The Retreat from Radicalism, 1798–1802

  • John Morrow
Part of the Coleridge’s Writings book series (COLWRIT)


By late 1799 Coleridge had abandoned the radical reformist perspective that had been a feature of his early political writings. A growing hostility to France, resulting, by 1802, in support for war, and a determination to dissociate himself from oppositional and reformist politics in England, were practical results of Coleridge’s reorientation. Early indications of Coleridge’s changing perspective appeared in 1798. In March 1798 he admitted privately to his brother George that he regretted his association with democrats and radicals and that he had abandoned his earlier flirtation with anarchism.


Military Dictator Universal Suffrage Popular Election Roman Republic French Constitution 
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  1. 5.
    Emanuel Joseph Sieyès (1748–1836), an abbé in pre-revolutionary France, was famous in the 1790s for his constitution-framing.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    On the commercial spirit see also A Lay Sermon, below, pp. 118ff., and Church and State, below, pp. 189–90. Coleridge generally used the term ‘commerce’ to convey a broader range of activities than is now usually embraced by it. It included not only the production and/or distribution of goods and services, but also involvement in the system of debt-funding of government activities that had developed during the eighteenth century, and in the provision of other services to the government and its agencies, particularly the armed forces. For similar uses of the term see J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment (Princeton, NJ, 1974) chs 13–14. Coleridge’s ‘spirit of commerce’ describes the sort of concern with maximising financial returns that is usually associated with capitalism; this use of the term is particularly apparent in A Lay Sermon and Church and State — see below, pp. 118ff., 189–90.Google Scholar
  3. 17.
    CL, II, 803 and 805–6 (3 June and 1 July 1802). These letters also appear in Unpublished Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. Earl Leslie Griggs, 2 vols (1932) I, 198, 200–1.Google Scholar
  4. 18.
    In some late-seventeenth- and eighteenth-century arguments ‘Standing Armies’, which existed during peace time and were made up of professionals, were seen as a threat to the Constitution. They provided the Crown with an independent coercive capacity that was removed from the control of the landed classes, who were seen as forming the backbone of Parliament and the best defenders of the Constitution. See John Morrow, ‘The National Church in Coleridge’s Church and State: A Response to Allen’, JHI, 47 (1986) 646–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Morrow
    • 1
  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonNew Zealand

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