BECK index

Britain’s Reaction to France 1789-1799

by Sanderson Beck

Britain Debating Revolution 1789-92
Paine and The Rights of Man
Paine’s Age of Reason
Wollstonecraft on the Rights of Women
Godwin on Political Justice
Britain at War Against France 1793-95
Britain at War Against France 1796-99
Ireland’s Rebellion in 1798 and Union

Britain Debating Revolution 1789-92

Britain of Georges I-III 1714-88

      In January 1789 George III began to recover from his serious mental illness. Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger submitted a bill on 5 February to form a regency that passed in the House of Commons on the 12th. On the 10th the doctor said the King could see people, and his recovery persuaded the Lords to defeat the bill. On the 23rd George III resumed his correspondence with Pitt, and the next day the Leeds Intelligencer reported that the King was “perfectly recovered.” On 23 April a thanksgiving service was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral. People lined the streets of London to pray that “God save the King,” and sponsors enabled the poor to participate. The Irish Whig Party formed in 1789 but alienated the English during the regency crisis.
      In December 1788 the King’s Privy Council had set up a committee to investigate the slave trade, and in May 1789 Pitt persuaded the House of Commons to form a committee to study the issue. The religious dissenters of the London Revolution Society praised the ending of French despotism and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. They favored repealing the Test Act of 1673 and the Corporation Act of 1661, and in the autumn of 1789 the regional boards of three denominations demanded repeal. Joseph Priestley complained that dissenters were forced to pay tithes to the Anglican Church.
      Richard Price gave a speech on 4 November 1789 to the London Revolution Society, which was formed to commemorate the 1688 revolution in Great Britain, and he published it as his Discourse on the Love of Our Country that included the following principles of revolution:

First, the right to liberty of conscience in religious matters.
Secondly, the right to resist power when abused.
And thirdly, the right to choose our own governors,
to cashier them for misconduct,
and to frame a government for ourselves.1

      On 13 March 1790 conservatives in London founded the Church and King Club to oppose radical reforms, and many branches formed in England. In the June elections Pitt’s Tory party won 340 seats to 188 for the opposition and 29 independents. Pitt and Charles James Fox worked for some progressive values, and in April they sponsored the Catholic Relief Bill that passed. Patriotic groups such as the United Britons, United Englishmen, United Scotsmen, and United Irishmen opposed injustice, corruption, discrimination, and elitism and wanted all religious and economic restrictions removed, giving all adult men equal rights.
      Although the conservative politician Edmund Burke had supported the Americans’ rights, he reacted to Price’s Discourse and criticized the French Revolution on 9 February 1790 for having torn down their monarchy, church, nobility, law, revenue, army, navy, commerce, arts, and manufactures. He did not agree with Price that the “inequality of representation” should be overthrown. During the debate on repealing the religious Test and Corporation Acts on 2 March Burke warned that a rising generation of dissenters could destroy the Church.
      On 1 November Burke published his Reflections on the French Revolution which sold 7,000 copies in the first week, 32,000 in the first year, and had eleven editions. He was concerned that the abstract morals which energized the revolution would bring about a dangerous democracy that devalued tradition and the hereditary aristocracy and would destroy the developed material and spiritual prosperity. He contrasted Britain’s “Glorious Revolution of 1688” that preserved the monarchy to the current French Revolution that seemed intent on overthrowing the ancient regime. Burke liked a liberty with order through justice and believed that progress comes gradually and not by radical changes. He noted that flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver and that it is of no more service to the people than it is to kings. He especially criticized Price’s new rights “to choose our own government, to cashier them for misconduct, and to frame a government for ourselves.” Burke argued that a hereditary crown preserves hereditary rights that are sacred. He rejected the “improved liberty” that was in fashion in Paris. He wrote,

The characteristic essence of property,
formed out of the combined principles
of its acquisition and conservation, is to be unequal….
The power of perpetuating our property in our families is
one of the most valuable and interesting circumstances
belonging to it, and that which tends the most
to the perpetuation of society itself.
It makes our weakness subservient to our virtue;
it grafts benevolence even upon avarice.2

      Burke objected to 24 million people prevailing over 200,000 in France. He believed that human passions must be controlled by an external power. He reasonably blamed the revolution for using plots, massacres, and assassinations. Yet he believed that a state-established religion is needed to overawe free citizens, and he warned that a “literary cabal” was plotting to destroy the Christian religion. He learned from history that the world’s miseries are caused by “pride, ambition, avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, and all the train of disorderly appetites” and that “religion, morals, laws, prerogatives, privileges, liberties, rights of men, are the pretexts.”3 He described his conservative principles this way:

Good order is the foundation of all good things.
To be enabled to acquire,
the people, without being servile,
must be tractable and obedient.
The magistrate must have his reverence,
the laws their authority.
The body of the people must not find the principles
of natural subordination by art rooted out of their minds.
They must respect that property of which they cannot partake.
They must labour to obtain what by labour can be obtained;
and when they find, as they commonly do,
the success disproportioned to the endeavour,
they must be taught their consolation
in the final proportions of eternal justice.4

      Burke replied to Paine’s Rights of Man on 3 August 1791 with his Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs to distinguish himself from the Francophile Whig ideas adopted by Fox. Burke argued that to let the people choose the monarch would subject the crown to the Commons. He was afraid that the English constitutional ideals would be corrupted, and he believed that inequality in wealth is a necessary condition of social justice. He noted that the anarchy in France had divided the country against itself.
      Edmund Burke believed in religion consecrating the secular state and the acceptance of hierarchical rank and property. Yet he claimed that he supported the compatibility of rational self-interest with the good of the whole. He warned that moral idealism could destroy the existing social order.
      Joseph Priestley had optimistic hopes for the French Revolution, and in January 1791 he published his Letters to Burke. In 1792 the Whig politician James Mackintosh replied to Burke by publishing his Vindiciae Gallicae: A Defence of the French Revolution and its English Admirers, and Charles Fox praised it as the most just treatment of the French Revolution.
      On 18 April 1790 the philanthropist William Wilberforce had moved to end importation of slaves into the West Indies, and his opposition to slavery was supported by Pitt and Fox; but the motion was defeated 163-88. In the next year the abolitionists gathered a half million signatures on 519 petitions that were submitted to Parliament. Despite fear over the slave revolt in Saint Domingue, Wilberforce’s motion to end the slave trade gradually passed 193-125 in April 1792, though abolition of slavery failed 230-80.
      The Society for Constitutional Information, which had been suspended since 1784, was restored in 1791. In Birmingham on 14 July a mob attacked local dissenters and the Lunar Society, and the riots continued until a regiment of dragoons sent by George III arrived three days later. Joseph Priestley had his house, laboratory, and church destroyed by fire and narrowly escaped. All together 27 homes, three Unitarian meeting houses, and one Baptist chapel were badly damaged. In a public letter to the Manchester Constitutional Society on 3 October Priestley wrote,

Indeed, all violence is a confession of failure
in point of argument;
and what greater triumph can the Friends of Liberty wish for,
since the effects of violence are temporary,
whereas the conquests of reason are permanent?5

      Rev. Horne Tooke helped revive the Society for Constitutional Information in 1791, and reform societies formed in the provinces. In November the Sheffield Society for Constitutional Information was organized and then split into smaller clubs. By March 1792 they had nearly 2,000 members. Parliament opened on 31 January.
      On 25 January 1792 the shoemaker Thomas Hardy appealed to working people and with eight other men founded the London Corresponding Society (LCS) to encourage constitutional discussion. One of their first leading rules was “that the number of our Members be unlimited.” Within six months they claimed to have over 2,000 members. One of the three questions they were to affirm was,

Are you thoroughly persuaded that the welfare
of these kingdoms require that every adult person,
in possession of his reason, and not incapacitated by crimes,
should have a vote for a Member of Parliament?6

Francis Place reported that they fostered moral and intellectual improvement. Members paid one penny at each weekly meeting. No one was allowed to speak for more than ten minutes at a time nor twice on each issue, but no one could speak twice until everyone had a chance to speak once. On 2 April they made their first address with resolutions of rights, duties, and needed reforms. By May they had nine divisions which needed 20 members each to form.
      On 31 March 1792 the Manchester Herald edited by Thomas Cooper and Matthew Falkner began publishing as the “paper of the people.” On 11 April young Whigs with Charles Grey formed the Society of the Friends of the People advocating equal representation in Parliament, and Rev. Christopher Wyvill wrote his Defence of Dr. Price and the Reformers of England to urge moderation.
      On 21 May the Royal Proclamation against Seditious Writings and Publications outlawed these and “tumultuous meetings.” That month the vegetarian bookseller Richard Phillips started the Leicester Herald to counter the Tory Leicester Journal.
      On 16 July the Derby Mercury’s editor William Ward published his Address to the Friends of Free Enquiry and the General Good which declared that true Government is by the general will for the general happiness and prosperity, that taxes need to be reduced, that wars are foolish, that equal and uncorrupted representation is needed, and that friends of freedom should form societies.
      On 16 August the London Corresponding Society’s Address to the People demanded “annually elected Parliaments, unbiased and unbought elections, and an equal representation of the whole body of the people,” and they advocated lower taxes, necessities the poor could afford, better education, less crowded prisons, and providing for old age. The British government infiltrated the LCS with a series of spies who made numerous reports. The first spy report was by George Lynam on 29 October, and he wrote many by 20 February 1794; but they were not discovered until Hardy’s trial in October 1794. The government then got spy reports from John Taylor, William Metcalf, James Powell who became assistant secretary, and John Tunbridge.
      Also in 1792 Fox’s Libel Act gave juries the right to determine libel and whether a person was guilty instead of leaving it to the judge. On 20 November the conservative lawyer John Reeves (1752-1829) started the Association for Preserving Liberty and Property against Republicans and Levellers in London to prevent revolution, and it was approved and partially funded by the government. More than 2,000 Loyal Associations were formed within a year with 150 in London. Theologian William Paley published in 1793 his Reasons for Contentment: addressed to the labouring part of the British public. Hannah More wrote her Cheap Repository Tracts that were published three times a month from March 1795 to the end of 1799. They were sold for a penny each to help the poor who could read to understand moral, religious, and conservative ideas.
      Scottish John Oswald was a vegetarian, philosopher, poet, and military officer who moved to Paris in 1789 and joined a Jacobin Club. In 1790 he published his Review of the Constitution of Great Britain, and in 1793 he wrote a book in French with a plan for a constitution for a “universal republic.” He fought for the French against the counter-revolution and was killed at Ponts-de-Cee on 14 September 1793.

