Democracy according to Richelet

The Richelet dictionary, edited by César-Pierre Richelet and first published in 1680, was one of the first dictionaries of the French language. The dictionary defines “Democracy” as follows:

Democratie: Gouvernement populaire. État populaire. Forme de gouvernement où les charges se donnent au sort.

Or, translated to English:

Democracy: Popular government. A popular state. A form of government where offices are distributed by lot.

(Thanks to Arturo Iniguez for noting this historical fact.)

10 Responses

  1. Thank you, Yoram.
    There was a discussion here a while ago, as well as many times in the past, about the use of the word ‘sortition’ and how ‘civic lottery’ could be a better option since it is more familiar to most people.
    I did not intervene then and certainly do not want to reopen the discussion now, because to me there is already a word that exactly describes what we are dealing with, and that word is ‘democracy’.
    We (and by we I mean we the 99,9%) were robbed of that word in the third decade of the 19th century. If a single culprit is to be identified, that would be Andrew Jackson, the seventh president. The robbers (that is, the 0,1%) are now using that word to describe an entirely different thing whose actual name is aristocracy: a form of government where offices are filled by election.
    As you may remember, I personally favour a mixed system where each citizen can decide her own path to representation, either the aristocratic or the democratic one.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you Yoram and Arturo.

    Like

  3. The Furetière dictionary was one of the first French dictionaries and I think the first to include the word « démocratie », (it was not in Nicot’s dictionary, as not in the usual language).
    The definition Furetière gave was taken from Aristotle’s Rhetoric, in the French translation by François Cassandre, first edition 1654 (Book I, chap. VIII, §3): « democracy is the political system (politeia) where the offices (tai archai) are distibuted by lot » (« tai archai » may be, in a narrow sense, the magistracies ; and in a wider sense the political powers – including the juries, so much powerful in Athens). Furetière and Cassandre (and La Fontaine) belonged to the same literary circle.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sorry, I made a mistake. The quotation was not in the dictionary of Furetière, but in Richelet (contemporary). But Richelet’s definition comes from Aristotle’s Rhetoric translated by Cassandre.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Arturo,

    > We (and by we I mean we the 99,9%) were robbed of that word in the third decade of the 19th century. If a single culprit is to be identified, that would be Andrew Jackson, the seventh president.

    It is very clear that somewhere between the time of the Federalist Papers and the present day, “democratic” has been adopted by the ruling elite as a marketing term used to make the American system (originally deliberately design as oligarchical) more appealing to the voting public. However, I have not seen a detailed history of how this very interesting development happened. Do you have a reference for your description of the historical process?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Having learned of Rachelet’s definition, I had a look at Johnson’s dictionary. It turns out his definition has a much more modern ring.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Following Stéphane Macé « Les termes de rhétorique dans le Dictionnaire de Richelet ». In: L’Information Grammaticale, N. 114,
    2007. pp. 34-38, Cassandre « famous translator of Aristotle’s Rhetoric » was one of the collaborators of Richelet’s dictionary. That explains Richelet’s dictionary uses the definition from Aristotle’s Rhetoric. But why this aristotelian text was so centered towards sortition ? I don’t know.

    Like

  8. André,

    > But why this aristotelian text was so centered towards sortition ? I don’t know.

    Are you asking why Aristotle himself focused on sortition in his definition of democracy in Rhetoric? Do you think this definition is at odds with his other writings? To me it seems in line with everything we know about conventional Greek political theory.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Yoram,

    > However, I have not seen a detailed history of how this very interesting development happened. Do you have a reference for your description of the historical process?

    Well, I was just oversimplifying Dupuis-Déri’s work, which I assumed (but now I have a doubt) you were familiar with.

    https://www.luxediteur.com/catalogue/democratie-histoire-politique-dun-mot/

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Arturo,

    Thanks for the reference – I was not aware of this work. Sounds very interesting.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: