Arnault Skornicki
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Economic bienfaisance and the Physiocratic rhetoric of charity

The philosophes developed the concept of ‘bienfaisance’ from the 1760s in direct opposition to established theological notions of charity, a switch from Christian duty to secular humanitarian concern. As Arnault Skornicki’s chapter shows, the new Physiocratic system of political economy needed to develop concepts and arguments that explained how it served the poor better than traditional modes of relief. While there was disagreement amongst the Physiocrats on precise welfare policy recommendations, they shared the view that the most important expedient was to increase employment by creating a free market economy and, in particular, a perfectly free grain trade. This required modifying the language of ‘bienfaisance’ to communicate the altruistic intentions behind such ‘capitalistic’ solutions, partly to fend off allegations of hardheartedness when they criticised traditional almsgiving as encouraging beggary. A new political language was developed to support the Physiocrats’ arguments for removing controls and allowing the economy to return to its natural order and, with it, to aid the long-run well-being of the poor. This was a crucial moment in the history of Enlightenment ideas of poverty, as it represented one of the most significant systematic attempts to address the problem directly, rather than as a part of wider project to improve administration or increase national wealth.

During the second half of the eighteenth century in France, the Physiocratic school participated in a notable way in debates about poverty. Studies that have appeared on the topic of assistance have generally considered the contribution of the Physiocrats to represent the new liberal approaches advanced by Enlightened elites.1 However, few specialised works on Physiocracy have been accorded sustained attention to the issues of poverty and assistance in the group’s thought. Historian Sébastien Duchesne has analysed finely the pluralism of the ‘Economists’ on these matters and he concluded that all of them had betrayed the principles of their master, François Quesnay.2 Economist and historian of ideas, Alain Clément, studied the contribution of abbé Nicolas Baudeau in detail, a man whose originality was to have elaborated a complete social programme for the indigent.3 However, all of these studies have neglected sources that are as significant as the writings of Quesnay and of his closest collaborator, the Marquis de Mirabeau, as well as the main Physiocratic journal, the Éphémérides du Citoyen. Not only is this important corpus overflowing with discourse about poverty and charity but, from the middle of the 1760s, it reveals an overwhelming aspect of rhetoric which has hardly given rise to any commentary: that of bienfaisance.

It is well known that the second half of eighteenth-century France saw an outpouring and spread of discourses referring to bienfaisance (‘beneficence’), a newly crafted term that denoted charity and virtue in contemporary France.4 The invention of the word is commonly attributed to the abbé de Saint-Pierre, a major proponent of reformism who had written several texts on poverty and charity.5 The idea derives from the noun ‘le bienfait’, that is, the good deed. In particular, bienfaisance referred to social virtue and love of humanity, whereas charity emphasised love of God. In every sense, this new commonplace could be defined as the joys of doing good to others.6 It stressed a new sensibility grounded in a principle of humanity and fraternity. This moral watchword appeared eminently compatible with political reform in favour of prosperity, social utility and public happiness. Its utilitarian complexion carried a critique of the traditional approach of Christian charity: ‘There is magnanimity in generosity; but there is a more continuous usefulness in bienfaisance.’7 Alms, in this conception, without necessarily being condemned, were devalued, for the rich man should worry less about his soul than about contributing to social utility. Poverty was no longer considered as a fatality, an object of shame or as a virtue, but as a social ill that the collectivity could combat. Traditional public assistance was criticised as inhumane and ineffective: henceforth, it would be right to render the poor useful without humiliating them. These views did not deny the action of the Church, but it was called to be overseen and coordinated by the public authorities. Both concrete acts and institutional achievements accompanied the discourse of bienfaisance over the final two decades of the Ancien Régime. Public authorities launched numerous enquiries and reforms concerning aid of beggars and hospital organisation. The propaganda of the monarchy developed the theme of ‘royal bienfaisance’, in which Louis XVI was called le bienfaisant.8 The cultural phenomenon also encouraged new forms of private charity to appear, alongside those framed by the Church (alms, bequests, hôtels-Dieu or general hospitals), and this involved the creation of entirely secular philanthropic societies by representatives of the Enlightened elites.9 Finally, the Revolution created a great Book of Bienfaisance in 1794 that organised aid for the poor in the French countryside, followed by les bureaux de bienfaisance in 1796, as part of a national policy of public assistance.10

However, the discourse of bienfaisance was by no means a coherent ideology. Rather, it can be seen as part of a common vocabulary of the French Enlightenment that framed a debate – contradictory in nature – about how to reduce poverty. For example, the debate set Turgot in opposition to the Physiocrats, on the one hand, and to Jacques Necker, on the other. Among the former, many of the Économistes – Dr Quesnay and his disciples – precociously endorsed the discourse of bienfaisance. The present chapter considers the Physiocrats as the clique of acquaintances that surrounded Quesnay and Mirabeau for a considerable time and that formed a group whose public aim was to develop and promote ‘rural philosophy’; in particular – as regards the present subject – this group included Quesnay and Mirabeau themselves, Pierre-Samuel Du Pont, Nicolas Baudeau and Guillaume-François Le Trosne.11 The Physiocratic position is both central and original in the debate about diminishing poverty. On the one hand, like Montesquieu and other Enlightened thinkers, the Physiocrats shared a liberal optimism about the beneficial effects of commercial society on poverty reduction.12 In this view, the indigent did not need alms, but decently paid jobs. As Melon claimed, ‘a charitable man gives alms; a statesman gives opportunities for working’.13 Likewise, the Physiocrats supported free labour and proposed breaking with the punitive and mercantilist approach to poverty that had guided most European policy since the sixteenth century. The latter could be seen in the examples of British workhouses, the general hospital in Paris, founded in 1656, intended for the detention of vagrants14 or the dépôts de mendicité (1767) for the confinement of beggars in France.15 It was for this reason that they supported the new social policy of their close friend, the Minister of Finance Turgot (1774–1776), who had replaced the dépôts de mendicité with ‘charity workshops’ particularly devoted to roadworks. Conversely, a number of the Économistes went even further by radically disapproving the stigmatisation of poverty. Contrary to many contemporaries, and Malthus later, they firmly condemned the distinction between the wicked poor and virtuous poor: in their view, poverty had global economic causes and could not generally be attributed to the immorality of individuals. In this conception, it was the responsibility of the government to give the poor access to work. Yet, for this purpose, the Physiocrats insisted much more than Montesquieu or Melon upon the necessity of the absolute freedom of trade and the pursuit of self-interest.

Their rhetoric of bienfaisance, and the original way in which they expressed it, was precisely suited to this liberal view. If one could consider certain ideas as attempts to legitimise questionable actions,16 one might discern the collective intention that guided the Physiocratic reappropriation of the lexicon of bienfaisance. The Jansenists, such as Pierre Nicole or Pierre de Boisguilbert, opposed economic interest and charity, valuing (in a proto-Smithian vein) the superiority of the former over the latter in reducing poverty.17 In the opposite direction, the Economistes tried to describe Enlightened self-interest as true charity itself. This was an audacious rhetorical move as their economic bienfaisance was different not only from the traditional idea of charity, but also from the mainstream idea of bienfaisance, which implied at least Enlightened goodwill from devoted philanthropes. On the contrary, Physiocratic bienfaisance was supposed to produce beneficial but impersonal and unintentional effects through the free market. Yet, the Physiocrats were aware that this characterisation would be highly controversial, for what would bienfaisance mean without the intention to do good? Their response was threefold. Far from being mere superficial trickery to moralise selfish conduct, their lexicon of bienfaisance led them: first, to reappraise the morality of rational economic behaviour as opposed to narrow, impulsive egoism; second, to propose a social programme designed to solve a set of problems that the simple free market could not answer – the question of the unemployed poor during a transition phase towards liberalisation, and the incapacitated and ill poor; and third, to build a genuine theory of compassion compatible with their anthropological premises. This chapter shows that their rhetorical strategy was a weapon wielded in political battles to provide a greater dimension of humanity to conceptions founded on ‘self-interest’ and the defence of private property, ideas that their opponents accused of being insensitive to the sufferings of the people. At the same time, the chapter also demonstrates the doctrinal significance of this strategy. Rhetoric, or the art of persuading, may also be seen as the art of arguing: invoking grand principles and noble values is all the more convincing when it is not done solely to condemn, but when accompanied by arguments and propositions that have the capacity to bolster agreement.18

