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And with ingenuous frankness, M. All they amount to is that the Rights granted by the Bishop are absolute and indefeasible; that no disuse, however prolonged, can bar or weaken their validity. As a monument of historical interest, this leaves nothing to be desired. Its importance in the history of political theory is another matter. The sentiments of the Bishop are admirable and surprising. But they are far from containing even the germs of a political philosophy.

It would be as reasonable to trace the theories of Burke—and why not of Paine also? Yet even in this madness there is a grain of method. Strike out the specific Charter; put in its place the free institutions, the keen civic life, of Geneva as a whole; and it is hard to set any bounds to the impression which all this made upon the thought, and still more upon the imagination, of Rousseau 3.

His own faith in freedom, we cannot doubt, was largely inspired by the memories Edition: current; Page: [ 6 ] of his childhood. There were other moments, however, when he felt that the picture so drawn was too good to be true; that his ideal was not to be realised in the city of his birth. Deep as was the spell Geneva had cast upon his imagination, that of Rome and Sparta was still deeper. It is to them, even more than Geneva, that we must look for the practical type of his ideal.

Above all, it must not be forgotten that to him, as to his master Plato, the ideal owes nothing more than its first suggestion to the facts of history and experience; that it is of its essence to have taken shape in the world of reason and of the idea. And no theory which neglects it can be other than irrelevant and misleading. Against the theory attributed to Herr von Gierke no such fatal objection is to be brought. To plead that it was deeply influenced by the Politics of Althusius is nothing more than in a high degree improbable. What are the points which the two treatises have in common?

Broadly speaking, they may be reduced to two: the doctrine of Sovereignty 1 , and the doctrine of Contract. Both ideas are to be found in Althusius. Both lie at the very core of the political theory of Rousseau. The only question left is: What is the likelihood that the Contrat social owed anything to a book so little known—and it must be added, so uninspiring—as Politica?

As for the doctrine of Sovereignty, it was to be found far more trenchantly stated in De Cive and Leviathan. The sovereignty of Hobbes, it may be objected, is the sovereignty of a despot; that of Rousseau is the sovereignty of the community at large. The objection has no weight. The idea of absolute sovereignty, once granted, may be applied as easily in the one direction as in the other. And even if Rousseau had not the wits to make the application for himself—an assumption which seems to underlie a good deal of what is written about him—he would have found it laid ready to his hand by Hobbes.

The sovereignty of Leviathan, it is again and again insisted for the sake of appearance, if for no other reason , may be just as well a collective, as a personal, sovereignty. More than that; the personal sovereignty itself is no more than a derivative sovereignty: a sovereignty conferred by the unanimous call of the community as a whole. There is perhaps no need to suppose that Rousseau drew the idea of sovereignty from any source other than his own speculative genius.

If there is, it is idle to look further than the masterful reasoning of Hobbes. In the case of the Contract, there is, if possible, even less room for hesitation. The doctrine had been in the air for at least the last century and a half. It was impossible for Rousseau to open a single book about such matters, without stumbling upon the idea of a Social Contract at the very threshold.

He found it under one form in Locke, under another in Hobbes; under one in Grotius, under another in Spinoza. It is absurd to go beyond these, the most obvious sources of suggestion. Of all the Contractualists, however, the one who is least likely to have influenced the argument of the Contrat social is Althusius. And that for a very simple reason. The Contract of Rousseau, like that of all the other writers mentioned, is essentially a contract between individuals for the formation of the State.

That of Althusius—and here lies his main claim to originality—is, in the first instance, a contract for the formation of a smaller unit: Edition: current; Page: [ 8 ] the clan, the tribe, the village, or the city. It is only by a later application of the same principle that several of these smaller units combine for the formation of the sovereign community: that which alone can properly be called the State. And in the formation of the sovereign community, the individual, as such, has no voice. It is a contract not between individuals, but corporations 1.

Now, if there is any form of the Contract that must have been instinctively repellent to Rousseau, it is surely this. And this is a result which, rightly or wrongly, Rousseau regarded as fatal to Sovereignty: as contrary, therefore, to the first principles of the State. The truth is that the ideas of Althusius left little, if any, mark upon their time.

Had it been otherwise, the course of political speculation might have been very different from what it actually was. The abstract theories which for two centuries swept all before them might never have been heard of. The historical method—in which the Politics of Althusius may be regarded as a first, and very imperfect, essay—might have been worked out a century before Montesquieu.

