A Comparison Four (4) double-spaced pages on the topic below: Compare and contrast Aristotle’s and John Locke’s ideals of citizenship. How do these differ

A Comparison Four (4) double-spaced pages on the topic below:

Compare and contrast Aristotle’s and John Locke’s ideals of citizenship. How do these differ

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Four (4) double-spaced pages on the topic below:

Compare and contrast Aristotle’s and John Locke’s ideals of citizenship. How do these differing ideals of citizenship reflect different ideas about human flourishing—about what makes a good life? Whose vision of citizenship is more convincing, and why? Substantiate your answer with textual evidence. 

Read the following before writing:

Aristotle, Politics (c. 347-322 B.C.E.), Book III:  
Chapters 6-9, 11-12, 15-18, Book IV: Chapters 7-
11, Book VI: Chapters 2-3, Book VII: Chaps. 1-3,
13-14, 17, Book VIII: Chapters 1-2 (48pp.) 

John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (1690),  
Chapters 1-5, 7-9 Chapters 10-15, 18-19  

Benjamin Constant(Attached)



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Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Cambridge

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Political Writings





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First published 1988

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British Library Cataloguing in Publication data
Constant, Benjamin

The political writings of Benjamin Constant.

I. Political science

I. Title II. Fontana, Biancamaria

320 JA71

Library ofCongress Cataloguing in Publication data
Constant, Benjamin, 1767-1830

The political writings of Benjamin Constant.

(Cambridge texts in the history of political thought)


Includes index.

I. Political science – Collected works.

I. Fontana, Biancamaria. II. Title. III. Series.

JC179·c6713 1988 320′.092’4 87-24228

ISBN 0 52 I 30336 2 hardback

ISBN 0 52 I 3I 632 4 paperback







Bibliographical note
Preface to the first edition
Preface to the third edition
Foreword to the fourth edition


Part I . The spirit ofconquest
I The virtues compatible with war at given stages of social

2 The character of modem nations in relation to war
3 The spirit of conquest in the present condition of Europe
4 Of a military race acting on self-interest alone
5 A further reason for the deterioration of the military class

within the system of conquest
6 The influence of this military spirit upon the internal

condition of nations
7 A further drawback of the formation of this military spirit












Bibliographical note
This translation of Constant’s speech of 18 I 9 on the
liberty of the ancients and the moderns reproduces the
text published in his Co/leaion complete des ouvrages
publits sur Ie gouvemement representatif et 111, constitution
aetuel/e, ou Cout’S de po/itique constitutionnelle, 4 vols.
(Paris and Rouen, 1820), vol 4, pp. 238-74.

The speech contains numerous repetitions and refor­
mulations of passages which appeared in the Spirit of
Conquest and Usurpation and in the Principles ofPolitics.
The general significance of these reformulations is dis­
cussed in the Introduction to this volume. It seemed too
pedantic to indicate the repeated passages one by one in
the annotation, as their presence does not affect the
overall originality and interest of this text.


I wish to submit for your attention a few distinctions, still rather new,
between two kinds of liberty: these differences have thus far remained
unnoticed, or at least insufficiendy remarked. The first is the liberty the
exercise ofwhich was so dear to the ancient peoples; the second the one
the enjoyment ofwhich is especially precious to the modem nations. If
1 am right, this investigation will prove interesting from two different

Firsdy, the confusion of these two kinds ofliberty has been amongst
us, in the all too famous days of our revolution, the cause of many an
evil. France was exhausted by useless experiments, the authors of
which, irritated by their poor success, sought to force her to enjoy the
good she did not want, and denied her the good which she did want.

Secondly, called as we are by our happy revolution (I call it happy,
despite its excesses, because I concentrate my attention on its results)
to enjoy the benefits of representative government, it is curious and
interesting to discover why this form of government, the only one in the
shelter of which we could find some freedom and peace today, was
totally unknown to the free nations of antiquity.

I know that there are writers who have claimed to distinguish traces
ofit among some ancient peoples, in the Lacedaemonian republic for
example, or amongst our ancestors the Gauls; but they are mistaken.

The Lacedaemonian government was a monastic aristocracy, and in
no way a representative government. The power of the kings was
limited, but it was limited by the ephors, and not by men invested with a

30 9

The liberty ojthe ancients compared with that ojthe moderns


mission similar to that which election confers today on the defenders of
our liberties. The ephors, no doubt, though originally created by the
kings, were elected by the people. But there were only five of theln.
Their authority was as much religious as political; they even shared in
the administration of government, that is, in the executive power. Thus
their prerogative, like that of almost all popular magistrates in the
ancient republics, far from being simply a barrier against tyranny,
became sometimes itself an insufferable tyranny.

