The Execution of Louis XVI, 21 Jan 1793
The French Revolution: Mary
Wollstonecraft and Thomas Paine
Things to Consider:
- Connection to American Revolutionary Rhetoric (see
Declaration of Independence )
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)
- How does Wollstonecraft define the rights of men? How
does this definition compare with Burke's on page 199?
- Explain: "The demon of property has ever been at hand
to encroach on the sacred rights of men" (205).
- How accurately does Wollstonecraft present Burke's
- Explain: "[T]rue happiness [arises] from the
friendship and intimacy which can only be enjoyed by equals" (206).
Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
- Explain: "[P]rescription can never undermine natural
The Rights of Man (1791)
- Explain: "The vanity and presumption of governing
beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all
tyrannies" (210). To what aspect of Burke's argument is
Excerpts from the full text :
- According to Paine, how does the revolution in France
differ from past revolutions in other European countries?
- Explain: "A law not repealed continues in force,
not because it cannot be repealed, but because it is
not repealed; and the non-repealing passes for
- Explain: "He pities the plumage, but forgets the
- Explain: "A nation has at all times an inherent
indefeasible right to abolish any form of government it finds
inconvenient, and to establish such as accords with its
interest, disposition and happiness."
Other Discussion Questions:
- Explain: "[T]ruth, in morals, has ever appeared to me
the essence of the sublime; and, in taste, simplicity the
only criterion of the beautiful" (195).
- What is the difference between manners and morals, in
- Explain: "The whole tenor of his plausible
arguments settles slavery on an everlasting foundation" (207).
- Explain: "Security of property! Behold, in a few words, the
definition of English liberty" (207).
- Explain this quote from Burke: "'They must be
taught their consolation in the final proportions of eternal
justice'" (qtd. 208).
- What is the "fostering sun of kindness" (208)?
- How, according to Wollstonecraft, can the suffering of the
poor be ameliorated?
- Explain: "A casual discontinuance of the practice
of despotism, is not a discontinuance of its principles" (211).
- How, according to Paine, is it true that despotism
"divides and subdivides itself" (211).
- Explain: "It is power, and not principles, that Mr.
Burke venerates" (212).
- Explain: "[P]rinciples, and not persons,
were tbe meditated objects of destruction" (213).
Another text to Consider (Not in our
William Godwin (1756-1836)
- What does anarchist political philosophy involve?
- Explain: "If justice have any meaning, it is just
that I should contribute every thing in my power to the
benefit of the whole" (140).
- According to Godwin, should we in fact "'love our neighbour
as ourselves'" (140)? Explain.
- Who is François
- Why were all the references to females subsequently
- Is Godwin's argument regarding the chambermaid a
sympathetic one? Explain.
- Explain: "That life ought to be preferred which
will be most conducive to the general good" (141).
- Explain: "Gratitude . . . is
no part either of justice or virtue" (141).
- Explain: "If the extraordinary case should occur in
which I can promote the general good by my death more than by
my life, justice requires that I should be content to die"
- What is the one thing political institutions can
- What, according to Godwin, is the difference between
"informing the people and inflaming them" (143)?
- Why must there be a "lapse of years" before reducing theory
"into actual execution" (132)?
- Why is Godwin opposed to cohabitation?
- How does Godwin's views of marriage compare with
Wollstonecraft's (see 122, as well as her Vindication of
the Rights of Women, esp. 300-308).
- How, according to Godwin, is the institution of marriage
"a system of fraud" (144)?
- Explain: "Positive laws which are made to restrain our
vices, irritate and multiply them" (132-33).
- Why, according to Godwin, will it no longer be important
to know the identity of children's fathers?
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