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Louis Gabriel Ambroise, Vicomte de Bonald (2 October 1754, Le Monna (near Millau), Aveyron, France - 23 November 1840, Le Monna), was a French counter-revolutionary philosopher and politician.



Disliking the principles of the Revolution, he emigrated in 1791, 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 (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 1815 to 1822, he 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, he 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.

He 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, 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 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.

Bonald's French style is remarkably fine; ornate, but pure and vigorous. Many fruitful thoughts are scattered among his works, but his strength lay in the vigour and sincerity of his statements rather than in cogency of reasoning.



  • "Monarchy considers man in his ties with society; a republic considers man independently of his relations to society."

See also

Writings in English translation

In Blum, Christopher Olaf, editor and translator, 2004. Critics of the Enlightenment. Wilmington DE: ISI Books.

  • 1815, "On Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux." 43-70.
  • 1817, "Thoughts on Various Subjects." 71-80.
  • 1818, "Observations on Madame de Stael's Considerations on the Principle Events of the French Revolution." 81-106.
  • 1826, "On the Agricultural Family, the Industrial Family, and the Right of Primogeniture." 107-32.

External links

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


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