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Rousseau's "Considerations on the Government of Poland"

paczemoj 1 | 3
30 Sep 2010 #1
In 1772, the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote about what he believed the Polish constitution, and therefore Polish state, should be.

One of my favourite passages:

Today, no matter what people may say, there are no longer any Frenchmen, Germans, Spaniards, or even Englishmen; there are only Europeans. All have the same tastes, the same passions, the same manners, for no one has been shaped along national lines by peculiar institutions.

And what, one may ask, constitutes this wonderful European? Is it continental solidarity, realization of a shared destiny, religion, a common culture?


All, in the same circumstances, will do the same things; all will call themselves unselfish, and be rascals; all will talk of the public welfare, and think only of themselves; all will praise moderation, and wish to be as rich as Croesus. They have no ambition but for luxury, they have no passion but for gold; sure that money will buy them all their hearts desire, they all are ready to sell themselves to the first bidder. What do they care what master they obey, under the laws of what state they live? Provided they can find money to steal and women to corrupt, they feel at home in any country.

So, what of Poland?
Incline the passions of the Poles in a different direction, and you will give their souls a national physiognomy which will distinguish them from other peoples, which will prevent them from mixing, from feeling at ease with those peoples, from allying themselves with them; you will give them a vigour which will supplant the abusive operation of vain precepts, and which will make them do through preference and passion that which is never done sufficiently well when done only for duty or interest. These are the souls on which appropriate legislation will take hold. They will obey the laws without evasion because those laws suit them and rest on the inward assent of their will. Loving the fatherland, they will serve it zealously and with all their hearts. Given this sentiment alone, legislation, even if it were bad, would make good citizens; and it is always good citizens alone that constitute the power and prosperity of the state.

Rousseau then goes on to discuss how to cure the problems (which he identifies earlier) of the Polish state and how to create a new and better Poland. The essay was never published, but makes fascinating reading. For example, Rousseau proposes that Poland become a federation of 33 "small-states" that "combine the power of a great monarchy with the freedom of a small republic". Not long after, and on a different continent, something similar would come about...


The full English text is here:
Ironside 49 | 10,375
30 Sep 2010 #2
Thanks, interesting !
However the same author sold himself or his considerable talent to the Russian Empress.
Nathan 18 | 1,363
30 Sep 2010 #3
Was the b*tch tired of horses?
Ironside 49 | 10,375
30 Sep 2010 #4
Nope, however horses cannot write .....propaganda!
Nathan 18 | 1,363
30 Sep 2010 #5
Nope, however horses cannot write .....propaganda!

True.. Good for them - otherwise, they would have been doubly exploited. I heard she was ordering rhinos from Africa since even horses' dignities became too small for her expensive dump bucket :)
OP paczemoj 1 | 3
30 Sep 2010 #6
Well, who knows what Rousseau was doing? Catherine once complained that, "I cannot get out of my conversations with him without having my thighs bruised black and blue."

Maybe he was one of her "stallions", too.

Ironside 49 | 10,375
2 Oct 2010 #7
who knows what Rousseau was doing?

exactly ! maybe he was only pinching :)

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