Loyalty, memory and public opinion in England, 1658-1727 makes an important contribution to the ongoing debate over the emergence of an early modern ‘public sphere’. Focusing on the petition-like form of the loyal address, it argues that these texts helped to foster a politically-aware public through mapping shifts in the national ‘mood’. Covering addressing campaigns from the late Cromwellian to the early Georgian period, it explores the production, presentation, subscription and publication of these texts. Through an in-depth examination of the social background of subscribers and the geography of subscription, it argues that addressing activity provided opportunities to develop political coalitions. By exploring the ritual of drafting and presenting an address, it demonstrates how this form was used strategically by both addressers and government. Both the act of subscribing and the act of presenting an address imprinted this activity in both local and national public memory. The memory of addressing activity in turn shaped the understanding of public loyalty. The volume employs corpus analysis techniques to demonstrate how the meaning of loyalty was transformed over the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries. The shifts in public loyalty, however, did not, as some contemporaries such as Daniel Defoe claimed, make these professions of fidelity meaningless. Instead, Loyalty, memory and public opinion argues for that beneath partisan attacks on addressing lay a broad consensus about the validity of this political practice. Ultimately, loyal addresses acknowledged the existence of a broad ‘political public’ but did so in a way which fundamentally conceded the legitimacy of the social and political hierarchy
This chapter examines the loyal address in the context of historiographical debates concerning the emergence of a public sphere in early modern England. It explores both the classical, Habermasian presentation of the public sphere and recent historical revisions of the concept. It argues for an approach combining a recognition of the public sphere as ‘virtual object’ with an examination of how political practice informs the development of the concept. Employing insights from scholars of modern ‘publics’, especially Michael Warner, it argues that the development of the loyal address was critical to a developing awareness of public opinion.
This chapter places the address in the context of other ‘subcriptional genres’: petitions and oaths of loyalty. It acknowledges the common features of these genres, especially the similarities between petitions and addresses. However, it argues that unique features of addresses: their initiation by the political centre, their public nature and their connection to national political events made them a particularly mnemonic genre. This in turn encouraged an awareness of changes in public opinion over time.
The chapter examines the emergence of the form of the loyal address during the Cromwell Protectorate. It focuses in particular on the addresses sent to the second Lord Protector, Richard Cromwell. The chapter argues that these addresses formed part of a national Cromwellian ‘succession crisis.’ Though these texts did not help Richard Cromwell remain in power, their political utility was recognised by the restored monarchy which employed them to secure public acknowledgment of Charles II’s rule.
This chapter examines the most intense period of addressing activity, the 1680s. During this period, thousands of loyal addresses were sent to both Charles II and James II. The discussion of addressing activity was informed by the memory of its Cromwellian origins. This was used by some critics to delegitimise addressing as a political form. In contrast, Court loyalists attacked other subscriptional forms (especially oaths and petitions) as vehicles for conspiracy. However, these arguments concealed a broader consensus on both the legitimacy of addressing and the need for some legal limits on popular political activity.
In this chapter, two key addressing campaigns are explored: that following the case of the Kentish Petitioners and the addresses which followed the trial of Henry Sacheverell. The chapter explores how addresses became vehicles for party electioneering, a fact which led to claims that the political content of addresses had essentially become meaningless. These arguments concealed the considerable ‘middle ground’ that many addresses continued to occupy as well as the survival of the pre-revolutionary consensus on the limits of popular subscriptional activity.
This chapter focuses on surviving manuscript addresses. Exploring one address in detail, the address from Leicestershire to Richard Cromwell, created in 1658, it engages in a detailed exploration of the geography of subscription and the social, political and religious background of subscribers. This analysis reveals that the subscribers were far more varied than the language of the ‘well-affected’ suggested. This in turn suggests that value of addresses as devices for building political coalitions.
The act of presenting an address was critical to its political value. It was the act of presenting the text at Court that provided addressers with vital political access. A well-received address could not only benefit the presenters themselves (who were sometimes honoured or treated by authority) but could also secure important concessions from authority. The performance of addressing was therefore often highly strategic. Both Charles II and James II used the ritual of addressing to manage power relations but, in the case of James II, this management became clumsier and less sensitive the established protocols around who could approach the Crown.
This chapter employs corpus analysis software to chart the changing meaning of loyalty across the 17th and 18th century. Through an examination of the contents of collections of address from the 1650s to the 1750s, it charts how loyalty came to be associated with concepts and institutions rather than the person of the monarch. Nonetheless, it argues that this language of loyalty continued to be framed in emotional terms.
Summarising the findings of the previous chapters, this conclusion also looks forward to the use of addresses in the modern era. It argues that addresses continued to be employed as Britain became a mass democracy because of the way in which they could articulate public feeling while at the same time respecting social, sexual and political hierarchies.