Joseph-Marie, comte de Maistre (French: [də mɛstʁ]; 1 April 1753 – 26 February 1821) was a French-speaking Savoyard philosopher, writer, lawyer, and diplomat, who advocated social hierarchy and monarchy in the period immediately following the French Revolution. Despite his close personal and intellectual ties with France, Maistre was throughout his life a subject of the King of Piedmont-Sardinia, whom he served as member of the Savoy Senate (1787–1792), ambassador to Russia (1803–1817), and minister of state to the court in Turin (1817–1821).
A key figure of the "Counter-Enlightenment", Maistre regarded monarchy as both a divinely sanctioned institution and as the only stable form of government. He called for the restoration of the House of Bourbon to the throne of France and for the ultimate authority of the Pope in temporal matters. Maistre argued that the rationalist rejection of Christianity was directly responsible for the disorder and bloodshed which followed the French Revolution of 1789.
Joseph-Marie de Maistre
Portrait of de Maistre by von Vogelstein, c. 1810.
|Born||1 April 1753|
Chambéry, Kingdom of Sardinia, Duchy of Savoy
|Died||26 February 1821 (aged 67)|
Turin, Kingdom of Sardinia
Maistre was born in 1753 at Chambéry, in the Duchy of Savoy, which at that time was part of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, ruled by the House of Savoy. His family was of French and Italian origin. His grandfather André (Andrea) Maistre, whose parents Francesco and Margarita Maistre (née Dalmassi) originated in the County of Nice, had been a draper and councilman in Nice (then under the rule of the House of Savoy), and his father François-Xavier, who moved to Chambéry in 1740, became a magistrate and senator, eventually receiving the title of count from the King of Piedmont-Sardinia. His mother's family, whose surname was Desmotz, were from Rumilly. Joseph's younger brother, Xavier, who became an army officer, was a popular writer of fiction.
Joseph was probably educated by the Jesuits. After the Revolution, he became an ardent defender of their Order, increasingly associating the spirit of the Revolution with the Jesuits' traditional enemies, the Jansenists. After completing his training in the law at the University of Turin in 1774, he followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a Senator in 1787.
A member of the progressive Scottish Rite Masonic lodge at Chambéry from 1774 to 1790, Maistre originally favoured political reform in France, supporting the efforts of the magistrates in the Parlements to force King Louis XVI to convene the Estates General. As a landowner in France, Maistre was eligible to join that body, and there is some evidence that he contemplated that possibility. He was alarmed, however, by the decision of the States-General to combine clergy, aristocracy, and commoners into a single legislative body, which became the National Constituent Assembly. After the passing of the August Decrees on 4 August 1789 he decisively turned against the course of political events in France.
Maistre fled Chambéry when it was taken by a French revolutionary army in 1792, but unable to find a position in the royal court in Turin, he returned the following year. Deciding that he could not support the French-controlled regime, he departed again, this time for Lausanne, in Switzerland. There he discussed politics and theology at the salon of Madame de Staël, and began his career as a counter-revolutionary writer, with works such as Lettres d'un Royaliste Savoisien ("Letters from a Savoyard Royalist", 1793), Discours à Mme. la Marquise Costa de Beauregard, sur la Vie et la Mort de son Fils ("Discourse to the Marchioness Costa de Beauregard, on the Life and Death of her Son", 1794) and Cinq paradoxes à la Marquise de Nav... ("Five Paradoxes for the Marchioness of Nav...", 1795).
From Lausanne, Maistre went to Venice, and then to Cagliari, where the King of Piedmont-Sardinia held the court and the government of the kingdom after French armies took Turin in 1798. Maistre's relations with the court at Cagliari were not always easy and in 1802 he was sent to Saint Petersburg in Russia, as ambassador to Tsar Alexander I. His diplomatic responsibilities were few, and he became a well-loved fixture in aristocratic circles, converting some of his friends to Roman Catholicism, and writing his most influential works on political philosophy.
Maistre's observations on Russian life, contained in his diplomatic memoirs and in his personal correspondence, were among Tolstoy's sources for his novel War and Peace. After the defeat of Napoleon and the restoration of the House of Savoy's dominion over Piedmont and Savoy (under the terms of the Congress of Vienna), Maistre returned in 1817 to Turin, and served there as magistrate and minister of state until his death. He died on 26 February 1821 and is buried in the Jesuit Church of the Holy Martyrs (Chiesa dei Santi Martiri).
