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The Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay’s Essay de politique: Fénelon and Jacobitism

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:48 authored by Andrew K. Mansfield
Andrew Michael Ramsay?s Essay de Politique (1719) and the revised second edition, the Essay philosophique sur le gouvernement civil (1721) claimed to promulgate the political principles of the Archbishop Fénelon author of Télémaque (1699). The assumed relationship between Fénelon and Ramsay augmented by Ramsay?s Vie de Fénelon (1723) meant that subsequent biographers of both men have believed the Essay to be a faithful depiction of the prelate?s political ideas. However this work, aided by the Vie de Fénelon was used by Ramsay to promote the Jacobite cause of James Stuart (the 'Pretender'). The Essay was used by Ramsay to set out a theoretical system of government that would prevent an 'excess of liberty' in the people and thereby prevent the possibility of Revolution against a king. Ramsay's second edition augmented this idea with a more focused attack on the contract theorists and apologists for the 1689 Revolution. Ramsay deliberately manipulated the political legacy of Fénelon and focused on a corrupted view of Fénelon's early (children's) educational works in his promotion of Jacobitism. In doing so, he disregarded the important later reform plans for the French state under the potential reign of (an adult) Duke of Burgundy which were later influential in Regency France. Moreover, Ramsay manipulated the name and reputation of Fénelon to disguise the real influence of his Essay, Fénelon's nemesis Bossuet. The reliance of the Essay upon the seventeenth century absolutist theory of Bossuet at a time when eighteenth century Britain and Regency France had rejected absolutism in favour of reform led to its failure. The aim of the Thesis is therefore to examine the extent of Ramsay's Jacobitism, his impact on the political legacy of Fénelon in his attempt to create a work of Jacobite propaganda, and the true influences on the Essay de Politique.


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