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'I Can Bear Punishment': Daniel Isaac Eaton, Radical Culture and the Rule of Law, 1793-1812


Davis, MT, 'I Can Bear Punishment': Daniel Isaac Eaton, Radical Culture and the Rule of Law, 1793-1812, Criminal Justice History, 18 pp. 89-106. ISSN 0194-0953 (2003) [Refereed Article]

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In writing the preface to his novel Caleb Williams in 1794, William Godwin observed that "Terror was the order of the day." Political radicals of the late eighteenth century, in fact, believed they were experiencing what was later called the "English Reign of Terror," as the British government, supported by loyalist associations and militant Church and King mobs, mounted an official counter offensive against the burgeoning reform movement. In the years between 1792 and 1800, no fewer than thirteen repressive measures were enacted to suppress radical enthusiasms, which, for E.P. Thompson, exposed a government taking "halting steps" away from legitimate control and venturing toward a regime that would "dispense with the rule of law, dismantle their elaborate constitutional structures, countermand their own rhetoric and exercise power by force." Indeed, political trials showed a marked increase during the 1790s, with Lord Eldon commenting in 1795 "that there had been more prosecutions for libel within the last two years than there had been for twenty years before." One scholar has recently shown that the Court of King's Bench had conducted an average of just over two libel trials per year for most of the eighteenth century; in the decade after the French Revolution, however, this average figure increased fivefold. Moreover, Clive Emsley has counted some two hundred prosecutions for sedition from this period, although he contends that this number "pales into insignificance beside the number of prosecutions for sedition during the Jacobite emergencies of 1715 to 1716 and 1745 to 1746."

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Europe, crime, punishment, reform
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:British history
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Understanding past societies
Objective Field:Understanding past societies not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Davis, MT (Dr Michael Davis)
ID Code:47991
Year Published:2003
Deposited By:History and Classics
Deposited On:2007-11-21
Last Modified:2012-12-04

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