David W. Carrithers


1Montesquieu analyzes democracy as a governmental form situated within a reconfigured classification of governmental types. For the classical typology of rule by one (monarchy), the few (aristocracy), or the many (polity), with corresponding debased forms of tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy (where those who rule do so in their own interest), he substitutes a new tripartite division identifying republics, monarchies, and despotisms as the basic forms of government. The republic he further subdivides into democratic and aristocratic types, remarking: “When in the republic the people as a body holds the sovereign authority, it is a democracy. When the sovereign authority is in the hands of a part of the people, that is what is called an aristocracy. ” (“Lorsque dans la république, le peuple en corps a la souveraine puissance, c’est une démocratie. Lorsque la souveraine puissance est entre les mains d’une partie du peuple, cela s’appelle une aristocratie”, EL, II, 2) Extolling moderation, he suggests that each type of republic is strengthened through avoidance of its characteristic excesses. Thus the democratic republic must avoid forms of equality so leveling as to undermine all authority, and the aristocratic republic achieves perfection the more closely it resembles democracy. (EL, II, 2, 3)

2The importance of Montesquieu’s discussion of democracy is his use of classical examples to artfully construct a democratic republic conceived as an ideal type relying, for curbs on personal ambition, on equality and frugality, on education and training designed to augment patriotism, and on the use of ostracism to remove from the state anyone whose charisma or influence threatens to give them a personal following. (EL, III, 2; IV, 5-8; V, 2-6; XII, 19) Although he depicts democracy as requiring painful self-renunciation and frugality while employing institutions singulières to foster devotion to common needs, admiration for the spirit of ancient democracy is evident in some of his remarks, and this has led some to consider him a partisan of democracy. Thus David Lowenthal concludes that “Montesquieu considers democracy the best of the four forms of government by reason of both the moral quality of its citizens and the liberty and security it affords them.” (Lowenthal, p. 259) Nannerl Keohane, to take another example, suggests that, based on his praise for William Penn for founding a virtuous community “amidst the dregs and corruptions of modern times” and his praise for the modern republic of Berne, Switzerland, we may rightly conclude that Montesquieu “was convinced that there were certain conditions in which such models (of democracy) might become relevant for a people and certain extraordinary men who might put them into effect” (Keohane, p. 384, 395, citing EL, IV, 6; Romains, IX; Pensées, no. 185).

3More frequently, commentators conclude that Montesquieu regarded democracy as unsuited to modern states with large populations distracted from civic virtue by manufacturing, commerce, finance, and wealth (EL, III, 3; VIII, 16; Shackleton, 1961, p. 277; Carrithers, 2002, p. 110-113; Rahe, 2002, p. 73). Thus The Spirit of Law evokes, with a mixture of curiosity, awe and admiration, the “heroic virtues which we find among the Ancients, and of which we have only heard” (“vertus héroïques que nous trouvons dans les anciens, et dont nous avons seulement entendu parler” EL, III, 5) while envisioning an enormous gulf separating ancients and moderns. “When we think of the pettiness of our motivations, the baseness of our means, the avarice with which we seek base rewards, that ambition so different of love for glory, we are astonished at the difference between these spectacles, and it seems that since these two great peoples have disappeared, men have grown a cubit shorter” (“ Quand on pense à la petitesse de nos motifs, à la bassesse de nos moyens, à l’avarice avec laquelle nous cherchons de viles récompenses, à cette ambition si différente de l’amour de la gloire, on est étonné de la différence des spectacles, et il semble que, depuis que ces deux grand peuples ne sont plus, les hommes se sont raccourcis d’une coudée”, Pensées, no. 221).

4It was perhaps only as a result of his immersion in the political thought of Plato and Aristotle during the 1730s that Montesquieu conceptualized the democratic republic as a political type (Shacketon, 1961, p. 365). In any case, he included no discussion of the nature and principle of democracy in his Lettres persanes. He briefly alluded to republican virtue in his Lettres persanes, but he mentioned honor in the same breath as equally descriptive of republican behavior since he had not yet conceptualized virtue and honor as distinct principles of republican and monarchical governments (LP, 87 [89]). Nor did Montesquieu introduce the democratic republic as an ideal type in Romains (1734) where he traced the conflict between patricians and plebeians producing at first a mixture of aristocracy and democracy following the expulsion of the kings and eventually culminating in an extreme form of democracy following the creation of tribunes of the people and the development of plebiscitary democracy.

