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(Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu) French thinker (La Brède, Bordeaux, 1689 - Paris, 1755). Belonging to a family of nobility of toga, Montesquieu followed the family tradition to study right and become Director of the Parliament of Bordeaux (who chaired of 1716-1727). It sold office and devoted himself for four years to travel around Europe looking at the institutions and customs of each country; He was especially attracted by the British political model, whose virtues found additional arguments to criticize the absolute monarchy that reigned in the France of his time.
The baron de Montesquieu
The baron de Montesquieu
Montesquieu had already become famous with the publication of his Persian letters (1721), a sarcastic critique of society of the time, which earned him entry into the French Academy (1727). In 1748 he published his main work, the spirit of the laws, work of great impact (made 22 edits in the life of the author, as well as multiple translations into other languages). We must frame their thinking in the critical spirit of the French Enlightenment, with which he shared the principles of religious tolerance, aspiration to freedom and reporting of old institutions inhumane torture or slavery; but Montesquieu departed abstract rationalism and the deductive method from other philosophers illustrated to look for a more concrete, empirical, relativistic and skeptical knowledge.
In the spirit of the laws, Montesquieu elaborated a sociological theory of Government and law, showing that the structure of both depends on the conditions where every town live: as a result, to create a stable political system had to take into account the economic development of the country, its customs and traditions, and even geographical and climatic determinants.
Of the various political models defined, Montesquieu assimilated the France of Louis XV - once removed the parliaments- despotism, which rested on the fear of the subjects; He instead praised the Republic, built on the civic virtue of the people who he identified with an idealized image of Republican Rome; but, equidistant from both, it defined the monarchy as a system in which freedom was also possible, but not as a result of a hardly achievable civic virtue, but the division of powers and the existence of intermediate - such as the clergy and nobility powers - that limit the ambitions of the Prince.
It was that model, which identified with England, which Montesquieu wanted to apply in France, to understand what appropriate to their national circumstances. The same key would be the division of Executive, legislative and judicial powers, including establishing a system of balances that prevented that none could degenerate into despotism.
Since the Constitution of the United States captured in writing such principles, the work of Montesquieu exerted a decisive influence on Liberals who staged the French Revolution of 1789 and the subsequent construction of constitutional regimes throughout Europe, becoming a dogma of constitutional law that has survived to this day. But, along with this innovative component, can not forget the conservative nature of the limited monarchy proposed by Montesquieu, which sought to safeguard the declining power of the groups privileged (such as nobility, to which he himself belonged), advising, for example, its exclusive representation in one of the two chambers of Parliament.