Essays /

Forms Of Government Essay

Essay preview

4.1 Forms of Government
Montesquieu holds that there are three types of governments: republican governments, which can take either democratic or aristocratic forms; monarchies; and despotisms. Unlike, for instance, Aristotle, Montesquieu does not distinguish forms of government on the basis of the virtue of the sovereign. The distinction between monarchy and despotism, for instance, depends not on the virtue of the monarch, but on whether or not he governs "by fixed and established laws" (SL 2.1). Each form of government has a principle, a set of "human passions which set it in motion" (SL 3.1); and each can be corrupted if its principle is undermined or destroyed. In a democracy, the people are sovereign. They may govern through ministers, or be advised by a senate, but they must have the power of choosing their ministers and senators for themselves. The principle of democracy is political virtue, by which Montesquieu means "the love of the laws and of our country" (SL 4.5), including its democratic constitution. The form of a democratic government makes the laws governing suffrage and voting fundamental. The need to protect its principle, however, imposes far more extensive requirements. On Montesquieu's view, the virtue required by a functioning democracy is not natural. It requires "a constant preference of public to private interest" (SL 4.5); it "limits ambition to the sole desire, to the sole happiness, of doing greater services to our country than the rest of our fellow citizens" (SL 5.3); and it "is a self-renunciation, which is ever arduous and painful" (SL 4.5). Montesquieu compares it to monks' love for their order: "their rule debars them from all those things by which the ordinary passions are fed; there remains therefore only this passion for the very rule that torments them. ... the more it curbs their inclinations, the more force it gives to the only passion left them" (SL 5.2). To produce this unnatural self-renunciation, "the whole power of education is required" (SL 4.5). A democracy must educate its citizens to identify their interests with the interests of their country, and should have censors to preserve its mores. It should seek to establish frugality by law, so as to prevent its citizens from being tempted to advance their own private interests at the expense of the public...

Read more


2.1 2.4 2.5 3.1 3.10 3.9 4.1 4.3 4.5 5.14 5.2 5.3 5.8 8.10 8.2 8.7 absenc abus accord acquir act actual administr advanc advis agre aim allow also ambit among anoth anyon anyth apt arbitrarili arduous aris aristocraci aristocrat aristotl armi aspir attain attempt attend avoid balanc basi basic beast becom better break brutal call cannot capabl capac capric caprici care ceas censor channel charact check chief choos chosen citizen claim come commerc compar complianc complic conduct connect constant constitut constrain content continu contrast corrupt countri cours creat creation crumbl cultiv curb debar debas debat decid degrad deliber democraci democrat deni depend depress design desir despot destroy develop differ difficult digniti direct disappear discourag disguis dispos distinct distinguish distribut disturb doubt easi easili educ effect either embodi emerg encourag end enough ensur equal especi establish estat even eventu ever everi everyth excess execut exercis exist expens extens extinguish extraordinari extrem fail fall famili far fear fed feel fellow final first fit fix flourish flow forc forfeit forget form foster frame frugal function fundament general genuin give good govern government grant great greater happi hazard heighten higher hold honor howev human idea ideal identifi ignobl ignor ill ill-advis import impos inclin includ independ inequ infami instanc instead instil instinct institut intellig interest intermedi intrigu involv irresist judg judiciari keep kept king lack larg last law lazi lead least led left legisl less liabl like likelihood limit line littl live load longer lose love luxuri magistr maintain make manag manner masterpiec match may mean men might mind minist moder modest momentari monarch monarchi monk montesquieu more motion motiv much multipli must natur necessarili need neither never nobil nobl noth obey occas occur odious one oppress order ordinari other pain part particular passion peopl person place pleasur plot polit poor portion possibl power prefer preserv prevent previous principl privat privileg produc prolifer promot proper properti protect provid prudenc public punish pursu rare reach reason regard relat reli remain remnant renunci replac reprehens republ republican requir resolut respect respons rest restrain restraint result retir reward right root rule ruler second secur see seek seiz seldom self self-renunci senat sens separ seraglio serv servic servil set sever simpl sinc singl situat sl slave small sole sort sourc sovereign specif spirit stabil stabl stand state straightforward strength structur subject subordin suffrag suppos take task tax tempt temptat tend terrifi territori therefor thing third threat three thus time togeth torment transfer tri true two type undermin undivid unlik unnatur unnecessari us valu view virtu vizier voluptu vote want way weak whatev whether whim whole whose win without work worth would write