One gives the name of tyrant to the sovereign who knows no laws but
those of his caprice, who takes his subjects' property, and who
afterwards enrols them to go to take the property of his neighbours.
There are none of these tyrants in Europe.
One distinguishes between the tyranny of one man and that of many. The
tyranny of many would be that of a body which invaded the rights of
other bodies, and which exercised despotism in favour of the laws
corrupted by it. Nor are there any tyrants of this sort in Europe.
Under which tyranny would you like to live? Under neither; but if I had
to choose, I should detest the tyranny of one man less than that of
many. A despot always has his good moments; an assembly of despots
never. If a tyrant does me an injustice, I can disarm him through his
mistress, his confessor or his page; but a company of grave tyrants is
inaccessible to all seductions. When it is not unjust, it is at the
least hard, and never does it bestow favours.
If I have only one despot, I am quit of him by drawing myself up against
a wall when I see him pass, or by bowing low, or by striking the ground
with my forehead, according to the custom of the country; but if there
is a company of a hundred despots, I am exposed to repeating this
ceremony a hundred times a day, which in the long run is very annoying
if one's hocks are not supple. If I have a farm in the neighbourhood of
one of our lords, I am crushed; if I plead against a relation of the
relations of one of our lords, I am ruined. What is to be done? I fear
that in this world one is reduced to being either hammer or anvil; lucky
the man who escapes these alternatives!