Physiocratic debate on poverty and the making of a social programme

Quesnay employed the term ‘poverty’ in a broad sense (‘straitened means’, material discomfort, vulnerability to conjunctural moments) and in a narrow sense (extreme indigence that required assistance). This latter definition was shared by many Enlightenment thinkers, like the encyclopédiste Louis de Jaucourt who described the condition as follows: ‘POOR, Poverty (…) These words are taken ordinarily in Scripture to mean a state of indigence which necessitates the assistance of others, in the absence of a person’s ability to be able to earn his livelihood through work.’19 Surprisingly, in Georg Simmel’s definition, the poor man was not so much one of the needy, as he who receives, or should receive, assistance for his daily subsistence. It was therefore collective behaviour and the type of assistance provided or promised which defined poverty.20 Nevertheless, it was easy to tumble from discomfort to indigence due to the frequency of subsistence crises.21 Although great famines and epidemics had ceased, the poor as a whole comprised a considerable proportion of the French population in 1789 (at least a third). The social question was particularly burning during the final two decades of the Ancien Régime, which saw an expansion in the number of people living in misery, of abandoned children and of rural criminality.22

From 1747 onwards, before his first, properly speaking, economic writings, Quesnay condemned tax-financed public assistance as an attack on property. Even if he admitted private charity, ‘assistance from bienfaisant men (…)’,23 it also presented drawbacks. Not only did alms appear less as donation than extorsion by threatening beggars,24 but they also diverted a proportion of capital away from investment and from ‘(…) the distribution of salaries, which enable men to subsist (…)’.25 In Quesnay’s view, almsgiving was legitimate ‘(…) in order to provide for the urgent needs of the indigent person, who is unable to provide for them by himself’,26 but because it remained a damaging cost for the community, it was necessary to reduce it as much as possible. Mirabeau, harsher still, judged that it was alms that created begging by giving rise to vocations. Therefore, it should only be ‘of a moment’ and reserved for life-threatening emergencies, not ‘fixed’ and institutionalised over time.27

One should not be misled by this apparent severity. Quesnay refused to blame the poor and denounced ‘the maxims of those fierce men, who claim that it is necessary to reduce the common people to misery so as to force them to work’.28 Following a cost–benefit analysis, it was perfectly rational to choose idleness and begging rather than activity if working did not provide enough means to live. As Mirabeau put it in an undated manuscript, ‘he who lacks the incentive of desire confounds his pleasures and condenses them into a single one – idleness. In that way, all of his attraction is limited to what is strictly necessary with the least effort possible.’29 Only wealth could maintain the desire to work.30 In this conception, the causes of poverty were not moral, but economic and, above all, political. Quesnay fully agreed with a commonplace of eighteenth-century social policy debate; that is, that the government ‘should not make men poor’.31 Henceforth, the duty of government was to provide access to work, not to give alms.

Thus, the only right solution to the issue of poverty was economic growth, good wages and full employment, which would provide jobs for the needy and raise the wages of the mass of workers. One may observe that this liberal optimism was shared with other Enlightened thinkers, like Montesquieu.32 Yet, for this purpose, Quesnay claimed that the best method was deregulation of the grain trade; that is, the key sector of the French economy. He deliberately placed the spotlight on the interests of landowners and farmers to the detriment of consumers, such as when he stated that ‘[o]ne should not annoy the rich in the enjoyment of their wealth or of their income for it is the enjoyment of the rich that gives birth to and that perpetuates wealth’.33 He believed that the poverty of common consumers could not be an excuse for price regulation, and that such a protection would even be counterproductive, because it would dissuade investment in the only productive sector: agriculture. This was a clear critique of traditional police paternalism and the subsistence pact, which held that the king had a duty to ensure access to food for his people.34

Quesnay’s social policy essentially amounted to the liberalisation of both the grain market and the charity of individuals. Certain neglected passages of Despotism in China (1767) offer nuance to this statement.35 It was true that the Chinese case posed a particular difficulty: if – as Quesnay conceived it – China represented a model for economic government, how could there be so many indigent there?36 In a first answer, Quesnay asserted that the gigantic population of China was proof of the country’s general and overall affluence,37 because population attunes itself to the level of resources, and not the contrary. If misery persisted, it was due to the restricted size of the country’s territory, which entailed an excess in population with regard to available resources.38 However, this explanation only increased the problem: if China was a victim of its success, did poverty not appear to be inevitable, therefore? ‘Everywhere there are men in indigence’, the doctor answered, reprising a thesis of Richard Cantillon according to which population size always tended to surpass the level of subsistence.39 Even the best economic government in the world would not be able to escape this demographic law. It was for this reason that China offered the cruel spectacle of miserable people reduced to abandoning their children and to selling themselves as slaves. The solutions envisaged by Quesnay for eliminating this persistent indigence were of two orders: birth control through delaying the legal age of marriage, similar to the case of the Incas in Peru, or emigration of this excess population to the ‘colonies’ of the neighbouring islands, which were only waiting to be exploited.

These propositions with regard to residual poverty in a country that was generally and on the whole prosperous were scarcely pursued by the disciples of Quesnay. Rather they explored blind spots in his analysis about two other forms of poverty: one transitory and accidental, the other structural. On the one hand, Quesnay’s analysis offered no plan for a current group of able-bodied poor who might be awaiting prosperity during a transition phase towards economic equilibrium, during which price increases might be more rapid than wage increases. Their friend Turgot noted thus that ‘trade needed time to rise’.40 As intendant of Limousin, he had been able to observe the gap between theory and practice, as well as seeing obstacles to the liberalisation of the grain trade that had been approved in 1763–1764. The brutal increase in prices could also have accidental causes, like climatic vagaries that might provoke fluctuations in production. If establishing ‘natural order’ would put ‘(…) our wealth on par with our population’41 in such a way as to eliminate the greatest portion of begging and vagrancy, the government should definitely do something about these matters in the meantime. During this transition period, work would not allow everyone to earn a sufficient living due to lack of posts, the insufficient level of wages or the high cost of bread. Itinerant workers, with low and irregular incomes, were thus particularly exposed to precarity (stonemasons, chimney sweeps, water carriers, peddlers and so on).42

On the other hand, even if the free market did increase prosperity, how could one make provision for those who were really unable to work, whether temporarily or permanently? The incapacitated poor (the disabled, the aged, the ill or foundlings) would still need assistance. The problem of the ‘economic government’ of indigence could not be entirely resolved by deregulation and the free market. Quesnay’s followers did not avoid those difficulties. What kind of assistance could be expected from a rational economic government? For them, only work gave men the right to obtain their own portion of wealth. Consequently, the state had no duty to assist the needy, and had no right to tax property and the rich in this context. Yet, economic government could not remain passive when great poverty both hurt common feelings of humanity and threatened social order, that is ‘liberty, property and safety’ (according to the Physiocratic motto).43 As Mirabeau claimed, ‘Far from excluding bienfaisance, the natural order prescribes it, and makes it complementary with the social order.’44

The problem of begging and of vagabondage presented itself cruelly after the Seven Years War. The French defeat led to economic difficulties and the demobilisation of thousands of soldiers, who threatened public order in the countryside. Minister Bertin called on the expertise of the agricultural societies in 1763.45 Le Trosne, a Physiocrat, responded to the appeal by anonymously publishing a polemical tract against vagabondage, of which he had been a personal victim.46 Alongside Le Mercier de La Rivière, he was one of two legally trained experts in the group, but he had a specific competence in criminal affairs.47 If he espoused the current of reform in the lineage of Beccaria, he did not any less adopt a ruthless punitive approach towards popular delinquency. The vagabond was the mauvais pauvre par excellence: not only was he a sterile consumer, but he disturbed the production and circulation of wealth by holding farmers to ransom. Le Trosne conflated the vagabond’s itinerancy with a deliberate refusal to work, and he asserted that this social crime ought to be punished by life in the galleys. In self-congratulation, he stated that his proposal had ‘(…) awakened the attention of the ministry’, but the ministry only partially followed up on it, limiting punishment to three years in the galleys.48 According to Foucault, Le Trosne’s penal–economic utopia brought about a ‘great confinement onto the workplace’,49 by radicalising general movement from the sixteenth century onwards, such as may be observed in the creation of the general hospital in Paris (1656) for the sequestration of vagabonds,50 or the creation of dépôts de mendicité in 1767.51

