An especially relevant thinker in the study of civil and political rights.
The Baron de Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat (1689 – 1755), is surely one of the most important thinkers of the 18th century in Western Europe. Following the family tradition, he graduated in law to later hold the position of counselor in the Bordeaux parliament for more than a decade.
His thought and ideological trend was somewhat controversial. Defender of civil and political rights, he also had loud ovations for the despotic system of the Old Regime, as well as defending the monarchical (liberal) system as the most balanced model to guarantee progress and stability in a society.
The most outstanding phrases of Montesquieu
In this section we review the 54 most remembered famous quotes by the frank thinker. The following are the best phrases of Montesquieu.
1. In order for power not to be abused, power must stop power
Montesquieu defended control mechanisms to avoid this phenomenon.
2. Countries are not cultivated because of their fertility, but because of their freedom
Freedom is what shapes civilizations.
3. Most men are capable of great actions rather than good actions.
Throughout history, man has shown his desire to excel.
4. Divorce is indispensable in modern civilizations
With this phrase so modern for the time, the author raised suspicions.
5. When men promise a woman that they will love her, they always assume in turn that they promise to always be kind
The Baron de Montesquieu understood love in this way, as something reciprocal.
6. When a government lasts a long time it decomposes little by little and without noticing it
Too long in power erodes your legitimacy.
7. If the triangles made a God, they would make it up with three sides
With this phrase the author intends to make a description of the divine being.
8. Adversity is our mother; prosperity is only our stepmother
Excellent way to put what life means.
9. The law must be like death, which does not exempt anyone
Justice was a fundamental pillar for the author.
10. An injustice done to the individual is a threat made to the whole society
With this phrase he explains how important it is to avoid injustice in a government.
11. Sport is liked because it flatters greed, that is, the hope of having more
Hard and eloquent criticism of what the sport represented at that time, similar to the current one.
12. To be really great, you have to be with people, not above them
This phrase perfectly sums up what qualities of greatness should be.
13. There is no worse tyranny than that exercised in the shadow of the laws and under the heat of justice
Sometimes politics is not exercised with the laws, as these can be unfair.
14. When you search so much for a way to make yourself fear, you always find first to make yourself hated
Power is usually associated with fear, a bad combination to legitimize their actions.
15. People who have little to do are usually very talkative: the more you think and act, the less you talk
It is a good definition to describe the attitude of certain groups.
16. In public law the most severe act of justice is war, because it can have the effect of destroying society
With this phrase you can deduce a certain defense to the war action.
17. Bad examples are more harmful than crimes
You always have to know how to make analogies to give good explanations.
18. Customs make laws, women make customs; So women make the laws
For his time, the French thinker had very advanced ideas.
19. Useless laws weaken necessary ones
It is an evil that does not seem to have been elucidated.
20. Admirable maxim: do not talk about things until after they are done
It is usually a common mistake in ignorant people.
21. Friendship is a contract by which we force ourselves to do small favors
A curious phrase by Montesquieu that describes the concept of friendship in a reductionist way.
22. When death has equaled fortunes, undertakers should not differentiate them
Excellent contribution to explain class consciousness.
23. A thing is not fair because it is law. It must be law because it is fair
The laws emanate from the popular will.
24. A man is unhappy not because of ambition, but because it devours him
Measured ambition can become a virtue.
25. It seems that our life increases when we can put it in the memory of others
This phrase describes the post-mortem phenomenon, when someone famous becomes a social deity.
26. Truth at one time is error at another
Contextualization is relevant to determine the good and the bad in time.
27. You have to study a lot to know little
Sometimes it is better to specialize in a field than to know everything and bad.
28. Happy the people whose history is read with boredom
Is boredom an indispensable variable to achieve happiness?
29. Give man the opportunity to be unfair, and he will not miss it
In some cases Montesquieu was skeptical of the nature of the human being.
30. The clergy and nobility are a good method of control for the Monarch
Even in a despotic system, there should be justice.
31. Nothing can or should be above the laws that govern a society
As a good man of law, the author defended his maximum premise in this way.
32. I prefer to quickly agree with most people rather than listen to them
With this phrase the author described the majority of society as ignorant.
33. Freedom consists in being able to do what must be done
Obligations are also part of rights in a just society.
34. Here a husband who loves his wife is a man who does not have enough merit to make himself loved by another
Curious way to describe the way in which the man should love the woman.
35. To be successful in the world, you have to look crazy and be wise
Most of the geniuses of mankind were peculiar characters.
36. Normally, those with great talent are naive
The good speaker is not always a great thinker.
37. We always want to be happier than others, and that is wrong
The human being lives by and for eternal comparison with others.
38. Democracy must guard against two excesses: the spirit of inequality and the spirit of extreme equality.
Excellent phrase to contrast two essential concepts in a society.
39. Freedom is the right to do what the law allows
For Montesquieu, outside the law there is only despotism.
40. The decomposition of any government begins with the decline of the principles on which it was founded.
Only when principles are betrayed does it doom.
41. When societies are born, the heads of a State are the ones who give it its special character
The figure of the highest authority of a country has enormous responsibilities.
42. If a citizen had the right to do what they prohibit, it would no longer be freedom, since anyone else would have the same right
An absolute defense of the laws is again made with this phrase.
43. Later, this special character is what forms the heads of State
The figure of the president, head of state or king, is also usually the reflection of the people he represents.
44. We always imagine others much happier than they really are
The human being constantly falls into this error, of comparing himself with others.
45. If it were enough for us to be happy, things would be very easy; but we want to be happier than others
With this phrase, once again, the bad habit of comparison is emphasized.
46. Most of the time, success depends on knowing how long it will take to achieve it
Success lies in the timeline on many occasions.
47. Luxury is always in proportion to the unevenness of fortunes
This phrase perfectly describes the inequality between classes.
48. More States have perished from the depravity of customs than from the violation of laws
A state is due to its customs and people.
49. A man of talent is naturally prone to criticism, because he sees more things than other men and sees them better
With this phrase the thinker tries to describe how intelligence can manifest itself.
50. I would like to abolish the funeral parlor. Men must be mourned when they are born and no longer when they die
Peculiar way of criticizing the funeral ritual.
51. The heads of larger men shrink when they get together
It’s not always a good match when brilliant minds come together. It falls into the homogenization of discourse.
52. The Christian religion, which seems to have for its object only the happiness of the other life, also makes us happy in this one
With this phrase a good description is made of what religion can mean.
53. Study has been for me the main remedy against the worries of life
Reading, studying and checking is the best remedy for ignorance.
54. Talent is a gift that God gives us in secret, and that we reveal without knowing it
That is why it is called a gift, because we practice it without conscience.