New Podcast Episode: Frederick Douglass Havre de Grace and Philadelphia Sites

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, Old City Philadelphia

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, Old City Philadelphia

Listen to this podcast episode here or subscribe on iTunes

Third day, Tuesday March 22nd

I head north, the direction of freedom for the American slave of the antebellum south. Spoiler alert: so did Frederick Douglass! To his and all of our great benefit, he took his life and whatever fortunes he could hope to enjoy in Maryland into his own hands, and made his risky bid for freedom in September 1838 at age 20.

Douglass was a particularly clever young man, and by this time, had educated himself to an impressive degree for anyone his age, let alone one who had to get his learning on the sly while working more than full time. He had honed his skills, become more resourceful, and gained a wider circle of friends, and he counted on all of these to make this attempt more successful than the first…

… Read the original account here

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, entirely supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson!

In remembrance of Thomas Jefferson (April 13 1743 – July 4, 1826) on his birthday, here’s the story of my travels last year following his life and ideas

Ordinary Philosophy

Hello, friends of Ordinary Philosophy!

From time to time, I take a trip to some corner of the globe, to explore the lives and ideas of great thinkers in the places where they lived and worked. For this series, I follow in the footsteps of thinkers who are no longer alive, since those who are still telling their own stories. But those who are no longer alive in the body live on in the ideas that they pass on, and in the example they provide for us to follow.

I’m pleased and excited to announce my third philosophical-historical themed adventure, this time in Washington DC, Philadelphia, and various sites in Virginia to follow in the footsteps of…. you may have guessed it… Thomas Jefferson!

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13th, 1743, and in his long life, he accomplished more than most. He was a founding father of the United…

View original post 288 more words

New Podcast Episode: Frederick Douglass Baltimore Sites

Listen to this podcast episode hereDouglass Place with engraved marker, Fell's Point Baltimore MD, photo 2016 Amy Cools or subscribe on iTunes

First day, Sunday March 20th

So here I am on the East Coast, commencing my Frederick Douglass history of ideas travel adventure in earnest! I’m thrilled, and know I’ll learn and see a lot, since I have so many sites I plan to visit already and know I’ll discover more as I go along.

…In a very important way, it’s fitting to begin with Douglass’s life here in Baltimore, centered in the waterfront district of Fell’s Point, since this is where Frederick Douglass had one of the most formative experiences of his life.

… Read the original travel account here

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and is ad-free, entirely supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Fundraising Campaign for Frederick Douglass’ Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas Series

Frederick Douglass with his second wife Helen Pitts and her sister Eva, public domain via Wikimedia CommonsAs you may know, dear readers, I’m embarking on the travel portion of my fifth philosophical-historical themed adventure in mid to late March. I’m off to Baltimore, MD, New York, Washington DC, and other East Coast sites to follow in the footsteps of Frederick Douglass.

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you.

Every single bit helps, from $1 on up: directly through your contribution, and indirectly by inspiring confidence and enthusiasm in others who see the support already given.

As always, I count on you to help me accomplish what I do here; thanks to all who have contributed in the past, and thanks in advance to all who contribute in the future!

What the Frederick Douglass Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas Series project will produce:
– A series of essays on the ideas of Frederick Douglass, how they relate to his time and ours
– A series of travel accounts of sites associated with Douglass’ life and ideas throughout the East Coast. I’ll be seeking insights into how the places informed the man, and vice versa. These will double as historical-philosophical investigations to bring Douglass to life in the mind of the reader, and as inspiration for other traveling history enthusiasts
– A series of downloadable walking tours to accompany the travel series: just subscribe and download in iTunes, and you’ll have your own travel guides to East Coast places I travel to for this series
– Free educational resources: supplementary teaching materials on the life and ideas of Douglass
– And if all goes as planned, a book!

