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Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

The latest issue of French History includes an article I wrote on the role of silence during the French Revolution, titled

Le silence du peuple: The Rhetoric of Silence during the French Revolution

French History, 31, Issue 4 (2017), p. 440–469.

https://doi.org/10.1093/fh/crx062

Abstract

In July 1789, a phrase was introduced into French political discourse that would quickly become a standing expression: le silence du peuple est la leçon des rois. Taking this political bon mot as a starting point, the article traces the uses of and responses to collective silences during the French Revolution. It is argued that silence cannot be reduced to just the lack of ‘voice’ indicating suppression or political impotence. Rather, it must be understood as a mode of political action with a rhetoric of its own. Sketching this rhetoric not only highlights the nature and functions of a mode of political communication too often disregarded. It also shows how the controversies surrounding these silences reflected some of the major political questions of the day, playing a key role in the renegotiations of the communicative spaces of politics set off by the Revolution.

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Wer für die Menschen wirken will, der muß sie lieben und verachten zugleich.

Frankfurt a. M., 21. December 1848

Friedrich Daniel Bassermann, in: J. Loewenberg: Aus den Frankfurter Parlamentstagen. Stammbuchblätter deutscher Abgeordneter, in: Die Gartenlaube 17 (1875), p. 290.

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It’s hard to get good answers to why Young Voters are so uninterested in politics. This is probably because it’s next to impossible to get someone to think hard about why he’s not interested in something. The boredom itself preempts inquiry; the fact of the feeling’s enough.

David Foster Wallace: Up, Simba, in: Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, London 2005.

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Lord Beaconsfield

 

The meteor Beaconsfield has pass’d away:

No Burke or Chatham, Gladstone, Peel, or Pitt

No shining star, to guide a nation’s way:

But glitt’ring statesman, novelist and wit.

 

24th April 1881 T.E.M.

 

Thomas Erskine May: Lord Beaconsfield, Parliamentary Archives, ERM/18/17.

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An Enemy’s Epitaph on Mr Gladstone

Here lies William Ewart Gladstone:
He could talk an old toad out from under a flagstone.
He sided with all: but in time overthrew
The Tories & Whigs, and the Radicals too.
“Ho! Ho!” quoth the devil “Why who is come down?
“It’s Gladstone of London (my own little Town)
Why, Billy, my work you’ve been doing so well,
I am sorry to see you so soon come to Hell!”

Thomas Erskine May: An Enemy’s Epitaph on Mr Gladstone, Parliamentary Archives, ERM/18/21.

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Es sind einige Städte – ich glaube, Breslau ist darunter – die haben wenigstens die Schlachtsteuer. Das widerspricht aber den politischen Parteien. Deshalb sage ich: Die Politik macht uns todt, indem sie uns hindert, unsere Interessen wahrzunehmen; sobald es der Parteipolitik, der Fractionspolitik nicht paßt, so können die Interessen zu Grunde gehen, und es kann darüber ausgepfändet werden oder Hungers sterben, wer will – das ist der Fraction als solcher vollständig gleichgültig; sie fragt nur: Was nützt es meiner Fraction? Vivat fractio, pereat mundus!

Otto von Bismarck: Reichstagsrede vom 9. Mai 1884, in: Die politischen Reden des Fürsten von Bismarck, ed. Horst Kohl, vol. X (Stuttgart 1894), 133.

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On April 6 to 7, I will participate in a conference organized by the History of Parliament research group in cooperation with Prof. Christopher Reid of Queen Mary University London.

The conference program may be found here.

My own paper, titled

“A Rhetoric of Silence: Silent Members in the July Monarchy Chamber of Deputies (1830-1848)”,

will be concerned with the rhetorical role of the silent members in the parliamentary debates of the July Monarchy. As I will argue, these silent members were anything but passive. Rather, they developed a complex rhetoric of their own, playing a significant role in the development of debates.

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