Institutions and Governing Practices

5In depicting democracy in The Spirit of Law, Montesquieu juxtaposes democratic practices from diverse classical settings (mainly Athens, Sparta, Carthage, and Rome). He enumerates, as the basic institutions of the democratic republic, a popular assembly attended by all citizens; a senate selected by lot from the three wealthiest classes and entrusted with directing foreign policy and preparing legislation for the popular assembly; a council of elders designed to preserve ancient customs and morals; censors empowered to root out corruption and immorality; executive magistracies chosen by lot except for military offices requiring special expertise and other offices requiring the expenditure of large sums of money; and jury courts staffed by citizens on a rotating basis (EL, II, 2; V, 7).

6He includes only a sketchy account of executive power in the chapter of The Spirit of Law devoted to the nature of democracy, simply noting that magistrates should be chosen by lot except for military offices requiring special expertise and certain other offices requiring the expenditure of large sums of money (EL, II, 2). Based on the example of Rome, he presents a much more detailed discussion of executive power in Book XI; there he emphasizes that the Roman Senate exercised numerous executive functions, including dispersing public funds and collecting taxes; voting on war and peace; recruiting troops; bestowing the governorship of provinces on consuls and praetors; and arranging diplomatic relations with foreign states. It remained for the two Roman consuls to levy troops and command them in battle, procure the assistance of allies, and decide when it was appropriate to make peace with conquered peoples (EL, XI, 17).

7In Books VI and XI Montesquieu analyzes judicial power in democracies, singling out for praise the distribution of the power of judging in Rome between the people serving on jury courts, the senate, and special magistrates. Particularly notable (and reminiscent of much later English practices conducive to liberty) was the Roman practice in criminal cases of selecting members of juries only with the consent of both parties and restricting their decision-making to questions of guilt or innocence with the punishments for wrongdoing inscribed in law (EL, VI, 3; XI, 18). Very detrimental to the long-term prospects of Roman liberty was the reduction of the judicial power of the Senate. This favored “la liberté du citoyen,” but only at the expense of the “liberté de la Constitution,” and without the latter, the former could not be sustained (EL, XI, 18).

8 Pivotal to achieving stability within the democratic state, according to Montesquieu, are the rules defining citizenship and voting rights. In Athens, foreigners inserting themselves illegally into the popular assembly might be punished with death (EL, II, 2). In spite of the necessary emphasis on fostering political and economic equality among citizens, Montesquieu stresses the need for hierarchy and the stabilizing influence of elites. Like Aristotle, he thinks a mixture of democracy and aristocracy will have a stabilizing effect. Voting in the assembly should be conducted publicly rather than through a secret ballot so that the “petit peuple” can follow the lead of “les principaux.” Moreover the voting power of the poorest citizens should be diluted. Thus Servius Tullius acted wisely in dividing the citizenry of Rome into one hundred ninety three centuries and relegating the poorest citizens to the lowest centuries (EL, II, 2; Romains, VIII). Similarly beneficial was the decision of Solon to divide the citizens of Athens into four classes based on a census of property in order to exclude the poorest from eligibility for executive offices (EL, II, 2). Above all, citizens in democracies must obey the laws and “run when the magistrate calls them” (“courent lorsque le magistrat les appelle”, EL, V, 7). Since the people are extremely unlikely to limit their own powers, there is a clear potential for a version of popular despotism just as threatening to liberty as the despotism of a single ruler. Thus moderate rather than extreme democracy should be the goal. In analyzing Roman political evolution, Montesquieu decried the rise of plebiscitary democracy enabling the plebeians to pass laws on their own authority. This produced “a delirium of liberty” (“un délire de la liberté”) that “shook the very principles of democracy” (“choqua les principes mêmes de la démocratie”, EL, XI, 16).

The Principle and Mores of Democracy

9Montesquieu identifies the activating principle of democracy as political virtue, which he defines as “l’amour des lois et de la patrie” and as “l’amour de l’égalité” and “l’amour de frugalité” (EL, IV, 5; V, 3). As is evident in the tale of the Troglodytes in his Lettres persanes (10-14) and is re-emphasized in numerous texts in L’Esprit des lois, a political society based on virtue requires that citizens pursue the common interest. The English presented a sorry spectacle in their attempts at democracy under Cromwell since ambition rather than virtue motivated their actions (EL, III, 3). Producing virtuous citizens requires special emphasis on education instilling selfless love of the republic. Virtue “est un renoncement à soi-même, qui est toujours une chose très pénible” (EL, IV, 5). Moreover, political virtue is substantially reinforced by moral virtue since “the less we can satisfy our individual passions, the more we participate in the general ones” (“moins nous pouvons satisfaire nos passions particulières, plus nous nous livrons aux générales”). Thus monks display strong attachment to the very monastic orders that rule their “ordinary passions” out of bounds (EL, V, 2).