It was by one of the most distinguished masters of that method that the work of Althusius was rescued from the long neglect which had befallen it. And it is not altogether an accident that the same writer should be among the first of his nation to allow some measure of Right to subordinate corporations, as against the absolute sovereignty of the State. But such methods and ideas as, with some charity, Althusius may be taken to stand for, were entirely alien to the dominant tendencies of his own century and of that which followed. It was only with the reaction against the French Revolution that Montesquieu himself came fairly by his own.

Much of the Contrat social , as we have seen, was profoundly influenced by Esprit des lois. But the very last point in which Rousseau would have followed Montesquieu is his vindication of the Parlements, and other subordinate corporations, against the absolute sovereignty of the State. The real masters of Rousseau are to be found not in the by-paths, but in the beaten track. The wandering fires, for which the learned are always on the watch, had no charm for Mm. It was by the fixed lights whose worth is owned by all men, that he instinctively chose to guide his ourse.

Of his debt to these great writers—a debt, in the first two cases, at least as much of rejection as acceptance—enough has been said in the General Introduction. Repetition would be vain 2. The only point now left for consideration is the impression Edition: current; Page: [ 10 ] made by the Contrat social upon the first generation of its readers.

A lengthy book might be written upon this subject. And all that can be done here is to gather a few examples, which may be fairly typical of the rest. And, as has been urged more than once, it represents no more than one side of the truth. It takes into account only the sweeping abstractions of the first Book and a hall. It ignores the qualifications with which they are hedged in during the remainder of the treatise.

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It reckons with the position which Rousseau had reached in the earlier years of his enquiry. It disregards the change of front which, even in the act of writing, he was led to make, perhaps half unconsciously, under the influence of Montesquieu. Our next example is more truculent in character. Tronchin, who presumably drafted the decree, would have been hard pressed to justify its terms in a Court of Law. In the Lettres de la Montagne Rousseau demonstrates this with the grave irony of which he was a master 3. Yet, if tried on the broader principles proper to speculative discussion, the charge can hardly be gainsaid.

The Edition: current; Page: [ 11 ] opening words of the treatise are a trumpet-blast of insurrection. They summon all nations to examine the title-deeds of their Government; and if its principles are not those of the Contract, to rise, wherever success may be hoped for, and throw off their chains. Here again, no doubt, the opening appeal is softened by a host of subsequent qualifications.

The first formal criticism of the Contrat social is probably that which appeared two years later, under the pompous title:. It is, for the most part, a sensible, but rather a drab, performance: a re-issue of the pure milk of the Gospel according to Locke, with perhaps a dash of Voltaire thrown in for the closing chapter la religion civile. Like many other readers, even of the present day, he seems to have regarded the Contrat social as a plea for unbridled individualism; and his criticisms are largely devoted to an assertion of the rights of Government—particularly of monarchical Government, in admiration for which he joins hands with Voltaire and the Physiocrats 2 —as against the claims of the individual.

But when he comes to the crucial chapters—those on the Contract and the Civil State—he displays an unwonted flash of insight. He realises that he is face to face with an extreme form of collectivism. This, however, is almost the only gleam. And without any further visitings of speculative Edition: current; Page: [ 13 ] insight, he pursues his level way to the end. Our last witness speaks for a generation later. He interprets the mind of the Revolution as it was during the happier period which preceded the Invasion and the Reign of Terror; and he is full of the large-hearted humanity, which was the noblest quality of the time.

All that he says of Rousseau is coloured by the hopes and fears, the aspirations and resentments, of the crisis through which France was passing; and he is less concerned with the speculative ideas of the Contrat social than with the light they might be made to throw upon the practical problems of the day. On all these accounts, his book is one of exceptional interest and deserves to be better known than it is 2.

Mercier has the wits to see that the contradiction is, to a large extent, more apparent than real: that the Discours is, in fact, more of a satire than a serious statement of political faith. His aim was to ennoble the nature of man by attacking civilised society. The truth is that his strong desire was to see it more civilised yet. For it may be that civilised society will only assert its superiority over the state of nature, when man in society shall have reached the highest point of perfection to which he can attain 3.

In face of the Contrat social itself Mercier seems to have found himself both attracted and repelled. The drastic subordination of the individual to the community appalled him at least as much as it moved him to admiration. He may have felt its necessity; but it was against the individualist and humanitarian tradition in which he had been reared.

