Montesquieu

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Montesquieu
Charles Montesquieu.jpg
Portrait by an anonymous artist, 1728
Born18 January 1689
Died10 February 1755(1755-02-10) (aged 66)
Paris, France
Era 18th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Enlightenment
Classical liberalism
Main interests
Political philosophy
Notable ideas
Separation of state powers: executive, legislative, judicial; classification of systems of government based on their principles

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu ( /ˈmɒntəskj/ ; [2] French:  [mɔ̃tɛskjø] ; 18 January 1689 – 10 February 1755), generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, man of letters, and political philosopher.

Judge official who presides over court proceedings

A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and, typically, in an open court. The judge hears all the witnesses and any other evidence presented by the barristers of the case, assesses the credibility and arguments of the parties, and then issues a ruling on the matter at hand based on his or her interpretation of the law and his or her own personal judgment. In some jurisdictions, the judge's powers may be shared with a jury. In inquisitorial systems of criminal investigation, a judge might also be an examining magistrate.

Intellectual people who primarily use intelligence in either a professional or an individual capacity

An intellectual is a person who engages in critical thinking, research, and reflection about society, proposes solutions for its normative problems and gains authority as a public figure. Coming from the world of culture, either as a creator or as a mediator, the intellectual participates in politics either to defend a concrete proposition or to denounce an injustice, usually by rejecting, producing or extending an ideology, or by defending a system of values.

Political philosophy sub-discipline of philosophy and political science

Political philosophy, also known as political theory, is the study of topics such as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of laws by authority: what they are, if they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever.

Contents

He is famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, which is implemented in many constitutions throughout the world. He is also known for doing more than any other author to secure the place of the word "despotism" in the political lexicon. [3] His anonymously published The Spirit of the Laws in 1748, which was received well in both Great Britain and the American colonies, influenced the Founding Fathers in drafting the United States Constitution.

The separation of powers is a model for the governance of a state. Under this model, a state's government is divided into branches, each with separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with the powers associated with the other branches. The typical division is into three branches: a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary, which is the trias politica model. It can be contrasted with the fusion of powers in some parliamentary systems where the executive and legislative branches overlap.

Constitution Set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed

A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity, and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed.

Despotism is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. Normally, that entity is an individual, the despot, as in an autocracy, but societies which limit respect and power to specific groups have also been called despotic.

Biography

Chateau de la Brede Chateau la brede.jpg
Château de la Brède

Montesquieu was born at the Château de la Brède in southwest France, 25 kilometres (16 mi) south of Bordeaux. [4] His father, Jacques de Secondat, was a soldier with a long noble ancestry. His mother, Marie Françoise de Pesnel, who died when Charles was seven, was an heiress who brought the title of Barony of La Brède to the Secondat family. [5] After the death of his mother he was sent to the Catholic College of Juilly, a prominent school for the children of French nobility, where he remained from 1700 to 1711. [6] His father died in 1713 and he became a ward of his uncle, the Baron de Montesquieu. [7] He became a counselor of the Bordeaux Parliament in 1714. The next year, he married the Protestant Jeanne de Lartigue, who eventually bore him three children. [8] The Baron died in 1716, leaving him his fortune as well as his title, and the office of président à mortier in the Bordeaux Parliament. [9]

Château de la Brède feudal castle in La Brède, Gironde, France

The Château de La Brède is a feudal castle in the commune of La Brède in the département of Gironde, France.

Bordeaux Prefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne in the Gironde department in Southwestern France.

College of Juilly Catholic teaching seminary in France

The College of Juilly is a Catholic private teaching establishment located in the commune of Juilly, in Seine-et-Marne (France). Directed by the French Oratorians, it was created in 1638 by the congregationists headed by Father Charles de Condren.

Montesquieu's early life occurred at a time of significant governmental change. England had declared itself a constitutional monarchy in the wake of its Glorious Revolution (1688–89), and had joined with Scotland in the Union of 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. In France, the long-reigning Louis XIV died in 1715 and was succeeded by the five-year-old Louis XV. These national transformations had a great impact on Montesquieu; he would refer to them repeatedly in his work.

A constitutional monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the sovereign exercises authority in accordance with a written or unwritten constitution. Constitutional monarchy differs from absolute monarchy in that constitutional monarchs are bound to exercise their powers and authorities within the limits prescribed within an established legal framework. Constitutional monarchies range from countries such as Morocco, where the constitution grants substantial discretionary powers to the sovereign, to countries such as Japan and Sweden where the monarch retains no formal authorities.

Glorious Revolution 17th Century British revolution

The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, was the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III, Prince of Orange, who was James's nephew and son-in-law. William's successful invasion of England with a Dutch fleet and army led to his ascension to the throne as William III of England jointly with his wife, Mary II, James's daughter, after the Declaration of Right, leading to the Bill of Rights 1689.

