Benjamin Constant and Constitutionalism


  • K. Steven Vincent North Carolina State University


Palabras clave:

Benjamin Constant, constitutionalism, liberalism, Boubon Restoration


Benjamin Constant (1767-1830) was one of the most famous liberal politicians and writers of the Bourbon Restoration in France (1814-1830). In 1814 and 1815, he wrote a number of notable works on constitutionalism. This article places these writings in their historical context, and summarizes Constant’s liberal pluralist constitutional philosophy. Constant insisted on the protection of rights, on a representative system of politics based on popular sovereignty, on the separation and balance of power, and on religious toleration. He worried about the destabilizing effects of “fanaticism,” and argued that a liberal constitutional regime would not endure unless citizens embraced a politics that permitted contestation, negotiation, and compromise.

Fecha de envío / Submission Date: 5/12/2014
Fecha de aceptación / Acceptance Date: 24/05/2015

Biografía del autor/a

K. Steven Vincent, North Carolina State University

Professor at the Department of History of North Carolina State University. Sept.-Dec. 2014: School of Historical Studies, Institute for Adavanced Study, Princeton, NJ 08540; Feb.- July 2015: Collegium de Lyon. EDUCATION: B.A. philosophy (1970); M.A. and Ph.D. history (1972, 1981): University of California, Berkeley. His latests books are: Between Marxism and Anarchism: Benoît Malon and French Reformist Socialism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992) and Benjamin Constant and the Birth of French Liberalism (London and New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011). Edited Collections: The Human Tradition in Modern France, ed. with Alison Klairmont Lingo (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2000).Some of his latest articles and book chapters are: “Liberal Pluralism in Early Nineteenth Century France,” Pluralism and the Idea of the Republic in France, H.S. Jones and J. Wright, eds. (London: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012), pp. 41-65; “Condorcet’s Utopianism: Faith in Science and Reason,” Utopian Moments, J.C. Davis and M.A. Ramiro, eds. (Bloomsbury Academic, 2012), pp. 86-91, 161-62; “Élie Halévy, French Liberalism, and the Politics of the Third Republic” and “Élie Halévy on England and the English,” Modern Intellectual History, 12:1 (2015), pp. 121-26, 173-9; “Proudhon and Rousseau,” Thinking with Rousseau from Machiavelli to Schmitt, H. Rosenblatt, ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).