A Jacobin (French pronunciation: [ʒakɔbɛ̃]; English: //) was a member of the Jacobin Club, a revolutionary political movement that was the most famous political club during the French Revolution (1789–1799). The club got its name from meeting at the Dominican rue Saint-Honoré Monastery of the Jacobins. The Dominicans in France were called Jacobins (Latin Jacobus corresponds to Jacques in French and James in English) because their first house in Paris was the Saint Jacques Monastery.
Today, the terms Jacobin and Jacobinism are used in a variety of senses. In France, Jacobin now generally indicates a supporter of a centralized republican state and strong central government powers and/or supporters of extensive government intervention to transform society. Jacobin is sometimes used in the Anglosphere as a pejorative for radical, left-wing revolutionary politics.
In the French RevolutionEdit
The Jacobin Club was one of several organizations that grew out of the French Revolution and it was distinguished for its left-wing, revolutionary politics. Because of this, the Jacobins, unlike other sects such as the Girondins, were closely allied to the sans-culottes, who were a popular force of working-class Parisians that played a pivotal role in the development of the revolution.
The Jacobins had a significant presence in the National Convention, and were dubbed "the mountain" for their seats in the uppermost part of the chamber. Eventually, the Revolution coalesced around The Mountain's power, with the help of the insurrections of the sans-culottes, and, led by Robespierre, the Jacobins established a revolutionary dictatorship, or the joint domination of the Committee of Public Safety and Committee of General Security.
The Jacobins were known for creating a strong government that could deal with the needs of war, economic chaos, and internal rebellion (such as the War in the Vendée). The Jacobin dictatorship was known for enacting the Reign of Terror, which targeted speculators, monarchists, right-wing agitators, Hébertists, and traitors, and led to many beheadings.
The Jacobins supported the rights of property, but represented a much more middle-class position than the government which succeeded them in Thermidor. Their economic policy established the General maximum, in order to control prices and create stability both for the workers and poor and the revolution. They favored free trade and a liberal economy much like the Girondists, but their relationship to the people made them more willing to adopt interventionist economic policies.:81–82
Jacobinism is an ideology developed and implemented during the French Revolution of 1789. In the words of François Furet, in Penser la révolution française (quoted by Hoel in Introduction au Jacobinisme..., "Jacobinism is both an ideology and a power: a system of representations and a system of action." ("le jacobinisme est à la fois une idéologie et un pouvoir : un système de représentations et un système d'action").
The conventionalized scrawny, French revolutionary sans-culottes Jacobin, was developed from about 1790 by British satirical artists James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson and George Cruikshank. It was commonly contrasted with the stolid stocky conservative and well-meaning John Bull, dressed like an English country squire. C. L. R. James also used the term to refer to revolutionaries during the Haitian Revolution in his book The Black Jacobins.
The English who supported the French Revolution and Parliamentary reform to expand suffrage during its early stages (or even throughout) were early known as Jacobins by their opponents. These included the young Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and others prior to their disillusionment with the outbreak of the Reign of Terror. Others, such as William Hazlitt and Thomas Paine, remained idealistic about the Revolution. Much detail on English Jacobinism can be found in E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class. Welsh Jacobins include William Jones, a radical patriot who was a keen disciple of Voltaire. Rather than preaching revolution, Jones believed that an exodus from Wales was required and that a new Welsh colony should be founded in the United States.
In the correspondence of Metternich and other leaders of the repressive policies that followed the second fall of Napoleon in 1815, Jacobin is the term commonly applied to anyone with liberal tendencies, such as the emperor Alexander I of Russia.
Early Federalist-leaning American newspapers during the French Revolution referred to the Democratic-Republican party as the "Jacobin Party". The most notable examples are the Gazette of the United States, published in Philadelphia, and the Delaware and Eastern Shore Advertiser, published in Wilmington, during the elections of 1798.
In modern American politics, the term Jacobin is often used to describe extremists of any party who demand ideological purity. For instance, in the lead-up to the 1964 Republican National Convention, the press referred to supporters of the insurgent Arizona conservative Barry Goldwater as "Cactus Jacobins" in their effort to unseat the moderate East Coast branch of the party (see Rockefeller Republican). L. Brent Bozell, Jr. has written in Goldwater's seminal The Conscience of a Conservative (1960) that "Throughout history, true Conservatism has been at war equally with autocrats and with 'democratic' Jacobins." In 2010 an American left-wing publication, Jacobin, was founded.
In 2008–2010, the term's historic revolutionary connotations were made contemporary, and it was applied to the campaign of Libertarian presidential hopeful Ron Paul before becoming popular amongst conservatives. For example, Eve Fairbanks described right-wing opponents of moderate Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest as "Jacobin conservatives" in The New Republic. In the 27 May 2010 issue of The New York Review of Books, Columbia professor Mark Lilla analyzed five recent books dealing with American political party discontent in a review titled "The Tea Party Jacobins".
The political rhetoric and populist ideas espoused by the Jacobins would lead to the development of the modern leftist movements throughout the 19th and 20th century, with Jacobinism being the political foundation of almost all leftist schools of thought including anarchism, communism and socialism. The Paris Commune was seen as the revolutionary successor to the Jacobins. The undercurrent of radical and populist tendencies espoused and enacted by the Jacobins would create a complete cultural and societal shock within the traditional and conservative governments of Europe, leading to new political ideas of society emerging. Jacobin rhetoric would lead to increasing secularization and skepticism towards the governments of Europe throughout the 1800s. This complex and complete revolution in political, societal and cultural structure, caused in part by the Jacobins, had lasting impact throughout Europe, with such societal revolution's throughout the 1800s culminating in the Revolutions of 1848.
Jacobin populism and complete structural destruction of the old order led to an increasingly revolutionary spirit throughout Europe and such changes would contribute to new political foundations. This would thereby lead to far-right reactionary movements to rise in response, including fascism, totalitarianism and ultranationalism. Leftist organizations would take different elements from Jacobin's core foundation. Anarchists took influence from the Jacobins use of mass movements, direct democracy and left-wing populism which would influence the tactics of direct action. Some Marxists would take influence from the extreme protectionism of the Jacobins and the notion of the vanguard defender of the republic which would later evolve into vanguardism. The Jacobin philosophy of a complete dismantling a old system, with completely radical and new structure, is historically seen as one of the most revolutionary and important movements throughout modern history.
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- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Phillips, Walter Alison (1911). "Jacobins, The". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 119.
- Donaldson, Gary (2003). Liberalism's Last Hurrah: The Presidential Campaign of 1964. Armonk, NY: Sharpe. pp. 174. ISBN 0765611198.
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- Fairbanks, Eve (5 November 2008). "Unsafe At Any District". The New Republic. Canwest. Retrieved 24 October 2008.
- "The Tea Party Jacobins", Mark Lilla, [The New York Review of Books], 27 May 2010, p.53
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- Jullien, Marc-Antoine (4 October 1993). From Jacobin to Liberal: Marc-Antoine Jullien, 1775-1848. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-2101-3.