Main page image

Cabinet 04: Politics-philosophy

Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794. Part I. London: Printed in the Year 1794. DeB Eb 1794 P

Payne, page 2 Age of Reason In 1791-92, Thomas Paine (1737-1809), an early advocate of republicanism, wrote The Rights of Man in response to criticism of the French Revolution. This work caused Paine to be labeled an outlaw in England for his anti-monarchist views and like Wilkes, he fled to France. In 1793, while imprisoned in Paris (and scheduled to be guillotined), Paine wrote The Age of Reason, a savage attack on the Church, Christianity, and the Bible. Bibliographical databases list early issues for sale at 1s. 6d. Paine's Age of Reason is considered a 'free thought' classic, and this unrecorded early issue, most certainly a pirate copy, was made freer by being sold at the cheaper price of 1s.

Richard Price, Observations on Civil Liberty and the Justice and Policy of the War with America. 3rd ed. London: Printed for T. Cadell, 1776. DeB Eb 1776 P

Price, page 2 Price, tp The eighteenth century saw the rise of clubs, intellectual breeding grounds where gentlemen could leisurely sit with like-minded souls and discuss the issues of the day. Dr Richard Price (1723-1791), the political radical, belonged to the Bowood Group, which included William Petty, second earl of Shelburne, Isaac Barré, Joseph Priestley, and Jeremy Bentham, and the Club of Honest Whigs, which included Benjamin Franklin (Price's sponsor into the Royal Society) and Jonathan Shipley. Price's support for the French Revolution and his opposition to the war in America led Congress to invite him to emigrate. He wisely declined. His Observations - with his own particular definition of 'Liberty' - sold well. This is the third edition.

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. 3rd ed. Vol. I. London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1796. DeB Eb 1796 W

Wollstonecraft page 32 WollstoneCraft tp The eighteenth century offered few employment opportunities to women: teaching, governessing, needlework. Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97), a member of Dr Price's congregation, was different, as she said to her sister Everina: 'You know I am not born to tread in the beaten track…the peculiar bent of my nature pushes me on.' The publication of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), in which he maintained the overthrow of authority in France would bring about chaos and disorder, provided an opportunity for a response. Wollstonecraft wrote Vindication of the Rights of Men and then her more famous Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), which promoted female emancipation and attacked Burke's indifference to the 'silent majority of misery.' It was an immediate best seller.