Blupete's Biography Page

Political Theorists and Activists:

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Acton, Lord (1834-1902):
Acton was against "programmes of reaction" and thought that there could be great reliance on those institutions that came about as the result of slow evolution. That, ultimately, what was to be trusted were those "changes arising from special historical situations rather than from the minds of presumptuous men."

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Bastiat, Frederic (1801-50):
Bastiat was of the view that those who subscribe to socialism subscribe to putting in place mechanisms, a philanthropic tyranny, which would but force the human race (a futile effort) to behave as the social engineers think the human race ought to behave as opposed to how it behaves by nature.
Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832).
In Bentham's writings, politicians, beginning with those of the early 19th century, found legitimization in their most favoured activity: the business of making laws; and, they have been doing it in great quantities ever since. Bentham figured that laws should be socially useful and not merely reflect the status quo; he thought it to be a "sacred truth" that "the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation."
Bright, John (1811-89):
Bright was a son of a Quaker cotton spinner and took up employment in his father's factory. In 1839, he, at the time of its formation, together with Richard Cobden (1804-65), became a leader in the Anti-Corn-Law League (they advocated free trade; see the Manchester School of economics). Bright and Cobden were also members of the Peace Society (Bright energetically denounced the Crimean war). During the American Civil War, Bright warmly supported the north. He became a member of parliament. Bright supported Joe Howe in Howe's bid to reverse the 1867 union of Nova Scotia to the rest of Canada.
Burke, Edmund (1729-97).
Burke was an Irish born English Statesman and author, sympathetic towards American colonies and Irish Catholics, and (because of the resulting violence and destruction) an enemy of those who supported the French Revolution.

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Cicero, Marcus Tullius (B.C. 106-43):
Cicero was a Roman orator and statesman. He was in power but for a brief time. His political opponents condemned him and sent him into exile (a Roman citizen could not be put to death by execution). Chambers tell us that Cicero wrote most of his work "living in exile and brooding over his disappointments." He gave a very famous speech against Anthony, after Caesar's death, in 43. Not long after, Anthony's soldiers hunted Cicero down and put him to death.
Cobbett, William (1763-1835).
A self taught man, Cobbett was a moving force in the great legislative reforms that took place in England, during the early part of the 19th century.
Condorcet, Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de (1743-94):
"It is perhaps Condorcet who, in his Esquisse d'un tableau historique des procrès de l'esprit humain [Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, written in 1793-94], best summarizes the optimism and faith in human reason so characteristic of the age. In tracing man from the dawn of history, Condorcet first emphasized the liberation of mankind from ignorance, tyranny, and superstition by means of his science and his reason; he then sketched a hopeful future in which mankind would be free, equal in wealth, in education, and with sexual equality; he finally envisaged the moral, intellectual, and physical improvement, indeed perfection, of humanity that would arise through better instruction laws, and institutions." (Benet's entry on the "Enlightenment.") In Chamber's we see that Condorcet's work, ... l'esprit humain was "written in hiding [French Revolution], he insisted on the justice and necessity of establishing a perfect equality of civil and political rights between the individual of both sexes, and proclaimed the infinite perfectibility of the human race." This idea, this impossible dream of the "perfectibility of the human race," was of course the same basis on which William Godwin work's Political Justice rested.
Confucius lived during the turbulent times of the Chou dynasty (c.1027 BC-256 BC). Confucius urged a system of morality and statecraft to bring about peace, stability, and just government. Confucius was of the view that both the governed and those who govern were to be principled and virtuous; and that the first order of business for government was to instill in the population, as a whole, such virtues as to make good government easy. This was a system where one treated both inferiors and superiors with propriety. Confucianism laid down practical social concepts. Confucianism is not forced; it is not dogmatic: it is less a religion than it is an ethic by which people live.
Constant, Benjamin (1767-1830):
Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, Constant mother's family was of French Huguenot descent. But only 16 years of age, Constant was sent to Edinburgh to study (1783-5) where he learned English, after which he proceeded to read Blackstone, Hume, Smith, Gibbon, Burke and Godwin. In 1789, he married the first of his two wives, a lady of the court. Constant settled in Paris in 1795 where he supported Napoleon's rise to power (they were to have a falling out). Constant was banished from France in 1802. He had an intimate relationship with Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) and traveled with her throughout Germany and Italy where both were imbued with German Romanticism (Goethe et al.). With the fall of Napoleon, Constant returned to Paris and came to be a member of the Chamber of Deputies. He wrote extensively, mostly about political philosophy, but also lent his hand to fiction, Adolphe (1816). His course of study in England, just as was the case for Montesquieu, led Constant throughout his life to espouse, in respect to how a country ought to rule itself, "British liberalism." Coming against Rousseau's view, Constant was of the Lockian view that citizens have rights independent of all social and political authority. Primary to Constant's political thinking is the importance of individual rights, limited government and the sacrosanct nature of property. I quote from Nicholas Capaldi's introduction to Liberty Fund's ed. (2003) of Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments (1810), Constant's most important work: "Constant focuses on the rule of law: the need for due process in order to protect individual rights; laws that lay down the neutral rules of the game, so that individuals can pursue their private economic interests with security; the importance of jury trials; the significance of pardon as a check on the system itself; and the need for judicial independence." (xxi)

