THE SPIRIT OF LAWS => IS GOD IN OUR CONSTITUTION?

constitution1.pngLook up Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, and you will find plenty of scholars who have written quite knowledgeably about the man and what he wrote. What you will not find are many American citizens who have studied what the man wrote, and that’s shameful. Montesquieu’s The Spirit of laws, published in 1748, had an enormous influence on our nation’s Founding Fathers and The United States Constitution.  For example, to strengthen their arguments, both James Madison and Alexander Hamilton repeatedly cited Montesquieu in The Federalist Papers. Madison also noted in The Journal of the Debates in the Convention that the delegates referenced Montesquieu several times.

What would we learn by reading The Spirit of laws today? We would learn how much we have be misled. Consider, for example, how the Montesquieu’s great book begins.

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.

They who assert that a blind fatality produced the various effects we behold in this world talk very absurdly; for can anything be more unreasonable than to pretend that a blind fatality could be productive of intelligent beings?

There is, then, a prime reason; and laws are the relations subsisting between it and different beings, and the relations of these to one another.

God is related to the universe, as Creator and Preserver; the laws by which He created all things are those by which He preserves them. He acts according to these rules, because He knows them; He knows them, because He made them; and He made them, because they are in relation to His wisdom and power.

Since we observe that the world, though formed by the motion of matter, and void of understanding, subsists through so long a succession of ages, its motions must certainly be directed by invariable laws; and could we imagine another world, it must also have constant rules, or it would inevitably perish.

Thus the creation, which seems an arbitrary act, supposes laws as invariable as those of the fatality of the Atheists. It would be absurd to say that the Creator might govern the world without those rules, since without them it could not subsist.

These rules are a fixed and invariable relation. 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. (continued here)

To determine the proper spirit of laws, Montesquieu started with the Creator and his Laws. To write our Constitution, our nation’s founders consulted the writings of the most thoughtful and respected men of their age. Consider this excerpt from Wikipedia.

Delegates used two streams of intellectual tradition, and any one delegate could be found using both or a mixture depending on the subject under discussion: foreign affairs, the economy, national government, or federal relationships among the states. The Virginia Plan recommended a consolidated national government, generally favoring the most populated states. It used the philosophy of John Locke to rely on consent of the governed, Montesquieu for divided government, and Edward Coke to emphasize civil liberties. The New Jersey Plan generally favored the less populated states, using the philosophy of English Whigs such as Edmund Burke to rely on received procedure, and William Blackstone to emphasize sovereignty of the legislature. (from here)

When they spoke of their beliefs about how a society should govern itself, Locke, Coke, Burke, and Blackstone also had no trouble deferring to the will of our Creator.  Check for yourself.

Although our Constitution — because it respects each citizen’s God-given rights — may be secular work, creating it was not a godless work. Instead, we have a thoughtful document written by Godly men trying to protect the God-given rights of their families, friends and neighbors.

8 thoughts on “THE SPIRIT OF LAWS => IS GOD IN OUR CONSTITUTION?

  1. Very well explained and thank you for the source references. It is so sad to see the very basic foundational beliefs of our country being cast aside as if they were refuse. May the Lord grant our country repentance and mercy.

    Lord bless you Tom. Again thanks for your postings that continue to remind us of the great needs of our country.

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    1. Thank you. I very much appreciate your support.

      One of worst forms of ignorance (or foolishness) is to think we know more than we do. In fact, the worst thing about our schools is that our children’s teachers don’t drum into our children’s thick skulls how much more they need to learn and what a joy it can be.

      Remember when we were young. I do, and I remember thinking I was so smart. Finally repenting of that pride, realizing how little I know, I now preach a gospel of repentance for my ignorance. “See,” I say. “That’s what we did not learn and still need to know.”

      May our Lord grant us all repentance and mercy, and the humility and the wisdom to seek His Will.

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  2. I have to agree that Montesquieu is well worth reading and revisitations of his work should be encouraged. But why do you say that will teach us “how much we have been misled”? The “misleading” part is obscure in the post. I know of no persons who addresses these things who argues that Montesquieu was not influential in his day. It is generally well-known by people who study the formation of this government that the sources of the Founders included Montesquieu, Locke, and more classical examples. That knowledge is commonplace among historians and legal scholars.

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    1. I am fairly certain you are one of my most diligent readers, and yet you ask questions that … I am also fairly certain you are relatively well informed. So you know of the political issues which I address with this blog. Therefore, I suggest you try to answer your question with a second reading of this post, and if that does not work, try again..

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  3. You say that by reading Montesquieu we will learn how much we have been “misled”. But you don’t say what the nature of that “misleading” is, who has misled us, or how revisiting Montsquieu will cure that misleading. My point is that, while I share your high esteem for the good Baron, I think we are taught openly and without any “misleading” whatsoever that Montesquieu had a highly influential impact on the Founders. What am I missing? Who are the “misleaders” and what is the nature of their deception? Or are we supposed to just intuit this?

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  4. I’ve been through it several times. Sorry. It’s just not coming. Having given it an honest effort, I’m convinced the problem lies more in the obvious place – your writing of the post, than in my reading of it. But if there was a point (beyond the quite proper encomium to Montesquieu’s influence on our Founders) that we have somehow been misled, I’d be curious to know what the reference is.

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