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NAPOLEON said that the French Revolution would never have occurred without Rousseau. His Social Contract was the foundation for the emergence of the democratic man and the democratic state. The Romantic poets recognized Rousseau as the philosophical founder of Romanticism, and to understand Romanticism is to understand what Rousseau believed. Following the excerpts from Rousseau, read the selections from Wordsworth [the father of English Romantic Poetry] and note the influence.


Primary Sources:

Rousseau: The Social Contract and The Emile

Wordsworth: The Prelude or Growth of the Poet's Mind

Secondary Sources:

Lucas, C. Our Western Educational Heritage. New York: Macmillan Co., 1972.

Snyder, L. (ed.) The Making of Modern Man. Princeton, N.J.: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1967.

Tierney, B. (ed.) Great Issues in Western Civilization Since 1500. New York: Random House, 1967.



The Archbishop of Cambrai sent an anonymous letter to the King of France, Louis XIV, noting the following...

"...Your ministers no longer speak of the state and its constitution; they only speak of the king and his royal pleasure. They have pushed your revenues and expenses to unprecedented order to impoverish the whole of France for the introduction of monstrous and futile luxuries at the court...They have been harsh, haughty, unjust, violent...They have recognized no other rule but to threaten, to crush, and to destroy all who resist them."


(click here to find an extensive site with many excellent
links to the French Revolution)

I. Enlightenment--the age of reason and scientific optimism

II. Basic politics of the French revolution--locating causes:
A. economic
B. philosophical
C. social
D. humanitarian

III There were 3 classes or THE THREE ESTATES:
a. clergy--not taxed about 100,000 people they made "contributions"
b. nobility--owned land and controlled judiciary--about 400,000
c. professionals-to-serfs: about 96% of the population and were taxed:
d. trying to manipulate them was the monarchy LOUIS XVI

IV. Economic problems and the third estate:
a. 9/10 of the poor's budget went to bread
b. unemployment was high
c. reckless speculation--led to a national debt that could not be paid off

IV. The third estate began the revolution:
a. wanted reform that would recognize talent vs. heredity as power base
b. they wanted to limit but not abolish the monarchy--like American rev.

V. The monarch and Louis XVI:
a. tried to please the nobility and abolished judiciary reform made by his predecessor
b. the nobility still refused to pay taxes--the monarchy had gone bankrupt supporting the American revolution
c. the king had to convene the "Estates General' that had not met since 1614
d. the national debt was so high that 50% of it was interest; the nobility would not grant the king money unless he gave up some power, and granted them more.
d. riots resulted

VI. Events from 1789-1791
a. the Third Estate declared itself a National Assembly, and convened at Versailles, but were barred from entering.
b. they went to a near by royal Tennis Court, and the famous Tennis Court Oath resulted in a new constitution of May 5, 1789
c. The nobility hoped to use the assembly to control the monarchy, and the king hoped to control the people by using the nobility

VII. Key event was July 14, 1789, still celebrated in France today and known as BASTILLE DAY. like our July 4th.
a. the mob stormed the jail to free political prisoners and get weapons
b. 98 died and 7 defenders
c. the king accepted this, and thus "supported' the revolution
d. 1798 was called the "grand fear"--riots continued, the royal garrison fled from Paris, and the king was in the middle

VIII. Decrees of the National Assembly:
a. end of the feudal system--social status by birth ended
b. Published the "Declaration of the Rights of Man" (see below)
c. King was to be appointed by popular vote
d. clergy's rights limited; eventually their property would be taken and they would have to swear a loyalty oath to the state
e. the king was hostile to the declaration

IX. 1792-1794 the radical phase known as the REIGN OF TERROR:
a. 20,000 of the king's supporters fled and hoped to raise an army of invasion from Italy, Germany and Austria. The king's wife, Marie Antoinette, was sister to the emperor of Austria.
b. The king and his wife tried to flee France, but were caught and put under house arrest. the problem was what to do with the king.

