Wordsworth’s Patriotism in "Concerning the Convention of Cintra"


This paper examines Wordsworth’s idea of patriotism in his Concerning The Convention of Cintra (1809) in the context of the political debate between Richard Price and Edmund Burke over the nature of patriotism. I survey the idea of patriot from its Greco-Roman etymology to its various usages in 18th-century Britain before comparing Price’s idea of cosmopolitan patriotism based on “universal benevolence” with Burke’s “chivalric” patriotism based on filial love and regional loyalty. I then turn to Coleridge’s idea of “modern patriotism,” which illuminates the cosmopolitan aspects of Wordsworth’s patriotism in the early 1790s. A passage in Wordsworth’s The Prelude (1805) agonizingly recollects the moment of moral dilemma in 1793 when he heard the news of the debacle of the British army. His use of Burkean expressions such as “this most unnatural strife” and “the blessed tree of my beloved country” clearly indicate that his cosmopolitan patriotism was seriously weakened in the aftermath of Napoleon’s coronation in 1804. This position, however, was decisively reversed four years later in his Concerning The Convention of Cintra where he reaffirms his republican sympathy in his enthusiastic support for the Spanish-Portuguese people’s brave resistance to the invading Napoleonic army, reclaiming the cosmopolitan patriotism he had begun to lose sight of when he began to be disillusioned with the French Revolution.


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