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Republican Readings Of Montesquieu: The Esprit Des Lois In The Dutch Republic

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Chapter Summary

In the Dutch Republic, even the dead discussed Montesquieu. This chapter explores the topic of Montesquieu’s Dutch impact and thereby improves our understanding of the development of Dutch political thought in the later eighteenth century. It first discusses the formal reception of the Esprit des Lois and some of the interpretative problems that inevitably arise in any attempt to study the impact of a complex political treatise. Several modern commentators have justly observed that while Montesquieu’s general argument in the Esprit des Lois was full of ambiguity, his treatment of republics was especially so. The chapter then deals with the ways in which the Dutch interpreted Montesquieu’s masterpiece in the light of their own republican experience. Finally, it provides a sketch of the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary uses of Montesquieu in the years of political upheaval after 1780.

Keywords: Dutch Republic; Esprit des Lois; later eighteenth century; Montesquieu



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