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Historical figures are regularly assigned designations left or right. As Edmund Burke, and Thomas Paine were leading antagonists with these designations at the latter half of the 18th century. Here are some others with references giving them political designations.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Bregalad, Mark C. Wallace, Spencer, KorvinStarmast, Null Dec 6 '17 at 15:00

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    Left and right were invented at french revolution, roughly 220 years ago, this is hardly "over a millenium" – Bregalad Dec 6 '17 at 7:20
  • Cato Lincoln Jefferson Hamilton Hitler Stalin are separated by millennium as are the issues which concerned them. – JMS Dec 6 '17 at 7:24
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    On what grounds do you assign the affiliations? Hamilton was in many ways far more liberal than Jefferson. Stalin was a simple autocrat, willing to kill the left and the right. I don't believe that I understand the question, and I don't believe that it is possible to identify an authoritative answer. – Mark C. Wallace Dec 6 '17 at 9:16
  • But Cato would not have labelled himself dexter... – user13123 Dec 6 '17 at 9:17
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    Your attributes for the different historic figures are not coherent and plain wrong in the relative strength of the terms. I suggest you also mention the victims of the different figures. Also the usage of the term "liberal" differs between the US and Europe. – jjack Dec 6 '17 at 10:33

They are defined by their position relative to their own political systems. Those who defends the status quo, or wishes to roll back to a real or imagined status quote ante are considered right wing. Those who supports change in the other direction are then considered left wing. This classification originated in the Estates General during the French Revolution: those who supported the king, hence the status quo, were seated on the right; those who supported the revolution, the left.

Beyond this simple contextual divide, there is no absolutist, universal political measure. This is also why the left-right spectrum is generally not applied to pre-Revolution figures. Which is also why assigning "liberal" or "conservative" labels to historical figures usually is a complete hogwash.

One exception in your list is Cato the Elder. Cato was a conservative because he believed in preserving antiquated Roman views. This is a rare non-ambiguous case of being conservative in the literal sense of the word.

As for the rest, Thomas Jefferson was a "liberal" only to the extent that Hamilton was a "conservative". And Hamilton is only regarded as a conservative on the basis that he advocated for institutions, strong central authority etc, i.e. what was then the political mainstream.

Hitler was right wing, but less "conservative" and more of a reactionary because he wanted to "restore" Germany to a glorified past. Stalin, likewise, was a left wing dictator, but not really "liberal". Communism was simply regarded as left wing because it challenged the prevailing capitalist systems of the world. Ultimately, there is scant little difference in substance between the two brutally authoritarian tyrants.

Not all Republicans were "extreme left" during the American Civil War. The Radical Republicans were a specific faction considered far left "radicals" because they wanted to abolish the institution of slavery posthaste. This was defined in contrast to the moderate Republicans led by Abraham Lincoln. The latter were regarded as more conservative because they were willing to be more muted on slavery or even tolerate it in order to save the union.

  • Yes, the distinction between right and left are where they look for answers when they encounter problems. Conservatives look the the past for known proven solutions with predictable outcomes. Safe, practical solutions. The left looks for new solutions which while sometimes great, can also be more unpredictable and dangerous. Yet all social improvement are attributed to the left, and a dependable functional government is more often associated with the right. They are the yin and yang of political and most people possess both properties. – JMS Dec 6 '17 at 16:18

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