X. More reforms:
a. continued subordination of the clergy
b. three separate branches of govt.: legislative, executive and judicial
c. but only property owners could vote
d. country was re drawn to eliminate rotten boroughs

XII. The king's supporters declared war on Austria
a. the French were defeated, and Paris was under siege
b. businessmen wanted peace and radicals wanted war
c. no one trusted anyone, and although finally the invasion was ended, the Assembly voted by one to execute the King on January 21, 1793.
d. royal titles were established
e. food riots continued

XIII Robespierre and the "republic of virtue"
a. reorganized the Assembly into the "committee of public safety"
b. rule by virtue and the "general will" of Rousseau
c. be faithful to the new government or else...
d. the Reign of terror ended when the foreign wars were won, and some stability returned.

XIV. Advent of Napoleon


Source: Adapted from J.H. Stewart, translator and editor, A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution. Copyright 1951 by Macmillan Publishing Co. as reprinted in World History: A Story of ProgressNew York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1987.

1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights....

2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and impre scriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression.

3.The principle of all sovereignty resides in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. . . .

5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law...

6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally or through his representative in its formation. . . .

7. No person shall be accused, arrested or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law...

8. The laws shall provide for such punish ments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punish ment except it be legally inflicted....

9.All persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty....

10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions...provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order. . . .

11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, speak, write, and print with freedom....

12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military force. Those forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be entrusted.

13. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among the citizens in proportion to their means.

14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution. . . .

15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.


Examine carefully the excerpts below from Rousseau, and then read the selection from Wordsworth that echoes Rousseau's thoughts. The translator is G.D.H. Cole. [ I have edited the selections:]


MAN is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question I think I can answer.

If I took into account only force, and the effects derived from it, I should say: "As long as a people is compelled to obey, and obeys, it does well; as soon as it can shake off the yoke, and shakes it off, it does still better; for, regaining its liberty by the same right as took it away, either it is justified in resuming it, or there was no justification for those who took it away." But the social order is a sacred right which is the basis of all other rights. Nevertheless, this right does not come from nature, and must therefore be founded on conventions. Before coming to that, I have to prove what I have just asserted.


THE most ancient of all societies, and the only one that is natural, is the family: and even so the children remain attached to the father only so long as they need him for their preservation. As soon as this need ceases, the natural bond is dissolved. The children, released from the obedience they owed to the father, and the father, released from the care he owed his children, return equally to independence. If they remain united, they continue so no longer naturally, but voluntarily; and the family itself is then maintained only by convention.

This common liberty results from the nature of man. His first law is to provide for his own preservation, his first cares are those which he owes to himself; and, as soon as he reaches years of discretion, he is the sole judge of the proper means of preserving himself, and consequently becomes his own master.

The family then may be called the first model of political societies: the ruler corresponds to the father, and the people to the children; and all, being born free and equal, alienate their liberty only for their own advantage. The whole difference is that, in the family, the love of the father for his children repays him for the care he takes of them, while, in the State, the pleasure of commanding takes the place of the love which the chief cannot have for the peoples under him.

Aristotle was right; but he took the effect for the cause. Nothing can be more certain than that every man born in slavery is born for slavery. Slaves lose everything in their chains, even the desire of escaping from them: they love their servitude, as the comrades of Ulysses loved their brutish condition. If then there are slaves by nature, it is because there have been slaves against nature. Force made the first slaves, and their cowardice perpetuated the condition.


THE strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty. Hence the right of the strongest, which, though to all seeming meant ironically, is really laid down as a fundamental principle. But are we never to have an explanation of this phrase? Force is a physical power, and I fail to see what moral effect it can have. To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will Ñ at the most, an act of prudence. In what sense can it be a duty?

Suppose for a moment that this so-called "right" exists. I maintain that the sole result is a mass of inexplicable nonsense. For, if force creates right, the effect changes with the cause: every force that is greater than the first succeeds to its right. As soon as it is possible to disobey with impunity, disobedience is legitimate; and, the strongest being always in the right, the only thing that matters is to act so as to become the strongest. But what kind of right is that which perishes when force fails? If we must obey perforce, there is no need to obey because we ought; and if we are not forced to obey, we are under no obligation to do so. Clearly, the word "right" adds nothing to force: in this connection, it means absolutely nothing.

