The French Enlightenment by J. H. Brumfitt (auth.)

By J. H. Brumfitt (auth.)

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These plans reveal the more positive aspects of Fenelon's political thought. They include much which would again have appealed to the philosophes: an overriding desire for peace, a determination never again to be involved in war with the rest of Europe; demands for vast reductions in court expenditure; proposals for the decentralisation of power and for the recall of the States General (which had not met for a century); limitation of the temporal power of the Church; greater freedom of trade, and many similar measures.

Major offices in the royal household, in the army and in the Church were to be reserved for members of ancient noble families. It was primarily to the nobility that Fenelon looked for the regeneration of society. Fenelon and his friends constituted the most powerful and the most positive of the opposition groups in the last years of Louis's reign. But there were others, too. The due d'Orleans was a focus of one of them, particularly after the death of the due de Bourgogne, when it became clear that Orleans would become Regent.

To the Academy, he largely abandoned his literary and historical interests, becoming instead the semi-official spokesman of scientific thought. In 16gg he was elected to the Academy of Sciences and later became its permanent secretary. Protected by the due d'Orleans, he survived the inquisitorial regime of the last years of Louis XIV, though a Jesuit denunciation of the Histoire des oracles threatened him with persecution. Though his personal contribution to scientific discovery was small, his influence in guiding and popularising sdentific thought was immense.

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