Youth[ edit ] Rousseau was born in Geneva , which was at the time a city-state and a Protestant associate of the Swiss Confederacy. Since , 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 , where he became a wine merchant. 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 being 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.