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Montesquieu

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Montesquieu: Political Philosopher and His Views and Thoughts
Montesquieu: Political Philosopher and His Views and Thoughts

MONTESQUIEU
Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, was born on January 19th, 1689 at La Brède, near Bordeaux, to a noble and prosperous family. He was educated at the Oratorian Collège de Juilly, received a law degree from the University of Bordeaux in 1708, and went to Paris to continue his legal studies. On the death of his father in 1713 he returned to La Brède to manage the estates he inherited, and in 1715 he married Jeanne de Lartigue, a practicing Protestant, with whom he had a son and two daughters. In 1716 he inherited from his uncle the title Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu and the office of Président à Mortier in the Parlement of Bordeaux. For the next eleven years he presided over the Tournelle, the Parlement's criminal division, in which capacity he heard legal proceedings, supervised prisons, and administered various punishments including torture. (Shklar, 1987)
In 1721 Montesquieu published the Persian Letters, which was highly successful and made Montesquieu known by literary scholars. During this period he wrote several minor works: Dialogue de Sylla et d'Eucrate (1724), Réflexions sur la Monarchie Universelle (1724), and Le Temple de Gnide (1725). After visiting Italy, Germany, Austria, and other countries, he went to England, where he lived for two years. He was greatly impressed with the English political system, and his views and observation of it can be seen in his work.
On his return to France in 1731, after battling sight related health problems, Montesquieu returned to La Brède and began work on his masterpiece, The Spirit of the Laws. During this time he also wrote Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and of their Decline, which he published anonymously in 1734. In this book he tried to discourage the use of Rome as a model for contemporary governments. Parts of Considerations were incorporated into The Spirit of the Laws, which he published in 1748. Like the Persian Letters, The Spirit of the Laws was both controversial and highly successful. Two years later he published a Defense of the Spirit of the Laws to answer his various critics. Despite his defense, the Roman Catholic Church placed The Spirit of the Laws on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1751. In 1755, Montesquieu died of a fever in Paris, leaving behind an unfinished work that was based on favoritism for the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D'Alembert. (Shklar, 1987)
The Persian Letters is a literary work consisting of letters sent to and from two fictional Persians, Usbek and Rica, who set out for Europe in 1711 and remain there at least until 1720, when the novel ends. When Montesquieu wrote the Persian Letters, travelers' accounts of their journeys to far off parts of the world, and of the unique customs they found there, were very popular in Europe. However, one of the great themes of the Persian Letters is the virtual impossibility of self-knowledge, and Usbek is its most fully realized illustration.
The Persian Letters is both a comical piece written by a major philosopher, and yet one of the darkest. It presents both virtue and self-knowledge in a sense that neither are actually reachable. . Almost all the Europeans in the Persian Letters are extravagant; most of those who are not appear only to serve as a mouthpiece for Montesquieu's own views. Rica is amiable and good-natured and since he has no responsibilities, his virtue has never been seriously tested. Usbek if full of enlightenment and humanity, yet he turns out to be a monster whose cruelty does not bring him happiness, as he himself recognizes even as he decides to inflict it. His eunuchs, unable to hope for either freedom or happiness, learn to enjoy tormenting their charges, and his wives, for the most part, profess love while plotting intrigues. The only admirable character in the novel is Roxana, but the social institutions of Persia make her life unbearable: she is separated from the man she loves and forced to live in slavery. Her suicide is presented as a noble act, but also as statement of the despotic institutions that make it necessary. (Schaub, 1995)
Montesquieu's aim in The Spirit of the Laws is to explain human laws and social institutions. This might seem like an impossible project: unlike physical laws, which are, according to Montesquieu, instituted and sustained by God, positive laws and social institutions are created by imperfect human beings who are "subject ... to ignorance and error, [and] hurried away by a thousand impetuous passions" (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905). He continues with the idea that one might therefore expect our laws and institutions to be no more comprehensible than any other catalog of human follies, an expectation which the extraordinary diversity of laws adopted by different societies would seem to confirm.
