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Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, was the first great modern conservative. He argued that the aristocracy Voltaire would decry protected the state from the absolutist despot (or monarchy) and from the despotism of the many (or anarchy). His was a purely political and rational defense, conveniently non-economic. Montesquieu's motto was, "Liberty is the stepchild of privilege." This allowed Montesquieu to defend the constitutional monarch as he claimed it was governed by honor. Montesquieu argued that the monarchs could become too passionate and the commons were too big and too egalitarian to rule properly. However, he portrayed the aristocracy as having and maintaining the honor that kept monarchies constitutional. But, he also warned that the aristocracy is doomed when it becomes self-interested, arrogant and parasitic.

Montesquieu's most radical work situated the three French classes into a "checks and balances" (A termed he coined.) of three sovereignties; the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the commons. Montesquieu saw two types of powers existing; the sovereign and the administrative. The administrative powers were the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary. These powers were to be divided up amongst the three classes so that each would have a power over the other. This is so radical because it completely eliminates the clergy from the estates and because it erases any last vestige of a feudalistic structure.