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Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu

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Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède at de Montesquieu (1689—1755) was a French writer and political theorist, best known for his work L'Esprit des Lois.

Montesquieu was born on 18 January 1689 near Bordeaux into a French aristocratic legal family. He found a career in the law irksome, and, following the success of his Lettres Persanes (discussing the state of France under the guise of a correspondence between two Persians), he devoted himself to writing, discussion and travel. He died on 10 February 1755, at Paris.

De L'Esprit des Lois

De L'Esprit des Lois (On the Spirit of Laws) came out in 1748, and further editions quickly followed. In the earlier part of the work Montesquieu sets out to establish general principles about laws, dealing with those best suited to different types of government or to different climates or terrain or forms of religion, their relations with commerce, and how they establish or deny individual liberties. In this discussion, without actually saying so, he makes clear his preference for the British constitution, which at the time was a mix of monarchy, aristocracy and limited democracy. As the work becomes more detailed, dealing, for instance, with the Roman law of succession and the legal origins of the Frency feudal system, so it descends into antiquarian arguments.

The work was attacked by Catholic theologians and praised by Voltaire.