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The Baron de Montesquieu

Liberty

Montesquieu (1689–1755) emphasized the importance of the moral law given to us by God in nature for the preservation of justice under the written laws of government. His Spirit of the Laws strongly influenced republican political theory in the modern era, especially through its call for the separation of powers into legislative, executive, and judicial branches. His work was much admired by our Founders and Framers.

Laws of Nature and of Nature's God

At the opening of Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu argues that the Law of the Divine Reason causes the Laws of Nature, and that these laws ought to be the pattern for all of the legislative enactments of government.

The Form of the Republic

The republic, above all other political forms, depends on the virtue of its citizens. Republics founded on commerce may produce inequalities of wealth without harm, but equality should be its reigning principle.

The English Constitution

In one of the most remarkable chapters of Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu defends the separation of powers into three co-equal branches of government, with the legislature divided into an upper and lower house.

Reflections on Religion and the State

In this lengthy extract, Montesquieu examines the influence and importance of religion to the state. Atheism poses many dangers to society. He links Christianity to moderate and Islam to extreme forms of government.