On his view, the key to understanding different laws and social systems is to recognize that they should be adapted to a variety of different factors, and cannot be properly understood unless one considers them in this light. Specifically, laws should be adapted "to the people for whom they are framed..., to the nature and principle of each government, to the climate of each country, to the quality of its soil, to its situation and extent, to the principal occupation of the natives, they should have relation to the degree of liberty which the constitution will bear; to the religion of the inhabitants, to their inclinations, riches, numbers, commerce, manners, and customs. In fine, they have relations to each other, as also to their origin, to the intent of the legislator, and to the order of things on which they are established; in all of which different lights they ought to be considered" (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905). When we consider legal and social systems in relation to these various factors, Montesquieu believes, we will find that many laws and institutions that had seemed puzzling or even corrupt are in fact quite understandable.
Understanding why we have the laws we do is important in itself. However, it also serves practical purposes. Most importantly, it will discourage ill attempts at reform. Montesquieu is not a utopian, either by temperament or conviction. He believes that to live under a stable, non-despotic government that leaves its law-abiding citizens able and free to live their lives is for the greater good, and that no such government should be messed with. Understanding our laws will also help us to see which aspects of them are genuinely in need of reform, and how these reforms might be accomplished.
Montesquieu holds that there are three types of governments: republican governments, which can take either democratic or aristocratic forms; monarchies; and despotisms. Unlike, for instance, Aristotle, Montesquieu does not distinguish forms of government on the basis of the virtue of the sovereign. The distinction between monarchy and despotism, for instance, depends not on the virtue of the monarch, but on whether or not he governs "by fixed and established laws" (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905) Each form of government has a principle, a set of "human passions which set it in motion" (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905)and each can be corrupted if its principle is undermined or destroyed.
In a democracy, the people are sovereign. They may govern through ministers, or be advised by a senate, but they must have the power of selecting their ministers and senators for themselves. The principle of democracy is political virtue, by which Montesquieu means "the love of the laws and of our country" (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905)including its democratic constitution. The need to protect its ideals, however, creates a far more extensive requirement. On Montesquieu's view, the virtue required by a functioning democracy is not natural. It requires "a constant preference of public to private interest" (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905) it "limits ambition to the sole desire, to the sole happiness, of doing greater services to our country than the rest of our fellow citizens"; and it "is a self-renunciation, which is ever arduous and painful".
Democracies can be corrupted in two ways: by what Montesquieu calls "the spirit of inequality" and "the spirit of extreme equality" (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905)The spirit of inequality arises when citizens no longer identify their interests with the best interests of their country, and therefore seek both to advance their own private goals at the expense of their fellow citizens, and to acquire political power over them. The spirit of extreme equality arises when the people are no longer satisfied with being equal as citizens, but want to be equal in every respect.
In an aristocracy, one part of the people governs the rest. The principle of an aristocratic government is moderation, the virtue which leads those who lead in an aristocracy to restrain themselves both from oppressing the people and from trying to acquire excessive power over one another. In an aristocracy, the laws should be designed to instill and protect this spirit of moderation. To do so, they must do three things. First, the laws must prevent the nobility from excessive rule over the people. Second, the laws should disguise as much as possible the difference between the social classes, so that the people feel their lack of power as little as possible. Finally, the laws should try to ensure equality among the nobles themselves, and among noble families. When they fail to do so, the nobility will lose its spirit of moderation, and the government will be corrupted. (Montesquieu, Carrithers, Mosher, & Rahe, 2001)
The principle of monarchical government is honor. Unlike the virtue required by republican governments, the desire to win honor and distinction comes naturally to us. For this reason education is much easier in a monarchy than in a republic: its need only raises our ambitions and our sense of our own worth, provide us with an ideal of honor worth reaching, and cultivate in us the politeness needed to live with others whose sense of their worth matches our own.
A monarchy is corrupted when the monarch either destroys the subordinate institutions that constrain his will, or decides to rule arbitrarily, without regard to the basic fundamental ideals of his country, or debases the honors at which his citizens might strive, so that "men are capable of being loaded at the very same time with infamy and with dignities" (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905)The first two forms of corruption destroy the checks on the sovereign's will that separate monarchy from despotism; the third severs the connection between honorable conduct and its proper rewards.
