Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (/ˈmɒntəskjuː/; French: [mɔ̃tɛskjø]; 18 January 1689 – 10 February 1755), generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, man of letters, and political philosopher.
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. 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.
Portrait by an anonymous artist, 1728
|Born||18 January 1689|
|Died||10 February 1755 (aged 66)|
|Separation of state powers: executive, legislative, judicial; classification of systems of government based on their principles|
Montesquieu was born at the Château de la Brède in southwest France, 25 kilometres (16 mi) south of Bordeaux. 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. 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. His father died in 1713 and he became a ward of his uncle, the Baron de Montesquieu. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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" reminded Madison and others that a free and stable foundation for their new national government required a clearly defined and balanced separation of powers.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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". 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." 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.
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.
«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.»
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.»
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.»
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)."
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, 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.
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.
Federalist No. 47 is the forty-seventh paper from The Federalist Papers. It was published on January 30, 1788 under the pseudonym Publius, the name under which all The Federalist Papers were published. James Madison was its actual author. This paper examines the separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government under the proposed United States Constitution due to the confusion of the concept at the citizen level. It is titled "The Particular Structure of the New Government and the Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts".Montesquieu, Hérault
Montesquieu (Languedocien: Montesquiu) is a commune in the Hérault department in the Occitanie region in southern France.Montesquieu, Lot-et-Garonne
Montesquieu (Languedocien: Montesquiu) is a commune in the Lot-et-Garonne department in south-western France.Montesquieu, Tarn-et-Garonne
Montesquieu (Languedocien: Senta Tecla de Montesquiu) is a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Occitanie region in southern France.Montesquieu-Avantès
Montesquieu-Avantès is a commune in the Ariège department in southwestern France.Montesquieu-Guittaut
Montesquieu-Guittaut (Occitan: Montesquiu de Guitaud) is a commune in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern France.Montesquieu-Lauragais
Montesquieu-Lauragais is a commune in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern France.Montesquieu-Volvestre
Montesquieu-Volvestre is a commune in the Haute-Garonne department of southwestern France.Montesquieu-des-Albères
Montesquieu-des-Albères (Catalan: Montesquiu d'Albera) is a commune in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France.Montesquieu Airfield
Montesquieu Airfield was a World War II military airfield in Algeria, located in the mountains near M'Daourouch, about 112 km southeast of Constantine. Its precise location is undetermined. It was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers and was used by the United States Army Air Force Twelfth Air Force during the North African Campaign against the German Afrika Korps.
320th Bombardment Group, April-29 June 1943, B-26 Marauder
325th Fighter Group, 5 April-3 June 1943, P-40 WarhawkWhen the Americans moved east to Tunisia in June 1943, the airfield was dismantled and abandoned. There are several possible locations of the field visible in aerial photography in the mountains just north of M'Daourouch, but its precise location can not be determined.Montesquieu University
Montesquieu University (French: Université Montesquieu), also known as Bordeaux IV (French: Bordeaux Quatre), is a French university, based in Pessac, the suburbs of Bordeaux. Since the 2014 merger of three out of four of Bordeaux' universities, it is part of the University of Bordeaux.
Named after the French lawyer and philosopher Montesquieu, Montesquieu University is the successor of the former Law and Economics Faculty, which origins go back as far as the 15th century. It incorporates long-standing teaching programmes and institutes which have an established reputation in the academic specialities of the University: law, political science, economics and management.
Montesquieu University is organised into 6 departments (UFR) in the areas of economics and management, law, and economic and social administration (AES), as well as an Institute of Business Administration (IAE), and 2 University Institutes of Technology (IUT). In addition, the Bordeaux Institute of Political Studies is also annexed to the University.
The University has 14,000 students and a staff of 400 teachers and researchers, with a non-academic staff of 300. It awards around 4,100 diplomas each year at the various sites in Bordeaux itself, as well as at the satellite sites of Agen and Périgueux.There are 12 government-recognised research centres at the university, some of which are attached to large research organisations such as the CNRS and the National Foundation of Political Science.Persian Letters
Persian Letters (French: Lettres persanes) 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.Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror, or The Terror (French: la Terreur), refers to a period during the French Revolution after the First French Republic was established.
Several historians consider the "reign of terror" to have begun in 1793, placing the starting date at either 5 September, June or March (birth of the Revolutionary Tribunal), while some consider it to have begun in September 1792 (September Massacres), or even July 1789 (when the first lynchings took place), but there is a consensus that it ended with the fall of Maximilien Robespierre in July 1794.Between June 1793 and the end of July 1794, there were 16,594 official death sentences in France, of which 2,639 were in Paris.Separation of powers
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.
