A Vindication of the Rights of Men
A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; Occasioned by His Reflections on the Revolution in France is a political pamphlet, written by the 18th-century British liberal feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. It was the first response in a pamphlet war sparked by the publication of Edmund Burke’s Reflections. Woll stonecraft indicts Burke’s justification of an equal society founded on the passivity of women.
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A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; Occasioned by His Reflections on the Revolution in France is a political pamphlet, written by the 18th-century British liberal feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. It was the first response in a pamphlet war sparked by the publication of Edmund Burke’s Reflections. Burke’s book, despite being priced at an expensive three shillings, sold an astonishing 30,000 copies in two years. Thomas Paine’s famous response, The Rights of Man, which became the rallying cry for thousands, however, greatly surpassed it, selling upwards of 200,000 copy. Woll stonecraft indicts Burke’s justification of an equal society founded on the passivity of women. In her arguments for republican virtue, she invokes an emerging middle-class ethos in opposition to what she views as the vice-ridden aristocratic code of manners. She describes an idyllic country life in which each family has a farm sufficient for its needs. She contrasts her utopian picture of society, drawn with what she claims is genuine feeling, with Burke’s false theatrical tableaux. Most commentators in Britain expected Burke to support the French revolutionaries, because he had previously been part of the liberal Whig party, a critic of monarchical power, and a prosecutor of poor governance in India. When he failed to do so, it shocked the populace and angered his friends and supporters. The power of popular agitation in revolutionary France, demonstrated in events such as the Tennis Court Oath and the storming of the Bastille in 1789, reinvigorated the British reform movement, which had been largely moribund for a decade.
Efforts to reform the British electoral system and to distribute the seats in the House of Commons more equitably were revived. Most of those who came to be called radicals supported similar aims: individual liberties and civic virtue. They were united in the broad criticisms of the bellicose Bellicose Interests Society and its role in corruption, opposition to the people’s power and opposition to a monarchy who seized the power of the people’s power. However, at its height in 1792, the most important texts were published and the influence of radicalism was at its most mirabilis of eighteenth-century radicalism, such as London Corresponding Society and the Information Society for Constitutional Society, which was founded by William Godwin, William Godrwin’s son, and William Godwins, a member of the Royal Society for the Protection of the Human Rights of Women and Children. The Rights Of Men was successful: it was reviewed by every major periodical of the day and the first edition, published anonymously, sold out in three weeks. It remained the prevailing analysis of the rights of Men until the 1970s, when feminist scholars revisited WollStonecraft’s texts and endeavoured to bring greater attention to their intellectualism. They contrasted Wollstoncraft’s passion and Burke’s reason and spoke condescendingly of the text.
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