Benjamin Hawkshaw (died 1738) was an Irish Anglican divine. In putting religion and self-development at the heart of his vision, he tried to show that modern liberty could have a positive moral or spiritual purpose beyond merely assuring people freedom from interference in the pursuit of their interests. "He loved liberty as other men love power," was the judgment passed on Benjamin Constant by a contemporary. One must never sacrifice individual liberty to obtain political freedom. Encyclopedia Henri‐​Benjamin Constant de Rebecque was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, and died in Paris. Benjamin Constant '' The Liberty Of The Ancients Compared With That Of The Moderns'' [ 1819. Or, How Benjamin Constant was a Kantian After All” (May, 2018), On Modernity’s Threshold: An Introductory Commentary on Benjamin Constant’s Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments (1810), BOLL 73: Benjamin Constant, “On Freedom of Thought” (1815), The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns (1819), Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments, On Religion Considered in Its Source, Its Forms, and Its Developments. He explains the admiration of the author for Sparta. The rivalry between the cities causes the states to buy their security at the price of war. Benjamin Constant on the Liberty of the Ancients and the Moderns. But the danger that threatens modern freedom is, as Tocqueville suggests, that the individual is too absorbed in the pursuit of their individual interests and renounces their rights to share political power (thus endangering their individual freedom, since is the political power that ensures its safeguarding and protection). [clarification needed]. [1] In the essay, Constant discusses two different conceptions of freedom: One held by "the Ancients", particularly by those in Classical Greece; the other held by members of modern societies. Freedom is therefore contradictory in ancient Greece, because sovereignty in public affairs coexists with slavery in the private sphere. This month marks the 200th anniversary of one of the most significant statements of the principles of liberalism: Benjamin Constant’s 1819 lecture on “The liberty of the ancients compared with that of the moderns.” The ancient Greeks, Constant said, believed that liberty consisted of public democratic control, the right to take part in shared political decisions […] He moved to Paris in 1795 and became active in French politics (and became the lover of de Staël). He opposed Napoleonic usurpation (he would eventually serve under Napoleon’s administration in the hope of guiding the regime away from tyranny) and defended constitutionalism in pursuit of stable liberty for post-revolutionary France. No_Favorite. His lifelong concern, both as a writer and politician, was the attainment in France and in other nations of a free society; and at the time when classical liberalism was the specter haunting Europe — in the second and third decades of the last … Life was affirmed through the polity: the alternative was to live as a barbarian. 3745 relations. Constant wrote many books, essays, and pamphlets. Sir Isaiah Berlin called Constant “the most eloquent of all defenders of freedom and privacy” and believed to him we owe the notion of “negative liberty,” that is, what Biancamaria Fontana describes as “the protection of individual experience and choices from external interferences and constraints.” To Constant it was relatively unimportant whether liberty was ultimately grounded in religion or metaphysics—what mattered were the practical guarantees of practical freedom—“autonomy in all those aspects of life that could cause no harm to others or to society as a whole.”. He was a novelist, political theorist, journalist, and politician who, through his education and personal inclination, brought English and Scottish notions of … Disobedience, Dissent, Honor, Individualism, Integrity, Justice, Law, Resistance See more » Benjamin Hawkshaw. See More. Constant’s classic work in which he contrasts unfavorably the purely political liberties of the ancients with the far more expansive notion of liberty among the moderns. Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments (1810) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003), p. 401-402. This page was last edited on 20 October 2020, at 07:10. "Trade inspires men with a keen love of individual independence." For the ancients, liberty came through collective and direct participation in the polity. Trade is "an attempt to obtain by mutual agreement what one no longer hopes to conquer by violence. He concludes his speech by explaining the need to learn to combine these two types of freedom. L ast year marked the 200th anniversary of the French-Swiss political writer Benjamin Constant’s essay, “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns.” Though nineteenth- and twentieth-century liberals, from John Stuart Mill and Alexis de Tocqueville to Isaiah Berlin, held Constant in high esteem, his work has lost prominence today. About this Item: Paperback. "The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns" is an essay by Benjamin Constant, which is a transcript of a speech of the same name made at the Royal Athenaeum of Paris in 1819. Liberty Fund, Inc. All rights reserved. Individuals have rights that society must respect. We must not want to go back. New!! Benjamin Constant (1767–1830) was born in Switzerland and became one of France’s leading writers, as well as a journalist, philosopher, and politician. [clarification needed], Learn how and when to remove this template message, "Benjamin Constant, The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns (1819)". . “Tell a man,” he wrote, “you have the right not to be put to death or despoiled. Advanced embedding details, examples, and help! The errors of the French Revolution were be the result of an attempt to apply ancient liberty in a modern world. "The aim of the moderns is the enjoyment of security in private pleasures; and they call liberty the guarantees accorded by institutions to these pleasures". This is the opportunity to do what we want, it is a protection of the private sphere. "Since we are in modern times, I want freedom that is proper in modern times.". This proliferation generates disrespect, avoidance, and corruption, which undermine the legitimacy of and obedience to all laws, including those law meant to secure freedom. Benjamin Constant was a French classical liberal writer who lived through the French revolution and the reign of terror. Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter ~ Benjamin Constant [Henri-Benjamin Constant de Rebecque] (1767-1830) Swiss-born thinker, writer and French politician. Constant takes the example of Terpander, who in the time of Sparta was condemned by the Ephors for having added a string to his lyre without warning them; or the principle of ostracism in Athens showing that the state regulates everything. However, we must moderate this idea with the practice of ostracism, symbol of the power of the state over the individual. On April 11, 1804, when Benjamin Constant was thirty-six, he confided to his diary: “I have excellent qualities … but I am not quite a real being.Inside me there are two people, one the observer of the other.” It might have been the voice of the self-analytical Adolphe, the destructive and self-destructive anti-hero of Constant’s celebrated autobiographical novel. Since ancient liberty is not the same as modern liberty, it follows that they are respectively threatened with different dangers. In an address to the Athénée Royal de Paris in 1819, Benjamin Constant argued that “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 institutions of the ancient republics, hindering individual liberty, are not admissible in modern societies. Sir Isaiah Berlin called Constant “the most eloquent of all defenders of freedom and privacy” and believed to him we owe the notion of “negative liberty,” that is, what Biancamaria Fontana describes as “the protection of individual experience and choices from external interferences and constraints.” Benjamin Constant He warned of the "proliferation of laws" that go far beyond the protection of life, liberty, and property. Romanticism (also known as the Romantic era) was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. During his life, Benjamin Constant (1767-1830) was a political figure known for his commitment to the cause of liberty. Individual independence is the first of modern needs. . Essays and Guides: Dennis O’Keeffe, “On Modernity’s Threshold: An Introductory Commentary on Benjamin Constant’s Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments (1810).”. EMBED EMBED (for wordpress.com hosted blogs and archive.org item tags) Want more? Camb] Item Preview remove-circle Share or Embed This Item. They does not speak of the general will. Political freedom is the guarantee; political freedom is therefore indispensable. In the essay, Constant discusses two different conceptions of freedom: One held by "the Ancients", particularly by those in Classical Greece; the other held by members of modern societies. They are only two means to achieve the same goal, namely to possess what you want. Or, How Benjamin Constant was a Kantian After All” (May, 2018). The aim of the moderns is the enjoyment of security in private pleasures; and they call liberty the guarantees accorded by institutions to these pleasures”. His colorful life included a formative stay at the University of Edinburgh; service at the court of Brunswick, Germany; election to the French Tribunate; and initial opposition and subsequent support for Napoleon, even the drafting of a constitution for the Hundred Days. Every person votes for their interests to be defended. Benjamin Constant (1767–1830) spent the early years of the French Revolution in a post at a minor German court. Constant (1767–1830) regarded On Religion, worked on over the course of many years, as perhaps his most important philosophical work. Copyright ©2003 – 2020, The essay has been highly influential, having been among others cited by Isaiah Berlin as an inspiration for much of his work. Alan Kahan, “Limited Government, Unlimited Liberalism. Benjamin Constant: French Liberal Extraordinaire. Benjamin Constant Jan 1st, 1816. This essay concerns Constant’s classic text The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns. Constant provides an enlightening look at the concept of liberty in ancient western civilizations. The Cambridge Companion to Constant presents a collection of interpretive essays on the major aspects of his life and work by a panel of international scholars, offering a necessary overview for anyone who wants to better understand this important thinker. Keywords Benjamin Constant, religion, freedom, liberty… The essay has been highly influential, having been among others cited by Isaiah Berlin as an inspiration for much of his work. The French thinker Benjamin Constant was, according to respected Oxford University scholar Isaiah Berlin, “the most eloquent of all defenders of freedom and privacy.” Constant insisted that individual liberty is a moral principle. This is the first full-length English translation of Benjamin Constant’s massive study of humanity’s religious forms and development, published in five