Of course, I’m sure that this is a question that troubles most readers daily. In fact, you may have tossed and turned all of last night hoping for an adequate description of such a fascinating phenomenon.
I say this because just recently I published an article in the journal Early American Studies. The article is entitled “Trans-Atlantic Anti-Jacobinism: Reaction and Religion.” (The issue is Winter 2013, Vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 133-145 for those keeping track at home.)
Well, to explain the concept, let’s break it down. To start with Jacobinism, consider that the French Revolution broke out in 1789 and continued throughout the 1790s until (and perhaps including) the ascent of Napoleon. The pressures of the Revolution produced any number of political parties in France, but one of the significant ones was the Jacobin Party (named for their meeting hall). The Jacobins, led by Robespierre, oversaw some of the most extreme parts of the Revolution, known as the Terror. This was the period that saw the guillotine in greatest usage. It was also a period of imprisonment for those opposed to the Jacobins, attempts at creating a “Festival of Reason,” and stripping away many of the public expressions of Christianity, in a process known as de-Christianization.
It turns out that people in other places didn’t think this Jacobin approach was such a good idea, especially as the Jacobins decided to export the French Revolution by force of arms. These folks became Anti-Jacobins, and they worked in very public ways to oppose the Jacobins. This strategy had a dynamic, though, that even after the Jacobins were out of power, Anti-Jacobins could still accuse their opponents of being Jacobins. Historians have noted Anti-Jacobin impulses on the European Continent, in Great Britain, in Canada, and in the United States.
Did anything connect these opponents of Jacobinism? That is a question I started to answer and am continuing to research. I have begun to find networks that connect Anti-Jacobins in many countries, around the Atlantic at the end of the 18th century. Their connections were trans-atlantic.
So, when you put those concepts together, you have “Trans-atlantic Anti-Jacobinism.”
Whew. Aren’t you relieved? You can sleep well tonight.
If you have access to Project Muse, you can read the article here. As of now, I can’t make the article available to the world. If you’d like to correspond with me about it, though, I’d be happy to discuss the project.