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Philosophy, Rights and Natural LawEssays in Honour of Knud Haakonssen$
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Ian Hunter and Richard Whatmore

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474449229

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474449229.001.0001

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Rights After the Revolutions

Rights After the Revolutions

(p.338) 13 Rights After the Revolutions
Philosophy, Rights and Natural Law

Richard Whatmore

Edinburgh University Press

The period of the French Revolution was famous for erecting an entirely new system of government and social mores on the basis of a declaration of the rights of man and the citizen. Everything changed in France, over a remarkably short period of time, leading to an especially intense debate about what a society founded on equal rights for all ought to look like. This chapter examines two of the systems expounded, derived from the political philosophies of Thomas Paine and Emmanuel Sièyes. The chapter examines the shock with which opponents such as Edmund Burke and Edward Gibbon greeted rights-based politics, and what happened when the new worlds of peace and prosperity promised by Paine and Sièyes descended into chaos and poverty. Around the turn of the eighteenth century the chapter charts a turn away from France and towards Britain as a possible model state for rights compatible with order and with civil liberty; in this turn the history of Scotland, and the existence of brilliant Scottish philosophers played a prominent role, being proof that Britain was not an empire run for the benefit of a mercantile class based in London, but was rather a cosmopolitan empire whose peripheries benefitted as much as the metropole. Republican voices still dedicated to the kinds of transformative natural jurisprudence promised in the early years of the French Revolution, shouted from the sidelines that if Britain was now the model state for humanity, then all of the reform projects of the eighteenth century had altogether failed.

Keywords:   Emmanuel Sièyes, Thomas Paine, Scottish enlightenment, Republicanism, French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars

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