Celebrating Modern Democracy’s Beginning: The “British Club” in Paris (1789–93)
Prior to the Terror (1793–94), the French Revolution was generally viewed very positively by progressive constitutional thinkers and law reformers. On November 18, 1792, more than a hundred distinguished Anglo-American democrats, including several founders of modern feminism, gathered at the British Club in Paris to celebrate liberty, human rights, and the spread of democracy across the world—what they viewed as the assured democratic future of mankind. In this lecture, Jonathan Israel, Professor in the School of Historical Studies, explores the vast significance of the toasts drunk at this banquet and of the public address that was afterward presented to the French National Assembly. They illuminate the relationship between the French Revolution and modernity, the history of our own time, and the many ironies of the values and propositions that the “British Club” in Paris proclaimed to the world.