Blupete's History Page

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"Jacobites" & "Jacobins."

The term Jacobite is taken from the Latin, Jacobus, viz. James, in this case James the Second of England who had attempted to reestablish Roman Catholicism as the official religion of England. He failed and was replaced by William and Mary as the result of the Glorious Revolution. The Jacobites, as a term, was used to describe the followers of James II or any of the Stuart line.

The term Jacobite, can be, as I have done in the past, confused with another term, which is quite different, viz. Jacobin.

At Paris, in and around 1789, a group of individuals coalesced. This group shared the same principles, "the principles of extreme democracy and absolute equality." Their views, it was thought, were, as far as politics go, extreme and radical in regards to social organization. This republican club met at Paris in the old convent of the Jacobins.1 Those who subscribed to their principles became known as Jacobins. Thus, a Jacobin is one who does not believe any one has rights to property. They became one of the moving forces behind the French Revolution. By 1800, a Jacobin, became a nickname for any political reformer. "Jacobins soon became the common nickname given, not only to those who had admired the dawn of the French liberation, but to those who were known to have any taste for any internal reform." Edmund Burke, in 1795, was to ask the question:

"What is Jacobinism? It is the attempt ... to eradicate prejudice out of the minds of men, for the purpose of putting all power and authority into the hands of persons capable of occasionally enlightening the minds of the people. For this purpose the Jacobins have resolved to destroy the whole frame and fabric of the old societies of the world, and to regenerate them after their fashion. To obtain an army for this purpose, they everywhere engage the poor by holding out to them as a bribe the spoils of the rich."2


[1] The word Jacobin was originally, grammatically, an adjective used in the French language, frère jacobin, or, in English, jacobin friar. There was an international order governed from Catholic headquarters at Rome, the order of St. Dominic. The French members of the order, who established themselves in Paris in the Rue St Jacques (Saint James Street), became to be known -- the Latin for James being Jacobus -- as Jacobins.

[2] According to one of Burke's biographers, this passage comes a letter to one, William Smith, dated January, 1795. (Edmund Burke: A Genius Reconsidered (Arlington House, 1967) by Russell Kirk at p. 201.)


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Peter Landry