This virulent stance sparked an internal debate within the Economists. Before his conversion to Physiocracy in 1766, abbé Baudeau, for his part, also responded to the ministry by drawing up a ‘complete, general and perpetual system of patriotic charity’52 that would be both decentralised and coordinated by a General Commission of the Conseil du roi. If he evolved thereafter towards a more conditional bienfaisance, he did not renounce his initial plans and publicly disagreed with Le Trosne (who, however, had been the main person behind his joining the Physiocrats).53 Baudeau, too, legitimated the use of repression and of forced apprenticeship for mauvais pauvres, but wished these to be more proportionate and milder than Le Trosne had envisaged, and admitted the necessity of assistance without return for foundlings, incapacitated aged people and the ill.54 On the other hand, the able-bodied adult indigent (‘sturdy’ indigent), and the partially able-bodied adult indigent would be required to work in subsidised charity workshops. Over the course of the discussion, Le Trosne altered his position, and without varying on vagabonds, he came to admit that begging should be tolerated and not punished.55

Despite their disagreements, Le Trosne and Baudeau confirmed the commonplace that there existed two categories of indigent: the good (virtuous, but unfortunate) and the bad (lazy and imbued with vice, whom one had the right to constrain). It was Du Pont who was probably the most faithful to Quesnay in breaking radically with this topos, considering that ‘in order to have fewer poor to relieve, the correct recipe is not to create any, and for this, to make trade free and to proscribe indirect and arbitrary taxation’.56 On this latter point, Du Pont showed himself to be insistent as he asserted that the great Physiocratic fiscal reform, namely a single tax on the net product of agriculture, should provide relief to consumers at the same time as facilitating investment by rich farmers. From then on, in his estimation, the role of the state would consist in building the conditions for a free and secure market. It would do so on the one hand by ensuring provision of public works so as to construct and maintain the network of roads and canals, and on the other hand, by dealing with the problem of indigence in order to assure public order. The dilemma was as follows: how could one protect the market and property from the perverse effects of great poverty without violating personal rights and at the least cost for the collectivity?

Du Pont was without doubt the best equipped to answer this question: as a close collaborator of Turgot, he possessed a wealth of experience in the royal economic administration. He was interested in the transition problem,57 and clearly opposed punitive and disciplinary solutions, like forced labour. In the same way as he condemned corvée and slavery, he decried the dépôt de mendicité as a kind of prison for the poor, which seemed to him to be as unfair (citizens who have not committed a crime cannot be punished) as it was inefficient. He admitted that assistance for the able-bodied poor was a poverty trap and thus that ‘the perfection of charity’ consisted of labour and economic growth. In correspondence with the Margrave of Baden, Du Pont argued for the moral rehabilitation of beggars and for an anti-repressive policy. He believed that the vast majority did not adopt this way of life by choice or by vice, but because they were constrained to do so; worse, stigmatising them only reinforced their marginality.58 With regard to able-bodied or partially able-bodied beggars, he saw it as the task of government to bring them conditional aid, like those numerous demobilised soldiers without employment and with no other option than to roam; for example, by helping them to find their families in order to settle down, because ‘it is necessary that families are instructed about the great rule: God helps those who help themselves!’ (‘Aide-toi, le Ciel t’aidera!’);59 or by offering them paid jobs in the public works (maintenance of thoroughfares, construction of roads). This analysis was inspired perhaps by Turgot’s policy as intendant of Limousin, which the Éphémérides had praised highly.60 Although the principle of the ateliers de charité had been known since the sixteenth century, they became institutionalised truly in the 1770s. Once he became Contrôleur général des Finances in 1774, Turgot named Du Pont as Inspecteur des manufactures and appointed him as his close advisor.61 In triumph Du Pont announced to the Margrave, ‘Next year, all the throughfares in the kingdom will form an immense atelier de charité (…)’, capable of absorbing the full number of able-bodied indigent.62 Subsequent events would pour water on this typically Physiocratic enthusiasm.

Finally, Du Pont planned a professed optimal health care system for the ill poor, through a project for a new general hospital in Paris at the end of the Old Regime.63 Like Baudeau,64 he advocated a decentralised and flexible organisation of assistance that prioritised family assistance at home and through existing local institutions. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, public aid should only be given when family solidarity was lacking. The ill poor would thus be cared for in small local hospices, by relying on the network of parishes and private clinics within the framework of a public/private partnership. Public authority was to limit subsidies to local needs.65

The great chain of bienfaisance in The Citizen’s Almanac

The majority of Physiocrats came together around a portmanteau-word, which simultaneously allowed their divergences to be smoothed out and them to meet their opponents head on. For these thinkers ‘Bienfaisance is a thoroughly essential article, it is a universal duty.’66 In his brief essay on the ill poor, Du Pont employed the terms ‘bienfaisance, bienfaisant/e’ five times. This lexicon became pervasive in a longer and more general work by Baudeau, in which one notes 135 instances in his Première Introduction à la philosophie économique,67 as if bienfaisance was a manner of describing the entire doctrine of the ‘Economists’. This rhetorical inflation did not appear at just any moment, but from 1767 in their principal journal Éphémérides du citoyen. This was also the year in which Physiocracy constituted itself officially into a school and became a political target due to its support for, and indeed its contribution to, the policy of liberalisation of the grain trade, which had been decided by the government in 1763–1764, and subsequently due to its support for Turgot’s policy in 1774. In both cases, the dispute gave rise to a series of ‘food riots’ (including the well-known ‘Flour War’ in 1775) and to profuse anti-Physiocratic discourse.68

There is no doubt that the Physiocrats were aware of their reputation for being dogmatic, fanatical and insensitive to suffering humanity. The theme of bienfaisance was one of their responses to those criticisms, and it displayed affinities with the social and cultural dispositions of several of them. It was not a coincidence that the journal took the turn of ‘bienfaisance’ under the direction of Baudeau. As well as abbé Roubaud, he was one of two clerics in the school: as a former member of the community of the Regular Canons of Saint-Augustin, and having a solid theological training, he never renounced his pre-Physiocratic projects of public assistance and he manipulated the language of bienfaisance long before his conversion.69 This language was also promoted by the secular members of the clique. Mirabeau, who owed his celebrity (and his pseudonym) to his work L’Ami des Hommes, now gained a reputation as a philanthropist too. Not only did he launch the idea of a journal section specially devoted to the theme, but over time he built an entire (obscure) theory of bienfaisance. Finally, the notion chimed with the sentimentalism of Du Pont, an Enlightened Huguenot with pantheistic tendencies.70 He systematised and enlarged the dedicated bienfaisance section in the Éphémérides when he succeeded Baudeau at the head of the journal (from January 1769, officially).

A few years later, Necker advanced a definition of bienfaisance in opposition to these commentators that conformed more with the monarchical tradition. He held that in case of a subsistence crisis, the sovereign ought to ensure the people’s access to bread through regulating the grain trade so as to obtain a fair price.71 He thus implied that Minister Turgot and his entourage (the Economists) were too blinded by the so-called ‘evidence’ of their science to hear the suffering of the people. In his response, Baudeau contested the monopoly on humanism with Necker: ‘Humanity, Sir, we know it, as well as bienfaisance (…) One exhorts to bienfaisance; one advises the traits of humanity. But laws cannot, nor should not order them.’72 Thus, charity was endorsed on a voluntary basis and, still more, on the condition that it would be useful and clearly distinguished from alms.