And there is much else in the treatise—for instance, its socialistic elements 2 —from which he deliberately turns his eyes. This, however, does not prevent him from eagerly accepting the doctrine of civic virtue—the necessity which lies upon each citizen of making vast sacrifices for the common good—in which he rightly saw one of the cardinal principles of the book 3. His only complaint is that Rousseau should have confined, or seemed to confine, the capacity for such devotion to Geneva and a few other favoured communities; and that, in general, he should have exalted the small State at the expense of the large 4.

In all this, Mercier is typical of his time: Edition: current; Page: [ 16 ] a time in which the fundamental issues of the Revolution had not yet sharply defined themselves, and men divided their allegiance, as indeed Rousseau himself had done, between two contradictory ideals 1. It is only when they bear closely upon practice—above all, upon the practical problems of the Revolution—that his blood is stirred. Thus there are several criticisms scattered about his book which are clearly inspired by the familiar distrust of abstractions.

His objections, however, never take this general form. They are directed—sometimes with much justice—against particular doctrines, or omissions, of his author. The truth is that every Government is mixed , and the name it bears never answers exactly to the facts. From all this we may conclude that Mercier was not a little baffled by the Contrat social : repelled, on the one hand, by its unflinching assertion of abstract principles, the consequences of which he was either unable to calculate, or shrank from in alarm; drawn to it, on the other hand, as by a strong magnet, thanks to the undaunted faith which breathed through it, thanks to the new hope with which it had fired the hearts of his countrymen, and through them of the whole world 2.

It may well be that, in the dawn of the Revolution, this was the dominant feeling of France towards the masterpiece of Rousseau. Pass on a year or two, and, as all Europe has reason to remember, it was very different. But the last name is the noblest of all, proclaiming as it does a yet higher degree of intelligence. When, in virtue of this faculty, man strikes a blow for the regeneration of the world, he will not all at once attain perfection; but he will certainly reduce the sum of his miseries. Every reform is a step towards greater happiness. Meditate carefully all the writings of Rousseau.

He never ceased to say to man: Use the noblest Edition: current; Page: [ 18 ] privilege thou hast! Be a reformer! But Mercier was not wrong in believing it to be the spirit. If Mercier found himself at a loss what to make of the Contrat social , the men who controlled the destinies of France a few years later had no such hesitations. To them the message of Rousseau was as plain as day, and it was a creed to be enforced at the point of the sword.

The one thing they saw in the Contrat social was the doctrine of Sovereignty. They asserted it without one of the qualifications with which Rousseau had surrounded it; and they applied it with a ruthlessness against which he had protested in advance 3. Their principles were therefore a mere travesty of those actually put forward by their idol; and, in the loose verdict of popular opinion, their action has done more than anything else to bring contempt upon his name. Not the least curious of the marks left by Rousseau upon the thought of the eighteenth century has been reserved till last.

It is his influence upon the great age of German Philosophy. As was to be expected, this told in two opposite directions. In the earlier writings of Fichte, it is the source of an exaggerated individualism In his later writings, it is distorted into a theory which goes near to forestall the deification of the State, afterwards elaborated by Hegel 4. Kant, a more faithful disciple, eschews all such perversions. The idea of natural Law, as governing the state Edition: current; Page: [ 19 ] of nature and providing moral guidance for the individual, is zealously furbished up 1 ; it is conceived as extending to social rights, in particular that of Property 2.

And all this in behalf of a Revolution which, at the time when Fichte wrote, was coming more and more to rest upon principles exactly the reverse of those put forward in its defense. In the very next year, however, there are unmistakable signs that a reaction against individualism, and against Rousseau as its alleged champion, had already set in 3.

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The work of Kant, it is hardly necessary to say, betrays no such vacillation. The influence of the Contrat social is manifest on every page of the Rechtslehre 5. It is the influence, however, not of the opening chapters, but of those which proclaim the civilising and purifying mission of the State. The Contract is no longer, even in semblance, a guarantee of rights. That the Rechtslehre contains no traces of individualism, it would be ridiculous to maintain.

Edition: current; Page: [ 20 ] But the debt to Rousseau is no less apparent on this side than on the other. It is admitted by Kant himself in the glowing tribute which he paid to the great moralist in a comparatively early Fragment. And there is no reason to think that he ever went back on the judgment which he then passed. Such were the fortunes of the Contrat social during the first generation after it was published. With the advent of Napoleon, they entered upon a new phase, which lies beyond our scope 2.

