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"I can bear punishment": Daniel Isaac Eaton, radical culture and the rule of law, 1793-1812

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Davis, MT (2003) "I can bear punishment": Daniel Isaac Eaton, radical culture and the rule of law, 1793-1812. Criminal Justice History, 18. pp. 89-106. ISSN 0194-0953

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Abstract

In writing the preface to his novel Caleb Williams in 1794, William Godwin
observed that "Terror was the order of the day." Political radicals of the
late eighteenth century, in fact, believed they were experiencing what was
later called the "English Reign of Terror," as the British government, supported
by loyalist associations and militant Church and King mobs,
mounted an official counter offensive against the burgeoning reform movement.
In the years between 1792 and 1800, no fewer than thirteen repressive
measures were enacted to suppress radical enthusiasms, which, for E.P.
Thompson, exposed a government taking "halting steps" away from legitimate
control and venturing toward a regime that would "dispense with
the rule of law, dismantle their elaborate constitutional structures, countermand
their own rhetoric and exercise power by force." Indeed, political
trials showed a marked increase during the 1790s, with Lord Eldon commenting
in 1795 "that there had been more prosecutions for libel within
the last two years than there had been for twenty years before." One
scholar has recently shown that the Court of King's Bench had conducted
an average of just over two libel trials per year for most of the eighteenth
century; in the decade after the French Revolution, however, this average
figure increased fivefold. Moreover, Clive Emsley has counted some two
hundred prosecutions for sedition from this period, although he contends
that this number "pales into insignificance beside the number of prosecutions
for sedition during the Jacobite emergencies of 1715 to 1716 and
1745 to 1746."

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Criminal Justice History
Page Range: pp. 89-106
ISSN: 0194-0953
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2009 02:18
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2015 21:57
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