The great rhetorical achievement of the Physiocrats was to separate charity from donation, and bienfaisance from almsgiving. ‘Private charity does not at all involve giving, therefore (…)’, explained Mirabeau.73 One finds here a striking example of the formidable technique of the paradiastole, according to the classic definition of Quintilian.74 This literary device readjusted the value of morally damnable actions by describing them in favourable terms, or inversely devalued virtuous actions by imputing bad intentions to them. Thus, giving (direct, manual alms) was, at best, generosity without reflection engendering perverse effects,75 at worst self-important vanity, which relieved the conscience of the giver but not the poor. ‘Let them [the bienfaiteurs] take the trouble of being administrators at the expense of the pleasure of being compassionate’, declared Mirabeau.76 Such action was defined as the opposite of an unwise generosity that cleared one’s conscience too easily. True generosity did not consist of giving, which did not improve in a lasting way the material condition of the poor, but rather in investment in public utility.77 Among many other matters, Physiocracy clearly questioned the old moral economy of giving, seeing it as a system of humiliation.78 Investing, on the other hand, was a profitable activity not only for the investor, but for the entire collectivity through the employment that it created, for the poor could both find in it a minimum of material comfort and their dignity. ‘Bienfaisance does not give anything; it advances, it sows, it will harvest’, Mirabeau announced,79 and it may thus be observed that separating charity and alms gave way to a connection between (Enlightened) interest and virtue. The duty and honour of rich landowners involved giving up ‘luxury in the way of ornamentation’ for the benefit of ‘luxury in the way of subsistence’ by allowing for their incomes to be circulated in the agricultural sector. Such was ‘(…) bienfaisance, which encompasses many more services of a reciprocal kind than free aid’, Du Pont averred.80 In this conception, the redistributive function of bienfaisance was transferred clearly towards the mechanisms of the market.

The Éphémérides du Citoyen was the ‘organ of science par excellence’,81 according to the expression of the Marquis de Mirabeau. The Physiocratic editorial tactics of the publication led it to create an entire section that would form an ‘archive of patriotic bienfaisance’, that is, acts of ‘well-understood generosity’.82 From 1767 and its volume 4, the journal launched a call for articles and inaugurated a series of contributions that sought to portray a thorough picture of philanthropic actions: the section would be called ‘the traits of bienfaisance’. From 1770 on, a more regular dedicated section entitled ‘Public Events and Traits of Bienfaisance’ was created, and from 1771, a sub-section called ‘Praiseworthy Actions and Traits of Bienfaisance’ was added. The journal thus placed itself at the avant-garde of a cultural phenomenon that impacted the French press.83

The eighteenth century commonly believed in the persuasive force of good example, or ‘(…) striking examples of Enlightened bienfaisance’.84 The journal’s bienfaisance section offered a wide range of cautionary tales that reported acts of patriotic devotion. Those acts formed a great vertical chain of bienfaisance, whose performers ranged from European sovereigns (such as the kings of Denmark or of Sweden, and the Grand Duke of Tuscany) to ordinary citizens, including lords,85 landowners, farmers, the Pope,86 the high clergy, simple priests, but also public and private institutions such as local authorities87 or economic and agricultural societies, in other words ‘royal bienfaisance’, ‘pastoral bienfaisance’ and ‘municipal bienfaisance’. This chain of bienfaisance appeared to conform to the hierarchy of orders and ranks.88 All those benefactors were landowners and each, at their own level, contributed to prosperity and the fight against poverty. The Church, whose profession involved charity, was placed particularly to the fore, as in the case of the Enlightened priest who opened a school of apprentice-weavers so as to provide training for the minor beggars of his parish.89 It was bienfaisance royale that captured most attention because it had the greatest number of effects – sovereigns were the institutors and protectors of the market, which needed both material infrastructure and guarantees to protect liberty and property.

The types of bienfaisance acts prized by the Éphémérides corresponded broadly to the three major components of the Physiocratic reform programme. In terms of the economic component: if liberalisation of the grain trade was described as bienfaisant,90 it was especially fiscal reforms that held the journal’s attention, in particular in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany91 or those by Catherine the Second in Russia.92 They were assigned an increasing place in the journal with the aim of underlining both the importance of the fiscal issue and the international success of Physiocratic ideas. The educational component was a less discussed theme: it was mentioned when presenting the programme implemented by the Polish authorities in 1775 that emphasised training and apprenticeship.93

Finally, the social component: those ‘praiseworthy operations’ that contributed to prosperity, certain directly targeted the indigent; namely, investment in public works. This achieved two things at once: maintaining and developing the ‘public patrimony’, in other words the public road network, indispensable for a commercial society; and also usefully assisting poor workers. Management of this policy was to be confined to elected municipal and provincial administrations connected to the parishes94 and a partnership with ecclesiastical institutions that were charitable in nature.95 But initiatives could come also directly from sovereigns. Leopold had thus engaged public spending in order to render a large marshy area of land96 capable of being cultivated, or he had advanced funds for the creation of 300 craft jobs for poor female workers, in such a manner as to ‘humiliate them much less in lending to them thus than in giving to them (…) Therefore, in his bienfaisance, the Grand Duke is uniting the most truly noble manner of proceeding with the most useful form.’97 Du Pont considered those public works as the most socially useful way of relieving the unemployed poor: ‘This use of public funds (…) is the model of bienfaisance that suits Sovereigns.’98

The economy of compassion and the theodicy of bienfaisance

As can be seen, this rhetoric of bienfaisance tended to legitimise commercial society and, more specifically, agricultural capitalism. The Physiocrats considered ‘self-interest’, within a competitive market, not as a private vice that would lead to public good, but as ‘reasoned virtue’ itself99 – ‘economic bienfaisance’. When Voltaire wrote that ‘Among men, virtue consists in a trade of beneficences’,100 the Physiocrats would prefer to state that freedom of trade itself was a beneficence. However, this Enlightened interest seemed to be virtuous in its consequences rather than in its intention, which continued to be no less egotistical. Three arguments can qualify this conclusion, however. First of all, the concept of economic rationality invited landowners to renounce immediate enjoyment for future prosperity – it opposed the short-sighted egoism of established privilèges. A sovereign who prioritised investment in the ‘public patrimony’ courageously acted in opposition to the interests of his own court.101 A noble landowner who exempted peasants from corvée and gave up his own fiscal privilège in order to finance the construction of roads was taking the risk, even reasonably, of leaving the comfort of the ways things had always been done.102 Second, economic bienfaisance could not be reduced simply to an unintentional consequence of prosperity, because it also intentionally targeted great misery when it set out ‘(…) to direct towards public utility the aid that they [bienfaisant men] give to the private needs of the poor’.103 By employing the able-bodied indigent, one was converting alms into investment without any loss to society.

Finally, this theory of bienfaisance was no more than window-dressing to glorify the idea of ‘self-interest’ – by professing humanitarian principles in the face of criticism of their programme, the Physiocrats were forced not only to develop their social programme, but to explain compassion. Considered on the narrow basis of an anthropology of interest, the latter certainly appeared mysterious, for what leads us to aid others unconditionally? Mirabeau saw no paradox in it, asserting that ‘bienfaisance is of the same nature as all our other motives: it is interest’.104 If a father gives generously to his children, it is because he feels that this love will be returned to him.105 But there was still a need to explain the psychological mechanism pushing us to risk generosity without guarantee of return. Compassion, Du Pont explained, was a ‘natural inclination’ that lay in every human heart, because there was a specific joy in helping others insofar as we can identify with them.106 Our commiseration is proportionate to closeness, he considered, as we always prefer to help our family and friends because we want to give back to them what they have given us: charity begins at home.107 It was for this reason that a policy of assistance to the non-able-bodied poor, who were incapable of giving anything in return, should rest mainly on the compassionate micro-networks of the family – for Du Pont, ‘this is not only the rigorous calculation of just and prudent economy, more than that, it is the combination of Enlightened and sentimental bienfaisance (…)’.108

