October 25th marked the 247th birthday of one of the greatest voices of liberty, the French political philosopher of freedom, Benjamin Constant. He may not be a household name to friends of freedom today, but he should be. He wrote one of the most principled and consistent defenses of individual liberty and freedom of enterprise to appear in the last two hundred years, the Principles of Politics Applied to All Governments (1815).
Benjamin Constant was born on October 25, 1767. He had an unusual childhood being brought up by tutors who introduced him at an early age to gambling dens and “houses of ill-repute.” He had a long and tempestuous relationships with one of the leading French female voices of classical liberalism, Madame de Stahl, for whose affection he more than once threatened suicide.
But intellectually, he was a very public outspoken critic of the violence and tyranny of the “reign of terror” during the French Revolution, and a sharp-tongued opponent of Napoleon Bonaparte, especially in his 1814 essay, “The Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation.”