“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”
The Social Contract (also known as “Principles of Political Right”) is a book written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In the book, Rousseau essentially argues against the monarchy, or any government that gives all of its power to only a select group of people.
From the well-known quote shown above, Rousseau is saying that although men can initially appear to possess equality or individual liberty, the small number of powerful figures that forms the government actually takes this freedom away from them. As a result, the only way that man can truly have true freedom is if a kind of “social contract” is created that unites people without infringing upon their freedom; this contract would have to be one that is nearly unanimously agreed upon so that nobody feels oppressed. Everybody would have to sacrifice and contribute an equal amount.
Although Rousseau personally like the idea of a direct democracy the best, he stated that monarchies could be an acceptable form of government as well; however, it depended on the size of the population of the state. He believed that the more people there were to rule, the less people in power there should be. Thus, large states would work well with a monarchy, and smaller states would be best off with democracies. Any medium-sized states would be best with a more aristocratic form of government, in which only a selection of people are in power (like an oligarchy).
The Social Contract was significant because it impacted how governments around the world operated; as a result of his book, governments directed more attention towards protecting the individual rights of the people, rather than creating laws that would only benefit themselves. In addition to being a driving force behind the American Revolution, The Social Contract helped spark the French Revolution.
So, how does this relate to my personal character, Louis Philippe II? My character was a large supporter of Rousseau’s work, and used his wealth and connections to help get them out for Parisians to read. The Social Contract opened Louis Philippe II up to the idea of a more democratic form of government, an idea that must have really struck a chord with him, as he spent nearly the rest of his life trying to revolutionize France with the Third Estate (despite being a Nobleman).