“Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Baron De Montesquieu (1689-1755) was an 18th century French philosopher, political thinker and social commentator. He was the first of the great French scholars associated with the Enlightenment a period in which the power of reason was brought to bear against the intolerance of religion and social norms.
His ideas about the separation of powers had an enormous impact and became the basis for the United States Constitution. Despotism he said was a danger for any government and he believed absolute power could be prevented by a system divided among the executive, legislature and a judiciary.
Despite Montesquieu’s belief in the principles of a democracy, he did not feel that all people were equal. He approved of slavery and thought women were weaker than men and had to obey the commands of their husband.
However, Montesquieu also felt that women had the innate ability to govern:
It is against reason and against nature for women to be mistresses in the house… but not for them to govern an empire. In the first case, their weak state does not permit them to be preeminent; in the second, their very weakness gives them more gentleness and moderation, which, rather than the harsh and ferocious virtues, can make for a good environment.
It was Montesquieu’s argument that women were too weak to be in control at home, but their calmness and gentleness would be helpful qualities in making decisions in government.
Now in our day — 250 years later — with the likes of the late Geraldine Ferraro, Condoleezza Rice, Hilary Clinton and Michelle Bachman among many the United States sees women rising to prominence in government. It’s a sign of the times that if not my generation our children will most likely see our first woman President.
I’m reminded of a quote…
My idea has always been that if we could bring the mothers of the
various nations together then there would be no more war.
Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave), from the movie “Howard’s End”