Obey the powers that be. If this means yield to force, it is a good precept, but superfluous: I can answer for its never being violated. All power comes from God, I admit; but so does all sickness: does that mean that we are forbidden to call in the doctor? A brigand surprises me at the edge of a wood: must I not merely surrender my purse on compulsion; but, even if I could withhold it, am I in conscience bound to give it up? For certainly the pistol he holds is also a power.


SINCE no man has a natural authority over his fellow, and force creates no right, we must conclude that conventions form the basis of all legitimate authority among men.

To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts. Finally, it is an empty and contradictory convention that sets up, on the one side, absolute authority, and, on the other, unlimited obedience. Is it not clear that we can be under no obligation to a person from whom we have the right to exact everything? Does not this condition alone, in the absence of equivalence or exchange, in itself involve the nullity of the act? For what right can my slave have against me, when all that he has belongs to me, and, his right being mine, this right of mine against myself is a phrase devoid of meaning?

But it is clear that this supposed right to kill the conquered is by no means deducible from the state of war. Men, from the mere fact that, while they are living in their primitive independence, they have no mutual relations stable enough to constitute either the state of peace or the state of war, cannot be naturally enemies. War is constituted by a relation between things, and not between persons; and, as the state of war cannot arise out of simple personal relations, but only out of real relations, private war, or war of man with man, can exist neither in the state of nature, where there is no constant property, nor in the social state, where everything is under the authority of the laws.


EVEN if I granted all that I have been refuting, the friends of despotism would be no better off. There will always be a great difference between subduing a multitude and ruling a society. Even if scattered individuals were successively enslaved by one man, however numerous they might be, I still see no more than a master and his slaves, and certainly not a people and its ruler; I see what may be termed an aggregation, but not an association; there is as yet neither public good nor body politic. The man in question, even if he has enslaved half the world, is still only an individual; his interest, apart from that of others, is still a purely private interest. If this same man comes to die, his empire, after him, remains scattered and without unity, as an oak falls and dissolves into a heap of ashes when the fire has consumed it. Indeed, if there were no prior convention, where, unless the election were unanimous, would be the obligation on the minority to submit to the choice of the majority? How have a hundred men who wish for a master the right to vote on behalf of ten who do not? The law of majority voting is itself something established by convention, and presupposes unanimity, on one occasion at least.


I SUPPOSE men to have reached the point at which the obstacles in the way of their preservation in the state of nature show their power of resistance to be greater than the resources at the disposal of each individual for his maintenance in that state. That primitive condition can then subsist no longer; and the human race would perish unless it changed its manner of existence.

But, as men cannot engender new forces, but only unite and direct existing ones, they have no other means of preserving themselves than the formation, by aggregation, of a sum of forces great enough to overcome the resistance. These they have to bring into play by means of a single motive power, and cause to act in concert.

This sum of forces can arise only where several persons come together: but, as the force and liberty of each man are the chief instruments of his self-preservation, how can he pledge them without harming his own interests, and neglecting the care he owes to himself? This difficulty, in its bearing on my present subject, may be stated in the following terms:

"The problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before." This is the fundamental problem of which the Social Contract provides the solution.

The clauses of this contract are so determined by the nature of the act that the slightest modification would make them vain and ineffective; so that, although they have perhaps never been formally set forth, they are everywhere the same and everywhere tacitly admitted and recognized, until, on the violation of the social compact, each regains his original rights and resumes his natural liberty, while losing the conventional liberty in favor of which he renounced it.

These clauses, properly understood, may be reduced to one Ñ the total alienation of each associate, together with all his rights, to the whole community; for, in the first place, as each gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all; and, this being so, no one has any interest in making them burdensome to others.

Moreover, the alienation being without reserve, the union is as perfect as it can be, and no associate has anything more to demand: for, if the individuals retained certain rights, as there would be no common superior to decide between them and the public, each, being on one point his own judge, would ask to be so on all; the state of nature would thus continue, and the association would necessarily become inoperative or tyrannical.

