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Montesquieu: The Spirit of Laws (1751)


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“Montesquieu was one of the great political philosophers of the Enlightenment. * * * He saw despotism, in particular, as a standing danger for any government not already despotic, and argued that it could best be prevented by a system in which different bodies exercised legislative, executive, and judicial power, and in which all those bodies were bound by the rule of law. This theory of the separation of powers had an enormous impact on liberal political theory, and on the framers of the constitution of the United States of America.” Bok, Hilary, “Baron de Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2003 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

Translated into English by Thomas Nugent (1752), revised by J. V. Prichard, with corrections and additions communicated by the author. Based on the 1751 edition. All footnotes are included, and spelling has been modernized. Books (chapters) 1-31, 472 pages, with chapter bookmarks. Available in .pdf and .prc file formats for reading on your PC, e-reader, tablet or smart phone. This is a fully digital edition of this work – it is not a hard copy publication or facsimile edition. This electronic edition © Copyright 2003, 2005 Lonang Institute.  Click here to view this book in its entirety.

“Laws, in their most general signification, are the necessary relations arising from the nature of things. In this sense all beings have their laws: the Deity His laws, the material world its laws, the intelligences superior to man their laws, the beasts their laws, man his laws. They who assert that a blind fatality produced the various effects we behold in this world talk very absurdly; for can anything be more unreasonable than to pretend that a blind fatality could be productive of intelligent beings? There is, then, a prime reason; and laws are the relations subsisting between it and different beings, and the relations of these to one another. ”    Baron de Montesquieu, from The Spirit of Laws.

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