The Spirit of Legislation

One of the key texts around which the project revolves is a collection of essays written for the prize essay competition on the Spirit of Legislation, funded by two young reform-minded Polish aristocrats residing in Switzerland under tutelage of Elie Bertrand. The competition had an explicit aim of encouraging local Swiss thinkers to describe and share best practices concerning the development of agriculture, commerce and manufacturing. The outcome of the competition, a collection of most highly assessed essays, was treated as a hallmark of the reform thought of Berne and Vaud and as such was met with great interest, including a number of translations:

The original essays, of which a translation is now offered to the public, were published in the Memoirs collected by the Oeconomical Society of Berne; but they have been received with such avidity throughout Europe, as to be published at several places distinct from the other Memoirs; besides being translated into almost every European language. The merit of the works is too great to make a panegyric necessary here: They abound with original and spirited observations, sufficient in themselves to recommend them…

(Translator’s preface to the 1798 edition of the Essays published in Newark, New Jersey, USA)

The competition Spirit of Legislation will be the subject of a planned conference in 2021 in Lausanne.