The French revolution didn't apply Montesquieu's ideas entirely: Ayatollah Khamenei

January 18th marks the birth anniversary of the French lawyer and philosopher Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, referred to as Montesquieu. On this occasion publishes excerpts from Ayatollah Khamenei's speech on Montesquieu and the French revolution:

One requirement for the French Revolution was domestic vigilance, present in French society: it existed beneath the outer peel of their society, the intellectuals could perceive it. I would say the realities of the French society were not influenced by the likes of ideas by Montesquieu and Rousseau, as strongly as these philosophers were influenced by the realities of the French society in their time. One who studies the subject will come to a similar conclusion.

First off, Montesquieu was not even living in France (during his existing years); France underwent certain social realities long before that great explosion in 1789. Many events were happening beneath the outer skin of the French society: it became clear that something phenomenal would occur. The idea of rationality was put forth regarding the issue of freedom. Nevertheless, I would argue that during the French Revolution there might have only been a handful of intellectuals who had this idea of rationality: in the real world, the issue of rationality was not even discussed. The main concept that mattered was freedom; freedom from the shackles of monarchy and the autocratic government, which had dominated them since a few centuries earlier; freedom from the rule of the Bourbons, who had dominated every aspect of the life of the people of France. And, it was not just the court; rather each French aristocrat was a king. What you have heard about Bastille and their prisons was not only limited to those times, the Bastille probably remained unchanged for several centuries. It was a chaotic situation; intellectuals Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu were witness to those conditions. They had the talent to think cautiously, they would reach definite conclusions, and would speak convincingly; their ideas and comments were completely ignored among the French society - where all the action took place.

Finally, no reference was made to the ideas of Montesquieu, Voltaire and others in any of the speeches that luminaries of the time - such as Mirabeau plus others - would deliver. Everything they spoke on was about corruption of the ruling system, its autocracy and related concerns. This was the reality behind the French Revolution.

Ayatollah Khamenei's statements made at the 4th Strategic Thoughts Forum on November 14, 2012