Louis Gabriel Ambroise de Bonald

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Louis de Bonald
Louis de Bonald by Julien Léopold Boilly.jpg
Louis de Bonald, by Julien-Léopold Boilly
Born Louis Gabriel Ambroise de Bonald
(1754-10-02)2 October 1754
Died 23 November 1840(1840-11-23) (aged 86)
Era 18th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
Notable ideas

Louis Gabriel Ambroise, Vicomte de Bonald (2 October 1754 – 23 November 1840), was a French counter-revolutionary[1] philosopher and politician. Mainly, he is remembered for developing a set of social theories that exercised a powerful influence in shaping the ontological framework from which French sociology would emerge.[2][3][4][5]


Bonald was born in Le Monna (part of Millau), Rouergue (now Aveyron). He came from an ancient noble family of Provence. He was educated at the Oratorian college at Juilly,[6] and after serving with the Artillery, he held a post in the local administration of his native province. Elected to the States General of 1789 as a deputy for Aveyron, he strongly opposed the new legislation on the civil status of the clergy and emigrated in 1791. There he joined the army of the Prince of Condé, soon settling in Heidelberg. There he wrote his first important work, the highly conservative Theorie du Pouvoir Politique et Religieux dans la Societe Civile Demontree par le Raisonnement et l'Histoire (3 vols., 1796; new ed., Paris, 1854, 2 vols.), which the Directory condemned.[7]

Louis de Bonald earlier in life

Upon returning to France, he found himself an object of suspicion and at first lived in retirement. In 1806, he, along with Chateaubriand and Joseph Fiévée, edited the Mercure de France. Two years later, he was appointed counsellor of the Imperial University, which he had often attacked previously.[8] After the Bourbon Restoration he was a member of the council of public instruction and, from 1816, of the Académie française.[9] From 1815 to 1822, de Bonald served as a deputy in the French National Assembly. His speeches were extremely conservative and he advocated literary censorship. In 1825, he argued strongly in favor of the Anti-Sacrilege Act, including its prescription of the death penalty under certain conditions.[7]

Louis Gabriel Ambroise, Vicomte de Bonald

In 1822, de Bonald was made Minister of State, and presided over the censorship commission. In the following year, he was made a peer, a dignity which he had lost by refusing to take the required oath in 1803. In 1816, he was appointed to the Académie française. In 1830, he retired from public life and spent the remainder of his days on his estate at Le Monna.[7]

De Bonald had four sons, two of whom, Victor and Louis, led lives of some note.


Bonald was one of the leading writers of the theocratic or traditionalist school,[10][11] which included de Maistre, Lamennais, Ballanche and baron Ferdinand d'Eckstein.[12] His writings are mainly on social and political philosophy, and are based ultimately on one great principle, the divine origin of language.[13] In his own words, "L'homme pense sa parole avant de parler sa pensée" (man thinks his speech before saying his thought); the first language contained the essence of all truth. From this he deduces the existence of God, the divine origin and consequent supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures, and the infallibility of the Catholic Church.[7]

While this thought lies at the root of all his speculations, there is a formula of constant application. All relations may be stated as the triad of cause, means and effect, which he sees repeated throughout nature. Thus, in the universe, he finds the first cause as mover, movement as the means, and bodies as the result; in the state, power as the cause, ministers as the means, and subjects as the effects; in the family, the same relation is exemplified by father, mother and children. These three terms bear specific relations to one another; the first is to the second as the second to the third. Thus, in the great triad of the religious world—God, the Mediator, and Man—God is to the God-Man as the God-Man is to Man. On this basis, he constructed a system of political absolutism.[7]


  • "Monarchy considers man in his ties with society; a republic considers man independently of his relations to society."
  • "There was geometry in the world before Newton, and philosophy before Descartes, but before language there was absolutely nothing but bodies and their images, because language is the necessary instrument of every intellectual operation — nay, the means of every moral existence."[14]
  • "Man thinks his word before he speaks his thought, or, in other words, man cannot speak his thought without thinking his word."
  • "The deist is a man who in his short existence has not had time to become an atheist."[15]
  • "The public power must be one, masculine, property-owner, perpetual; for without unity, masculinity, property, permanence, there is no real independence."[16]
  • "A people that has destroyed its customs in seeking to give itself written laws, has obliged itself to write everything, including its customs."[17]
  • "We are bad by nature, we are made good by society. Those who have begun by supposing that we are born good are like architects who, about to build an edifice, should suppose that the stones appear from the quarry ready cut and the wood ready hewn from the forest."[18]
  • "Repentance is a second innocence."


