Baron de Montesquieu

Baron de Montesquieu

"Society must rest on principles that do not change" – wrote Montesquieu in book 24 of "The Spirit of the Laws."

Montesquieu was a French political philosopher whose books were read by Catherine the Great of Russia, praised in England and banned by Louis XV of France. He had a great influence on the founding fathers of America, and Thomas Jefferson even translated the commentary of Destutt de Tracy on Montesquieu, August 12, 1810.

In 1984, the American Political Review published "The Relative Influence of European Writers on the Late 18th Century American Political Thought", written by Donald S. Lutz of the University of Houston, and Charles S. Hyneman. After viewing almost 15,000 items written between 1760 and 1805, Lutz and Hyneman discovered that the writers of the Constitution quoted Montesquieu more than any other source than the Bible.

Montesquieu divided governments into three categories, and described some motivational power, or & # 39; spring & # 39 ;, as in a windup, each relied on:

  • Republics, the most common in North European Protestant countries, relied on Virtue
  • Monarchs, most common in South and Western European Catholic countries, relied on honor
  • Despots, who are most prevalent in Islamic countries, relied on fear
  • "Republic" is a "popular government" where the people govern themselves, being aware that every citizen will be held responsible to a God who wants them to be honest.

    "Monarch" is a king with concatenations, a conscience and is limited by laws, traditions, Jewish-Christian convictions and a class of powerful noblemen.

    "Despot" is a king without obligations, who rules without conscience, according to his whims and whims, and exercises absolute and arbitrary power:

  • absolutely, which means that the moment he says something is the law
  • random, meaning that no one can predict what he will say next
  • Montesquieu understood that the nature of man was inherently selfish and that everyone would be given the opportunity to gather power and become a despot. St. Augustine called this "libido dominandi" – the desire to dominate.

    Montesquieu explained that when virtue is over, a republic becomes lawless. Power will draw from the many to the few, the "popular" government will be replaced by a despot, who will take over power and rule by fear: "It is the nature of a republican government that … the collective body of the people … should be … the Supreme Power … In one popular state, one source is needed, namely virtue … The political Greeks, who lived under a People's Government, had no other support than Virtue … When virtue is banished, ambition enters the minds of those who are inclined to receive it, and greed (greed) holds the whole community … When there is a suspension of laws in a People's Government, because it can only come from the corruption of the republic, the state has certainly been undone. "

    Montesquieu went on: & # 39; Because virtue in a republic is necessary … so fear in a despotic government is necessary: ​​with regard to virtue there is no reason for it. … Fear therefore has to depress their minds and extinguish even the slightest sense of ambition. … of a despotic government, that governs a person … according to his own will and whims. … He who commands the implementation of the laws generally thinks he is above them, there is less need for virtue than for a popular government. … "

    Montesquieu added: "Those are the principles … of the government … in a certain republic they are actually … virtuous … in a certain despotic government by fear."

    In contrast, religion supports a moderate monarch or republic and supports a despot, wrote Montesquieu in "The Spirit of the Laws", 1748: "A moderate government is most agreeable to the Christian religion and a despotic government for the Mahometan. … The Christian religion is a stranger of mere despotic power. The generosity so often recommended in the gospel is incompatible with the despotic anger with which a prince punishes his subjects and practices himself cruelly. Because this religion forbids the multitude of women, its princes are less limited, less hidden from their subjects and therefore have more humanity: they are more inclined to be governed by laws and better able to see that they can not do what they want to. While the Mahometan princes cease or receive death incessantly, the religion of the Christians makes their princes less cruel. The prince trusts his subjects, and the subjects in the prince. How admirable is the religion which, while he only seems to have the bliss of the other life, continues the happiness of it! … It is the Christian religion that has … impeded the despotic power. & # 39;

    Montesquieu went on: "From the characters of the Christian and the Mahometan religions, we would have to embrace one and reject the other without further investigation: for it is much easier to prove that religion must make people's ways more human than that certain Religion is true It is an accident to human nature when religion is given by a victor The Mahometan religion, which speaks only through the sword, is still dealing with people with that destructive spirit with which it is founded. & # 39;

    Montesquieu studied the Christian religion: "When the Christian religion was divided unhappily into Catholic and Protestant embrace, two centuries ago, the people in the north embraced the Protestant, and those from the South still adhered to the Catholics. is clear: the people in the north have, and will forever, a spirit of freedom and independence, which the people in the south do not have, and therefore a religion that has no visible head is more agreeable to the independence of the climate than the one who has one … When a religion is introduced and fixed in a state, it is usually the most suitable for the government plan set up there. & # 39;

    Montesquieu compared the Lutheran and Calvinist countries: "In the countries where the Protestant religion was established, the revolutions were carried out according to the various plans of the political government, Luther with great princes at his side … an ecclesiastical authority … while Calvin had to do with people who lived under republican governments … It was believed that each of these two religions was perfect, the Calvinist who was conformed to what Christ had said, and the Lutheran with what the apostles had practiced. # 39;

    Warning of abuse of power when concentrated, Montesquieu introduced the revolutionary concept of separating the powers of the ruling into three branches:

  • legislative
  • executive
  • judicial
  • These three branches would selfishly attract each other to prevent someone from overpowering the others – and thus use selfish power to selfishly control the power.

    The brilliance of this is equivalent to a Sunday school teacher who gives an assignment: "Design a system of government where sinners keep other sinners from sinning."

    Montesquieu wrote: "Nor is there freedom if the power of Judging is not separate from legislative power and from executive power.If it was tied to the legislature, power over the life and freedom of the citizens would be arbitrary, for the The judge would be the legislator If it became a member of the executive, the judge could have the power of an oppressor, and everything would be lost if the same … body of the most important men … exercised these three forces. 39;

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    James Madison repeated this in "The Federalist No. 51": "Ambition must be created to counter ambition." The importance of the man must be linked to the constitutional rights of the place … If angels would rule men, no external or internal control of the government is necessary. "

    In "The Spirit of the Laws", 1748, Montesquieu wrote: "I have always respected religion, the moral of the gospel is the noblest gift that God has ever given to man, we will see that we are Christianity, in the government, a certain political law, and, in war, a certain law of nations – benefits that human nature can never sufficiently recognize.The principles of Christianity, deeply engraved in the heart, would be infinitely more powerful than the false honor of monarchies, than the human virtues of republics or the slavish fear of despotic states. & # 39;

    In his "Considerations about the causes of the greatness and the decadence of the Romans", Montesquieu wrote in 1734: "It is no coincidence that the world rules, ask the Romans … There are general causes, moral and physical. … raising, maintaining or swinging to the ground … If the chance of one fight – that is, a certain cause – has destroyed a state, a general cause made it necessary for that state to succumb to a single blow In short, the most important trend involves all special accidents. "

    At the beginning of "The Spirit of the Laws", 1748, Montesquieu wrote: "God is related to the universe as Creator and Keeper, the laws through which He created all things are those through which He preserves them …. But the intelligent the world is not as well governed as the physical … Man, as a physical being, is governed by immutable laws like other bodies As an intelligent being, he continually transgresses the laws established by God and changes that of his own attitude, he is left to his private direction, though a limited being, and subject, like all finite intelligences, run away from ignorance and error … by a thousand impetuous passions, such a being could forget his Creator any moment God therefore reminded him of his duty by the laws of religion. "

    Baron Montesquieu died on February 10, 1755.

    Montesquieu wrote in "The Spirit of the Laws", 1748: "The Christian religion, which compels men to love one another, undoubtedly wants the best political laws and the best civil laws for every people, because those laws are, after (religion) , the greatest asset that men can give and receive. "

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