However, compassion does not merge entirely with bienfaisance. One signifies a spontaneous generosity, limited, however, to the family; the other is a reasoned virtue to which the Physiocrats conferred an amazing vitalist, universal and even theological scope. To conform to the ‘(…) natural order of general bienfaisance109 was to carry out divine justice, because it was the ‘(…) bienfaisant Divinity, which wished the earth to be covered by happy men’, concluded Le Mercier de La Rivière in his pivotal work.110 Mirabeau, in his whimsical style ingrained with mysticism, particularly developed this authentic theodicy.111 The breath of God’s creative will would make up this genuine ‘patrimony of bienfaisance’,112 and it would reach fruition through free economic cooperation, weaving links of reciprocity on the scale of the entire society, where each person would continually give and receive good deeds by his works. It would give birth to a feeling of interdependence and of belonging to a common humanity, in space (between peoples) and in time (between generations). This feeling was both sensitive and calculated in that it inclined towards doing good without immediate return, in particular towards the aged and foundlings. This intergenerational solidarity rested as much on our feeling of debt towards the society that raised and educated us, as on the calculation that it would return our good deeds to us. There would be no donation without donation in return, that is, ‘TO DO GOOD IS TO RECEIVE IT’.113 This moral relationship to the totality of society can appear abstract compared to the warmth of familial love. It is for this reason that Mirabeau mobilised naturalist and fraternal metaphors to give flesh to this long chain of bienfaisance, this ‘(…) inexhaustible river of love and of charity which must establish between men the communication of goods, the relief of ills, the gentleness of confraternity (…)’.114 ‘The electricity of bienfaisance115 irrigates and links all parts of the social body, as far as joining together the great family of humanity’: ‘we are therefore brothers with all of the human race from here to Tonkin or to Panama’.116

These hydraulic and, moreover, electric analogies gave a seductive representation to commercial society – fast as lightning, full of life and harmonious.117 They tended also to naturalise and soften the reality of inequalities, which seemed to be ‘smoothed out’ by the harmony of mutually beneficial exchanges. In doing this, they reinforced justification of social inequalities: the Economists constantly defended the idea that these latter were the consequence of natural inequalities and that the most blatant of all – great landed property – was the indispensable condition of prosperity and of improving the fate of the poor. The ‘patrimony of bienfaisance’ still supposed a hierarchy between landowners and non-landowners. Without inequality, there would be no bienfaisance; without land, no bienfaiteur or recipient of good deeds: inequality ‘(…) is the most powerful motivation for all useful and essential works, and it furnishes to bienfaisance, as much general as individual, effective power’.118 If bienfaisance was a theodicy, it strongly resembled a ‘theodicy of privilege’119 so much did it justify the pre-eminence of the class of landed property owners. This pre-eminence, however, implied a double duty: to spend one’s income to guarantee the optimal reproduction of wealth, and to acquit the totality from taxes. And if they failed in their duty, it would be the sovereign, final guarantor of economic bienfaisance, who would force them to fulfil it.120


The Physiocrats not only espoused a fashion of the moment, they also contributed to shaping and stimulating a genuine cultural phenomenon around philanthropy, which saw an evolution until the start of the French Revolution. Though this rhetoric aimed to render their doctrine of ‘self-interest’ acceptable, it was not cosmetic but had a theoretical scope. Three levels of bienfaisance derived from such rhetoric, each one stacked inside the other: compassion, which entailed giving without return (at the family level); Enlightened interest, which involved investing and stood in opposition to spontaneous egoism (at the stratum of society); the general and impersonal bienfaisance of the natural order, which spreads happiness over the entire planet and bequeaths the feeling of a universal brotherhood (on the scale of humanity). This natural order was not spontaneous and it implied the vigorous and continual action of sovereigns, the primary benefactors of peoples, through their making provision for public aid for the indigent when familial solidarity was lacking, by liberalising trade and maintaining the road networks through public works, and by reigning peacefully and encouraging international free-exchange.

This rhetoric was part of the originality of Physiocracy within European eighteenth-century liberalisms. On the one hand, it invented a form of liberal paternalism in the lineage of certain tendencies of the European agronomic avant-garde.121 While criticising representation of the monarch as provider of food for the people or as ‘father to the poor’,122 the Economists attempted to redefine political paternalism by reviving the figure of ‘the Pastor Prince’.123 This ‘protective and bienfaisant authority’, more motivating than coercive, showed the poor the way to provide for their own needs, by education and freedom of trade, while making provision for a system of aid at a low cost. The flock would always need to be guided by an elite of Enlightened landowners of which the sovereign was the living incarnation.124 On the other hand, this rhetoric implied a genuine programme against poverty and a theory about compassion. The topic of bienfaisance was not just a mere spark of humanity in their pro-market views. It was for this reason that in 1817 the very last representative of the Physiocratic school could show his indignation when faced with the harshness (according to him) of Thomas Robert Malthus. One could not, Du Pont exclaimed, deprive from assistance an abandoned child so as to punish the faults of its intemperate parents – he possessed ‘(…) a right to live by our help, since we would all be dead, if at his age, we had not received the help which we needed like him, and which saved our life! Let us pay our debts!’125 Such was the swansong of Physiocracy at the dawn of the industrial age: bienfaisance supposed inequality, but symmetrically implied social responsibility from landowners and the sovereign. It was the moral crowning of a civilisation that had achieved a high degree of interdependence.

Translated by Ann-Marie Kilgallon.


