Conservative vs. Liberal Debate
French Revolutionary Times in England and France
After reading Edmund Burke’s essay from “Reflections on the Revolution in France” (1790) and Mary Wollstonecraft’s essays from “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” (1792) and “A Vindication of the Rights of Man,” develop your own essay that presents the main points from both writers’ arguments. Explain how they attempt to persuade their readers of their points of view on justice, equality, and tradition. Consider how their views contradict each other.
The following definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) may be useful in establishing your position on the writers’ thinking:
Liberal: “Supporting or advocating individual rights, civil liberties, and political and social reform tending towards individual freedom or democracy with little state intervention.”
Conservative: “That conserves, or favours the conservation of, an existing structure or system; (now esp.) designating a person, movement, outlook, etc., averse to change or innovation and holding traditional ideas and values, esp. with regard to social and political issues.”
Include the following in developing your topic:
1) Discuss at least three main points for Burke, and three main points for Wollstonecraft.
2) Include at least three direct quotes for Burke, and three direct quotes for Wollstonecraft.
3) Follow the MLA style for documenting essays with citations for your quotes and a works cited page to list your sources.
4) Use the MLA heading and document design: title your essay, number your pages, double-space typing, and use 4-line heading on the first page.
5) Document length should be 4-5 pages.
Conservative vs. Liberal Debate (Mary Wollstonecraft and Edmund Burke)
The terms liberal and conservative recur throughout the 18th and the 19th century, liberals are seen as individuals who support and advocate for individual rights, democracy, and civil liberties. Conservatives are people who advocate for the conservation of existing structures and systems in a country especially the social and political cultures of the country. Burke’s criticisms on the French revolution began as a response to a journalist who asked for his opinions on the French revolution; by 1790 he had written the book reflections of the French revolution where he advocated for the conservation of the traditional rule in France.
Mary Wollstonecraft then wrote her book the vindication of the rights of woman 1972 and a vindication of the rights of man as a response to Burke’s work about the reflection on the revolution of France (Wollstonecraft, 2). Although the two writers had contradicting views on factors such as justice, equality, and tradition they both attracted a lot of followers who by reading their books became more enlightened. This paper looks at how both writers had conflicting views regarding the French revolution and how they presented their arguments on different factors to their readers.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s and Edmund Burke’s view of Justice
Burke questioned the justification of the French revolution disputing that in the early 1979 most politicians in France were looking for reforms and not revolution. Most revolution supporters indicated that the monarchy, the nobility, and the church had been caught up in numerous scandals warranting none of them the “tyrannical democracy” that had come to rule. Burke (152) indicates that “everything seems out of nature in this chaos and ferocity” arguing that the new lawmakers and the parliament lacked the discretion and judgment required for the steady work transformation creating a lot of unnecessary political tension in the country. According to Lit charts (par. 2), Burke provided an example of when the national assembly was tasked with the duty of redrawing the map of France for representation. The aftermath of that task was an increase in the level of inequalities; the national assembly highly relied on the confiscation of church lands which would highly affect the already struggling economy of France.
Mary Wollstonecraft wrote the book “a vindication of rights on women” to address the situation in France where there was no equal justice for women, even in the revolution and the educational reform proposed by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, no regard was given to women. Wollstonecraft was angered by this reform pamphlet and decided to dedicate a volume of her book to Charles indicating that he should reconsider his proposals and respect the rights of women in education. She explained that women had been treated unfairly for a long time; she was able to blend the feminine and the masculine language which allowed her to argue against the political and the philosophical minds of her time.
Contradiction by the two Authors on the view of Justice
Burke’s and Wollstonecraft’s view on justice contradicted each other in the aspect that Wollstonecraft wanted reform of education in France that would justify the education of women while Burke fought against the reforms and revolution as it would highly affect the economy of France leaving many people including women and children in poverty. Burke’s main concern was the lack of equitable justice against members of the national assembly since their main concern was not the welfare of citizens in France, but the removal of the monarchy, the nobility, and the church. Wollstonecraft’s was against the retention of the monarchy rule since it devalued women and created reforms that did little to acknowledge them.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s and Edmund Burke’s view on Tradition
Wollstonecraft was adamant about the importance of change in France; a change that would highly affect the cultural tradition of France since women would be educated and be allowed to fend for them-selves. In previous years, women’s roles were to stay at home and take care of their children and husbands while men went out to gather food for the family. Wollstonecraft had witnessed continuous oppression of women who had separated from their husbands; she highly blamed the education system and the domestic etiquette in France that hindered the independent growth of female thought. Women were not only denied equal political, social, and financial opportunities as men, they were also forced to live a distracted lifestyle that conveniently disdained them of any activity that resembled an independent thought. Wollstonecraft (153) indicated that “a mistaken education, a narrow uncultivated land and many sexual prejudices tend to make women more invariable than men” explaining the main cause of women’s oppression.
