Abstract

This article examines Bertrand Barère’s Montesquieu peint d’après ses ouvrages (1797) within the context of the speculations on the future of modernity in the political thought of the eighteenth century and the French Revolution. Broadly, Barère’s work contained three arguments: Montesquieu had been a covert republican forced to conceal his candid thoughts; Montesquieu had been wrong to despair about the future of large republics; The Spirit of Laws needed to be used as a guide for the political leaders of the French First Republic. Rescued from the narrow context of political intentions and placed in a wider intellectual context, Barère’s critical reading of Montesquieu demonstrates the importance of the notions of military dictatorship and commercial capacity in revolutionary political thought.

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