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Additional info for A Passion for Democracy: Benjamin Constant
For Montesquieu, it is not the number of people who hold power that matters (monarchy, aristocracy, democracy), but the way in which power is wielded. In his eyes, power is legitimate when it is not unlimited. One can limit it either by laws or by another power. Montesquieu thus wants the government to be subject to existing laws, and for the executive, legislature, and 35 A Passion for Democracy judiciary powers not to be concentrated in the same hands, so that one can counterbalance the other.
His mother, twenty-five years old, died of complications fifteen days after this first childbirth. The father, a career soldier, lived in Holland. The paternal and maternal families disputed custody of the child, and initially the maternal side won. However, from 1772 onward, the father regained custody and left the child with various tutors, frequently re- 15 A Passion for Democracy placed. Constant was therefore often required to change his place of residence as well. In 1783, he enrolled at the University of Edinburgh, where he stayed for almost two years.
We are approaching Constant’s thought by several avenues, for this thought is expressed by several means: written works and life experiences, literary writing and the sequence of events. The life is then no longer an explanation of his work but is itself a work that is particularly eloquent. 31 A Passion for Democracy 32 Liberal Democracy 33 A Passion for Democracy 34 Autonomy and Moderation Constant’s political thought can be presented as a synthesis and a transformation of the two major currents of 18th century French political philosophy, that of Montesquieu and that of Rousseau.