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Diderot, Denis (1713-84):
Diderot denied and subverted the moral foundations of authority. I am sure there are numerous and authoritative works on Diderot. I have John Morley's work Diderot and the Encyclopaedists (London: Chapman & Hall, 1878).

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Engels, Friedrich (1820-1895):
Engels was the writer of The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844). But his fame principally rests as one of the co-founders (with Marx) of "scientific socialism." Though not English, Engels lived most of his life in England, being, it seems to me, about the only country, at that time, which would permit publication and distribution of such freethinking material as is represented by the Communistic Manifesto, the joint work of Engels and Marx. Engels was the more practical of the pair, and its doubtful that the work of Marx would have ever been put through the press if it had not been for the work of Engels, an untiring believer in the works of Marx.

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Ferguson, Adam (1723-1816):
Scottish philosopher and historian, in 1757, Ferguson succeeded David Hume as Keeper of the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh. Ferguson's Essay on the History of Civil Society is "a sharp polemic against Hobbes in the matter of a supposed original compact." [From Schneider's intro. p. x (Transaction Publishers, 1991).] Ferguson's work supports the view (the correct view) that societies have not come about or created out of whole cloth through the agency of human reasoning. "Like the winds that we come we know not whence and blow whither soever they list, the forces of society are derived from an obscure and distant origin. They arise before the date of philosophy, from the instincts, not the speculations of men." As popular as the work has been, it was not universality accepted. Hume did care for it; Leslie Stephen found it superficial; Schumpeter thought that its popularity in Germany was "unmerited." Marx, however, quoted from it approvingly.

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Godwin, William (1756-1836):
In 1793, Godwin brought out his work, Political Justice. Political Justice marked a beginning point when there then started to spread "high thought and warm feelings," a reaction to the "vices and follies of the world." Godwin believed it is impossible to be rationally persuaded and not act accordingly, and that therefore, man could live in harmony without law and institutions; he believed in the perfectibility of man.

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Herbert, Auberon (1838-1906).
Herbert was to become the patron saint to a movement known as "voluntaryism." Typical of Herbert's thoughts, is this: "you will not make people wiser and better by taking liberty of action from them. A man can only learn when he is free to act. It is the consequences of his own actions, and the consequences of these same actions as he sees them in other persons, that teach him."
Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679).
Hobbes' interest in science, particularly that of Euclidian geometry, led him to conclude that it should be possible "to extend such deductive certainty to a comprehensive science of man and society." Hobbes carried out "greatest, perhaps the sole, masterpiece of political philosophy in the English language."

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Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826):
Third American President, 1801-1809, Jefferson was born in Virginia; he received a classical education and became a very versatile leader. Jefferson was of the view that government should be democratic, but in view of the problems of democracy: there should be as little government as possible. Jefferson was against big government and is to be compared with his contemporary, Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) who was keen in setting up, in the formation of the United States, a strong federal state, viz., the Hamiltonian idea of a strong central authority. Hamilton headed up the Federalists who are to be compared to the Whigs of England.

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Locke, John (1632-1704).
Locke set forth the rational reason for the existence of a limited government: "The great and chief end, therefore, of men's uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property." And, that people could generally regulate themselves without extensive and detailed governmental intervention: "Good and evil, reward and punishment, are the only motives to a rational creature: these are the spur and reins whereby all mankind are set on work, and guided."

