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Critical Miscellanies (Vol. 2 of 3) Essay 3: Condorcet   By: (1838-1923)

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Greek words/phrases in the text are noted as Greek text. OE/oe ligatures have not been retained in this version.





Essay 3: Condorcet

London MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited New York: The MacMillan Company 1905


Condorcet's peculiar position and characteristics 163

Birth, instruction, and early sensibility 166

Friendship with Voltaire and with Turgot 170, 171

Compared with these two great men 172

Currents of French opinion and circumstance in 1774 177

Condorcet's principles drawn from two sources 180

His view of the two English Revolutions 181

His life up to the convocation of the States General 183

Energetic interest in the elections 189

Want of prevision 191

His participation in political activity down to the end of 1792 193

Chosen one of the secretaries of the Legislative Assembly 198

Elected to the Convention 200

Resistance to the Jacobins, proscription, and death 201

Condorcet's tenacious interest in human welfare 210

Two currents of thought in France at the middle of the eighteenth century 215

Quesnay and the Physiocrats 216

Montesquieu 219

Turgot completed Montesquieu's historical conception 222

Kant's idea of a Universal or Cosmo Political History 226

Condorcet fuses the conceptions of the two previous sets of thinkers 229

Account of his Tableau des Progrès 230

Omits to consider history of moral improvement 233

And misinterprets the religious element 234

His view of Mahometanism 238

Of Protestantism 240

And of philosophic propagandism 241

Various acute remarks in his sketch 243

His boundless hopes for the future 244

Three directions which our anticipations may take: (1) International equality 246 (2) Internal equality 247 (3) Substantial perfecting of nature and society 248

Natural view of the formation of character 252

Central idea of all his aspirations 253


Of the illustrious thinkers and writers who for two generations had been actively scattering the seed of revolution in France, only Condorcet survived to behold the first bitter ingathering of the harvest. Those who had sown the wind were no more; he only was left to see the reaping of the whirlwind, and to be swiftly and cruelly swept away by it. Voltaire and Diderot, Rousseau and Helvétius, had vanished, but Condorcet both assisted at the Encyclopædia and sat in the Convention; the one eminent man of those who had tended the tree, who also came in due season to partake of its fruit; at once a precursor, and a sharer in the fulfilment. In neither character has he attracted the goodwill of any of those considerable sections and schools into which criticism of the Revolution has been mainly divided. As a thinker he is roughly classed as an Economist, and as a practical politician he figured first in the Legislative Assembly, and then in the Convention. Now, as a rule, the political parties that have most admired the Convention have had least sympathy with the Economists, and the historians who are most favourable to Turgot and his followers, are usually most hostile to the actions and associations of the great revolutionary chamber successively swayed by a Vergniaud, a Danton, a Robespierre... Continue reading book >>

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