volumes between 1824 and 1831. "[1] War, just like trade, makes it possible to achieve a goal, and the evolution of society has changed the means without touching the end. This type of freedom is explained by the small size of the republics of the time. On Religion: Considered in Its Source, Its Forms, and Its Developments By Benjamin Constant Translated by Peter Paul Seaton Jr. Introduction by Pierre Manent Political Thought. Benjamin Constant Ancient and modern liberty private individual he is constrained, watched and repressed in all his movements; as a member of the collective body he interrogates, dismisses, condemns, impoverishes, exiles or sentences to death his magistrates and superiors; as a subject of the collective body he can himself be deprived of He called it “the only interest, the only consolation […] [1] Constant explains that the ancients had no notion of individual rights, except in Athens, which, Constant tells us, "is [of all the ancient states] the one who has resembled the modern ones" and that it granted "to its citizens infinitely more individual freedom than Rome and Sparta". : "As a citizen, he decides on peace and war; as particular, he is circumscribed, observed, repressed in all his movements". Constant criticizes Father Gabriel Bonnot de Mably, who, he says, regrets that the law only reaches actions and not thought. The war has given way to trade. , The Liberty of the Moderns, in contrast, was based on the possession of civil liberties, the rule of law, and freedom from excessive state interference. The French thinker Benjamin Constant (see his brilliant oration "The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns") was, according to respected Oxford University scholar Isaiah Berlin, “the most eloquent of all defenders of freedom and privacy.” Constant’s most important contribution: he recognized that “the main problem . Thus Athens, which was the most commercial democracy, was also the one which bestowed the most individual liberty. Find in this title: Benjamin Constant, The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns (Unknown, 1819). Benjamin Constant: 18th/19th Franco-Swiss author. He also criticizes the beliefs of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. [1] Thus, at that time and outside the particular case of Athens, power was entitled to everything and therefore to the mores of society. TWO HUNDRED YEARS OF THE LIBERTY OF THE MODERNS, Religion and the Case Against Ancient Liberty: Benjamin Constant’s Other Lectures, Benjamin Constant, Eloquent Defender of Freedom, The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns, De la Liberté des Anciens comparée à celle des Modernes, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Liberty_of_Ancients_Compared_with_that_of_Moderns&oldid=984467479, Articles lacking in-text citations from June 2020, Wikipedia articles needing clarification from June 2020, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. The sharing of power diminishes with increasing size of states. Benjamin Constant is widely regarded as a founding father of modern liberalism. [2], For Constant, freedom in the sense of the Ancients "consisted of the active and constant participation in the collective power" and consisted in "exercising, collectively, but directly, several parts of the whole sovereignty" and, except in Athens, they thought that this vision of liberty was compatible with "the complete subjection of the individual to the authority of the whole". Freedom in modern societies is incompatible with that of the ancients. Benjamin Constant: “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns” Benjamin Constant (1767-1830) was a Franco-Swiss political theorist, activist and writer who defended individual freedom during the turbulent era of the French Revolution, Napoleon’s reign, and … Benjamin Constant Quote “First ask yourselves, Gentlemen, what an Englishman, a Frenchman, and a citizen of the United States of America understand today by the word 'liberty'. Benjamin Constant Articles. Explain Constant’s distinction between the liberty of the ancients and moderns: why was it so important? When Mill hopes to bring Athens to England, he is pointing back to the basic dilemma of modernity expressed 30 years earlier by Benjamin Constant (Constant, 1816) in his analysis of the liberty … The danger of ancient liberty rests on an alienation of the individual, in which the state crushes the individual. He published pamphlets attacking Napoleon but later reconciled to … This is the first full-length English translation of Benjamin Constant’s massive study of humanity’s religious forms and development, published in five volumes between 1824 and 1831. The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns Constant shows how the idea of liberty has changed, from the ancient conception of freedom as part of a collection to the modern, individualist view. ~ Benjamin Constant [Henri-Benjamin Constant de Rebecque] (1767 … For more information about Benjamin Constant see the Liberty Matters Online Discussion Forum and the essays listed below: Liberty Matters Discussion: Alan Kahan, “Limited Government, Unlimited Liberalism. Pocket, 2003. He draws from his reflection a number of political principles: The political system must be that of representation. "In his 1819 essay 'The Liberty of the Ancients Compared With That of the Moderns,' Benjamin Constant argued that the ancient Greco-Roman conception of liberty was primarily concerned with the freedom to participate in the collective decisions of the state, not the freedom to live one's own life free of state interference. 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