10Contrary to the anarchical image of democracy presented in Plato’s Republic, Montesquieu depicted the democratic state as animated by mœurs, amour de l’ordre, and vertu (EL, VIII, 2). Rather than encouraging democratic citizens to act on personal whims or desires, democracy requires a sense of hierarchy based on deference of slaves to masters, children to parents, wives to husbands, and citizens to the senate and other constituted authorities (EL, VIII, 2). Liberation of the human spirit was clearly not the goal of the democratic state as Montesquieu conceived it. Unlike numerous contemporary and later writers, he did not use the term “democracy” to convey a sense of impending emancipation from pre-existing shackles. Rather than envisioning democracy as a vehicle for achieving liberation from institutional and psychological constraints, he considered the harsh and singular institutions developed in ancient Sparta as best suited to achieving a stable democracy. Subjection of individual wills to state needs is required since democracies rely on moral authority rather than force to produce allegiance to law.

11It is useful to remember that the democratic states of antiquity on which Montesquieu based his model had been veritable armed camps constantly ready for war with rival city-states. The democratic citizen did not pay a mercenary to fill his place on the field of battle. He stood always ready to serve his country in war. And if citizens were to be ready at all times to put down their plows and take up shields and spears, they could not live pampered lives immersed in luxury and pleasure. Hence the emphasis Montesquieu placed on gymnastic exercises as part of every democratic citizen’s regimen, and hence the corresponding need for music and homoerotic love to soften souls hardened by such a constant routine emphasizing martial discipline (EL, IV).

12Montesquieu also greatly emphasizes the necessity of preserving ancient customs and morality in democratic states (EL, V, 7) Thus in addition to a Senate “to prepare business” (“pour préparer les affaires”) there should be a council of elders functioning as a dépôt des mœurs, modeled on the Athenian Council of the Areopagus. Whereas the membership of the political senate should change periodically, the members of this council designed “à garder les coutumes anciennes” should be appointed for life (ibid.). Moreover, censors should assist this senate of elders since “they must re-establish in the republic all that has been corrupted, note the languor, judge the negligences, and correct the mistakes, as laws punish crimes” (“il faut qu’ils rétablissent dans la république tout ce qui a été corrumpu, qu’ils notent la tiédeur, jugent les négligences, et corrigent les fautes, comme les lois punissent les crimes”, ibid.). Censors are needed because “it is not only crimes that destroy virtue, but also acts of negligence, mistakes, a certain languor in the love of country, dangerous examples, seeds of corruption” (“ce ne sont pas seulement les crimes qui détruisent la vertu, mais encore les négligences, les fautes, une certain tiédeur dans l’amour de la patrie, des exemples dangereux, des semences de corruption”, EL, V, 19). Montesquieu also strongly emphasizes the importance of preserving the chastity of women in the democratic state. Thus the constitution of Athens very wisely made use of “a specific magistrate who oversaw the conduct of women” (“un magistrat particulier qui veillait sur la conduite des femmes”), though in Greece the “blind vice” that “reigned rampantly” (“régnait d’une manière effrénée”) was not fornication or adultery but homosexuality (EL, VII, 9). The Romans wisely gave husbands authority to judge the conduct of their wives and empowered them to impose penalties for immoral conduct with the stipulation that in grave circumstances the husband would be joined in his act of judging by five of the wife’s relatives (EL, VII,10).

Two Types of Democracy

13Montesquieu distinguished two models of democracy, one military and agricultural and modeled on Sparta, and the other more focused on commerce and modeled on Athens (EL, IV, 5-8; V, 6). Democracies devoted to war readiness “suppose the particular attention of all citizens to each other” (“supposent une attention singulière de tous les citoyens les uns sur les autres”). In such states “a general education may be given, and the whole people raised as a family” (“on peut donner une éducation générale, et élever tout un peuple comme une famille”, EL, IV, 7). Harmony of interests must be carefully cultivated by means of conditions so frugal and equal that when citizens come together to deliberate on the great questions of the day, their views are nearly identical. “As each person is supposed to have the same happiness and the same advantages, should enjoy the same pleasures and conceive the same hopes; something which can be attained only by general frugality” (“Chacun devant y avoir le même bonheur et les mêmes avantages, y doit goûter les mêmes plaisirs, et former les mêmes espérances; chose qu’on ne peut attendre que de la frugalité générale”, V, 3). The citizens of such democracies will likely display “incivility, anger, cruelty” (“la rudesse, la colère, la cruauté”) owing to their constant immersion in gymnastic exercises designed to prepare them for war (EL, IV, 8).