In Considérations sur la France ("Considerations on France," 1797), Maistre claimed that France has a divine mission as the principal instrument of good and evil on Earth. He interpreted the Revolution of 1789 as a Providential event: the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the Ancien Régime in general, instead of directing the influence of French civilization to the benefit of mankind, had promoted the atheistic doctrines of the eighteenth-century philosophers. He claimed that the crimes of the Reign of Terror were the logical consequence of Enlightened thought, as well as its divinely-decreed punishment.
In his short book Essai sur le Principe Générateur des Constitutions Politiques et des Autres Institutions Humaines ("Essay on the Generative Principle of Political Constitutions and other Human Institutions," 1809), Maistre argued that constitutions are not the product of human reason, but come from God, who slowly brings them to maturity. After the appearance in 1816 of his French translation of Plutarch's treatise On the Delay of Divine Justice in the Punishment of the Guilty, in 1819 Maistre published Du Pape ("On the Pope"), the most complete exposition of his authoritarian conception of politics.
According to Maistre, any attempt to justify government on rational grounds will only lead to unresolvable arguments about the legitimacy and expediency of any existing government, and that this, in turn, will lead to violence and chaos. Maistre therefore argued that the legitimacy of government must be based on compelling but non-rational grounds, which its subjects must not be allowed to question. Maistre went on to argue that authority in politics should therefore derive from religion, and that in Europe this religious authority must ultimately lie with the Pope.
What was novel in Maistre's writings was not his enthusiastic defense of monarchical and religious authority per se, but rather his arguments concerning the practical need for ultimate authority to lie with an individual capable of decisive action as well as his analysis of the social foundations of that authority's legitimacy. In his own words, which he addressed to a group of aristocratic French émigrés, "you ought to know how to be royalists. Before, this was an instinct, but today it is a science. You must love the sovereign as you love order, with all the forces of intelligence." Maistre's analysis of the problem of authority and its legitimacy foreshadows some of the concerns of early sociologists such as August Comte and Henri de Saint-Simon.
In addition to his voluminous correspondence, Maistre left two books that were published posthumously. Soirées de St. Pétersbourg ("St Petersburg Dialogues", 1821) is a theodicy in the form of a Platonic dialogue, in which Maistre argues that evil exists because of its place in the divine plan, according to which the blood sacrifice of innocents returns men to God, via the expiation of the sins of the guilty; Maistre sees this as a law of human history, as indubitable as it is mysterious. Examen de la Philosophie de Bacon, ("An Examination of the Philosophy of Bacon," 1836), is a critique of the thought of Francis Bacon, whom Maistre considers to be the fountainhead of the destructive Enlightened thought.
Maistre, together with the Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke, is commonly regarded as one of the founders of European conservatism, but since the 19th century, Maistre's authoritarian, "throne-and-altar" conception of conservatism has declined in influence in comparison with the more liberal conservatism of Burke. Maistre's skills as a writer and polemicist however ensure that he continues to be read. Matthew Arnold, an influential 19th-century critic, while comparing Maistre's style with his Irish counterpart, wrote that
Joseph de Maistre is another of those men whose word, like that of Burke, has vitality. In imaginative power he is altogether inferior to Burke. On the other hand his thought moves in closer order than Burke's, more rapidly, more directly; he has fewer superfluities. Burke is a great writer, but Joseph de Maistre's use of the French language is more powerful, more thoroughly satisfactory, than Burke's use of the English. It is masterly; it shows us to perfection of what that admirable instrument, the French language, is capable.
The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1910 describes his writing style as "strong, lively, picturesque," and that his "animation and good humour temper his dogmatic tone. He possesses a wonderful facility in exposition, precision of doctrine, breadth of learning, and dialectical power." Alphonse de Lamartine, though a political opponent, admired the splendour of his prose:
That brief, nervous, lucid style, stripped of phrases, robust of limb, did not at all recall the softness of the eighteenth century, nor the declamations of the latest French books: it was born and steeped in the breath of the Alps; it was virgin, it was young, it was harsh and savage; it had no human respect, it felt its solitude; it improvised depth and form all at once… That man was new among the enfants du siècle [children of the century].
Émile Faguet described Maistre as "a fierce absolutist, a furious theocrat, an intransigent legitimist, apostle of a monstrous trinity composed of pope, king and hangman, always and everywhere the champion of the hardest, narrowest and most inflexible dogmatism, a dark figure out of the Middle Ages, part learned doctor, part inquisitor, part executioner."