1 Camille Bloch, L’assistance et l’État en France à la veille de la Révolution: généralités de Paris, Rouen, Alençon, Orléans, Châlons, Soissons, Amiens, 17641790, 1 vol. (Geneva [Paris]: Slatkine, 1974). Clarisse Fairchilds, Poverty and Charity in Aix-en-Provence 16401789 (Baltimore, MA: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), Ch. 6; Thomas McStay Adams, Bureaucrats and Beggars: French Social Policy in the Age of the Enlightenment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).
2 Sébastien Duchesne, ‘Les physiocrates et les gueux ou la position des premiers économistes sur la question de la pauvreté en France (1756–1789)’, Masters Thesis in History, University of Ottawa, Ottawa (2003), Accessed 4 September 2021.
3 Alain Clément, ‘Nicolas Baudeau et la question des pauvres ou la naissance de l’État-providence’, in Alain Clément (ed.), Nicolas Baudeau: un ‘philosophe économiste’ au temps des Lumières (Paris: M. Houdiard, 2008), pp. 72–96; Alain Clément, ‘Le droit des pauvres dans l’œuvre de Nicolas Baudeau’, Cahiers d’économie politique, 59:2 (2010), 69–88 at 69. See also Caroline Chopelin-Blanc and Alain Clément, ‘L’idée de pauvreté chez deux ecclésiastiques des Lumières: Nicolas Baudeau et Adrien Lamourette’, Histoire, économie & société, 3 (2008), 45–63.
4 ‘Qu’est-ce que la vertu? Bienfaisance envers le prochain’, Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique, portatif (London, 1764), p. 342. See Marisa Linton, The Politics of Virtue in Enlightenment France, Studies in Modern History (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York: Palgrave, 2001), pp. 69–79.
5 Charles-Irénée Castel de Saint-Pierre, ‘Économie bienfaizante’, De la douceur (Amsterdam and Paris, 1740), p. 4, pp. 6–7.
6 Linton, Politics of Virtue, p. 8.
7 Anonymous text of 1780, cited in Patrizia Oppici, L’idea di ‘bienfaisance’ nel Settecento francese: o il laccio di Aglaia (Pisa, Italy: Libreria Goliardica, 1989), p. 26. See also Isabelle Brancourt, ‘La Bienfaisance en France au siècle des Lumières. Histoire d’une idée’, in G. Deregnaucourt (ed.) Société et religion en France et aux Pays-Bas. XVeXIXe siècle (Arras: Artois Presses Université, 2000), pp. 525–537 and Emma Barker, ‘From Charity to Bienfaisance: Picturing Good Deeds in Late Eighteenth-Century France’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 33:3 (2010), 285–311.
8 Linton, The Politics of Virtue in Enlightenment France, pp. 132–137.
9 Catherine Duprat, Le temps des philanthropes: la philanthropie parisienne des Lumières à la monarchie de Juillet, 2 vol., Mémoires et documents 47 (Paris: Editions du C.T.H.S, 1993). Déborah Cohen, La nature du peuple: les formes de l’imaginaire social, XVIIIe–XXIe siècles, la chose publique (Seyssel: Champ Vallon, 2010), pp. 115–137; Colin Jones, Charity and Bienfaisance: The Treatment of the Poor in the Montpellier Region, 17401815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Jean-Pierre Gutton, La société et les pauvres en Europe : XVIeXVIIIe siècles (Paris: PUF, 1974), Ch. 3.
10 Alan Forrest, La Révolution française et les pauvres (Paris: Perrin, 1986).
11 On the functioning of the Physiocratic group and division of labour therein, see Arnault Skornicki, L’économiste, la cour et la patrie: l’économie politique dans la France des Lumières (Paris: CNRS Editions, 2011), Ch. 6. More recently, see Loïc Charles and Christine Théré, ‘The Physiocratic Movement: A Revision’, in Sophus Reinert and Steven Kaplan (eds), The Economic Turn: Recasting Political Economy in Enlightenment Europe (London, New York: Anthem Press, 2019), pp. 35–70.
12 Catherine Larrère, ‘Montesquieu et les pauvres’, Cahiers d’économie Politique / Papers in Political Economy, 59 (2010), 24–43.
13 Jean-François Melon, Essai politique sur le commerce (S. l., 1736), p. 99.
14 Christian Paultre, De la répression de la mendicité et du vagabondage en France sous l’Ancien régime (Geneva [Paris], Slatkine Megariotis [Champion], 1975).
15 Robert M. Schwartz, Policing the Poor in Eighteenth-Century France (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), pp. 15–18.
16 Quentin Skinner, Visions of Politics. I: Regarding Method (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), Ch. 7.
17 Gilbert Faccarello, Aux origines de l’économie politique libérale: Pierre de Boisguilbert (Paris: Editions Anthropos, 1986).
18 Déborah Cohen, Niall O’Flaherty and Robin Mills have kindly (and with bienfaisance) provided me with advice and critiques – I hope to have lived up to them. Ann-Marie Kilgallon has drawn on her competence as a historian of France and of poverty to translate this chapter: I thank her warmly.
19 Louis de Jaucourt, « PAUVRE, Pauvreté, (Critique sacrée.) Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 17 vols (Le Breton/David/Briasson/Durand, 1751–1765), vol. xii, p. 209. See also Denis Diderot, ‘Indigent’, idem, 1765, vol. viii, p. 676. Contemporaries generally defined the poor as those families whose head could not provide for the household’s subsistence and whose members could not ensure their own survival, cf. Olwen H. Hufton, The Poor of Eighteenth-Century France 17501789 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 12.
20 Georg Simmel, Der Arme, ed. E. Barlösius (Sesto San Giovanni: Mimesis, 2019).
21 Daniel Roche, ‘Paris capitale des pauvres: quelques réflexions sur le paupérisme parisien entre XVIIe et XVIIIe siècle’, Mélanges de l’ecole française de Rome. Moyen-age, temps modernes, 99:2 (1987), 835–837.
22 Hufton, The Poor of Eighteenth-Century France, pp. 11–24.
23 François Quesnay, Essai physique sur l’œconomie animale (1747), in ibid., Œuvres économiques complètes et autres textes, eds Christine Théré, Loïc Charles and Jean-Claude Perrot (Paris: Institut national d’études démographiques, 2005), vol. i, p. 5.
24 Quesnay, ‘Second problème économique’ (1767), in ibid., Œuvres économiques completes, vol. i, p. 635.
25 Quesnay, Despotisme de la Chine (1767), in ibid., Œuvres économiques completes, vol. ii, 1049.
26 Ibid.
27 ‘… en général l’aumone est un mal (…) en proportion de ce qu’il y aura d’aumones fixes dans un pays, il y aura des mendiants de profession et inconnus’ [translation: ‘… in general, almsgiving is an ill (…) in proportion to the existence of fixed almsgiving in a country, there will be unknown persons who make a profession out of begging’], Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau, ‘Notes pour l’abbé Nicoli’, Archives Nationales (France), M784, no. 50. Compare with Anne R. J. Turgot, ‘Fondation’, Encyclopédie, vol. vii (1757), 72b–75b.
28 Quesnay, ‘Hommes’ (1757), in ibid., Œuvres économiques complètes, vol. i, p. 287.
29 Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau, ‘Notes pour l’abbé Nicoli’, Archives Nationales (France), M784, no. 50.
30 F. Quesnay, ‘Note on ‘Maxime 20 du Gouvernement économique’’ in Physiocratie, 1767–1768, vol. i, p. 164.
31 Adams, Bureaucrats and Beggars, p. viii. For instance, see Dupont, ‘Letter to the Margave of Baden (1773)’ in Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau and Pierre-Samuel Dupont (eds), Carl Friedrichs von Baden brieflicher Verkehr mit Mirabeau und Dupont. Herausgegeben von der badischen historischen Commission, vol. ii (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1892), p. 106.
32 Catherine Larrère, ‘Montesquieu et les pauvres’, Cahiers d’économie politique / Papers in Political Economy, 59 (2010), 24–43.
33 Quesnay, ‘Hommes’ (1757), in ibid., Œuvres économiques complètes, vol. i, p. 314.
34 Steven L. Kaplan, Bread, Politics and Political Economy in the Reign of Louis XV, second edition (London: Anthem Press, 2015). For the Physiocratic critique of this pact, see Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau, ‘Projet d’édit sur le commerce des grains’ (1768) in Georges Weulersse (ed.), Les manuscrits économiques de François Quesnay et du Mis de Mirabeau aux Archives nationales (M. 778 à M. 785) (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1910), pp. 106–109; ‘Letter from Dupont to the Margrave of Baden (1773)’, in Mirabeau and Dupont, Carl Friedrichs von Baden, vol. ii, p. 132.