14In democracies of the commercial type, love of democracy, equality, and frugality is compatible with commerce if the citizens themselves engage in commerce rather than employing others to do their work for them. Thus Solon wisely prohibited idleness in Athens and required each citizen to account for how he earned his living. Properly regulated, “the spirit of commerce brings with it that of frugality, economy, moderation, labor, wisdom, tranquility, order and rule” (“l’esprit de commerce entraîne avec soi celui de frugalité, d’économie, de modération, de travail, de sagesse, de tranquillité, d’ordre et de règle”, EL, V, 6). In these republics care must be taken to ensure that the excess of wealth does not destroy the frugal spirit of commerce. Thus profits must be divided in as egalitarian a manner as possible (ibid.)

Extent of Territory

15Since democratic citizens must participate directly in law-making, in choosing magistrates, and in serving on juries, the democratic republic presupposes politics undertaken on the very small scale of the ancient city-state (EL, VIII, 16). A key lesson of Roman history was that expansion of territory erodes both democratic values and democratic institutions. A large republic is likely to include men of substantial wealth incapable of moderation. Moreover, a large republic will require the exercise of governmental power so substantial as to jeopardize liberty (EL, VIII, 16; XII, 18). In addition, in large republics distant provinces will need their own governors, and this will create competing power centers threatening central authority (EL, X, 6). A number of small democracies joined together as a confederate republic can prosper (EL, IX, 1), but a democracy extended beyond narrow territorial limits becomes too large to sustain the democratic ethos and democratic institutions. The uniformity of outlook that democracy requires will almost certainly be dissipated in large republics as a result of the emergence of diverse and heterogeneous interests (EL, VIII, 16).

16The larger the republic, the more problematic the attainment of unity. Territorial expansion erodes civic spirit by making the generals who command the armies more important than the republic they serve. Moreover, expansion necessarily entails the absorption of foreign peoples. Hence citizens will no longer display the “same spirit”, the “same love of freedom”, and the “same hatred of tyranny” (Considérations IX). For the Roman republic, aggrandizement proved disastrous. “The city, torn asunder, no longer constituted a single whole, and, as if one were citizen only by virtue of a sort of fiction, and no longer had the same magistrates, walls, gods, temples, and sepulcres in common, they no longer saw Rome with the same eyes, no longer had the same love of country, and Roman sentiments were no more” (“La ville, déchirée, ne forma plus un tout ensemble, et, comme on n’en était citoyen que part une espèce de fiction, qu’on n’avait plus les mêmes magistrats, les mêmes murailles, les mêmes Dieux, les mêmes temples, les mêmes sepulcures, on ne vit plus Rome des mêmes yeux, on n’eut plus le même amour pour la Patrie, et les sentiments romains ne furent plus”, Considérations, IX) The republic eventually absorbed so many “villes” and “nations” that anarchy reigned in the voting assemblies. “The People’s authority, its laws, itself, became chimerical entities, and such was the anarchy that one could no longer tell whether the People had passed an ordinance or had not” (“L’autorité du Peuple, ses lois, lui-même, devinrent des choses chimériques, et l’anarchie fut telle qu’on ne put plus savoir si le Peuple avait fait une ordonnance, ou s’il ne l’avait point faite”, (Considérations, IX)

17Whereas Machiavelli had reacted to the weakness of Florence by opting for an expansionary model of republicanism, Montesquieu clearly favored those republics Machiavelli had identified as made for preservation. Whether or not aggression toward one’s neighbors results in victory, all attempts at expansion will result in destabilizing change. Therefore Montesquieu concluded that “a wise republic must risk nothing that might expose it to good or ill fortune: the only good to which it must aspire is the survival of the state” (“une république sage ne doit rien hasarder qui l’expose à la bonne ou à la mauvaise fortune: le seul bien auquel elle doit aspirer, c’est à la perpétuité de son État”, (Considérations, IX).


