Enlightenment Philosophy from Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws


The most important idea from Enlightenment philosophy is from Montesquieu's book “The Spirit of the Laws”. The checks and balances system can keep every branch of the government in check. There will never be one man in power and Montesquieu talks about the cons of having a monarch. He also exposed the France government and show the holes in the France government. He also argues against slavery and for the freedom of thought, speech, and assembly. The best form of government is republic. That’s Montesquieu’s solution for keeping power from falling into the hands of any one individual.  

First, Montesquieu said that the executive, legislative, and judicial functions of government should be assigned to different bodies so that attempts by one branch of government to infringe on political liberty might be restrained by the other branches using checks and balances. Montesquieu said the executive and legislative can’t be control by one person. There will be no liberty if one person controls everything. 1(“Montesquieu class reading” 11) When there’s no liberty, the judiciary will just join the legislative so life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control. Montesquieu said the three branches have to work together to create a government with liberty. Checks and balances will be an important part of the government. All the branches will be on equal grounds and no one branch can hold more power than the other ones. 

Next, Montesquieu said, “every citizen has a will of his own, and may at pleasure assert his independence”. Montesquieu said “in a monarchy extremely absolute, historians betray the truth, because they are not at liberty to speak it; in states remarkably free, they betray the truth, because of their liberty itself, which always produces divisions, everyone becoming as great a slave to the prejudices of his faction” 2(Montesquieu class reading 17). Every individual is independent but that’s not the case cause of slavery. In a free nation, it is very often a matter of indifference whether individuals' reason well or ill; it is sufficient that they do reason: from hence springs that liberty which is a security from the effects of these reasonings 

Then, Montesquieu was talking down on the France government about France’s monarchical absolutism. That statement offending many authorities and lead him to get chase out of France. He believed that people should think for themselves. Montesquieu said “every man’s being allowed to speak his thoughts and to lay open his sentiments; a citizen, in this state, will say or write whatever the laws do not expressly forbid to be said or written”.3 (Montesquieu class reading 16) 

In conclusion, the most important idea from Enlightenment philosophy is from Montesquieu's book “The Spirit of the Laws”. Checks and balances can keep the power between the branches equal. Also, the 3 types of branches need each other to function so there will never be one person with all the power. The best form of government is republic. That’s Montesquieu’s solution for keeping power from falling into the hands of any one individual.

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