The discussion of the French experience in this chapter illustrates that the tiny number of philosophes, few of whom were deists, were more bystanders than activists in the major politico-religious events and developments of the century. In fact, they can hardly be termed consistent fighters for toleration, at least as Enlightenment studies have traditionally understood that term. The study focuses on public opinion and broad forces for change, challenging the notion of an all-embracing French absolutism. The parliaments, Jansenists and broad public opinion achieved what the deists and philosophes never even consistently fought for: the suppression of the Jesuits, the development of a de facto toleration prior to the Revolution and the initiation of the demands for constitutional government. The chapter also deals with the emergence of religious toleration in France and the degree to which it was brought about by broad politico-religious struggle rather than by the philosophes.
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