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By K. Steven Vincent

This ebook advances a brand new interpretation of the timing and personality of French (and extra widely ecu) liberalism, and contributes to the continuing debate about the position of morality, sociability, and conceptions of the "self" in smooth liberal suggestion.

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Additional resources for Benjamin Constant and the Birth of French Liberalism

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These early letters reveal a stance of worldly skepticism, articulated as pessimism, moral indifference, and a critical regard toward everything. 21 Whether this explains sufficiently Constant’s despair is open to question. But the characterization is apt. Constant often lamented that he could find no firm foundations for belief; and his early correspondence is peppered with pessimism and the general hopelessness of life. ”22 In January 1791, he was, if possible, even more despairing: I am not, shall never be, am not able to be happy.

Constant became one of the important spokespersons for moderates who hoped to unify moderate republicans and constitutional monarchists into a centrist party. Constant had high hopes of playing an active role in French politics. To do this he needed to become a French citizen, reside in France, and own property. 11 His ancestors were Huguenots, but in fact they had left France before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes; nonetheless Constant was granted citizenship on 21 March 1797. Often, in subsequent years, Constant would be accused of being Swiss, not French, and the problem of his nationality would frequently plague him.

Emergence of Liberalism (1795–97) 41 In Réflexions sur la paix intérieure, Staël was even more determined to separate herself from the Bourbon pretenders to the throne and to rally support for the republican government. In her estimation, all the surviving Bourbons were “enemies of liberty,” and moderate aristocrats who imagined that a Bourbon restoration would lead to a constitutional monarchy were badly mistaken. Moderate royalists, if they attempted to install the system established in 1791, would gain the temporary support of the monarchist extremists, she argued, but the real agenda of the latter would be absolutism.

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