Kingdom of Great Britain constitutional monarchy in Western Europe between 1707–1801

The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called simply Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 31 December 1800. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". After the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.

The title page of the first volume of Montesquieu's De l'Esprit des loix (1st ed., 1748) Montesquieu, De l'Esprit des loix (1st ed, 1748, vol 1, title page).jpg
The title page of the first volume of Montesquieu's De l'Esprit des loix (1st ed., 1748)

Montesquieu withdrew from the practice of law to devote himself to study and writing. He achieved literary success with the publication of his 1721 Persian Letters , a satire representing society as seen through the eyes of two imaginary Persian visitors to Paris and Europe, cleverly criticizing the absurdities of contemporary French society. He next published Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline (1734), considered by some scholars, among his three best known books, as a transition from The Persian Letters to his master work. The Spirit of the Laws was originally published anonymously in 1748. The book quickly rose to influence political thought profoundly in Europe and America. In France, the book met with an unfriendly reception from both supporters and opponents of the regime. The Catholic Church banned The Spirit – along with many of Montesquieu's other works – in 1751 and included it on the Index of Prohibited Books. It received the highest praise from the rest of Europe, especially Britain.

Lawyer legal professional who helps clients and represents them in a court of law

A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, counselor at law, solicitor, chartered legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.

<i>Persian Letters</i> 1721 literary work by Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu

Persian Letters is a literary work, written in 1721, by Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, recounting the experiences of two Persian noblemen, Usbek and Rica, who are traveling through France.

The Persians are an Iranian ethnic group that make up over half the population of Iran. They share a common cultural system and are native speakers of the Persian language, as well as closely related languages.

Montesquieu was also highly regarded in the British colonies in North America as a champion of liberty (though not of American independence). According to one political scientist, he was the most frequently quoted authority on government and politics in colonial pre-revolutionary British America, cited more by the American founders than any source except for the Bible. [10] Following the American Revolution, Montesquieu's work remained a powerful influence on many of the American founders, most notably James Madison of Virginia, the "Father of the Constitution". Montesquieu's philosophy that "government should be set up so that no man need be afraid of another" [11] reminded Madison and others that a free and stable foundation for their new national government required a clearly defined and balanced separation of powers.

British North America Former British imperial territories

The term "British North America" refers to the former territories of the British Empire in North America, not including the Caribbean. The term was first used informally in 1783, but it was uncommon before the Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839), called the Durham Report. These territories today form modern-day Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Bible Collection of religious texts in Judaism and Christianity

The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures. Varying parts of the Bible are considered to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans by Christians, Jews, Samaritans, and Rastafarians.

American Revolution Colonial revolt in which the Thirteen Colonies won independence from Great Britain

The American Revolution was a colonial revolt that took place between 1765 and 1783. The American Patriots in the Thirteen Colonies won independence from Great Britain, becoming the United States of America. They defeated the British in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) in alliance with France and others.

Lettres familieres a divers amis d'Italie, 1767 Lettres familieres a divers amis d'Italie.tif
Lettres familières à divers amis d'Italie, 1767

Besides composing additional works on society and politics, Montesquieu traveled for a number of years through Europe including Austria and Hungary, spending a year in Italy and 18 months in England, where he became a freemason, admitted to the Horn Tavern Lodge in Westminster, [12] before resettling in France. He was troubled by poor eyesight, and was completely blind by the time he died from a high fever in 1755. He was buried in the Église Saint-Sulpice, Paris.

Philosophy of history

Montesquieu's philosophy of history minimized the role of individual persons and events. He expounded the view in Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur décadence that each historical event was driven by a principal movement:

It is not chance that rules the world. Ask the Romans, who had a continuous sequence of successes when they were guided by a certain plan, and an uninterrupted sequence of reverses when they followed another. There are general causes, moral and physical, which act in every monarchy, elevating it, maintaining it, or hurling it to the ground. All accidents are controlled by these causes. And if the chance of one battle—that is, a particular cause—has brought a state to ruin, some general cause made it necessary for that state to perish from a single battle. In a word, the main trend draws with it all particular accidents. [13]

In discussing the transition from the Republic to the Empire, he suggested that if Caesar and Pompey had not worked to usurp the government of the Republic, other men would have risen in their place. The cause was not the ambition of Caesar or Pompey, but the ambition of man.