Budget: In the interests of transparency and so you know exactly where your hard-earned, generously donated funds go, here’s the breakdown:

Primary Goal: $2,500 – To cover airfare, lodging, ground transportation, and advertising for Frederick Douglass’ Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series
– Airfare: to DC or NYC about $500 (w/taxes and fees)
– Car Rental: average $28 / day = $392
– Lodging: average $50 per night, will be staying with friends some nights = $700
– Parking / Fuel / Public Transportation: average $25 per day = $350
Subtotal = $1,942

Any amount I’ve saved on the above costs or amount collected in excess will be spent on paid advertising (Facebook, Google Adwords, Bing, Pinterest, etc, even a radio spot if funds allow!), which will be listed here, so that the total spent comes to $2,500. (I also advertise in a wide array of free venues)

Secondary Goal: $1,500 – Monthly wages
This year, O.P. is making a big push to include an expanded and more in depth history of ideas travel series, more regularly published podcast with downloadable history of ideas travel guides, interviews with fascinating people, scholarship and educational materials, more great guest posts, and so much more! To accomplish all this, O.P. will need to pay its own expenses and if possible, wages, so I can throw spend less time at other occupations, throwing myself into O.P. with all the heart, time, and energy I long to dedicate to this project.

Please visit the Subscribe, Submit, and Support page to help me fund this project.

I thank you in advance, from the bottom of my heart, for any support you can offer

Sincerely,

Amy Cools

 

Second Day in Paris Following Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson, Part 1

22 rue Meslay, Paris. Mary Wollstonecraft may have lived here at Aline Filliettaz’s house from December 1792 through June 1793. See update to the search for the Filliataz house

Monday, August 10th, 2015

I get up at a decent hour, though of course not too early: I discovered early on when I began to travel in earnest that proper rest is essential for clear thinking, map-reading capabilities, and the good humor necessary for enjoying the day.

Since there’s such a huge number of sites to visit on my itinerary, I’ve decided to visit them in an order determined not by subject nor in any kind of chronological order, but by proximity to one another, so I can better cover them all.

I make my way from my temporary digs on Boulevard Voltaire up toward Republique, then make a soft left and head for 22 rue Meslée (now called the rue Meslay). Mary Wollstonecraft lived here at her friend Aline Filliettaz’s house from December 1792 through June of 1793, shortly after arriving in Paris. Wollstonecraft was full of hope for the Revolution and longed to be a part of it, and thought that the humanitarian and egalitarian Enlightenment principles she espoused were more likely to take hold there before they would in her home country of England, as they had (to an extent) in America. By the time she arrived in Paris, she was a self-made woman, a governess and schoolmarm who had become the bestselling author of two progressive and highly influential books, A Vindication of the Rights of Men, 1790 (a scathing rebuttal to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France) and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792.

In fact, her Rights of Men was published the year before Paine’s Rights of Man, which was also a response to Burke, but Paine’s became the most famous by far. However, Wollstonecraft held her own with Rights of Woman, as it’s now widely considered the founding work of modern feminism. Wollstonecraft was lonely and blue when she first lived at this house, since her hosts were away and the servants behaved haughtily and uncooperatively towards her, but she soon cheered up when she began to get out more and hang out with her expatriate friends and their Parisian social circle. (More on that soon.)

Building where 22 rue Meslay is now located in Paris, France

The Fillattaz house is on a little side street in the Marais district, near the medieval Temple where the royal family was held during the French Revolution, before the King was guillotined in December of 1793 and Marie Antoinette was sent to the Concierge. Wollstonecraft wrote in her account of this period in her life that she saw the King being taken from the Temple prison to his trial at the Hôtel de Ville, where the Convention Nationale was held, from her window at this house. See update to the search for the Filliataz house

By the way, it’s important to make this point at the beginning: as is the case with all private residences and some other sites I visit during this tour, unless I can find a clear indicator of the history of the building (in accounts I have access to, on plaques, on cornerstones, etc), it’s very possible that I may not have found the exact location, especially if it’s not a public building with a clearly documented history. Many of my sources list an address without specifying whether it’s the modern address or the historical one and numbers change over time, and some streets are re-routed or disappear entirely, as do many of the original buildings, and records are not always consistently kept or may have been lost in the intervening years. Since my subjects were all here well over two centuries ago, it’s likely that at least a few of these locations are approximate, rather than the exact sites, despite my best efforts to discover them. This is especially true of Mary Wollstonecraft since she’s the only one of my subjects who never held public office or had any government appointments.

