British Reactions to the French Revolution

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British Reactions to the French Revolution

As much as it was both reactionary zeal and genuine concern, much of Great Britain's Parliament felt compelled to restrict certain civil liberties (such as freedom of assembly and speech) in order to preserve the greater peace and thus saving England from the fate of France's failed revolution, whose Reign of Terror inspired fear in many European countries around it. English aristocrats and the Monarchy were very concerned over the course of events in France and as such would go to great pains to suppress any "radical" thinking or publishing (that is, any logic that mirrored or even resembled the "equality" ideals that fostered the revolution). The impassioned rhetoric of Edmond Burke and William Putt, Prime minister of England put into motion laws that would not only limit free speech, but also free thought in regards to the French political movement. Intellectual discussions of certain revolutionary ideas were banned and the writ of habeas corpus was temporarily suspended in 1794. While poets like William Wordsworth might indeed have been inspired by the nationalistic spirit and ideas of equality that the French National Assembly (the governing body of France during the revolution) proposed, the bloody turn of events in the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon led not only to a new rise in conservatism in Europe(particularly in Wordsworth himself, who later in life identified himself as a conservative), but to reactionary laws in England.

The causes of the French revolution must be looked at if one is to understand why it caused the reactions it did in the British populace and their political figures. Among many other issues, royal absolutism throughout France was a leading cause of resentment in France, where the Royalty was very much in charge of the country's political and legal system. Not counting the twelve Parliaments of France (who were responsible for turning the King's decree into law), the King...
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