be killed. Esprit des lois , liv. XV .

It was a proud pretention of the Greeks to imagine that since the barbarians were slaves by nature (it was thus that they spoke of them), and the Greeks free, it was just that the first obey the latter. On these grounds, it would be easy to treat as barbarians all peoples whose morals and customs are different than ours and (without other pretext) to attack them in order to subject them to our laws. It is only prejudices of pride and of ignorance that make us renounce humanity.

It is therefore to go directly against the law of nations and against nature to believe that the Christian religion gives those who profess it the right to reduce to servitude those who do not profess it, so as to work more easily for its propagation. It was however this manner of thinking that encouraged the destroyers of America in their crimes; and that is not the only time that religion has been utilized against its own maxims, which teach us that the status of fellow man applies universally.

Finally, it is to play with words, or rather to mock them, to write as has one of our modern authors, that it is small-minded to imagine that it would degrade humanity to have slaves, because the liberty which each European is believed to enjoy is nothing other than the power to break his chain in order to take a new master; as if the chain of a European was the same as that of a slave in our colonies: we can well see that this author has never been put in chains.

Nevertheless, are there no cases or locations where slavery derives from the nature of things? I respond 1) to this question, there are none; I respond next, with M. de Montesquieu, that if there are countries where slavery appears founded on a natural cause, it is those where heat enervates the body, and weakens courage so much that men are only brought to hard labor by fear of chastisement: in those countries, the master being as lax from the perspective of his prince as his slave is in his own view, civil slavery is still accompanied by political slavery .

In arbitrary governments, it is easy to sell oneself, because there political slavery in some fashion annihilates civil liberty. At Achim, Dampier says, everyone seeks to sell himself: some of the principle lords have no fewer than a thousand slaves, who are themselves principle merchants, who have also many slaves below them, and they many others; they are inherited and traded. Free men there, being too weak against the government, seek to become the slaves of those who tyrannize the government.

Note that in these despotic states, where one is already under political slavery , civil slavery is more tolerable than elsewhere: each is content enough to have his subsistence and his life. Thus the condition of the slave is hardly more to bear than the condition of the subject: the two conditions are adjacent. However although in these countries slavery is, as it were, founded on natural causes, it is no less true that slavery is against nature.

In all Muslim states servitude is rewarded by the laziness which is allowed to the slaves that serve for pleasure. It is this laziness which renders the seraglios of the Orient places of delights for even those against whom they are made. Nations that fear only work can find their happiness in these tranquil places; but one sees that there even the goal of the establishment of slavery is betrayed. These last reflections are from de l’Esprit des lois.

We conclude that slavery founded by force, by violence, and in certain climates by an excess of servitude, cannot maintain itself in the world except by the same means.


1. for-mariage : a legal term for a marriage contracted by a person in a servile condition with a free person, or with a person held in mortmain by another lord without the permission of his own lord. Dictionnaire de l'Académie française , 4th Edition (1762).