Portrait of Swiss-born philosopher, writer, and political theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

(1712 - 1778)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s mother died soon after his birth in 1712, and until the age of ten he was raised by his watchmaker father, with whom he read Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. “I would become one of the characters I imagined,” he recollected in Confessions. Between 1761 and 1762 Rousseau published Julie, or The New Héloïse; The Social Contract; and Émile. In the last work, a treatise on education, the only book the eponymous boy is allowed to read during his childhood is Robinson Crusoe. Rousseau died in 1778, eleven years before the French Revolution.

All Writing

The money we have is the means to liberty; that which we pursue is the means to slavery.

—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, c. 1770

The more men are massed together, the more corrupt they become. Disease and vice are the sure results of overcrowded cities.

—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1762

Cities are the abyss of the human species.

—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1762

No man has any natural authority over his fellow man.

—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1762


“The death of a newborn child before that of its parents may seem an unnatural, but it is strictly a probable, event,” observed Edward Gibbon in his Memoirs. He was his parents’ first child; the next six all died in infancy. Some twenty years earlier, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, “One half of the children who are born die before their eighth year…This is nature’s law; why contradict it?”

Issues Contributed