Montesquieu's "Spirit of the Laws"


One of the most critical works of the Enlightenment is "The spirit of the laws", in French "From l’esprit des lois”. It was written by Montesquieu and published in 1748. In it, the French author studies the relations of political laws with the constitution of states, customs, religion, commerce, the climate and the types of soil of each nation. It was a book that had 22 editions in just two years and provoked violent criticismboth on the part of the Jesuits and on the part of the Jansenists. The Sorbonne prohibited it and the Catholic Church included it in the Index of Forbidden Books.

Montesquieu received great influences from his travels through Europe, especially the one he made to Great Britain, and he reflected it in his work, where he recreated the Anglo-Saxon political model of the separation of powers and the constitutional monarchy. The French writer regarded it as the best system to fight against enlightened despotism.

Law spirittalks about the concepts of executive power, legislative power and judicial power but above all of the relationship of the three. Montesquieu rejects the absolutist theories in which a person should concentrate them all on his figure and bets on a “balance of powers”. This should be produced in a very simple way, where each of the powers controls the other and all control each other.

According to historians, Montesquieu had in front of him (in Great Britain) a division of powers that he considered perfect. The king would be the executive power; the nobles, through the House of Lords, the legislative and judicial; and the people would represent the legislature with the House of Commons.

The equilibrium theory that he presents in his work, is also collected by other illustrated authors, such as Isaac Newton. In the same way that Montesquieu suggests that there is a king who is controlled by intermediate powers, made up of the nobility, the clergy and the parliaments, Newton proposes theories about how certain elements attract but do not lose their identity, which allows a perfect balance. It would be the same concept but, instead of being applied to science, applied to political life.

Definitely, "Law spiritis a work that unites everything that the Enlightenment represents and, at the same time, it fights despotism and absolutism. It was the basis that would later apply the French Revolution in 1789 and all the liberal-minded constitutions. Even today, the vast majority of democratic magna letters speak of the separation of powers proposed by Montesquieu in his work.

Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was a child he loved history and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.

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