Mais ne nous expliquera-t-on jamais ce mot? Ainsi ma question primitive revient toujours. Mais un peuple, pourquoi se vend-il? On veut toujours son bien, mais on ne le voit pas toujours. Prononcer ni sur un homme ni sui un fait. Tout homme a droit de risquer sa propre vie pour la conserver. Il faudrait des Dieux pour donner des lois aux hommes 2. La plupart des peuples, ainsi que des hommes 1 , ne sont dociles que dans leur jeunesse; ils deviennent incorrigibles en vieillissant.

Au contraire, occupez-vous de riches plaines et des coteaux fertiles? La seconde relation est celle des membres entre eux, ou avec le Corps entier. Alors, le sujet restant toujours un, le rapport du souverain augmente en raison du nombre des citoyens. Le Gouvernement est en petit ce que le Corps politique qui le renferme est en grand. Donc, plus les magistrats sont nombreux, plus le Gouvernement est faible. Au reste, je ne parle ici que de la force relative du Gouvernement, et non de sa rectitude. Mais comment compter la multitude de circonstances qui peuvent fournir des exceptions? Il ne faut point multiplier en vain les ressorts, ni faire avec vingt mille hommes ce que cent hommes choisis peuvent faire encore mieux.

Nam utilissimus idem ac brevissimus bonarum malarumque rerum delectus, cogitare quid aut nolueris sub alio principe, aut volueris 1. Dans tous les Gouvernements du monde, la personne publique consomme et ne produit rien. Du travail de ses membres. En Sicile, il ne faut que gratter la terre; en Angleterre, que de soins pour la labourer!

Plus on approche de la ligne, plus les peuples vivent de peu. Ainsi tyran et usurpateur sont deux mots parfaitement synonymes. Pourquoi donc porte-t-on tant de respect aux anciennes lois? Faut-il marcher au combat? Faut-il aller au Conseil? Mais voyons si cette opinion est soutenable. Au lieu de trois tribus il en fit quatre, chacune desquelles occupait une des collines de Rome et en portait le nom. Il doubla aussi les trois anciennes centuries de cavalerie, et y en ajouta douze autres, mais toujours sous les anciens noms: moyen simple et judicieux, par lequel il acheva de distinguer le corps des chevaliers de celui du peuple, sans faire murmurer ce dernier.

Pour juger de ces diverses formes, il suffit de les comparer. Ils firent le raisonnement de Caligula 2 ; et alors ils raisonnaient juste. Ils laissaient aux vaincus leurs Dieux comme ils leur laissaient leurs lois. Il y a donc deux puissances, deux souverains, en Angleterre et en Russie, tout comme ailleurs. Telles furent toutes les religions des premiers peuples, auxquelles on peut donner le nom de droit divin civil ou positif.

Telle est la religion des Lamas, telle est celle des Japonais, tel est le Christianisme romain. Tout cela est fort bien ; mais voyons plus loin. Je le nie.

On me citera les croisades. Elle rentre dans les cultes que nous avons exclus.

Mais tout cela forme un nouvel objet trop vaste pour ma courte vue. It contains in a Note at the end, p. Grand Dieu! AU are in the British Museum. It is one of the few valuable things in that rather pretentions work. Doubt has sometimes been thrown upon the truth of the story he tells above. But there is no good reason for disbelieving it. Rousseau was in the habit of giving copies of his unpublished works to friends. And it is hard to believe that he invented the whole story.

But this would appear to be a gross exaggeration. Hume 5. But political panio will account for much. It may be hoped that the friend in question was not du Peyrou. Considering his scrupulous fidelity, it is hardly likely. What in the original was a strongly collectivist theory has taken an individualist varnish in the abstract.

Yet scratch off the varnish, and the collectivist theory is still there; if only in the formula of the Contract, which is repeated word for word from the longer treatise and which implicitly contains the germs of the whole theory, as there subsequently developed. It remains true that the difference of tone between the abstract and the original must have struck every reader. Space forbids a detailed examination of the question.


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All that can be done here is to indicate the lines upon which such a reconciliation might be attempted, and the limits within which it must be confined. The former discrepancy is the more deep-reaching of the two; and it is that with which we are principally concerned. There are two qualifications, in particular, which it is essential to observe. From the first moment to the last he is under tutors and governors.

And these, with as much concealment as may be, are ceaselessly busy in guiding his steps by the accumulated experience of the world ; by the moral code of Christendom, more particularly of Protestant Christendom; or, to put the matter in the way most favourable to the individualist contention, by the pure spirit of the Gospel which, though fully embodied in no ecclesiastical or civil institution, is yet struggling to express itself, more or less imperfectly, in all.

He is not less, but more, jealously guarded—not less, but more, closely surrounded by positive influences, themselves the creation of a long past—than the child of every-day experience. But whether Rousseau himself was aware of this, it is impossible to say. With the qualification which follows it is a different matter. This was, beyond question, made deliberately, and with a full acceptance of at least the most obvious of the consequences it entails. It is brought forward explicitly at the moment when childhood passes, and the youth stands upon the threshold of manhood. Before this moment, Rousseau insists, the life of the child has been purely sensitive and outward.

Now, for the first time, it becomes—or rather, is capable of becoming—inward and moral. No doubt, even before this turning-point, there are seeds of instincts—desire for our own well-being, sympathy with the sufferings of others—which, when the time comes, may be transformed into the full growth of a conscious, moral activity. But until that time comes, they exist merely in germ. They are not to be fostered, they cannot be converted into guiding principles of action, unless by the light of reason and experience.

And the child has no store of the one; nor, if he had, that power of using it which is conferred only by the other. But, at the first, they are little better than blank forms. So far, the argument is not inconsistent with a purely individualist theory of Ethics. Can the same be said of the setting in which it stands? We have seen that the tutor is about the path and bed of the child, guiding him, secretly but none the less surely, by the hoarded wisdom of the past; ceaselessly preparing the soil, we must now add, for the growth of the seeds which nature has sown; shaping the reason, so far as may be forestalling the experience, by which alone they can be ripened.

But his task does not end here. Throughout youth and early manhood, he has need to be yet more watchful than before: still training the reason and building the character of his pupil; still ministering the experience which is likely to prove most helpful to his growth, at the time and in the measure which his own prudence and foresight may suggest.

He is now more than ever an earthly Providence to his charge. Thus, in the interest of the individual himself, Rousseau is prepared to make the largest sacrifice of individuality. Or, to put the case more truly, the individuality which he values is not that of raw nature, but of nature trained and disciplined by unflagging watchfulness: the watchfulness in the first instance of the tutor; then, the habit once implanted, of the individual himself. In the Contrat social , it is the Lawgiver and the State.

But the difference is more in appearance than reality. And, at bottom, the Tutor is hardly a less discordant element in the individualist scheme of things than the Lawgiver or the State. The miracles that he works may never be openly avowed. But they are none the less startling, because they are concealed. The other discrepancy between the two treatises is of less moment. But it demands a few words of explanation. In the treatise on Education, the apparent assumption is that the individual lives his life without reference to the State.

Yet look more closely, and we shall see that, here again, the contradiction is less absolute than we had instinctively assumed. It is enough if, in the midst of the social whirlpool, he refuses to let himself be swept away by the opinions or passions of other men 4. These modifications on each side serve in no slight degree to reduce the distance between the extremes with which we started. But when the most has been made of them, it would be idle to deny that a gap is still left which it is impossible to bridge over. And the contradiction is rooted in the inmost temper of the author.

A stern assertor of the State upon the one hand, a fiery champion Edition: current; Page: [ ] of the individual upon the other, he could never bring himself wholly to sacrifice the one ideal to the other. He serves each in turn with uncompromising fidelity. It is seldom that he makes any effort to reconcile the discrepancy; not often, that he so much as deigns to notice it. And it may well be that in this very discrepancy is the surest sign of his wisdom. The contradiction is in the nature of things, as well as in his temper and his writings. It is the first duty of every community to give the largest possible play to both elements in practice, Is it less the duty of the philosopher to find room for both in theory 1 ;?

Quel est ce but? Que signifie cela? Alors le concert est impossible. Voil la citoyenne. Nos mesures sont les lois politiques de chaque pays. Ainsi, le sujet restant toujours un, le rapport du souverain augmente en raison du nombre des citoyens. Cela posse : nous supposerons le Gouvernement entre les mains d un seul homme. Enfin, il peut concentrer tout le Gouvernement entre les mains d un magistrat unique.

Vous faites donc messieurs, de vos despotes autant de sages. Mon Dieu! Je puis me tromper, et vous pouvez me convaincre, mais non pas me persuader. Atheists are here tolerated, unless when they attempt to force their opinion upon others ; that is, unless when they are themselves intolerant. In the Chapter on Civil Religion , their doctrine is regarded as, in itself, anti-civic. Sera-t-elle plus parfaite que celle des anges?

Encore une fois, je vous r ponds parce que vous le voulez ; mais je ne vous en estimerai pas moins, pour ne pas penser comme moi.


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The Rough Draft MS. There is, however, a compl te MS, for Lettre v. The text of the following Extract is identical in Eds. Dans le Contrat socia , au chapitre de la religion civile. Voici qui est singulier! Le Christianisme, au contraire, rendant les. Il raisonnait enpolitique ; et moi aussi. The Lettres de la Montagne were written in , 1 in reply to J. The sixth and the three remaining Letters only are published in this collection.

The preceding ones have no immediate bearing upon the political philosophy of Rousseau. Indeed, the Manuscript would seem to have been used by Rousseau for ten years — as the receptacle for most of what he wrote on political subjects. This does not apply to the Contrat social , none of which unless we reckon the fragments just mentioned appears in the small folio under consideration.

Broadly speaking, it may be said that the rough draft contains all that is vital in the final version; and it is arranged in almost identically the same order 3. In two places, passages of some Edition: current; Page: [ ] length were added to the original: one of them 1 partly historical,partly argumentative in tenor; the other purely historical 2. But in the main, the changes are singularly few. The addition, omission or alteration of a phrase, occasionally of a sentence, rarely of a paragraph, here and there almost exhausts the list 3.

And so far as the language is concerned, the changes are almost invariably in the way of simplification. The process is carried out with unflagging vigilance. The Manuscript is, as often as not, a labyrinth of scratchings and corrections. The resuit is probably always an improvement; but the difficulty of deciphering the pages is often very great. The chief variations between the rough draft and the final version are recorded in the notes to the text of this Edition. No one can read the Manuscript without feeling that the whole thing must have been conceived and executed very much.

It is obvious that Rousseau must have made a fair copy of the whole treatise for the press. In the present instance, there is, for the greater part, no manuscript but the brouillon. An exception must be made for the fifth Letter, a fair copy of which is to be found in the Library of Geneva 4. Between this and the printed text there are no variations which might not easily have been made in proof; and it may well be that it was the copy actually used for the press.

It is perhaps worth recording that it contains some caustic criticisms of Formey and other importunate tormentors, which Rousseau wisely struck out from the printed version. The circumstances which gave occasion to the Lettres de la Montagne can be briefly reiated.

He had expected that a protest would be made by at least a small number of the citizens. Nothing, however, was done; and after waiting for nearly a year, he publicly renounced his membership of the State May 12, 3. This step stirred his friends to action. The obstinacy of the Council roused the spirit of the citizens, and the ferment grew from week to week. With the more speculative argument, whether religious or politieal we need not concern ourselves 5.

The legal, or constitutional argument falls under two heads. As for the Contrat socia , it dealt neither with religion, nor with current affairs, but solely with political theory; and for that reason, it fell beyond the purview of the Government altogether 7. Nor did the illegality end here. The author should have been summoned before the Court proof should have been brought that the incriminated writings were really from his hand; an opportunity of defending himself should have been offered him.

And until all these conditions were fulfilled, the Law was bound to treat him as innocent 1. How different was the course actually taken.! He had never been summoned he had never been heard. Without any trial, he was at once assumed to be guilty. His books were burned. A warrant was issued for his arrest and imprisonment. The whole thing both in form and substance, was a violation of all Law and the first principles of Right 2.

It was also a violation of all equity. Treatises of political theory of a like scope with the Contrat social but far more provocative in character, had been actually published at Geneva: for instance Esprit des lois. And the Council never lifted a finger 3. And the Council remained mute 4. It was only when Rousseau was concerned—when he published a vindication of Religion against Atheism, and exalted the constitution of Geneva above that of all other modem States—that the Government interfered 5.

And the Law, which ought to know no respect for persons, was made the instrument of paltry jealousies and resentments. On Edition: current; Page: [ ] this ground, no less than on that of strict legality, the Council stood condemned 1. So much for the narrower, the more legal, aspects of the case. For behind it, as Rousseau rightly contended, lay the all-important question of sovereignty. The Petit Conseil maintained that its right of veto was absolute: in other words, that, if a Representation of the citizens was rejected by the Governing Body, then, however strongly it might have been supported, there was no more to say; and the Protesters, however large their number, had no course but to submit 2.

Rousseau and his supporters contended that such an interpretation was both unconstitutional and tyrannical; that it left the Government absolute master not only of the citizens, but of the Laws; and that, in all cases where there was reasonable doubt whether a Representation was well founded or no, the final arbitrament resided of right in the General Council, or whole Body of Citizens, legally assembled.