      In 1789 British merchants had built a trading post at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island, but in July the Spaniards captured the fort and ships and took the British to a prison in Mexico. News reached London in January 1790, and on 10 February Pitt’s government received Spain’s demand to stay away from the west coast of North America. The British asked for compensation and the return of the prisoners. Both sides prepared for a naval war, but a diplomatic agreement was signed on 24 July. The British wanted to confine Spain south of 31 degrees which was south of San Diego and included the Floridas, but Spain’s Carlos IV rejected that. On 28 October they agreed that the British could settle on land north of Spain’s colonies in California. Pitt had forty ships prepared to join 37 vessels at sea at a cost of more than £3 million.
      In January 1791 the British learned that the Russians had taken over the fortress at Ochakov on the Black Sea from the Turks. The British could gain only Prussia as an ally, and on 28 March King George III asked Parliament for emergency funds. This aroused antiwar protests, and Admiral Samuel Hood warned that they lacked friendly ports. On 15 April Pitt offered to resign, and six days later the Foreign Secretary Leeds quit. Pitt replaced him with William Grenville and moved Henry Dundas to Home Minister. After this fiasco the British were in no mood to help Poland from aggression by Russian imperialism.
      On 17 February 1792 Prime Minister Pitt spoke to the House of Commons on his accomplishments of the previous eight years in reducing the national debt and corruption, and he hoped for a period of peace ahead. In the summer Britain remained neutral in the war of the monarchies of Austria and Prussia against revolutionary France, which had invaded the Low Countries. On 17 August Britain withdrew its envoy from Paris in protest of France’s aggression. On 19 November the French Convention declared that they would assist all people who wanted to recover their liberties, and they began navigating in the Scheldt River in violation of the 1648 treaty of Westphalia. Britain had offered to support the Dutch if they were attacked, and on the 29th the Foreign Secretary Grenville warned the French that British neutrality would end if France did not reverse its recent policy.

Paine and The Rights of Man

      Thomas Paine was born on 9 February 1737 (NS) in Norfolk (England). His father was a Quaker corset-maker and his mother an Anglican. When Tom was 7 or 8, he heard the sermon “Redemption by the death of the Son of God” and wondered why it was making God “act like a passionate man” who could be hanged for such a thing. He believed that God is too good to do that. Although he did not join Quaker groups, he believed in their charitable work and considered them “the only sect that has not persecuted.” He was influenced by Newtonian ideas and became a Deist, believing that God created the universe with wisdom. He held that the great mass of people are just, and so representative government should replace monarchy. Yet the government of a free country is in its laws by which criminals and the aggressive can be controlled. He believed in the “religion of humanity.” His various jobs included collecting excise taxes on liquor and tobacco from suspected smugglers, but in 1772 he was dismissed after publishing an argument for higher pay as the best way to end corruption in the excise office.
      Paine’s life took a major change in 1774 when he met Benjamin Franklin who urged him to go to America and gave him letters of introduction. In 1775 Paine helped edit the Pennsylvania Magazine, and he wrote articles including the critical “African Slavery in America” which he signed “Justice and Humanity.” His popular pamphlet Common Sense published in January 1776 persuaded many Americans of the need for independence. In the next seven years he wrote a series of American Crisis papers to encourage fighting for independence, and General Washington had them read to his soldiers at Valley Forge. In 1777 Congress appointed Paine secretary to the Foreign Affairs committee. In 1779 after he used secret documents to accuse Congressman Silas Deane of profiting from French aid, Paine was dismissed. In 1780 his article “Public Good” suggested a national convention to replace the Articles of Confederation with a “continental constitution.” He used $500 of his own money to begin a fund to relieve soldiers, and in January 1781 he went to France for that purpose and came back in August.
      In April 1787 Paine went to France to promote his invention of a single-arch iron bridge. He had letters from Franklin, dined with Jefferson and Lafayette, and became friends with Edmund Burke who traveled with him looking for an iron factory. His design for the Wearmouth Bridge was completed in August 1796, and at 72 meters it was the longest single-span vehicular bridge so far.
      The philosopher Condorcet became his close friend. In “Prospects on the Rubicon” Paine argued that peace is better than war because the poor and workers suffer the most. He warned that newspapers deceive the people before the truth is discovered. In the next five years he traveled back and forth between Paris and London seven times. In December 1789 he published anonymously an article advising Prime Minister Pitt not to go to war against France over Holland because it would be certain to raise taxes. In January 1790 Paine wrote to Burke that the Revolution in France would be “a forerunner to other revolutions in Europe.” Lafayette gave Paine the key to the Bastille to send to George Washington.
      Paine responded to Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution and published the first part of The Rights of Man in March 1791. That year it had eight editions, and a French translation by Lanthénas was published in May. He dedicated it to President George Washington and considered how the French Revolution affected foreign people and their governments. He found that the English people favor it while their government is opposed and “prosecutes as a libel that which it should protect.” Having seen the misery of war he hoped they would not exist anymore in the world. He asserted that every generation is “free to act for itself in all cases.”
      Paine suggested that the origin of human rights is in God the Creator. Every individual is born equal in natural rights, and every generation has equal rights with preceding generations. He observed that all religions are based on human unity. Every person feels a duty to God and to one’s neighbor to do as one would be done by. Humans formed society to secure and protect their civil rights which are based on natural rights. Natural rights are of the mind, intellectual and religious. A person has a natural right to judge one’s own cause and extends this right to society to redress grievances. Every person is a proprietor in society. The civil power derives from natural rights but must not invade the natural rights of the individual. Society has developed governments from the social compact.
      Paine described how governments have evolved from the superstition of priests and oracles to the power of conquerors and then to common rights based on reason. The Norman William conquered England and set up power based on the “divine right” of a king. The papacy contradicted Jesus by combining spiritual and temporal power in church and state. Advancing principles of freedom formed a compact between those who govern and the governed. These governments rose out of people instead of over people, a distinction lost on Burke. People forming a constitution can establish a government by designating executive powers, elections, parliaments to make laws, and courts to judge them. Judges do not make laws and cannot alter them.
      Paine compared the English and French governments. He noted that English government arose from conquest and modified itself but still has no constitution. The national assembly of France became a convention to create a constitutional government with a universal standard for voting while in England counties and towns have widely varying representation. The French constitution abolished game laws and monopolies, and it allows no member of the assembly to be a governmental officer or pensioner. The British Parliament is like criminals judging themselves. The French nation decides on war and peace. War is supported by those who decide how to spend the public money, and wars are used to acquire taxes. The purpose of despotism is to obtain revenue, and despots go to war for pride. France took the power of war away from kings and ministers. Parliament can withhold supplies for war. France placed the power of declaring, supporting, and conducting war in the nation. The French constitution abolished titles of nobility and primogeniture to end these arbitrary inequalities. They had been set up by conquest, and he noted that they are declining in every part of Europe. Yet England still has a body of hereditary legislators. This aristocracy has become ridiculous because it is unjust, arbitrary, unaccountable, based on conquest, and is degenerating by intermarriage. The French have reformed the clergy and raised the incomes of the lower and middle classes and lowered the higher. In England a bishop may receive £30,000 a year and a curate only £30.
      The French also abolished tithes and replaced tolerance with the “universal right of conscience” which serves God. Paine suggested that when the state establishes a church by law, it becomes like a mule. He noted that the only religions which persecute are those established by law. He cited the inquisition of Spain that impoverished the country. He noted, “America has established universal right of conscience and universal right of citizenship.”7 France made the nation the source of all sovereignty. Speech is a natural right and essential in the assembly. In 1688 England submitted its sovereignty to the Dutch Willem, but that revolution was eclipsed by the “orb of reason” in the American and French revolutions. Paine argued that in the national assembly moral duty and political interest are united.
      Paine described the steps leading to the French Revolution. Then he quoted the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens in its entirety and made his observations before extensively criticizing the views of Burke. In the conclusion of Part 1 Paine explained that the revolutions in America and France renovated the natural order with a system of universal principles that combine moral and political happiness with national prosperity. He defined these as follows:

I. Men are born and always continue free and equal
   in respect of their rights. Civil distinctions, therefore,
   can be founded only on public utility.
II. The end of all political associations is the preservation
   of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man;
   and these rights are liberty, property, security,
   and resistance of oppression.
III. The nation is essentially the source of all sovereignty;
   nor can any individual, or any body of men, be entitled
   to any authority which is not expressly derived from it.8

      On 1 July 1791 Paine wrote his Republican Manifesto criticizing Louis XVI after his attempt to flee. He nailed the document to the door of the Assembly, and it was printed in Le Républicain. Paine arrived in England on 13 July and attended a meeting of the Constitutional Society in London on the 22nd. He associated with Horne Tooke, Joseph Priestley, William Blake, and Mary Wollstonecraft. On 20 August he drafted the long Address and Declaration of the Friends of Universal Peace and Liberty, arguing that the French Revolution immediately concerns the British because of their oppression by the national debt and taxes, and he called for a National Association to secure every man’s rights.
      Paine dedicated Part 2 of The Rights of Man to Lafayette on 9 February 1792. He observed that the independence of America would not have been important if it had not been “a revolution in the principles and practice of government.” He implied this revolution would change the rest of the world when he wrote,

From the rapid progress which America makes
in every species of improvement, it is rational to conclude that,
if the governments of Asia, Africa, and Europe
had begun on a principle similar to that of America,
or had not been very early corrupted therefrom,
those countries must by this time
have been in a far superior condition to what they are.9

He observed that government based on moral theory and universal peace and human rights is moving from west to east with more strength than “the government of the sword” moved from east to west, and the revolution is promising a new era to the human race. He argued that the more perfect a civilization is the less need it has for government because the people regulate their own affairs and govern themselves which is contrary to the practice of old government which increases expenses they should diminish. He observed that America seemed like an unlikely place for such a revolution, writing,

If there is a country in the world, where concord,
according to common calculation,
would be least expected, it is America.
Made up, as it is, of people from different nations,
accustomed to different forms and habits of government,
speaking different languages, and more different
in their modes of worship, it would appear
that the union of such a people was impracticable;
but by the simple operation of constructing government
on the principles of society and the rights of man,
every difficulty retires,
and all the parts are brought into cordial unison.
There the poor are not oppressed, the rich are not privileged.
Industry is not mortified by the splendid extravagance
of a court rioting at its expense.
Their taxes are few, because their government is just;
and as there is nothing to render them wretched,
there is nothing to engender riots and tumults.10

      Paine described how the old hereditary governments came into being and compared their systems to the new representative governments. He noted that civil wars caused by contested hereditary claims have been more numerous, more dreadful, and lasted longer than those occasioned by election. Even Poland with an elective monarchy had fewer wars than those based on heredity. He explained how representative governments are based on society and civilization and are guided by “nature, reason, and experience.” He also observed that revolutions stimulate dormant “genius and talents.” Hereditary succession requires people to obey ignorance as much as wisdom. He defined republican government as “government established and conducted for the interest of the public, as well individually as collectively.”11 He explained that a constitution is people constituting a government, but “government without a constitution is power without a right.”12 Constitutional government delegates power as a trust while the old government assumes power by usurpation. The first right of a nation is to establish a constitution. Hereditary government is slavery while representative government is freedom. Paine hoped that Europe would adopt these reforms, and he noted that France and England were most likely to do so first because of their size and strength and because of British security by the ocean.
      Paine believed that the greatest forces for revolution are “reason and the common interest.” He foresaw the independence of South America, and he predicted that the opening of South America would greatly increase commerce. He argued that the purpose of revolution is to improve the moral condition of the government and that without wars taxes would be decreased so that people may enjoy abundance. He believed that it would be wrong and bad policy to try to use force for what could be accomplished by reason, and he defined rebellion as “forcibly opposing the general will of a nation. He suggested that every nation needs a method to ascertain public opinion about the government. He noted that France had occasional Estates General, but England did not. He saw the opportunity to reform Europe and urged an alliance between Britain, France, and America to lead the effort. He proposed reducing the navies of Europe by 90% which would save France and Britain two millions each.
      Paine considered himself an American, became a citizen of France, and called himself a “citizen of the world.” He refused to sell the printing rights to his Rights of Man because he did not want the work suppressed or altered. Thus the second part was delayed. In 1791 George Chalmers was paid by the government and had written a scurrilous biography of Paine, and he had access to Chapman’s print-shop. Apparently Chalmers discovered Paine’s ideas for fiscal reforms and shared them with Prime Minister Pitt. In his Appendix to The Rights of Man Paine noted that the tax reforms proposed by Pitt on 31 January 1792 were similar to what he had proposed in his book except that Pitt’s plan would reduce taxes by only £320,000 while his proposal would lower them by nearly six million.

