Considerations on France

Considerations on France

Translated by Richard A. Lebrun
Copyright Date: 1974
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  • Book Info
    Considerations on France
    Book Description:

    The present translation of Considérations sur la France is made from the critical French edition of R. de Johannet and F. Vermale (Paris: Vrin, 1936), which in turn is based on Maistre's own corrected edition of 1821.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9331-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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

    The publication ofConsidérations sur la Franceearly in 1797 announced the appearance of a formidable ideological opponent of the French Revolution. Just as Augustine had affirmed the providential governance of events amid the ruins of the Roman world, so Joseph de Maistre proclaimed that never had the role of Providence been more palpable than it was in the savage and bewildering events of the French Revolution.

    Written and published in Switzerland, Maistre’s book was vigorously prohibited in France. But the suggestion that irreligion had been the main cause of the Revolution proved attractive to many of its opponents. A...

  5. I Of Revolutions
    (pp. 23-30)

    We are all attached to the throne of the Supreme Being by a supple chain that restrains us without enslaving us. Nothing is more admirable in the universal order of things than the action of free beings under the divine hand. Freely slaves, they act voluntarily and necessarily at the same time; they really do what they will, but without being able to disturb the general plans. Each of these beings occupies the centre of a sphere of activity whose diameter varies according to the will of the Eternal Geometer, who can extend, restrict, check, or direct the will without...

  6. II Reflections on the Ways of Providence in the French Revolution
    (pp. 31-50)

    Every nation, like every individual, has received a mission that it must fulfil. France exercises over Europe a veritable magistracy that it would be useless to contest and that she has most culpably abused. In particular, she was at the head of the religious system, and not without reason was her king calledmost Christian;Bossuet was never able to say too much on this point. And so, since she has used her influence to contradict her vocation and demoralize Europe, we should not be surprised if she is brought back to her mission by terrible means.

    It has been...

  7. III On the Violent Destruction of the Human Species
    (pp. 51-63)

    The king of Dahomey, in the African interior, was not so wrong, unfortunately, when he recently told an Englishman, ‘God made the world for war; all realms, great and small, have always practised it, although on different principles.’¹

    Unhappily, history proves that war is, in a certain sense, the habitual state of mankind, which is to say that human blood must flow without interruption somewhere or other on the globe, and that for every nation, peace is only a respite.

    The closing of the temple of Janus under Augustus can be cited;² there was one year in Charlemagne’s warlike reign...

  8. IV Can the French Republic Last?
    (pp. 65-77)

    It would be better to ask whether the Republic can exist.¹ The assumption is made, but too hastily, and thepreliminaryquestion seems quite justified, for nature and history together prove that a large indivisible republic is an impossibility. A small number of republicans closed up within the walls of a city can undoubtedly have millions of subjects; this was the case with Rome. But a large and free nation cannot exist under a republican government. The thing is so clear in itself that theory could dispense with experience; but here experience, which decides every question in politics as in...

  9. V The French Revolution Considered in Its Antireligious Character
    (pp. 79-89)

    There is a satanic quality to the French Revolution that distinguishes it from everything we have ever seen or anything we are ever likely to see in the future. Recall the great assemblies, Robespierre’s speech against the priesthood, the solemn apostasy of the clergy, the desecration of objects of worship, the installation of the goddess of reason, and that multitude of extraordinary actions by which the provinces sought to outdo Paris. All this goes beyond the ordinary circle of crime and seems to belong to another world.

    Even now, when the Revolution has become less violent, and wanton excesses have...

  10. VI On Divine Influence in Political Constitutions
    (pp. 91-97)

    Man can modify everything within the sphere of his activity, but he creates nothing: such is his law, in the physical world as in the moral world.

    Undoubtedly a man may plant a seed, raise the tree, perfect it by grafting, and trim it a hundred different ways, but he would never imagine that he had the power to make a tree. How can he have imagined that he had the power to make a constitution? Would it be from experience? Let us see what experience teaches us.

    All free constitutions known to men have been formed in one of...

  11. VII Evidence of the Incapacity of the Present French Government
    (pp. 99-109)

    A legislator resembles the Creator by not working all the time; he creates and then he rests. All true legislative action has itsSabbath,and intermittence is its distinctive characteristic. Ovid thus announced a truth of the first order when he saidQuod caret alterna requie durabile non est.¹

    If perfection were an attribute of human nature, each legislator would speak only once; but since all our works are imperfect, in the measure that political institutions deteriorate, the sovereign is obliged to support them with new laws. Nevertheless, human legislation should resemble its model by this intermittence of which I...

  12. 8. Of the Old French Constitution
    (pp. 111-130)

    People have held different theories about the old French constitution: some have claimed that the nation had no constitution; others have claimed the contrary; and finally, others, taking a middle position, as usually happens on important questions, have claimed that the French really had a constitution, but that it was not observed.

    The error of those who claim that France had no constitution stems from that great mistake about human power, prior deliberation and written laws.

    If a man of good faith, given only good sense and probity, were to ask what the old French constitution was, he could be...

  13. IX How Will the Counter-Revolution Happen If It Comes?
    (pp. 131-137)

    In theorizing about the counter-revolution, men have too often assumed that this counter-revolution should and could be solely the result of popular deliberation.¹ ‘The people fear,’ they say, ‘the people want, the people will never consent, it does not suit the people, etc.’ What a pity! The people count for nothing in revolutions, or at most count only as a passive instrument. Four or five persons, perhaps, will give France a king. Letters from Paris will announce to the provinces that France has a king, and the provinces will cry ‘Long live the king.’ Even in Paris, all but a...

  14. X On the Supposed Dangers of a Counter-Revolution
    (pp. 139-169)

    It is common fallacy nowadays to insist on the danger of counter-revolution in order to show that we should not return to the monarchy. A great number of works designed to persuade the French to hold fast to the Republic are only developments of this idea. The authors of these works stress the evils inseparable from revolutions; then, observing that the monarchy cannot be restored in France without a new revolution, they conclude from this that the Republic must be maintained. This stupendous fallacy, whether it arises from fear or from the desire to deceive, deserves to be carefully discussed....

  15. XI From a History of the English Revolution by David Hume
    (pp. 171-191)

    The Long Parliament declared by a solemn oath that it could not be dissolved (p. 181). To assure its power, it never ceased stirring up the people, sometimes inflaming their minds by cunning speeches (p. 176), sometimes causing petitions in support of the Revolution to be sent in from all parts of the realm (p. 153). Abuse in the press was carried to extremes; numerous clubs everywhere produced noisy tumults; fanaticism had its own language, it was a new jargon invented by the fury and hypocrisy of the times (p. 131). Every day produced some new harangue on past grievances...

  16. Postscript
    (pp. 193-195)

    The latest edition of this work was nearing completion when certain completely trustworthy Frenchmen assured me that the bookDéveloppement des principes fondamentaux,etc.,¹ which I cite in Chapter 8, contains maxims that the king does not approve.²

    ‘The authors of the book in question’, they tell me, ‘are magistrates who reduce the right of the Estates-General to that of presenting grievances and attribute to the parlements the executive power of verifying all laws, even those which are the result of a request from the Estates, which is to say they elevate the magistracy above the nation.’

    I avow that...

  17. Suggestions for Additional Reading
    (pp. 196-197)
  18. Index
    (pp. 199-212)