* The author is a doctoral student at the School of History, University of St Andrews. email@example.com . He would like to thank Marisa Linton, Michael Sonenscher, Charles Walton, Richard Whatmore and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments on drafts of this article.
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.