Reflections on the Revolution in France | Study Guide

Edmund Burke

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Reflections on the Revolution in France | Key Figure Analysis


Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke is a multifaceted narrator in his lengthy pamphlet: observant, opinionated, rhetorically brilliant, persuasive, and relentlessly logical by turns. The epistolary (letter) format of Reflections on the Revolution in France allows Burke to launch a series of engaging, personal appeals to his young correspondent, whom he often addresses directly. At the same time, however, the reader is seldom allowed to lose sight of the formidable oratorical eloquence that Burke exercised in oral discourse as a member of the British House of Commons.

King Louis XVI

From the beginning of his reign, King Louis XVI was beset by myriad financial and administrative problems. Widely viewed as indecisive, he failed to give his chief financial advisors adequate support. Ironically many of France's financial woes have been traced to the considerable support the French gave to the rebellious American colonists. This support has generally been regarded as crucial to the success of the American Revolution.

Jacques Necker

Jacques Necker attained great power in France, although he was both a foreigner and a Protestant. Historians have generally praised his potential but have judged him harshly for his indecision and his vanity, which fed a hunger for popularity at all costs.

Rev. Dr. Richard Price

Rev. Dr. Richard Price was a Unitarian minister who commanded a large and influential following in London during the latter 18th century. Among his friends were the scientist Joseph Priestley (1733–1804) and the American diplomat and statesman Benjamin Franklin (1706–90). He had acquired some distinction as a mathematician and was a member of the Royal Society. Other notable acquaintances included Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Thomas Paine (1737–1809), and Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–97).

Jean–Jacques Rousseau

Jean–Jacques Rousseau stirred strong emotions, both within Europe and overseas. Some critics, such as Burke, saw Rousseau as a dangerous atheist whose end objective was the abolition of organized religion. Rousseau himself had a prickly, quarrelsome personality that put him at odds even with those who were initially disposed to be sympathetic to his ideas. A notable example was his falling–out with Denis Diderot (1713–84), chief editor of the Encyclopédie.

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