Courtyard behind 22 rue Meslay

63 rue Faubourg St-Denis, Paris, France. It’s the right address but not actually the site of Paine’s once-time residence, since the address had changed since his time. You can the story of how I find the true site here.

For example, poking around for historical details of the rue Meslay, I found that George Sands was born on that same street, and the address was 15 in her time, 46 now. I didn’t find any info as to whether Wollstonecraft’s 22 address is the new one, old one, or just that same address in different sources, but since she described seeing the King’s carriage pass by her window on the way to trial, it may be that the Filliettaz house was further up the street, in a taller building or at a higher elevation, so that she could see as far over as Boulevard Saint-Martin, the next street over and the route he would taken. But another source describes the house as having six stories, and the house now at 22 matches this description.

If I have time, I might swing back over there for further explorations since the place I’m staying now and the place I’ll be staying when I return to Paris (I’ll be joining my husband Bryan tomorrow for a quick family visit to Berlin, then to Saint Quentin en Yvellines where he’ll commence the Paris-Brest-Paris cycling event) are not too far away.

A mural on a wall on rue Faubourg St-Denis

Next, I head for 63 rue Faubourg St-Denis, at rue des Petits Ecuries, where Thomas Paine moved in 1793 to share the ground floor of a ‘mansion farmhouse’ with six friends. Paine wrote in glowing terms of the lifestyle there, and they had farm animals and grew fruits and vegetables, as that area was still pretty rural, and they would romp in the garden to take their minds off the tumult and violence in Paris. He was living here when he, with a committee of nine others, drafted a new constitution for France, though this one was unsuccessful: the Girondin faction which Paine worked with were moderates, while the radical Jacobins were gaining power and, over time, took over the Revolution entirely, instituting the Reign of Terror. (See update on the search for the rue Faubourg Saint-Denis house).

It’s unlikely that any part of the building that stands here now is original, either in whole or in part, given Paine’s description of it, and the current address may not the same as the historical one [this turns out to be the case]. The only fruits and vegetables to be obtained here now are from the colorful produce shops that line this now urban, rough-around-the-edges but vibrant and colorful part of the city. I think this neighborhood is wonderful, and it reminds me in many ways of the Mission district of San Francisco before it became mostly taken over by hipsters and tech people.

A view of rue Faubourg St-Denis

At 101 rue de Richelieu, Paris, France.

Next, I head down to rue de Richelieu in search of the place where Thomas Paine moved in with James Monroe’s family in November 1794. Monroe had finally secured Paine’s release from his eight-month imprisonment at the Luxembourg (I’ll return to this subject after I’ve visited that palace-turned-prison-turned-Senate house). Paine lived with the Monroes for about 2 years, not all of them here, since they moved more than once. At the time of his release, they lived at 101 rue de Richelieu, which begins at Bd. Montmarte where it meets Bd. Poissonere, in the 2nd Arrondissement.

At 101, I find a classy place, fit for an honored foreign dignitary, with a lovely courtyard with a lovely arched entryway, updated with a modern reflecting pool. Again, I’ll return to this street soon for further explorations, which will be easier next time since I’m now getting very familiar with this corner of Paris, and as I find more source material with which to confirm whether the numbers have changed. (See update to the search for the Monroe house on rue de Richelieu.)

Courtyard at 101 rue de Richelieu

An entryway to 101 rue de Richelieu

When Paine was released from prison, he was broken down in health and spirits: he had nearly died from typhus, and he had an open ulcer on his side that wouldn’t heal. He had also felt that his American friends in high places had deserted him, not doing what they could to rescue him from his predicament. He was especially upset with Gouverneur Morris, the ambassador (then ‘Minister Plenipotentiary’) to France at the time, and with president George Washington. Morris was the primary author of the preamble to the United States Constitution as well as many of its other sections and he was an able statesman, but the French government lacked confidence in him; he was recalled after they repeatedly requested he be replaced by another. From their writings, it appears that Paine and Morris alternately liked, respected, and loathed one another. Morris often writes very sarcastically about Paine, and though I’m quite the Paine fan-girl, I find some of his remarks very funny and witty, though others are just plain bitchy and catty.

