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Constant, Benjamin (1767–1830)

Henri-Benjamin Constant de Rebecque was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, and died in Paris. He was a novelist, political theorist, journalist, and politician who, through his education and personal inclination, brought English and Scottish notions of liberal constitutional monarchy to France. It was unusual for members of his generation to study in Germany (Erlangen) and Scotland (Edinburgh), but his experience enriched classical liberalism by combining the theoretical French passion for liberty with an appreciation of English constitutional monarchism and the evolutionary and historical approach of the Scottish school of liberal thought.

In the late 1780s, Constant showed great promise as an original political thinker. However, he wasted a good deal of his time in a series of failed love affairs, excessive gambling, and duels. Fortunately, his family ...

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