Montesquieu on the Corruption of Republics

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The corruption of republics typically begins with corruption of its principles.

In this squib, Charles de Montesquieu* could equally describe America’s corruption of separation of powers and embrace of populism. The overnight recast of our government from a federal republic into a democratic republic via the 17th Amendment in 1913 inaugurated this corruption.

Republicanism is threatened not only when the spirit of equality before the law is extinct, but also when the nation falls into extreme equality. Under extreme equality, elements of direct democracy replace the studied judgment of representatives and especially senators, to make the law on our behalf. In the interest of winning reelection, popularly derived senators are naturally inclined to put personal interests ahead of those of the nation. In return, the people clamor for laws which serve to enrich themselves and impoverish the nation. Montesquieu regarded this situation as extreme equality, in which the people supplant, and soon abuse, powers they had previously delegated.

This two-way, vertical corruption is death to republics. Public virtue cannot exist. Montesquieu:

The corruption will increase among the corruptors, and likewise among those who are already corrupted. The people will divide the public money among themselves, and having added the administration of affairs to their indolence, will be for blending their poverty with the amusements of luxury.

As the self-control and virtue of the people diminishes, their license grows. The greater the advantages they derive from liberty, from this extreme equality, the nearer they approach the critical moment of losing it. The small remains of liberty soon become insupportable. A single tyrant emerges, and the people are stripped of everything, even of the profits of their corruption.


As if to illustrate Montesquieu’s warnings, witness the Bernie Sanders campaign. His people believe the societal contradictions and discomforts caused by excessive equality can be mitigated with ever-increasing extreme equality. Their demands can only be satisfied through a tyrant.

I will close the body of this squib with another quote from Charles de Montesquieu: “When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils, but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles.”

Let’s work to restore lost principles. Repeal the 17th Amendment. We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder of the American Republic. Join Convention of States. Sign our COS Petition.

*Montesquieu, Charles de. The Spirit of the Laws, Translated by Thomas Nugent., 2010. Book. Pages: 108-109.