Disliking the principles of the Revolution, he emigrated in 1791, joined the army of the Prince of Condé, and soon afterwards settled at Heidelberg. There he wrote his first important work, the highly conservative Theorie du pouvoir politique et religieux (3 vols., 1796; new ed., Paris, 1854, 2 vols.), which was condemned by the Directory.
Returning to France he found himself an object of suspicion, and was obliged to live in retirement. In 1806, he was associated with Chateaubriand and Joseph Fiévée in the conduct of the Mercure de France, and two years later was appointed councillor of the Imperial University which he had often attacked. After the Bourbon Restoration he was a member of the council of public instruction, and from ] to 1822 sat in the chamber as deputy. His speeches were extremely conservative and he advocated literary censorship.
In 1822 he was made minister of state, and presided over the censorship commission. In the following year he was made a peer, a dignity which he lost through refusing to take the oath in 1830. From 1816, he had been a member of the [[Académie française. He took no part in public affairs after 1830, but retired to his seat at Le Monna, where he died on the 23rd of November 1840.
Bonald was one of the leading writers of the theocratic or traditionalist school, which included de Maistre, Lamennais, Ballanche and baron Ferdinand d'Eckstein. His writings are mainly on social and political philosophy, and are based ultimately on one great principle, the divine origin of language. In his own words, "L'homme pense sa parole avant de parler sa pensée" (man thinks his sppech before saying his thought}; the first language contained the essence of all truth. From this he deduces the existence of God, the divine origin and consequent supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures, and the infallibility of the church.
While this thought lies at the root of all his speculations there is a formula of constant application. All relations may be stated as the triad of cause, means and effect, which he sees repeated throughout nature. Thus, in the universe, he finds the first cause as mover, movement as the means, and bodies as the result; in the state, power as the cause, ministers as the means, and subjects as the effects; in the family, the same relation is exemplified by father, mother and children. These three terms bear specific relations to one another; the first is to the second as the second to the third. Thus, in the great triad of the religious world--God, the Mediator, and Man--God is to the God-Man as the God-Man is to Man. On this basis he constructed a system of political absolutism.
Bonald's style is remarkably fine; ornate, but pure and vigorous. Many fruitful thoughts are scattered among his works, but his strength lay in the vigour and sincerity of his statements rather than in cogency of reasoning.