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Williams And Burke And The Revolution

2532 words - 11 pages

The French Revolution, which took place at the end of the 18th century, was perhaps the most significant revolution in history to date. Not only did it have an enormous impact on politics and social order within France but also across the European continent which was, at that period in history, the fulcrum of civilisation and modernity. A bitter dispute ensued about the French principles of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’. This essay intends to focus on the impact that the Revolution had on Britain at that time and we will reflect on the influence that literary writings had upon shaping Britain’s views of the revolution and its espoused ideals, and in turn the consequences that they ...view middle of the document...

Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and Williams’ Letters Written in France, In the Summer of 1790 offered vastly different perspectives on the events that were unfolding in France and it is worth studying just how both writers managed to portray the same events in such different lights. A thorough analyse of both texts allows us to draw our own conclusions about the revolution and also about British attitudes towards society, class and politics at that time. It is also worth noting the the historical relationship between Britain and France had been a fractious one for many centuries previous, and also that Britain had its own civil war in the 17th century from which an intellectual revolution surfaced, very different to the violent eruptions that were to take place in France. Due to that distant relationship which Britain had with France, thinkers, essayists and commentators were able to form a more considered critique of the Revolution.
Up until the time of the publication of Reflections on The Revolution in France, Edmund Burke had been both a parliamentarian and political writer who had delivered many great speeches and written notable essays on the politics of the British Empire and particularly its relationship with America. Therefore prior to the release of Reflections Burke had a significant voice within the British political sphere. It was this prominence in Britain that would provide Burke with the platform from which to launch the publication of Reflections and cast a significant argument against the revolution that would strengthen the already conservative beliefs of the Loyalists. Despite the division that was created there was an overall sense that Britain initially viewed the revolution as being beneficial to them as it suggested the weakening of their great enemy France. Nonetheless the division was great and sparked countless debates, amongst higher social classes in particular.
The source of Relfections on The Revolution in France came from Edmund Burke writing in response to a French aristocrat who had asked him to write to him with Burke’s views on the Revolution, to which Burke replied with two letters, the latter of which would become Reflections. They have also been interpreted as a response to two speeches given by Joseph Priestly and Richard Price, both of whom were advocates of the Revolution’s ideals. What is immediately evident in Burke’s letter is just how shocked he was by what was taking place in France, even though the great violence of the Revolution would occur years after that.
All circumstances taken together, the French revolution is the most astonishing that has hitherto happened in the world. The most wonderful things are brought about, in many instances by means the most absurd and ridiculous, in the most ridiculous modes, and apparently by the most contemptible instruments. Everything seems out of nature in this strange chaos of levity and ferocity, and of all sorts of crimes jumbled...

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