The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principles on which it was founded.

— Baron de Montesquieu

The most bashful Baron de Montesquieu quotes that are little-known but priceless

In the state of nature... all men are born equal, but they cannot continue in this equality. Society makes them lose it, and they recover it only by the protection of the law.


Democracy has two excesses to avoid: the spirit of inequality, which leads to an aristocracy, or to the government of a single individual; and the spirit of extreme equality, which conducts it to despotism, as the despotism of a single individual finishes by conquest.


Religious wars are not caused by the fact that there is more than one religion, but by the spirit of intolerance... the spread of which can only be regarded as the total eclipse of human reason.


When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.


Liberty... is there only when there is no abuse of power.


Knowledge humanizes mankind, and reason inclines to mildness;

but prejudices eradicate every tender disposition.


What unhappy beings men are! They constantly waver between false hopes and silly fears, and instead of relying on reason they create monsters to frighten themselves with, and phantoms which lead them astray.


If I knew something that would serve my country but would harm mankind, I would never reveal it; for I am a citizen of humanity first and by necessity, and a citizen of France second, and only by accident


Political liberty in a citizen is that tranquillity of spirit which comes from the opinion each one has of his security, and in order for him to have this liberty the government must be such that one citizen cannot fear another citizen.


That anyone who possesses power has a tendency to abuse it is an eternal truth.

They tend to go as far as the barriers will allow.


But constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority as far as it will go.


Solemnity is the shield of idiots


About Baron de Montesquieu

Quotes 197 sayings
Profession Author
Birthday January 18, 1689

The Ottoman Empire whose sick body was not supported by a mild and regular diet, but by a powerful treatment, which continually exhausted it.


To succeed in the world we must look foolish but be wise.


Men, who are rogues individually, are in the mass very honorable people.


There is only one thing that can form a bond between men, and that is gratitude.

.. we cannot give someone else greater power over us than we have ourselves.


The harshest tyranny is that which acts under the protection of legality and the banner of justice.


When a government lasts a long while, it deteriorates by insensible degrees.

Republics end through luxury, monarchies through poverty.


I like peasants-they are not sophisticated enough to reason speciously.


The false notion of miracles comes of our vanity, which makes us believe we are important enough for the Supreme Being to upset nature on our behalf.


In republican governments, men are all equal;

equal they are also in despotic governments: in the former, because they are everything; in the latter, because they are nothing.


I shall be obliged to wander to the right and to the left, that I may investigate and discover the truth.


An injustice to one is a threat made to all


The incomparable stupidity of life teaches us to love our parents;

divine philosophy teaches us to forgive them.


If the triangles made a god, they would give him three sides.


Love of reading enables a man to exchange the weary hours, which come to every one, for hours of delight.


In bodies moved, the motion is received, increased, diminished, or lost, according to the relations of the quantity of matter and velocity; each diversity is uniformity, each change is constancy.


Law in general is human reason, inasmuch as it governs all the inhabitants of the earth: the political and civil laws of each nation ought to be only the particular cases in which human reason is applied.


The reason the Romans built their great paved highways was because they had such inconvenient footwear.


There is a very good saying that if triangles invented a god, they would make him three-sided.


I should like to abolish funerals; the time to mourn a person is at his birth, not his death.


Slavery, properly so called, is the establishment of a right which gives to one man such a power over another as renders him absolute master of his life and fortune.


I acknowledge that history is full of religious wars: but we must distinguish;

it is not the multiplicity of religions which has produced these wars; it was the intolerating spirit which animated that one which thought she had the power of governing.


The coffee is prepared in such a way that it makes those who drink it witty: at least there is not a single soul who, on quitting the house, does not believe himself four times wittier that when he entered it.


Men in excess of happiness or misery are equally inclined to severity.

Witness conquerors and monks! It is mediocrity alone, and a mixture of prosperous and adverse fortune that inspire us with lenity and pity.


Although born in a prosperous realm, we did not believe that its boundaries should limit our knowledge, and that the lore of the East should alone enlighten us.


Ever since the invention of gunpowder.

. I continually tremble lest men should, in the end, uncover some secret which would provide a short way of abolishing mankind, of annihilating peoples and nations in their entirety.


If I knew of something that could serve my nation but would ruin another, I would not propose it to my prince, for I am first a man and only then a Frenchman... because I am necessarily a man, and only accidentally am I French.


This punishment of death is the remedy, as it were, of a sick society.


A really intelligent man feels what other men only know.


A good writer does not write as people write, but as he writes.


The alms given to a naked man in the street do not fulfil the obligations of the state, which owes to every citizen a certain subsistence, a proper nourishment, convenient clothing, and a kind of life not incompatible with health.


Republics end through luxury; monarchies through poverty.


Love of the republic in a democracy, is a love of the democracy;

love of the democracy is that of equality. Love of the democracy is likewise that of frugality.


It is always the adventurous who accomplish great things.


Brutes are deprived of the high advantages which we have;

but they have some which we have not. They have not our hopes, but theyare without our fears; they are subject like us to death, but without knowing it; even most of them are more attentive than we to self-preservation, and do not make so bad a use of their passions.


As men are affected in all ages by the same passions, the occasions which bring about great changes are different, but the causes are always the same.


Mediocrity is a hand-rail.


Laws, in their most general signification, are the necessary relations arising from the nature of things. In this sense all beings have their laws: the Deity His laws, the material world its laws, the intelligences superior to man their laws, the beasts their laws, man his laws.