Separation of powers, therefore, refers to the division of responsibilities into distinct branches to limit any one branch from exercising the core functions of another. The intent of separation of powers is to prevent the concentration of unchecked power by providing for "checks" and "balances" to avoid autocracy, over-reaching by one branch over another, and the attending efficiency of governing by one actor without need for negotiation and compromise with any other.
The separation of powers model is often imprecisely and metonymically used interchangeably with the trias politica principle. While the trias politica is a common type of model, there are governments which utilize bipartite, rather than tripartite, systems as mentioned later in the article.Separation of powers under the United States Constitution
Separation of powers is a political doctrine originating in the writings of Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu in The Spirit of the Laws, in which he argued for a constitutional government with three separate branches, each of which would have defined abilities to check the powers of the others. This philosophy heavily influenced the writing of the United States Constitution, according to which the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of the United States government are kept distinct in order to prevent abuse of power. This United States form of separation of powers is associated with a system of checks and balances.
During the Age of Enlightenment, philosophers such as Montesquieu advocated the principle in their writings, whereas others, such as Thomas Hobbes, strongly opposed it. Montesquieu was one of the foremost supporters of separating the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. His writings considerably influenced the opinions of the framers of the United States Constitution.
Strict separation of powers did not operate in the United Kingdom, the political structure of which served in most instances as a model for the government created by the U.S. Constitution.Some U.S. states did not observe a strict separation of powers in the 18th century. In New Jersey, the Governor also functioned as a member of the state's highest court and as the presiding officer of one house of the New Jersey Legislature. The President of Delaware was a member of the Court of Appeals; the presiding officers of the two houses of the state legislature also served in the executive department as Vice Presidents. In both Delaware and Pennsylvania, members of the executive council served at the same time as judges. On the other hand, many southern states explicitly required separation of powers. Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia all kept the branches of government "separate and distinct."State of nature
The state of nature is a concept used in moral and political philosophy, religion, social contract theories and international law to denote the hypothetical conditions of what the lives of people might have been like before societies came into existence. Philosophers of the state of nature theory deduce that there must have been a time before organized societies existed, and this presumption thus raises questions such as: "What was life like before civil society?"; "How did government first emerge from such a starting position?," and; "What are the hypothetical reasons for entering a state of society by establishing a nation-state?".
In some versions of social contract theory, there are no rights in the state of nature, only freedoms, and it is the contract that creates rights and obligations. In other versions the opposite occurs: the contract imposes restrictions upon individuals that curtail their natural rights.
Societies existing before or without a political state are currently studied in such fields as paleolithic history, and the anthropological subfields of archaeology, cultural anthropology, social anthropology, and ethnology, which investigate the social and power-related structures of indigenous and uncontacted peoples living in tribal communities.Station Montaigne Montesquieu (Tram de Bordeaux)
The Montaigne Montesquieu station is located on line of the tramway de Bordeaux.The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu
The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu
(in the original French Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu ou la politique de Machiavel au XIXe siècle) is a political satire written by French attorney Maurice Joly in protest against the regime of Napoleon III, a.k.a. Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte who ruled France from 1848-1870. It was translated into English in 2002. Small portions were translated in 1967 as an appendix to Norman Cohn's Warrant for Genocide, which identifies it as the main source of the later Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
The piece uses the literary device of a dialogue of the dead, invented by ancient Roman writer Lucian and introduced into the French belles-lettres by Bernard de Fontenelle in the 18th century. Shadows of the historical characters of Niccolo Machiavelli and Charles Montesquieu meet in Hell in the year 1864 and dispute on politics. In this way Joly tried to cover up a direct, and then illegal, criticism of Louis-Napoleon's rule.The Spirit of the Laws
The Spirit of the Laws (French: De l'esprit des lois, originally spelled De l'esprit des loix; also sometimes translated The Spirit of 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 ("List of Prohibited Books"). 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."
Montesquieu spent around twenty one years researching and writing De l'esprit des lois, covering a huge range of topics including law, social life and the study of anthropology, and providing more than 3,000 commendations. In this treatise Montesquieu argued that political institutions needed, for their success, to reflect the social and geographical aspects of the particular community. He pleaded for a constitutional system of government with separation of powers, the preservation of legality and civil liberties, and the end of slavery.