While Paine did offer valuable assistance to Monroe (Morris’ replacement) in his role as the new American ambassador, Paine was at this time also, as an aftereffect of his imprisonment and disillusionment with the French Revolution, given to depression, anger, and paranoia, and as a result of all of these, binge drinking. He was to acquire a reputation as an alcoholic, but since these accusations came almost entirely from his political enemies during and after his lifetime, this characterization is suspect. His friends and colleagues describe him as a social drinker, wont to make merry in the evenings and engage in enthusiastic discussions about politics, science, and philosophical topics as long as anyone was willing.

I next head north to rue Taitbout and turn left on rue de la Victoire, and go to the grand house at 60 rue de la Victoire, which was 6 rue Chantereine in Paine’s time, in the 9th Arrondissement.

60 rue de la Victoire, once 6 Rue Chantereine, former Home of Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte

It was likely in this house that Paine attended a party thrown by Julie and Francois-Joseph Talma in October 1792. The house was owned by Mrs. Talma, formerly Louise-Julie Carreau, and she held a famous salon here. Her husband was a well-known actor and passionate Revolutionary, friends with Jacques-Louis David (who, I was surprised to discover was among those who voted in favor of executing the King) and Napoleon Bonaparte, who moved into this house in 1796 with his new wife Josephine). Like Paine and Wollstonecraft, the Talmas were Girondinist in their sympathies, yet there was a ruckus between Paine and other attendees of the party, many of whom had begun to turn on this once-beloved muse and author of two revolutions.

Two Details of 60 rue de la Victoire, former Home of Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte

The history of the French Revolution is, among other things, a prime example of how people, even as they see themselves pursuing the same lofty goals and are members of the same political party, just can’t seem to avoid petty infighting. This sort of thing undermines so many important projects, and as we see all too often, petty disagreements can devolve to self-righteousness and even blind radicalism over time. French culture, in that era especially, placed a high value on ‘sensibility’, valuing the free expressions of both raw and cultivated emotions. As we have also seen in the French Revolution, unbridled passion was very often allowed to trump reason. To Paine’s dismay, he watched the beloved Enlightenment campaign for rational democratic government, that he served so enthusiastically and so well, turn into a bloody campaign of vengeance and terror.

View of Église Notre-Dame de Lorette from Rue Lafitte, Paris, France

Side view of Opera Comique, Formerly Theatre Des Italiens

It was very near this place that Thomas Jefferson moved for awhile, eight years earlier in October 1784, on the cul-de-sac (impasse) Taitbout off rue La Fayette near rue St Georges. He signed a long-term lease at Hotel Landron, also called Hotel Taitbout, but only ended up living here for about one year. I explore this area very thoroughly, peeking into every courtyard, driveway, and byway I can find, but a hotel by this name is nowhere to be found so far as I can see. (By the way, ‘hotel’ wasn’t used in the same sense as we use it today: It could refer to a grand house or a large public building.) This area is very near where I’ll be staying next week, so I’ll return if I find more leads, and I’m looking ever more forward to doing so, it’s such a beautiful neighborhood.

Jefferson was an avid patron of the arts, and attended the theatre often while living in Paris to see plays and musical performances. He often went to the Theatre des Italiens, very near his Taitbout place on Boulevard des Italiens. There is no theatre today with that name, but I find Opera Comique in just about the right place. Could this be the same building? The building appears to be of the right vintage. I look into it, and sure enough, it is! It’s in the process of getting a facelift and a good cleaning, but the side entrance is in good repair and attractive with its lovely cast iron lacy canopy.

Opera Comique, formerly Theatre Des Italiens, Paris, France, under repair

I still have many sites I’ll be visiting throughout the course of the day, so I’ll take a break here.

To be continued in Part 2:  >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sources and inspiration:

Adams, William Howard. The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1997.

Bell, David. ‘5 Myths About the French Revolution‘, New York Post, Jul 9th, 2015.

Gordon, Lyndall. Vindication:  A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft. New York: Harper Collins, 2006.http://www.harpercollins.com/9780060957742/vindication

Grossman, Ira. ‘The House on the Rue de la Victoire
Jacobs, Diane. Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Jacoby, Susan. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. New York: Owl Books, 2004.

Nelson, Craig. Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations. New York: Viking Penguin, 2006.