18If democracies must be small, they need not be free of conflict. In fact, tensions between democratic and aristocratic elements will strengthen rather than weaken the republic since the extremes of both democracy and aristocracy can be avoided. Thus contrary to what became an obsession during the French Revolution to enthrone the general will and condemn all sources of division, Montesquieu concluded that “as a general rule, every time everyone seems tranquil in a state that calls itself a republic, one may be assured that there is no freedom there” (“pour règle générale, toutes les fois qu’on verra tout le monde tranquille dans un Etat qui se donne le nom de république, on peut être assuré que la liberté n’y est pas”, Considérations, IX). “What is called a union in a political body” he continued, “is something highly equivocal: true unity is a unity of harmony that makes all its parts, however opposed they appear, come together for the general good of society, as dissonances, in music, come together in the overall accord” (“Ce qu’on appelle union dans un corps politique […] est une chose très équivoque: la vraie est une union d’harmonie, qui fait que toutes les parties, quelque opposées qu’elles nous paraissent, concourent au bien général de la société; comme des dissonances, dans la musique, concourent à l’accord total” (Considérations, IX). In the same vein he remarked, “un gouvernement libre” is “toujours agité” (Considérations VIII). There are limits, however, to how much conflict a republic can endure. Political divisions may become so deep seated that individuals will have so little in common that all sense of “le bien général de la Societé” vanishes. When that happens, “union” will no longer be attainable (Considérations IX).


19Montesquieu was convinced of the impermanence of all political constructions. Therefore, in his account of Rome’s rise and decline Montesquieu identified the ability of a government to correct the abuses that will inevitably seep into its fabric as the critical determinant of its longevity (Considérations, VIII). Democracies are at particular risk when they experience either too much or too little equality. Too little equality will transform a democracy into aristocracy, and too much equality will cause magistrates, senators, fathers, husbands, masters, and elders to cease to enjoy the respect they deserve, which in turn will weaken mœurs, l’ordre, and vertu (EL, VIII, 2). The political virtue on which democracies depend will also be weakened when those wielding authority seek to retain their positions through bribery rather than merit. Should this transpire, all capacity for good and honest work is radically undermined (EL, VIII, 2).


20Montesquieu’s depiction of the nature of democracy as requiring painful self-renunciation to achieve the elevation of state needs over personal needs and his emphasis on a form of direct democracy practicable only in tiny city-states contributed to the invention of a new form of representative republicanism by his American readers of the Founding period who sharply distinguished between the pure democracy of classical times, as depicted by Montesquieu, and a pluralistic, interest-group republicanism designed on a federalist model dividing power between state and national power centers (Madison, Federalist 10). While rejecting direct democracy as a model, numerous theorists of the American Founding nonetheless considered political virtue a necessary component of all governments, ancient or modern (Wood Passim).

21Amidst very different circumstances, similar assumptions were made regarding the need for political virtue in revolutionary France. Thus Robespierre famously remarked in his report from the Comité de Salut Public on 5 February 1794 (17 pluviôse An II) that “the fundamental principal of democratic or popular government” (“le principe fondamental du gouvernement démocratique ou populaire”) is “the public virtue that worked such wonders in Greece and Rome, and which will produce much more astonishing wonders in republican France” (“la vertu publique, qui opéra tant de prodiges dans la Grèce et dans Rome, et qui doit en produire de bien plus étonnants dans la France républicaine”, Robespierre, p. 544) Unlike Montesquieu, Robespierre concluded that political virtue should be the driving force of modern French politics, supplemented in revolutionary times by terreur (Robespierre, p. 550). The horrendous consequences of this turn to terror are indelibly inscribed on our collective consciousness and now serve to remind us of the validity of Montesquieu’s clear warning that democratic states are as prone to abusing power and lapsing into despotism as other forms of rule. Montesquieu did not consider the democratic constitution as by its own nature free since not all democracies will properly partition power to preclude its despotic use (EL, XI, 4).

22The importance of Montesquieu’s discussion of democracy has extended well beyond his own times. Even following the Revolution and its excesses, thoroughly critiqued by Benjamin Constant in his explanations of why ancient models should not be imitated in modern times, political virtue continued to be eulogized in France. During the Third Republic the academic writer Paul Janet called Montesquieu’s stress on political virtue “an axiom of political science.” Without virtue, Janet concluded, the liberty afforded by democracy will degenerate into “anarchy and oppression” (Janet, p. 468-470). Closer to our town time, Marc Bloch, contemplating the defeat of France in World War II and in search of an explanation, repeated Montesquieu’s pronouncement that “[a] state founded on the people needs a mainspring: and that mainspring is virtue” (Lowenthal, p. 259, quoting Bloch, p. 176).

