Benjamin Constant

Henri-Benjamin Constant de Rebecque (French: [kɔ̃stɑ̃]; 25 October 1767 – 8 December 1830), or simply Benjamin Constant, was a Swiss-French political thinker, activist and writer on political theory and religion.

Benjamin Constant
Portrait by Hercule de Roche, c. 1820
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
14 April 1819  8 December 1830
ConstituencySarthe (1819–24)
Seine 4th (1824–27)
Bas-Rhin 1st (1827–30)
Member of the Council of State
In office
20 April 1815  8 July 1815
Appointed byNapoleon I
Member of the Tribunat
In office
25 December 1799  27 March 1802
ConstituencyLéman
Personal details
Born
Henri-Benjamin Constant de Rebecque

(1767-10-25)25 October 1767
Lausanne, Swiss Confederacy
Died8 December 1830(1830-12-08) (aged 63)
Paris, France
NationalitySwiss and French[1]
Political partyRepublican (1799–1802)
Liberal left (1819–24)
Liberal-Doctrinaire (1824–30)
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
University of Erlangen
Profession
Writing career
Period18th and 19th centuries
GenreProse, essays, pamphlets
SubjectPolitical theory, liberalism, religion, romantic love
Literary movementRomanticism, classical liberalism[2]
Notable works
  • Principes de Politique Applicables a Tous les Gouvernements (1810)
  • Adolphe (1816)
  • De la religion considérée dans sa source, ses formes et son développement (1824–30)
Years active1792–1830

A committed republican from 1795, he backed the coup d'état of 18 Fructidor, (4 September 1797) and the following one on 18 brumaire, (9 November 1799). During the Consulat, in 1800 he became the leader of the Liberal Opposition. Having upset Napoleon and left France to go to Switzerland then to the Kingdom of Saxony, he nonetheless sided with Napoleon during the Hundred Days and became politically active again during the French Restoration. He was elected Député in 1818 and remained in post until his death in 1830. Head of the Liberal opposition, known as Indépendants, he was one of the most notable orators of the Chamber of Deputies of France, as a proponent of the parliamentary system. During the July Revolution, he was a supporter of Louis Philippe I ascending the throne.

Besides his numerous essays on political and religious themes, Constant also wrote on romantic love. His autobiographical Le Cahier rouge (1807) gives an account of his love for Madame de Staël, whose protégé and collaborator he became, especially in the Coppet circle, and a successful novella, Adolphe (1816).[3]

He was a fervent classical liberal of the early 19th century.[4][5] He refined the concept of liberty, defining it as a condition of existence that allowed the individual to turn away interference from the state or society.[6] His ideas influenced the Trienio Liberal movement in Spain, the Liberal Revolution of 1820 in Portugal, the Greek War of Independence, the November uprising in Poland, the Belgian Revolution, and liberalism in Brazil and Mexico.[citation needed]