Both Madison and Rousseau, like most political thinkers of the period,are influenced by Baron de Montesquieu’s The Spirit of theLaws (1748), which is one of the founding texts of modernpolitical theory. Though Montesquieu’s treatise belongs to thetradition of liberalism in political theory, given his scientificapproach to social, legal and political systems, his influence extendsbeyond this tradition. Montesquieu argues that the system oflegislation for a people varies appropriately with the particularcircumstances of the people. He provides specific analysis of howclimate, fertility of the soil, population size, et cetera, affectlegislation. He famously distinguishes three main forms ofgovernments: republics (which can either be democratic oraristocratic), monarchies and despotisms. He describes leadingcharacteristics of each. His argument that functional democraciesrequire the population to possess civic virtue in high measure, avirtue that consists in valuing public good above private interest,influences later Enlightenment theorists, including both Rousseau andMadison. He describes the threat of factions to which Madison andRousseau respond in different (indeed opposite) ways. He provides thebasic structure and justification for the balance of political powersthat Madison later incorporates into the U.S. Constitution.


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