Background in 1780s

1) World both smaller and larger

a) "known" world smaller-what was known

i) main outlines of continents but little of interiors

ii) Population distribution in 1800

(1) 2 of 3 humans Asian

(2) 1 of 5 Europeans

(3) 1 of 10 Africans

(4) 1 of 35 American

b) Much vaster because of sheer difficulty of travel and communication

i) by land

(1) London to Glasgow postal service

(a) in 1760, 10-12 days

(b) in 1800, 62 hours

(2) Most goods moved by carts

(a) Even by early 19th C in France, 5/6 of all goods transported by cart

ii) by water

(1) much easier and safer

(2) Plymouth "closer" to London than a village in East Anglia

(3) World capitals "closer" than English Midlands

iii) Mobility

(1) As late as 1861 9 out of 10 people in 70 out of 90 French departments lived in the departments of their birth

2) World overwhelmingly rural

a) really divided urban, provincial and rural

b) provincial tied more closely to rural economy than urban

c) agrarian world divided into three types of economic relationships

i) colonial worked by slaves

ii) feudal worked by serfs

iii) "modern" freeholders or tenant farmers

3) Into this "Enlightenment"

a) Reason is the most significant and positive capacity of the human

b) reason enables one to break free from primitive, dogmatic, and superstitious beliefs holding one in the bonds of irrationality and ignorance

c) in realizing the liberating potential of reason, one not only learns to think correctly, but to act correctly as well

d) through philosophical and scientific progress, reason can lead humanity as a whole to a state of earthly perfection

e) reason makes all humans equal and, therefore, deserving of equal liberty and treatment before the law

f) beliefs of any sort should be accepted only on the basis of reason, and not on traditional or priestly authority

g) all human endeavors should seek to impart and develop knowledge, not feelings or character

French Revolution

1) Why the French Revolution is so Fundamental

a) France the most populous (except Russia) and most influential (excepting none) state in Europe

b) A mass social revolution with very radical elements

c) Ecumenical—leaders sought to export revolution (literally) through its Army; was exported as an idea

2) What brought it about?

a) Failure to reform

i) Turgot, Louis XVI’s finance minister sought to enact reforms (1774-6)

(1) more efficient use of land

(2) free enterprise and trade

(3) a bureaucratic state (rational procedures)

(4) single homogenous national territory

(5) equitable treatment for all areas of nation

ii) reforms failed because

(1) opposed by vested interests: noble landowners; clerical landowners

(2) opposed by king

h) The "Feudal Reaction"

i) Monarchy ruled absolutely—stripped nobles of all power

ii) Nobles (about 400,000 out of 23 million French in 1780) enjoy some privileges (exemption from certain taxes, able to levy dues on peasants) but are barred from earning income in any profession

iii) Therefore they increasingly take government jobs although they are not trained to do them, thus squeezing out the middle class more capable of performing these tasks

iv) Nobles also attempt to increase income by further squeezing peasants

v) Peasants (about 80% of population) were free and some even owned land, but majority were landless and powerless—they paid dues (sort of like rent but unlike rent not tied to market) to nobles, tithes to the church, and taxes to the king

vi) French economy a disaster waiting to happen

i) Financing the American Revolution

i) France’s help to US (to defeat its most significant rival England) bankrupts the state

ii) Royal extravagance, popularly cited as cause of French bankruptcy but it was not; in 1788

(1) Court expenditure 6%

(2) Armed Forces 25%

(3) Debt service 50%

4) The Various Revolutions

a) 1788-1789

i) Nobles attempt to use bankruptcy to restore noble power—parlements and so forth

ii) National Assembly formed to write constitution

iii) Counter-Revolution produces real revolution—threat of pro-monarchy forces moving against nobles and bourgeosie lead to mass social revolution

