Chapter 1b: Polygamy

The species of marriage of which we have been treating took place only in Rome and in the Christian countries with a few others, for in many countries they took as many wives as they were able to maintain.


Polygamy takes place under despotic governments.

Montesquieu is in favour of polygamy because in some countries women are marriageable at 8 or 9 years old, and are old and withered at 20.

It might be their custom to deflower infants.

Wherever polygamy takes place there can be no hereditary nobility.

  • Being in every corner of the country, whenever the subjects are oppressed they fly to him as their head.
  • In Eastern countries there is no such thing.
  • Every man is almost an upstart, and the royal family alone is regarded.
  • The families of the Bashaws after their death mix with the vulgar.
  • Wherever there is a hereditary nobility, the country cannot easily be conquered, or rather not at all.
  • They may be beat once or twice, but they still recover under their natural heads.
  • Eastern countries, for this very reason that they want these, make feeble resistance against foreign invaders.
  • Polygamy is exceedingly hurtful to a nation's populousness.

    Thus marriage is of two kinds:

    The laws concerning monogamy differ according to the species of it.

    We come now to consider what interest the husband has in the property of the wife, or the wife in that of the husband, according to the different species of marriage.

    We come now to consider what persons are capable of contracting marriage.

  • At Rome and Carthage indeed, they used sometimes to give a dispensation to the uncle and niece, but never to the aunt and nephew.
  • The marriage of collaterals, such as brother and sister, seems to have been prohibited chiefly from political views, because they are bred up together, and would be in danger of mutual corruption, unless properly restrained.


    Next: Chapter 2