The Puritan Revolution of mid-seventeenth-century England produced an explosion of new and important political thinking. In addition to most famous thinkers, Thomas Hobbes, Sir Robert Filmer and the Levellers, there are other important figures who have been relatively neglected, of whom Anthony Ascham is one. This book is the first full-scale study of Ascham's political thought. Ascham's works were intended to convince lay Presbyterians and royalists to adhere to the policy of national pacification implemented from 1648 by the Independent 'party' within Parliament. From 1648 to 1650 Ascham's propaganda primarily dealt with the issue of the validity of oaths, and insisted on the reciprocal relation between obedience and protection. The first part of Ascham's Discourse focused on 'what things, and how farre a man may lawfully conform to the power and commands of those who hold a kingdome divided by civill warre'. Ascham adopted a twofold line of argument: in the first, he sought to demonstrate that war was consistent with natural law and scripture. Secondly, not all types of war were consistent with the Christian religion and the natural law of self-preservation, only the defensive war. Ascham's natural law theory, which he drew from Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes and John Selden, had therefore both civil and religious implications. Ascham proposed a synthesis between Grotius and Niccolò Machiavelli, underlining the priority of state order over political participation, and justifying war as a means of accessing power only to confirm the necessity of re-establishing order.
Warburton’s theory of Church–state relations.
It opens by detailing the competing theories of Church–state relations in
relation to which he situated his Alliance between Church and State. It turns
next to consider his marginal notes in Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion,
a work which detailed the breakdown of the religious and political order
in mid-seventeenth-centuryEngland. The chapter concludes by considering Warburton’s Alliance, highlighting the ways he thought his conception
of Church and state might prevent a recurrence of the previous century’s
The Puritan Revolution of
mid-seventeenth-centuryEngland produced an explosion of new and important
political thinking. But while due attention has been given to the most
famous thinkers, Thomas Hobbes, Sir Robert Filmer and the Levellers, there
are other important figures who have been relatively neglected, of whom
Anthony Ascham is one. Ascham does attract a certain amount of scholarly
This chapter is about how what was unsayable in late sixteenth-century England became sayable by mid-seventeenth-century England. The dynamics of what we might call free speech were worked out in a series of tensions, and sometimes conflicts, between the duty of certain public men to defend the public interest – crudely that of the commonwealth and of true religion – and the constraints placed on who got to talk about such things and where and to whom they got to talk about them. The result was a very restricted circle of persons comprising in secular affairs Privy Counsellors, in practice certain courtiers and favourites, and in ecclesiastical matter the bishops and certain godly leaned clergy, and on some topics, but not on others, Parliament-men. Under the right circumstances, most often those created by actual or perceived crisis and threat, these very restricted ranks of the counsel-giving classes could be expanded. While one should not ignore, or even play down, the contingency of the political events that drove this narrative, one can also surely see a dialectical progression at work here, as acts of free speech, each designed to describe, unmask and denounce various conspiracy-based emergencies, practised by one group or another – by the state and its (either Catholic or Puritan) critics, by various Parliament-men and the defenders of the court, or the Crown, or indeed by the monarch himself, by the opponents or defenders of the Spanish Match – elicited other such acts from their opponents. The result was a series of claims to and outbreaks of ‘free speech’ of increasing frequency, if not intensity. But what this was not was the rise of free speech in anything like the modern sense, since the aim of each of these exercises in parrhesia was to achieve a situation in which certain groups got to speak and certain things got to get said while others most definitely did not.
the political message he and his political
patrons wanted communicating to their audience, on the other, to the
political, religious and cultural expectations of their intended
recipients. What lay between practical politics and political theory in
mid-seventeenth-centuryEngland, and between intellectual context and
political or historical context, was propaganda. Practical politics was
cultural phenomena that emerged
in midseventeenth-centuryEngland in defiance of the existing
order of things is certainly problematic and raises questions that
will be addressed in this chapter.
Historians and literary scholars over the last forty years, in fact
since the publication of Christopher Hill’s article ‘From Lollards to
Levellers’ in 1978,1 have taken renewed interest in the word and the
realities it encapsulates, debating whether radicalism is a heuristically innocuous and methodologically feasible historical concept.
Some of them have expressed their
religio-political allegiances during the Civil Wars see Gerald E. Aylmer, ‘Collective Mentalities in MidSeventeenth-CenturyEngland’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society , 5th series, 36 (1986), 1–25; Michael J. Braddick, God's Fury, England's Fire (Penguin: London, 2009), pp. 262–303; Andrew Hopper, Turncoats and Renegadoes: Changing Sides during the English Civil Wars (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 19–120.
literature, perhaps as a decision to
avoid dealing with the political and theological issues which were
at stake in the current crisis. A study of the practice of adding
booklists to the volumes appeared in mid- seventeenth-centuryEngland suggests that Moseley’s business strategy was mainly
directed to a royalist audience. Yet, from the late 1640s to the
early 1650s, Moseley also
primarily appealed to William Walwyn during the
political crises and religious antagonisms of mid-seventeenth-centuryEngland.
Nonetheless, striking a Montaignian note in his Just
Defence , Walwyn observes that ‘my care is rightly to
understand my self in my native language’: 11 to be sure, self-understanding is
crucial to Walwyn’s writing and self-assertion, as it is to
To what extent was Richard Baxter a congregationalist?
helpful illumination on the unstable formation of religious group identity in
mid-seventeenth-centuryEngland and show just how fluid, precarious and
contingent those groups, parties and polities could be. They were not the
static, discrete, self-evident entities they are often made out to be.
BAXTER’S PASTORAL PRACTICE
For Richard Baxter, peacemaking – even on a national scale – began in the
parish; it was rooted and grounded in practice.10 For that reason, a brief
description of his pastoral success at Kidderminster is in order. Looking
back from the mid-1660s he