In despotic states "a single person directs everything by his own will and caprice" (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905)Without laws to keep that person in check, and with no need to attend to anyone who does not agree with him, a despot can act how he chooses, however regardless of how unfavorable or wrong those actions might be. The principle of despotism is fear. This fear is easily maintained, since the situation of a despot's subjects is genuinely terrifying. Education is unnecessary in a despotism; if it exists at all, it should be designed to debase the mind and break the spirit.
Montesquieu writes that "the principle of despotic government is subject to a continual corruption, because it is even in its nature corrupt". (Montesquieu, Carrithers, Mosher, & Rahe, 2001) This is true in several senses. First, despotic governments undermine themselves. Because property is not secure in a despotic state, commerce will not flourish, and the state will be poor. Second, monarchical and republican governments involve specific governmental structures, and require that their citizens have specific sorts of goals and aims for their country. When these structures collapse, or these motivations fail, monarchical and republican governments are corrupted, and the result of their corruption is that they fall into despotism. But when a particular despotic government falls, it is not generally replaced by a monarchy or a republic.
Montesquieu is among the greatest philosophers of liberalism, but his is what Shklar has called "a liberalism of fear" (Shklar, 1987) According to Montesquieu, political liberty is "a tranquility of mind arising from the opinion each person has of his safety" (Montesquieu, Carrithers, Mosher, & Rahe, 2001) Liberty involves living under laws that protect us from harm while leaving us with the freedom to do as much as possible, and that enable us to feel the greatest possible confidence that if we obey those laws, the power of the state will not abused and directed against us.
If it is to provide its citizens with the greatest possible liberty, a government must have certain attributes. First, since "constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it ... it is necessary from the very nature of things that power should be a check to power" (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905) This is achieved through the separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of government. But if one person or body holds several or all of these powers, then nothing prevents that person or body from acting tyrannically; and the people will have no confidence in their freedom.
Certain arrangements make it easier for the three powers to check each other. Montesquieu argues that the legislative power alone should have the power to tax, since it can then deprive the executive of funding if the latter attempts to impose its will without agreement. Likewise, the executive power should have the right to veto acts of the legislature, and the legislature should be composed of two houses, each of which can prevent acts of the other from becoming law. The judiciary should be independent of both the legislature and the executive, and should restrict itself to applying the laws to particular cases in a set and consistent manner, so that "the judicial power, so terrible to mankind … becomes, as it were, invisible", and people "fear the office, but not the magistrate" (Montesquieu, Carrithers, Mosher, & Rahe, 2001)
Liberty also requires that the laws concern only threats to public order and security, since such laws will protect us from harm while leaving us free to do as many other things as possible. The laws should be constructed to make it as easy as possible for citizens to protect themselves from punishment by not committing crimes. They should not be vague, since if they were, we might never be sure whether or not some particular action was a crime. Nor should they prohibit things we might do inadvertently, if such actions were crimes, no amount of effort to abide by the laws of our country would justify confidence that we would succeed, and therefore we could never feel safe from criminal prosecution. Finally, the laws should make it as easy as possible for an innocent person to prove his or her innocence. They should concern outward conduct since, while we can try to prove that we did not perform some action, we cannot prove that we never had some thought. The laws should not criminalize conduct that is inherently hard to prove, like witchcraft; and lawmakers should be cautious when dealing with crimes like sodomy, which are typically not carried out in the presence of several witnesses, lest they "open a very wide door to calumny" (Montesquieu & Franklin, 1821)
Montesquieu's emphasis on the connection between liberty and the details of the criminal law were unusual among his contemporaries, and inspired such later legal reformers as Cesare Beccaria. (Walsh, 2005) This idea of liberty was also influential by the founding father of America. The U.S. Constitution was impacted by Montesquieu’s ideas with God and the Bible quoted the most, followed by Montesquieu ideas. Hobbes and Locke philosophies also are quoted and referenced by the writers of the American Constitution. (McCormick, 2003)
