The Spirit of Laws


Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1748). The Spirit of Laws. In: Complete Works, Vol. 1. London: Printed for T. Evans, in the Strand; and W. Davis, in Piccadilly. S.198.

In every government there are three sorts of power: the legislative; the executive in respect to things dependent on the law of nations; and the executive in regard to matters that depend on the civil law. By virtue of the first, the prince or magistrate enacts temporary or perpetual laws, and amends or abrogates those that have been already enacted. By the second, he makes peace or war, sends or receives embassies, establishes the public security, and provides against invasions. By the third, he punishes criminals, or determines the disputes that arise between individuals. The latter we shall call the judiciary power, and the other, simply, the executive power of the state.