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John Adams versus Mary Wollstonecraft on the French Revolution and Democracy

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 68, Number 3, July 2007
pp. 451-476 | 10.1353/jhi.2007.0024


This article is the first in-depth analysis of the direct intellectual engagement between one of America's most important Founding Fathers, John Adams, and the work of the leading modern feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft. It draws on the first complete transcription of Adams's marginalia in his copy of Wollstonecraft's French Revolution to argue that these two thinkers disagreed profoundly in their respective assessments of the watershed event of political modernity due to their divergent interpretations of the relationship between human nature, history, and Revolutionary violence on the one hand, and the appropriate structure of political and social institutions on the other.

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