Civilization Week 14 Friedrich Gentz and Mary Wollstonecraft

Question 1: How does Friedrich Gentz distinguish between the American and French Revolutions? Do you see the influence of Edmund Burke in his thinking?

Friedrich Gentz wrote The Origin and Principles of the American Revolution, in which he stated he felt much more empathetic towards the American revolution in comparison to the French revolution. The main differences in the two were that the Americans were fighting for conservative goals. They wanted to conserve the laws and sanctions of traditional Englishman, the only difference being they wanted to incorporate those laws into an independent American government. The French on the other hand wanted to completely transform their governmental styles and rebuild  them from the ground up. Edmund Burke, a conservative Irish philosopher, greatly influenced the way Gentz saw government. Gentz described his views through a metaphor. He described government as a young oak, and if you work with it, prune it, and help it evolve eventually it will grow into the large and mature oak it was meant to be. You can’t just cut it down and plant a new tree, but rather do your best over time to help the young tree grow into its flowering adult form.

Question 2: What points is Mary Wollstonecraft making in the excerpts you read from the beginning of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman? What would she like to see changed in European society?

Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the very first to stand up for the rights of women. In her book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, she wrote that women of her day were usually viewed as immoral, loudmouthed gossips. But she gave the reasoning that they were only like this because women didn’t have the rights to a proper education. She stated that not only should women have a chance to a decent education, but the schools should also institute an athletics program for women that is almost as good, if not as good, as the program they had for men. Wollstonecraft was a woman of the time though, and she expressed that most women would have to spend their lives as wives and mothers. But she strongly held the opinion that women of a higher class (whether that be mental or financial) should have the opportunities to be properly educated and gain the skills needed to support themselves. Fun fact, Wollstonecraft’s daughter grew up to become Mary Shelley, the famous author behind the story of  Frankenstein. So clearly she took her mothers revolutionary beliefs to heart.

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