In his Lectures on the History of Philosophy Hegel credits Rousseau with an epoch-making innovation in the realm of practical philosophy, an innovation said to consist in the fact that Rousseau is the first thinker to recognize “the free will” as the fundamental principle of political philosophy. 1 Since Hegel’s own practical philosophy is explicitly grounded in an account of the will and its freedom, Hegel’s assertion is clearly intended as an acknowledgment of his deep indebtedness to Rousseau’s social and political thought. What is not so clear, however, is how this indebtedness is to be understood: What precisely does it mean to say that the political theories of Hegel and Rousseau share the same first principle? In this paper I intend to follow up on this interpretive suggestion of Hegel’s by elaborating, much more explicitly than he himself does, the sense in which Rousseau’s political thought is founded on the principle of the “free will.” While accomplishing this task will put us in a better position to clarify the obscure philosophical strategy behind Hegel’s own social theory, my primary interest here is to illuminate the foundations of Rousseau’s political thought, especially its account of the connection between freedom and the general will. I argue that it is necessary to distinguish two ways in which Rousseau takes the general will to secure, or realize, the freedom of individual citizens, namely, by functioning as an embodiment as well as a precondition of such freedom. Understanding both of these points will lead us to see that Rousseau’s thought rests on two distinct, though not incompatible, accounts of how citizens whose actions are constrained by the general will are in fact subject only to their own wills and therefore free in their obedience to the general will. As we shall see, these two accounts are implicitly based upon distinct conceptions of political freedom, 246which, for reasons I discuss below, can be characterized respectively as “subjective” and “objective” conceptions of freedom. My claim is that to ignore either of these conceptions is to leave out an essential element of Rousseau’s understanding of how citizens achieve their freedom within the rational state.