Finally, each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody; and as there is no associate over whom he does not acquire the same right as he yields others over himself, he gains an equivalent for everything he loses, and an increase of force for the preservation of what he has.

If then we discard from the social compact what is not of its essence, we shall find that it reduces itself to the following terms:

"Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole."

At once, in place of the individual personality of each contracting party, this act of association creates a moral and collective body, composed of as many members as the assembly contains votes, and receiving from this act its unity, its common identity, its life and its will. This public person, so formed by the union of all other persons formerly took the name of city,4 and now takes that of Republic or body politic; it is called by its members State when passive. Sovereign when active, and Power when compared with others like itself. Those who are associated in it take collectively the name of people, and severally are called citizens, as sharing in the sovereign power, and subjects, as being under the laws of the State. But these terms are often confused and taken one for another: it is enough to know how to distinguish them when they are being used with precision.


THIS formula shows us that the act of association comprises a mutual undertaking between the public and the individuals, and that each individual, in making a contract, as we may say, with himself, is bound in a double capacity; as a member of the Sovereign he is bound to the individuals, and as a member of the State to the Sovereign. But the maxim of civil right, that no one is bound by undertakings made to himself, does not apply in this case; for there is a great difference between incurring an obligation to yourself and incurring one to a whole of which you form a part.

Attention must further be called to the fact that public deliberation, while competent to bind all the subjects to the Sovereign, because of the two different capacities in which each of them may be regarded, cannot, for the opposite reason, bind the Sovereign to itself; and that it is consequently against the nature of the body politic for the Sovereign to impose on itself a law which it cannot infringe. Being able to regard itself in only one capacity, it is in the position of an individual who makes a contract with himself; and this makes it clear that there neither is nor can be any kind of fundamental law binding on the body of the people Ñ not even the social contract itself. This does not mean that the body politic cannot enter into undertakings with others, provided the contract is not infringed by them; for in relation to what is external to it, it becomes a simple being, an individual.

But the body politic or the Sovereign, drawing its being wholly from the sanctity of the contract, can never bind itself, even to an outsider, to do anything derogatory to the original act, for instance, to alienate any part of itself, or to submit to another Sovereign. Violation of the act by which it exists would be self-annihilation; and that which is itself nothing can create nothing.

As soon as this multitude is so united in one body, it is impossible to offend against one of the members without attacking the body, and still more to offend against the body without the members resenting it. Duty and interest therefore equally oblige the two contracting parties to give each other help; and the same men should seek to combine, in their double capacity, all the advantages dependent upon that capacity.


EACH member of the community gives himself to it, at the moment of its foundation, just as he is, with all the resources at his command, including the goods he possesses. This act does not make possession, in changing hands, change its nature, and become property in the hands of the Sovereign; but, as the forces of the city are incomparably greater than those of an individual, public possession is also, in fact, stronger and more irrevocable, without being any more legitimate, at any rate from the point of view of foreigners. For the State, in relation to its members, is master of all their goods by the social contract, which, within the State, is the basis of all rights; but, in relation to other powers, it is so only by the right of the first occupier, which it holds from its members.

The right of the first occupier, though more real than the right of the strongest, becomes a real right only when the right of property has already been established. Every man has naturally a right to everything he needs; but the positive act which makes him proprietor of one thing excludes him from everything else. Having his share, he ought to keep to it, and can have no further right against the community. This is why the right of the first occupier, which in the state of nature is so weak, claims the respect of every man in civil society. In this right we are respecting not so much what belongs to another as what does not belong to ourselves.

In general, to establish the right of the first occupier over a plot of ground, the following conditions are necessary: first, the land must not yet be inhabited; secondly, a man must occupy only the amount he needs for his subsistence; and, in the third place, possession must be taken, not by an empty ceremony, but by labour and cultivation, the only sign of proprietorship that should be respected by others, in default of a legal title.

We can imagine how the lands of individuals, where they were contiguous and came to be united, became the public territory, and how the right of Sovereignty, extending from the subjects over the lands they held, became at once real and personal.

