34 Pages

Studies in Law and Politics

The study of the eighteenth century in France must begin by the admission of its complexity. Generalization is helpless before temperaments so various and ideas so disparate. If eighteenth-century Franceis the age of Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, it is the age also of Locke and Richardson, of Ossian and Young. The Romantic movement, at least, has its roots deep in English soil. Take as postulates the inescapable evidence of stout common sense, and reason logically from them to the conclusions they imply. Abstract truth, the Voltairean common sense, with its power of destructive irony, the natural laws of Condillac and Quesnay—these still advance with pride to the conflict of ideas. Once the problems of religion and morals had come within the purview of the philosopher it was natural and logical that he should extend his survey to the political field. Frenchmen had hardly discussed the foundations of politics since the epoch of the wars of religion.