Robert Burns 'was a republican who sympathised with the French revolution'

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In a biography to mark the 250th anniversary of Burns's birth this month, Professor Robert Crawford, of St Andrews University, has unearthed new evidence which he believes shows the poet was a democrat.

At the time, the British aristocracy was extremely worried about the risks of radical ideas spreading in Britain following the French revolution and of threats to George III's life.

But Prof Crawford has discovered a private journal, written by a contemporary of Burns, which records meeting the poet and a friend in Dumfries, two months before he died there in July 1796, aged 37.

The diary by James Macdonald says: "They were both staunch republicans."

Expressing such sentiments could have resulted in Burns being deported to a penal colony in Australia.

Prof Crawford said: "Particularly towards the end of his life in the 1790s, democracy was a dirty word. It was a word associated with terrorism, a word which has just come into the English language; it's associated with the terreur in France."

Opinion is divided on Burns's support for anti-monarchist, republican views.

Some have said that his radical views are clear in some of his most famous poems, where he talks of "that man to man, the world o'er / Shall brothers be for a' that". The piece was sung at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

But Burns wrote to one patron in the 1790s, saying claims that he was a radical were "a lie" and insisting he was "most devoutly attached" to the "glorious" British constitution.

Prof Crawford, professor of modern Scottish literature at St Andrews, discovered Macdonald's journal in the university's library...

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