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A Jacobin (French pronunciation: [ʒakɔbɛ̃]) is someone who supports a centralized Republic, with power made at the national level in contemporary usage. At its inception during the French Revolution, the term was popularly applied to all supporters of revolutionary opinions. Specifically, it was used to describe members of the Jacobin Club, a revolutionary political movement that had been the most famous political club of the French Revolution. The club was so called from the Dominican convent where they originally met, in the Rue Saint-Jacques (Latin: Jacobus) in Paris.
The English who supported the French Revolution during its early stages (or even throughout) were early known as Jacobins. These included the young Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and others prior to their disillusionment with the outbreak of the Reign of Terror. Others, such as William Hazlitt and Thomas Paine, remained idealistic about the Revolution. Much detail on English Jacobinism can be found in E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class. Welsh Jacobins include William Jones, a radical patriot who was a keen disciple of Voltaire. Rather than preaching revolution, Jones believed that an exodus from Wales was required and that a new Welsh colony should be founded in the United States.
In the correspondence of Metternich and other leaders of the repressive policies that followed the second fall of Napoleon in 1815, Jacobin is the term commonly applied to anyone with liberal tendencies, such as the emperor Alexander I of Russia.
Early Federalist-leaning American newspapers during the French Revolution referred to the Democratic-Republican party as the "Jacobin Party". The most notable examples are the Gazette of the United States, published in Philadelphia, and the Delaware and Eastern Shore Advertiser, published in Wilmington, during the elections of 1798.
In modern American politics, the term Jacobin is often used to describe extremists of any party who demand ideological purity. For instance, in the lead-up to the 1964 Republican National Convention, the press referred to supporters of the insurgent Arizona conservative Barry Goldwater as "Cactus Jacobins" in their effort to unseat the moderate East Coast branch of the party (see Rockefeller Republican). L. Brent Bozell, Jr. has written in Goldwater's seminal The Conscience of a Conservative (1960) that "Throughout history, true Conservatism has been at war equally with autocrats and with 'democratic' Jacobins." In 2010 a radical American publication, Jacobin (magazine), was founded.
The term was employed in 2009-2010, in reference to the advent of the Tea Party movement. For example, Eve Fairbanks described right-wing opponents of moderate Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest as "Jacobin conservatives" in The New Republic. In the 27 May 2010, issue of The New York Review of Books, Columbia professor Mark Lilla analyzed five recent books dealing with American political party discontent in a review titled, "The Tea Party Jacobins".
The conventionalized scrawny, French revolutionary sans-culottes Jacobin, was developed from about 1790 by British satirical artists James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson and George Cruikshank. It was commonly contrasted with the stolid stocky conservative and well-meaning John Bull, dressed like an English country squire. C. L. R. James also used the term to refer to revolutionaries during the Haitian Revolution in his book The Black Jacobins.