Rousseau discusses the question both on constitutional grounds and on those of abstract Right. The latter explain themselves. The last was the most important of the three; if only because it dealt with an earlier phase of the long struggle Edition: current; Page: [ ] between the Government and citizens, of which the present conflict was the natural sequel; and because the Mediators based their recommendations largely upon the Edicts which they found in force and the constitutional usages which prevailed. He begins by drawing a sharp distinction between two kinds of Representation: that which proposes new legislation, and that which protests against the administration of the Law already in force.

In the former case, the Council is free to act, or take no action at its own absolute discretion. In the latter, it has no such freedom 1. The distinction is sound in itself; and it was essential for Rousseau to clear himself from the charge of sweeping away the safeguards against hasty legislation which were provided by the existing Law, and with which it is probable that he himself was largely in sympathy. It has nothing to do with the veto upon proposals for the introduction of new laws, or the amendment of the old. It is one of his complaints against Tronchin that, in order to serve his own ends, he persistently confuses the two 2.

The Act of Mediation, it was admitted on all hands, recognised the Right of Representation 3. All were equally agreed that, in case the Council refused to redress the alleged grievance, the Act made no provision for deciding the dispute. The Council asserted that this omission was intentional; that it was the purpose of the Mediators to leave the matter to the absolute discretion of the Executive 4. In support of this contention, they appealed to the fact that the sectional Assemblies, in which it had previously been the practice to prepare Representations of general interest, were expressly prohibited by the Act 5.

The last argument manifestly proves too much. If sound, it would shew that the purpose of the Mediators was not to stay the right of Representation at a certain point, but to cancel it altogether. Leaving this retort on one side—perhaps because it was Edition: current; Page: [ ] too obvious—Rousseau from the first takes higher ground. The effect of the whole contention, he urges, is to charge the Mediators both with incapacity and bad faith: with incapacity, in that they must have known themselves to be sowing the seeds of discontent and anarchy; with bad faith, in that they would have taken away from the citizens with one hand what they had made a semblance of giving with the other.

Considering the zeal and impartiality they shewed throughout the negotiations, this is a charge not lightly to be brought 1. If the Right of Representation were subject to an absolute veto, if it were nothing more than the right of handing in a piotest and receiving a cuit refusal of redress, then it would be no better than a fraud.

That is a right inherent in all civil communities. It is a right denied to his subjects by no tyrant who ever lived. And it is an insuit to the Mediators to suppose that they would have deigned to grant in terms, and to take credit to themselves for granting, a right so elementary and so futile as this 2. The real force of the Right of Representation, Rousseau argues, is something very different.

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Rightly understood, it is the cornerstone of the liberties of the citizens. Alone and by itself, it makes up for all the concessions which the Mediators urged upon the General Council, and which the General Council readily accepted. The Petit Conseil had been confirmed in most of the privileges which had given occasion to the dispute.

It retained its oligarchical constitution. It retained the sole power of initiating legislation 3. All the executive and all the judicial power, subject to the Laws passed or to be passed, was still left in its hands, It had not, indeed the power of imposing fresh taxes; but the old taxes, those in force before , were made permanent, and they sufficed Edition: current; Page: [ ] for carrying on the business of the State 1.

In theory, it might be subordinate to the General Council. But, in fact, it was the Sovereign. Subordinate sovereigns for four hours a year, for the rest of their lives they are subjects, delivered hand and foot to the discretion of others 2. Thus the Mediation, perhaps inevitably, entailed many sacrifices. Yet all were atoned for, when it confirmed the Right of Representation. For what Government can be better than that in which all the component parts are perfectly balanced; in which the individual cannot transgress the Law, because he is controlled by judges; and in which those judges, on their side, cannot transgress the Law because they are under the watchful eye of the people 3?

Without it, they are the slaves of twenty-five tyrants 4. And it is this one guarantee of popular sovereignty that the Petit Conseil , ambitions to establish such a tyranny now seeks to filch away. Throughout this argument, it is assumed that the sovereignty lies by right with the whole body of citizens, legally assembled in the General Council. And that, Rousseau maintains, is in accordance both with the Laws and the constitutional practice of Geneva.

It is also in accordance with the principles of political Right. In every State, if anarchy is to be avoided, the sovereignty must be lodged in some one definite quarter. And in no well ordered State can it be lodged anywhere but in the people at large 5. It is true that the Mediators confused the issue: firstly, by specifying the rights of the sovereign body—rights which, just because they are sovereign, can never bear to be docketed or catalogued; secondly, by dividing them—to some extent in fact, still more in appearance—between the General Council and its nominal subordinate, the Council of Twenty-five 6.

