Saint-Pierre, Charles-Irénée Castel de

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Saint-Pierre, Charles-Irénée Castel de (1658-1743): French Politcal Theorist.

Born into an aristocratic family in Normandy, Saint-Pierre came to Paris in the mid-1680s. Once there, he joined the free-thinking intellectual circles. He became a member of the French Academy in 1694, though he was expelled decades later for his criticism of the policies of the Regent. In 1702, the Duchess of Orleans made him her chaplain and later named him Abbé of Tiron. From 1708 on, he published widely on a variety of topics including taxation, education, and governmental structure.

Abbé St. Pierre is known today for his work A Plan for Perpetual Peace in Europe. In 1712, he became a member of the French delegation in Utrecht at the negotiations to end the War of Spanish Succession. Later that year, based on this experience and his study of the Swiss and German Confederations, he published his plan for ending the near continuous warfare plaguing Europe. Influenced by Hobbes’s depiction of the state of nature as a condition of barbarism and violence, St. Pierre argued that the states of Europe found themselves in a similar condition, leading to the continual insecurity of borders and commerce. According to St. Pierre, just as individuals achieve civil peace by establishing the state, so the states of Europe could only end their insecurity by establishing a permanent association of states that would be empowered to arbitrate and settle disputes among its members, a European Union as he called it. Though widely perceived as a dreamer at the time, St. Pierre did exert some influence on Kant, Immanuel’s own prescriptions for international order.

Further Reading:

M. Perkins, “Six French Philosophes on Human Rights, International Rivalry, and War: Their Message Today,” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 1989, pp. 1-158.

Kevin Dodson

Lamar University