Charles De Secondat Montesquieu, baron de, a French philosopher, born at the chateau of La Brede, near Bordeaux, Jan. 18, 1689, died in Paris, Feb. 10, 1755. He was remarkable during his youth for diligent studies not only of jurisprudence but of literature and philosophy. At the age of 20 he composed a work designed to prove that the paganism of the ancient philosophers and authors did not merit eternal damnation. At the age of 25 he was admitted to the parliament of Bordeaux, of which he became president d mortier two years later, succeeding his uncle in that office. lie applied himself scrupulously to its duties, though chiefly devoted to the pursuits of literature. A literary and musical society formed at Bordeaux in 1716 was through his influence transformed into an academy of sciences, to which he contributed memoirs chiefly on natural history until almost entire blindness forbade this study. Among his early writings were dissertations on the physical history of the earth (1719) and on the policy of the Romans in their religion. 11 is first work that attracted general attention was the Lettres persanes (1721). It consists of letters purporting to have been written by a Persian travelling in France assailing beneath a transparent veil the whole system of principles prevalent in church and state.
It abounds in paradoxes, jests, and sprightly satire, and also in profound views of law, commerce, and social problems. In 1720 he retired from the duties of the magistracy to devote himself solely to literature; was received into the French academy in 1728, having overcome the opposition of Cardinal Fleury by modifying obnoxious passages in his Let-tres pergitnes; and soon after began to travel through Europe to collect materials for an elaborate work on politics and jurisprudence, spending about two years in England, where he imo a member of the royal society. He returned to La Brede after an absence of four years, and after two years of retirement published bis Considerations sur les causes de la qrandeur et de la decadence des Romains (Paris, 1734).His great work, De l'esprit des lot's (2 vols., 1748), was the result of 20 years of labor; 22 editions were issued in 18 months, and it was translated into most of the European tongues. It ultimately became the oracle of the friends of moderate freedom, as distinguished from the followers of Rousseau. Montesquieu passed the latter part of his life alternately at La Brede and Paris. Among his minor writings are academical discourses; the Dialogue de Sylla et d'Eucrate, an explanation of the political conduct of Sulla; the Temple de Guide, a romance of classical antiquity; and an Essai sur le goat, written for the Encyclopedic. The most complete editions of his works are those of Lefevre (0 vols., Paris, 1816) and Lequieu (8 vols., 1819, and with the eloges by D'Alembert and Villemain, 1827). A new edition of Nugent's translation of the "Spirit of the Laws," with D'Alembert's memoir of Montesquieu, was published in Cincinnati in 1873.