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iii - Reflections on National Character

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 November 2020

David W. Carrithers
Affiliation:
University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
Philip Stewart
Affiliation:
Duke University, North Carolina
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Summary

In his Notes on England (1729–1731) and his Reflections on the Inhabitants of Rome (1732) Montesquieu displays the keen interest in national character that was evident in Persian Letters (1721), where he had juxtaposed the mores and politics of Christian France with the customs and government of Muslim Persia. Montesquieu finds much to admire about English politics and culture, including strong support for freedom of the press. The people of England, he remarks, are allowed to write what in other countries one can only think. His Notes reveal, however, that at the same time he was composing the idealized portrait of the English constitution that became Book XI, chapter 6 of The Spirit of Law he was aware that there was widespread political corruption in England. Money, rather than honor and virtue, is what the English most prize, he noted. In his Reflections on the Inhabitants of Rome (1732) Montesquieu explores several causes, some physical and others moral, for the striking contrasts between ancient and modern Romans.

Type
Chapter
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Montesquieu
Discourses, Dissertations, and Dialogues on Politics, Science, and Religion
, pp. 86 - 97
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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