Tronchin, Jean-Robert

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Tronchin, Jean-Robert (1710-1793): Genevan magistrate and author.

Jean-Robert Tronchin was a member of the influential Tronchin family, which included Tronchin, François and Tronchin, Théodore. Jean-Robert was elected procurer-général in 1760, and in that capacity, he prepared the report that advised the ruling body of Geneva, the Petit Council, to condemn Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile and Contrat social in 1762. The condemnation not only burned and banned the offensive texts, but also took the extraordinary step of ordering Rousseau, Jean-Jacques’s arrest should he enter the city.

After renouncing his citizenship, Rousseau mobilized his supporters in Geneva to present a représentation on his behalf in 1763. Représentations were formal written protests that citizens could present to the Petit Council. Shortly after this représentation, Tronchin published an anonymous pamphlet, Lettres écrites de la campagne, in which he defended the actions that the Petit Council had taken against Rousseau. The first edition of Tronchin’s Lettres appeared in September of 1763 and contained three letters. By the third edition, published that same fall, Tronchin had divided the third letter into two and added a final fifth letter.

Tronchin’s Lettres prompted a response from Rousseau in 1764, Lettres écrites de la montagne, which is one of Rousseau’s most direct and sweeping engagements with Genevan politics. After its appearance, Tronchin, again in his capacity as procurer-général, was asked by the Petit Council to examine Rousseau’s book and report his recommendations to the Council. Tronchin recused himself from the task.

A committee of citizens, led by Rousseau’s friend Jacques-François Deluc, also drafted an anonymous rebuttal to Tronchin’s Lettres, Réponse aux Lettres écrites de la campagne, which was published in 1764.

Further Reading:

Douglas G. Creighton, Jacques-François Deluc of Geneva and His Friendship with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1982.

Richard Whatmore, “Rousseau and the Representants: The Politics of the Lettres écrites de la montagne,” Modern Intellectual History 3 (2006): 385-413.

Carol L. White

Clayton State University