The peculiar fact about this alienation is that, in taking over the goods of individuals, the community, so far from despoiling them, only assures them legitimate possession, and changes usurpation into a true right and enjoyment into proprietorship. Thus the possessors, being regarded as depositaries of the public good, and having their rights respected by all the members of the State and maintained against foreign aggression by all its forces, have, by a cession which benefits both the public and still more themselves, acquired, so to speak, all that they gave up. This paradox may easily be explained by the distinction between the rights which the Sovereign and the proprietor have over the same estate, as we shall see later on.

It may also happen that men begin to unite one with another before they possess anything, and that, subsequently occupying a tract of country which is enough for all, they enjoy it in common, or share it out among themselves, either equally or according to a scale fixed by the Sovereign. However the acquisition be made, the right which each individual has to his own estate is always subordinate to the right which the community has over all: without this, there would be neither stability in the social tie, nor real force in the exercise of Sovereignty.

The serpent in paradise was private property, not knowledge. The first man who,having, enclosed a piece of ground, thought himself of saying, THIS IS MINE, and found people simple enough to believe him was the real founder of civil society. Usurpations by the rich, robbery by the poor, and the unbridled passions of both, suppressed the cries of natural compassion and the still feeble voice of justice and filled men with avarice. All ran headlong to their chains, so government and law bound new fetters on the poor and gave new powers to the rich, irretrievably destroyed natural liberty,

I shall end this chapter and this book by remarking on a fact on which the whole social system should rest: i.e., that, instead of destroying natural inequality, the fundamental compact substitutes, for such physical inequality as nature may have set up between men, an equality that is moral and legitimate, and that men, who may be unequal in strength or intelligence, become every one equal by convention and legal right.



THE first and most important deduction from the principles we have so far laid down is that the general will alone can direct the State according to the object for which it was instituted, i.e., the common good: for if the clashing of particular interests made the establishment of societies necessary, the agreement of these very interests made it possible. The common element in these different interests is what forms the social tie; and, were there no point of agreement between them all, no society could exist. It is solely on the basis of this common interest that every society should be governed.

I hold then that Sovereignty, being nothing less than the exercise of the general will, can never be alienated, and that the Sovereign, who is no less than a collective being, cannot be represented except by himself: the power indeed may be transmitted, but not the will.

This does not mean that the commands of the rulers cannot pass for general wills, so long as the Sovereign, being free to oppose them, offers no opposition. In such a case, universal silence is taken to imply the consent of the people. This will be explained later on.


IF the State is a moral person whose life is in the union of its members, and if the most important of its cares is the care for its own preservation, it must have a universal and compelling force, in order to move and dispose each part as may be most advantageous to the whole. As nature gives each man absolute power over all his members, the social compact gives the body politic absolute power over all its members also; and it is this power which, under the direction of the general will, bears, as I have said, the name of Sovereignty.

But, besides the public person, we have to consider the private persons composing it, whose life and liberty are naturally independent of it. We are bound then to distinguish clearly between the respective rights of the citizens and the Sovereign,9 and between the duties the former have to fulfill as subjects, and the natural rights they should enjoy as men.

Each man alienates, I admit, by the social compact, only such part of his powers, goods and liberty as it is important for the community to control; but it must also be granted that the Sovereign is sole judge of what is important.

Every service a citizen can render the State he ought to render as soon as the Sovereign demands it; but the Sovereign, for its part, cannot impose upon its subjects any fetters that are useless to the community, nor can it even wish to do so; for no more by the law of reason than by the law of nature can anything occur without a cause.

The undertakings which bind us to the social body are obligatory only because they are mutual; and their nature is such that in fulfilling them we cannot work for others without working for ourselves. Why is it that the general will is always in the right, and that all continually will the happiness of each one, unless it is because there is not a man who does not think of "each" as meaning him, and consider himself in voting for all? This proves that equality of rights and the idea of justice which such equality creates originate in the preference each man gives to himself, and accordingly in the very nature of man. It proves that the general will, to be really such, must be general in its object as well as its essence; that it must both come from all and apply to all; and that it loses its natural rectitude when it is directed to some particular and determinate object, because in such a case we are judging of something foreign to us, and have no true principle of equity to guide us.