Amongst those who admired him was the poet Charles Baudelaire, who described himself a disciple of the Savoyard counter-revolutionary, claiming that he had taught him how to think. George Saintsbury called him "unquestionably one of the greatest thinkers and writers of the eighteenth century." Maistre also exerted a powerful influence on the Spanish political thinker Juan Donoso Cortés and, later, on the French anti-Semitic monarchist Charles Maurras and his counter-revolutionary political movement Action Française.
According to Carolina Armenteros, Maistre's writings influenced not only conservative political thinkers, but also the Utopian socialists. Early sociologists such as Saint-Simon and Comte explicitly acknowledged the influence of Maistre on their own thinking about the sources of social cohesion and political authority.
Sources such as the Encyclopædia Britannica and the Catholic Encyclopedia identify Maistre as French, by culture if not by law. In 1860 Albert Blanc, professor of law at the University of Turin, in his preface to a collection of Maistre's diplomatic correspondence wrote that:
He had not been born French, and did not desire to become French, and that, never having set foot in the lands conquered by France, he could not have become French.— Œuvres complètes de Joseph de Maistre, Lyon, 1884, vol. I, p. XVIII.
... this philosopher [Maistre] was a politician; this Catholic was an Italian; he foretold the destiny of the House of Savoy, he supported the end of the Austrian rule [of northern Italy], he has been, during this century, one of the first defenders of [Italian] independence.— Correspondance diplomatique de Joseph de Maistre, Paris, 1860, vol. I, pp. III-IV.
François-Xavier-Antoine Labelle (November 24, 1833 – January 4, 1891) was a Roman Catholic priest and the person principally responsible for the settlement (or "colonization") of the Laurentians. He is also referred to as "Curé Labelle" and sometimes, the "King of the North."
He was born Antoine Labelle in Sainte-Rose-de-Lima, the son of Angélique Maher (documents vary as some have Mayer and others have Maillet) and Antoine Labelle, who were quite poor. He studied at the Sainte-Thérèse seminary. Little is known about the first years of his life but it is known that he liked to read Auguste Nicolas and Joseph de Maistre. He added François-Xavier to his name in honour of Saint Francis Xavier. He was ordained as a priest on June 1, 1856 after a comparatively brief theological education from 1852 to 1855. His physical size made him a giant: he was 180 cm (5 ft 11 in) tall and weighed 152 kg (335 pounds). He was first appointed vicar at the parish of Sault-au-Récollet by bishop Ignace Bourget, and later to the parish of Saint-Antoine-Abbé, near the United States border, where he worked until 1863, after which he was assigned to the parish of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle. About 1867, frustrated by his debts, he asked to be transferred to an American diocese or a monastery. Instead, Bishop Bourget asked to him to remain, assigning him to the more prosperous parish of Saint-Jérôme.
Labelle immediately sought the construction of a railway line along the Rivière du Nord in the Laurentians to encourage the area's economic development. One of his objectives was to put an end to the emigration of French Canadians towards New England, where many had found employment in textile mills. His social activism was recognized, and he was compared to Auguste-Norbert Morin, who founded Sainte-Adèle. On the whole, he was responsible for five thousand people settling in the Laurentians.
Hugh Allan and John Joseph Caldwell Abbott acknowledged Labelle's support of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and when the first section of the Canadian Pacific's Montreal-Saint-Jerome railway line was inaugurated on October 9, 1876, one of the engines bore Labelle's name. Labelle received support from journalist Arthur Buies (fr) and coureur des bois Isidore Martin.
On May 16, 1888, Quebec premier Honoré Mercier named Labelle deputy minister of the province's department of agriculture and colonization.
The end of his life was marked by difficulties with the Conservative party, which placed pressure on bishop Édouard-Charles Fabre, since Labelle had become too liberal for the party's taste and had fought the ultramontanes. He wanted to go to Rome before he died, but he died on January 4, 1891, at 57 years of age.Baronne Almaury de Maistre
Baronne Almaury de Maistre née Henriette-Marie de Sainte-Marie (1809–1875) was a French composer. In 1831 she married Baron Charles-Augustin Almaury de Maistre. She was the cousin of Joseph de Maistre by marriage and maintained a popular salon. She composed etudes and an opera Roussalka which was presented in Brussels at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in 1870.Benoît-Hermogaste Molin
Benoît-Hermogaste Molin (born 1810 in Chambéry-1894) was a Savoyard and French painter, portraitist, genre painter and History painter.