Paine’s Age of Reason

      On 21 May 1792 when Britain outlawed sedition, Paine was summoned to the court. On 8 June he was charged with sedition, and his trial was postponed until December. In June he wrote to the authors of The Republican that the republican system by election and representation offers the best way to proportion wisdom throughout the country. He noted that although Holland, Genoa, Venice, Berne, and others are called “republican,” they are actually “aristocratic slavery.” He argued that hereditary succession can never be right. Also in June the Constitutional Society distributed 12,000 copies of Paine’s letter to the Home Secretary Dundas in which he wrote,

I do not know a greater good
that an individual can render to mankind,
than to endeavour to break the chains of political superstition.
Those chains are now dissolving fast,
and proclamations and persecutions will serve
but to hasten that dissolution.13

That summer in his “Letter addressed to the Addressers on the Late Proclamation” he argued against the sedition law, and he suggested that a government has no right to alter itself without a national convention elected by all the people. On 4 July he announced a six-penny edition of the Rights of Man Part 1 for the benefit of the poor.
      Paine gave a revolutionary speech to the Friends of Liberty on 12 September, and the next day he left for France. He had been elected to the Convention to represent Calais on the 6th and was made a citizen of France. On the 25th he published an open letter to the French people in which he criticized the despots in all countries and praised France for championing liberty and equality. He urged friendship and civility, writing,

Let us punish by instruction, rather than by revenge.
Let us begin the new era by a greatness of friendship,
and hail the approach of union and success.”14

On 20 October he addressed the French Convention, and it was printed in Brissot’s Le Patriote français as “An Essay for the use of Republicans in Their Opposition to Monarchy.” Paine was tried in absentia in London on 18 December. Although he was defended by the Prince of Wales’ Attorney General Thomas Erskine, Paine was convicted and was burned in effigy.
      Paine opposed the execution of Louis XVI in January 1793, and he urged France to be the first nation to abolish the death penalty as well as royalty. He worked with the committee on a new constitution, and in February he supported Condorcet’s draft based on the Pennsylvania constitution with a single assembly and an executive council elected by the people; but it was too long and was rejected. Paine published his controversial Le Siecle de la Raison, ou Le sens Commun des Droits de l’Homme in March 1793 with his translator François Lanthenas as the author, and he stopped attending the Convention on 2 June.
      Paine finished the first part of his Age of Reason a few hours before he was taken to Luxembourg Prison on 29 December. He was suspected because he was born in England and was associated with the Girondins. He and the humanitarian Prussian Anacharsis Cloots were the last two foreigners to be excluded by the Convention. Cloots was executed on March 24. Paine only escaped by chance a few days before the Terror ended with Robespierre’s execution on 27 July because he and his three cellmates had their door marked for execution on the inside. They were allowed to keep their door open, and they were skipped. The American ambassador Gouverneur Morris was a reactionary and had declined to help Paine, but his successor James Monroe arranged for Paine’s release on 4 November 1794 and let him live in his house for 18 months. On 8 December Paine was restored to his seat representing Calais. He was awarded back pay for his prison time but never received the pension.
      The expanded English edition of Part 1 of The Age of Reason was published in Paris in February 1794 and also in New York and London. In England the price was only three pence. Paine dedicated The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and of Fabulous Theology to the citizens of the United States of America, writing,

I have always strenuously supported
the right of every man to his own opinions,
however different that opinion might be to mine.
He who denies to another this right
makes a slave of himself to his present opinion,
because he precludes himself the right of changing it.
The most formidable weapon
against errors of every kind is reason.15

He explained that because France had recently abolished its national order of priesthood and compulsive religion, this work was necessary to keep superstition and false systems of government and theology from losing sight of morality, humanity, and true theology. He stated,

I believe in one God, and no more,
and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe in the equality of man,
and I believe that religious duties
consist in doing justice, loving mercy,
and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.16

Then he expressed his disbelief in the churches that are Jewish, Roman, Greek, Turkish, and Protestant because he considered his own mind his church. He did not condemn these believers and accepted their right to believe. He held that a person should be mentally faithful to oneself, and that infidelity is professing to believe what one does not believe. He suggested that such mental lying has caused much moral mischief in society. Those taking up the trade of a priest have to begin with perjury, and he criticized the adulterous connection between church and state which prohibits by pains and penalties discussing creeds and the first principles of religion. He hoped that by changing the system of government people would return to belief in one God. He argued that religions pretended a special mission from God from an individual—Moses for the Jews, Jesus Christ for the Christians, and Muhammad for the Muslims, and they each accuse the others of unbelief. He noted that these revelations are based on hearsay and need not be believed.
      Paine considered Jesus a virtuous man who preached and practiced an excellent and benevolent morality similar to that of Confucius, Greek philosophers, Quakers, and many good men. He admitted that Jesus existed and was crucified after preaching human equality, and he also exposed the corruption and avarice of Jewish priests and probably hoped to deliver the Jewish nation from Roman bondage. Paine objected to the deification of Satan, and he considered the stories written about him fables. He examined the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. He noted that men selected the books by voting with doubtful books labeled Apocrypha. In contemplating the infinite and incomprehensible Being that is the Whole he felt shame that such stories would be considered “the word of God.” In the Old Testament he found cruelty and “unrelenting vindictiveness.” He noted that Solomon’s Proverbs were written down more than three centuries later, and he found some as good among the Spaniards and by Ben Franklin. Paine considered the writing of the prophets poetry, but he did not believe the word of God could be conveyed by human language.
      The New Testament was written many years after the death of Jesus whom he believed would have written something down himself if he wanted to start a new religion. Jesus was a philanthropist who urged people to be virtuous and believe in one God, but the Christian religion contradicts the Christ. Paine rejected the theory of redemption that one man could take on the sins of others. How can moral justice take the innocent for the guilty? For Paine no redemption is needed because humans always stand in the same relation to their Creator. Paine believed that the greatest gift that God gives to humans is reason. In his view the word of God is the creation we see, and this is how God speaks universally.
      By studying the creation as scripture we can contemplate God’s power and wisdom. God is the first cause. Space can have no end because there must be something beyond any “end.” Deists learn about God from the divine works from a Being who is omnipotent. Paine encourages searching into the nature of things to discover God. Yet humans can only understand a small part of God’s perfection. Reason can understand that God exists, but the attributes of God are infinite. He criticized the Christian religion for believing in a man instead of God. Humans cannot invent principles, but they can discover them. No person can invent anything eternal and immutable, but people can make use of scientific principles and apply arts to improve their lives. Paine noted that the Greeks discovered many scientific principles; but he suggested that studying “dead languages” is not needed because translations are available. He noted that the dark age of ignorance followed the spread of Christianity.
      The Deist has one God and contemplates the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Deity’s works and tries to imitate them morally, scientifically, and mechanically. Paine contemplated the immensity of the universe and observed that there is room for millions of worlds. Paine believed there is one religion of God and the divine works. He noted that mystery, miracles, and prophecy are fables used to deceive in order to try to explain the past, present, and future respectively. Practicing moral truth is imitating the goodness of God by acting toward one another as God acts toward all. He warned against the “pious fraud” of other religions. Electricity and magnetism seemed like mysteries or miracles until scientists began understanding them. It would be degrading for God to play tricks by performing miracles as a show. When someone reports a miracle, people must decide if it is true or a lie. People often tell lies, but how often are the laws of the universe broken? Paine considered persecution, revenge, and cruelty to be violations of moral duty. He believed that God would have him continue to exist after death and probably did so before he was born. He noted that all religions believe in God, and he suggested that the universal religion will not be new but will get rid of the redundancies believed previously.
      On 7 July 1795 Paine spoke to the Convention, arguing against depriving half of the French citizens of the vote because they did not pay as much tax as the property owners. That month he wrote his Dissertation on the First Principles of Government in which he emphasized representative government based on equal rights for all. On 5 October when 25,000 people with the National Guard were protesting election restrictions imposed by the Convention, soldiers led by Napoleon fired on them, killing more than a thousand. This brought the army into politics through the Directory and ended Paine’s position as a deputy.
      Part 2 of The Age of Reason was published in 1796, the year Paine wrote “Decline and Fall of the English System of Finance.” After suffering from imprisonment during the Terror in France, Paine explained in the preface why he began writing The Age of Reason even before he went to prison.

The idea, always dangerous to society, as it is derogatory
to the Almighty, that priests could forgive sins,
though it seemed to exist no longer, had blunted
the feelings of humanity and callously prepared men
for the commission of all manner of crimes.
The intolerant spirit of church persecution
had transferred itself into politics; the tribunals,
styled revolutionary, supplied the place of an inquisition;
and the guillotine of the stake.
I saw many of my most intimate friends destroyed;
others daily carried to prison; and I had reason to believe,
and had also intimations given me,
that the same danger was approaching myself.17

In the first part Paine did not have access to a Bible, but in Part 2 he was able to refer to the scriptures and explain in more detail the problems he had with the Old and New Testaments. He discovered that Moses did not write what was attributed to him because that was written much later. He learned from Spinoza and Abenezra that the book of Job was not composed in Hebrew, and that Satan was not a Hebrew idea. He concluded that Christianity was “too absurd for belief” and “too inconsistent to practice,” and he warned that it could be used by despots and greedy priests.
      Paine published his “Agrarian Justice” in 1797. He was concerned that in the most civilized nations were found the most affluent and the most miserable people. In the natural state before civilization hunters and gatherers were not miserable; but because they had needed ten times as much land, the civilized could not go back to the natural state. He believed that land belonged to the community and that every proprietor of cultivated land owed “ground-rent” for the land they occupied. He recognized that cultivation was “one of the greatest natural improvements ever made by human invention,” making land ten times as valuable. However, landed monopolies dispossessed more than half the population without providing for them. Paine proposed a National Fund to compensate every person at the age of 21 with £30 for the loss of their natural inheritance, and from the age of 50 every person would received £10 per year. This was part of the revolution he believed that civilization needed to perfect the revolution in France.
      Paine joined the Theophilanthropists which began in January 1797. They were devoted to loving God and humanity and believed in the immortality of the soul and the principles of science. They were associated with the Illuminati that his friend Nicolas de Bonneville had brought from Germany to Paris.
      In September 1802 Paine left France and spent the rest of his life in America. He had donated the profits from his books to reform organizations and died in poverty on 8 June 1809.

