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The Making of John LedyardEmpire and Ambition in the Life of an Early American Traveler$
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Edward G. Gray

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780300110555

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300110555.001.0001

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Despotism and Human Nature in Catherine II's Russia

Despotism and Human Nature in Catherine II's Russia

(p.153) Chapter IX Despotism and Human Nature in Catherine II's Russia
The Making of John Ledyard

Edward G. Gray

Yale University Press

This chapter discusses John Ledyard's experiences of despotism in Catherine II's Russia. For Ledyard, the habit of ordinary Russians from the lowliest serf to the most elevated aristocrat of referring to their subordinates as slaves, and to their superiors as masters, was not merely rhetorical. The chapter argues that it was perhaps the fragility of this status which explains his hatred of Russia. Unlike the other societies with which he was familiar—pre-Revolutionary New England and the new American Republic—Ledyard found not even the slightest deference to the will of the people in Russia. There was no element of consent in the Russian state. The chapter reveals that in Russia, Ledyard found that the law served the will of the state, and that the state was described and governed according to no complex invention of mortals—the things the English and Americans called constitutions.

Keywords:   Catherine II, despotism, aristocrat, American Republic, Russia, constitution

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