He studied at the School of Paintings in Chambéry, his native town. he became a pupil of Gros in Paris. He presented regularly his paintings at the Salon (since 1843). His portrait of Joseph de Maistre was praised. Painter at the Court, until 1860 when the Duchy of Savoy was annexed by France, he became Director of Chambéry Musée des beaux-arts in 1850.Clerical philosophers
Clerical philosophers is the name given to a group of Catholic intellectuals, namely the Savoyard Joseph de Maistre, and the French Louis de Bonald and François-René de Chateaubriand, who sought to undermine the intellectual foundations of the French Revolution in reaction to what they perceived as its overt anti-religious and destructive character.Counter-Enlightenment
The Counter-Enlightenment was a term that some 20th-century commentators have used to describe multiple strains of thought that arose in the late-18th and early-19th centuries in opposition to the 18th-century Enlightenment.
Though the first known use of the term in English was in 1949 and there were several uses of it, including one by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Counter-Enlightenment is usually associated with Isaiah Berlin, who is often credited for re-inventing it. The starting point of discussion on this concept in English started with Isaiah Berlin's 1973 Essay, The Counter-Enlightenment. He published widely about the Enlightenment and its challengers and did much to popularise the concept of a Counter-Enlightenment movement that he characterized as relativist, anti-rationalist, vitalist, and organic, which he associated most closely with German Romanticism.Du Pape
On the Pope (Du Pape) is an 1819 book written by Savoyard philosopher Joseph de Maistre, which many consider to be his literary masterpiece.François Descostes
François Descostes (21 March 1846 – 24 August 1908) was a Savoyard writer, lawyer, and politician.Jean-Baptiste Willermoz
Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (10 July 1730 – 29 May 1824) was a French Freemason and Martinist who played an important role in the establishment of various systems of Masonic high-degrees in his time in both France and Germany.Jean Rivain
Jean Rivain (1883–1957) was a French political writer and journal editor. He was the co-founder of La Revue critique des idées et des livres.Jesuit College in Polotsk
The Jesuit College in Polotsk (Latin: Collegium Polocense) was a college (equivalent to a secondary school) in Polotsk, Belarus, then part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later Russian Empire. It was established in 1580 and continued to function until 1820 when Jesuits were banished from the Russian Empire.Larry Siedentop
Sir Larry Alan Siedentop CBE (born Chicago 1936) is an American-born British political philosopher with a special interest in 19th-century French liberalism. He is the author of Democracy in Europe and an occasional contributor to several major British daily newspapers, including the Financial Times and The Times.
Siedentop attended Hope College, a liberal arts college in Michigan affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, and Harvard University, where he received his AM degree. He then received, as a Marshall Scholar a DPhil from the University of Oxford (equivalent to a PhD elsewhere) for a thesis on the thought of Joseph de Maistre and Maine de Biran, written at Magdalen College, Oxford, under the supervision of Sir Isaiah Berlin.
From 1965 to 1968, Siedentop was a Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, but he spent most of his academic career as a Fellow of Keble College, Oxford, and a University Lecturer. After retiring from Oxford, Siedentop was a Visiting Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in Wassenaar, Queen Victoria Eugenia Professor at the Complutense University of Madrid and a Visiting Fellow in Philosophy and Public Affairs at the University of St Andrews.
Siedentop was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2004 for services to political thought and higher education, and was knighted in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to political science.List of Catholic philosophers and theologians
This is a list of Catholic philosophers and theologians whose Catholicism is important to their works.Louis d'Oger, Marquis de Cavoye
Louis d'Ogier, or d'Augier, Marquis de Cavoye (1640 - 1716) was a French aristocrat, childhood friend of King Louis XIV and Grand Marshall of the Royal Household at Versailles.
Cavoye's father, François Ogier or Augier, Seigneur de Cavoye, was a French army officer killed in the service of the crown in 1641 at the Siege of Bapaume following the Battle of La Marfée; the young Cavoye was subsequently reared at the French court alongside the Dauphin, the future King Louis XIV, who was three years his junior — the two became close lifelong friends.
