Nicholas de Bonneville (1760-1828): “Innumerable steps” up the progressives’ ladder, where arithmetic waits


By Lee Cary –

The French Revolution followed the American Revolution in time, but not in substance, style, nor in leadership.

Nicholas de Bonneville, French journalist, printer, and bookseller, played a significant role in the French Revolution: “On 13 October 1790, he founded, with Claude Fauchet, the Society of the Friends of Truth…whose purpose was to rally the human race to ‘the doctrine of love, which is the religion of happiness.’ The club became a forum for revolutionary and egalitarian ideas…[with] its focus on social, sexual and racial equality.”

In Fire in the Minds of Men, James H. Billington, Librarian of the U.S. Congress, writes that,

“Bonneville saw social justice radiating out from ‘the center of the social circle,’ and truth generating the ‘electricity’ of virtuous conduct. He provides one of the first rationalizations for the rule of an intellectual elite. ‘In intellectual organization, truth is the center to which all should gravitate.’

The very dedication to Truth, however, may require the tactical concealment of some truths, ‘…not out of gratuitous cruelty, but in order to secure little by little, universally, the innumerable steps that must be taken on our ladder.’” (p. 40, Basic Books, Inc., 1980)

The objective of the Friends of Truth was to promote (then) radical ideas to a mass, international audience. It advocated a grande society that would provide social benefits, enact progressive taxes, and extend equality to women and blacks.

As Billington notes, “Bonneville’s group was a self-conscious, self-proclaimed intellectual elite.”

(A precursor to the firmly entrenched “ruling class” inside the Beltway today, perhaps?)

In a recent visit to Berlin, newly-minted Secretary of State John Kerry said, according to Reuters,

“In America you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be. And you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be. And we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that. Now, I think that’s a virtue. I think that’s something worth fighting for. The important thing is to have the tolerance to say, you know, you can have a different point of view.”

The man who holds the position, once filled by Thomas Jefferson, is so tolerant as to acknowledge our right to hold a different, though stupid, point-of-view.  Different from whose point-of-view?

Progressives are afflicted today, as they have long been, with insufferable hubris. It is their Achilles heel.  But cold-blooded numbers inevitably seal the fate of their grande plans.

“The system of patronage and clientelism known as the welfare state has finally run up against something that ultimately can’t be manipulated: arithmetic.” (After The Welfare State, Edited by Tom G. Palmer, “Bismarck’s Legacy,” by Tom G. Palmer, p.47, Jameson Books, Inc. 2012)