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Mémoire et amnésie : les fondateurs de la République américaine, Montesquieu et le modèle politique romain

Abstract : Searching for a new identity, the founders of the American Republic started ont by identifying with Rome and its heroes such as Cincinnatus, Brutus and Publicola. But the Roman model, rediscovered by reading Montesquieu, was problematic : the Republic was possible only on a small territory. Some critics of the 1787 federal constitution, e.g. Brutus, seized upon Montesquieu's arguments to discredit the work of the Philadelphia constituents, who reacted by literally turning Montesquieu upside down. The Republic, they claimed, was concevable only on a large territory, within a federal framework. The return to Antiquity advocated by the anti-federalists was absurd and dangerous, especially as the ancient city knew nothing of the great founding principle of the American Republic : the representative regime. That is probably why the ideologue Destutt de Tracy, Montesquieu's toughest critic and the impassioned defender of the "refusal of Rome ", was elevated to the rank of America's "philosopher " by Jefferson, his translater and admirer.
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Denis Lacorne. Mémoire et amnésie : les fondateurs de la République américaine, Montesquieu et le modèle politique romain. Revue Francaise de Science Politique, Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1992, 42 (3), pp.363-374. ⟨hal-01009649v2⟩

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