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Montesquieu Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de la
Brede et de Montesquieu was born in 1689 of a noble
family of good standing. His family abandoned
protestantism when Charles was young. Charles like the
children of most noble families at the time received a formal
education. Through his latin studies he developed an
affection for Stoicism. He became imbued with the religious
tolerance of the Stoics. After receiving an education in law
he replaced his uncle as the chief justice in France. He
served this office for ten years when he decided to leave
the profession and seek his love of writing. His first book
was entitled the Persian Letters which he wrote in 1721.
Through this book he showed the " irrationalities and
imperfections of the western world"(1). Montisquieu used
Locke as a mentor whom he called " The great instructor of
mankind." During his travels Montisquieu went to England.
He marveled at the British political scene and the freedom
of political journalism. However he was more interested in
the political institutions rather than the social economic
problems that existed there, thus the lower class is absent
from his writings. He liked the British system of government
for various reasons. " The government of England is wiser,
because there is a body which examines it continuously and
continuously examines itself; its errors never last long, and
are often useful because of the spirit of attention they give
to the people"(1). He also admired the idea of a balanced
constitution of which the doctrine of separation of powers
has become politically the most influencial expression. "
There can be no liberty where the executive, legislative, and
judicial branches are under one person or body of persons
because the result is arbitrary despotism(tyranny)"(1).
Montisquieu believes that the only way for a government to
be run fairly is by having a system that doesn’t allow one
person to control all of the power. Montisquieu says that
forms of government are complex combinations of physical
and environmental factors on one hand and psychological
motivations-ways of life-on the other. Montisquieu openly
disagrees with Hobbes by saying that men are in nature at
peace rather than at war because the state of war comes
from the formation of society not from human nature.
Montisquieu believes that basic human nature is good. He
says that men form societies to ensure themselves with
security and protection. Living alone man is at peace
because he views himself as being weak. However when
man joins society he finds strength in numbers which leads
to the innate desire to war and conquer. Derived from the
nature of the state Montisquieu states three types of
government. First is the Republican form. He says that this
should be used in a small state with temperate weather
conditions. This form of government has democratic
powers, using representation to elect government officials.
The second form is the Monarchial form. This is for a
medium sized state. This form has a king that rules by rules
that have already been established by the people or kings
before him. The third type is the Despotic form. This is for
a large sized state with a hot climate. In this form there is a
tyrant who rules through fear without rules or regulations.
Montisquieu is interested in the spirit of the laws, rather
than the law itself. He says that once mankind sets up
society and government, there are three kinds of law. The
first is the law of nations, which applies to their mutual
intercourse ie international law. The second is political law.
This applies to the relations between government and the
governed. This is constitutional, public, and administrative
law. The third type is civil law. Civil law regulates the
relations of citizens among themselves. These laws are
created from reason. "Montisquieu shared with the
eighteenth-century French philosophers, rational,
cosmopolitan humanists their optimism and faith in human
progress through reason"(1). Montisquieu states that law in
general is the human reason. Montisuqieu maintains that
society is directed by laws and liberty comes when people
follow the laws. Even in a moderate government liberty is
hard to find because man abuses power. That is why he
thinks that power should be checked with equal power. "
One can not produce laws by following mere fancy and
imagination because laws in their most general signification
are the necessary relations arising from the nature of
things"(1). Montisquieu outlines his program of combining
rationalism (which emphasizes the universal) with the
historical method (which emphasizes the uniquely
individual) by describing law as relating to the amount of
people in a state and the climatic conditions, and cultures of
that state. In general Montisquieu believes that human
nature is generally good. The most perfect laws are created
and maintained through their spirit
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Montesquieu, Forms of government, Politics, The Spirit of the Laws, Oligarchy, Separation of powers, Constitution, The Law, Despotism, Law, French philosophy, Republic
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