It should be seen from the foregoing that what makes the will general is less the number of voters than the common interest uniting them; for, under this system, each necessarily submits to the conditions he imposes on others: and this admirable agreement between interest and justice gives to the common deliberations an equitable character which at once vanishes when any particular question is discussed, in the absence of a common interest to unite and identify the ruling of the judge with that of the party.


So far, we have considered the prince as a moral and collective person, unified by the force of the laws, and the depositary in the State of the executive power. We have now to consider this power when it is gathered together into the hands of a natural person, a real man, who alone has the right to dispose of it in accordance with the laws. Such a person is called a monarch or king.

In contrast with other forms of administration, in which a collective being stands for an individual, in this form an individual stands for a collective being; so that the moral unity that constitutes the prince is at the same time a physical unity, and all the qualities, which in the other case are only with difficulty brought together by the law, are found naturally united.

Thus the will of the people, the will of the prince, the public force of the State, and the particular force of the government, all answer to a single motive power; all the springs of the machine are in the same hands, the whole moves towards the same end; there are no conflicting movements to cancel one another, and no kind of constitution can be imagined in which a less amount of effort produces a more considerable amount of action. Archimedes, seated quietly on the bank and easily drawing a great vessel afloat, stands to my mind for a skillful monarch, governing vast states from his study, and moving everything while he seems himself unmoved.

Kings desire to be absolute, and men are always crying out to them from afar that the best means of being so is to get themselves loved by their people. This precept is all very well, and even in some respects very true. Unfortunately, it will always be derided at court. The power which comes of a people's love is no doubt the greatest; but it is precarious and conditional, and princes will never rest content with it. The best kings desire to be in a position to be wicked, if they please, without forfeiting their mastery: political sermonizers may tell them to their hearts' content that, the people's strength being their own, their first interest is that the people should be prosperous, numerous and formidable; they are well aware that this is untrue. Their first personal interest is that the people should be weak, wretched, and unable to resist them. I admit that, provided the subjects remained always in submission, the prince's interest would indeed be that it should be powerful, in order that its power, being his own, might make him formidable to his neighbors; but, this interest being merely secondary and subordinate, and strength being incompatible with submission, princes naturally give the preference always to the principle that is more to their immediate advantage. This is what Samuel put strongly before the Hebrews, and what Machiavelli has clearly shown. He professed to teach kings; but it was the people he really taught. His Prince is the book of Republicans.


Rousseau wrote an educational 'novel' called The Emile in which he outlined how to provide the young with a NATURAL education. It is hard to underestimate the impact of these views. What today we might regard as pedagogical commonplaces, were in Rousseau's time revolutionary and considered very dangerous. Observe as well that many of the ideas quoted seem paradoxical. What are the moral implications of his views...

All things are good as the come out of the hands of their creator, but everything degenerates in the hands of man.

The influence of prejudice, authority, necessity, example and all those social institutions in which we are immersed, would stifle in him the emotions of nature, and substitute nothing in their place. His humanity would resemble a shrub.

We are born weak, we have need of help, we are born destitute of everything... we receive form nature, from men or from circumstance...Since the concurrence of three kinds of education is necessary to its perfection, it is by that one which is entirely independent of us, [ that is nature] we must regulate the two others...

Confine o man thy existence within thyself, and thou wilt be no longer miserable. Remain in the place nature has assigned you in the scale of beings: spurn not against the hard law of necessity, nor waste, by our opposition, that strength which heaven has bestowed on you.

Treat your pupil according to his years. Put him at first into his place and keep him there so strictly that he may never afterwards be tempted to go from it. Thus before he may have learned what prudence is, he will have practiced the most important of all lessons. Never command him to do anything in the world...Let him early feel on his aspiring crest the had yoke nature has imposed on him...[Instructor note: Rousseau gives the example of Emile playing ball and breaking a window; rather than a lecture, he is made to sleep in a cold room without glass--thus nature teaches him to be careful.]