Todd, Janet. Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000

Tomalin, Claire. The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft. London: Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1974.’

French Revolution.’ Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia., Jul. 17 2015.

Williamson, Audrey. Thomas Paine: His Life, Work, and Times. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973.

First Day in Paris Following Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson

My first rented room in Paris, France, following Paine, Wollstonecraft, and Jefferson

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

I arrive at Charles De Gaulle airport on Sunday afternoon, fairly well rested for once. Usually, I don’t sleep well on planes, and stumble off the walkway groggy and stupified. This time I slept about two thirds of the way through the 10 1/2 hour flight …not well, mind you, but much better than nothing. I attribute it to the ibuprofen tablets I took shortly before boarding, making the cramped quarters less painful to sleep in: my travel tip of the day! It was great to arrive and feel competent to navigate the trains, find my destination, and go out and start enjoying myself without delay.

At about 6pm, I meet my host Aurelia at 46 Rue Voltaire, a couple blocks down from Oberkampf station, in the 11th Arrondissement. She is sweet and helpful, and a practiced Airbnb-er: she has a series of photos on her iPhone at the ready so she can show me how to navigate the passageways, six flights of stairs, and unmarked doors to reach my mini apartment. The place is tiny, with the loft bed over the desk, the toilet tucked into a cubbyhole beside the shower, and the whole place the size of a small bedroom. On the whole, it suits me just fine, since it’s clean, private, and in a great neighborhood at a cheap price, but being somewhat tall and not used to these close quarters, I whack my head often.

Triomphe de la République, the sculpture at the Place de la Nation

I decide not to dive right in my historical adventures, but to take an aimless walk around instead, to get my bearings, wake up a little more, and re-immerse myself in this city which I last visited seven years ago on honeymoon. Right away, I find myself feeling a little wistful, feels odd to be here without Bryan. He’ll be joining me in a couple of days, so I console myself and head out.

I walk down Boulevard Voltaire in search of something better to eat than airplane food, which takes me awhile: most places are closed (usual in late July to mid-August, as my host informs me), until I get closer to Place de la Nation, which is is getting busier as the night crowd are starting to emerge. I find a boulangerie, where I pick up a butter croissant and another sweet one for tomorrow’s breakfast. I admire the sculpture, then turn up Boulevard Diderot, sit down for an Edelweiss (lightly tart beer), a couple of smokes (an old habit I like to indulge myself in on special occasions) and a little people-watching. It’s a lovely warm evening.

Latin dancers at the Quai St-Bernard along the Seine, Paris, France

I continue on towards the Seine, cross the Pont d’Austerlitz, and walk east along the river. In the park and sculpture garden on Quai St-Bernard, I happen upon masses of people dancing on three dance floors: the first was dedicated to the foxtrot, the other two to Latin dancing. One was huge, must have been well over a hundred people dancing until the sweat was dripping, ringed by crowds of spectators. I dare not join in the dancing: I can’t seem to learn steps to save my life, last time I took a dance class I caught the teacher apologizing to my assigned dance partner, probably for the bruises I pounded into his feet with my own.

The sunset is pink, orange, and gold against the blue sky and above the silver Seine as I pass by Notre Dame.

Gazing at the Île de la Cité from the Left Bank of Paris, France

On the bridge to the Île de la Cité, there was another crowd clapping and cheering for three performers, two on roller skates and one on rollerblades. In turn, they speed-skate up a ramp and over a crossbar set very high in the air, perhaps 15 feet or so.

As I’m reminded constantly on my evening stroll, Paris, like our Washington D.C., has not forgotten its nation’s Revolution. Its heroes and events are memorialized in the names of street after boulevard after avenue, in monument after statue after city square: Rue La Fayette, Place de la Bastille, Place de la Republique. So are its philosophes: along with Voltaire and Diderot, there’s Jean Jacque Rousseau, Montesquieu… even our own Thomas Jefferson is an honorary member of this elite company: his larger-than-life bronze sculpture adorns the Left Bank of the Seine.

