Joseph, count de, an Italian statesman, born in Chambery, Savov, April 1, 1754, died in Turin, Feb. 26, 1821. His father was president of the senate of Savoy. After having studied at the university of Turin, he entered the magistracy in 1775, and became a member of the senate in January, 1788. The invasion of Savoy by the French in 1792 obliged him to retire to Turin; and when the king had to give up his possessions on the continent (December, 1798), De Maistre followed him to the island of Sardinia, where be was appointed grand chancellor. This office he retained till 1803, when he was sent as ambassador to St. Petersburg. He remained at the Russian court 14 years, and wielded for some time considerable influence over the czar Alexander. On his return to Turin (1817) he was appointed minister of state and regent of the grand chancery. He commenced his literary career with an Eloge du roi Victor Amedee (1775). In an early speech made at the opening of the senate he remarked: "Our age has distinguished itself by a destructive spirit which has spared nothing, neither laws, customs, nor political institutions; it has attacked all, shaken all, and the devastation will extend to limits which no one can as yet foresee." He wrote several works against the revolutionary party in France, among which his Considerations sur la France (1796) had the the greatest circulation.
Notwithstanding the strictest prohibition, three editions appeared in Paris in one year. In 1810 he published at St. Petersburg an Essai sur le principe genera-teur des constitutionspolitiques et des autres institutions humaines, the object of which was to show that God is the immediate source of all authority upon earth, and every attack upon religion is a prelude to the destruction of social and political order. A translation of a work of Plutarch, Sur les delais de la justice divine dans la punition des coupables, with notes, appeared at Lyons in 1816. His most celebrated work is Du pape (Lyons, 1819). It treats of the pope from four points of view: 1, in his relation to the Catholic church; 2, to temporal sovereignties; 3, to the civilization and happiness of the nations; 4, to the schismatic churches. It is considered as one of the standard Catholic works in favor of the infallibility of the pope, which it infers from the necessity of an infallible authority in the spiritual order. Infallibility in the spiritual order is declared to be synonymous with sovereignty in the temporal order.
From the same standpoint he attacked the Gallicans in the work Be VEglise gallicane dans son rapport avec le souverain pontife, pour servir de suite a Vouvrage intitule: Du pape (Lyons, 1821). Among his other works are the Soirees de St. Petersbourg, ou Entretiens sur le gouvernenient temporal de la providence (2 vols., Paris, 1821), in which the justness of war and capital punishment is strongly advocated, and Lettre d'un gentil-homme russe sur Vinquisition espagnole (Paris, 1822). In his posthumous Examen de la philosophic de Bacon (Paris, 1836) he depreciates the English philosopher, and disparages critical philosophy in general. A very lively discussion was called forth by the publication of another posthumous work, Memoires politiques et correspondance diplomatique de Joseph de Maistre, avec explications et commentaires his-toriques, by Albert Blanc (2 vols., Paris, 1858-'60), many passages in which seemed not fully to agree with his other writings. De Maistre's son Rodolphe published Quatre chapitres ine-dits sur la Russie, par le comte J. de Maistre (Paris, 1859).
Count De Xavier, a miscellaneous author, brother of the preceding, born in Chambery in October, 1764, died in St. Petersburg, June 12, 1852. In early life he entered the military service of Sardinia, but upon the conquest of the country by the French he emigrated to Russia, and supported himself for some time by his pencil. After the arrival of his brother as ambassador in St. Petersburg, he was appointed in 1805 director of the library and museum of the admiralty. He soon afterward entered the Russian army as lieutenant colonel, and participated in the war against Persia, in which he obtained the rank of major general. He subsequently established himself in St. Petersburg, and devoted the remainder of his life to literary and scientific pursuits. In 1794, being known then as a chemist and as a landscape painter, he published at Turin an ingenious philosophical tritle, entitled Voyage autour de ma chambre, which had great popularity, and of which numerous imitations of various degrees of merit subsequently appeared. In 1811 appeared Les leprevx de la vallee d'Aosle (translated into English, Philadelphia, 1825), a work founded on fact, and not less creditable to the author's literary capacity than to his humanity.
It was followed by the Prisonniers du Caucase, and Prascovie, ou la jeune Siberienne (translated into English, Philadelphia, 1826), both containing vivid and truthful pictures of scenery and manners in the eastern and southern provinces of the Russian empire. His popular Voyage was followed by Expedition nocturne autour de ma cham-bre (1825). An edition of his works was published at Paris in 1822, in 3 vols. 18mo.