Wollstonecraft on the Rights of Women

      Mary Wollstonecraft was born in London on 27 April 1759. Her father had a drinking problem, and she had to take care of younger sisters. She began working as a companion when she was nineteen and spent two years nursing her mother, who died in 1782. Mary helped her sister Eliza separate from her husband, whose cruel treatment she believed caused Eliza’s breakdown. Eliza, Mary, and her best friend Fanny Blood started a school northeast of London that was guided by the dissenting minister Richard Price. Mary’s sister Everina also joined them. Mary was with Fanny Blood when she died during childbirth in Lisbon, and the school closed three months later.
      In 1786 Mary Wollstonecraft wrote Thoughts on the Education of Daughters in which she recommended mothers suckle their babies to produce affection. Whenever a child asks a question, a reasonable answer should be given. She noted that love without esteem will probably degenerate, but love for a worthy person is an incentive for improvement. She suggested that women cultivate their minds so that they may be content if comfortable and consoled if not.
      Wollstonecraft took employment in Dublin but was dismissed after arousing the jealousy of Lady Kingsborough. After that she did not serve in another woman’s household but was able to make her living as a writer. Her autobiographical novel Mary, a Fiction was published in 1788. She wrote articles for the Analytical Review and published The Female Reader under a pseudonym. She translated books from French and German and published Original Stories from Real Life for children.
      After the conservative Edmund Burke attacked the rights of man in his famous Reflections on the Revolution in France, she published her Vindication of the Rights of Men anonymously in 1790 but added her name the next year. She criticized Burke for defending the property rights of the wealthy more than human rights and for having “contempt for the poor.’ She argued that the progress of civilization has been delayed by hereditary property and hereditary honors. She believed

that true happiness arose from the friendship and intimacy
which can only be enjoyed by equals;
and that charity is not a condescending distribution of alms,
but an intercourse of good offices and mutual benefits,
founded on respect for justice and humanity.18

The rights that humans inherit from birth derive not from their forefathers but from God. She believed that submission to authority should not be endless but must stop, or they return to barbarism. She was outraged that Burke defined English liberty as “security of property,” and every nobler liberty was sacrificed to this selfish principle. A thief is punished with death, but violence or killing a person is considered a less heinous offense.
      Mary Wollstonecraft’s great work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, was published in 1792 and revised the same year. She dedicated the book to the French diplomat Talleyrand with the request that he consider including women in the rights of citizens to national education. To exclude women from their New Constitution would leave them open to charges of injustice and tyranny and would undermine morality.
      In the introduction she noted charges against “masculine women,” but she argued that in terms of developing rational qualities it is better for women to become more masculine and respectable rather than being satisfied with limited beauty and elegance. She also encouraged men to become more modest and chaste. In discussing the rights and duties of humanity she argued that reason and virtue separate humans from brutes. Rousseau tried to show that everything was all right originally; many authors argue that things are all right now; but she aimed to prove that things will be all right. She based her belief on the perfection of God. She noted that kings often gained their power by vile and unnatural crimes. She held that standing armies are incompatible with freedom because subordination depends on despotism.
      She discussed the prevailing opinions about women and asked why women should be kept in ignorance under the specious reason of innocence. She observed that women have been led astray by false refinement but should be allowed to develop their reason just as men are. She compared the truncated education of women to the opposite extreme of military men; both acquire manners but lack moral development because they are expected to submit blindly to authority. Learning the art of pleasing is useful only to a mistress; but the chaste wife and serious mother must develop virtues in order to be respectable. For women to purify their hearts they need to learn more than developing their senses for amusement. The woman who strengthens her body and exercises her mind by managing her family and practicing virtues may become the friend of her husband rather than a humble dependent. She objected to the idea that “they were made to be loved, and must not aim at respect, lest they should be hunted out of society as masculine.”19
      Wollstonecraft argued that if morality has an eternal standard, there can be only one rule of right for all. Since liberty is the mother of virtue, why should women by their constitution be slaves and “languish like exotics” as “beautiful flaws in nature” when they could “breathe the sharp invigorating air of freedom.”20 Liberty will make women wiser and more virtuous. She acknowledged that a man has more bodily strength than a woman, but she insisted that the virtue and knowledge of the two sexes should be the same. Therefore women should have the same opportunities to acquire both. She suggested that in their enlightened age the “divine right of husbands” could be challenged just as the Americans and French challenged the divine right of kings. She complained that girls are taught from infancy that beauty is their scepter and that thus their mind should be shaped by their body so that it roams in a gilded cage, adorning its prison. She wrote,

It is time to effect a revolution in female manners—
time to restore to them their lost dignity—
and make them, as a part of the human species,
labour by reforming themselves to reform the world.21

Independence of character is based on understanding; women “must only bow to the authority of reason, instead of being the modest slaves of opinion.”22
      Next Wollstonecraft discussed the various causes by which women are reduced to degradation. Women were not created just to console men. Women have always been slaves except in rare cases when they were despots; yet both retard the progress of reason. When men do homage to women by exalting their inferiority, they are tyrannizing over the weakness they cherish. She believed that women are degraded by receiving trivial attentions because of their sex. The love of pleasure makes a woman’s circumstances trifling, and without duties her concerns are on secondary things or adventures. When the passions are pampered while the judgment is neglected, what else can result but madness and folly? In Emile Rousseau wrote that if women are educated like men, they will become like men and thus have less power over men; but Wollstonecraft did not want women to have power over men but over themselves. She was concerned that the power of female beauty was fleeting because it lasted only for a few years. If female education develops only the romantic side, it is vain and mean. By educating nature and reason, women can become more virtuous and useful as they become more respectable.
      Wollstonecraft described how contemporary authors have rendered women objects of pity. She complained that Rousseau wanted to educate Sophia to be weak and passive so that she will be “agreeable to her master,” as if that were the grand purpose of her existence. Much of girls’ and women’s attention is given to superficial things like clothes. She was concerned about the effects of early impressions on character. She hoped that through rational education a woman would be contented to love once and after marriage let passion calmly subside into friendship built on pure affections that would not disturb the sober duties of life. She defined modesty as not thinking more highly of oneself than one ought to think and distinguished it from the self-abasement of humility. She believed that true love makes the lover more modest in her presence. A sober mind is attained by the exercise of duties and the pursuit of knowledge; the alternative for the dependent woman is to be loved only as long as she is fair. She observed that most people are more concerned with their reputation than their actual chastity. She noted that the two sexes either mutually corrupted or improved each other.
      Morality will never improve until more equality is established in society. One cannot expect women to be more virtuous until they are independent of men, for women that are absolutely dependent on men tend to be cunning, mean, and selfish. Men “gratified by the fawning fondness of spaniel-like affection” have little delicacy, because love cannot be bought.23 Wollstonecraft observed that riches debased women even more than men because the latter could still engage their faculties as soldiers and statesmen. She criticized the class structure that divided the world between voluptuous tyrants and envious dependents. Benevolent legislators encourage private virtue to promote public happiness. Pleasures weaken women by making them slaves to their persons to allure men, or they manipulate their tyrants with sinister tricks. In addition to discharging her civil duties, managing her family, educating her children, and assisting her neighbors, a woman should be independent of her husband’s bounty so that she can be generous on her own. She asked if morality is not wounded when poverty becomes even more disgraceful than vice.
      Wollstonecraft believed that women could be physicians as well as nurses, study politics, and pursue business if they are educated properly. Many could be saved from common and legal prostitution because they would not have to marry for support. Yet in her time most of the jobs open to women were menial, and even governesses were not treated like tutors. She argued that a woman who earns her own bread is much more respectable than the most accomplished beauty. She entreated men to emancipate their companions. She wrote,

Would men but generously snap our chains,
and be content with rational fellowship
instead of slavish obedience,
they would find us more observant daughters,
more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives,
more reasonable mothers—in a word, better citizens.24

The woman who is not allowed to govern her own conduct will not have sufficient sense to be a good mother. She noted how girls are kept down by their parents more than boys. She often repeated how rights and duties must go together. Morality will stumble until esteem and love are joined together, and reason becomes the foundation of duty.
      Criticizing the problems of current private and public schools, Wollstonecraft recommended boys and girls be educated together in day schools open to all classes funded by the government. After the age of nine most boys and girls could go on to learn trades while those with superior abilities could learn languages, science, history, politics, and literature. Such would be schools for human morality and happiness. She objected to tyrannical punishments and suggested that students be tried by their peers to learn justice. Humane treatment of animals should be taught. Those made free will quickly become wise and virtuous. She warned against sentimental education and suggested ridiculing cheap novels to make students more discriminating. She concluded that women will correct their vices and follies when they are allowed to be free. When women share the rights of men, they will also share his virtues and will grow more perfect when emancipated.
      In her circle of friends Mary Wollstonecraft was intellectually stimulated by Thomas Paine, William Blake, Joseph Priestley, and Henry Fuselli, for whom she had a brief passion that did not work out because he was married. While at Paris during the reign of terror she became the lover of the American Gilbert Imlay and gave birth to his daughter Fanny in 1794, though they did not marry. That year she published her 522-page Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution. Back in London she attempted suicide twice. After publishing her letters from Scandinavia, in 1796 she became involved with the radical political thinker, William Godwin. They were married on 29 March 1797, and Mary worked on her second novel, Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman. She died of an infection on 10 September, eleven days after the birth of her daughter Mary Godwin, who grew up to marry the poet Shelley and write the novel Frankenstein.

Godwin on Political Justice

      William Godwin was born on 3 March 1756 in Cambridgeshire. His father, uncle, and grandfather were dissenting ministers, and he studied at the dissenting academy of Hoxton for three years and became a Calvinist minister in 1778. He was influenced by Rousseau, d’Holbach, Helvétius, and Joseph Priestley. Godwin left the ministry and moved to London in 1783, the year he published anonymously his Life of Lord Chatham. He was a successful teacher and wrote three novellas and for political journals, and by 1787 he was a religious skeptic. He heard Price’s famous sermon on 4 November 1789. In May 1791 he began thinking about the book that was published as his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Modern Morals and Happiness in February 1793. This made him famous, and some called themselves “Godwinians.” Prime Minister Pitt did not ban his long treatise because the price of three guineas for the two-volume edition made it less threatening. Godwin became friends with Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey, Shelley, and Hazlitt, who noted that after the French Revolutionary Terror the radical ideas of Godwin became much less popular. He and Mary Wollstonecraft married on 29 March 1797, and she died ten days later. He raised her previous daughter Fanny and their child Mary who married Shelley, and he published his Memoirs about his wife in 1798.
      In the initial preface to his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice Godwin wrote that the human mind makes progress in every enlightened age, and he noted the importance of the recent experiments in America and France. He considered politics a proper vehicle for liberal morality, and he emphasized the virtues of sincerity, courage, and especially justice. He was convinced that monarchy is a corrupt form of government. He kept his mind open to correction and improvement, and made major revisions the second edition in 1796; the third and final edition was published in 1798.
      Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice begins with a “Summary of Principles.” The goal of morality and politics is happiness or pleasures which are from the senses and the more exquisite intellectual feeling. Society is desirable for humans; but because of injustice and violence society needs government. In suppressing injustice government often makes mistakes causing oppression, despotism, and war. By perpetuating inequality of property it encourages harmful passions, robbery, and fraud. The first aim of government is security, but its administration often restricts independence which is essential for happiness and wisdom. The true standard for human conduct is justice which produces the greatest happiness. Justice should be impartial and universal. By duty the individual works for the general advantage, and they have the right to share in the benefits of others. Reason enables people to compare and balance different feelings, and it calculates what action to take. Developing reason improves the social condition. Clear reason depends on cultivating knowledge which leads to progress. Human inventions improve society, but institutions that perpetuate particular conditions can be harmful. Prejudices and falsehoods that prevent sound understanding should be reduced, but free inquiry and unrestrained opinions foster understanding. Simple manners and leisure for intellectual development improve understanding, but the unequal distribution of property is adverse to these benefits.
      Godwin believed that war is the worst plague for society. Robbery and fraud are caused by extreme poverty and ostentatious riches, and tyrannical government makes them permanent. Vice and human weakness are caused by ignorance and error, and truth is the most powerful remedy. Virtue and duty can guide actions to avoid any wrong. In a chapter on rights, he wrote,