  • 1796: Théorie du Pouvoir Politique et Religieux.
  • 1800: Essai Analytique sur les Lois Naturelles de l’Ordre Social.
  • 1801: Du Divorce: Considéré au XIXe, Impr. d'A. Le Clere.
  • 1802: Législation Primitive (3 volumes).
  • 1817: Pensées sur Divers Sujets.
  • 1818: Recherches Philosophiques sur les Premiers Objets des Connaissances Morales.
  • 1815: Réflexions sur l’Intérêt Général de l’Europe.
  • 1818: Observations sur un Ouvrage de Madame de Staël.
  • 1819: Mélanges Littéraires, Politiques et Philosophiques.
  • 1830: Démonstration Philosophique du Principe Constitutif de la Société.
  • 1821: Opinion sur la Loi Relative à la Censure des Journaux.
  • 1825: De la Chrétienté et du Christianisme.
  • 1826: De la Famille Agricole et de la Famille Industrielle.
  • 1834: Discours sur la Vie de Jésus-Christ.

Complete Works

  • Œuvres de M. de Bonald, 1817-1843 (A. Le Clere, 14 vols. in-8°).
  • Œuvres de M. de Bonald, 1847-1859 (A. Le Clere, 7 vols. in-8° gr.).
  • Œuvres Complètes de M. de Bonald, 1858 (Jacques-Paul Migne, 3 vols. in-4°).
  • Œuvres Complètes, Archives Karéline, 2010 (facsimile of the Migne edition).

Writings in English translation

  • In Menczer, Béla, 1962. Catholic Political Thought, 1789-1848, University of Notre Dame Press.
  • On Divorce, Transaction Publishers, 1992.
  • In Blum, Christopher Olaf, editor and translator, 2004. Critics of the Enlightenment. Wilmington DE: ISI Books.
    • 1815: "On Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux," pp. 43–70.
    • 1817: "Thoughts on Various Subjects," pp. 71–80.
    • 1818: "Observations on Madame de Stael's Considerations on the Principle Events of the French Revolution," pp. 81–106.
    • 1826: "On the Agricultural Family, the Industrial Family, and the Right of Primogeniture," pp. 107–32.
  • The True and Only Wealth of Nations: Essays on Family, Society and Economy, trans. by Christopher Blum. Ave Maria University Press, 2006. ISBN 1-932589-31-7

See also




  1. Beum 1997, 302.
  2. Nisbet 1943
  3. Nisbet 1944
  4. Reedy 1979
  5. Reedy 1994
  6. Simpson, Marin (2005). "Bonald, Louis de (1754–1840)." In: Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-century Thought. London & New York: Routledge, p. 58.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Chisholm 1911.
  8. Simpson (2005), p. 58.
  9. Dorschel, Andreas (2008). "Aufgeklärte Gegenaufklärung", Süddeutsche Zeitung, No. 25, p. 16.
  10. Godechot 1981
  11. Blum 2006
  12. Masseau, Didier (2000). Les Ennemis des Philosophes. Paris: Albin Michel.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Windelband, Wilhelm (1958). A History of Philosophy. 2. New York: Harper & Brothers. pp. 648–49.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Müler, F. Max (1899). Three Lectures on the Science of Language. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Co. p. 79.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Koyré 1946, 56.
  16. Dunning 1920, 187.
  17. Dunning 1920, 189.
  18. Elton, Godfrey (1923). The Revolutionary Idea in France, 1789-1871. New York: Longmans, Green & Co. p. 90.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


