Revolutions & Rights Writing Assignment (L70)

1.) How does Friedrich Gentz distinguish between the American and French Revolutions? Do you see the influence of Edmund Burke in his thinking?

Gentz distinguishes between the American and French Revolutions by recognizing the different motivations of the people involved in each. The American Revolution was birthed in an attempt for the colonists to hold onto their traditions, and continue to embrace ways of old. The French Revolution, in contrast, was complete repudiation of the past; it was a breaking away from traditional legal principles. Another factor differentiating the two revolutions is the fact that the French Revolution was chalked full of organized violence. The only real difference between the violent outbreaks in France and with the colonists however, was that in France, the government itself was the only sanctioning the violence. In fact, the majority of the terror was carried out by the government’s Committee of Public Safety. The biggest threat to the colonists were people much alike them, of equal power and ability. Lastly, during the French Revolution, there was a large de-Christianization of the people. This war on Christianity was not an extension of the American Revolution.

2.) What points is Mary Wollstonecraft making in the excerpts you read from the beginning of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman? What would she like to see changed in European society?

Mary Wollstonecraft is making the point that women could be equal to men given the resources. She understands that the stunted abilities of women are no fault of their own, and attributes this less-than-efficient state of womanhood to lack of proper education. “The conduct and manners of women, in fact, evidently prove that their minds are not in a healthy state; for, like the flowers which are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty… One cause of this barren blooming I attribute to a false system of education… books written on this subject by men who, considering females rather as women than human creatures, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational mothers.” She also understand the woman’s place in society, and why it has become what it is; male domination. According to Wollstonecraft, women in her days were objectified by men, much as they are today, however, their mental and physical abilities were looked past. They were viewed legally and literally as property; house cleaning, child watching, inferior-to-man property. She would have liked to see children, both boys and girls, receiving equal educations, and treatment (in government run schools). She would’ve also liked to see women breaking from their societal molds, (however she still seems to be slightly stuck in a domestic housewife mold herself); she spoke deeply on maternal instinct, and housewife responsibilities (slightly blurring her stance). It becomes slightly unclear whether she wanted educated women working in the homes as they regularly would, or if she would like women to be working as men did, however her basic ideals are clear; give women equal rights!

The quote in the text is an excerpt from Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

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