Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Montesquieu and the Despotic Ideas of EuropeAn Interpretation of "The Spirit of the Laws"$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Vickie B. Sullivan

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226482910

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226483078.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 24 July 2021

The Greatness of Machiavelli and the Despotic Disease of His Politics—Both Princely and Republican

The Greatness of Machiavelli and the Despotic Disease of His Politics—Both Princely and Republican

Chapter:
(p.23) Chapter One The Greatness of Machiavelli and the Despotic Disease of His Politics—Both Princely and Republican
Source:
Montesquieu and the Despotic Ideas of Europe
Author(s):

Vickie B. Sullivan

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226483078.003.0002

This chapter examines the few references to Machiavelli in The Spirit of the Laws to reveal the extent and depth of Montesquieu’s engagement with the Florentine thinker. Although Montesquieu equivocally acknowledges his predecessor’s eminent status by calling him a great man, it becomes clear that he attributes to Machiavelli a dangerous political prejudice that has taken root, among other places, in France’s royal family. This chapter makes clear, however, that Montesquieu is no conventional anti-Machiavelli. He finds cause for concern not only in the notorious teachings of The Prince, but also in the severe republicanism that Machiavelli promotes in the Discourses on Livy. Machiavelli’s unreserved admiration for early Rome — including its unchecked accusations, collective judgments, and harsh penalties — blatantly conflicts with the principles of criminal judgment that Montesquieu advances in The Spirit of the Laws. Indeed, Montesquieu associates many of the tenets of Machiavelli’s republicanism with despotic rule. Nowhere is this odious connection more apparent than in Machiavelli’s recommendation of fear as a political instrument. This chapter also expounds Montesquieu’s cure for Machiavellianism in his proposal for a middle way that is consonant with both political liberty and true greatness.

Keywords:   Montesquieu, Niccolò Machiavelli, despotism, republicanism, tyranny, political liberty, Machiavellianism, ancient Rome, Cesare Borgia

Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.