Frances Wright, Free Enquire.: The Study of a Temperament

Frances Wright, Free Enquire.: The Study of a Temperament

Frances Wright, Free Enquire.: The Study of a Temperament

Frances Wright, Free Enquire.: The Study of a Temperament

Excerpt

CHAPTER I
The Making of a Rebel

How far does the challenge and menace of a world in chaos affect the awakening consciousness of a newborn child?

Frances Wright was born on September 6th, 1795, two years after those September massacres which heralded in the first French republic and plunged all Europe into war. Her birthplace was the busy, prosperous old trading city of Dundee at the mouth of the river Tay. A grim huddle of stone, old houses so closely interlocking, so darkly overhanging its narrow streets and stinking wynds and closes, that one wonders how the people who were condemned to pass their lives there were able to bear it.

But bear it they did in great numbers, for old Dundee was overcrowded by the shifting population that is always attracted to any important seaport. What better breeding place could be found for the new ideas of liberty, equality, fraternity, which were playing such havoc among old, established institutions across the English Channel?

One is not surprised to read in the records of the town, that a riotous mob, excited by demagogic leaders, actually planted a Liberty Tree under the shadow of the old town Cross, in imitation and celebration of the French fete of July 14th. The tree, indeed, was promptly uprooted by soldiers called out by the city magistracy, but there were rumors that it still lived, replanted secretly in a garden owned by a revolutionary sympathizer.

As for young James Wright, father of Frances, family tradition has it that for the whole first year of his marriage, up to the birth of his eldest child, a son, he was under police surveillance. He was more than suspected of a dangerous sympathy with the tendencies expressed by Thomas Paine in his famous tract, The Rights of Man , published in 1791. He had, in fact, been one of those who contributed to the expenses of a cheap reprint of that work to bring it within the . . .

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