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This chapter demonstrates that, in addition to his well-known experiments with paper money, John Law’s System was a project for creating a politically independent central bank. His arguments, and those of his defender Nicolas Dutot, tried to establish a legitimate role for autonomous monetary policy, while his detractors in the 1730s and 1740s like Richard Cantillon and Joseph Pâris-Duverney argued that central banks constituted conspiracies among cosmopolitan elites, not virtuous governance. This neglected episode in the history of economic thought established the data, rhetorical practices, and concepts for later theories over whether the monetary system can or should be within the scope of human agency. Participants in the debate developed the conceptual foundations of self-ordering economic systems, pioneered the use of calculative reasoning in public debate, and tried to theorize the constitutional relationship between government, money, and commerce. These authors were trying to use an emergent episode in their understanding of economic history to uncover the principles of justice, legitimacy, and agency in the newly formed cosmopolitan dominium of commerce and finance.
In the editor’s introduction, Richard Boyd surveys the main intellectual sources for Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic work Democracy in America. After sketching out how Democracy in America has been read in light of the influences of Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Blaise Pascal, and François Guizot, Boyd surveys the book’s contemporaneous receptions in France, England, and America. Consulting reviews from leading journals of the 1830s and 1840s, Boyd demonstrates that, while Democracy in America was universally acclaimed as a work of genius, its teachings about democracy were interpreted differently as a function of the ideological predilections of its readers. Tocqueville’s appeal to divergent political sensibilities – conservative and liberal democratic alike – anticipates a consistent pattern of subsequent thinkers adapting the book’s complex teachings to their own political circumstances. This rich tradition of appropriation is hardly confined to the United States or Europe but extends globally into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
In this chapter, Ryan Patrick Hanley surveys some of the best-known Enlightenment sources of Alexis de Tocqueville’s political philosophy. He considers in particular the respective influences of René Descartes, Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Blaise Pascal on the arguments and methodology of Democracy in America. Rather than conceiving of Tocqueville as either pro- or anti-Enlightenment, Hanley argues that we should instead understand Tocqueville as an example of a “Moderate Enlightenment” that eschews the rationalism and materialism of the “Radical Enlightenment.” By way of illustration, Hanley identifies specific affinities between Tocqueville and the moderate Scottish Enlightenment thinker Adam Smith.
This chapter identifies the emergence of an Enlightenment critique of empire in Ireland. This laid the intellectual foundations for the Union of 1801 by connecting the exclusion of the Irish Kingdom from free participation in imperial and European trade with the exclusion of its Catholic subjects, under the terms of the ‘Penal Laws’, from the benefits of property and political representation. For thinkers such as Josiah Tucker and David Hume, the suppression of Irish commerce was striking evidence of how British policy carried ‘jealousy of trade’ to extremes that jeopardised the security of the empire. For Charles O’Connor, Edmund Burke, Arthur Young, and Adam Smith, meanwhile, the Penal Laws had ruined Ireland’s prospects for ‘improvement’ by alienating the Irish majority from property and the state. It was Smith who linked these two problematics together, creating a new kind of argument for a parliamentary union between Britain and Ireland.
Enlightenment thinkers rarely used the word “consumption,” but they spoke incessantly of “luxury,” a multivalent term that became the principal idiom through which writers discussed the moral, social, and political implications of consumption. Controversy over luxury was a proxy for the first modern debate on consumption. The discussion of luxury shifted decisively at the turn of the eighteenth century, when two writers – François Fénelon and Bernard Mandeville – laid the foundations for a vigorous Enlightenment debate. Drawing on ancient and medieval critiques, Fénelon argued that luxury corrupted morals, scrambled the social order, and destroyed states. Mandeville countered by advancing a bold apology for luxury. Far from weakening states, he argued, luxury generated prosperous and powerful nations. Gender would play a key role in the debate that ensued. Whereas critics of luxury like Jean-Jacques Rousseau warned that excessive consumption effeminized men, rendering them unfit for public service, defenders of luxury like David Hume claimed that material well-being was the sign of a civilized society in which men and women frequently interacted. In the second half of the eighteenth century, certain thinkers sought to resolve the debate. Political economists argued that if consumption was directed toward productive ends, wealthy and powerful nations would avoid corruption and endure. Meanwhile, luxury producers incorporated critiques of luxury by designing natural and healthy products. Criticism of luxury did little to slow the pace of consumption.
At Christmas 1833 a History of Alexander the Great (Geschichte des Alexanders des Groẞen) appeared in Berlin, consisting of almost 600 densely printed pages and accompanied by about 650 learned notes. The author, Johan Gustav Droysen, was an exceptionally gifted young scholar aged twenty-five. Two years previously he had defended his thesis on Lagid Egypt, and had been the pupil, at the University of Berlin, of distinguished teachers, in the areas of Altertumswissenschaft (August Boeckh), historical geography (Carl Ritter) and philosophy of history (Georg Wilhelm Hegel). This Alexander was followed in 1836 and 1843 by two other volumes devoted to what we today call the Hellenistic world (Hellenismus). Although in the meantime Droysen had turned his attention to the modern and contemporary history of Prussia, these three volumes were reissued in 1877 as a Geschichte des Hellenismus.