Political views

Montesquieu is credited as being among the progenitors, which include Herodotus and Tacitus, of anthropology, as being among the first to extend comparative methods of classification to the political forms in human societies. Indeed, the French political anthropologist Georges Balandier considered Montesquieu to be "the initiator of a scientific enterprise that for a time performed the role of cultural and social anthropology". [14] According to social anthropologist D. F. Pocock, Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws was "the first consistent attempt to survey the varieties of human society, to classify and compare them and, within society, to study the inter-functioning of institutions." [15] Montesquieu's political anthropology gave rise to his theories on government. When Catherine the Great wrote her Nakaz (Instruction) for the Legislative Assembly she had created to clarify the existing Russian law code, she avowed borrowing heavily from Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws, although she discarded or altered portions that did not support Russia's absolutist bureaucratic monarchy. [16]

Montesquieu's most influential work divided French society into three classes (or trias politica , a term he coined): the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the commons. Montesquieu saw two types of governmental power existing: the sovereign and the administrative. The administrative powers were the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. These should be separate from and dependent upon each other so that the influence of any one power would not be able to exceed that of the other two, either singly or in combination. This was a radical idea because it completely eliminated the three Estates structure of the French Monarchy: the clergy, the aristocracy, and the people at large represented by the Estates-General, thereby erasing the last vestige of a feudalistic structure.

His famous articulation of the theory of the separation of powers is found in The Spirit of the Laws :

«IN every government there are three sorts of power: the legislative; the executive in respect to things dependent on the law of nations; and the executive in regard to matters that depend on the civil law.»

«By virtue of the first, the prince or magistrate enacts temporary or perpetual laws, and amends or abrogates those that have been already enacted. By the second, he makes peace or war, sends or receives embassies, establishes the public security, and provides against invasions. By the third, he punishes criminals, or determines the disputes that arise between individuals. The latter we shall call the judiciary power, and the other, simply, the executive power of the state.»

The Spirit of the Laws , Book XI [17] [18]

Montesquieu argues that each Power should only exercise its own functions, it was quite explicit here:

«When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.»

«Again, there is no liberty if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary controul; for the judge would be then the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.»

«There would be an end of every thing, were the same man, or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals.»

The Spirit of the Laws , Book XI [17] [18]

If the legislative branch appoints the executive and judicial powers, as Montesquieu indicated, there will be no separation or division of its powers, since the power to appoint carries with it the power to revoke.

«The executive power ought to be in the hands of a monarch, because this branch of government, having need of dispatch, is better administered by one than by many: on the other hand, whatever depends on the legislative power, is oftentimes better regulated by many than by a single person.»

«But, if there were no monarch, and the executive power should be committed to a certain number of persons, selected from the legislative body, there would be an end of liberty, by reason the two powers would be united; as the same persons would sometimes possess, and would be always able to possess, a share in both.»

The Spirit of the Laws , Book XI [17] [18]

Likewise, there were three main forms of government, each supported by a social "principle": monarchies (free governments headed by a hereditary figure, e.g. king, queen, emperor), which rely on the principle of honor; republics (free governments headed by popularly elected leaders), which rely on the principle of virtue; and despotisms (enslaved governments headed by dictators), which rely on fear. The free governments are dependent on fragile constitutional arrangements. Montesquieu devotes four chapters of The Spirit of the Laws to a discussion of England, a contemporary free government, where liberty was sustained by a balance of powers. Montesquieu worried that in France the intermediate powers (i.e., the nobility) which moderated the power of the prince were being eroded. These ideas of the control of power were often used in the thinking of Maximilien de Robespierre.

Montesquieu advocated reform of slavery in The Spirit of the Laws. As part of his advocacy he presented a satirical hypothetical list of arguments for slavery.

While addressing French readers of his General Theory, John Maynard Keynes described Montesquieu as "the real French equivalent of Adam Smith, the greatest of your economists, head and shoulders above the physiocrats in penetration, clear-headedness and good sense (which are the qualities an economist should have)." [19]

Meteorological climate theory

Another example of Montesquieu's anthropological thinking, outlined in The Spirit of the Laws and hinted at in Persian Letters , is his meteorological climate theory, which holds that climate may substantially influence the nature of man and his society. By placing an emphasis on environmental influences as a material condition of life, Montesquieu prefigured modern anthropology's concern with the impact of material conditions, such as available energy sources, organized production systems, and technologies, on the growth of complex socio-cultural systems.

He goes so far as to assert that certain climates are superior to others, the temperate climate of France being ideal. His view is that people living in very warm countries are "too hot-tempered", while those in northern countries are "icy" or "stiff". The climate of middle Europe is therefore optimal. On this point, Montesquieu may well have been influenced by a similar pronouncement in The Histories of Herodotus, where he makes a distinction between the "ideal" temperate climate of Greece as opposed to the overly cold climate of Scythia and the overly warm climate of Egypt. This was a common belief at the time, and can also be found within the medical writings of Herodotus' times, including the "On Airs, Waters, Places" of the Hippocratic corpus. One can find a similar statement in Germania by Tacitus, one of Montesquieu's favorite authors.

