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Erica Galindo
Celebrating Food, Faith and Family
Last edited on: November 15, 2014.

Society…must repose on principles that do not change.” – wrote Montesquieu in Book XXIV of The Spirit of the Laws.

Baron Montesquieu died on FEBRUARY 10, 1755.

He was a French political philosopher who greatly influenced America’s founders.

In “The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late 18th-Century American Political Thought,” (American Political Review, 1984), Donald S. Lutz of the University of Houston, with Charles S. Hyneman, reviewed nearly 15,000 items written between 1760 and 1805.

Their research revealed that Montesquieu was the second most frequently quoted source after the Bible by the Founding Fathers.

Montesquieu wrote in The Spirit of the Laws, 1748:

“The Christian religion, which orders men to love one another, no doubt wants the best political laws and the best civil laws for each people, because those laws are, after [religion], the greatest good that men can give and receive…”

Montesquieu understood the inherently selfish nature of man, and that, opportunity provided, one would accumulate power and become a despot.

He introduced the revolutionary idea of separating the powers of a monarch into judicial, legislative and executive bodies which would jealously pull against each other, allowing power to check power.

Montesquieu wrote:

“Nor is there liberty if the power of judging is not separated from legislative power and from executive power.

If it were joined to legislative power, the power over life and liberty of the citizens would be arbitrary, for the judge would be the legislator.

If it were joined to executive power, the judge could have the force of an oppressor.

All would be lost if the same…body of principal men…exercised these three powers.”

James Madison echoed this in The Federalist No. 51:

“Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place…If angels were to govern men, neither external or internal controls on government would be necessary.”

In the beginning of The Spirit of the Laws, 1748, Montesquieu wrote:

“God is related to the universe, as Creator and Preserver; the laws by which He created all things are those by which He preserves them….

But the intelligent world is far from being so well governed as the physical…

Man, as a physical being, is like other bodies governed by invariable laws.

As an intelligent being, he incessantly transgresses the laws established by God, and changes those of his own instituting.

He is left to his private direction, though a limited being, and subject, like all finite intelligences, to ignorance and error…hurried away by a thousand impetuous passions.

Such a being might every instant forget his Creator; God has therefore reminded him of his duty by the laws of religion.

Such a being is liable every moment to forget himself; philosophy has provided against this by the laws of morality.”

In The Spirit of the Laws, 1748, Book 24, Chapter 5, Montesquieu wrote:

“That the Catholic Religion is most agreeable to a Monarchy, and the Protestant to a Republic.

When a religion is introduced and fixed in a state, it is commonly such as is most suitable to the plan of government there established…

When the Christian religion, two centuries ago, became unhappily divided into Catholic and Protestant, the people of the North embraced the Protestant, and those of the south adhered still to the Catholic.

The reason is plain:

the people of the north have, and will for ever have, a spirit of liberty and independence, which the people of the south have not; and therefore a religion, which has no visible head, is more agreeable to the independency of the climate, than that which has one.”

In Book XXIV of The Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu wrote:

“I have always respected religion; the morality of the Gospel is the noblest gift ever bestowed by God on man.

We shall see that we owe to Christianity, in government, a certain political law, and in war a certain law of nations – benefits which human nature can never sufficiently acknowledge.

The principles of Christianity, deeply engraved on the heart, would be infinitely more powerful than the false honor of monarchies, than the humane virtues of republics, or the servile fear of despotic states.

It is the Christian religion that, in spite of the extent of empire and the influence of climate, has hindered despotic power from being established in Ethiopia, and has carried into the heart of Africa the manners and laws of Europe.

The Christian religion is a stranger to mere despotic power.

The mildness so frequently recommended in the Gospel is incompatible with the despotic rage with which a prince punishes his subjects, and exercises himself in cruelty….”

Montesquieu continued:

“A moderate Government is most agreeable to the Christian Religion, and a despotic Government to the Mahommedan….

While the Mahommedan princes incessantly give or receive death, the religion of the Christians renders their princes…less cruel. The prince confides in his subjects, and the subjects in the prince.

How admirable the religion which, while it only seems to have in view the felicity of the other life, continues the happiness of this!”

In The Spirit of the Laws, 1748, Book 24, Chapter 4, Montesquieu wrote:

“It is a misfortune to human nature, when religion is given by a conqueror.

The Mahometan religion, which speaks only by the sword, acts still upon men with that destructive spirit with which it was founded.”






William J. Federer is a nationally known speaker, best-selling author, and president of Amerisearch, Inc., a publishing company dedicated to researching America’s noble heritage.

To learn more about the author please visit  William Federer







Featured image: Portrait of Montesquieu, artist unknown, oil on canvas, c. 1728 (Palace of Versailles)

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