ACCOUNT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF GENEVA BY D'ALEMBERT.
IT is very remarkable, that a city, which con∣tains scarce 24000 inhabitants, and whose scat∣tered territory consists not of thirty villages, should be a sovereign state, and one of the most flourishing cities of Europe; enriched by her li∣berty and her commerce, she frequently beholds every thing around her in flames, without having any share in the calamity. The events which disturb the rest of Europe, afford her only an amnsing spectacle, which she observes without tak∣ing any part in them. Attached to France, by treaties and by commerce, to England by com∣merce and religion, she is too prudent to interest herself in the wars that embroil these two power∣ful nations; she pronounces with impartiality upon the justice of their contests, and judges all the so∣vereigns of Europe, without flattering, injuring, or fearing them.
The city is well fortified, particularly on the side of that prince from whom it has most to fear, the King of Sardinia. On the side of France it is almost open and defenceless; but discipline is kept up as in a military place, the arsenals and maga∣zines well furnished, every citizen is a soldier, as in Switzerland, and ancient Rome; the Genevois are allowed to go into foreign service, but the re∣public does not furnish any state with regular bo∣dies of men, nor does it suffer an inrolment with∣in its own territories.
Though the individuals are rich, the government is poor, from that aversion which the people shew to new taxes, how little burdensome soever. The revenues of the state do not amount to 500,000 Page 107livres of French money; and yet, by the admirable oeconomy with which they are managed. they are sufficient, and even afford a surplus for extraor∣dinary emergencies.
Hereditary dignity is unknown at Geneva; the sons of the first magistrate are lost in the crowd, till their own merit distinguishes them; nobility and riches confer neither rank nor privilege, nor give any facility of advancement to the offices of the state. All solicitation for places is strictly prohi∣bited; —Public employments are so little lucrative, that they afford no temptations for the avaricious; they are objects only to nobler minds, by the con∣sideration and respect they procure.
Few disputes come to a legal trial; they are ge∣nerally adjusted by common friends, by the advo∣cates themselves and by the judges.
Their sumptuary laws forbid the use of jewels and embroidery, limit the expence of funerals, and oblige all the citizens to walk on foot in the streets, carriages being allowed only in the country.— These laws, which are regarded in France as too se∣vere, nay, almost barbarous and inhuman, by no means abridge the real conveniences of life, which are always to be obtained at little expence; they retrench only the pageantry of it, which contri∣butes not to happiness, and often produces ruin, without any advantage.
There is, perhaps, no where so many happy marriages: Geneva has, in this respect, the start of our manners at least two centuries.—The re∣straints upon luxury remove the fear of a multi∣tude of children; and, by this means, luxury is not as in France, one of the greatest obstacles to population.
Geneva has an university, which they call an academy, where youth are educated without ex∣pence: The professors are eligible to offices of state—Many of them have become magistrates, and this privilege contributes much to keep up the emulation and same of the academy.
Page 172Their public library is a well chosen collection of books, consisting of twenty-six thousand vo∣lumes, and a great number of manuscripts. The books are lent to all the citizens, every one reads, and informs himself: and by this means, the peo∣ple of Geneva are better instructed than any where else. They find none of those inconveniencies which we suppose would follow the same indul∣gence among us; perhaps the Genevois and our politicians may be both in the right.
All the sciences, and most of the arts, have been cultivated with so much success at Geneva, that it is surprizing to see the list of learned men and ar∣tists of every kind, which this city has produced within the last two ages—It has even had the good fortune sometimes to be the residence of celebrated strangers, whom its agreable situation, and the liberty it enjoys, have invited to retire thither. M. de Voltaire, who has resided there for the last seven years, finds, among these republicans, the same marks of esteem and consideration which he has received from so many monarchs.
The eccle••astical constitution of Geneva is pure Presbyterianism; no bishops nor canons;—Not that they disapprove of episcopacy, but as they have no faith in the divine right of bishops, they think Pas∣tors, not quite so rich and important as bishops, agree better with a small republic.
The ministers are either pastors, like our parish priests, or postulans as our priests without bene∣fice. The revenue of the pastors does not amount to above 1200 livres, without any casual profits: The state makes this allowance.—The church has nothing.