The spirit of laws by Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu


part of government, for which it is not so fit; but for the enacting of



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part of government, for which it is not so fit; but for the enacting of
laws, or to see whether the laws in being are duly executed, a thing
suited to their abilities, and which none indeed but themselves can
properly perform.

In such a state there are always persons distinguished by their birth,


riches, or honours: but were they to be confounded with the common
people, and to have only the weight of a single vote like the rest, the
common liberty would be their slavery, and they would have no interest
in supporting it, as most of the popular resolutions would be against
them. The share they have, therefore, in the legislature ought to be
proportioned to their other advantages in the state; which happens only
when they form a body that has a right to check the licentiousness of
the people, as the people have a right to oppose any encroachment of
theirs.

The legislative power is therefore committed to the body of the nobles,


and to that which represents the people, each having their assemblies
and deliberations apart, each their separate views and interests.

Of the three powers above mentioned, the judiciary is in some measure


next to nothing: there remain, therefore, only two; and as these have
need of a regulating power to moderate them, the part of the legislative
body composed of the nobility is extremely proper for this purpose.

The body of the nobility ought to be hereditary. In the first place it


is so in its own nature; and in the next there must be a considerable
interest to preserve its privileges -- privileges that in themselves are
obnoxious to popular envy, and of course in a free state are always in
danger.

But as a hereditary power might be tempted to pursue its own particular


interests, and forget those of the people, it is proper that where a
singular advantage may be gained by corrupting the nobility, as in the
laws relating to the supplies, they should have no other share in the
legislation than the power of rejecting, and not that of resolving.

By the power of resolving I mean the right of ordaining by their own


authority, or of amending what has been ordained by others. By the power
of rejecting I would be understood to mean the right of annulling a
resolution taken by another; which was the power of the tribunes at
Rome. And though the person possessed of the privilege of rejecting may
likewise have the right of approving, yet this approbation passes for no
more than a declaration that he intends to make no use of his privilege
of rejecting, and is derived from that very privilege.

The executive power ought to be in the hands of a monarch, because this


branch of government, having need of despatch, is better administered by
one than by many: on the other hand, whatever depends on the legislative
power is oftentimes better regulated by many than by a single person.

But if there were no monarch, and the executive power should be


committed to a certain number of persons selected from the legislative
body, there would be an end then of liberty; by reason the two powers
would be united, as the same persons would sometimes possess, and would
be always able to possess, a share in both.

Were the legislative body to be a considerable time without meeting,


this would likewise put an end to liberty. For of two things one would
naturally follow: either that there would be no longer any legislative
resolutions, and then the state would fall into anarchy; or that these
resolutions would be taken by the executive power, which would render it
absolute.

It would be needless for the legislative body to continue always


assembled. This would be troublesome to the representatives, and,
moreover, would cut out too much work for the executive power, so as to
take off its attention to its office, and oblige it to think only of
defending its own prerogatives, and the right it has to execute.

Again, were the legislative body to be always assembled, it might happen


to be kept up only by filling the places of the deceased members with
new representatives; and in that case, if the legislative body were once
corrupted, the evil would be past all remedy. When different legislative
bodies succeed one another, the people who have a bad opinion of that
which is actually sitting may reasonably entertain some hopes of the
next: but were it to be always the same body, the people upon seeing it
once corrupted would no longer expect any good from its laws; and of
course they would either become desperate or fall into a state of
indolence.

The legislative body should not meet of itself. For a body is supposed


to have no will but when it is met; and besides, were it not to meet
unanimously, it would be impossible to determine which was really the
legislative body; the part assembled, or the other. And if it had a
right to prorogue itself, it might happen never to be prorogued; which
would be extremely dangerous, in case it should ever attempt to encroach
on the executive power. Besides, there are seasons, some more proper
than others, for assembling the legislative body: it is fit, therefore,
that the executive power should regulate the time of meeting, as well as
the duration of those assemblies, according to the circumstances and
exigencies of a state known to itself.

Were the executive power not to have a right of restraining the


encroachments of the legislative body, the latter would become despotic;
for as it might arrogate to itself what authority it pleased, it would
soon destroy all the other powers.

But it is not proper, on the other hand, that the legislative power


should have a right to stay the executive. For as the execution has its
natural limits, it is useless to confine it; besides, the executive
power is generally employed in momentary operations. The power,
therefore, of the Roman tribunes was faulty, as it put a stop not only
to the legislation, but likewise to the executive part of government;
which was attended with infinite mischief.

But if the legislative power in a free state has no right to stay the


executive, it has a right and ought to have the means of examining in
what manner its laws have been executed; an advantage which this
government has over that of Crete and Sparta, where the Cosmi[9] and the
Ephori[10] gave no account of their administration.

But whatever may be the issue of that examination, the legislative body


ought not to have a power of arraigning the person, nor, of course, the
conduct, of him who is entrusted with the executive power. His person
should be sacred, because as it is necessary for the good of the state
to prevent the legislative body from rendering themselves arbitrary, the
moment he is accused or tried there is an end of liberty.

In this case the state would be no longer a monarchy, but a kind of


republic, though not a free government. But as the person entrusted with
the executive power cannot abuse it without bad counsellors, and such as
have the laws as ministers, though the laws protect them as subjects,
these men may be examined and punished -- an advantage which this
government has over that of Gnidus, where the law allowed of no such
thing as calling the Amymones[11] to an account, even after their
administration;[12] and therefore the people could never obtain any
satisfaction for the injuries done them.

Though, in general, the judiciary power ought not to be united with any


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