British Reactions to the French Revolution by Grey History

William Clark of the Grey History podcast on the French Revolution discusses how British reactions changed to the French Revolution, and two great opponents of political philosophy – Edmund Birke and Thomas Paine


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6 thoughts on “British Reactions to the French Revolution by Grey History

  1. An excellent guest podcast episode! I’ve only ever known if the French Revolution from the French point of view so it was nice to get an overview of its affects and interpretations in Britain. I have certainly heard of Edmund Burke but never got around to reading Reflections.

  2. Most interesting, thanks.

    Paine actually came out better than Burke in the US, whose founding documents are explicitly based on the “self-evident” truth of inalienable natural rights (see 1st sentence of Declaration of Independence), and much of what he called for was achieved – a very long time later. Like many visionaries (M. Wollstonecraft, for example), Paine saw many of his ideas not welcomed in his lifetime, realized later.

    And a question: to what extent did the military dictatorship that Burke predicted for France result from the military attacks by other countries? Pretty hard to build a new system of government when a bunch of foreigners are shooting at you. The Americans had two goes at devising a governing document, after making peace with the UK.

    1. I don’t know enough about the French Revolution to have an opinion on your quesion – I’m listening to Grey Histories now!

  3. What clearly proves Burke was right and Paine was wrong is the the Frankenstein created by Paine and his ilk created during the French Revolition tried to destroy him: He was shouted down and arrested (in 1793) by the very fanatics he had championed (Marat and the other mass murderers of the Directory). His idea of derivation of rights from “nature” is risible. But one good thing about Paine warrants comment: He argued against the execution of King Louis XVI and for a more humane exile. It is this which caused God (or Providence for the secularly inclined) to have mercy on him, savimg him from becoming devoured by the revolution he had defended.

  4. Paine was however right about rotten boroughs and beneficial social reforms. Had he embraced Burkes wisdom on the advantage of acheiving change within existing constitutional methods he could have acheived practical benefits for mankind rather than worsening the abstract extremist and ultimately doomed experminent of the bloody French revolution, not to mention the abhorrent Marxist aregimes that took inspiration from it over a century later.

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