Montesquieu

“I have always observed that to succeed in the world one should appear like a fool, but be wise.”

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (January 18, 1689 – February 10, 1755), generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French lawyer, man of letters, and political philosopher who lived during the Age of Enlightenment.

  • 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.

Montesquieu’s philosophy of history minimized the role of individual persons and events.

  • He expounded the view in ConsidĂ©rations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur dĂ©cadence 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.

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