How Successfully Did Pitt Deal With The Impact Of The French Revolution To 1801?

1304 words - 5 pages

The 14th of July 1789 marked the beginning of the French Revolution. In England the impact was met with a great deal of paranoia against new revolutionary ideas. Pitt's so called reign of terror tried to deal with this believed threat through propaganda and censorship. However many historians believe there was no real threat of a revolution in England, and that at the time the country was at its most patriotic.One of the French Revolution's largest impacts was on intellectual debate, and Pitt put forward many countermeasures against this and mostly it stopped. However there is talk of 'underground' movements that threatened society. The largest change in England was brought by the introduction and increased popularity of 'societies'. These were places where people met and talked about politics. These were seen as great threats to the integrity of society and as such Pitt decided to ban them. However by the time Pitt had decided to ban them many other factors had led to their demise anyway. After the French King's execution there had been a popular outcry against the act and people stopped going to these societies, at least publicly. Therefore Pitt's 'seditious meetings act' was a pointless intervention because most of the societies had fizzled out and any other threats had, as E.P Thompson argues, gone underground. Pitt's policy on this matter was unsuccessful because the underground groups still existed, and it was unnecessary because all major threat had disappeared and turned into support.Pitt decided to completely censor the press, he did this due to the threat of criticism, and that it may lead to an uprising like that which had occurred in France. In England at this time most of the population could not read nor write so obviously the censorship came dangerously close to being pointless because, as had happened in France, the majority of force came from the lower, illiterate classes. The writings of Mary Wollstonecraft and Thomas Hardy, for example, were under scrutiny; but it made no difference to the illiterate classes; it was a battle for the bourgeoisie to argue. However, that being said, some literature did make an effect on the wider masses, for instance Tom Paine's 'The Right's of Man' (which was written in colloquial language) was a huge success with this wider audience, and had been a major influence on the American Revolution. It is therefore apparent that in conjunction with other measures, specifically the seditious meetings act and the suspension of Habeas Corpus, this became a necessary policy to uphold.The French Revolution had been a revolution for freedom, or so it was intended to be, and as such the resulting impact was a greater awareness of freedom and rights among the English people. So why then did Pitt suspend Habeas Corpus and do exactly the opposite of what the revolutionaries wanted? Suspension of Habeas Corpus meant any man; women or child could be arrested for any reason and for an indefinite period of time. It's...

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