Morality is nothing else but that system
which teaches us to contribute upon all occasions,
to the extent of our power, to the well-being
and happiness of every intellectual and sensitive existence.25

      He found that no one is infallible, and so no one is justified in imposing one’s judgment as a standard for others. Every person must rely on one’s own understanding, and one can make private judgments for oneself. Science and truth are important for developing virtue, improving politics, and producing happiness. The science of politics depends on investigation. Godwin defined sincerity as innocence, intellectual improvement, and philanthropy, and it affects others as well as oneself. About limiting government he wrote,

Above all we should not forget that government is,
abstractly taken, an evil, an usurpation upon
the private judgment and individual conscience of mankind;
and that, however we may be obliged to admit it
as a necessary evil for the present, it behooves us,
as the friends of reason and the human species,
to admit as little of it as possible,
and carefully to observe whether, in consequence
of the gradual illumination of the human mind,
that little may not hereafter be diminished.26

He noted that two houses of assembly divide a nation, and one tends to be an “asylum of usurpation, monopoly, and privilege.” He warned that the desires to gain more territory or to control neighboring states or surpass them in arms are based on prejudice and error.
      He believed that “the justice of an equal distribution of the good things of life” would being great benefits. He observed that hereditary wealth promotes idleness while the poor are kept in brutal ignorance because they lack leisure. If superfluous riches were banished, manual labor could be moderated. Every person could have a frugal and wholesome diet and get moderate exercise. He wondered what advances of intellect would be made if everyone was well educated. He noted that monopoly leads to the use of force, and established property fosters oppression, servility, and fraud while diminishing intellectual and moral improvement. Instead of getting a false pleasure from empire, people will have a healthy life with inexpensive pleasures when they promote and contemplate the general happiness. Instead of reducing men to the state of machines he advised governing them by inclination and conviction. He concluded,

The love of liberty obviously leads to the love of man:
the sentiment of benevolence will be increased,
and the narrowness of the selfish affections will decline.
The general diffusion of truth will be productive
of general improvement; and men will daily approximate
towards those views according to which
every object will be appreciated at its true value….
The progress is the progress of all.
Each man will find his sentiments of justice and rectitude
echoed, encouraged and strengthened
by the sentiments of his neighbours.27

      Godwin was one of the first utilitarians who believed in the greatest happiness for the greatest number, an idea that Jeremy Bentham got from Joseph Priestley and developed in his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation that was published in 1789. Yet Godwin greatly valued freedom and opposed force including by government and punishment. Although he preferred republican government, he warned against the prejudice of the majority. His Enquiry is considered the first major work of what is called “anarchism.” Even a republican state can be oppressive if the people are not enlightened to follow the principle of what is best for everyone. To do this Godwin believed people need to listen to their feelings for others and to use moral reasoning in order to discover and do what is best. Government prevents this ideal by perpetuating inequalities, by motivating people through fear of punishment, and by accepting the views of the majority. These pitfalls can be avoided by using critical thinking, living in small communities, and bringing about gradual reforms. Godwin warned against the foolishness of violent change. He rejected any duty that did not promote the general welfare. Like Bentham he was not concerned with natural rights but only the right and duty to act for the good of all. He criticized the social conditions that influenced people to do wrong sometimes in the name of “honor” or other virtues for the good of some people. Coercion is harmful, but people can learn to think for themselves and act for the best. He warned against generalizations and urged people to consider the particular facts involved. He hoped that by creating greater equality and simplifying society people will be able to see more clearly and act more wisely.
      Godwin’s best novel Things as They Are; or The Adventures of Caleb Williams was published in May 1794, the year his Cursory Strictures on the charge delivered by Lord Chief Justice Eyre to the Grand Jury helped bring about the acquittal of the radical reformers (Hardy, Thelwall, Tooke, and ten others) who were tried for treason. In Caleb Williams the title character narrates a murder mystery and adventure story that portrays how the law and social inequalities can cause human misery even for the upright. Caleb works as a secretary for the wealthy Falkland and eventually discovers that his employer’s anger is caused by his guilt for a murder of the nefarious Tyrrel that he got away with because of his social prestige. Afraid of losing his own reputation Falkland threatens to ruin Caleb who runs away, but Falkland gets him convicted of theft. Waiting a long time for his trial Caleb suffers in a dungeon. He escapes and confronts Falkland who is so stressed with guilt that he is dying. The original ending in the manuscript was changed for the published novel.

Britain at War Against France 1793-95

      On 8 January 1793 Britain’s Aliens law authorized the deportation of undesirable immigrants. On the 23rd London heard the news that the French Revolution had beheaded Louis XVI. The next day Grenville told the French ambassador Chauvelin to leave by 1 February. That day Prime Minister Pitt warned the public that the French planned to make countries dependent on them in the name of liberty by using cannons. The French offered to give up several conquests in the Low Countries and elsewhere if Britain would guarantee their independence; but the British refused to negotiate a compromise that could have prevented or greatly minimized what became an enormous 22-year war. France’s National Convention declared war on Britain and the Netherlands on 1 February. George III learned of this six days later and declared war against France on the 11th. The next day Pitt told the House of Commons that they will need allies to check a system threatening their country and their allies.
      Britain already was allied with the Dutch and Prussia, and to form the First Coalition they made treaties with Russia on 25 March, Sardinia on 25 April, Spain on 25 May, the Two Sicilies on 12 July, Austria on 31 August, and Portugal on 10 September. The British also agreed to pay for mercenaries from Hanover, Hesse-Cassel, Hesse-Darmstadt, and Baden. The British Alien Office empowered the agents William Wickham in Berne, Francis Drake in Genoa, and John Trevor in Turin to promote counterrevolutionary operations, and they used the Institut Philanthropique in Paris for spying and contacting Freemasons and Jesuits in major cities. After ten years of peace the British army had only 14,000 soldiers in the British Isles and 30,000 abroad in Canada, the West Indies, and India. The French had 361,000 troops, and they would triple their forces by September 1794. The British Royal Navy which had 110,000 sailors at the end of the American War in 1783 had only 16,000 ten years later. The British Navy of 115 ships of the line outnumbered 88 French, but 87 of the British ships needed sailors, repair, and provisions. Many of their officers had bought their positions at auctions and were incompetent. On 8 June the British declared that they would confiscate grain and war contraband from any ship going to France, and on 6 November they expanded the ban to ships carrying products from France to its colonies.
      In the first battle on 19 June 1793 the HMS Nymphe captured the French Cleopatre in the English Channel. Admiral Samuel Hood with a fleet of 62 ships blockaded Toulon on 18 July and were supported by 24 Spanish ships. On 23 August rebels took power in Toulon, and five days later the Anglo-Spanish force occupied the port. George III put his son Frederick Augustus, the Duke of York, in command, but his army of 6,500 British, 17,000 Germans, and 11,000 Dutch in Flanders were only one-third of the French force there. York’s army besieged Dunkirk on 24 August and lost 2,000 men and 32 cannons before withdrawing on 8 September. On 29 October King George proclaimed his support for a “hereditary monarchy” in France. On 17 December the French led by Napoleon Bonaparte captured Fort Mulgrave overlooking Toulon, and the next day Hood ordered the town evacuated. The British had captured 13 French warships, destroyed 14, and damaged 11.
      Home Secretary Dundas persuaded the cabinet to send an expedition to the West Indies, and they seized Tobago in April and landed on St. Domingue in September. British ships in India captured Mahe, Chandernagore, Karica, Yanam, and Pondicherry by the end of 1793.

      The first society of the Friends of the People in Scotland had formed in July 1792. Similar societies spread in Scotland, and Friends of the Constitution were organized in Dundee and Glasgow. On King George III’s birthday on 4 June a major riot broke out in Edinburgh, and Dundas was burned in effigy. In December a general convention of the Friends of the People met in Edinburgh. They unanimously agreed that the vote should be given to every man over 21, and at the convention in October 1793 they added annual Parliaments to universal suffrage. James Beattie (1735-1803) advocated the abolition of slavery, and he published his Elements of Moral Science in two volumes by 1793.
      On 22 December 1792 the Association for Preserving the Liberty of the Press had its first meeting, and it grew in early 1793 as the Friends to the Liberty of the Press and included such notable reformers as James Mackintosh, Horne Tooke, Joseph Gerrald, Earl Charles Grey, playwright R. B. Sheridan, and Thomas Erskine. On 15 March the conservative agricultural economist Arthur Young wrote his Example of France a Warning to Britain which described the degradation of law, order, and security in France, and he blamed it on “personal representation, the rights of man, and equality.”
      In England high prices for food and other necessities provoked rioting by the poor. In March two leaders of the Manchester Constitutional Society fled to the United States, and the Manchester Herald stopped publishing. In April the Leicester Herald publisher Richard Phillips was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The London bookseller H. D. Symonds was given four years in prison and a £200 fine, and five years probation for printing cheap works by Paine. The Newark Herald publisher Daniel Holt had faced similar charges in December 1792 and got a similar sentence.
      Early in 1793 William Godwin published his long Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Morals and Happiness. Grey’s petition in Parliament was defeated 282-41 on 7 May. On the 23rd the House of Commons voted to repeal the Habeas Corpus Act 146-28, allowing imprisonment without charges for the rest of the year, and Parliament renewed it annually until the end of the long war. The severe penalties inflicted for expressing radical ideas resulted in less vocal efforts for reform after May 1793. That month the radical lawyer John Frost for disloyal comments in a coffeehouse was sentenced to six months in prison plus five years probation, and he was removed from the roll of attorneys.
      Scottish reformers met at Edinburgh on 30 April, and many Scots resented the expensive war against France. Thomas Muir founded the Scottish Friends of the People, but for seditious speeches the vindictive Judge Braxfield sentenced him in August to fourteen years’ transportation to Australia. The Unitarian minister Thomas Fyshe Palmer had urged people to read Paine’s book and to join the Dundee Friends of Liberty, and he got seven years’ transportation in September. The Scottish convention of 180 delegates met at a Masonic lodge in Edinburgh on 19 November. On 5 December they learned that William Skirving, London Corresponding Society president Maurice Margarot, Gerrald, and two others had been arrested and released on bail. In January 1794 Skirving and Margarot were sentenced to fourteen years’ transportation, and they with Muir and Palmer were shipped to New South Wales in May.
      In reaction the Society for Constitutional Information met on 17 January 1794 and passed resolutions that began, “That law ceases to be an object of obedience whenever it becomes an instrument of oppression” and included the “resolution to oppose tyranny by the same means by which it is exercised.”28 Three days later the LCS held a meeting attended by more than a thousand members who approved an Address to the People of Great Britain and Ireland showing their solidarity with the Scottish reformers and calling for a general convention. They formed an executive committee, and on the 30th the revolutionary John Thelwall initiated a secret committee to plan actions. In February and March motions favoring peace were overwhelmingly defeated in Parliament, and appeals of the long sentences of Muir and Palmer were rejected by the House of Lords. A few days later Gerrald, who had declined to jump bail and defended himself, was sentenced to fourteen years also. He and Skirving died after being in New South Wales for less than a year. The secret committee called a general meeting, and on 14 April the LCS resolved,

There ought to be immediately a CONVENTION of the PEOPLE,
by delegates, deputed for that purpose
from the different societies of the Friends of Freedom,
assembled in the various parts of the kingdom.29

Hardy suggested that the purposes of the convention should be to obtain redress of urgent popular grievances and to prepare for the full and fair representation of the people.
      In mid-May 1794 Hardy, Thelwall, Tooke, and ten others from London’s reform societies were arrested and charged with high treason. On 11 June during celebrations of Howe’s naval victory a mob attacked Hardy’s house, and his pregnant wife was injured and lost the baby. On 6 October a grand jury accused twelve men, and on the 20th Godwin’s Cursory Strictures on the case was printed in the Morning Chronicle. Erskine and Tooke defended the reformers. On the 24th the LCS held an open-air meeting and elected delegates to the Edinburgh convention. On 5 November a jury acquitted Hardy, and Tooke and the others were found not guilty on the 22nd. The government released the other two prisoners.

