Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui

Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui

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Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui (24 June 1694 – 3 April 1748) was a Swiss
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 legal and political theorist, who popularised a number of ideas propounded by other thinkers.

Life


Born in Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, at the age of twenty-five he was designated honorary professor of ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 and the law of nature
Law of nature
Law of Nature may refer to:* Physical law, a scientific generalization based upon empirical observation* Natural law, any of a number of doctrines in moral, political and legal theory...

 at the university of Geneva
University of Geneva
The University of Geneva is a public research university located in Geneva, Switzerland.It was founded in 1559 by John Calvin, as a theological seminary and law school. It remained focused on theology until the 17th century, when it became a center for Enlightenment scholarship. In 1873, it...

. Before taking up the appointment he travelled through France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, and made the acquaintance of the most eminent writers of the period.

On his return he began to lecture, and soon gained a wide reputation, from the simplicity of his style and the precision of his views. He continued to lecture for fifteen years, when he was compelled on account of ill-health to resign. His fellow-citizens at once elected him a member of the council of state, and he gained as high a reputation for his practical sagacity as he had for his theoretical knowledge. He died at Geneva on the 3rd of April 1748.

Works


His works were Principes du droit naturel (1747) and Principes du droit politique (1751). These have passed through many editions, and were very extensively used as text-books. Burlamaqui's style is simple and clear, and his arrangement of the material good. His fundamental principle may be described as rational utilitarianism
Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness", by whatever means necessary. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome, and that one can...

, and represents a digest of the thoughts of like-minded theorists, particularly Richard Cumberland
Richard Cumberland (philosopher)
Richard Cumberland was an English philosopher, and bishop of Peterborough from 1691. In 1672, he published his major work, De legibus naturae , propounding utilitarianism and opposing the egoistic ethics of Thomas Hobbes.Cumberland was a member of the latitudinarian movement, along with his friend...

 and Hugo Grotius
Hugo Grotius
Hugo Grotius , also known as Huig de Groot, Hugo Grocio or Hugo de Groot, was a jurist in the Dutch Republic. With Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili he laid the foundations for international law, based on natural law...

.

Burlamaqui's treatise The Principles of Natural and Politic Law was translated into six languages (besides the original French) in sixty editions. His vision of constitutionalism
Constitutionalism
Constitutionalism has a variety of meanings. Most generally, it is "a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law"....

 had a major influence on the American Founders; for example, Burlamaqui’s understanding of checks and balances was much more sophisticated and practical than that of Montesquieu, in part because Burlamaqui’s theory contained the seed of judicial review
Judicial review
Judicial review is the doctrine under which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary. Specific courts with judicial review power must annul the acts of the state when it finds them incompatible with a higher authority...

. He was frequently quoted or paraphrased, sometimes with attribution and sometimes not, in political sermons during the pre-revolutionary
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 era. He was the first philosopher to articulate the quest for happiness as a natural human right, a principle that Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 later restated in the Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

."

Burlamaqui's description of European countries as forming "a kind of republic the members of which, independent but bound by common interest, come together to maintain order and liberty" is quoted by Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

in his 1978 lectures at the Collège de France, in the context of a discussion of diplomacy and the law of nations.