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Constant de Rebecque, Henri-Benjamin (1767–1830)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S071-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 11, 2021, from

Article Summary

Benjamin Constant combined the activities of a religious historian, autobiographer and novelist with a career as a political theorist and politician. Constant’s intellectual outlook was shaped by French Enlightenment thought and two years spent at Edinburgh University in 1783–5 added experience of observing the British government and constitution at work. Through all of Constant’s writings runs a consistent theme: the necessity of safeguarding the freedom of the individual in modern society. At the end of his life he summed up his liberalism thus: ‘Freedom in all things, in religion, philosophy, literature, industry and politics. And by freedom I mean the triumph of the individual both over an authority that would wish to govern by despotic means and over the masses who would claim the right to make a minority subservient to a majority’ (1957: 835). Constant’s political activity and his writings, which some consider prophetic of the growth of modern totalitarian regimes, have been influential in the development of liberal thought in Europe and the USA.

Citing this article:
Wood, Dennis. Constant de Rebecque, Henri-Benjamin (1767–1830), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S071-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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