Louis Gabriel Ambroise de Bonald

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Louis de Bonald, by Julien Léopold Boilly.

Louis Gabriel Ambroise, Vicomte de Bonald (2 October 1754, Le Monna (part of Millau), Rouergue (now Aveyron) - 23 November 1840, Le Monna), was a French counter-revolutionary[1] philosopher and politician.


Louis-Gabriel-Ambroise, Vicomte de Bonald, came from an ancient noble family of Provence, was educated at the Oratorian College at Juilly, 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.

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. After the Bourbon Restoration he was a member of the council of public instruction and, from 1816, of the Académie française.[2] 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.

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.

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,[3] which included de Maistre, Lamennais, Ballanche and baron Ferdinand d'Eckstein. His writings are mainly on social and political philosophy, and are based ultimately on one great principle, the divine origin of language. 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.

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beum, Robert, "Ultra-Royalism Revisited: An Annotated Bibliography With A Preface," Modern Age, September 1997.
  2. ^ Andreas Dorschel, 'Aufgeklärte Gegenaufklärung', in: Süddeutsche Zeitung No. 25 (30 January 2008), p. 16
  3. ^ Blum, Christopher Olaf. "On Being Conservative: Lessons from Louis de Bonald," The Intercollegiate Review, Volume 41, Number 1, Spring 2006.


  • "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."
  • "Man thinks his word before he speaks his thought, or, in other words, man cannot speak his thought without thinking his word."


  • 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[edit]

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

Writings in English translation[edit]

  • 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

Further reading[edit]

  • Bertran de Balanda, Flavien. Bonald, la Réaction en Action, éd. Prolégomènes, 2009.
  • Bertran de Balanda, Flavien. Louis de Bonald Publiciste Ultra, éd. Champ d'Azur, 2010.
  • Bonald, Henri de. Notice sur M. le Vicomte de Bonald, Adrien Le Clère, 1841.
  • Bourget, Paul. Bonald, Bloud, 1905.
  • Brandes, George. "Bonald." In Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature, Vol. III: The Reaction in France, W. Heinemann Ltd., 1906.
  • Devlin, F. Roger. "Louis de Bonald: Neglected Antimodern," The Occidental Quarterly, Vol. X, No. 2, Summer 2010.
  • Fitzgibbon, George F. "De Bonald and De Maistre," The American Catholic Sociological Review, Vol. 1, No. 3, Oct., 1940.
  • Koyré, Alexandre. "Louis De Bonald," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 7, No. 1, Jan., 1946.
  • Cohen, D. K. "The Vicomte de Bonald's Critique of Industrialism," The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 41, No. 4, Dec., 1969.
  • Laski, Harold Joseph. "Bonald." In Authority in the Modern State, Chap. III, Yale University Press, 1919.
  • McCalla, Arthur. "Louis de Bonald's Traditionalist Science of Society and Early Nineteenth-Century Biological Thought," Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques, Vol. 30, No. 2, Summer 2004.
  • McMahon, Darrin M. Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity, Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Montesquiou, Léon de. Le Réalisme de Bonald, Nouvelle Librairie Nationale, 1916.
  • Moulinié, Henri. De Bonald, Alcan, 1916.
  • Reedy, W. Jay. "Burke and Bonald: Paradigms of Late Eighteenth-Century Conservatism," Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer 1981.
  • Reedy, W. Jay. "Language, Counter-Revolution and the 'Two Cultures': Bonald's Traditionalist Scientism," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 44, No. 4, Oct./Dec., 1983.
  • Reedy, W. Jay. "Art for Society's Sake: Louis de Bonald's Sociology of Aesthetics and the Theocratic Ideology," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 130, No. 1, Mar., 1986.
  • Smith, Horatio E. "Relativism in Bonald's Literary Doctrine," Modern Philology, Vol. 22, No. 2, Nov., 1924.
  • Toda, Michel. Louis de Bonald, Théoricien de la Contre-Révolution, éd. Clovis, Étampes, 1997.
  • Wieland, Georg. "Bonald, Louis Gabriel Ambroise," Religion Past and Present, Brill Online, 2013.

External links[edit]

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