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Bonald, Louis-Gabriel-Ambroise, Vicomte de

French statesman, writer, and philosopher (1754-1840)

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Bonald, LOUIS-GABRIEL-AMBROISE, VICOMTE DE, French statesman, writer, and philosopher, b. at Monna, near Millau, in Rouergue (Aveyron) October 2, 1754; d. at Paris, November 23, 1840. He was educated by the Oratorians at the College of Juilly; joined the king’s musketeers, returned to his own province in 1776, was elected mayor of Millau in 1785, and in 1790 was chosen member of the departmental Assembly for Aveyron. He resigned in 1791, emigrated, became a soldier in the army of Code, and, when the army was disbanded, retired to Heidelberg, where he took charge of the education of his two elder sons.

Bonald published at Constance, in 1797, his first work: “Theorie du pouvoir politique et religieux”, which was suppressed in France by order of the Directory. In 1797 Bonald returned to France under the name of Saint-Severin, and published “Essai analytique sur les lois naturelles de l’ordre social” (1800); “Du divorce” (1801); and “La legislation primitive” (1802). He also collaborated with Chateaubriand and others in the “Mercure de France“, contributing several articles which were published in book form with other studies in 1819 under the title “Melanges litteraires, politiques, et philosophiques”. In 1808 he declined to be a member of the Council of the University, but finally accepted in 1810. He refused to take charge of the education of the son of Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland, and of the King of Rome, the son of Napoleon I.

A monarchist and royalist by nature and by principles, Bonald welcomed the restoration of the Bourbons. He was appointed a member of the Academy by royal decree in 1816. From 1815 to 1822 he served as deputy from Aveyron, and in 1823 became a peer of France. He then directed his efforts against all attempts at liberalism in religion and politics. The law against divorce was proposed by him in 1815 and passed in 1816. He took a prominent part in the law of 1822 which did away with the liberty of the press and established a committee of censure of which he was the president. In 1815 he published his “Reflexions sur l’interet general de l’Europe“; in 1817, “Pensees sur divers sujets” in 2 vols. 8vo. (2d ed., Paris, 1887); in 1818 “Recherches philosophiques sur les premiers objets des connaissances morales”; in 1827, “Demonstration philosophique du principe constitutif des societes”. Meanwhile he collaborated with Chateaubriand, Lamennais, and Berryer, in the “Conservateur”, and later in the “Defenseur” founded by Lamennais. In 1830 he gave up his peerage and led a life of retirement in his native city.—”There is not to be found in this long career”, says Jules Simon, “one action which is not consistent with his principles, one expression which belies them.”


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