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Machiavelli (1469-1527).
"We are much beholden to Machiavel and others, that write what men do, and not what they ought to do."
Malthus, Thomas Robert (1766-1834).
In his famous work, An Essay on the Principle of Population, Malthus opined that poverty and distress are unavoidable because population increases faster than the means of subsistence. As checks on population growth, Malthus accepted only war, famine, and disease but later added moral restraint.
Mandeville, Bernard (1670-1733):
A Dutch doctor who practiced in London. In his work, The Fable of the Bees (1714), Mandeville set down his views that "Private Vices are Public Benefits." This book sort of grew in the author's hands through the years 1705-24. The authorities at the time denounced this work as a public nuisance.
Marx, Karl (1818-83).
The fundamental difference in the beliefs between socialism and Marxism is that Marxists believe that we are powerless to shape the course of history, whereas the Utopian belief is that it is within our power to make a perfect society.
Mill, John Stuart (1806-1873).
While advancing the cause of democracy to a considerable degree, Mill was wrong in treating collections of people as if these collections were physical or biological bodies, such that scientific methods might be employed to predict future events.
Montesquieu (1689-1755)
Montesquieu was a French philosopher and jurist who spent two years (1729-31) in England, there to study the political writings of Locke. Montesquieu's work, The Spirit of Laws, written in 1748, held up the British Constitution to the admiration of the world. He believed in the necessity of the separation of powers, a doctrine that was picked up by the framers of the American Constitution. Incidentally, it was Montesquieu who said, "Useless laws weaken the necessary laws."
More, Sir Thomas (1478-1535):
Born in London, More went on to study at Oxford and then on to the Inns of Court. He became a very influential statesman and eventually became one of the most powerful men in England as the Lord chancellor. He earned the displeasure of Henry VIII when he did not go along with the separation of the English church from Rome. After a harsh imprisonment of over a year, Henry had him beheaded. More is best remembered by his work, Utopia, written in 1516.

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Owen, Robert (1771-1858):
One of the first in a line of 19th century socialists.

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Paine, Thomas (1737-1809):
Thomas Paine, the pamphleteer will for ever be remembered as being one of the significant spark plugs which brought the America Revolution to full heat.

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Rabelais, François (c1494-c1553):
In his early years Rabelais spent time in the Franciscan and Benedictine orders where he steeped himself in the classics. Leaving the monastery he went to universities at Paris, Bourges, and Montpellier; he became a doctor and practised medicine at a hospital. "Although frequently in danger of attack for his radical ideas, his satire on the Church, and his broad humor, he successfully evaded prosecution, thanks to his friends in high places, and pursued his career of lecturing, traveling, and writing. ... The key to Rabelais' humor lies in his gross and earthy naturalism, in his delight in the common elements of life, and in his belief in the native goodness of man." (Frederic R. White's Famous Utopias (Chicago: Packard, 1946), p. 121.) Most all of Rabelais' work was a satire on the huge revolution that was unfolding during his times: the Renaissance. Rabelais described man as the only "laughing animal"; he thought it his duty, his right, and his privilege to laugh at, and with, his fellow humans. Rabelais painted a memorable character called Friar John: a drinking, fighting and mighty monk. Rabelais' works include Pantagruel (1532) and Gargantua (1534). In Pantagruel, Rabelais set forth serious ideas along side of overwhelming nonsense.
Rousseau, Jean Jacques (1712-88):
"Rousseau undertook the defence of social nudity. He called upon his world, which prided itself so much upon its elegance, to divest the body politic of all its robes. He declared that while Nature has made man happy and virtuous, it is society that renders him miserable and depraved ..."

