Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution: The Culture of Calumny and the Problem of Free…

Paperback | May 11, 2011

byCharles Walton

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In the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, French revolutionaries proclaimed the freedom of speech, religion, and opinion. Censorship was abolished, and France appeared to be on a path towards tolerance, pluralism, and civil liberties. A mere four years later, the countrydescended into a period of political terror, as thousands were arrested, tried, and executed for crimes of expression and opinion. In Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution, Charles Walton traces the origins of this reversal back to the Old Regime. He shows that while early advocates of press freedom sought to abolish pre-publication censorship, the majority still firmly believed injurious speech - orcalumny-constituted a crime, even treason if it undermined the honor of sovereign authority or sacred collective values, such as religion and civic spirit.With the collapse of institutions responsible for regulating honor and morality in 1789, calumny proliferated, as did obsessions with it. Drawing on wide-ranging sources, from National Assembly debates to local police archives, Walton shows how struggles to set legal and moral limits on free speechled to the radicalization of politics, and eventually to the brutal liquidation of "calumniators" and fanatical efforts to rebuild society's moral foundation during the Terror of 1793-1794. With its emphasis on how revolutionaries drew upon cultural and political legacies of the Old Regime, this study sheds new light on the origins of the Terror and the French Revolution, as well as the history of free expression.

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In the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, French revolutionaries proclaimed the freedom of speech, religion, and opinion. Censorship was abolished, and France appeared to be on a path towards tolerance, pluralism, and civil liberties. A mere four years later, the countrydescended into a period of political terror...

Charles Walton is an Assistant Professor of History at Yale University.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 6.18 × 9.21 × 0.79 inPublished:May 11, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199795800

ISBN - 13:9780199795802

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Table of Contents

IntroductionPart I: The Old Regime1. Policing in the Old Regime2. The Culture of Calumny and Honor3. Press Freedom and Limits in the Enlightenment4. From the Cahiers de doleances to the Declaration of RightsPart II: The French Revolution5. From Lese-nation to the Law of Suspects: Legislating Limits6. Oaths, Honor, and the Sacred Foundations of Authority7. From Local Repression to High Justice: Limits in Action8. Policing the Moral Limits: Public Spirit, Surveillance, and the Remaking of MeursConclusionWorks CitedIndex