Apologies if this is the wrong site, I didn't know whether to post this question on literature or history or here.

The title says all. A book cited verbatim this quote by Leon Gambetta without a translation.

What does

La souveraineté du but


As requested by @anonymous2 I'll add some context.

The book is Imperial Germany By Prince of Bülow.
The full quote is:

Once embarked upon a war, England has always ruthlessly devoted all means at her disposal to its prosecution. English policy was always guided by what Gambetta called "la souveraineté du but."

  • 1
    Could you include a longer passage or at least an exact reference? It seems to me that the expression used could refer to a few different things depending largely on the context of its usage. Thanks!
    – anonymous2
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 13:41

2 Answers 2


Souverain means "accountable to no one."

Souveraineté du but is a political doctrine where la fin justifie les moyens (The ends justify the means), it is also behind what is called raison d'État (National interest).

This means that in order to achieve an higher interest goal (or considered as such), unjust, immoral, violent, unethical methods are acceptable.

An extreme example of this doctrine is la Terreur, a period that followed the French revolution.

The expression souveraineté du but is rarely used nowadays, it was more of a topic in the 19th century.


Found here

La souveraineté du but, se dit d'un but auquel on subordonne, on sacrifie tout.

Here but is the goal to achieve. That means a goal for which we can sacrifice anything.

  • Thanks for the answer. In this case does souveraineté means that the actions are governed by the goal? Something that could by translated with a concise sentence like "The power of the goal".
    – FluidCode
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 14:10
  • Or even «the superiority of the goal». But I am not expert for English.
    – Ptit Xav
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 14:13
  • 1
    More than "the power of the goal", it would be "the absolute priority of the goal". Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 14:39
  • In English, a similar expression is "the ends justify the means". Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 14:57
  • @PeterShor : en français : «la fin justifie les moyens»
    – Ptit Xav
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 16:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.