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Shaw, Geo. Bernard (1856-1950):
Shaw had "an exhilarating force, a trenchant wit, an unfailing eye for apt instances, a contempt for every fool and a respect for no authority. ... [He was] alert, never to be taken by unawares, ready to pounce with avidity upon the delusions of his fellow-men and to rend them with an animal gusto. ... his wit [intimidated] the enemy before coming to grips with him." (Orlo Williams.) Shaw joined the likes of Sidney and Beatrice Webb and H. G. Wells; as socialists they were known as The Fabians. Some of the books I have, either written by or about Shaw, are: The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism (New York: Brentano's, 1928), Fabian Essays in Socialism (London: The Fabian Society, 1889), Bernard Shaw, A Critical Study by P. P. Howe (London: Martin Secker, 1915), Bernard Shaw by Michael Holroyd (1936- ) (London: Chatto & Windus, 1988 [Vol.I] & 1989 [Vol.II]).
Smith, Adam (1723-1790):
What Adam Smith did in his book, Wealth of Nations, was to explain how self-interest was the engine of the economy and competition its governor.
Spencer, Herbert (1820-1903):
An English evolutionary philosopher, Spencer argued that the ultimate scientific principles are unknowable and, agnostically, that the Unknowable must be a power, or God. (Chambers.) Spencer was known for his application of the scientific doctrines of evolution to philosophy and ethics, with a central principle, the 'persistence of force,' as the agent of all change, form, and organization in the knowable universe. In education, he scorned the study of the liberal arts and advocated that science be the chief subject of instruction. His works: First Principles, in which Spencer states the first principle is that man has the right, the only right, to do anything except interfere with another's similar right, and proceeds to the application of this principle to the subsidiary rights flowing therefrom: the right to property, to free speech, to ignore the State, etc. (London: Williams & Norgate, 1875); The Principles of Sociology (New York: D. Appleton, 1898); and Social Statics (1851) (London: Williams & Norgate, 1868). In Principles of Biology (London: Williams & Norgate, 1898), Spencer's aim was "to set forth the general truths of Biology, as illustrative of, and as interpreted by, the laws of Evolution ... For aid in executing it, I owe many thanks to Prof. Huxley and Dr. Hooker." In 1904, Herbert Spencer's autobiography was brought out (London: Williams & Norgate, 1904). Also published is The Life and Letters of Herbert Spencer by David Duncan (London: Methuen, 1908). (For a sample of Spencer's writing see his essay, "The Collective Wisdom.")
Spooner, Lysander (1808-1887):
Lawyer, abolitionist, radical, friend of liberty, Spooner was an opponent of slavery and an ardent enemy of statist legislation; he put his faith in the law. An eloquent foe of prohibition of alcohol or drugs, he offered a moral defence of liberty.

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Thoreau, Henry David (1817-1862):
Thoreau was a man of "simple and high thinking" and his writings proved to have more of an impact on the men of the 20th century than the men of his own century, the 19th. For instance, Gandhi became convinced, by reading Thoreau, of the rightness of the principle of passive resistance and civil disobedience.
Tocqueville , Count Alexis, de (1805-1859):
A young bureaucrat from a noble family, Tocqueville was sent in 1831 to America so that he might report back on its prison system; the result was a penetrating political study, Democracy in America. One of de Tocqueville's conclusions found in this work is, "greater equality requires greater centralization and therefore diminishes liberty." (Chambers.) Tocqueville spent the last years of his life making a major study of the French Revolution and its consequences: he was to complete only one volume before his death.

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Voltaire (1694-1778):
Born Francois-Marie Arouet in Paris, Voltaire, a pen name he adopted early in his career, through his writings, became the "embodiment of the 18th-century enlightenment." He was against organized religion, fanaticism, intolerance and superstition; his cry: Ecrasez l'infâme! ("Crush the infamous thing!") He was a constant source of irritation to the political and religious authorities of the time. ("If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.") At times he found himself in prison, and, at other times, fleeing the country (he spent three years in England [1726-29], and was much taken up with the English political and scientific scene, in particular, Locke and Newton). His works and ideas helped to foster the French Revolution.

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Webb, Sidney and Beatrice:
These are the Webbs of Fabian claim. The Fabians -- G. Bernard Shaw, Sydney Oliver, Sidney Webb, Annie Besant, Wm. Clarke, Graham Wallas, & Hubert Bland, et al. -- led the socialist political movement at the first part of the 20th century. Another circle (just as socialistic) was The "Bloomsbury Group": representative members being Keynes (the Cambridge Professor that got us into so much trouble) and Virginia Woolf (a great literary artist who committed suicide just as Hitler took Europe by force of arms). Among my books by the Webbs are The History of Trade Unionism (London: Longmans, Green; 1907) and English Poor Law History -- Part I: The Old Poor Law (1927). This last book is "a systematic history of English Poor Relief down to the great reforming Act of 1834." Part 2, apparently, takes up where part 1 left-off and carries on up to the time when the Webbs wrote the book.

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Peter Landry