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The Terror of Natural RightRepublicanism, the Cult of Nature, and the French Revolution$
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Dan Edelstein

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226184388

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226184401.001.0001

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Finding Nature

Finding Nature

(p.87) Chapter Two Finding Nature
The Terror of Natural Right
University of Chicago Press

During the first year of the French Republic, it was commonplace to compare the nascent government to “those days that can be called the true golden age,” a time “when each nation determined on its own its rights and duties” and when the people “shared more or less equally the advantages of a collective administration.” The myth of the golden age had been naturalized, escaping from the confines of poetry and royalist rhetoric to enter the authoritative narratives of history and ethnography. Perhaps the most eloquent and intriguing proponent of natural republicanism of the pre-revolutionary decades in France was Sylvain Maréchal, who demonstrated how the belief in a society governed solely by natural right was wholly assimilated into the discourse of sensibilité. This chapter examines three critical shifts with respect to natural right: Orientalist studies, new voyages of discovery (in particular French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville's visit to Tahiti), and physiocracy.

Keywords:   French Republic, golden age, natural republicanism, Sylvain Maréchal, natural right, sensibilité, physiocracy, Orientalist studies, voyages, Louis Antoine de Bougainville

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