Bookseller’s Choice

  • Public Welfare follows from Possessions and a Certain Abundance

    He was the Preacher of Louis XV, and he introduced the subject of political economy into his Sermons! While not a profound reformer, he argued in favor of public welfare which follows from possessions and a certain abundance.

    GROS DE BESPLAS, ABBé (JOSEPH-MARIE-ANNE.) Des Causes du Bonheur Public. Ouvrage dédié à Monseigneur Le Dauphin, Par M. l’Abbé Gros de Besplas, de la Maison & Société de Sorbonne, Prédicateur du Roi, &c. A Paris, De l’Imprimerie de Sébastien Jorry, 1768. Frontispice by Jean Massard after Charles Eisen representing the young Dauphin, the future Louis XVI, running after the shadow of his father, the Dauphin Louis, who died in 1765. xxxiv, 586, (2) pp. 8vo. Contemporary marbled calf, spine richly gilt with raised bands, label with gilt lettering, marbled edges, gilt triple fillet on sides, very lightly rubbed.

    € 1500

    INED 2163 (edition 1790 in 2 volumes in 12mo); Higgs 4522; Goldsmiths 11087 (the 1774 edition); Kress S.4524; not in Mattioli; Einaudi A.348 (the 1774 edition); Lichtenberger, Le Socialisme au XVIIIe Siècle, pp. 391-393.
    First edition of the major work by the Abbé Gros de Besplas, the preacher of Louis XV.
    While property, society and religion were subjected to violent attacks in the writings of the philosophes, only very few “abbé’s” introduced the subject of political economy into their sermons, some even to the point where they were called to order by the ecclesiastical authorites. Among them, the Abbé Gros de Besplas, while not believing in the utility of important and profound reform, argued that public welfare, of which religion and the monarch were the principle guards, follows from possession of the “necessary”, a certain abundance, and being subjected to work. Gros de Besplas strongly condamns celibacy, mendicity and “le luxe” which, he feels, must be suppressed by means of heavy taxes, deplores the fallow land for want of instruments and machines in the hands of those who work the land, and argues for a more even distribution of land in “accord avec la justice”. The subjects of the monarch, or any ruler, have four important rights: the right to life, the right to be free, the right to own property, and the right to be protected. From this Gros de Besplas arrives at a socialist theory of property: the property of land belongs to society as it can not belong to any particular man. To his politically moderate ideas Gros de Besplan attaches more radical ideas concerning property.
    The engraved frontispiece is preceded by a leaf which contains verso an “Explication du Frontispiece.” Rare: only Higgs and Kress have the original edition.