35 Quesnay, Despotisme de la Chine (1767), in ibid., Œuvres économiques completes, vol. ii. See, however, Adolphe Landry, ‘Les idées de Quesnay sur la population’, Revue d’histoire des doctrines économiques et sociales, 2 (1909), 71–74 and Joseph Spengler, French Predecessors of Malthus, a Study in Eighteenth-Century Wage and Population Theory (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1942), pp. 170–211.
36 Quesnay, Œuvres économiques complètes et autres textes, vol. ii, p. 1048. For a recent study on this work, see Gabriel Sabbagh, ‘Quesnay’s Thought and Influence through Two Related Texts, Droit Naturel and Despotisme de La Chine, and their Editions’, History of European Ideas, 46:2 (2020), 131–156.
37 Quesnday, Despotisme de la Chine (1767), in ibid., Œuvres économiques completes, vol. ii, pp. 1103–1104.
38 Ibid., vol. ii, p. 1049.
39 Richard Cantillon, Essai sur la nature du commerce en général (Paris: Institut National d’Études Démographiques, 1997 [1755]), pp. 37–38. This case of borrowing was noted by the editors in Quesnay, Œuvres économiques complètes, vol. ii, p. 1112, note 241. However, the Marquis de Mirabeau had already mobilised this thesis in 1756 – see Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau, L’ami des hommes, part I (Avignon, 1756–1758), Ch. 2, pp. 16–18.
40 Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, ‘Lettres au Contrôleur général sur le commerce des grains’ (1770), in ibid., Formation et distribution des richesses, eds J.-T. Ravix and P.-M. Romani (Paris: Flammarion, 2013), p. 364. See Philippe Steiner, Sociologie de la connaissance économique: essai sur les rationalisations de la connaissance économique (17501850) (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1998), pp. 107–109.
41 Éphémérides du citoyen (Paris: N. A. Delalain/Lacombe, 1765–1772), 1766, vol. iii, p. 270.
42 Clément, ‘Le droit des pauvres’, pp. 75–76.
43 Arnault Skornicki, ‘Liberté, propriété, sûreté. Retour sur une devise physiocratique’, Corpus: revue de philosophie, 66 (2014), 16–36.
44 Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau, Lettres sur la législation, ou l’ordre légal, dépravé, rétabli et perpétué, 3 vols (Berne, Chez la Société Typographique, 1775), vol. ii, p. 509.
45 Adams, Bureaucrats and Beggars, p. 39; Georges Weulersse, Le mouvement physiocratique en France de 1756 à 1770, 2 vols (Paris: F. Alcan, 1910), vol. ii, pp. 422–423.
46 Guillaume-François Le Trosne, Mémoire sur les vagabonds et sur les mendiants (Soissons and Paris: Chez P. G. Simon, 1764). His house had been set on fire by vagabonds: see Weulersse, Le mouvement physiocratique, vol i, pp. 422–423.
47 Guillaume-François Le Trosne, Vues sur la justice criminelle (Paris: Debure frères, 1777). For a recent biography of Le Trosne, containing an analysis of his penal thought, see Thérence Carvalho, ‘Présentation’, in Guillaume François Le Trosne, Les lois naturelles de l’ordre social, ed. Thèrence Carvalho (Geneve: Slatkine, 2019), pp. 11–34. See also Adams, Bureaucrats and Beggars, pp. 39–43.
48 Letter from Le Trosne to Tscharner (Secretary of the Economic Society, Bern), Orleans, France, 7 January 1767, in August Oncken, Der ältere Mirabeau und die oekonomische Gesellschaft in Bern (Bern: K. J. Wyss, 1886), pp. 73–74.
49 Michel Foucault, La société punitive: cours au Collège de France (19721973) (Paris: EHESS, 2013), p. 52.
50 Christian Paultre, De la répression de la mendicité et du vagabondage en France sous l’Ancien régime (Geneva [Paris], Slatkine Megariotis [Champion], 1975).
51 Schwartz, Policing the Poor, pp. 15–18.
52 Nicolas Baudeau, Idées d’un citoyen sur les besoins, les droits et les devoirs des vrais pauvres (Amsterdam & Paris: Chez Barthelemy Hochereau, 1765), p. 14.
53 Dupont, ‘Notice abrégée des différens Ecris modernes qui ont concouru en France à former la Science de l’économie politique’, Éphémérides du citoyen, 1769, vol. v, pp. xxx–xxxii.
54 Clément, ‘Le droit des pauvres dans l’œuvre de Nicolas Baudeau’. See also ibid., ‘Nicolas Baudeau et la question des pauvres ou la naissance de l’État-providence’, in Clément, Nicolas Baudeau, pp. 72–96.
55 Letter from Le Trosne in Éphémérides du citoyen, 1766, vol. iii, p. 270. Later, he recommended confiding assistance of the indigent to the municipal authorities – see Guillaume-François Le Trosne, De l’administration provinciale et de la réforme de l’impôt (Basle, Paris, 1779), pp. 530–534.
56 Dupont, ‘De l’incendie de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Paris et de divers projets auxquels il donne occasion pour le bien ou pour le mal des pauvres’ (1773), in Mirabeau and Dupont, Carl Friedrichs von Baden, vol. ii, p. 531.
57 Pierre-Henri Goutte, ‘Economie et transitions: l’œuvre de Dupont au début de la Révolution française 1789–1792’, in Jean-Michel Servet (ed.), Idées économiques sous la Révolution (17891794) (Lyon: Presses universitaires de Lyon, 1989), pp. 145–234.
58 Letter to the Margrave of Baden (1773), in Carl Friedrichs von Baden, vol. ii, pp. 99–107.
59 Pierre-Samuel Dupont, Idées sur les secours à donner aux pauvres malades dans une grande ville (Philadelphia and Paris: Moutard, 1786), pp. 15–16.
60 Dupont praised Turgot for having established ateliers de charité and obtaining funds destined for ‘(…) providing an occupation for the poor during the winter on public works’, in Éphémérides du citoyen, 1772, pp. 194–206. On this influence of Turgot on Dupont, see Duchesne, ‘Les physiocrates et les gueux’, pp. 155–157.
61 Adams, Bureaucrats and Beggars, pp. 123–133. Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, Œuvres de Turgot et documents le concernant, ed. Gustave Schelle, 5 vols (Paris: F. Alcan, 1913), vol. iv, pp. 499–520. See Anne Conchon, ‘Les travaux publics comme ressource : les ateliers de charité dans les dernières décennies du xviiie siècle’, Mélanges de l’École française de Rome. Italie et Méditerranée, 123:1 (2011), 173–180 and Alain Clément, ‘La politique sociale de Turgot : entre libéralisme et interventionnisme’, L’actualité économique, 81:4 (2007), 725–745.
62 Dupont to Carl Friedrich, Paris, 4 September 1775, in Carl Friedrichs von Baden, vol. ii, p. 182.
63 Dupont, Idées sur les secours.
64 Clément, ‘Le droit des pauvres dans l’œuvre de Nicolas Baudeau’, p. 79.
65 Jean-Baptiste Masméjan, ‘Dupont et la question hospitalière: un éclairage des enjeux sanitaires à la fin du XVIIIe siècle’, in A. Mergey and Arnault Skornicki (eds), Le siècle de Du Pont. Politique, droit & histoire des lumières à la Restauration (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press: Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment (forthcoming)).
66 Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau, ‘article de Bienfaisance pour le mois de 7bre’ (1767?), Archives Nationales (France), M784, No. 51.
67 Nicolas Baudeau, Première introduction à la philosophie économique, ou analyse des états policés, par un disciple de l’ami des hommes (Paris: Didot l’aîné, 1771).
68 See, for instance, the special issue of The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 22:3 (2015), ‘Antiphysiocratic Perspectives in Eighteenth-century France’.
69 See Chopelin-Blanc and Clément, ‘L’idée de pauvreté chez deux ecclésiastiques’, 45–63; Catherine Chopelin-Blanc, ‘L’abbé Baudeau théologien: la physiocratie au service de l’utopie chrétienne’, in Clément, Nicolas Baudeau, pp. 49–71; and Alain Clément, ‘Nicolas Baudeau et la question des pauvres ou la naissance de l’État-providence’, in ibid., Nicolas Baudeau, pp. 72–96.
70 Julien Vincent, ‘“Un Dogue de forte race”: Dupont, ou la physiocratie réincarnée (1793–1807)’, La Révolution française, 14 (18 June 2018), Accessed 10 September 2021. On sensibility and the Physiocrats, see Liana Vardi, The Physiocrats and the World of the Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
71 Jacques Necker, Sur la législation et le commerce des grains (Roubaix: Edires, 1986), pp. 145–146.
72 Nicolas Baudeau, Eclaircissements demandés à M. N**, sur les principes économiques et sur ses projets de législation, au nom des propriétaires fonciers et des cultivateurs françois (S. l., 1775), p. 84. See Léonard Burnand, ‘Nicolas Baudeau polémiste. Les Éclaircissements demandés à M.N.’, in Clément, Nicolas Baudeau, pp. 306–317.
73 Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau, ‘Lettre de M. B. à l’Auteur des Éphémérides, contenant des réflexions sur la manière d’exercer la Bienfaisance envers les Pauvres’, in Éphémérides du citoyen, 1767, vol. vii, p. 187.