The regime of the Gauls, which quite resembled the one that a
certain party would like to restore to us,. was at the same time theocratic
and warlike. The priests enjoyed unlimited power. The military class or
nobility had markedly insolent and oppressive privileges; the people
had no rights and no safeguards.

In Rome the tribunes had, up to a point, a representative mission.
They were the organs ofthose plebeians whom the oligarchy – which is
the same in all ages – had submitted, in overthrowing the kings, to so
harsh a slavery. The people, however, exercised a large part of the
political rights directly. They met to vote on the laws and to judge the
patricians against whom charges had been levelled: thus there were, in
Rome, only feeble traces of a representative system.

This system is a discovery of the moderns, and you will see, Gentle­
men, that the condition of the human race in antiquity did not allow for
the introduction or establishment of an institution of this nature. The
ancient peoples could neither feel the need for it, nor appreciate its
advantages. Their social organization led them to desire an entirely
different freedom from the one which this system grants to us.

Tonight’s lecture will be devoted to demonstrating this truth to you.
First ask yourselves, Gentlemen, what an Englishman, a French­

man, and a citizen ofthe United States ofAmerica understand today by
the word ‘liberty’.

For each of them it is the rightto be subjected only to the laws, and to
be neither arrested, detained, put to death or maltreated in any way by
the arbitrary will ofone or more individuals. It is the right ofeveryone to

• If the model of the ancient republics had dominared the politics of the Jacobins,

during the Restoration the return to feudal liberty became the ideal of the mon­

archical ‘reformers’. The most influential contemporary source is: Robert de

Montlosier, D~ II/. “,onarrhitfrlJ.1lflJ.is~. For a survey of the political interpretations of

France’s feudal past, see: Stanley Mellon, Tht Poli/iCIJI UstS ofHistory, I/. Sludy of

HislorialfJ in II” Frmch Resloration (Stanford, California, 1958); Shirley M. Gruner,

‘Political Historiography in Restoration France’, Hislory IJ.1Id Th{(lry, 8 (1969),



Speech given at the Athettie Royal

express their opinion, choose a profession and practise it, to dispose of
property, and even to abuse it; to come and go without permission, and
without having to account for their motives or undertakings. It is
everyone’s right to associate with other individuals, either to discuss
their interests, or to profess the religion which they and their associates
prefer, or even simply to occupy their days or hours in a way which is
most compatible with their inclinations or whims. Finally it is
everyone’s right to exercise some influence on the administration of the
government, either by electing all or particular officials, or through
representations, petitions, demands to which the authorities are more
or less compelled to pay heed. Now compare this liberty with that of the

The latter consisted in exercising collectively, but directly, several
parts of the complete sovereignty; in deliberating, in the public square,
over war and peace; in forming alliances with foreign governments; in
voting laws, in pronouncing judgements; in examining the accounts,
the acts, the stewardship of the magistrates; in calling them to appear in
front of the assembled people, in accusing, condemning or absolving
them. But if this was what the ancients called liberty, they admitted as
compatible with this collective freedom the complete subjection of the
individual to the authority of the community. You find among them
almost none of the enjoyments which we have just seen form part ofthe
liberty of the modems. All private actions were submitted to a severe
surveillance. No importance was given to individual independence,
neither in relation to opinions, nor to labour, nor, above all, to religion.
The right to choose one’s own religious affiliation, a right which we
regard as one ofthe most precious, would have seemed to the ancients a
crime and a sacrilege. In the domains which seem to us the most useful,
the authority of the social body interposed itself and obstructed the will
of individuals. Among the Spartans, Therpandrus could not add a
string to his lyre without causing offence to the ephors. In the most
domestic of relations the public authority again intervened. The young
Lacedaemonian could not visit his new bride freely. In Rome, the
censors cast a searching eye over family life. The laws regulated
customs, and as customs touch on everything, there was hardly any­
thing that the laws did not regulate.

Thus among the ancients the individual, almost always sovereign in
public affairs, was a slave in all his private relations. As a citizen, he
decided on peace and war; as a private individual, he was constrained,

3 11


The liberty of the ancients compared with that of the moderns

watched and repressed in all his movements; as a member of the
collective body, he interrogated, dismissed, condemned, beggared,
exiled, or sentenced to death his magistrates and superiors; as a subject
of the collective body he could himself be deprived of his status,
stripped of his privileges, banished, put to death, by the discretionary
will of the whole to which he belonged. Among the modems, on the
contrary, the individual, independent in his private life, is, even in the
freest of states, sovereign only in appearance. His sovereignty is re­
stricted and almost always suspended. If, at fixed and rare intervals, in
which he is again surrounded by precautions and obstacles, he exer­
cises this sovereignty, it is always only to renounce it.

