Condorcet: Writings on the United States

Edited, translated, and with an introduction by GUILLAUME ANSART
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Condorcet (1743–1794) was the last of the great eighteenth-century French philosophes and one of the most fervent américanistes of his time. A friend of Franklin, Jefferson, and Paine and a member of the American Philosophical Society, he was well informed and enthusiastic about the American Revolution. Condorcet’s writings on the American Revolution, the Federal Constitution, and the new political culture emerging in the United States constitute milestones in the history of French political thought and of French attitudes toward the United States. These remarkable texts, however, have not been available in modern editions or translations. This book presents first or new translations of all of Condorcet’s major writings on the United States, including an essay on the impact of the American Revolution on Europe; a commentary on the Federal Constitution, the first such commentary to be published in the Old World; and his Eulogy of Franklin, in which Condorcet paints a vivid picture of his recently deceased friend as the archetype of the new American man: self-made, practical, talented but modest, tolerant and free of prejudice—the embodiment of reason, common sense, and the liberal values of the Enlightenment.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05551-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-20)

    Condorcet (1743–94), the last of the great figures of the French Enlightenment, was a ferventaméricaniste, one of the most prominent among the many French intellectuals who greeted American independence with unmitigated approval.¹ His writings on the United States are in some measure a reflection of their time. Late eighteenth-century France, particularly the progressive intelligentsia known as the “philosophes”—the rationalist, liberal, reform-minded intellectuals (writers, philosophers, scientists, members of the academies, enlightened administrators, etc.) who most actively championed the values of the Enlightenment—responded to the American Revolution with an enthusiasm that prompted the publication, during the period extending...

  5. Influence of the American Revolution on Europe (1786)
    (pp. 21-42)

    The path of truth, said the poet Saadi,² is narrow and lies between two precipices. At the slightest misstep, one tumbles to the bottom. One picks oneself up, dazed by the fall, struggles back toward the top, believes it is within reach, makes a last effort, and falls again on the other side.

    No sooner had America declared its independence than our politicians saw clearly that the ruin of England and the prosperity of France had to be the necessary consequence of this happy revolution. Now that this independence is recognized and assured, they seem to consider it with indifference,...

  6. Supplement to Filippo Mazzei’s Researches on the United States (1788)
    (pp. 43-62)

    Recent news from the United States requires a supplement.¹ It is hoped that this addition will not displease those eager to be informed of the affairs of this country, so that they can form likely conjectures about the future.

    We will first comment upon the uprising which took place in the state of Massachusetts.²

    Europe gets its news about the United States from English gazettes. Well-informed Americans have constantly remarked that by taking the opposite view to what these gazettes claim concerning their affairs, one would get details as accurate as those that could be obtained from whomever would take...

  7. Ideas on Despotism: For the Benefit of Those Who Pronounce This Word Without Understanding It (1789)
    (pp. 63-78)

    Despotism comes from the Greek word δεσπóτης, which means master. There isdespotismwhenever men have masters, that is to say, are subjected to the arbitrary will of other men.

    Despotism by one man alone is a fiction of the mind; but despotism by a small number over a large number is very common and has two causes: the ease with which a small number can join together, and its wealth, with which it can buy other forces.

    If one examines the history of countries where it has been thought that despotism by one man existed, one will always see...

  8. Eulogy of Franklin: Read at the Public Session of the Academy of Sciences, November 13, 1790 (1790)
    (pp. 79-108)

    Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston on January 6, 1706, the son of Josiah Franklin and Abiah Folger.¹

    His father had settled in Boston around 1682; attached to the Presbyterian religion by a hereditary zeal, he had left England, where it was only tolerated, to seek a country where it would be free.

    Attacks against the independence of religious opinions have revived the spirit of liberty in Europe and peopled America. Persecution forced men to finally recognize their true rights, hardly known even in ancient republics, and the human race owed its liberation and enlightenment to what had only been...

  9. APPENDIX: Notes to the French Translation of John Stevens’s Observations on Government (1789)
    (pp. 109-118)
    (pp. 119-124)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 125-140)
    (pp. 141-144)
    (pp. 145-147)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 148-148)