England and the French Revolution by Stephen Prickett (auth.)

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By Stephen Prickett (auth.)

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In a number of important respects, however, the terms of the debate, and therefore the images used, remain remarkably constant. The sense of forces at work on a greater than human scale persists and grows, aided by images from that other, metaphorical, revolution of the period, the Industrial Revolution. There is similarly a reiterated contrast between the natural and the unnatural and between apocalyptically conceived religious forces of light and darkness, good and evil. The former imagery is frequent, for instance, in Cobbett; the latter in one of the most prolific radical journalists and publishers of the eighteen-teens, William Hone, whose trial and acquittal in 1817 was a landmark in popular agitation.

Though Burke was by no means solely responsible for this radical shift of meaning in a stock metaphor, to him must go much of the credit for popularising its political implications. By the early years of the nineteenth century the idea of nature and its associated notions of organism had as clear a heritage in conservative polemic as in radical - indeed, the word 'radical' itself with its semantic implications of getting to the 'root' of the problem presented problems to those who suspected that by digging down to the roots one might be in danger of killing the actual tree.

L4-15. Holding fast to the principles of the Glorious Revolution Price goes on to spell out the implications of constitutional monarchy that he sees as enshrined in the 1688 settlement. Though he has been careful to prepare his ground by starting with first principles so unexceptionable that even his most Tory opponents could hardly have disagreed, each step of the argument is bringing him on to more and more controversial territory. The description that follows of the position of King George III - a simple obstinate man, known popularly as 'Farmer George' - is a brilliant piece of radical polemic, professing to accept the conventional hyperbole and rhetoric of Parliament and Prayer-Book, while giving it an explanatory gloss of an unambiguously democratic nature: Civil governors are properly the servants of the public; and a King is no more than the first servant of the public, created by it, maintained by it, and responsible to it: and to all homage paid him, is due to him on no other account than his relation to 38 England and the French Revolution the public.

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