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11 - Reflections on the Revolution in France: Property, the Monied Interest, and the Assignats

from Part VI - The French Revolution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 April 2020

Gregory M. Collins
Affiliation:
Yale University, Connecticut
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Summary

Chapter 11 unveils Burke’s understanding of the French Revolution through the lens of his principles of political economy. In Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke attacked the Revolution for violating prescriptive property rights and subverting the market principles of supply and demand that he later defended in Thoughts and Details. In addition, I provide a thorough treatment of Burke’s criticism of the monied interest and the revolutionaries’ frenzied issuance of paper money called assignats. In his judgment, these two aspects of the Revolution shook the foundations of France’s system of revenue and discouraged commercial activity. The monied interest in particular exploited their position as state creditors to drive their pursuit of avaricious self-interest and wield a nefarious influence in the conduct of government affairs, which helped provoke the expansion of the French state. Such financiers, as well as the new middle class, were driven by ambition and speculation, supplanting the landed nobility and unsettling the social order of France. In Burke’s view, the landed interest was necessary to tame and channel such influences because their family pedigrees, ancestral estates, modern disposition, and commitment to the common good provided a stable foundation for market exchange and foreign investment to flourish.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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