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Charles Et Secondat, Baron De

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Charles Et Secondat, Baron De


Charles de Secondat, Baron de la Brede et de Montesquieu was born in

1689 to a French noble family. "His family tree could be traced 350

years, which in his view made its name neither good nor bad." (The

Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, p. 68) Montesquieu's views started to

be shaped at a very early age. A beggar was chosen to be his godfather

to remind him of his obligations to the poor.

Montesquieu's education started at the age of 11 when he was sent to

Juilly, a school maintained by the Congregation of the Oratory. From

1705 to 1709 he studied law in Bordeaux. "From 1705 to 1709 he was a

legal apprentice in Paris. There he came to know some of the most

advanced thinkers of his time: Fredet, the Abbe Lama, and

Boulainvilliers.(Ibid.). In 1716 Montesquieu got a seat of president a

mortier in the parlement of Guyenne from his deceased uncle. Even

though he did not like his job he believed parliaments were necessary to

control the monarchs.

In 1721 Montesquieu published the Persian Letters, which he began

working on while studying in Bordeaux. The book was a success. In the

Persian Letters Montesquieu showed how relative all of the French values

were. Even though the technique used in this witty book was previously

used by other writers, Montesquieu did a great job making fun of the

European values. At that time he already believed in the immorality of

European practices such as religious prosecution. The book gave roots

for Montesquieu's later arguments and ideas.

When in 1728 Montesquieu, with the help of his Parisian connections he

got elected to the French Academy, he was happy to sell his office of

president a mortier. In the course of the next three years he traveled

all over Europe, visiting Germany, Hungary, England, Holland, Austria,

and Italy. It is not surprising that out of his European tour the

country which had the greatest impact on his later work (just like it

did on Voltaire's) was England. During his stay there he was elected a

fellow of the Royal Society.

After he returned to France the second portion of his carrier had

began. He became a full time writer, traveling between his La Brede

estate and Paris. It is during this period that the Considerations on

the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline and the

Spirit of Laws were written.

In the Considerations Montesquieu used Roman history to prove some of

his ideas about reasons for the rise and the fall of civilizations. His

most important point was that history is made by causes and effects, by

events influenced by man, and not by luck. His ideas are summarized in

...

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