Climate and Geography Montesquieu believes that climate and geography affect the temperaments and customs of a country's inhabitants. He is not a determinist, and does not believe that these influences are inevitable for residents and natives of certain regions. Nonetheless, he believes that the laws should take these effects into account, accommodating them when necessary, and counteracting their worst effects. According to Montesquieu, a cold climate constricts our bodies' physiological attributes referred to as “fibers”, and causes coarser “juices” to flow through them. Heat, by contrast, expands our fibers, and produces more rarefied juices. These physiological changes affect our characters. (Masterson, 1972)
The quality of a country's soil also affects the form of its government. Monarchies are more common where the soil is fertile, and republics where it is barren. This is so for three reasons. First, those who live in the vegetation friendly countries are more apt to be content with their situation, and to value in a government, not necessarily the freedom it provides, but its ability to provide them with enough security that they can get on with their farming. They are therefore more willing to accept a monarchy if it can provide such security. Often it can, since monarchies can respond to threats more quickly than republics. Second, fertile countries are both more desirable than barren countries and easier to conquer: they "are always of a level surface, where the inhabitants are unable to dispute against a stronger power; they are then obliged to submit; and when they have once submitted, the spirit of liberty cannot return; the wealth of the country is a pledge of their fidelity” (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905)Montesquieu believes that monarchies are much more likely than republics to wage wars of takeover, and therefore that a conquering power is likely to be a monarchy. Third, those who live where the soil is barren have to work hard in order to survive; this tends to make the people "industrious, sober, inured to hardship, courageous, and fit for war" Those who inhabit fertile country, by contrast, favor "ease, effeminacy, and a certain fondness for the preservation of life" (Montesquieu, Carrithers, Mosher, & Rahe, 2001) For this reason, the inhabitants of barren countries are better able to defend themselves from such attacks as might occur, and to defend their liberty against those who would destroy it. In monarchies, Montesquieu believes, the aim of commerce is, for the most part, to provide the luxuries of life to people. In republics, it is to bring from one country what is wanted in another, "gaining little" but "gaining incessantly" (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905) in despotisms, there is very little commerce of any kind, since there is no security of property. In a monarchy, neither kings nor nobles should engage in commerce, since this would risk concentrating too much power in their hands. By the same token, there should be no banks or regulatory agencies in a monarchy, since a treasure "no sooner becomes great than it becomes the treasure of the prince." (Montesquieu, Carrithers, Mosher, & Rahe, 2001) In republics, by contrast, banks are extremely useful, and anyone should be allowed to engage in trade. Restrictions on which profession a person can follow destroy people's hopes of bettering their situation; they are therefore appropriate only to despotic states. In general, Montesquieu believes that commerce has had an extremely beneficial influence on government. Since commerce began to recover after the development of letters of exchange and the reintroduction of lending at interest, he writes: “it became necessary that princes should govern with more prudence than they themselves could ever have imagined; for great exertions of authority were, in the event, found to be impolitic ... We begin to be cured of “Machiavellism”, and recover from it every day. (McCormick, 2003) More moderation has become necessary in the councils of princes. What would formerly have been called a master-stroke in politics would be now, independent of the atrocities it might cause, the greatest imprudence. Happy is it for men that they are in a situation in which, though their passions prompt them to be wicked, it is, nevertheless, to their interest to be humane and virtuous.” (Montesquieu, Prichard, & Alembert, 1905)
Religion plays only a minor part in the Spirit of the Laws. God is described in Book 1 as creating nature and its laws; having done so, God vanishes, and plays no further role in explaining how things are created or the outcomes of government. In particular, Montesquieu does not explain the laws of any country by appeal to divine enlightenment, providence, or guidance. In the Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu considers religions "in relation only to the good they produce in civil society" (Sparks, 1999) and not to their truth or falsity. He regards different religious beliefs as appropriate to different environments and forms of government. Protestantism is most suitable to republics, Catholicism to monarchies, and Islam to despotisms; the Islamic prohibition on eating pork is appropriate to Arabia, where hogs are scarce and contribute to disease, while in India, where cattle are badly needed but do not thrive, a prohibition on eating beef is suitable.
