Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This thesis attempts to resolve the problematic nature of Montesquieu's analysis of the English constitution. It is argued that in the Spirit of the Laws Montesquieu presents England as a mixed regime composed of republican and monarchical elements. Further, England is able to protect the liberty of its citizens from unwarranted intrusions into their private lives by governments, and permits them to pursue a natural desire for commercial activity. England is able to avoid corruption, or at least the effects of corruption, by limiting government power, and by nurturing the interests of the citizens in participating in politics. Hence liberty and commerce in England do not or did not at that time lead to excessive individualism.;Our examination of Montesquieu's analysis of the English mixed regime will look at what he meant by 'natural' government, that is, a regime which permitted individuals to fulfill their nature without presupposing standards of behaviour. Second, it will look at what Montesquieu means by republican and monarchical governments (their nature and principle); why they fail to avoid corruption, and which of their features will be combined in the English mixed regime. Third, we will consider how these elements are to be mixed, and what the connection between mixed regimes, commerce and liberty is. Finally, England's constitution will be looked at, both in terms of its ability to provide liberty in its constitution and liberty for the citizen.;This thesis will be prefaced by a discussion of some of Montesquieu's early writings, which demonstrates the affinity of Montesquieu's later ideas with those of his youth. It is here that we will examine Montesquieu's understanding of politics and political activity, which will provide a recurring point of reference to the remainder of the essay. It is argued that Montesquieu's understanding of politics and political activity was profoundly influenced by the writings of Cicero. Finally, it is this Ciceronianism inherent in Montesquieu's thought which will provide the continuity of his ideas, and enable us to better understand the development of ideas in the eighteenth century. It is Ciceronian politics, not the paradigm of manners, that provides (at least in Montesquieu's case) for the transition from the pursuit of classical virtue to the acceptance of modern commerce in the eighteenth century.



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