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The Spirit of the Laws is without question one of the central texts in the history of eighteenth-century thought, yet there has been no complete scholarly English language edition since 1750. This lucid translation renders Montesquieu's problematic text newly accessible to a fresh generation of students, helping them to understand why Montesquieu was such an important figure in the early enlightenment and why The Spirit of the Laws was such an influence on those who framed the American Constitution. Fully annotated, this edition focuses on Montesquieu's use of sources and his text as a whole, rather than on those opening passages toward which critical energies have traditionally been devoted.
The Spirit of Laws is a treatise on political theory first published by Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu in 1748. Montesquieu pleaded in favor of a constitutional system of government and the separation of powers, the ending of slavery, the preservation of civil liberties and the law, and the idea that political institutions ought to reflect the social and geographical aspects of each community.
One of the most influential books of all time, this masterpiece of political philosophy was widely read throughout Europe, attracted an especially enthusiastic readership in England, and had a profound effect on the framers of the American Constitution. Montesquieu (1689-1755), already famous and controversial through his Persian Letters, a work of his youth in which he humorously satirized the foibles of French society, turned in his later years to this serious treatise on the nature of law. But though the subject itself was profound, this gravitas did not inhibit the famous Montesquieu wit. Master of the pithy bon mot, he managed to survey a great deal of political and philosophical territory while keeping his readers charmed with memorable and artfully turned phrases. Liberty, he says, consists in the ability to do what one ought to desire and in not being forced to do what one ought not to desire. Concerning the unpopularity of the English in France, he says it is due to their arrogance, which is such that even in peace they seem to negotiate with none but enemies.The scope of this masterful work is truly prodigious. Montesquieu explores the essentials of good government; compares and contrasts despotism, monarchy, and democracy; and discusses the factors that lead to corruption of governments. Among the many other topics considered are education of the citizenry, crime and punishment, abuse of power and of liberty, individual rights, taxation, slavery, the role of women, the influence of climate on the temper of a people and their form of government, commerce, religion, and a host of additional subjects.The Spirit of Laws is essential and genuinely enjoyable reading for anyone interested in the development of democracy.
One of the landmark works of the eighteenth century, De L'Esprit des Lois had an immeasurable influence on jurisprudence and political thought, especially in America. It contained provocative and wide-ranging ideas on the sociology of law, the separation of political powers and the need for checks on a powerful executive office. First published in Geneva in 1748, it remains one of the most significant studies of political and legal theory ever written.

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