Front Page Titles (by Subject) Later Writings - The Constitution of England; Or, an Account of the English Government
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Later Writings - Jean Louis De Lolme, The Constitution of England; Or, an Account of the English Government 
The Constitution of England; Or, an Account of the English Government, edited and with an Introduction by David Lieberman (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007).
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De Lolme lived for well over thirty years after the original publication of Constitution de l’Angleterre. But there is a distinct sense of anticlimax attending his later literary productions. He produced one more large-scale work that attracted critical notice and enjoyed frequent reprinting, the splendidly titled The History of the Flagellants; or, the advantages of the Discipline; being a Paraphrase and Commentary on the Historia Flagellantium of the Abbé Boileau, Doctor of the Sorbonne, Canon of the Holy Chapel etc. by somebody who is not Doctor of the Sorbonne, published in London in 1777. This narrative reworking of materials assembled in Jacques Boileau’s 1700 Historia flagellantium offered a case study in the pathologies of religious extremism, showing how the sectarian practice of self-mortification in fact violated the Christian teaching its adherents believed themselves to be serving. The combination of the work’s familiar Enlightenment themes and provocative subject matter ensured healthy sales. The History of the Flagellants reached its fourth edition in 1783, at which stage De Lolme revised and relaunched the publication as Memorials of Human Superstition, which appeared in successive editions in 1784 and 1785.
The majority of De Lolme’s literary productions, however, comprised more ephemeral and less ambitious writings in which he exploited his established reputation as a scholar of English government and history to comment on issues of the moment. In 1786 he composed a historical survey of the political relations between England and Scotland up to the period of the 1707 Union of the Parliaments of the two kingdoms, along with a companion account of the relations between England and Ireland that urged similar constitutional unification. The Essay Containing a few strictures on the Union of Scotland with England; and on the present situation of Ireland first served as an introduction to a new edition of Daniel Defoe’s History of the Union and was reissued the following year as the freestanding work The British Empire in Europe. In 1788 he published a series of brief tracts condemning parliamentary taxes on windows, shops, and peddlers and offering proposals “for the Improvement of the Metropolis.” That same year, he attracted greater attention for his contribution to the partisan debate over the Regency Crisis that followed in the wake of George III’s mental collapse in 1788–89. De Lolme’s The Present National Embarrassment Considered was twice printed and sustained vituperative criticism from “Neptune” in the 1789 Answer to Mr. De Lolme’s Observations on the Late National Embarrassment.
For De Lolme’s early-nineteenth-century editors and admirers, this corpus of political writing seemed a poor return on the talent and erudition displayed in The Constitution of England. Why had De Lolme not achieved more? In the substantial advertisement that first appeared in the 1781 edition of The Constitution of England, De Lolme himself explained his disappointments at the outset of his literary career in London. An English translation of the French text was ready for publication several years prior to its 1775 first edition. The delay resulted from De Lolme’s failure to find a patron for the work or a sympathetic bookseller, notwithstanding the book’s “favourable reception” and “successive editions” on “the Continent.”25 Instead, De Lolme was forced to publish by subscription, an expedient that further postponed any significant financial reward for the undertaking. These frustrations and privations, it was proposed, readily explained his later career. “The fact is mortifying to record,” Isaac Disraeli concluded in 1812, “that the author who wanted every aid, received less encouragement than if he had solicited subscriptions for a raving novel or an idle poem. De Lolme . . . became so disgusted with authorship that he . . . ceased almost to write.”26 Others attributed his chronic indebtedness and inability to secure regular patronage to darker defects of character and propriety. His political adversary Neptune reported that “he is even supposed to pride himself in a contempt of all decency in private life,” while more approving observers acknowledged his secrecy and evasiveness and the frequency with which he appeared “slovenly to a degree that indicated indigence.”27
Whatever the accuracy of these assessments, De Lolme’s English career mostly reflects the common harshness and insecurity of the eighteenth-century literary market for any author who lived by his pen without the benefit of settled party connection or a prosperous patron. In this respect, the later career of the “English Montesquieu,” as Isaac Disraeli styled him, shared a fate common to London’s political scribes of this period. De Lolme’s own writings, as well as the biographical anecdotes supplied by others, contain frequent reference to plans for books and journals that were never realized. At the same time, there is no reason to suppose that all of De Lolme’s writing appeared under his own name or that we can definitively determine the extent of his literary corpus. One important discovery, recently made by Michael Sletcher of Yale University, is De Lolme’s editorship of two British reprints of the documentary collection The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America; The Declaration of Independence; The Articles of Confederation . . . and related materials. The editions, apparently unknown to earlier scholars, were published in London in 1782 and in 1783 and contained what De Lolme described as “the Magna Charta of the United American States . . . the code of their fundamental laws.”28 On the other hand, modern scholarship has firmly put to rest one long-standing and contested attribution of authorship: the claim that De Lolme secretly authored the famous “Letters of Junius” that appeared in London’s Public Advertiser between 1769 and 1772 and which De Lolme cited approvingly in The Constitution of England.29 The case for authorship was presented at exhaustive length by Thomas Busby in 1816 and more quickly dispatched by John Cannon in 1978.30
De Lolme’s final years were spent in his native Geneva. As with so much of his biography, the details of his departure from England are not known. He received an inheritance that enabled him to pay his creditors and to return to the setting that first inspired his influential political speculations. He died on July 13, 1806, and was buried in Seewen-sur-le-Ruffiberg in the Swiss Canton of Schwitz.
[25. ]See below, Advertisement, p. 9.
[26. ]Isaac Disraeli, The Calamities and Quarrels of Authors (1st ed., 1812; London, 1867), 200–201.
[27. ]Answer to Mr. De Lolme’s Observations, 14; Thomas Busby, Arguments and Facts Demonstrating that the Letters of Junius were written by John Lewis De Lolme, LL.D. Advocate . . . (London, 1816), 13.
[28. ]The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America; The Declaration of Independence; The Articles of Confederation . . . with an Advertisement by J. L. De Lolme (London, 1783), v. The original version of this collection of documents was published in Philadelphia “by Order of Congress.” The London editions of 1782 and 1783 contain the identical editorial advertisement by De Lolme; however, De Lolme’s authorship is identified only in the 1783 edition. I am indebted to Michael Sletcher for his generosity in sharing this discovery with me and in allowing me to publicize it in these pages.
[29. ]See below, book 1, chapter 13, p. 127, note a.
[30. ]See Thomas Busby, Arguments and Facts demonstrating that the letters of Junius were written by John Lewis De Lolme (London, 1816); and John Cannon, The Letters of Junius (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1978), 540–41, 546.