(1) Bastille falls

(2) "Grande peur" of July/August 1789

(3) French gov’t in fragments

b) 1789-1791

i) Constituent Assembly formed

ii) King resists reforms, flees, and is captured

iii) Institution of free market principles produces price fluctuations and widespread hardship and panic

iv) Rise of radical factions opposed to moderate attempts at reform

(1) Sans-culottes pushes for "little man"—essentially return to idyllic past free of private property

(2) Jacobins—far left, radicalize revolution

c) 1792

i) War pushed by extreme right and moderate left

(1) Extreme right, monarchists, sought foreign intervention to restore monarchy; foreign states worried about domino-effect—the spread of revolutionary ideas to their own states

(2) Moderate left wanted to spread the revolution to all of Europe

ii) War declared in April 1792; France defeated within months; Duke of Brunswick with troops at the edge of Paris issues an ultimatum to the French people

iii) Defeat seen as responsibility of royalist sympathizers

iv) Result

(1) Royal palaces overrun

(2) Monarchy overthrown

(3) King imprisoned

(4) Mob violence exacted on "sympathizers" of the king (1200 publicly executed)

v) Girondins come to power, but as moderates in a polarized state they cannot hold power for long

d) The Terror

i) Jacobins overthrow Girondins; Terror begins

ii) Committee for Public Safety under Robespierre becomes most powerful ministry

iii) 17,000 executed in fourteen months (including all of royal family)

iv) Eventually Jacobin leaders themselves (Danton, Marat, Saint-Just, Robespierre) are executed

e) Jacobin Success

i) Preserved country and revolution

(1) brought all of France under central control

(2) Repelled foreign invaders

(3) stabilized currency and economy

ii) mobilized mass support for revolutionary principles

(1) abolished all remaining feudal rights

(2) abolished slavery

iii) Policies win war, but overall masses alienated

iv) Jacobins overthrown in Ninth Thermidor (July 1794)

f) Thermidor

i) Government by the Directory—a weak unpopular gov’t that relied on the Army

ii) Army rises in power

(1) looting finances gov’t

(2) open to talent (democratic institution)

(3) Myth of Napoleon—common man who becomes world leader


English Responses

1) France finally taking steps already taken by English—"revolution" of 1688

2) Unfinished revolution of 1688: Dr. Richard Price "On the Love of our Country" (4 Nov 1789)

a) 1688 based on

i) liberty of conscience

ii) right to resist power when abused

iii) Right to choose and reject rulers

b) Unfinished business

i) should abolish Test and Corporation Acts (which violate (1) above)

ii) should reform representation in Parliament

3) Dangers of Revolution: Burke

a) responds to Price sermon

b) best societies and political structures were organic—grew and matured over time

c) political societies were partnerships between the dead, the living, and the yet born (mortmain)

d) best arrangements sanctified by custom and tradition

e) Other Loyalist Responses

i) Burke’s support of war—war as ideological; English constitutionalism under threat

ii) Anti-Jacobin Review—gov’t sponsored satiric "journal"

iii) Hannah More—class training: Cheap Repository Tracts

iv) Church and King mobs

4) Support for Revolution: Paine

a) men had the right to decide for themselves on their form of gov’t

b) this could not be set by prior generations

c) no justification for custom or tradition in gov’t

d) Other Radical Variations

i) Thomas Spence—Spenceans: abolition of private property; supported armed insurrection

ii) John Thelwall—natural rights: responsibility of society to workers

iii) William Godwin—human perfectability: not natural rights, but future perfectability of humanity; "universal benevolence" will rule; no one had the right to use his/her talents for his own benefit; no ties stronger than universal ties

iv) Mary Wollstonecraft—early "feminism": calls for education for women so that they might be better partners for men and better mothers to children

5) These responses part of larger argument between ideas of

a) The Enlightenment—Reason

b) Romanticism—more than reason? (note that this division does not hold up)

c) Whig historiography implies that the radicals "won the intellectual arguments of the 1790s, but that they were repressed by a British ‘terror’ . . . [however more recent work] suggests that a strong faith in the virtues of the British constitution, together with a general resistance to chance, meant that radical ideas were defeated as much, if not more so, by the appeal of an innate conservatism rather than by government-sponsored repression" (Emsley 20)