This chapter explores a variety of philosophical engagements with Cicero in the long eighteenth century, with particular attention to the varied, and at times contradictory, purposes that Cicero might serve. Following an introductory discussion of Cicero and John Locke, the chapter proceeds thematically, turning first to Cicero and eighteenth-century ethics, then to eloquence, civil religion, and law, and finally to Cicero’s status as an exemplar of the active life. In exploring these themes, the chapter deals with the Earl of Shaftesbury Anthony Ashley-Cooper, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Montesquieu, John Adams, James Wilson, and Immanuel Kant.
This first comprehensive account of the utilitarians' historical thought intellectually resituates their conceptions of philosophy and politics, at a time when the past acquired new significances as both a means and object of study. Drawing on published and unpublished writings - and set against the intellectual backdrops of Scottish philosophical history, German and French historicism, romanticism, positivism, and the rise of social science and scientific history - Callum Barrell recovers the depth with which Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, George Grote, and John Stuart Mill thought about history as a site of philosophy and politics. He argues that the utilitarians, contrary to their reputations as ahistorical and even antihistorical thinkers, developed complex frameworks in which to learn from and negotiate the past, inviting us to rethink the foundations of their ideas, as well as their place in - and relationship to - nineteenth-century philosophy and political thought.
In the second chapter of the book I explore the first moment of the genealogy of modern comparative law. This first moment, instrumental comparative studies, is where modern comparative law emerges. In this stage, comparative law is not interpreted as an autonomous discipline within the law. Rather, comparative studies are an instrument for the advance of other disciplines or of other areas of law. In this section of the book, more precisely, I focus on the analysis of Montesquieu's work. This author is particularly important given that the specialized literature recognizes him as the father of modern comparative law. Montesquieu has been interpreted by this literature as the person who uses the comparative method paradigmatically in this first moment of the discipline; his work has come to represent emblematic forms of the use of this method; some of his conclusions have become part of the canon of modern law and politics. In The Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu uses empirical information on the law and politics of European and non-European countries to justify his theses on the relationship between natural law and positive law and on the links between positive law and the geographic and psychological characteristics of peoples, as well as to promote a normative political agenda: a legally limited monarchy for his political community. In the process, Montesquieu constructs subjectivities that are central in the creation of modern law: the European and the Asian. In addition, Montesquieu constructs an imagined space that these two types of subjects inhabit: Europe and Asia. Finally, Montesquieu imagines legal and political time in a dual manner: inertially static and dynamic in potency
No powerful legal imagining accompanied the colonial ventures of the French old regime, with exploitation of New World resources initiated and controlled by state officials. But operations were badly resourced and conducted by private adventurers and representatives of noble families interested in influence back home. Profits from colonial expansion were to be shared between Paris and powerful interests in the French maritime provinces. Although the Atlantic settlements were legally imagined as overseas parts of the realm, governed by the customs of Paris, in practice, metropolitan control remained weak. Profits from the most lucrative colony, Saint-Domingue, were received from chattel slavery legally organised under the Code noir (1685). Few French lawyers or intellectuals discussed slavery; the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789) remained silent about it. The slave revolution of 1791 was largely autonomous, eventually pushing the National Assembly to issue an emancipation decree. After the failure of Napoleon’s effort to recapture the island, Haiti declared independence in 1804. But the first decolonised state remained an international pariah.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Frederick Douglass changed his opinion on the proslavery character of the U.S. Constitution. Most scholarship seeks to locate the core of Douglass’s politics in the critical patriotism of his post-change of opinion oratorical and literary output. However, if we keep the occasion for Douglass’s change of opinion firmly in view, that is, his critical engagement with the question of the pro- or antislavery character of the Constitution, there is a possibility not only of appreciating an experience of crucial significance to the development of his politics, but also of relocating the core of his politics in an ongoing ambivalence about the “moral power” of the United States. This chapter situates Douglass as a political thinker participating in a transatlantic paradigm shift in the rhetoric of sociopolitical change, a shift that gave rise to a new modern dilemma as to which form of change, reform or revolution, best suited one’s problem-solving needs.
This chapter is devoted to several brief sections and sets the stage for what follows by dealing with some of the key elements of context and background for the remainder of the book. These include: ancient politics and political thought in Greece and especially Rome; the distinction (and non-distinction) between party and faction; Jacobitism; Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and the nature of the eighteenth-century British fiscal-military state; and sociability and partisanship. It concludes by highlighting that the most common way to discuss and write about political parties in the eighteenth century was in political, historical, and constitutional terms.
