Mr. Bruce Franklin
Western Civilization Since 1700
4 February 2014
Montesquieu, or Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, was a pretty important man of his time. He was a noble, had a law degree, and was a part of a provincial parliament. Montesquieu was what people called one of the philosophes, so not only was he a part of the previous things listed, but he was also a part of those who favored change, reform, advocated toleration, and was interested in expanding print.
Montesquieu was famous for many things. The quote, “In 1721 Montesquieu published the Persian Letters, which was an instant success and made Montesquieu a literary celebrity” (Bok, Hilary), expresses some of his stardom. The Persian Letters are writings focused in a letter format to a couple of fictional characters. The story had interesting ideas of how Europe was perceived by outsiders, had a lot of self-knowledge within, and also happened to be one of the more humorous tales wrote by big philosophers.
Montesquieu also created another big writing called The Spirit of the Laws. In that story he explained social institutions and human laws. His writing express a lot of his views and beliefs about social systems, government, laws, and more.
Something that is interesting is the fact that Montesquieu had an idea of division of power within the government. That means that he actually had a huge effect on the future of democracies. In the present the United States uses the system of checks and balances that separates the power of each branch of government, which go along with how he felt about division.
Another part of government that Montesquieu formed his own ideas on is liberty. Yes, he believed in liberty, but in a different way than some people believed. He did not exactly believe that it was pure freedom. If people had the freedom to hurt others, then others would also have that same freedom to do the same to them. It is a concept of vise-versa. People are also very apt to abuse freedoms, so it is important to keep things in check. So from those stand points, Montesquieu believed that liberty entailed having laws and obeying them, but also having personal freedoms.
Montesquieu also had some interesting ideals of women. Women were fairly suppressed back in that time, but his thoughts were a little different than many men of that time. He believed that women did not have to necessarily be inferior to men. To him, women should have bigger roles then they did in society.
Even though Montesquieu had generous beliefs about women during that time, some of his beliefs were still strict. His differences can be seen in the quote, “Although in the Spirit of the Laws he indicated a belief in the equality of the sexes, he still retained a traditional view of marriage and family and expected men to dominate those institutions,”(Kagan). He also was a supporter of the rights for women to be able to divorce, but he also kept his belief of chastity for females.
Bok, Hilary. “Baron De Montesquieu, Charles-Louis De Secondat.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 18 July 2003. Web. 04 Feb. 2014.
Kagan, Donald, Steven E. Ozment, and Frank Miller Turner. “Chapter 17.” The Western Heritage: Since 1648. Sixth ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2010. 424-27. Print.