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Charles de Rémusat

Charles François Marie, Comte de Rémusat (March 13, 1797 - January 6, 1875), French politician and man of letters, was born in Paris. His father, Auguste Laurent, Comte de Rémusat, of a good family of Toulouse, was chamberlain to Napoleon, but acquiesced in the restoration and became prefect first of Haute Garonne, and then of Nord.

His mother's maiden name was Claire Elisabeth Jeanne Gravier de Vergennes, born in 1780. She married at sixteen, and was attached to Josephine as dame du palais in 1802. Talleyrand was among her admirers, and she was generally recognized as a woman of great intellectual capacity and personal grace. After her death (1824) an Essai sur l'éducation des femmes was published and received an academic couronne. But it was not until her grandson Paul de Rémusat published her Mémoires (3 vols., Paris, 1879-80), which have since been followed by some correspondence with her son (2 vols., 1881), that justice could be done to her literary talent.

Much light was thrown on the Napoleonic court by this book, and on the youth and education of her son Charles. He early developed political views more liberal than those of his parents, and, being bred to the bar, published in 1820 a pamphlet on trial by jury. He was an active journalist, showing in philosophy and literature the influence of Cousin, and is said to have furnished to no small extent the original of Balzac's brilliant egoist Henri de Marsay. He signed the journalists' protest against the Ordinances of July 1830, and in the following October was elected deputy for Haute Garonne.

He then ranked himself with the doctrinaires, and supported most of those measures of restriction on popular liberty which made the July monarchy unpopular with French Radicals. In 1836 he became for a short time undersecretary of state for the interior. He then became an ally of Thiers, and in 1840 held the ministry of the interior for a brief period. In the same year he became an Academician. For the rest of Louis Philippe's reign he was in opposition till he joined Thiers in his attempt at a ministry in the spring of 1848. During this time Rémusat constantly spoke in the chair here, but was still more active in literature, especially on philosophical subjects, the most remarkable of his works being his book on Abélard (2 vols., 1845). In 1848 he was elected, and in 1849 re-elected, for Haute Garonne, and voted with the Conservative side. He had to leave France after the coup d'état; nor did he re-enter political life during the Second Empire until 1869, when he founded a moderate opposition journal at Toulouse. In 1871 he refused the Vienna embassy offered him by Thiers, but in August he was appointed minister of foreign affairs in succession to Jules Favre. Although minister he was not a deputy, and on standing for Paris in September 1873 he was beaten by Désiré Barodet. A month later he was elected (having already resigned with Thiers) for Haute Garonne by a great majority. He died in Paris on the 6th of January 1875.

During his abstention from politics Rémusat continued to write on philosophical history, especially English. Saint Anselme de Cantorbéry appeared in 1854; L'Angleterre au ... son temps, etc., in 1858; Channing, sa vie et ses œuvres, in 1862; John Wesley in 1870; Lord Herbert de Cherbury in 1874; Histoire de la philosophie en Angleterre depuis Bacon jusqu'à Locke in 1875; besides other and minor works. He wrote well, was a forcible speaker and an acute critic; but his adoption of the indeterminate eclecticism of Cousin in philosophy and of the somewhat similarly indeterminate liberalism of Thiers in politics probably limited his powers, though both no doubt accorded with his critical and unenthusiastic turn of mind.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.