      Admiral Hood chose Horatio Nelson to command the fleet invading Corsica, and his squadron and shore batteries bombarded Bastia, forcing the French to surrender on 22 May 1794. Then his squadron blockaded Calvi on 17 June, and they capitulated on 10 August, though Nelson was wounded and lost an eye. Meanwhile Richard Howe’s fleet won a major battle against the French in the Atlantic on the first of June. British forces captured Martinique, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Marie Galante, Desiderata, and St. Domingue’s capital Port au Prince. However, they were devastated by yellow fever, malaria, and dysentery that took the lives of 40,000 sailors and soldiers in the next two years. In Europe a larger French army defeated the British and their allies at Fleurus in the Austrian Netherlands on 25 June, and they retreated into Germany with half their soldiers sick. The British lost their Prussian ally after they gave them £1,306,495.
      In July 1794 the influential Whig, the Duke of Portland, became Home Secretary. Dundas was appointed Secretary of War with William Windham as “secretary-at-war” to be his chief of staff and to cooperate with French émigrés. On 19 November the American envoy John Jay signed a treaty with Britain that was unpopular in America because it did not end the British confiscating cargo from American ships bound for France and its allies, though the British agreed to evacuate all forts in American territory by 1796.
      The British army retreating from Holland in January and February 1795 was reduced from 13,000 men to 5,000 survivors. On 4 May in Vienna the British made a treaty with Austria and agreed to loan them £4,600,000 to field 170,000 troops against the French. On the 16th the Dutch made peace with France and agreed to pay an indemnity of 100 million guilders. On 11 June the British defeated the Dutch to take over Cape Town in southern Africa. On the 27th a British fleet landed a force at Quiberon Bay in Brittany to support the Chouans, but they were defeated in July. On 8 July the exiled Louis XVIII proclaimed himself King of France with monarchical power which he refused to give up even after England’s Earl of Macartney gave him £10,000. Carlos IV of Spain withdrew from the British alliance when he ratified the treaty of Basel with France on 22 July. Despite the losses and their allies’ making peace with France by the end of 1795 the British had its largest army ever with 120,000 men including 35,820 mercenaries. In the first half of the 1790s the British Government spent £76,759 on the Secret Service, but in the second half they would spend £665,222.
      In 1795 the British suffered from food shortages and rising prices, and many people protested against the war and for reforms. On 5 January the motion by Sheridan to repeal the suspension of Habeas Corpus was defeated 185-41, and it was suspended until 1 July. People in the cities and towns of England began circulating petitions to end the war, and Charles Grey submitted in the Commons a motion for peace. On 4 February at a public dinner celebrating the “rights of juries” Earl Stanhope spoke. War Minister William Windham contemptuously referred to Hardy as “an acquitted felon,” but Foxite Whigs and other radicals rejected this designation. Between 1760 and 1810 the British government added capital punishment to 63 more crimes, mostly offenses against property, and Londoners regularly gathered for hangings at Tyburn.
      The London Corresponding Society (LCS) led by John Bone urged reform societies to buy books and loan them to members, and they persuaded some booksellers to reprint cheaper editions of Gerrald’s A Convention the only Means of Saving Us from Ruin, Yorke’s Thoughts on Civil Government, the Report on the State of Representation of England and Wales, and other books. The poet Coleridge gave lectures in Bristol and observed that revolutions are only sudden to the unthinking while friends of freedom are accustomed to a process, and he suggested that revolution in other parts of Europe could happen soon.
      Protests over bread prices led to Queen Charlotte being hit by a stone on 1 February as she and George III were returning from the theatre. Fox pleaded for peace and criticized Pitt on 24 March in the Commons. His motion and Wilberforce’s on 27 May to negotiate were defeated. Mark Wilks gave two sermons on 19 April to raise money for prisoners’ trials, and the next day the Norwich Patriotic Society was founded. They complained about taxes, ruinous war, and costly provisions, and by October they had 27 divisions.
      On 6 May the sheriff and magistrates of Berkshire met in Speenhamland and proposed a “table of universal practice” for raising wages of day laborers when the price of wheat and provisions increased with more for men with a wife and children according to their number. Parliament passed an amendment to the Poor Law allowing justices to order relief for industrious poor persons, and it got the Royal Assent on 24 December; but in 1796 Parliament would refuse to approve a minimum wage.
      On 23 June 1795 a bread riot broke out in Birmingham, and four days later Parliament was prorogued. On the 29th the LCS called a general meeting in St. George’s Fields, and crowd estimates ranged from 10,000 to 100,000 people. They passed resolutions demanding universal suffrage and annual parliaments, and they blamed high prices on the unnecessary war. They urged the government to recognize the French republic and make peace. No disturbances occurred. A delegation took their “Address to the King” to Home Secretary Portland, but he refused to forward it or even acknowledge it. Conservative Whigs led by the Duke of Portland reduced the coalition of reformers in July. That month food riots became widespread in England, and “crimp riots” protesting military recruiting occurred in London. Sheffield’s Constitutional Society held an outdoor meeting on 10 August presided by citizen Richard Barrow from London’s Friends of Liberty. Anti-war sentiment reached a peak in England in August.
      By October the number of London Corresponding Society divisions had increased to more than seventy, and on the 26th a crowd of 100,000 gathered near Copenhagen House in Islington to urge the cause of parliamentary reform. An Address to the Nation accused ministers of high treason, demanded equal representation, and expressed the view that “the only hope of the people is in themselves.”
      Three days later King George III’s carriage on the way to the House of Lords was greeted with shouts of “No Pitt, no war!” and for peace and bread, and one rock or bullet pierced a window. On his return while passing through Palace Yard Westminster an angry mob pelted his carriage with stones, breaking all the windows.
      On 4 November a Royal Proclamation blamed the Copenhagen House meeting for this attack on the King. Two days later Grenville introduced the Treasonable Practices Bill in the House of Lords, and on the 10th Pitt moved the Seditious Meetings Bill in the Commons. The next day Fox spoke to all the Whig members to urge a nation-wide petition movement against the bills. On the 12th Godwin published his Considerations on the two bills, and that day Thelwell and others spoke to a crowd estimated at 300,000 by Copenhagen House. On the 16th Fox addressed about 30,000 people in Palace Yard Westminster. People presented to the Parliament 94 petitions with at least 130,000 signatures. On 7 December the Duke of Portland had soldiers surrounding London as several thousand people organized by the Corresponding Society demonstrated against the two bills. Yet both houses passed both bills by large margins, and they became law on 18 December.

Britain at War Against France 1796-99

      The LCS chairman John Baxter’s pamphlet Resistance to Oppression made available his lecture on constitutional rights to the Friends of Liberty on 9 November 1795, and he blamed the current food crisis on the “pride and luxury of the great” and land monopolists supported by Parliament. In 1796 Baxter published his New and Impartial History of England to show their rights and liberties. In 1795 Charles Piggott in his Political Dictionary defined “revolution” as “a resumption by the People of their long lost rights.” Alexander Kilham wrote the pamphlet The Progress of Liberty Amongst the People Called Methodists in 1795, and in 1797 he formed the Methodist New Connexion which adopted a more democratic structure.
      In 1796 the London Corresponding Society decided to evade the two repressive laws instead of challenging them. John Binns spent a week in Portsmouth in February and made government agents suspicious. That month the orator John Gale Jones went to Rochester and Chatham where he was warmly received. Binns and Jones went to Birmingham on 7 March; but their lecture was broken up, and they were imprisoned on the 11th for sedition. Harsh bail was required and raised for them. The LCS reached a high of about 3,000 members, and they published the Moral and Political Magazine from early July until June 1797. Thelwall gave lectures in Norwich. In the first two lectures clergy and military officers failed to provoke a disturbance, but on the third a gang of about ninety armed sailors turned out the lights, injured over thirty people, and demolished the building. Thelwall’s Tribune was suppressed in April, but he gave 22 lectures until 26 August.
      Early in the year Coleridge toured the midlands and northern England. Major John Cartwright published The Constitutional Defence of England urging universal suffrage. Also in 1796 Wolfe Tone urged Irish sailors to take their ships into French ports.

      On 15 February 1796 the British took over Ceylon from the Dutch. On 22 March a French delegation presented their peace terms at Berne. They refused to give up conquered territory around the Rhine and Savoy, and they demanded the British give back France’s colonies in the West Indies and Corsica. The British rejected this offer. Edward Jenner administered the first successful smallpox vaccination in May. On the 27th Bonaparte’s soldiers captured British ships in the harbor at Livorno, but on the 30th Nelson captured Napoleon’s siege train. France formed an alliance with Spain at Madrid on 19 August, and Spain declared war on Britain on 5 October. Napoleon ravaged Italy and imposed treaties on Tuscany, Naples, Rome, Parma, Genoa, Milan, and Venice. Also in 1796 a British expedition led by General Ralph Abercromby, and Admirals William Cornwallis and Hugh Christian suppressed revolts on St. Lucia, Grenada, and St. Vincent. Another force finally ended the Maroon revolt in Jamaica in March, but an attempt to conquer St. Domingue failed.
      On 14 February 1797 the British fleet led by Admiral Jervis defeated a larger Spanish one off Cape St. Vincent. Nelson’s Captain managed to take two of the four warships captured with 3,000 prisoners while the rest fled to Cadiz. Nelson was given a squadron and sailed to bombard Cadiz before moving south to assault Tenerife, capital of the Canary Islands on 21 July. Spaniards drove them back to their ships. Three days later in a second assault the British had 146 men killed, and Nelson lost his right arm. The Spanish governor released 300 British captives, and Nelson agreed to lift the siege.
      British war expenses had increased from £8,123,000 in 1793 to £26,273,000 in 1795, and the national debt went from £241,600,000 in 1793 to £310,400,000 in 1796 as their loans went from £6,700,000 to £32,500,000, raising interest rates. Money for allies was often sent in gold, reducing gold reserves from £5,632,000 in 1795 to £2,331,000 in 1796. The value of the Royal Mint’s new coins fell sharply from £2,558,000 in 1794 to £493,000 in 1796. In April of that year Prime Minister Pitt had authorized lending Austria £150,000 a month in treasury bills, and he did not inform Parliament until December. Fox’s censure motion failed. Pitt persuaded his Council and the King that they must issue paper money on 26 February 1797, and the Commons approved his policy. He also raised taxes on many items not often bought by the poor. On 4 April the Commons approved sending subsidies of £1,620,000 to Austria for that year.
      On 22 February 1,400 French troops landed in Wales and raided Fishguard in Pembrokeshire until they surrendered to British forces on the 24th. Most returned to France in a prisoner exchange in 1798. Yet the French army was triumphant in Europe, and the Austrians signed a preliminary treaty at Leoben on 18 April 1797, ending the First Coalition against the French. The Austrians defaulted on their £3,000,000 loan in 1795. On 24 May the French arrested the British secret agent Louis Alexandre de Launay, Comte d’Antraignes in Trieste and took to him to Napoleon at Milan. He learned that his General Pichegru was a royalist traitor which led to his arrest with forty conspirators on 1 September. In 1798 Pichegru and seven others escaped from prison in Guiana and made it to London where the Alien Office hired them in a plot to assassinate Napoleon.
      On 16 April 1797 sailors in the Portsmouth fleet refused to go to sea because their petitions on bad treatment were ignored. The strike turned into a mutiny at Spithead as several crews arrested their officers. They sent two delegates from each of 16 ships to demand higher pay, better food, medical care, pensions, less cruel punishment, more prize money, and pardons from the Admiralty’s First Lord George Spencer. Pitt and his cabinet approved the agreement and persuaded George III to pardon them. Radical sailors said they would defect to the French if Parliament did not act soon. Parliament passed a bill for a raise in pay with allowances on 5 May, and the Portsmouth fleet went to sea on the 17th. The strikes spread to Torbay, Plymouth, Weymouth, Yarmouth, and Nore. They accepted compromises, but Nore went on strike on 12 May and was repressed. Most mutineers accepted a pardon; but 412 were tried for treason, and 59 were convicted of which 29 were hanged.
      The British and French began negotiating on 4 July. After Director Barras purged the moderates from his government, he gave the British an ultimatum to accept his demands. Envoy Malmesbury refused and went back to London. On 11 October the British North Sea fleet led by Admiral Adam Duncan defeated a Dutch fleet off Camperdown, capturing eleven ships. By the end of the year the British Navy had French and other enemy ships confined to ports in the Netherlands, Cherbourg, Brest, Cadiz, and Toulon. Fox returned to the Commons on 14 December and was greeted with applause in the lobby and by the gallery. Five days later a mob in London jeered Pitt as he was returning from a thanksgiving service for naval victories.

      Thomas Erskine published his View of the Causes and Consequences of the Present War with France in February 1797, and he argued that the best remedy against mobs is to extend to people their full privileges. He believed that government had nothing to fear from extended representation. On the 15th the Whig Club gave him an ovation, and he recommended the leadership of Fox because something needed to be done quickly to prevent the ruin of the country, and a few days later Fox called for fundamental political change. Alderman W. C. Macaulay said that people can reform themselves by seceding. In the spring secret revolutionary cells were organized in London. The Whig Club applauded speeches by Fox, Duke Francis Russell of Bedford, and Sheridan.
      On 26 May 1797 Grey’s bill to introduce household suffrage was defeated 256-91. In July the London Corresponding Society held a public meeting on a field at St. Pancras with three platforms for speakers. Some 2,000 constables and soldiers were there with about 7,000 troops nearby. Magistrates soon proclaimed the meeting an illegal assembly and ordered them to disperse. People left with resisting, but six speakers were arrested and released on bail and found supporters on the streets. A grand jury declined to indict them. Radical societies were pressured by Church and King clubs, Reevite associations, and Volunteer companies. Thomas Muir escaped from Botany Bay in February 1796 and managed to get America and then by November 1797 to the Directory in Paris where he worked with Paine. That month George Canning founded the weekly Anti-Jacobin to oppose the radicals. Also in 1797 the Seduction from Duty and Allegiance Act made it a capital crime to suborn servicemen, and the Act against Administering Oaths was intended to discourage mutinies and secret insurgency.
      Rev. James Coigly was educated in Kent but worked for the United Irishmen (UI) as a messenger between Dublin and Paris. He also recruited people in Manchester for the United Englishmen, and in London he worked with Benjamin and John Binns. The latter wrote The Address to the Irish Nation that was issued by LCS on 30 January 1798. He noted that nations would be instructed by their example and advised,

May your Governors be warned by historic Experience,
and learn that Governments are made for the People,
and not the People for Governments;
that the Voice of God is always to be gathered
from the congregated WILL of His rational Creatures.30

Coigly and Binns went to Dublin in January, and then Arthur O’Connor accompanied Coigly back to Paris for the UI. Coigly wrote an address for the French government showing that the English, Irish, and Scottish republicans would support a French invasion. Military repression escalated, and the three men with two others were arrested trying to hire a boat at Margate on 28 February. UI circles met in Dublin from 12 to 21 March to develop a plan. John Ashley had been secretary of the LCS, and in early April he promised Foreign Minister Talleyrand that 30,000 Londoners would actively oppose the Government. On 18 April the Government arrested 13 United Englishman and the next day the 16 men on the LCS general committee. On the 20th the Government suspended Habeas Corpus, and arrested six more by the 22nd. All together 74 were arrested, but some were released after a few weeks.
      With the British government near bankruptcy in January 1798 Pitt got taxes raised again. The tax on annual incomes over £65 was extended to those of £60, and the tax over incomes of £200 was increased to 10%. He also tripled the taxes on windows, male servants, horses, and carriages. A survey of national income was made in the fall. Britain’s Austrian and Russian allies wanted money to pay troops, but negotiations in 1798 faltered. Sheridan spoke in the Commons on the need to repel an invasion, and the radical Thelwall wrote to Hardy on 24 May that he agreed with Sheridan because “no nation can be free but by its own efforts.”
      Napoleon had an army of 120,000 prepared to invade England but decided to attack Egypt instead. On the way they took over Malta in June, and he abolished slavery and feudal privileges and organized an administration with new laws, taxes, and schools. Admiral Nelson’s ships missed Napoleon’s fleet at first, but he defeated them at Aboukir Bay on 3 August; the French lost 5,235 men and had 3,305 captured while the English suffered only 896 casualties. Nelson went to Naples where he fell in love with Emma Hamilton and spent time with Ferdinando IV and his queen who made him Duke of Bronte with an annual stipend of £3,000.
      On 5 April 1799 master millwrights petitioned the House of Commons to stop a combination of journeymen from forming a union. Wilberforce proposed a bill to oppose organizing workers, and the Act to Prevent Unlawful Combinations of Workmen passed and received royal assent on 12 July. Also in 1799 the United Scotsmen were banned.

      The British government suspended Habeas Corpus again on 9 January 1799 until May 20 when the suspension was extended to March 1801. On 10 March 1799 they arrested 19 United Irishmen at the Royal Oak. Six days later John Binns was arrested again and was held until March 1801. On 9 April they arrested 13 United Englishmen, and Baxter and two others were also imprisoned until March 1801. On 12 July the London Corresponding Society was one of the organizations that was suppressed by law. Some members continued to meet informally for a while. Flower’s radical Cambridge Intelligencer was published from 1793 to 1803, and William Cowdroy founded the Manchester Gazette in 1795. Both favored reforms and had been able to criticize the Government’s policies and were popular, but the latter also criticized radicals.
      After a bad harvest the price of wheat in London nearly doubled from September 1799 to July 1800, causing an industrial recession especially in textiles. During the summer imports prevented starvation, but at the end of August rioting broke out in Sheffield and spread to the Midlands in September. Jacobins printed bills, and nation-wide petitioning urged the emergency recall of Parliament which met on 11 November. That month many troops gathered in the West Midlands. After the suspension of Habeas Corpus ended on 5 March 1801, many state prisoners were released. Disease, especially typhus, was spreading in urban areas and some rural ones.
      On 17 February 1799 Russian Tsar Paul promised to send an army of 45,000 men for £225,000 and an annual subsidy of £900,000. Grenville wanted 45,000 more troops, and on 22 June Britain’s Charles Whitworth signed a treaty with Russia promising to pay them £88,000 to mobilize 17,500 troops and £44,000 per month for the duration of the war. On 25 May the Prime Minister Pitt asked the Commons to fund the Navy and vote the same day. Fox’s George Tierney insisted on more time, and Pitt accused him of obstructing national defense. When Pitt refused to retract his aspersion, Tierney challenged him to a duel. They met at dawn on the 27th, and both fired twice at 12 paces without hitting anyone. Pitt was so stressed that he spent several days in bed.
      In 1799 Nelson’s fleet blockaded Naples for several months, and in late June a royalist army of mostly peasants led by Cardinal Ruffo attacked Naples. To stop the looting Ruffo agreed to an amnesty with the French promising safe conduct; but Nelson and King Ferdinando rejected the treaty and imprisoned 8,000 people of the Parthenopean Republic and without a trial hanged the leader Francesco Caracciolo and 99 others. Nelson sent three squadrons to attack other Italian cities and another that blockaded the French at Malta. The Spanish garrison at Port Mahon surrendered on 15 November.
      General Ralph Abercromby led a British force of 12,818 soldiers who seized the Dutch port of Nieue Werk, capturing twelve frigates on 28 August 1799. Duke Edward of York replaced Abercromby in September and with 6,000 Russian troops had an allied force of 32,000 men. Their attacks at Bergen on 19 September and at Castricum on 6 October were repulsed by French and Dutch forces. On the 18th York accepted an armistice agreeing to send back 8,000 French and Dutch prisoners from England, and he promised to return his army to England by November 30.
      Commodore William Sidney Smith’s fleet was blockading Alexandria and sent half of them to Acre where they captured six of Napoleon’s warships carrying siege guns on 18 March 1799. The British helped the Turks withstand the French assaults on Acre on the 28th, on 16 April, and on 10 May. Smith sent Napoleon a message urging him to raise the siege because “Asia is not a theatre made for your glory.” Smith’s fleet observed the French as they marched back to Egypt.