This was due partly to their desire to deal impartial justice on all sides; partly Edition: current; Page: [ ] also to the difficulty which men, bred under monarchy or aristocracy, felt in understanding the principles of a democratic constitution. But all this made it the more significant that their Act should so explicitly confirm to the General Council those powers which are commonly taken to be the infallible marks of Sovereignty: the power of legislation, the power of declaring war, and in a less degree, the power of laying taxes.

And the sovereignty of the General Council was proclaimed in so many words by the First Syndic, himself a member of the Petit Conseil , at the moment when the Act was sanctioned by the popular vote 1. With a restriction, which, in some sense, all would recognise, it is admitted by Tronchin himself 2. But, once again, if this Sovereignty is to be anything better than a mockery, it must carry with it not merely the power, and the sole power, of passing new laws, but also the power, and the sole power, of deciding whether the Executive, the Petit Conseil , has committed a breach of the existing Law.

In other words, whenever a doubt arises as to the interpretation of the existing Law, the two subordinate Councils—the Vingt-Cinq and the Deux Cent —are constitutionally bound to summon the General Council and to submit the disputed point for its decision. Otherwise, the Law is no more than an empty name, the sovereignty of the people only another word for unmitigated slavery.

The citizens may go through the farce of assembling themselves solemnly in St. We make you our trustees, to obey them when you think fit, and to break them when you please 3. And, unless you can bring the Petit Conseil to change its policy so it will remain. Is there any means of bringing the Petit Conseil to its senses? Reason is evidently of no avail. Your Representations, moderate Edition: current; Page: [ ] though they are, are stubbornly rejected.

Nothing then remains but either to submit, or to apply force of some kind, whether from without or from within. Appeal to the Mediating Powers, submission or civil war—there is no choice but between these three 1. Submission is slavery for yourselves and your children; and if you can only forget your dissensions, there is no power on earth that can drive you to that extremity.

An appeal to the Mediating Powers may give you back your freedom, as citizens; but it can hardly fail to impair the sovereignty of the State 2. Either course entails some evil. And it is for you alone to determine which of the two evils is the less. I cannot venture to advise 3.

The one thing certain is that, of all possible courses, civil war is the worst. I have given up everything, even hope itself, sooner than endanger the peace of the State. I have earned the right to be thought sincere, when I plead the cause of peace 4. Such is a brief sketch of the last three of the Lettres de la Montagn. It remains only to take up a few of the more marked arguments in these Letters, and in the one preceding them; and to consider their bearing both upon the political theories of Rousseau and upon the history of his native city.

And we are driven to ask what induced him to make so light of his own originality. His motives, it is probable, were partiy dialectical, and partly those of argumentative convenience. On the one hand, he knew—no man better—that the bold course is also the safe course. And the very thing which would have deterred some men from flinging down a challenge to their assailants was an added spur to him. On the other hand, it was a brilliant stroke to demonstrate, as he does with unanswerable force, that the same doctrine which had won honour for the English philosopher, had brought nothing but insults and banishment to himself 2.

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The one thing we must not allow ourselves to do is to take Rousseau at his word. MLA Bryan, Joseph. APA Bryan, J. Chicago Bryan, Joseph. Last Modified March 20, Creator Bryan, Joseph Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History Abstract One of the defining features of eighteenth-century France was a pervasive anxiety over the possible collapse of the hierarchical and corporate social order.

Although influenced by a variety of political and cultural crises, contemporaries often channeled blame for the tenuous state of society to the increase in commercial activity and the effects of luxury. While historians have recently used this anxiety as a key to explore innovative social thinking, they have often neglected two fundamental aspects of eighteenth-century culture.

The attention given to unprecedented forms of behavior is indicative of a larger point: the notion of society itself as a realm of human independence and interdependence was being invented. Religious and political boundaries circumscribing the "social" had been loosened. Commerce challenged the foundations of Old Regime society, luxury confused the symbols that represented the Old Regime socio-political hierarchy, and a wide range of writers envisioned new roots for society based either on the harmonizing capacity of individual interests, the innate human quality of sociability, or the vague concept of social utility.

Second, and more important, historians have neglected the critical physiological aspect of contemporary confrontations with the increasingly-unsteady social order. There is a marked presence of physiological language in eighteenth-century socio-political writing; science, however, was more than a convenient idiom. In attempting to understand novel human interaction, writers appropriated evidence about the passions, the sensibility of nerves, and the organisation of the body. Explaining the relationship between bodies—human bodies, material goods, specks of matter—became the key to understanding society.

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