Helena Maria Williams

1) emphasis on

a) sublime transformation

b) sentimental pictures to encourage Revolution

c) shocking tales of abuse by past gov’t of France (feeds anti-French bias)

d) Revolution trinket (61); trivializing sublime—worst crime

2) Christie’s letter (64-66)

a) turn of English radicals away from Revolution

b) asserts English were the first revolutionaries

c) faster pace of French Revolution blamed on technology

d) began in wisdom, passed to fools

e) again technology will save us: principles can no longer be lost

Edmund Burke

1) Revolution Contradictory to nature

a) Revolution is out of nature (67)

b) "spirit of innovation" contrary (69)

c) True gov’t in line with nature—organic (69)

2) Conservation

a) liberty an "entailed" inheritance (i.e. comes with conditions)

b) mortmain—our responsibility to the past and to the future

3) Real rights

a) equal rights but not to equal things

b) open to talent, but subject to inheritance—present equality built on historic inequality

4) Death of Chivalry

a) gothic images, language—polluted palace (71)

b) lurid image of Queen’s arrest (71)

c) Age of Chivalry dead (72)—paternalistic view

d) "swinish multitude" (74)

Mary Wollstonecraft

1) Chastises sensibility (Burke); elevates Reason

2) Rejects antiquity and natural law

a) example of slavery (79)

b) Primogeniture as destructive of ambition

c) Agrees chivalry is gone—good!

3) Champions poor

a) rich more interested in their landscape than in caring for their tenants

b) depiction of London—squalid city of poor (84)

Thomas Paine

1) Rejects heredity and mortmain

a) "Man has no property in man" (85)

2) Revolution rational and principled

a) Distinguishes between practice of despotism and principles—must eliminate principles not just practice

b) rational contemplation of the rights of man (88)

c) All history points to "unity of man"—born equal (89)

William Godwin

1) Responsibility to the Whole

a) Justice is a rule of conduct originating in the connection of one begin with another (mutuality) (91)

b) Greater Good

i) Whom should we save? The archbishop or the chamber maid?

ii) The archbishop because

(1) he will create greater good

(2) I have no ties that are more important than any other ties

(3) rejects natural rights and even equality

c) Reason exalted

i) Why do we have Reason if we cannot act on its findings?

ii) It cannot lead to mischief because it is tied to utility—how can something useful be mischievous?

2) What do we do?

a) "If then we would improve the social institutions of mankind, we must write, we must argue, we must converse. To this business, there is no close; in this pursuit there should be no pause" (94)

The Anti-Jacobin

1) Satire on "benevolence"

a) The Friend of humanity who asks to hear the knife-grinder’s story of oppression

b) The knife-grinder’s story—lost money in drinking; asks for sixpence

c) friend of humanity refuses on revolutionary principles and proceeds to attack knife-grinder

Hannah More

1) Pokes fun at rustics and yet aims to educate them

2) Appeals to

a) xenophobia

i) distrust of French ideas

ii) distrust of "excessive" rationalism

iii) caricature of French as atheists

b) fear of anarchy at home

c) Burke’s argument—why get rid of the old ways?

d) "Old England"—unthinking patriotism—Church and King

3) Claims that

a) mutuality—division of labor naturalized

b) hierarchy is sanctioned by providence (103)

c) Bible sanctions monarchy

d) Supply-side economics—trickle down wealth

Arthur Young

1) Initially supportive of Revolution

a) paints dismal picture of France before Revolution

i) backward country

ii) extreme poverty

2) Opposes Revolution—too far

a) "the legislation of wolves"

b) "the mob of Paris"

c) results dismal (110)

3) The threat to England

a) justifies war as needed to protect England (112)