Abbot Charles de Saint-Pierre

Charles-Irénée Castel, abbé de Saint-Pierre (18 February 1658 – 29 April 1743) was a French author whose ideas were novel for his times. His proposal of an international organisation to maintain peace was perhaps the first in history, with the possible exception of George of Poděbrady's Tractatus (1462–1464). He influenced Rousseau and Kant.


Saint-Pierre was born at the château of Saint-Pierre-Église near Cherbourg, where his father was bailli of Cotentin. He was educated by the Jesuits. The youngest of five children and unsuited to a military career due to poor health he became a priest.

He was introduced by family connections into the salons of Madame de la Fayette and the Marquise de Lambert in Paris. He was elected to the Académie française in 1695, although he had previously produced no notable work; his election was an episode in the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns, Saint-Pierre being a clear representative of the latter. The same year he gained a footing at court as chaplain to Madame, the king's sister-in-law. From 1703 to his death, he was abbot of Tiron.

Contrary to a widely-believed opinion, it is not while working as a negotiator of the Treaty of Utrecht (1712–13) that he developed his project of universal peace. Saint-Pierre worked on the idea from 1708 and published early versions from 1712.

In 1718 he published Discours sur la polysynodie,[1] where he proposed that appointed ministers be replaced by elected councils. As a consequence of his criticism of the policy of Louis XIV (d. 1715) he was expelled from the Académie later the same year.

In 1724 with Pierre-Joseph Alary he founded the Club de l'Entresol, an independent discussion group on the English model; the club was closed by Louis XV for political reasons in 1731.

He died in Paris on 29 April 1743 aged 85.


Saint-Pierre's works are centered on an acute and visionary criticism of politics, law and social institutions. He had a great influence on Rousseau, who left elaborate examinations of some of them, and was a forerunner of Kant's 1795 essay on perpetual peace. He can be seen as an early proponent of the ideas of the Enlightenment.

Saint-Pierre was possibly the first to mention the possibility of a European union.[2] His work on a European community directly inspired the idea of an international order based on the principle of collective self-defense, and was important to the creation of the Concert of Europe, and later the League of Nations,[3] whose successor is the United Nations Organisation.

Ideas contributed by Saint-Pierre include:

  • an equitable tax system, including a graduated income tax,
  • free public education, for women as well as men,
  • state improvement of transportation to further commerce,
  • an international court and league of states (Projet de paix perpétuelle 1713),
  • a constitutional monarchy, aided by a system of councils and an academy of experts (Discours sur la polysynodie 1718).


Printed books

  • Ouvrages de morale et de politique. Rotterdam: J.-D. Beman ; Paris: Briasson, 1733–1740
  • Projet pour rendre la paix perpétuelle en Europe. Utrecht: A. Schouten, 1713
    • English translation of the preface
  • Discours sur la polysynodie. Amsterdam: Du Villard & Changuion, 1719
  • Projet pour perfectionner l'éducation. Paris: Briasson, 1728[4]
  • De la douceur. Amsterdam: Briasson, 1740


Saint-Pierre exchanged letters with a number of luminaries of his time, including Voltaire. His letters often ended with the formula "Paradise to those who do good".[5]


  • Template:1911

See also

External links

  • Saint-Pierre’s biography at the Académie française (French) – Includes a portrait.
  • Franco Spoltore, Abbé de Saint-Pierre. In The Federalist. Year XXXVI (1994) Number 3 - Page 221.

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