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Against War and Empire

Against War and Empire: Geneva, Britain, and France in the Eighteenth Century

Richard Whatmore
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Against War and Empire
    Book Description:

    As Britain and France became more powerful during the eighteenth century, small states such as Geneva could no longer stand militarily against these commercial monarchies. Furthermore, many Genevans felt that they were being drawn into a corrupt commercial world dominated by amoral aristocrats dedicated to the unprincipled pursuit of wealth. In this book Richard Whatmore presents an intellectual history of republicans who strove to ensure Geneva's survival as an independent state. Whatmore shows how the Genevan republicans grappled with the ideas of Rousseau, Voltaire, Bentham, and others in seeking to make modern Europe safe for small states, by vanquishing the threats presented by war and by empire. The Genevan attempt to moralize the commercial world, and align national self-interest with perpetual peace and the abandonment of empire, had implications for the French Revolution, the British Empire, and the identity of modern Europe.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18357-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)

    • 1 1782 and After
      (pp. 3-18)

      A rebellion against the government of Geneva occurred in April 1782.¹ It was deemed necessary by the représentants because of the overweening power of France in the affairs of the state. Situated at the southwest end of Lake Leman, Europe’s largest freshwater lake, and between France, Savoy, and Switzerland, forty-five miles north of Chambéry, thirty-four miles southwest of Lausanne, and seventy-two miles southwest from Bern, Geneva in 1782 was a walled citystate of “about three miles compass.”² It was said that only Bordeaux and Constantinople could challenge the beauty and natural advantages of Geneva’s geographical location.³ The city was divided...


    • 2 Geneva and France, 1698–1754
      (pp. 21-53)

      When France was recognized to be infinitely stronger than the Swiss cantons or Savoy, the international balance of power, which Geneva had relied upon for external stability since Calvin’s death, collapsed. One clear consequence of French greatness was widespread fear for the future of Protestant states within France’s sphere of influence. After Louis XIV took Protestant Strasbourg by force of arms in 1681; closed the Huguenot academies of Sedan in 1681, of Die in 1684, and of Saumur and Montauban in 1685; and inaugurated a period of domestic persecution for Protestants by revoking the Edict of Nantes in 1685, neighboring...

    • 3 Rousseau and Geneva
      (pp. 54-97)

      Rousseau’s writings in the 1750s made him the archcritic of modern European society and the clearest expositor of a jeremiad view of the prospects for commercial states small and large.¹ But he had not written directly about Geneva’s political situation and present circumstances, and had not formulated a plan for the représentants to revivify themselves and secure the long-term stability and independence of the state. This needs to be borne in mind when considering Rousseau’s relationship with Geneva. This chapter charts Rousseau’s relationship with the représentants prior to 1762, his composition of theLettres écrites de la montagne(which addressed the...

    • 4 Geneva and Britain
      (pp. 98-134)

      In theJournal de Parisof Wednesday, 26 June 1782, the Abbé Jean-Louis Giraud Soulavie wrote a short article describing “the plans of England for erecting our Southern Protestant Provinces into a Republic.” Soulavie had come to public notice because of hisHistoire naturelle de la France méridionale, which appeared in eight volumes between 1780 and 1784. The work attracted criticism within the Gallican church.¹ More especially, theHistoire naturellewas attacked by the Abbé Augustin Barruel, on the grounds that Soulavie’s description of a fossil record shaped by different climates and terrain, rather than geographical locations in accordance with...


    • 5 Cosmopolitan Versus Mercantile Empire
      (pp. 137-176)

      Jean-André Deluc arrived in Britain seven years later than de Lolme. Having come to the forefront of représentant politics in the 1760s, and having speculated about Geneva becoming a canton through his strong links with Bern and Zurich, Deluc had become the foremost author of the compromise of 1768, being the leading negotiator for the représentants and consistently the voice of moderation. Jean-André Deluc believed that the représentants together with the négatifs could bring unity and peace to Genevan government. The powers of the democratically minded, made manifest in the sovereign legislative General Council, balanced the necessarily aristocratic government of...

    • 6 International Crises and Perpetual Peace
      (pp. 177-227)

      The Genevan représentants considered Britain largely unimportant as an ally before and during the events of 1782, having failed to persuade British leaders to become interested in the city since the 1760s. As d’Ivernois put it in hisTableau historique et politique des deux dernières révolutions de Genève, Britain in 1782 was perceived as a state “for the support of which all the free states of Europe must have some rights,” but it had abandoned Corsica and was more interested in global war than in the protection of Europe’s many notions of liberty.¹ From London there was sympathy but more...

    • 7 Revolution and Empire
      (pp. 228-270)

      With the commencement of the French Revolution, the Genevan exiles reached the height of their influence and contemporary fame. This occurred in part through their relationship with Mirabeau, risen to become the National Assembly’s greatest orator and aspiring puppet master. After Mirabeau’s sudden death in April 1791, the prominence of Genevan ideas in French politics was due more directly to Clavière, who served in the Girondist ministries under Jean-Marie Roland before becoming, in September 1792, the first finance minister of the new republic. Clavière’s belief in the necessary transformation of France did not preclude friendly relations being established with Louis...


    • 8 The Last Représentant and Philosophic Radicalism
      (pp. 273-290)

      For Ezra Stiles the ancient and early modern republican legacy was profoundly uncertain for modern politics. Above all else, Britain appeared to be as republican as any other state. This fact had marked the nascent United States in a particular and enduring fashion. For Thomas Jefferson, by contrast, a new kind of republicanism was being engendered by the French Revolution. It promised the revitalization of communities that had suffered from aristocratic or monarchical degradation for centuries. Jefferson continued to have faith that the excessive popular enthusiasm at Paris would cease, despite its overturning established mores in religion and politics and...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 291-370)
  10. Index
    (pp. 371-393)