Montesquieu is best known for his work “The Spirit of The Laws”. His ideals were in agreement to other philosophers like Locke, Hobbes, and Machiavelli in some aspects while other areas, there is complete disagreement. Montesquieu “broke through: the political philosophical norms and set ideals into place that still impact countries and their respective governments. The political ideas and concepts that Montesquieu published in 1748 still help shape the foundations and ideology of newly created governments 266 years later.

References
Masterson, M. (1972). Montesquieu's Grand Design: The Political Sociology of 'Esprit des Lois'. British Journal of Political Science, 2(3), 283-318.
McCormick, J. P. (2003). Machiavelli against Republicanism: On the Cambridge School's "Guicciardinian Moments". Political Theory, 31(5), 615-643.
Montesquieu, C. d., Carrithers, D. W., Mosher, M., & Rahe, P. A. (2001). Montesquieu's Science of Politics : Essays On the Spirit of Laws. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Montesquieu, C. d., Prichard, J. V., & Alembert, J. L. (1905). The spirit of laws, by m. de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, with D'Alembert's analysis of the work; translated from the French by Thomas Nugent. London: G. Bell.
Montesquieu, D., & Franklin, D. (1821). Dialogue on the Principles of Representative Government, between the President de Montesquieu and Dr. Franklin. The North-American Review and Miscellaneous Journal, 12(31), 346-365.
Schaub, D. (1995). Erotic Liberalism: Women and Revolution in Montesquieu's Persian Letters. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
Shklar, J. N. (1987). Montesquieu. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sparks, C. (1999). Montesquieu's vision of uncertainty and modernity in political philosophy. Lewiston NY: E. Mellen Press.
Thompson, C. B. (1995). John Adams's Machiavellian Moment. The Review of Politics, 57(3), 389-417.
Walsh, P. W. (2005). Jefferson's Vacant Lands and Bolívar's "Desierto": Two Applications of Montesquieu's Thought to the Americas. Confluencia, 21(1), 42-55.
Ward, L. (2007). Montesquieu on Federalism and Anglo-Gothic Constitutionalism. Publius, 37(4), 551-577.
Wolfe, C. (1977). The Confederate Republic in Montesquieu. Polity, 9(4), 427-445.…...

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...rejected traditional social and religious ideas and emphasized on man’s ability to reason. Also, various philosophers of that time period contributed to forming the foundation of the American Revolution. Influenced by the philosophical ideas of Montesquieu (1689-1755), the American Revolution came into fruition and became not only a war of freedom from British rule but also a war that capitalized on political theories such as liberty and equality. In liberty, Montesquieu introduces his concept of individual rights. Lastly, in equality, Montesquieu introduces his idea of separation of powers in government. Before one can comprehend the theories of Montesquieu, one must first understand the philosopher Montesquieu. Montesquieu, a French philosopher, highly believed in a liberal government and had a high interest in law. Born from an aristocratic family, Montesquieu attended the University of Bordeaux and obtained a law degree. After his uncle’s death, Montesquieu became the Président à Mortier in the Parliament of Bordeaux. The position mainly dealt with judicial and administrative matters. Because this was a high administrative position, Montesquieu was more involved with the schematics of government. This is perhaps where Montesquieu drawn one of his major political theories: equality. The quote “constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it ...” (Munro 48) depicts Montesquieu’s belief of equality in government. In other words, he......