In Retrospect.

23Strictly speaking, modern states may be termed democracies only because we have changed the definition of the term. Whereas in Montesquieu’s usage democracy was a form of government vesting power in all adult males of citizen rank, empowering them to directly participate in the making of laws, the selection of magistrates, and the business of jury courts, we now use the term much more loosely to refer to governments where citizens possess voting rights and fundamental freedoms but do not participate in law-making. Only through such a definitional change have we been able to render the ancient concept of direct democracy relevant to modern times. But the truncation of human personality that accompanies the exclusion of nearly all citizens from the conduct of real political business was already palpable in Montesquieu’s day. Thus he marveled at the achievements of the ancients who were such authentic citizens as to seem a breed apart. The intense fraternity achieved through equal and self-sacrificing citizenship cannot be rekindled in large national states where active political roles must be restricted to the few. The sense of belonging to a vibrant community of committed citizens now arises only amidst periodic crises that rivet the public’s attention on the same concern or issue. Thus politics is no longer perceived as the noble and shared pursuit of all citizens, and is more commonly considered something degrading and corrupt, involving back room deal-making and manipulation of public opinion. It is little wonder, then, that Montesquieu’s depiction of classical democracy as an ideal type will continue to reward and fascinate his many readers.


I. Texts

James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, The Federalist Papers, ed. Isaac Kramnick, London, 1987.

Maximilien Robespierre, Œuvres, ed. Laponneraye, 3 vols., 1840, republished New York, 1970.

II. Studies

Paul Janet, Histoire de la science politique dans ses rapports avec la morale, Paris: Félix Alcan, 1872, 2 vol.

Marc Bloch, Strange Defeat, trans. G. Hopkins, New York, 1949 (first edition, Paris: Atlas, 1946). 

Robert Shackleton, Montesquieu: A Critical Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961.

David Lowenthal, “Montesquieu and the Classics: Republican Government in The Spirit of the Laws”, Ancients and Moderns: Essays in the Tradition of Political Philosophy in Honor of Leo Strauss, Joseph Cropsey ed., New York: Basic Books, 1964.

Elizabeth Rawson, The Spartan Tradition in European Thought, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969.

René Duhac, “Montesquieu et la démocratie: une espèce de la république?”, Cahiers internationaux de sociologie, nouvelle série (January-June 1970), p. 32-52.

Neal Wood, “The Value of Asocial Sociability: Contributions of Machiavelli, Sidney, and Montesquieu”, Machiavelli and the Nature of Political Thought, Martin Fleisher ed., New York: Atheneum, 1972, p. 282-307.

Nannerl O. Keohane, “Virtuous Republics and Glorious Monarchies: Two Models in Montesquieu’s Political Thought », Political Studies, 20/4 (1972), p. 383-396.

Catherine Larrère, “Les typologies des gouvernements chez Montesquieu”, Textes et documents, Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines de Clermont-Ferrand, 1979, p. 87-103, reprinted in Revue Montesquieu 5 (2001), p. 157-172.

David W. Carrithers, “Montesquieu, Jefferson, and the Fundamentals of Republican Theory”, The French-American Review, 4 (1982), p. 160-188.

Paul A. Rahe, Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Jennifer Tolbert Roberts, Athens on Trial: the Antidemocratic Tradition in Western Thought, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Bertrand Binoche, Introduction à “De l’esprit des lois” de Montesquieu, Paris: PUF, 1998.

David W. Carrithers, “Democratic and Aristocratic Republics: Ancient and Modern”, Montesquieu’s Science of Politics: Essays on “The Spirit of Laws”, David W. Carrithers, Michael A. Mosher, and Paul A. Rahe ed., Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002, p. 109-158.

Paul A. Rahe, “Forms of Government: Structure, Principle, Object, and Aim”, ibid., p. 69-108.

Céline Spector, Montesquieu: pouvoirs, richesses et sociétés, Paris, PUF, 2004.

Céline Spector, “Montesquieu: Critique of Republicanism?”, Republicanism: History, Theory and Practice, David Weinstock and Christian Nadeau ed., London: Routledge, 2004, p. 38-53.

Bibliographical reference

Carrithers David W. , « Democracy », dans Dictionnaire Montesquieu [online], directed by Catherine Volpilhac-Auger, ENS Lyon, September 2013. URL :