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The Spirit of Laws
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CHARLES-LOUIS DE SECONDAT, the jurist and political philosopher, was born at the Ch teau de La Brede, near Bordeaux, France, on January 18, 1689. He attended the Oratorian College of Juilly and then studied law in Bordeaux from 1705 to 1708. Upon his father's death in 1713, he assumed the title of baron de La Brede and was appointed counselor of the Bordeaux parliament (1714). In 1716 he inherited his uncle's title of baron de Montesquieu, and also his office, serving as the deputy president of the parliament from 1716 to 1726.

Montesquieu's first major work, Lettres persanes (Persian Letters), was published in 1721 and became a huge success. Supposedly written by two Persian travelers in Europe, Montesquieu satirized French institutions. In 1725 he published Le Temple de Gnide (The Temple of Gnide). Because of the success of Persian Letters, in 1728 Montesquieu was elected to the French Academy, the French lit-erary academy established by Cardinal de Richelieu in 1634 to maintain standards of literary taste and to establish the lit-erary language. That same year, seeking to complete his education by foreign travel, he set out on a grand tour of Europe, particularly England, where he remained from 1729 to 1731. In 1734 Montesquieu published Considerations sur les causes de la grandeur et de la decadence des Romains (Thoughts on the Causes of the Greatness and the Downfall of the Romans), one of the first important works in the philos-ophy of history. Montesquieu's greatest work, De l'esprit des lois (The Spirit of Laws), was published in 1748. It is a comparative study of three types of government: republic, monarchy, and despotism. Montesquieu held that governmental powers should be separated and balanced to guarantee individual rights and freedom. Attacked by the French clergy and his enemies at the Sorbonne, Montesquieu responded with D fense de "l'esprit des lois" (Defense of "The Spirit of Laws") in 1750. His last work, Essai sur le gout (Essay on Taste) was not completed. Montesquieu died in Paris on February 10, 1755.

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