Artz, Frederick B. (1934), "The Search for a Principle of Authority", Reaction and Revolution, 1814-1832, New York and London: Harper & Brothers, pp. 49–81<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Barclay, Leigh (1967), "Louis de Bonald, Prophet of the Past?", Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, LV: 167–204<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Barth, Hans (1960), The Idea of Order, Dordrecht: D. Reidel, ISBN 902770001X<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Beik, Paul H. (1970), The French Revolution Seen from the Right: Social Theories in Motion, 1789–1799, New York: Howard Fertig<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Beum, Robert (1997), "Ultra-Royalism Revisited", Modern Age, XXXIX (3): 291–316<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Blum, Christopher Olaf (2006), "On Being Conservative: Lessons from Louis de Bonald", The Intercollegiate Review, XLI (1): 23–31<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Boas, George (1925), French Philosophies of the Romantic Period, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
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Cohen, D.K. (1969), "The Vicomte de Bonald's Critique of Industrialism", The Journal of Modern History, XLI (4): 475–84, doi:10.1086/240443<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Devlin, F. Roger (2010), "Louis de Bonald: Neglected Antimodern" (PDF), The Occidental Quarterly, X (2): 105–28<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Dunning, William Archibald (1920), "The Marquis de Bonald", A History of Political Theories, New York: The Macmillan Company, pp. 184–90<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Fitzgibbon, George F. (1940), "De Bonald and De Maistre", The American Catholic Sociological Review, I (3): 116–24, doi:10.2307/3707123<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Godechot, Jacques (1981), The Counter-Revolution: Doctrine and Action, 1789–1804, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, ISBN 0691007888<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Koyré, Alexandre (1946), "Louis De Bonald", Journal of the History of Ideas, VII (1): 56–63, doi:10.2307/2707268<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Klinck, David M. (1974a), "Natural Law in French Catholicism During the Late Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries", Revue de l'Université d'Ottawa, XLIV: 497–506<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Klinck, David M. (1974b), "An Examination of the Notes de lecture of Louis de Bonald: At the Origins of the Ideology of the Radical Right in France" (PDF), Man and Nature, II: 93–108, doi:10.7202/1011815ar<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Klinck, David (1978), "The Impact of Eighteenth-century Naturalism upon the Religious Thought of Louis de Bonald", Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Meeting for the Western Society for French History, V: 173–80<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Klinck, David (1992), "Louis de Bonald: The Foreshadowing of the Integral Nationalism of Charles Maurras and the Action Française in the Thought of the French Counterrevolution", History of European Ideas, XV (1/3): 327–32, doi:10.1016/0191-6599(92)90147-5<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Klinck, David (1996), The French Counterrevolutionary Theorist, Louis de Bonald (1754-1840), New York: Peter Lang, ISBN 0820427977<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
McCalla, Arthur (2004), "Louis de Bonald's Traditionalist Science of Society and Early Nineteenth-Century Biological Thought", Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques, XXX (2): 337–57<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
McMahon, Darrin M. (2002), Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195347937<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Molnar, Thomas (1969), The Counter-revolution, New York: Funk & Wagnalls<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Nisbet, Robert A. (1943), "The French Revolution and the Rise of Sociology in France", The American Journal of Sociology, XLIX (2): 156–64, doi:10.1086/219349<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Nisbet, Robert A. (1944), "De Bonald and the Concept of the Social Group", Journal of the History of Ideas, V (3): 315–31, doi:10.2307/2707353<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Nisbet, Robert A. (1952), "Conservatism and Sociology", The American Journal of Sociology, LVIII (2): 167–75, doi:10.1086/221116<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Paul, Harry W. (1969), "In Quest of Kerygma: Catholic Intellectual Life in Nineteenth Century France", American Historical Review, LXXV (2): 387–423, doi:10.2307/1849691<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Pranchere, Jean-Yves (2001), "The Social Bond in Maistre and Bonald", in Lebrun, Richard A. (ed.), Joseph de Maistre’s Life, Thought and Influence: Selected Studies, Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, pp. 