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...of the moral choice. It emerges, rather, from the recognition faithful do not differ from those of the faithless in their brutalities, and that a line. To put had triumphed before he had ever written Machiavelli long To is to be at odds with both religion and politics. My cruelty first, therefore, Catholic friend perhaps thought all this through carefully, but I suspect that he sensed it, for I think few people have really considered most of the merely one might well investigate the implications of putting cruelty first. That iswhy 17 18 matter more JUDITH N. SHKLAR and one way of illuminating it is to examine the most closely, of those moralists who hated cruelty most of all, specifically distinguished and his disciple Montesquieu. Montaigne should one hate cruelty with the utmost intensity? Montaigne Why thought an it looked first of all into himself and question. He entirely psychological found that the sight of cruelty It was a instantly filled him with revulsion. wholly negative reaction, for as he put it, "the horror of cruelty impels me more to clemency than any model of clemency could draw me on."1 There was or humane here, no particular nothing positive approval of charity feeling. soft men: they tended to be unstable and easily became Indeed, he distrusted like lying, repels instantly, because it is "ugly." It is a vice that cruel. Cruelty, word human character. We need not doubt Montaigne's that he disfigures hated cruelty, and as he put it, "What......

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...philosophy: Reason, Nature, Happiness, Progress, and Liberty One of the most brilliant and influential of the philosophes was Voltaire. He published more than 70 books on politics, essays, philosophy, history, fiction, and drama. Voltaire never stopped fighting for tolerance, reason, freedom of religious belief, and freedom of speech. Many of his beliefs were adopted into the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. Another influential philosophe was the Baron de Montesquieu. He devoted himself to the study of political liberty. Montesquieu studied the history of ancient Rome, and concluded that Rome’s collapse was directly related to its loss of political liberties. Because of its balance of power between three groups of officials, he believed Britain was the best-governed country of his day. The British king and his ministers held executive power, they carried out the laws of the state. The members of Parliament held legislative, or law making power. The Judges of each applied to a specific case. Montesquieu called this the separation of powers. Even though he oversimplified how exactly it all worked, his book, On the Spirit of Laws, greatly influenced how America’s government would work. So much so that checks and balances became the basis for the United States Constitution. A third philosophe that was a huge influence is Jean Jacques Rousseau. He was very passionately committed to individual freedom. He worked as an engraver, music teacher, tutor, and......

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...today. European masterminds, for example, John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are a portion of the European political scholars who have changed the course of history. John Locke was a 1600s English scholar that delivered thoughts which turned into the way to the Enlightenment. He trusted that individuals have a characteristic right to life, freedom, and property. These rights had a place with all people from the season of birth. Locke contended that rulers have an obligation to ensure its subjects, yet in the event that the administration comes up short in doing as such the general population have the privilege to topple the decision party. The United States Declaration of Independence and the French progressives were both affected by Locke's thoughts. His musings have been stretched out to incorporate fairness for ladies and minorities. Locke's perspectives on mankind is the thing that made room for other Enlightenment scholars to take after. Montesquieu concentrated on the administrations of Europe, China, and Native America. He felt that the HUM1000 forces of government ought to be isolated into official, authoritative, and legal branches. He got to be mindful of this structure from the British, who at the time had a restricted government. By confining the powers the probability of one social occasion getting an unreasonable measure of power is abstained from. Montesquieu mentioned that "with a specific end goal to have......

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...citizen of the United States when it is referred to Freedom, and Justice. Ironically when people refer to this and therefore the whole constitution they are directly referring to one of the greatest minds in history: Charles Louis de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu. He is not only one of the real founders of the American Constitution, but he is the start on revolutionary ideas in means on anthropology, politics and economical revolutions; he is the founder of society comfort, he is the inspiration for the French Revolution with his ideas of Justice, Freedom and Equality. Still his name has almost disappeared in the modern world. Charles Louis de Secondat was born on January 18, 1689, at the castle of La Brède near Bordeaux in France. His father Jacques de Secondat was a soldier with a long noble ancestry, and his mother, Marie Françoise de Pesnel, was an heiress who eventually brought the barony of La Brède to the Secondat family, unfortunately she died when Charles was still a kid. In 1705 he returned to Bordeaux to study laws, and in 1708 he moved to Paris where he developed a real disgust to the city. In 1715 he married Jeanne de Lartigue, a Protestant, who brought him a large dowry. In 1716 he inherited his Uncle Baron de Montesquieu office of Président à Mortier in the Parlement of Bordeaux, fortune and title. he sold his office as president of the Bordeaux Parlement in 1721 at the same time he published his book “Persian Letters” a criticism to the European criticism and......

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