Burke valued the traditional aspect of France and did not want it to change; he indicated that change in France would only lead to more misery, “besides people of England sure know the principle of conservation, principle of transmission, and the principle of improvement which secures what it acquires” (Burke, 153). Although he acknowledged that the old tradition only contained rights of men he indicated that those rights provided the government with an inadequate basis and wisdom to provide for human needs and wisdom, he also argues that preoccupation with abstract rights like those of women could lead people to ignore human nature and rationalize the imposing vision of revolution.
Contradiction by the two Authors on the view of Tradition
The main issue that bothered Mary Wollstonecraft with Burke’s book was his disregard on the importance of equality and the fact that he supported the traditional rule approach which was filled with unequal rights between men and women. She explained that the oligarchic control limited the chances of equal distribution of wealth between the poor and the rich, the poor mostly being women and children. Although, burke wanted equality and justice he believed that the preservation of the country’s political tradition would help the citizens of France get there faster than with a revolution.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s and Edmund Burke’s view on Equality
Mary Wollstonecraft employed several aspects in Romanticism to explain gender roles between women and men claiming that women have the same thinking capacity as men. Many women seemed undeveloped since they lacked the proper educational background that would help them develop their thoughts. Wollstonecraft indicated the only way to end poverty in France was by strengthening the female mind to end blind obedience, however, blind obedience was the preferred ideology by many political powers and tyrants since most of them saw women as slaves or play items as Wollstonecraft (172) indicates “the constitution of civil society has rendered them insignificant object of desire”. Although she fails to address some issues regarding equality aspects between men and women, she is unwavering on the issue of equal education and mental engagement for both men and women.
Burke was mainly against the revolution because he believed that most of the promises indicated for the revolution were false. A good example is the glorious revolution speech by Richard Price a dissenting minister, price indicated that with the revolution, people would be allowed to vote for their governors and frame the government for themselves; people would also have the right remove their governors from office if they were caught mishandling or misusing government resources. The revolution was portrayed as a bridge of equality between the poor and the rich. Burke argued that the contents of the glorious revolution were very different from what was presented by Price; he indicated that the ruling government was only using equality promises between the rich and the poor to advocate for revolution. Most poor people in France were women since they did not have the mental capacity to work; they had to depend on men to provide for them. He explained that “when ancient opinions and rules are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated” (Burke, 156) meaning that the adoption of a new rule in France would bring more predicament to France.
Contradiction by the two Authors on the view of Equality
Although Burke’s and Wollstonecraft’s essays rail against how power denies certain individuals the right to life and equal opportunities their viewpoints highly contradict each other. Burke wanted the conservation of the ruling government since the revolution would lead to more inequality in France; however, the ruling government that he is fighting for is highly associated with inequality against the poor and women. Wollstonecraft is fighting for reforms that would empower women such as educational and liberal alteration to adopt a more inclusive government that would uphold equality as an important aspect in its administration.
Mary Wollstonecraft can be seen as a liberal who fought for educational and social equality for women while Edmund burke was a conservative who greatly opposed the French revolution indicating that a mob rule in the country would destroy the French society (Peltz, par. 5). Wollstonecraft (171) pointed out that, “In a treatise, therefore, on female rights and manners, the works done and written for women’s improvement must not be overlooked” indicating that most leaders who had the opportunity to change the social perception of women often fought against people like her who fought for women rights and education. Most leaders wanted revolution in France, but not the revolution of women. Burke was not against women’s rights, but was mainly concerned on the legitimacy of the new government and how it would affect France generally. He preferred the conservation of the old political rule which was the main problem with Wollstonecraft since it did not support women rights.
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