Hôtel de Ville, Paris, France, on the right bank of the Seine

Other than some of the street names and monuments, my evening stroll took me by only one site
associated with a subject of my trip: the Hôtel de Ville, which has several connections with the life of Thomas Paine. It’s a very grand building, and looks both lovely and impressive all lit up at night, but it’s not the original building of Paine’s time. That one was burned down in another French revolution in 1871, in the same round of anti-monarchical arsonists that claimed the Tuileries palace and nearly claimed the Louvre.

I walk around the building to see if one of the statues in its many niches was Paine, but I can’t find one. It’s pretty dark out, though; the statues I see whose caption I can see in the half-light are all Frenchmen. However, Paine was a celebrity in France following his publication of Common Sense, which offered a comprehensive philosophical defense for the rightness of the cause for American Revolution, and again when he wrote The Rights of Man. His arguments resonated with many of the French people, who felt themselves chafing under a rigid hierarchical structure and high taxation maintained and imposed by an unchallengeable monarchy, aristocracy, and clergy. So it was at the Hotel de Ville on August 26, 1790 that the Paris Commune voted to make Paine an honorary citizen. When he returned to Paris in September of 1792, he was elected to the French National Convention; no matter that he couldn’t really speak French, one who so eloquently speaks for human freedom and dignity speak to all. So though he might be properly honored by a sculptural portrait here, so far as I can find out, he has none among the niches.

More to come soon: my next day in Paris is entirely dedicated to following in the footsteps of Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson. Stay tuned!  > Second Day, Part 1
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sources and inspiration:

Adams, William Howard. The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1997.

Bell, David. ‘5 Myths About the French Revolution‘, New York Post, Jul 9th, 2015.

French Revolution.’ Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Gordon, Lyndall. Vindication:  A Life of Mary WollstonecraftNew York: Harper Collins, 2006.

Jacobs, Diane. Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Jacoby, Susan. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. New York: Owl Books, 2004.

Nelson, Craig. Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations. New York: Viking Penguin, 2006.

Todd, Janet. Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000

Tomalin, Claire. The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft. London: Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1974.

Williamson, Audrey. Thomas Paine: His Life, Work, and Times. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973.

To Paris, France I Go, In Search of Revolution-Era Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson

Hello, friends of Ordinary Philosophy!

From time to time, I take a trip to some corner of the globe, to explore the lives and ideas of great thinkers in the places where they lived and worked. For this series, I follow in the footsteps of thinkers who are no longer alive, since those who are still telling their own stories. But those who are no longer alive in the body live on in the ideas that they pass on, and in the example they provide for us to follow.

I’m pleased and excited to announce my fourth philosophical-historical themed adventure, this time in Paris, France to follow in the footsteps of Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson at the time of the French Revolution.

The French Revolution, following on the heels of the American Revolution, inspired and horrified many. The financial crisis, caused by over-expenditures in recent wars (including assistance to the Americans) and food shortages, caused by a series of crop failures, led to an uprising mostly of professionals and merchants, joined later by members of the laboring classes. The movement for reform called for disestablishment of the monarchy, who entangled the nation in wars and continued to spend lavishly in times of want, and for ending the special privileges of the aristocracy and clergy, whose tax exemptions often placed the heaviest financial burden on those who could least afford it.

Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson were three Enlightenment thinkers whose work is central in the intellectual legacy of modern human rights movements, and who were heavily influenced by the French Revolution. Paine, a British-born corset-maker who became involved in local politics and reform movements in his native country, in America, and in France, set down his political theory and freethought philosophy in Common Sense, The Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason. Mary Wollstonecraft, who was also born in England and also moved to Paris to take part in the revolutionary activism taking place there, followed Paine’s The Rights of Man with her Vindication of the Rights of Woman, now considered the founding work of the modern feminist movement. Thomas Jefferson, founding father of the United States and eventual President, was an American statesman living in Paris as the events leading up to the French Revolution unfolded, and continued to defend its core democratic values, if not all its tactics, even as it devolved to the bloody Terror.

So off to the Paris I go! There, from August 9th through the 21st, I’ll visit landmarks associated with their lives at this time, and see how the events that occurred at that time in the places where they lived, worked, died, thought, wrote, studied, rested, and played contributed to their thought during and after the Revolution.

~ Thank you, Ronnie Ruedrich and Mark Sloan, for your generous support

Here’s the story of the trip and related essays about these three thinkers and their ideas: