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The Necessity of Revolution

During the outbreak of the French Revolution many ideas and opinions arose concerning the necessity for revolution as well as the defining principles that make a revolution. In Richard Price’s A Discourse on the Love of Our Country he uses England’s own Glorious Revolution to illustrate some of the reasoning behind the French Revolution. Edmund Burke takes a different approach in Reflections, and looks at the French Revolution with disdain. Both Price and Burke displayed strong feelings toward the Revolution in France and how the rest of Europe should view it.

As Price characterizes the Glorious Revolution in England he continuously references how thankful the English citizens should be for expelling a tyrant from power and replacing him with “a Sovereign of our own choice”. Through a “bloodless victory” England created a Bill of Rights limiting the power of the monarchy and giving more liberties to the people. Price argues the need for revolution in order for a populace to grow and flourish. For if the Glorious Revolution had never occurred change would not exist in England. Rather than being a country of prosperity, England would consist of “a base of people groaning under the infamy and misery of popery and slavery.”

While Price praises the Glorious Revolution for changing the the governing structure of the country for the better, he does call attention to the fact that the process of change has not concluded. The religious inequality of England remains an open issue. The unjust treatment that Protestant Dissenters face within the Anglican church of England serves as proof that although England has made progress, more needs to be done.

In Price’s view revolution is necessary in order for despotism to be displaced and the basic rights of people preserved. The French Revolution should serve as a match lighting a fire that should spread throughout the whole of Europe in order to defeat all oppressors and “restore mankind their rights; and consent to the correction of abuses, before they and you are destroyed together.”

When Burke writes Reflections his ideals on the Revolution in France differ drastically form Price. While Burke agrees that the outcome of the French Revolution would be “wonderful”. The path taken to reach it is “absurd and ridiculous”. In Burkes mind the revolutionist were not simply overthrowing an oppressive monarchy, they were killing chivalry and decency.

By arresting the queen and king, and killing hundreds of French citizens Burke argues that the manners and “native dignity” that civilization was built on were destroyed. In the end the French have removed the monarchy, but replaced it with a nation that is now “gross, destitute of religion, honor, possessing nothing at the present, and hoping for nothing hereafter.

Both Price and Burke argue valid points concerning the French Revolution. In his support of it Price maintains the belief that in order for man to ensure his natural born rights and freedoms, but revolutionary principles must be continuously be put into practice in so that they “give way to reason and conscience.” In Burke’s writings he understands that the aim of the French Revolution is the outcome that Price depicts but, the method in which the French peruse it centers on murder and calamity; leaving no reason of order to be found.

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