Despite his friendship with the King, in 1668, Cavoye was imprisoned in the Conciergerie for two years following a duel with Marquis de Courcelles; the two had quarrelled over rumours spread by Hortense Mancini that Covoye was having an affair with Courcelles's wife, who was also reputed to be the lesbian lover of Mancini. However, as a Favourite of the king, his imprisonment was far from onerous, and he enjoyed many privileges. The dual was fought, in the early morning, in Paris's Le Marais; both dualists were uninjured, but had contravened a strict Royal ban on duelling. Both men served the full two-year sentence.In 1677, the scandal behind him, d'Oger was made Grand Marshall of the Royal Household (Maréchal des logis du roi) the same year he married Louise Philippe de Coëtlogon (1641-1729) who was a Maid of Honour to Louis XIV's wife, Queen Maria Theresa. It has been claimed that Louise was popular with the Queen because she was not a conventional beauty and unlikely to be admired by the King D'Oger was appointed Aide de Camp to the king in 1684.In Paris, the Marquis' town house was the Hotel Cavoye at 52 Rue des Saints-Peres in the 6th Arrondissement. He purchased the mansion, in July 1679, from the Marquise de Courcelles over whom he had fought his infamous dual. In 1686, Cavoye demolished the mansion and built a grand new house on the site, designed by one of the most eminent architects of the day, Daniel Gittard. Today, the mansion remains a private house, and one of the few remaining unchanged palaces of the ancien régime in Paris. As Grand Marshall of the Royal Household, to be near Versailles and the royal court, he bought in 1696, Chateau Voisins in Louveciennes.Unusually, for a King's Favourite, the Marquis de Cavoye was held in high esteem, among those who lauded him were Joseph de Maistre, who said that D'Oger had "the highest degree of sentiment of dignity" and "honour"; and D'Artangnan, who claimed that D'Oger was a rare man at court because he never told a lie. Others noted his remarkable similarity in looks to the King.Cavoye died at his Paris house in 1716.Republican Fascist Party
The Republican Fascist Party (Italian: Partito Fascista Repubblicano, PFR) was a political party in Italy led by Benito Mussolini during the German occupation of Central and Northern Italy and was the sole legitimate and ruling party of the Italian Social Republic. It was founded as the successor of former National Fascist Party as an anti-monarchist party. It considered King Victor Emmanuel III to be a traitor after he had signed the surrender to the Allies.Richard Lebrun
Richard Lebrun is a Canadian historian and Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Manitoba. He is the leading scholar of Joseph de Maistre in English.Lebrun was educated at St. John's University where he gained his BA in 1953 and at the University of Minnesota where he gained his MA in 1957 and his PhD in 1963.Lebrun has edited and annotated the published and unpublished works of de Maistre.Rodolphe de Maistre
Rodolphe de Maistre (born 22 September 1789 in Chambéry, Savoy, died near Turin, 5 February 1866) was a military officer who fought for the Russian Empire at the battles of Friedland ( 1807), Smolensk, Moskova (Borodino), Bérézina (1812), Dresde, Leipzig (1813).
He then served as General of the garrison of Genoa, and Governor of Nice (today in France), for the King of Sardinia.
He was the son of the philosopher Joseph de Maistre, author of the St Petersburg Dialogues.Traditionalism in the Catholic Church
Traditionalism, in the context of 19th-century Catholicism, refers to a theory which held that all metaphysical, moral, and religious knowledge derives from God's revelation to man and is handed down in an unbroken chain of tradition. It denied that human reason by itself has the power to attain to any truths in these domains of knowledge. It arose, mainly in Belgium and France, as a reaction to 18th-century rationalism and can be considered an extreme form of anti-rationalism. Its chief proponents were Joseph de Maistre, Louis de Bonald, and Hugues Felicité Robert de Lamennais. Their doctrines were advocated in a modified form by Louis Eugène Marie Bautain, Augustin Bonnetty, Casimir Ubaghs, and the philosophers of the Louvain school. The fundamental distrust of human reason underlying traditionalism was eventually condemned in a number of papal decrees and finally ruled out by the dogmatic constitution Dei Filius during the First Vatican Council in 1870.Vincenzo Cuoco
Vincenzo Cuoco (October 1, 1770 – December 14, 1823) was an Italian writer. He is mainly remembered for his Saggio Storico sulla Rivoluzione Napoletana del 1799 ("Historical Essay on the Neapolitan Revolution of 1799"). He is a considered one of the precursors of Italian liberalism and the realist school. Cuoco adapted the critique of political rationalism of Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre for liberal ends, and has been described as a better historian than either of them. He influenced many subsequent Italian intellectuals, from Ugo Foscolo and Alessandro Manzoni to Bertrando and Silvio Spaventa to Benedetto Croce and Antonio Gramsci.Xavier de Maistre
Xavier de Maistre (French pronunciation: [ɡzavje də mɛstʁ]; 10 October 1763 – 12 June 1852) of Savoy (then part of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia) lived largely as a military man, but is known as a French writer. The younger brother of noted philosopher and counter-revolutionary Joseph de Maistre, Xavier was born to an aristocratic family at Chambéry in October 1763. He served when young in the army of Piedmont-Sardinia, and in 1790 wrote his fantasy Voyage autour de ma chambre ("Voyage Around My Room", published 1794), when he was under arrest in Turin as the consequence of a duel.