Among Hume’s most important discussions of party can be found in his History of England, especially in the volumes on the seventeenth century. Hume explained to Adam Smith that he had begun his historical investigation with the Stuart period partly because the factions, which he believed still informed British politics in the eighteenth century, arose at that time. His own historical work, however, was a conscious attempt to rise above faction and to see things both ways, which he believed English historiography had failed to do before him. This chapter places Hume’s History in the context of Rapin and Bolingbroke, but also in the broader context of debate around ancient constitutionalism and Whig history. This chapter points to the important influence of Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, which had a notable impact on Hume between his essays and the publication of the History.
This chapter considers Burke’s most famous text in defence of party: Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontent (1770). With political life having been essentially purged of Jacobitism, an unapologetic case for party was now possible. This party, posing as the Whig party, viewed itself as the protector of Britain’s Revolution Settlement and its mixed and balanced constitution in opposition to what was perceived as a revived Toryism supporting George III and his favourite Bute’s ‘court system’. Burke viewed men and measures as interlinked and believed that a party had to seek office and negotiate with the monarch as a corps. This was diametrically opposed to the earlier ‘not men, but measures’ slogan at the heart of John Brown’s writings and the Pittite patriot platform.
While French literary history usually presumes a firm tradition of the epistolary novel running from Lettres portuguaises in 1669 to the end of the following century, this chapter demonstrates that the form's rise was protracted, and proceeded in two stages. A first, modest popularity was achieved by novels of satirical observation. Formally, these epistolary novels were distinct from the much more successful epistolary novels that followed, which featured a polyphonic exchange of correspondence. Viewed formally, the history of the epistolary novel in France is largely discontinuous, though the polyphonic variant's own development displays the same isomorphism visible in other novelistic artifacts examined in this book.
Liberalism’s substitute for civic friendship is the Association: citizens associate to pursue their interests, according to modern theory. Yet empirical evidence shows we also join for motives of honor, pride, and the wish to cooperate. While economic models of politics (“formal models”) fail to capture these mixed motives, our modern ideal of altruism further debilitates associations by considering them low, selfish pressure groups. Associations have thus fallen on hard times, and the individual often faces off against the Leviathan state, with no mediating association. Recent attempts to improve on formal models—projects to reinvigorate the morality and rationality of cooperation, such as those of Jane Mansbridge and Richard Tuck—could benefit from Tocqueville’s comparable attempt to create an ideology of “rightly understood” interest, whereby Americans could disguise their morality as rational when it in fact relied on vestigial altruism (“disinterested and unreflective sparks that are natural to man”). Going back behind Tocqueville to excavate civic friendship would at least bring theorists, if not citizens, back into a more realistic picture of what is actually going on.
This chapter focuses on Aron’s interpretation of Montesquieu and Tocqueville and his influential self-description as their ‘belated descendant’ in his book Main Currents of Sociological Thought. It argues, firstly, that in this book Aron’s invention of a ‘French school of political sociology’ represented by these liberal forbears was part of wider efforts among sociologists to rewrite their discipline’s history at a time when it was becoming unprecedentedly popularised and institutionalised. It shows that the decline of Durkheimian hegemony at this juncture had opened up a consensus gap between French sociologists, some of whom - including Aron - responded by rewriting the discipline’s past to legitimate their competing visions of its future. The chapter also shows how Aron read Montesquieu and Tocqueville through the lens of his earlier philosophical writings in an attempt to revise the epistemological basis of his political thought. Ironically, this project was substantially indebted to previous readings of Montesquieu and Tocqueville by some of the same Durkheimian colleagues against whom Aron defined himself and the ‘French school of political sociology’ in Main Currents.
‘Historiography’ charts the profound influence the historiography of the Scottish Enlightenment has had on the way history has been understood in the Anglosphere. It charts the growth of stadial history, which introduced the codification of progress and development into historical time and now is the dominant mode of history throughout the world. The chapter locates the roots of stadial thinking on Scotland’s political and historical position in the eighteenth century and explains how these have been systematically misrepresented by the historiography designed to address them, leading to fundamental ethnic and political misunderstandings about the nature of the Scottish past.
Decadence was not a word used by the historians of ancient Rome during classical antiquity, but the concepts, anxieties, and fears encapsulated by it are without question present in their works. Ancient historians such as Livy, Sallust, Tacitus, and Appian describe an idealized past in order to draw a contrast with an immoral, inferior present. Spurred on by literary accounts from antiquity, Enlightenment authors such as Montesquieu, a political theorist, and Edward Gibbon, a historian and Member of Parliament, were particularly interested in studying Rome to learn the symptoms of imperial decline. Thus, this chapter explores the language of decadence in the early histories of the Roman Empire, up to the fall of Constantinople in 1453, including why later historians such as Niebuhr and Mommsen wished to challenge this language (present from antiquity) and disentwine decadence from Roman imperial history for good.