Persian Letter Series: Letter 117 – Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice

By , October 6, 2011 2:04 pm

This is the twenty first post in a series of posts examining excerpts from Charles Montesquieu’s book Persian Letters. Each post in this series examines a selected excerpt for study and discussion. The following is an excerpt from Letter 117: Protestant countries ought to be, and are in reality, more populous than Catholic ones.  It follows, first, that revenue from taxes is higher, because it increases proportionately to the number of taxpayers; second that the land is better cultivated; third, that business is in a more flourishing state, because there are more people with their fortunes to make, and because, although their needs are greater, there are also more resources.  When the number of people is only enough for the cultivation…

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Persian Letter Series: Letter 115 – Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice

By , September 17, 2011 6:14 am

This is the twentieth post in a series of posts examining excerpts from Charles Montesquieu’s book Persian Letters. Each post in this series examines a selected excerpt for study and discussion. The following is an excerpt from Letter 115: It was not the same with the Romans.  The republic used its slave population to incalculable advantage.  Each slave was given an allowance, which he had on the conditions imposed by his master:  he used it to work with, taking up whatever his own abilities suggested.  One would go in for banking, another for shipping, one became a retailer, another applied himself to a technical trade, or farmed out lands and improved them; but there was no one who failed to…

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Persian Letter Series: Letter 107 – Rica to Ibben, at Smyrna

By , August 28, 2011 5:53 am

This is the nineteenth post in a series of posts examining excerpts from Charles Montesquieu’s book Persian Letters. Each post in this series examines a selected excerpt for study and discussion. The following is an excerpt from Letter 107: They say it is impossible to tell the character of Western kings until they have been subjected to two great ordeals, their mistress and their confessor.  It will not be long before we see both of them hard at work to seize control of the king’s mind; it will be a mighty struggle.  For under a young prince, these two powers are always rivals, though they are reconciled and join forces under an old one.  Under a young prince, the dervish…

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Persian Letter Series: Letter 98 – Usbek to Ibben, at Smyrna

By , August 20, 2011 9:39 am

This is the eighteenth post in a series of posts examining excerpts from Charles Montesquieu’s book Persian Letters. Each post in this series examines a selected excerpt for study and discussion. The following is an excerpt from Letter 98: I find, Ibben, that Providence is to be admired for the manner in which it shares out wealth: if it had been granted only to good people, it would not have been possible to differentiate clearly enough between it and virtue, and its worthlessness would not have been fully appreciated.  But when you consider which people have accumulated the largest amounts of it, you come at last, through despising rich men, to despise riches. Comments on the excerpt above: I find…

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Persian Letter Series: Letter 96 – The First Eunuch to Usbek, at Paris

By , August 19, 2011 7:17 am

This is the seventeenth post in a series of posts examining excerpts from Charles Montesquieu’s book Persian Letters. Each post in this series examines a selected excerpt for study and discussion. The following is an excerpt from Letter 96: I am a connoisseur of women, the more so because they cannot catch me off my guard.  With me, the impulses of the emotions do not distract the eye. I have never seen beauty so regular and perfect.  The brilliance of her eyes brings her face to life, and enhances the quality of a complexion which could eclipse all the splendours of Circassia. Comments on the excerpt above: What man has not thought he possesses the same skill as a eunuch…

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Persian Letter Series: Letter 95 – Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice

By , August 14, 2011 12:36 pm

This is the sixteenth post in a series of posts examining excerpts from Charles Montesquieu’s book Persian Letters. Each post in this series examines a selected excerpt for study and discussion. The following is an excerpt from Letter 95: There are only two cases in which a war is just:  first, in order to resist the aggression of an enemy, and second, in order to help an ally who has been attacked. …Conquest itself confers no rights.  If the population survives, conquest provides assurance that peace will be maintained and that amends will be made for the wrong that had been committed; and if the population is destroyed, or scattered, it is a monument to tyranny. Men regard peace treaties…

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Persian Letter Series: Letter 85 – Usbek to Mirza, at Isfahan

By , August 14, 2011 6:18 am

This is the fifteenth post in a series of posts examining excerpts from Charles Montesquieu’s book Persian Letters. Each post in this series examines a selected excerpt for study and discussion. The following is an excerpt from Letter 85: The persecutions that our Muslim zealots have inflicted on the Gabars have forced large numbers of them to emigrate to India, causing Persia to lose a nation which was dedicated to agriculture: they were the only people capable of doing the work necessary to overcome the sterility of our soil. All that the zealots needed to do was to strike a second blow and wreck our industry, thus ensuring that the empire fell of its own accord, and with it, by…

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Persian Letter Series: Letter 61 – Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice

By , August 14, 2011 5:44 am

This is the fourteenth post in a series of posts examining excerpts from Charles Montesquieu’s book Persian Letters. Each post in this series examines a selected excerpt for study and discussion. The following is an excerpt from Letter 61: The other day I visited a famous church called Norte-Dame.  While I was admiring the magnificence of the building I happened to get into conversation with a clergyman who like me had been brought there by curiosity.  The conversation fell upon the tranquility of his calling. ‘Most people,’ he said ‘envy our pleasant life, and they are right.  However, it has its disagreeable side.  We are not so cut off from the outside world that we do not have to appear…

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Persian Letter Series: Letter 60 – Usbek to Ibben, at Smyrna

By , August 13, 2011 6:07 pm

This is the thirteenth post in a series of posts examining excerpts from Charles Montesquieu’s book Persian Letters. Each post in this series examines a selected excerpt for study and discussion. The following is an excerpt from Letter 60: Among the Christians as with the Muslims, the Jews display that invincibly stubborn religious conviction which verges on folly.  The Jewish religion is an aged tree-trunk which has covered the earth with the two branches that it has produced – Islam and Christianity; or rather, it is a mother who has given birth to two daughters, and they have inflicted a thousand wounds on her; for where religion is concerned, those most closely related are the greatest enemies.  But despite the…

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Persian Letter Series: Letter 59 – Rica to Usbek, at ***

By , August 10, 2011 6:52 pm

This is the twelfth post in a series of posts examining excerpts from Charles Montesquieu’s book Persian Letters. Each post in this series examines a selected excerpt for study and discussion. The following is an excerpt from Letter 59: It seems to me, Usbek, that all our judgments are made with reference covertly to ourselves, I do not find it surprising that the negroes paint the devil sparkling white, and their gods black as coal, or that certain tribes have a Venus with her breasts hanging down to her thighs, or in brief that all the idolatrous peoples represent their gods with human faces, and endow them with all their own impulses.  It has been well said that if triangles…

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