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Reimagining Politics after the Terror

The Republican Origins of French Liberalism

Andrew Jainchill

Publication Year: 2008

In the wake of the Terror, France's political and intellectual elites set out to refound the Republic and, in so doing, reimagined the nature of the political order. They argued vigorously over imperial expansion, constitutional power, personal liberty, and public morality. In Reimagining Politics after the Terror, Andrew Jainchill rewrites the history of the origins of French Liberalism by telling the story of France's underappreciated "republican moment" during the tumultuous years between 1794 and Napoleon's declaration of a new French Empire in 1804.

Examining a wide range of political and theoretical debates, Jainchill offers a compelling reinterpretation of the political culture of post-Terror France and of the establishment of Napoleon's Consulate. He also provides new readings of works by the key architects of early French Liberalism, including Germaine de Staël, Benjamin Constant, and, in the epilogue, Alexis de Tocqueville. The political culture of the post-Terror period was decisively shaped by the classical republican tradition of the early modern Atlantic world and, as Jainchill persuasively argues, constituted France's "Machiavellian Moment." Out of this moment, a distinctly French version of liberalism began to take shape. Reimagining Politics after the Terror is essential reading for anyone concerned with the history of political thought, the origins and nature of French Liberalism, and the end of the French Revolution.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-6


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pp. 7-8

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pp. vii-x

...This project began at the University of California, Berkeley, and it is a pleasure to acknowledge the debts accumulated there. First and foremost, I thank Carla Hesse and Martin Jay, model mentors and advisers throughout graduate school and since. I am particularly grateful for their intellectual rigor and demanding standards. I owe a special thanks to Carla, who ...

Note on Translations and Abbreviations

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pp. x-xiii

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pp. 1-25

...The field of politics is and has been, in a significant and radical sense, a created one. The designation of certain activities and arrangements as political, the characteristic way that we think about them, and the concepts we employ to communicate our observations and reactions—none of these are written into the nature of things but are the legacy accruing ...

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1. The Constitution of the Year III

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pp. 26-61

...In the summer of 1795, six years after the staggering events of 1789 and one year removed from the end of the Terror, the representatives of the French nation met and debated a proposed new constitution for France, the third of the Revolution. The newly emergent republican center sought to end the Revolution and establish the Republic on a lasting basis, to replace ...

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2. The Post-Terror Discourse of Moeurs

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pp. 62-107

..On 24 September 1794, just two months after the overthrow of Robespierre, Jean-Antoine-Joseph Debry delivered a speech to the National Convention on “the foundations of public morality.” Debry began his speech by explaining that the legislator’s task is to “direct the human passions to the public benefit.” To do this, he explained, the Convention must reform France’s moeurs by creating a new “empire of habits” among the population, habits that would fully attach people...

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3. Liberal Republicanism During the Directory

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pp. 108-140

...Post-Terror France witnessed a veritable explosion of tracts, treatises, and essays reflecting on the nature of the republic as a political form. From obscure pamphlet writers such as Louis-François Cherhal Mont-Rèal to towering figures such as Jacques Necker, the proper organization of the polity was widely, fervently, discussed. Pamphlets, journals, and books streamed ...

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4. A Republican Empire?

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pp. 141-196

...Thus far this book has focused on debate about domestic political questions. The republican center, however, grappled just as fully with matters of foreign policy. From 1794 to 1799 questions relating to foreign policy and the international order were never far from the forefront of political discussion, reflecting the ongoing war and international crisis that marked the era. It was widely felt, not surprisingly, that the republic could be anchored in stable ground only when peace was achieved and the international situation settled. ...

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5. Liberal Authoritarianism and the Constitution of the Year VIII

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pp. 197-242

...On 18 Brumaire of the Year VIII (9 November 1799) a group of disaffected political, intellectual, and military elites overthrew the Directorial regime. The coup’s primary organizer was Sieyès, who famously declared, “I’m looking for a sword” and turned to Bonaparte only after his first choice, General Joubert, died in battle and his second choice, General Moreau, suggested Bonaparte in the wake of Bonaparte’s daring return from Egypt in October of 1799 ...

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6. Liberal Republicanism and Dissentagainst Bonaparte

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pp. 243-286

...The official proclamation upon the passage of the Constitution of the Year VIII declared that “the Revolution is established on the principles that began it: It is finished.”1 Bonaparte and his collaborators then set about establishing a liberal-authoritarian political order and finishing the Revolution, but a significant schism developed over just what that meant. While ...

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Epilogue: The Fate of French Liberal Republicanism

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pp. 287-308

...Liberalism, in a now familiar story, suffered a tragic fate in modern France, never gaining intellectual or political hegemony as it did in the Anglophone world. Following the demise of the First Republic, French history was marked by a series of nonliberal political regimes ranging from the Restoration monarchy to the radical republicanism of the Second...


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pp. 309-318

E-ISBN-13: 9780801463532
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801446696

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1