Philip M. Parker in his book Physioeconomics endorses Montesquieu's theory and argues that much of the economic variation between countries is explained by the physiological effect of different climates.

From a sociological perspective Louis Althusser, in his analysis of Montesquieu's revolution in method, [20] alluded to the seminal character of anthropology's inclusion of material factors, such as climate, in the explanation of social dynamics and political forms. Examples of certain climatic and geographical factors giving rise to increasingly complex social systems include those that were conducive to the rise of agriculture and the domestication of wild plants and animals.

List of principal works

A definitive edition of Montesquieu's works is being published by the Société Montesquieu. It is planned to total 22 volumes, of which (at February 2018) half have appeared. [21]

See also

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The Spirit of the Laws is a treatise on political theory, as well as a pioneering work in comparative law, published in 1748 by Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu. Originally published anonymously, partly because Montesquieu's works were subject to censorship, its influence outside France was aided by its rapid translation into other languages. In 1750 Thomas Nugent published the first English translation. In 1751 the Roman Catholic Church added De l'esprit des lois to its Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Yet Montesquieu's treatise had an enormous influence on the work of many others, most notably: Catherine the Great, who produced Nakaz (Instruction); the Founding Fathers of the United States Constitution; and Alexis de Tocqueville, who applied Montesquieu's methods to a study of American society, in Democracy in America. Macaulay offers us a hint of Montesquieu's continuing importance when he writes in his 1827 essay entitled "Machiavelli" that "Montesquieu enjoys, perhaps, a wider celebrity than any political writer of modern Europe."

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References

Notes

  1. Ousselin, Edward (2009). "French Political Thought from Montesquieu to Tocqueville: Liberty in a Levelled Society? (review)". French Studies: A Quarterly Review. 63 (2): 219.
  2. "Montesquieu". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary .
  3. Boesche 1990 , p. 1.
  4. "Google Maps".
  5. Sorel, A. Montesquieu. London, George Routledge & Sons, 1887 (Ulan Press reprint, 2011), p. 10. ASIN   B00A5TMPHC
  6. Sorel (1887), p. 11.
  7. Sore (1887), p. 12.
  8. Sorel (1887), pp. 11–12.
  9. Sorel (1887), pp. 12–13.
  10. Lutz 1984.
  11. Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, Book 11, Chapter 6, "Of the Constitution of England." Archived 28 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library, Retrieved 1 August 2012
  12. Berman 2012 , p.  150.
  13. Montesquieu (1734), Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline, The Free Press, retrieved 30 November 2011 Ch. XVIII.
  14. Balandier 1970 , p. 3.
  15. Pocock 1961 , p.  9.
    Tomaselli 2006 , p. 9, similarly describes it as "among the most intellectually challenging and inspired contributions to political theory in the eighteenth century. [... It] set the tone and form of modern social and political thought."
  16. Ransel 1975 , p. 179.
  17. 1 2 3 "Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 1 (The Spirit of Laws)". oll.libertyfund.org. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  18. 1 2 3 "Esprit des lois (1777)/L11/C6 - Wikisource". fr.wikisource.org (in French). Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  19. See the preface Archived 10 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine to the French edition of Keynes' General Theory.
    See also Devletoglou 1963.
  20. Althusser 1972.
  21. "Œuvres complètes". Institut d'histoire des représentations et des idées dans les modernités. Retrieved 28 February 2018.

Bibliography

Articles and chapters

Boesche, Roger (1990). "Fearing Monarchs and Merchants: Montesquieu's Two Theories of Despotism". The Western Political Quarterly . 43 (4): 741–61. doi:10.1177/106591299004300405. JSTOR   448734.
Devletoglou, Nicos E. (1963). "Montesquieu and the Wealth of Nations". The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science . 29 (1): 1–25. JSTOR   139366.
Lutz, Donald S. (1984). "The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late Eighteenth-Century American Political Thought". American Political Science Review . 78 (1): 189–97. doi:10.2307/1961257. JSTOR   1961257.
Person, James Jr., ed., "Montesquieu" (excerpts from chap. 8). in Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800 (Gale Publishing: 1988), vol. 7, pp. 350–52.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
Tomaselli, Sylvana. "The spirit of nations". In Mark Goldie and Robert Wokler, eds., The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). pp. 9–39.

Books

Althusser, Louis, Politics and History: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Marx (London and New York, NY: New Left Books, 1972).
Auden, W. H.; Kronenberger, Louis, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York, NY: Viking Press, 1966).
Balandier, Georges, Political Anthropology (London: Allen Lane, 1970).
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