Ireland’s Rebellion in 1798 and Union

      Ireland’s population of 4,750,000 had about 3,000,000 Catholics, but laws excluded them from politics. Northern counties had many Protestants including radical dissenters. In 1786 a Dublin police act authorized the Lord Lieutenant to appoint three police commissioners to direct about 700 constables, which Whigs considered a threat to their freedom. Volunteer companies had been started in Belfast in 1777. In 1791 radical Volunteers formed the Belfast Whig Club, and they advocated abolishing tithes paid by Catholics and Presbyterians to conforming Protestant clergy.
      Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-98) liked English literature, the theatre, and debated in the College Historical Society. He became a Protestant barrister in Dublin but preferred politics. At a Belfast meeting on 14 July 1791 he recommended resolutions to extend the franchise and forming a balanced union with the English that would abolish the unjust distinctions regarding the Irish. He published his Argument on Behalf of Catholics of Ireland anonymously in September so that they could own land and businesses and vote and run for office. He advocated parliamentary reform by uniting Irish radicals and Catholics to achieve Catholic emancipation and improve democracy. He urged the Irish not to support the British war on Spain. He helped start the Society of United Irishmen (UI) in October at Belfast, and another chapter formed at Dublin led by James Napper Tandy on 9 November. In 1792 similar societies formed in Ardee, Armagh, Clonmel, Gorey, Limberick, Lisburn, Nenagh, Sixmiletown, Templepatrick, Tullamore, and other places.
      Most of the Presbyterians in Belfast were still anti-Catholic. Some Presbyterians in Ulster had emigrated to America for land. Catholics from the south came to rent their land, and Presbyterian peasants joined the Hearts of Oak and other societies to force landlords to fix rents. The Peep o’ Day Boys had formed about 1785 and began attacking Catholics to keep them from outbidding them. In response the Catholics organized the Defenders and had military parades. The Peep o’ Day Boys controlled Armagh, but in 1791 and 1792 fighting broke out in Tyrone, Down, Louth, Meath, Cavan, and Monaghan. The Defenders moved into Catholic areas and became a secret organization to work for reforms on tithes and rents. Paine’s Rights of Man had seven editions in Ireland in 1791 and 1792, and liberal Whigs subsidized editions priced at only 6d.
      Disabilities based on mixed marriages were repealed in early 1792. Tone became assistant secretary for the Catholic Committee, and he defended the Catholic Convention held in December. That month the Dublin UI demanded universal male suffrage, annual parliaments, paid members, no property requirement, disqualifying MPs for bribery, and 300 single-member constituencies, and in January 1793 they appointed a committee to plan parliamentary reform. Napper Tandy put out a handbill signed “Commonsense” and was charged with libel in April. When the Government was informed that he had signed the Defenders’ oath, he went into hiding and emigrated to the United States in 1795.
      On 8 December 1792 the Government called upon magistrates to act against those assembling in arms. The United Irishmen responded by calling to arms the Volunteers and citizen soldiers, and on the 16th the national battalion met, thanked them, and resolved to defend their country. In February 1793 the Volunteer companies were disarmed and disbanded. An Irish militia bill increased the regular forces by 5,000 men in April. That month the British Prime Minister Pitt got the Irish government to implement the Catholic Relief Act to remove previous restrictions on civil and military careers, though they still could not be members of the Irish Parliament. In July the Irish Parliament’s Convention Act prohibited summoning any delegate assemblies but Parliament. Also in 1793 the UI began using oaths aimed at overthrowing the government. The Peep o’ Day Boys were alarmed by Catholic enfranchisement, and sectarian conflict escalated.
      In early 1794 the Irish Parliament passed a war tax. The French sent the Anglican Rev. William Jackson who urged open rebellion by the Irish and assured people that the French would support them. He was arrested on 28 April. The British counter-agent Cockayne testified against him one year later, and Jackson was convicted of treason and after taking arsenic died in the dock. Tone avoided prosecution by agreeing to exile in America. The United Irishmen had been suppressed at Dublin on 4 May. On the 23rd the police broke up a meeting of the Dublin UI and seized papers, and the society stopped meeting.
      Earl William Fitzwilliam was appointed Lord-lieutenant of Ireland in December 1794 and arrived on 9 January 1795. The militia was expanded, and the Parliament voted 20,000 for the navy. Grattan introduced a police bill and then a Catholic relief bill on 12 February. Fitzwilliam favored removing the legal disabilities affecting Irish Catholics, but the British Cabinet wrote that he was moving too fast. They recalled him, and he left Ireland on 25 March. The United Irishmen secretly organized recruiting at Belfast on 10 May.
      Samuel Neilson had started publishing the Northern Star in Belfast in January 1792. In 1794 the proprietors were prosecuted twice for publishing radical reports of the Belfast Club and the UI but were acquitted both times. Neilson urged Tone to contact the French minister in Philadelphia. Tone arrived in America in May 1795, and with a letter from the minister he went to Paris in February 1796. Although the French Revolution was challenging Catholicism, Tone and other Irish hoped that the French would help them form a republic independent of Britain, and Tone reached the French Directory.
      Meanwhile the Defender movement had spread throughout Ireland, and in some of their battles more than a hundred died and even more were captured. On 21 September 1795 at Diamond in Armagh some Defenders attacked the Peep o’Day Boys who killed at least twenty Defenders. That evening the Protestants founded the Orange Order named after Willem of Orange who had replaced Catholic James II. The Orangemen attacked Catholics in Ulster, putting notices on doors that they should go “to hell or Connacht.” They broke the looms of Catholic weavers and burned their houses.
      The Catholic Defenders organized in the north; but as persecution increased, they fled to the Catholic south and west. Wolfe Tone and Edward Lewins helped persuade the French to send four naval expeditions to try to liberate Ireland. The first one with about 14,000 French troops in December 1796 was scattered by winter storms. Some ships with 8,000 troops stayed in Irish waters for ten days; but the peasants in Munster did not rise up, and the French fleet went home.
      In 1796 the Dublin Government passed the Insurrection Act that authorized the Lord Lieutenant to impose curfews and searches for arms that led to mass arrests, burned houses, and flogging until a UI member was named. In early 1797 in Ulster the Defenders supported by the United Irish terrorized Monaghan county and took over Tyrone. On 13 March 1797 General Lake proclaimed that arms must be surrendered, and martial law was imposed in regions suffering from sectarian conflict such as Leinster and Munster. In two weeks they seized 5,400 guns, 600 bayonets, and 350 pistols. In April the Irish impressed into the Royal Navy supported the mutinies. The Dublin Parliament suspended the Habeas Corpus Act, and Ulster had about 500 political prisoners by September. Soldiers disrupted the printing of the Northern Star twice, and it ceased publishing.
      Henry Grattan tried to get the Irish Parliament to pass more reforms, but after failing for three years he retired in May. By June the UI had 121,000 members in Ulster and Louth, and they were well established in Leinster and Munster with 90,000 in Cork and in Connacht by 1798. Expenditures in Ireland quadrupled from 1792 to 1800, and the number of troops there went from about 14,000 in 1793 to 76,000 in 1798 including 40,000 volunteer civilians called “yeomanry” and about 25,000 Irish militia.
      In the spring of 1797 the UI executive committee sent attorney Edward Lewins to ask for French support, and in June he, Tone, and the French General Lazare Hoche began meeting with the Dutch about an expeditionary force to Ireland, but the British defeated the fleet at Camperdown in October. Tone and Lewins met with Napoleon in December and January, but he needed money and decided to invade Egypt.
      The United Irishmen (UI) formed a National Directory with four provincial committees. William Wickham had ordered the Alien Office to send agents to infiltrate the UI that led to 18 members of Leinster’s committee with sixteen members of the Directory being arrested on 12 March 1798. Wickham learned in April that pike heads were being manufactured in Dublin. The Castle had offered a reward for their military chief Edward Fitzgerald on the 11 March, and on the 19th he mortally wounded a police officer and was shot and died in prison six weeks later. Martial law was imposed on Leinster at the end of March. Dublin prepared for an uprising set for 14 May.
      Henry Sheares tried to organize an uprising in Dublin, but he was arrested on the 23 May. Ulster held back, but the UI rose up in Kildare, Wicklow, Carlow, Offaly, Laois, and Meath. In the revolt hundreds of rebelling peasants were massacred. At Maidstone because the Government protected their sources from testifying, on the 22nd a jury acquitted John Binns, Arthur O’Connor, Allen, and Leary of treason. However, James Coigly had been caught with the UI address and was convicted and hanged on 7 June. On 28 May the Home Office began arresting Irishmen in London. Kildare revolted on 24 May, but they suffered heavy losses as did County Wicklow. Downshire rose up on 9 June, but they were defeated by the 12th. The Ulster rebellion lasted only six days.
      The people of Wexford were given 14 days to surrender their arms, but they decided to fight on 26 May, and four days later about 18,000 rebels overcame a small force and occupied the county town. For three weeks the citizens of Wexford County organized a republican government; but the British defeated them at Vinegar Hill on 21 June. Many were slaughtered including about 150 mostly Protestants burned in a barn. Some leaders were captured and executed.
      In the Irish revolt many were shot or hanged without trials. Houses were set on fire. General Lake threatened to “slaughter without trial every person having arms.” Prime Minister Pitt sent Cornwallis to take command, and he ordered a stop to punishment without trial. His chief secretary Castlereagh advised a policy of firmness and lenity to prevent future rebellions. Fugitives fled to camps in Kildare and in the mountains of Wicklow.
      The uprisings in Ireland were increasing, and by June the British had 130,000 soldiers there suppressing every revolt. On 17 July Cornwallis proclaimed an amnesty with a few exceptions to end the rebellion which had killed about 50,000 people, mostly Irish Catholics.
      Three more French forays were launched in the summer of 1798. A force of 1,099 French troops landed on 22 August and invaded Longford county, giving out uniforms and muskets, but many Irish deserted and traded them for whiskey. On 8 September 844 French and 1,500 Irish rebels surrendered to Cornwallis at Ballinamuck. The British executed the Irish leaders and imprisoned the others. Napper Tandy’s army withdrew a week later, and the third squadron had six frigates captured at sea on 11 October. Wolfe Tone was with them and was convicted of treason and sentenced to death, and he cut his throat on 19 November. From May 1798 to December 1799 death sentences were given to 597 people in Ireland, and 667 were transported.


1. Quoted in The Nation, the Law and the King, Reform Politics in England, 1789-1799 by Jenny Graham, Volume 1, p. 134.
2. Reflections on the French Revolution by Edmund Burke in Harvard Classics, volume 24, p. 189.
3. Ibid., p. 275.
4. Ibid., p. 374.
5. The Nation, the Law and the King, Reform Politics in England, 1789-1799 by Jenny Graham, Volume 1, p. 242.
6. The Making of the English Working Class by E. P. Thompson, p. 17.
7. The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine in Representative Selections with Introduction, Bibliography, and Notes by Harry Hayden Clark, p. 109.
8. Ibid., p. 163.
9. Ibid., p. 173.
10. Ibid., p. 179-180.
11. Ibid., p. 191.
12. Ibid., p. 197.
13. Quoted in The Nation, the Law and the King, Reform Politics in England, 1789-1799, p. 325.
14. Quoted in Tom Paine: A Political Life by John Keane, p. 355.
15. The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine in Representative Selections with Introduction, Bibliography, and Notes by Harry Hayden Clark, p. 234.
16. Ibid., p. 235.
17. Ibid., p. 295.
18. A Vindication of the Rights of Men by Mary Wollstonecraft in A Mary Wollstonecraft Reader, p. 243.
19. A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft, p. 34.
20. Ibid., p. 37.
21. Ibid., p. 45.
22. Ibid., p. 51.
23. Ibid., p. 141.
24. Ibid., p. 150.
25. Enquiry Concerning Political Justice by William Godwin, p. 192.
26. Ibid., p. 408.
27. Ibid., p. 794.
28. Quoted in The Friends of Liberty: The English Democratic Movement in the age of the French revolution by Albert Goodwin, p. 308.
29. Ibid., p. 315-316.
30. Selections from the Papers of the London Corresponding Society 1792-1799 ed. Mary Thale, p. 419.

Copyright © 2018 by Sanderson Beck

EUROPE & REVOLUTION 1789-1830 has been published as a book.
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France’s Revolution 1789-95
France & Napoleon’s Rise & Fall 1796-1815
France of Louis XVIII & Charles X 1814-30
Britain’s Reaction to France 1789-1799
Britain: War and Recovery 1800-30
Romantic Era of English Literature 1789-1830
Germans, Austria & Swiss 1789-1830
German Idealists and Romantics 1789-1830
Spain, Portugal and Italy 1789-1830
Netherlands and Scandinavia 1789-1830
Poland, Russia & Greek Revolution 1789-1830
Summary and Evaluating Europe 1789-1830


Chronology of Europe 1716-1830
World Chronology 1715-1815
World Chronology 1816-1830

BECK index