Rousseau was born in Geneva, which was at the time a city-state and a Protestant associate of the Swiss Confederacy. Since 1536, Geneva had been a Huguenot republic and the seat of Calvinism. Five generations before Rousseau his ancestor Didier, a bookseller who may have published Protestant tracts, had escaped persecution from French Catholics by fleeing to Geneva in 1549 where he became a wine merchant. Rousseau was proud that his family, of the moyen order (or middle-class), had voting rights in the city. Throughout his life, he generally signed his books "Jean Jacques Rousseau, Citizen of Geneva". Geneva, in theory, was governed democratically by its male voting "citizens". The citizens were a minority of the population when compared to the immigrants referred to as "inhabitants" whose descendants were called "natives" and continued to lack suffrage. In fact, rather than be run by vote of the "citizens" the city was ruled by a small number of wealthy families that made up the "Council of Two Hundred", these delegated their power to a twenty-five member executive group from among them called the "Little Council". There was much political debate within Geneva, extending down to the tradespeople. Much discussion was over the idea of the sovereignty of the people, which the ruling class oligarchy was making a mockery of. In 1707, a democratic reformer named Pierre Fatio protested at this situation, saying "A sovereign that never performs an act of sovereignty is an imaginary being." He was shot by order of the Little Council. Jean-Jacques Rousseau's father Isaac was not in the city at this time, but Jean-Jacques's grandfather supported Fatio and was penalized for it.
The house where Rousseau was born at number 40, place du Bourg-de-Four. The trade of watchmaking had become a family tradition by the time of Rousseau's father, Isaac Rousseau. Isaac followed his grandfather, father and brothers into the business, except for a short stint teaching...
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