n my Senior Year of Highschool. . my grade was an 85Montesquieu:Definition of LawInto the first three chapters of Book 1, The Spirit of Laws, Montesquieucondensed a lifetime of thinking, not so much on law as what law is, (after all, thework by Montesquieu is entitled The Spirit of Laws, not The Laws of the Spirit). The definition of law provided to us by Montesquieu can be most clearlyidentified as a series of relationships which are derived from the nature of things;relationships varying not only among human beings, but animals and thought.
Background: Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondatbaron de la Br?de et deBorn January 18, 1689, Montesquieu (Caption 1-1) belonged to an oldfamily of modest wealth that had been ennobled in the 16th century for servicesto the crown. Charles-Louis studied at the faculty of law at the University ofBordeaux, was graduated, and ventured out for experience in law. He marriedJeanne de Lartique and through marriage he became socially and financiallysecure. He wrote many works pertaining to the lawfield (Encarta). Montesquieu’s Definitions of Law”Laws, in their most general signification, are the necessary relations arising fromthe nature of things.
” (Spirit)Montesquieu in the first book would seem to be collating all that has beensaid on the law into some complex equation, eliminating the common andarriving at some simple solution. Thus, laws in the most general sense are therelationships between things (all things) as the nature of things shows: the natureof things seen, heard, and read. God isn’t seen nor heard, or read; still, he musthave his place, but not first in the order of the nature of things (Catholic). “There is, then, a prime reason; and laws are the relations subsisting between itand different beings, and the relations of these to one another.
” (Spirit)But we have overlooked a key word kept by Montesquieu in his mostconcentrated definition: laws are not only relationships, they are necessaryrelationships. Here grows a somewhat ambiguous question. Why are theynecessary? They are not necessary due to a decree of some sort, but becomenatural; thus the term “Prime Reason. (Loy 89)””God is related to the universe, as Creator and Preserver; the laws by which Hecreated all things are those by which He preserves them. He acts according tothese rules, because He knows them; He knows them, because He made them;and He made them, because they are in relation to His wisdom and power. “(Spirit)It is true that Montesquieu seems to waver between “natural law” and”laws of nature” as expressions.
It is also true that he defines laws of nature asthose that derive solely from our beings (Loy 90). “By the allurement of pleasure they preserve the individual, and by the sameallurement they preserve their species. They have natural laws, because they areunited by sensation; positive laws they have none, because they are not connectedby knowledge. ” (Spirit)Animals however, are without knowledge but have some natural laws. Although Montesquieu does spare us the seventeenth-century discussion ofpre-social man, he has not escaped certain confusions in regards to human reasonand Prime Reason (Chan).
“Before there were intelligent beings, laws were possible; they had thereforepossible relations, and consequently possible laws. Before laws were made, therewere relations of possible justice. To say that there is nothing just or unjust butwhat is commanded or forbidden by positive laws, is the same as saying thatbefore the describing of a circle all the radii were not equal. ” (Spirit)It is also in his discussion of natural law that Montesquieu comes to theconclusion that after God comes first a state of peace. For Montesquieu, peace isthe first law of nature.
Following natural laws are nourishment, sex, and society(Chan). “But the intelligent world is far from being so well governed as the physical. Forthough the former has also its laws, which of their own nature are invariable, itdoes not conform to them so exactly as the physical world. ” (Spirit)Once the natural law is done with (and Montesquieu started there formany reasons), one is on relatively clearer, emperic grounds with the positivelaws. International law, political law, civil law: nothing in Montesquieu’sestimation could be more easily grasped from looking at man’s past.
WhenMontesquieu makes his famous statement that law is human reason, one takesnote he is writing under the heading “positive law. (Loy 91)””Law, in general, is human reason insofar as it governs all the nations of earth. “Conclusion:All of this, although not original, is Montesquieu’s obvious contribution tohis science of laws. His whole attraction to his subject (whether conscious ornot), his role in intellectual history, his genius, were involved with seeingeverything through both kinds of Nature (Loy 92). Through metaphysics andscience, through moral and physical causes, through Philosophy and History,through absolute and relative, through what ought to be and what is the spiritguiding human social life on this earth is, its existence and its essence, his goalwas simply his honesty and seen in historical perspective, his great contributionto the Enlightenment and the Social Sciences.
The Spirit of Laws gives us the ability to share in Montesquieu’s mostlogical and awarded analysis of what laws are; a series of relationships which arederived from the nature of things; relationships varying not only among humanbeings, but animals and thought. By understanding first what law is, we maybetter strive towards improved legal systems and society’s perfection. BibliographyWorks CitedThe Catholic Encyclopedia. “Charles-Louise de Secondat, Baron deMontesquieu. ” http://www. newadvent.
org/Cathen/10536a. htm (retrieved27 April 2000)Chan, Jannie C. “Montesquieu’s Political Theory: Truth or Fiction?”http://www. nassaulib. org/professors/JannieChanSOL. htm (retrieved 3May 2000)Encarta Learning Zone.
“Montesquieu, Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de laBrede et de. ” http://encarta. masn. com/find/concise. asp?z=2;+i03BF9000(retrieved 3 May 2000)Loy, Robert J.
Montesquieu. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1968Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat. The Spirit of Laws.http://www.taxexemptlaw.com/library/sol-01.shtml (retrieved 24 May2000)