Revolutionary Times, Part 6 to the Life & Works of
Shelley was abusive of Southey, because Shelley, never did give up on the ideas on which young revolutionaries had fed as the 18th century closed. Ideas as were reflected in the French Constitution of 1791; a theory of liberty, the "Golden Rule of Liberty":
Men are born free and equal in rights, ... Liberty, ... consists in being permitted to do anything which does not injure other people. ... The exercise of the natural rights of each man has not limits except those which guarantee to the other members of society the enjoyment of the same rights."(Articles 1 & 3.) These young men, not only in France but in England as well -- and, as we have seen included Southey in his early years -- greeted the French revolutionaries as the saviours of liberty. It, the French Revolution, did indeed, lead directly to the collapse of absolute monarchy and its attending aristocratic orders. In its wake there followed: blood, death and misery. The events that unfolded in France shocked many people such that they were to change their views: Southey and Wordsworth are examples of such men. So, too, it is to be remembered, that the events in France were to turn into international war; to side with the French was to be on the side against England. Edmund Burke summed the matter up:
"Whatever were the first motives to the war among politicians, they saw that in its spirit, and for its objects, it was a civil war; and as such they pursued it. It is a war between the partisans of the ancient civil, moral and political order of Europe against a sect of fanatical and ambitious atheists which means to change them all. It is not France extending a foreign empire over other nations: it is a sect aiming at universal empire, and beginning with the conquest of France."14
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