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A Natural History of RevolutionViolence and Nature in the French Revolutionary Imagination, 1789-1794$
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Mary Ashburn Miller

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449420

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449420.001.0001

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Pure Mountain, Corruptive Swamp

Pure Mountain, Corruptive Swamp

(p.104) 4 Pure Mountain, Corruptive Swamp
A Natural History of Revolution

Mary Ashburn Miller

Cornell University Press

This chapter analyzes the meaning of the term “mountain” during the French Revolution. The genesis of the term refers to the radicals' seating position in the Convention, near the rafters of the assembly hall. However, what began as a partially mocking term for the radical faction was embraced as an appellation to signify all emissaries of the true Revolution: bastions of incorruptibility and political virtue. The mountain came to be deployed by individuals in power as a means of aligning the work of the Revolution—and, specifically, the Jacobin Revolution—with the operations of nature, or of “return[ing] nature to itself.” As a result, it nullified opposition to the radical revolution, making enemies of the Mountain enemies of nature.

Keywords:   French Revolution, natural history, natural world, revolutionary France, mountain, Jacobins, political virtue

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