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In the Cause of Liberty, by William S. King

This decidedly unusual book gives an excellent account of what its title purports. Rendering fresh views, not only of the poet and engraver William Blake and the radical-democratic pamphleteer Thomas Paine, but of the entirety of that cavalcade of events encompassed under the rubric of Revolution in the 18th Century—in America, in France, and in the Caribbean island known today as Haiti, as well as of the reform and radical movements contemporaneous in Britain with the rise of empire and “industrialism”. Proceedings that have had an influence on the debates on liberty and equality, and sovereign authority, in the ensuing two centuries; that remain, despite ever-burgeoning scholarship, controversial and perplexing, even elusive, today.

William S. King’s vividly written and excellently researched narrative also doubles as a noteworthy literary examination, including Mary Wollstonecraft and Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and William Blake, Marat and Condorcet, and the booksellers Nicolas Bonneville and Joseph Johnson, and many, many others—all mounted in memorable and sometimes gory tableaux, sketched against the turbulence of the time.

This book will interest a diverse set of readers; all who are concerned with the ideas propounded at the end of the 18th century, by these persons and stirred by these events.

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