190–219<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Reardon, Bernard (1975), Liberalism and Tradition: Aspects of Catholic Thought in Nineteenth-century France, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521207762<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Reedy, W. Jay (1979), "Conservatism and the Origins of the French Sociological Tradition: A Reconsideration of Louis de Bonald's Science of Society", Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Meeting for the Western Society for French History, VI: 264–73<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Reedy, W. Jay (1981), "Burke and Bonald: Paradigms of Late Eighteenth-Century Conservatism", Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques, VIII (2): 69–93<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Reedy, W. Jay (1983), "Language, Counter-Revolution and the 'Two Cultures': Bonald's Traditionalist Scientism", Journal of the History of Ideas, XLIV (4): 579–97, doi:10.2307/2709216<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Reedy, W. Jay (1986), "Art for Society's Sake: Louis de Bonald's Sociology of Aesthetics and the Theocratic Ideology", Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, CXXX (1): 101–29<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Reedy, W. Jay (1994), "The Historical Imaginary of Social Science in Post-Revolutionary France: Bonald, Saint-Simon, Comte", History of the Human Sciences, VII (1): 1–26, doi:10.1177/095269519400700101<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
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  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2F1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica%2FBonald%2C_Louis_Gabriel_Ambroise "Bonald, Louis Gabriel Ambroise" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2FCatholic_Encyclopedia_%281913%29%2FLouis-Gabriel-Ambroise%2C_Vicomte_de_Bonald "Louis-Gabriel-Ambroise, Vicomte de Bonald" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Barbey D'Aurevilly, Jules (1880). "De Bonald". In: Les Prophètes du Passé. Paris: Victor Palmé, pp. 83–118.
  • Bastier, Jean (1974). "Linguistique et Politique dans la Pensée de Louis de Bonald". Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Théologiques. LVII (4): 537–60.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Berlin, Isaiah (1973). "The Counter-Enlightenment". In Wiener, Philip P. (ed.). Dictionary of the History of Ideas. 2. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. pp. 100–12.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Bertran de Balanda, Flavien (2009). Bonald, la Réaction en Action. Lambesc: Éd. Prolégomènes.
  • Bertran de Balanda, Flavien (2010). Louis de Bonald Publiciste Ultra. Aix-en-Provence: Champ d'Azur.
  • Blamires, Cyprian P. (1985). Three Critiques of the French Revolution: Maistre, Bonald and Saint-Simon. Oxford: Oxford University Doctoral Thesis.
  • Bonald, Henri de (1841). Notice sur M. le Vicomte de Bonald. Paris: Adrien Le Clère.
  • Bourget, Paul (1905). Bonald. Paris: Librairie Bloud.
  • Brandes, George (1906). "Bonald." In: Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature. Vol. III: The Reaction in France. New York: The Macmillan Company, pp. 113–134.
  • Faguet, Émile (1889). "De Bonald". Revue des Deux Mondes. XCII: 913–44.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ferret, Olivier (2007). La Fureur de Nuire: Échanges Pamphlétaires entre Philosophes et Antiphilosophes, 1750-1770. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.
  • Foucher, Louis (1955). La Philosophie Catholique en France au XIXe Siècle. Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hayes, Carlton J.H. (1959). "Bonald". The Historical Evolution of Modern Nationalism. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 95–100.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Laski, Harold Joseph (1919). "Bonald." In: Authority in the Modern State. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 123–188.
  • Mazlish, Bruce (1955). Burke, Bonald and de Maistre. A Study in Conservatism. New York: Columbia University Doctoral Thesis.
  • Montesquiou, Léon de (1916). Le Réalisme de Bonald. Paris: Nouvelle Librairie Nationale.
  • Moulinié, Henri (1916). De Bonald. Paris: Librairie Felix Alcan.
  • Muret, Charlotte Touzalin (1933). French Royalist Doctrines since the Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Soreil, Arsène (1942). Étude Littéraire sur le Vicomte de Bonald. Bruxelles, Office de Publicité.
  • Thorup, Mikkel (2005). "'A World Without Substance': Carl Schmitt and the Counter-Enlightenment". Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory. VI (1): 19–39.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Toda, Michel (1997). Louis de Bonald, Théoricien de la Contre-Révolution. Étampes: Éd. Clovis.
  • Wieland, Georg (2013). "Bonald, Louis Gabriel Ambroise," Religion Past and Present. Brill Online.
  • Zeitlin, Irving M. (1968). Ideology and the Development of Sociological Theory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès
Seat 30
Académie française
Succeeded by
Jacques-François Ancelot