Rights of Children and Animals

  • R. S. White


Once the general theory of rights of man was placed on the intellectual map, the issue of slavery had focused many minds on the categories of natural rights, and more specific rights such as those of women had been initially asserted, then a trend was set in process which could reach to embrace other vulnerable groups. If adult human beings had rights by virtue of simple existence, then why not children, and then why not all living things? Even if Spinoza (1632–77) may have been expressing an extreme view in arguing that trees and rocks have rights to continued existence (a proposition which is no longer seen to be absurd in view of current environmental concerns), yet his logic revealed potential extensions of natural rights theory to all animate beings capable of suffering pain and deprivation of liberty. The purpose of this chapter will be to indicate that important arguments for natural rights were spreading into the general fields of education, a new respect for nature, and also animal rights, but it is impossible in one chapter to be at all thorough in documenting these swelling debates.1 Taken as a whole movement, the call for natural rights was certainly not achieved by the end of the 1790s, but its central positions had been articulated, and were to be developed and drawn upon by the romantic writers who followed.


Child Labour Corporal Punishment Slave Trade Late Eighteenth Century Social Principle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. l. For the broader social history of the humanitarian concern for nature and animals, see Keith Thomas, Man and the natural world: changing attitudes in England 1500–1800 (London: Allen Lane, 1983).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Quoted (without reference) by Peter Coveney in Poor Monkey: The Child in Literature (London: Rockcliff, 1957), 5.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Reprinted in The Educational Writings of John Locke, ed. James L. Axtell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    David Archard, Children: Rights and Childhood (London and New York: Routledge, 1993), 1. The chapter is called, significantly, ‘John Locke’s Children’.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    ‘Centuries of Meditations’: I.1 in H. M. Margolioath (ed.), Thomas Traherene Centuries, Poems and Thanks givings (London: Oxford at the Clarendon Press), 1965, i.3.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Sarah Fielding, The Governess: or, Little Female Academy, facsimile edition, ed. Jill E. Grey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968).Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    See F. J. Harvey Darton, Childrens Books in England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, second edn, 1958).Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    See Christine Kenyon-Jones, Kindred Brutes: Animals in Romantic-Period Writing (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001), 64.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    The phrase is used by Leslie F. Claydon, Rousseau on Education (London: CollierMacmillan, 1969), 92.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    British Women Poets o f the Romantic Era, ed. Paula R. Feldman (Baltimore, MD and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 470.Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500–1800 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, rev. edn, 1979), 267–73, See also Philippe Aries, LEnfant et la vie familiale sous lAncien Regime (Paris, 1960).Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    See Elisabeth Badinter, Mother Love: Motherhood in Modern Histoty (New York: Macmillan, transl. 1981), especially ‘Introduction’.Google Scholar
  13. 21.
    Robert Rosenblum in The Romantic Child: From Runge to Sendak (London: Thames and Hudson, 1988).Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    Ibid., 21.Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    Sigmund Freud, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, transl. James Strachey (1905; London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1960), 302.Google Scholar
  16. 25.
    Quotations from William Wordsworth: Selected Poetry, ed. Mark van Doren (New York: Random House, 1950).Google Scholar
  17. 27.
    The Early Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth (1787–1805), ed. E. de Selincourt (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935), 296–7.Google Scholar
  18. 28.
    The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, eds. E. de Selincourt and H. Darbishire (5 vols, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1940–49), ii, 504–6.Google Scholar
  19. 29.
    See Jonathan Bate, Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition (London and New York: Routledge, 1991).Google Scholar
  20. 30.
    Reprinted in G. I. Gallop, PigsMeat: Selected Writings of Thomas Spence (Nottingham: Spokesman, 1982), 111–26.Google Scholar
  21. 31.
    J. L. Hammond and Barbara Hammond, Lord Shaftesbury (London: Constable, 1923, fourth edn, 1936), 73.Google Scholar
  22. 32.
    Ibid., 200–18.Google Scholar
  23. 33.
    Ivy Pinchbeck and Margaret Hewitt, Children in English Society (3 vols, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973), ii, 356.Google Scholar
  24. 34.
    See M. Dorothy George, London Life in the Eighteenth Century (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1966), 242.Google Scholar
  25. 35.
    See Heather Glen, Vision and Disenchantment: BlakesSongsand Wordsworths ‘Lyrical Ballads’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 99–101.Google Scholar
  26. 36.
    Donald H. Reiman ‘Introduction’, in James Grahame and E. Benger (eds), Poems on the Abolition of the Slave Trade (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1978), v; repeated in the identical Introduction to The Chimney-Sweepers Friend …; below, v.Google Scholar
  27. 40.
    Quotations are from The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, Electronic Edition, eds, Morris Eaves, Robert Essick, Joseph Viscomi (Charlottesville, Virginia: Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, 2001).Google Scholar
  28. 42.
    On Blake’s thinking as it relates to companionate marriage, see generally Stephen Cox, Love and Logic: The Evolution of Blakes Thought (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992), 59–61.Google Scholar
  29. 44.
    Roderick Frazier Nash, The Rights of Nature: A Histoty of Environmental Ethics (Leichhardt, NSW: Primavera Press/The Wilderness Society, 1990), 17, which in turn acknowledges Michael J. Cohen, Prejudice against Nature: A Guidebook for the Liberation o f Self and Planet (Freeport, Maine: Cobblesmith, 1983).Google Scholar
  30. 48.
    For a more thorough and specialist account of the history of animal rights, see Steven M. Wise, Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Books, 2000).Google Scholar
  31. 52.
    Timothy Morton, Shelley and the Revolution in Taste (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 15.Google Scholar
  32. 58.
    Erasmus Darwin, The Golden Age and the Temple of Nature or, The Origin of Society, ed. Donald H. Reiman (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1978), ‘Introduction’, x.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© R. S. White 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. S. White

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations