The Intellectual Adventures of a Russian Anti-Federalist: Radishchev, Condorcet, and the American Constitution




A. N. Radishchev, anti-Federalism, Condorcet, Enlightenment, constitutionalism, history of political thought


This article suggests a new understanding of a shift in Radishchev’s perception of American democracy from the early version of Ode to Liberty to the final text of A Journey from St Petersburg to Moscow. The historical and political theories present in Ode to Liberty are interpreted not as an abstract social utopia but as a reaction to the revolution in British colonies and an attempt at establishing a new society based on the ideals of equality and freedom. The adoption of the American constitution was the main reason for Radishchev’s disappointment in the USA. The evolution of Radishchev’s views is analysed within the context of the American debate between the Federalists and the Antifederalists and the discussions about the New World in France, especially the political philosophy of Nicola Condorcet and the debates on the representation of the slave-owning colony of Santo Domingo in the Assemblée nationale. The article studies the key sources of information that may have influenced Radishchev’s opinion and analyses the common features of Radishchev’s ideas about the US Constitution and his critical approach to the “abolitionist” wing of the Antifederalists. His disappointment in the American experience had a decisive impact on Radishchev’s political philosophy: the adoption of a federalist constitution and the preservation of slavery meant for him the collapse of all hopes for reshaping society on more humane and just grounds. This led to the adoption of apocalyptic tones in the final version of Ode to Liberty, as the author’s hopes for a better future now depended not upon any political activity, but upon the intervention of providential forces.

Author Biography

Andrey Zorin

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Professor, University of Oxford; Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences.

Oxford, OX1 2JD, UK.

bldg. 1, 3–5, Gazetny Lane, 125009, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0001-9804-229X


Arrêt du conseil d’état de Roi Qui révoque le Privilège du livre intitulé le Triomphe de Nouveaux Monde. Du 5 Mai 1786. Paris.

Bailyn, B. (1990). Faces of Revolution: Personalities and Themes in the Struggle for American Independence. N. Y., Knopf. 320 p.

Bailyn, B. (1993). The Debate on the Constitution. Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles and Letter during the Struggle over Ratification. 2 Vols. N. Y., Literary Classics of the United States. Vol. 1. 1214 p.

Beck, L. (1951). Pennsylvania and an Early Russian Radical. In The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Vol. 75. No. 2, pp. 193–196.

Bolkhovitinov, N. N. (1991). Rossiya otkryvaet Ameriku, 1732–1799 [Russia Discovers America, 1732–1799]. Moscow, Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya. 302 p.

Borden, M. (1965). The Anti-Federalist Papers. Ann Arbor, Michigan State Univ. Press, 258 p.

Condorcet, J. (1847–1849). Oeuvres. 12 Vols. Paris, Firmin Didot frères.

Condorcet, J. (2012). Writings on the United States. University Park, Penn State Univ. Press. 160 p.

Davis, D. (1999). The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770–1823. N. Y., Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press. 160 p.

Diatkine, D. (1993). A French Reading of the Wealth of Nations in 1790. In Adam Smith: International Perspectives. L., Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 213–223.

Dippel, H. (1997). Condorcet et la discussion des constitutions américaines en France avant 1789. In Condorcet Homme des Lumières et de la Révolution. Fontenay, Saint-Cloud, ENS Ed., pp. 201–206.

Dockes, P. (1989). Condorcet et l’esclavage des nègres ou esquisse d’une économie politique de l’esclavage à la veille de la Révolution française. In Idées économiques sous la révolution (1789–1794). Lyon, Presses univ. de Lyon, pp. 85–123.

Echeverria, D. (1957). Mirage in the West. A History of the French Image of American Society to 1815. Princeton, Princeton Univ. Press. 300 p.

Gil, L. (2016). Condorcet éditeur de voltaire dans la révolution : le volume 70 des «Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire», Kehl 1789. In Revue d’Histoire littéraire de la France. No. 2 (116), pp. 315–336.

Graham, M. (2017). Presidents’ Secrets: The Use and Abuse of Hidden Power. New Haven, L., Yale Univ. Press, 272 p.

Jurt, J. (1992). Condorcet et les colonies. In Proceedings of the Meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society. Vol. 15, pp. 9–21.

Kolchin, P. (1993). American Slavery: 1619–1877. N. Y., Hill and Wang. 352 p.

La Combe, J. (1785). Le Triomphe du Nouveaux Monde. Paris, Chez d’auteur. 242 p.

Lappo-Danilevskii, K. Yu. (2008). Plan postepennogo osvobozhdeniya krest’yan v “Puteshestvii iz Peterburga v Moskvu” A. N. Radishcheva [Plan for the Gradual Liberation of Serfs in A Journey from St Petersburg to Moscow by A. N. Radishchev]. In XVIII vek. Coll. 25. St Petersburg, Nauka, pp. 206–232.

Lim, E. (2014). The Lovers’ Quarrel: The Two Foundings and American Political Development. N. Y., Oxford Univ. Press. 288 p.

Mazzei, F. (1788). Recherches historiques et politiques sur les Etats-Unis. 4 Vols. Paris, Chez Froulli. Vol. 4. 292 p.

Pisanelli, S. (2015). Adam Smith and the Marquis de Condorcet. Did They Really Meet? In Iberian J. of the History of Economic Thought. Vol. 2. No. 1, pp. 21–35. DOI 10.5209/rev_IJHE.2015.v2.n1.49771.

Pocock, J. G. A. (2020). Moment Makiavelli. Politicheskaya mysl’ Florentsii i atlanticheskaya respublikanskaya traditsiya [The Machiavellian Moment. Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition]. Moscow, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie. 888 p.

Pumpyanskii, L. V. (1983). Lomonosov i nemetskaya shkola razuma [Lomonosov and the German School of Reason]. In XVIII vek. Coll. 14. Leningrad, Nauka, pp. 3–44.

Radishchev, A. N. (1938–1952). Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 3 t. [Complete Works. 3 Vols.]. Moscow, Leningrad, Izdatel’stvo Akademii nauk SSSR. Vol. 1. 503 p. Vol. 3. 676 p.

Radishchev, A. N. (1992). Puteshestvie iz Peterburga v Moskvu. Vol’nost’ [A Journey from St Petersburg to Moscow. Ode to Liberty]. St Petersburg, Nauka. 674 p.

Rukshina, K. S. (1976). Radishchev i amerikanskaya revolyutsiya [Radishchev and the American Revolution]. In Izvestiya Akademii nauk SSSR. Seriya literatury i yazyka. Vol. 35. No. 3, pp. 239–251.

Schiavo, G. (1951). Philip Mazzei: One of America’s Founding Fathers. N. Y., Vigo Press. 182 p.

Semennikov, V. P. (1923). Oda “Vol’nost’”. Ocherk ee literaturnoi istorii [Ode to Liberty. An Essay on Its Literary History]. In Semennikov, V. P. Radishchev. Ocherki i issledovaniya. Moscow, Petrograd, Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo, pp. 1–24.

Siemers, D. J. (2003). The Antifederalists: Men of Great Faith and Forbearance. Lanham, Oxford, Rowman & Littlefield. 304 p.

Startsev, A. (1940). O zapadnykh svyazyakh Radishcheva [On the Western Connections of Radishchev]. In Internatsional’naya literatura. No. 7–8, pp. 256–265.

Startsev, A. (1990). Oda Radishcheva “Vol’nost’” i amerikanskaya revolyutsiya [Radishchev’s Ode to Liberty and the American Revolution]. In Startsev, A. Radishchev. Gody ispytanii. Ocherki. Moscow, Sovetskii pisatel’, pp. 76–92.

Wills, G. (1984). Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment. Garden City, Doubleday. 272 p.

Zapadov, V. A. (1992). Istoriya sozdaniya “Puteshestviya iz Peterburga v Moskvu” i “Vol’nosti” [The History of Writing A Journey from St Petersburg to Moscow and Ode to Liberty]. In Radishchev, A. N. Puteshestvie iz Peterburga v Moskvu. Vol’nost’. St Petersburg, Nauka, pp. 475–623.

Zhivov, V. (2012). Apokalipsis svobody. Zametki ob ode “Vol’nost’” A. N. Radishcheva [The Apocalypse of Freedom. Notes on Ode to Liberty by A. N. Radishchev]. In Venok: Studia slavica Stefano Garzonio sexagenario oblata. Stanford, Stanford Univ. Press, pp. 75–87.



How to Cite

Zorin, A. (2021). The Intellectual Adventures of a Russian Anti-Federalist: Radishchev, Condorcet, and the American Constitution. Quaestio Rossica, 9(2), 679–701.