I must at this point, Gentlemen, pause for a moment to anticipate an
objection which may be addressed to me. There was in antiquity a
republic where the enslavement ofindividual existence to the collective
body was not as complete as I have described it. This republic was the
most famous of all: you will guess that I am speaking of Athens. I shall
return to it later, and in subscribing to the truth of this fact, I shall also
indicate its cause. We shall see why, ofall the ancient states, Athens was
the one which most resembles the modem ones. Everywhere else social
jurisdiction was unlimited. The ancients, as Condorcet says, had no
notion of individual rights.- Men were, so to speak, merely machines,
whose gears and cog-wheels were regulated by the law. The same
subjection characterized the golden centuries of the Roman republic;
the individual was in some way lost in the nation, the citizen in the city.

We shall now trace this essential difference between the ancients
and ourselves back to its source.

All ancient republics were restricted to a narrow territory. The most
populous, the most powerful, the most substantial among them, was
not equal in extension to the smallest ofmodem states. As an inevitable
consequence of their narrow territory, the spirit of these republics was
bellicose; each people incessantly attacked their neighbours or was
attacked by them. Thus driven by necessity against one another, they
fought or threatened each other constantly. Those who had no ambi­
tion to be conquerors, could still not lay down their weapons, lest they
should themselves be conquered. All had to buy their security, their
independence, their whole existence at the price of war. This was the
constant interest, the almost habitual occupation of the free states of

• J. A. N. Caritat de Condorcet, Sur /’inslnu:twn puhliqu., p. 47.

3 12

Speech given at the Athenie Royal

antiquity. Finally, by an equally necessary result of this way ofbeing, all
these states had slaves.” The mechanical professions and even, among
some nations, the industrial ones, were committed to people in chains.

The modem world offers us a completely opposing view. The
smallest states of our day are incomparably larger than Sparta or than
Rome was over five centuries. Even the division of Europe into several
states is, thanks to the progress of enlightenment, more apparent than
real. While each people, in the past, formed an isolated family, the born
enemy of other families, a mass of human beings now exists, that under
different names and under different forms of social organization are
essentially homogeneous in their nature. This mass is strong enough to
have nothing to fear from barbarian hordes. It is sufficiently civilized to
find war a burden. Its uniform tendency is towards peace.

This difference leads to another one. War precedes commerce. War
and commerce are only two different means of achieving the same end,
that of getting what one wants. Commerce is simply a tribute paid to the
strength of the possessor by the aspirant to possession. It is an attempt
to conquer, by mutual agreement, what one can no longer hope to
obtain through violence. A man who was always the stronger would
never conceive the idea of commerce. It is experience, by proving to
him that war, that is the use of his strength against the strength of
others, exposes him to a variety of obstacles and defeats, that leads him
to resort to commerce, that is to a milder and surer means of engaging
the interest of others to agree to what suits his own. War is all impulse,
commerce, calculation. Hence it follows that an age must come in
which commerce replaces war. We have reached this age.

I do not mean that amongst the ancients there were no trading
peoples. But these peoples were to some degree an exception to the
general rule. The limits of this lecture do not allow me to illustrate all
the obstacles which then opposed the progress ofcommerce; you know
them as well as I do; I shall only mention one of them.

Their ignorance of the compass meant that the sailors of antiquity
always had to keep close to the coast. To pass through the pillars of
Hercules, that is, the straits of Gibraltar, was considered the most
daring of enterprises. The Phoenicians and the Carthaginians, the

• In the 1806 draft, Constant observed: ‘ … slavery, universally practised by the

ancients gave to their mores a severe and cruel imprint, which made it easy for them

to sacrifice gentle affections to political interests.’ E. Hofmann (ed.), Les ‘Principes de

Poliliqul, vol. z, p. 428.

3 13

The liberty of the ancients compared with that of the moderns

most able ofnavigators, did not risk it until very late, and their eX8.Jnplf*r’

for long remained without imitators. In Athens, of which we shall ~:'{~

soon, the interest on maritime enterprises was around 60%, while~i

current interest was only 12 %: that was how dangerous the idea of ..

distant navigation seemed.”

