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MONTESQUIEU'S NATURAL RIGHTS CONSTITUTIONALISM

  • Paul A. Rahe (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

When Woodrow Wilson, in the course of his campaign for the Presidency in 1912, attacked Thomas Jefferson and Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, he knew what he was about—for the constitutionalism articulated by the latter and embraced, in turn, by the Framers of the American Constitution was a systematic attempt to put into practice something very much like the first principles spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. Montesquieu was not a doctrinaire. He feared that, in his own country and elsewhere, revolution would eventuate in the establishment of a despotism, and so he gently, quietly promoted unobtrusive reform. But the cautious, prudential political science that he outlined in his Spirit of Laws was anything but value-free. If the American framers found his legislative science of use, it was because the hatred of despotism and love for liberty animating its author was grounded in an account of natural right closely akin to the one, espoused in John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, that had inspired their revolution.

Abstract

When Woodrow Wilson, in the course of his campaign for the Presidency in 1912, attacked Thomas Jefferson and Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, he knew what he was about—for the constitutionalism articulated by the latter and embraced, in turn, by the Framers of the American Constitution was a systematic attempt to put into practice something very much like the first principles spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. Montesquieu was not a doctrinaire. He feared that, in his own country and elsewhere, revolution would eventuate in the establishment of a despotism, and so he gently, quietly promoted unobtrusive reform. But the cautious, prudential political science that he outlined in his Spirit of Laws was anything but value-free. If the American framers found his legislative science of use, it was because the hatred of despotism and love for liberty animating its author was grounded in an account of natural right closely akin to the one, espoused in John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, that had inspired their revolution.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

The Rhetorical Presidency and the Eclipse of Executive Power: Woodrow Wilson's Constitutional Government in the United States,” Polity 28, no. 3 (1996): 357–78

Kathleen Long Wohlgemuth , “Wilson's Appointment Policy and the Negro,” Journal of Southern History 24, no. 4 (1958): 457–71

Woodrow Wilson and Federal Segregation,” Journal of Negro History 44, no. 2 (1959): 158–73

Henry Blumenthal , “Woodrow Wilson and the Race Question,” Journal of Negro History 48, no. 1 (1963): 121

Mark H. Waddicor , Montesquieu and the Philosophy of Natural Law (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1970), 6599

Stanley Rosen , “Politics and Nature in Montesquieu,” in Rosen, The Elusiveness of the Ordinary: Studies in the Possibility of Philosophy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), 1453

Krause, “Laws, Passion, and the Attractions of Right Action in Montesquieu,” Philosophy and Social Criticism 32, no. 2 (2006): 211–30

Paul O. Carrese , The Cloaking of Power: Montesquieu, Blackstone, and the Rise of Judicial Activism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 1104

Herbert J. Storing , ed., The Complete Anti-Federalist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), vol. 2, no. 3, para. 7

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Social Philosophy and Policy
  • ISSN: 0265-0525
  • EISSN: 1471-6437
  • URL: /core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy
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