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HIS109Y1 Lecture Notes - William Godwin, French Revolution, Romanticism

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Kenneth Bartlett

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Feb. 14th, 2011
Radicalism & Socialism
Elements that helped define European civilization that separates it from other
societies in terms of depth & size in organizations that we call radical
Political movements that exist to this day we associate with those that began in
the 19th century
What were the circumstances that gave rise to these schisms?
Movements that dominated the 19th century came from: 1) heritage of the 18th
century Enlightenment, & 2) consequences of industrialization
Enlightenment: structuring of a comprehensible universe definition of
Newtons laws & physics showed that there were laws that were absolute & immutable,
& those that are mutable that we can change to make lives on earth better
Most radical of the 18th century thinkers was Rousseau
Locke natural right of humanity to life & liberty
Rousseau, Social Contract: much of the misery that resulted in society came from
private property, and the desire of those that owned property to protect it from those
that did not; land ownership could not be a natural, inalienable right, ownership of
private property is a diversion from natural law
Also says that the role of the great mass of society to exercise their right to
legislate on their own behalf, went against traditional notion that those who own
property who legislate ( legislate against the natural will to ensure that their
monopoly on land will be protected)
By definition are oppressive, should be disobeyed, & undone by force if necessary
land owners against the natural law & general will of people
Initial revolution of France did not address these issues (were landowning
They did not want to interfere with rights to land ownership (private property
entrenched in the constitution)
Call for liberty, fraternity, & equality led the peasants to revolt against what they
believed to be the instruments of their oppression
Concept of private property was already being assaulted during the French
Radicalism: argues for the restructuring & reorganizing of society from the roots
up leaving nothing of the traditional order
Terror: had to have a certain amount of property to vote
There were still disciples of Robespierre & radicalism during the Napoleonic era
Intellectual radicals wanted complete fundamental rebuilding
Francois (Gracchus) Babeuf (1760-1797)

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Preached a doctrine that society had to be completely egalitarian if we were to
return to natural way of life
Had to be a structure for this, put this forward in an interpretation of the Social
All men & women should enjoy exact imposed equality in all things put
forward in his Manifesto of the conspiracy of equals
Followers were lower class Parisians who had been ruined by experiments of the
government brought these people high hopes, then the fall of the Jacobins
demonstrated that property ownership were too great
Manifesto a call to continuous revolution
Immediate appropriation of property, leadership from the lower classes of Paris
Directory wanted order & a return to stability
Ripples of revolutionary ideas slipped into every corner of European society
Groups of radicals emerged that adopted a logical extension of the French
revolution to their own nation
As soon as people without property entered this radical arena then the
authority acted, leaders were not incarcerated but rather the unskilled workers
Radicalism was championed in England
William Godwin (1756-1836)
Connected to the Romantic Movement desire to create a new world
Was a disciple of the Enlightenment
God was not the answer, God got in the way; the solution was reason
Embraced Enlightenment & reason
Link to the utopian generations
Threw out the traditions of the society in which he was bon, those which he
thought restrained imagination
Father of anarchism attack on any form of restriction
Believed mankind perfectible & inherently good
Religion used to ensure obedience
Sins of other shouldnt be punished, but rehabilitated (take away prisons)
Morally good was that which promised the good of the group highest happiness
is promoting the happiness of the group
No need for government or religion
Hated legal binding contracts, saw any contractual agreement slavery (especially
that of marriage)
Private property is ok, nothing wrong with having it, however its distribution
must be left to the discretion of the group
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