Let us lay down an incontestable maxim: that the first emotions of nature are always right: there is no original perversity in the human heart. I will venture to say, there is not a single vice to be found there, that one could not say how and which way it entered. The only passion natural to man is the love of himself or self-love taken in an extensive sense.

The words command and obey should have no place in his [Emile's] dictionary; much less those of duty and obligation, but those of power, necessity, impotence, and restraint, ought to stand forth in capitals.

We may reduce almost all the lessons of morality that have, or can be be, formed for the use of children, to the following formula.

MASTER. You must not do so.
CHILD. And why must I not do so?
MASTER. Because it is naughty.
CHILD Naughty! what is that being naughty?
MASTER. Doing what you are forbid.
CHILD. And what harm is there in doing what one is forbid
MASTER. The harm is, you will be whipped for disobedience.
CHILD Then I will do it so that no body shall know any thing of the matter.
MASTER You will be watched.
CHILD But then I will hide myself.
MASTER Then you will be examined.
CHILD. Then I will tell a fib.
MASTER. But you must not tell a fib.,
CHILD. Why must not I not
MASTER. Because it is naughty, etc.

Thus we go round the circle; and yet, if we go out of it, the child understands us no longer. Are not these very useful instructions, think you? ... To distinguish between good and evil, to perceive the reasons on which our moral obligations are not within the capacity of a child. Nature requires children to be children before they are men. Childhood hath its manner of thinking, peculiar to itself; nor is there any thing more absurd than our being anxious to substitute our own in its stead.

RESULT: Rousseau had to leave France, the church banned the EMILE for the argument that man is naturally good, and philosophically, we have the ideas of Schopenhauer...


Wordsworth traveled in France during the revolution, and what follows is an excerpt from a long poem he wrote called The Prelude or Growth of the Poet's Mind in which he outlined observations about the war and how it contributed to his artistic development. Here he is with a French army officer named Beaupuis with revolutionary sympathies. The selection is from Book IX: "Residence in France. Note the influence of Rousseau:

Of Kings, their vices and their better deeds,
Imagination, potent to inflame
At times with virtuous wrath and noble scorn,
Did also often mitigate the force
Of civic prejudice, the bigotry,
So call it, of a youthful patriot's mind;
And on these spots with many gleams I looked
Of chivalrous delight. Yet not the less,
Hatred of absolute rule, where will of one
Is law for all, and of that barren pride
In them who, by immunities unjust,
Between the sovereign and the people stand,
His helper and not theirs, laid stronger hold
Daily upon me, mixed with pity too
And love; for where hope is, there love will be
For the abject multitude, And when we chanced
One day to meet a hunger-bitten girl,
Who crept along fitting her languid gait
Unto a heifer's motion, by a cord
Tied to her arm, and picking thus from the lane
Its sustenance, while the girl with pallid hands
Was busy knitting in a heartless mood
Of solitude, and at the sight my friend
In agitation said, "'Tis against 'that'
That we are fighting," I with him believed
That a benignant spirit was abroad
Which might not be withstood, that poverty
Abject as this would in a little time
Be found no more, that we should see the earth
Unthwarted in her wish to recompense
The meek, the lowly, patient child of toil,
All institutes for ever blotted out
That legalised exclusion, empty pomp
Abolished, sensual state and cruel power
Whether by edict of the one or few;
And finally, as sum and crown of all,
Should see the people having a strong hand
In framing their own laws; whence better days
To all mankind. But, these things set apart,
Was not this single confidence enough
To animate the mind that ever turned
A thought to human welfare? That henceforth
Captivity by mandate without law
Should cease; and open accusation lead
To sentence in the hearing of the world,
And open punishment, if not the air
Be free to breathe in, and the heart of man
Dread nothing. From this height I shall not stoop
To humbler matter that detained us oft
In thought or conversation, public acts,
And public persons, and emotions wrought
Within the breast, as ever-varying winds
Of record or report swept over us;