Charles De Montesquieu Essay, Research Paper
Charles De Montesquieu (1689-1755)
Montesquieu was baptized Charles Louis de la Brede, taking his name from the estate given as his mothers dowry when she married Jacques de Secondat. He was born in La Brede, about ten miles from Bordeaux. When he was an infant he was placed under the care of a poor man’s wife so he could see that the poor were his brothers. In 1700 he was sent to the college of the Oratorians at Juilly, near Meaux, where he studied classical letters, history, and the sciences. When his father died he was placed under the care of his uncle, Baron de Montesquieu, and became a counselor to the Bordeaux Parliament. He soon after married the heiress of a Huguenot military family in 1715. The following year his uncle died, leaving him his name, his important judicial office or President of the Bordeaux Parliament, and his whole fortune.
Montesquieu early on became critical of absolute monarchy and was a defender against liberal tyranny. He wrote his most important work, The Spirit of Laws, in 1748. It was a 20 year project which was a study of laws and constitutions from ancient times to his own. This book caused my people to refer to Montesquieu as “The founder of political science.” He concluded in his book that individual freedom must be protected and preserved from royal absolutism. First of all, Montesquieu believed that a rational society must contain many layers of social structure and governing bodies, from the individual at the bottom to the central government at the top. He said that local governments, guilds, courts, and social groups of many different kinds all protected the citizen from the monarch. Montesquieu also thought that liberty required separation and balance of powers in government, by which no one part of the government had more control than any other part. He said that a good example of this was England. In England the king and the parliament balanced each other and were kept under control by an independent judiciary. Montesquieu’s ideas on government had a wide influence on the people who created the United State’s constitution, in which separation and balance of powers takes a large role.
When revising the final proof of his book Montesquieu was reported to have said,”This work has nearly killed me, and now I shall rest and labor no more.” Although he spent most of his remaining years in the country, he still visited Paris, and on one such occasion he helped with the release of an admirer who had been imprisoned at the instigation of Voltaire. The romance of Arsace et Ismenie, a short incomplete treatises on Taste, and many of his Pensees were composed after the appearance of the Spirit of Laws. At the end of 1754 he went to Paris with the intention of closing his house in the city so that he might retire permanently to La Brede. While he was there he caught a fever and died within a fortnight, on February 10, 1755. He was then buried in the Church of St. Sulpice. Memorial services for him were held by the French Academy, the Prussian Academy, and the British Royal Academy. Frederick the Great paid tribute to him to D’Alembert, and Lord Chesterfield of the London Evening Post lamented his death as the loss of “a friend to mankind.”