This chapter turns to the contentious question of Burns and politics. Eschewing vague speculation about the poet's ‘radicalism’, it focuses on his social and political attitudes as expressed in his published poetry, most of it written prior to the revolutionary decade of the 1790s. Employing the ‘raucle tongue’ and persona of the common rustic, these poems are equally at home addressing social relations and the popular politics of whisky and malt riots in the rural Lowlands, or else satirizing the ‘high politics’ of Westminster and ‘the King's Birthday’ at the Court at St James. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the American and French revolutions and the evolution of Burns's politics in the 1790s.
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