Moreover, if I could permit myself a digression which would uat’

fortunately prove too long, I would show you, Gentlemen, through the
details of the customs, habits, way of trading with others of the tradina
peoples of antiquity, that their commerce was itself impregnated by ~.
spirit of the age, by the atmosphere of war and hostility which sur­
rounded it. Commerce then was a lucky accident, today it is the nOnnal
state of things, the only aim, the universal tendency, the true IifeQf:
nations. They want repose, and with repose comfort, and as a sourceofi:
comfort, industry. Every day war becomes a more ineffective means of
satisfying their wishes. Its hazards no longer offer to individuals bene,: .
fits that match the results of peaceful work and regular exchanges,
Among the ancients, a successful war increased both private and publiq

outcome of these


wealth in slaves, tributes and lands shared out. For the moderns, even.
successful war costs infallibly more than it is worth.

Finally, thanks to commerce, to religion, to the moral and in:­
tellectual progress of the human race, there are no longer slaves amOIlJ
the European nations. Free men must exercise all professions,
for all the needs of society.

It is easy to see, Gentlemen, the inevitable

Firstly, the size of a country causes a corresponding decrease of the
political importance allotted to each individual. The most obscure
republican of Sparta or Rome had power. The same is not true of the
simple citizen of Britain or ofthe United States. His personal influence
is an imperceptible part of the social will which impresses
government its direction.

Secondly, the abolition of slavery has deprived the free population
all the leisure which resulted from the fact that slaves took care of mOSl
ofthe work. Without the slave population of Athens, 20,000 Athenian14
could never have spent every day at the public square in discussions.

Thirdly, commerce does not, like war, leave in men’s lives intervals
of inactivity. The constant exercise of political rights, the daily dis­
cussion of the affairs of the state, disagreements, confabulations, the
whole entourage and movement of factions, necessary agitations, the

3 14

Speech given at the Athettie Royal

compulsory filling, if I may use the term, of the life of the peoples of
antiquity, who, without this resource would have languished under the
weight of painful inaction, would only cause trouble and fatigue to
modem nations, where each individual, occupied with his speculations,
his enterprises, the pleasures he obtains or hopes for, does not wish to
be distracted from them other than momentarily, and as little as

Finally, commerce inspires in men a vivid love ofindividual indepen­
dence. Commerce supplies their needs, satisfies their desires, without
the intervention of the authorities. This intervention is almost always­
and I do not know why I say almost – this intervention is indeed always a
trouble and an embarrassment. Every time collective power wishes to
meddle with private speculations, it harasses the speculators. Every
time governments pretend to do our own business, they do it more
incompetently and expensively than we would.

I said, Gentlemen, that I would return to Athens, whose example
tnight be opposed to some of my assertions, but which will in fact
confirm all of them.

Athens, as I have already pointed out, was of all the Greek republics
the most closely engaged in trade:” thus it allowed to its citizens an
infinitely greater individual liberty than Sparta or Rome. If I could
enter into historical details, I would show you that, among the Athe­
nians, commerce had removed several of the differences which dis­
tinguished the ancient from the modem peoples. The spirit of the
Athenian merchants was similar to that of the merchants of our days.
Xenophon tells us that during the Peloponnesian war, they moved their
capitals from the continent of Attica to place them on the islands of the
archipelago. Commerce had created among them the circulation of
money. In Isocrates there are signs that bills of exchange were used.
Observe how their customs resemble our own. In their relations with
women, you will see, again I cite Xenophon, husbands, satisfied when
peace and a decorous friendship reigned in their households, make
allowances for the wife who is too vulnerable before the tyranny of
nature, dose their eyes to the irresistible power ofpassions, forgive the
first weakness and forget the second. In their relations with strangers,
we shall see them extending the rights ofcitizenship to whoever would,

• Constant’s notes to the 1806 draft show that he derived most of his illustrations and

examples about Athens in this passage from Cornelius de Pauw, Rechl1Tches phi/OSo­

phiques su’ ks Crt”” vol. I, pp. 93ff.

3 1 5

The liberty of the ancients compared with that ofthe moderns

by moving among them with his family, establish some trade or
try. Finally, we shall be struck by their excessive love of individual
independence. In Sparta, says a philosopher, the citizens quicken
step when they are called by a magistrate; but an Athenian would be
desperate if he were thought to be dependent on a magistrate.­

However, as several of the other circumstances which determined’
the character of ancient nations existed in Athens as well; as there was’i ”
slave population and the territory was very restricted; we find there too
the traces of the liberty proper to the ancients. The people made the
laws, examined the behaviour of the magistrates, called Pericles to
account for his conduct, sentenced to death the generals who had
commanded the battle of the Arginusae. Similarly ostracism, that legal.
arbitrariness, extolled by all the legislators of the age; ostracism, which
appears to us, and rightly so, a revolting iniquity, proves that the
individual was much more subservient to the supremacy of the social ,
body in Athens, than he is in any of the free states of Europe today,

