Patriotism, universalism and the Scottish conventions, 1792-1794

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Abstract

Scottish radicalism in the 1790s was informed by indigenous ideologies and traditions and by the more universalist ideology associated with the American and French revolutions and with the writings of Thomas Paine. Scottish, English and Irish radicals also operated in a British context, and throughout the decade they contested the language of British patriotism with the state and loyalists who sought to represent all radicals as essentially foreign. This article investigates the radical conventions held in Edinburgh between 1792 and 1794, which culminated in the British Convention. The majority of delegates who attended were from Scottish societies, but English radicals played prominent roles in its proceedings. The British Convention sat in the context of war with revolutionary France, when patriotism was at a premium, and was broken up by the government, who tried its leaders for sedition. At the convention, delegates appealed to a British ‘constitutional idiom’ to justify and legitimize their actions. This language was not only flexible enough to incorporate aspects of other ideological justifications for political reform, both secular and religious, but also allowed radicals to articulate an alternative British patriotism to that espoused by loyalists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)340-360
Number of pages21
JournalHistory: The Journal of the Historical Association
Volume89
Issue number295
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes

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