Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Baron de Montesquieu, fully Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu

French Philosopher, Political Thinker and Social Commentator

"Virtue is necessary to a republic."

"We must have constantly present in our minds the difference between independence and liberty. Liberty is a right of doing whatever the laws permit, and if a citizen could do what they forbid he would no longer be possessed of liberty."

"We must live with men such that they are: people that are told to be such good company are often those whose vices are more refined, and perhaps it is as poisons, the most subtle are also the most dangerous."

"We should weep for men at their birth, not at their death."

"Weak minds exaggerate too much the wrong done to the Africans. For were the case as they state it, would the European powers, who make so many needless conventions among themselves, have failed to enter into a general one, in behalf of humanity and compassion?"

"What is not useful to the swarm is not useful to the bee."

"What orators lack in depth they make up for in length."

"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."

"When a government is arrived to that degree of corruption as to be incapable of reforming itself, it would not lose much by being new molded."

"When God endowed human beings with brains, He did not intend to guarantee them."

"When the body of the people is possessed of the supreme power, it is called a democracy."

"When the laws have ceased to be executed, as this can only come from the corruption of the republic, the state is already lost."

"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."

"When the savages of Louisiana wish to have fruit, they cut the tree at the bottom and gather the fruit. That is exactly a despotic government."

"When we seek after wit, we discover only foolishness."

"With truths of a certain kind, it is not enough to make them appear convincing: one must also make them felt. Of such kind are moral truths."

"You have to study a great deal to know a little."