It follows from what I have just indicated that we can no longer enjoy
the liberty of the ancients, which consisted in an active and constant
participation in collective power. Our freedom must consist ofpeaceful
enjoyment and private independence. The share which in antiquity
everyone held in national sovereignty was by no means an abstract
presumption as it is in our own day. The will of each individual had real
influence: the exercise of this will was a vivid and repeated pleasure.
Consequently the ancients were ready to make many a sacrifice to
preserve their political rights and their share in the administration of
the state. Everybody, feeling with pride all that his suffrage was worth,
found in this awareness of his personal importance a great

This compensation no longer exists for us today. Lost in the multi­
tude, the individual can almost never perceive the influence he exer­
cises. Never does his will impress itself upon the whole; nothing
confirms in his eyes his own cooperation.

The exercise ofpolitical rights, therefore, offers us but a part of the
pleasures that the ancients found in it, while at the same time the
progress of civilization, the commercial tendency of the age, the com­
munication amongst peoples, have infinitely multiplied and varied the
means of personal happiness.

• Xenophon, De Republi((J L~iu”., VIn, 2 in: J. M:.Moore (ed.), Aristotle and

Xmophon on dtrnocracy and oIigardry (London, 1975).


Speech given at the Athence Royal

It follows that we must be far more attached than the ancients to our
individual independence. For the ancients when they sacrificed that
independence to their political rights, sacrificed less to obtain more;
while in making the same sacrifice, we would give more to obtain less.

The aim of the ancients was the sharing of social power among the
citizens of the same fatherland: this is what they called liberty. The aim
of the modems is the enjoyment of security in private pleasures; and
they call liberty the guarantees accorded by institutions to these

I said at the beginning that, through their failure to perceive these
differences, otherwise well-intentioned men caused infinite evils
during our long and stormy revolution. God forbid that I should
reproach them too harshly. Their error itself was excusable. One could
not read the beautiful pages of antiquity, one could not recall the
actions of its great men, without feeling an indefinable and special
emotion, which nothing modem can possibly arouse. The old elements
of a nature, one could almost say, earlier than our own, seem to awaken
in us in the face of these memories. It is difficult not to regret the time
when the faculties ofman developed along an already trodden path, but
in so wide a career, so strong in their own powers, with such a feeling of
energy and dignity. Once we abandon ourselves to this regret, it is
impossible not to wish to imitate what we regret. This impression was
very deep, especially when we lived under vicious governments, which,
without being strong, were repressive in their effects; absurd in their
principles; wretched in action; governments which had as their
strength arbitrary power; for their purpose the belittling of mankind;
and which some individuals still dare to praise to us today, as ifwe could
ever forget that we have been the witnesses and the victims of their
obstinacy, of their impotence and of their overthrow. The aim of our
reformers was noble and generous. Who among us did not feel his
heart beat with hope at the outset of the course which they seemed to
open up? And shame, even today, on whoever does not feel the need to
declare that acknowledging a few errors committed by our first guides
does not mean blighting their memory or disowning the opinions which
the friends of mankind have professed throughout the ages.

But those men had derived several oftheir theories from the works of
two philosophers who had themselves failed to recognize the changes
brought by two thousand years in the dispositions of mankind. I shall
perhaps at some point examine the system of the most illustrious of

31 7

The liberty ojthe ancients compared with that ofthe moderns Speech given at the Athenee Royal

these philosophers, ofJean-Jacques Rousseau, and I shall show that, by
transposing into our modern age an extent ofsocial power, ofcollective:.
sovereignty, which belonged to other centuries, this sublime genius,
animated by the purest love of liberty, has nevertheless fUrnished
deadly pretexts for more than one kind of tyranny. No doubt, in
pointing out what I regard as a misunderstanding which it is imPOrtant
to uncover, I shall be careful in my refutation, and respectful in my
criticism. I shall certainly refrain from joining myself to the detractors
of a great man. When chance has it that I find myself apparently in
agreement with them on some one particular point, I suspect myself;
and to console myself for appearing for a moment in agreement with
them on a single partial question, I need to disown and denounce with
all my energies these pretended allies.

Nevertheless, the interests of truth must prevail over considerations
which make the glory of a prodigious talent and the authority of an
immense reputation so powerful. Moreover, as we shall see, it is not to
Rousseau that we must chiefly attribute the error against which I am
going to argue; this is to be imputed much more to one of his suc­
cessors, less eloquent but no less austere and a hundred times more
exaggerated. The latter, the abbe de Mably, can be …

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