74 See Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria, and the analysis of Skinner, Visions of Politics. I: Regarding Method, pp. 183–185.
75 For example, Pierre-Samuel Dupont, ‘Grande et coûteuse Charité très dangereuse parce qu’elle est mal entendue en un point’, Éphémérides du citoyen, 1770, vol. iv, pp. 185–201.
76 Mirabeau, ‘Lettre de M. B. à l’Auteur des Éphémérides’, Éphémérides du citoyen, 1767, vol. vii, p. 189.
77 Éphémérides du citoyen, 1767, vol. iv, p. 182.
78 Éphémérides du citoyen, 1768, vol. v, p. 263.
79 Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau, Entretiens d’un jeune prince avec son gouverneur (Londres: Moutard, 1785), vol. ii, p. 559.
80 Pierre-Samuel Dupont, ‘Grande et coûteuse Charité très dangereuse parce qu’elle est mal entendue en un point’, Éphémérides du citoyen, 1770, vol. iv, p. 190.
81 Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau, Lettre à Frédéric de Sacconay, Paris, 7 May 1767, Private collection. According to the transcription established by Lumières. Lausanne (Université de Lausanne), Accessed 20 september 2021. On this journal, see Ferdinand Pélissier, ‘Les Éphémérides du citoyen’, Recherches et travaux, 8 (1979), 12–19; Pierre-Henri Goutte, ‘Les Éphémérides du citoyen, instrument périodique de l’ordre naturel (1765–1772)’, Dix-huitième siècle, 26 (1994), 139–161; Bernard Herencia, Les Éphémérides du citoyen et les nouvelles Éphémérides économiques (17651788). Documents et table complète, Ferney-Voltaire, Centre international d’étude du XVIIIe siècle, 2014. See also Bernard Herencia’s website: Accessed 20 September 2021.
82 Nicolas Baudeau, ‘Traits de bienfaisance économique’, Éphémérides du citoyen, 1767, vol. iv, p. 186.
83 Two big journals created their own bienfaisance section over the following years: the Mercure de France from 1768 and the Journal encyclopédique from 1772. See Oppici, L’idea dibienfaisance nel Settecento francese, p. 31.
84 Éphémérides du citoyen, 1767, vol. iv, p. 182. On pedagogy by means of exemplary acts of bienfaisance, and its Rousseauist inspiration, see Oppici’s analysis in Oppici, L’ idea di “bienfaisance” nel Settecento francese, pp. 138–144.
85 ‘Bienfaisance de M. le Prince de Rohan’, Éphémérides du citoyen, 1770, vol. xii, pp. 199–201.
86 ‘Bienfaisance du Pape’, Éphémérides du citoyen 1771, vol. v, p. 207.
87 Éphémérides du citoyen, 1771, vol. ii, p. 160.
88 This chain appears clearly in the traits of bienfaisance series described in Éphémérides du citoyen, 1771, vol. v, pp. 190–269.
89 ‘Copie d’une lettre écrite en 1765, au sujet de M. de Bois-Gruel, Curé de Saint Victor-de-Chrétienville’ Éphémérides du citoyen, 1767, pp. 169–191.
90 For example, the law which established the free export of grain in France was described as ‘edit bienfaisant qui rend la Liberté du Commerce des Bleds’, Éphémérides du citoyen, 1770, vol. i, p. 20.
91 In particular, the abolition of taxes on Companies of Tradesmen within the territory. See ‘Édits de bienfaisance en Toscane’, pp. 194–202, or ending the ‘general farm’ system of tax collection, Éphémérides du citoyen, 1770, vol. x, pp. 171–213. See also 1771, vol. i, pp. 129–158.
92 ‘Suppression de plusieurs Impôts en Russie’, Nouvelles éphémérides économiques, ou Bibliothèque raisonnée de l’histoire, de la morale et de la politique (Paris: Lacombe, 1774), 1775, vol. vii, pp. 183–205.
93 ‘Statuts & programme du tribunal souverain de l’education nationale en Pologne’, Nouvelles éphémérides économiques, ou Bibliothèque raisonnée de l’histoire, de la morale et de la politique, vol. viii, pp. 167–196.
94 On public works in Physiocratic thought and, more generally, their plans for local assemblies, see Anthony Mergey, L’État des physiocrates: autorité et décentralisation (Aix-en-Provence: Presses Universitaires d’Aix-Marseille, 2010), esp. pp. 258–266.
95 Such as an Enlightened priest who opened a school of apprentice-weavers to provide vocational training to the minor beggars of his parish, ‘Copie d’une lettre écrite en 1765, au sujet de M. de Bois-Gruel, Curé de Saint Victor-de-Chrétienville’, Éphémérides du citoyen, 1767, vol. iv, pp. 169–191.
96 Éphémérides du citoyen, 1771, vol. i, pp. 130–158.
97 Éphémérides du citoyen, 1771, vol. v, p. 212. On the spread of Physiocracy in Tuscany and relations with Grand Duke Leopold, see Thérence Carvalho, ‘“L’ami des hommes et le prince pasteur”. Le rôle du marquis de Mirabeau dans la diffusion et l’application des théories physiocratiques en Toscane’, Annales historiques de la Révolution française, 394:4 (2018), 3–24.
98 ‘Bienfaisance royale’, Éphémérides du citoyen, 1770, vol. xii, p. 193. See also Éphémérides du citoyen, 1771, vol. ii, p. 160.
99 Mirabeau, Entretiens d’un jeune prince avec son gouverneur, vol. ii, p. 164.
100 ‘La vertu entre les hommes est un commerce de bienfaits’, Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique, p. 343.
101 ‘Economie dans les dépenses de la Maison royale’ (of Denmark), Éphémérides du citoyen, 1771, vol. v, pp. 239–242.
102 ‘Exemple louable d’un Propriétaire bienfaisant, juste & éclairé’, Éphémérides du citoyen, 1769, vol. xii, pp. 217–221.
103 Éphémérides du citoyen, 1767, vol. iv, p. 182.
104 Mirabeau, Entretiens d’un jeune prince avec son gouverneur, vol. ii, p. 540.
105 Ibid., vol. ii, p. 545.
106 Dupont, Idées sur les secours, p. 9.
107 Ibid., p. 12.
108 Ibid., p. 18.
109 Baudeau, Première introduction à la philosophie économique, p. 198.
110 Paul-Pierre Lemercier de la Rivière, L’ordre naturel et essentiel des sociétés politiques (Londres [Paris]: J. Nourse Desaint, 1767), vol. ii, p. 496.
111 Michael Sonenscher, ‘Physiocracy as a Theodicy’, History of Political Thought, 23:2 (2002), 326–339.
112 Mirabeau, Entretiens d’un jeune prince avec son gouverneur, vol. ii, pp. 159–18, pp. 535–656.
113 Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau, Les économiques. 4 vols (Amsterdam/Paris: Chez Humblot, 1771), vol. iii, p. lxxi.
114 Mirabeau, ‘article de Bienfaisance pour le mois de 7bre’, Archives Nationales (France), M784, No. 54. See also Éphémérides du citoyen, 1770, vol. xii, pp. 189–200.
115 Mirabeau, Éphémérides du citoyen, 1770, vol. xi, p. 199. This metaphor recurs elsewhere: Nouvelles éphémérides économiques, vol. iii, 1776, p. 71; Pierre-Samuel Dupont, De l’exportation et de l’importation des grains. Mémoire lu à la Société royale d’agriculture de Soissons (Soissons et Paris: Chez P. G. Simon, 1764), pp. 50–51.
116 Mirabeau, Les économiques, vol. ii, p. 267.
117 On the scientific, and particularly electrical, models of the Physiocrats, see Jessica Riskin, Science in the Age of Sensibility: The Sentimental Empiricists of the French Enlightenment (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002), pp. 105–138.
118 Pierre-Samuel Du Pont, Examen du livre de M. Malthus sur le principe de population (Philadelphia: P. M. Lafourcade, 1817), p. 32.
119 According to the expression of Pierre Bourdieu, Sociologie générale (Paris: Raisons d’agir: Seuil, 2015), p. 623.
120 Quesnay had insisted at an early stage on this duty of landowners to the extent of threatening to strip them of their wealth completely (‘dépouiller’) if they engaged in hoarding – see ‘Impôt’ (1757). See Quesnay, Œuvres économiques complètes et autres textes, pp. 218–219. See also Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau, Les devoirs (Milan: Au monastère impérial de Saint-Ambroise, 1780), pp. 100–101.
121 Martin Stuber and Regula Wyss, ‘Paternalism and Agricultural Reform; the Economic Society of Bern in the Eighteenth Century’, in Koen Stapelbroek and Jani Marjanen (eds), The Rise of Economic Societies in the Eighteenth Century: Patriotic Reform in Europe and North America (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 157–181.
122 Priscille Aladjidi, Le roi, père des pauvres: France, XIIIe XVe siècle (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2008).
123 Mirabeau, Les économiques, vol. i, p. v.
124 Ibid., vol. iv, pp. 40–48.
125 Dupont, Malthus sur le principe de population, 15. See also Pierre-Samuel Dupont, Philosophie de l’univers (Paris: Imprimerie Pont, 1793), pp. 107–108.
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