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John Toland and the crisis of Christian culture, 1696–1722

This book explores the life, thought and political commitments of the free-thinker John Toland (1670–1722). Studying both his private archive and published works, it illustrates how he moved in both subversive and elite political circles in England and abroad. The book explores the connections between Toland's republican political thought and his irreligious belief about Christian doctrine, the ecclesiastical establishment and divine revelation, arguing that far from being a marginal and insignificant figure, he counted queens, princes and government ministers as his friends and political associates. In particular, Toland's intimate relationship with the Electress Sophia of Hanover saw him act as a court philosopher, but also as a powerful publicist for the Hanoverian succession. The book argues that he shaped the republican tradition after the Glorious Revolution into a practical and politically viable programme, focused not on destroying the monarchy but on reforming public religion and the Church of England. It also examines how Toland used his social intimacy with a wide circle of men and women (ranging from Prince Eugene of Savoy to Robert Harley) to distribute his ideas in private. The book explores the connections between his erudition and print culture, arguing that his intellectual project was aimed at compromising the authority of Christian ‘knowledge’ as much as the political power of the Church. Overall, it illustrates how Toland's ideas and influence impacted upon English political life between the 1690s and the 1720s.

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Protestant liberties and the Hanoverian succession, 1700–14

The war against tyranny and prejudice 5 . Anglia libera: Protestant liberties and the Hanoverian succession, 1700–14 W ith the publication of the splendid edition of Harrington’s works, Toland secured his position at the heart of a ‘true commonwealth’ interest. This intimate collaboration with elite Whig politicians led to Toland becoming the leading defender of Protestant liberty. This took immediate form in a vindication of the legitimacy of the Hanoverian succession under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701. For many ‘commonwealthsmen’ around Europe

in Republican learning
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John Toland and print and scribal communities

explicitly used his legal skills to defend toleration and the Hanoverian succession. A fierce prosecutor of Sacheverell, Parker became Lord Chief Justice and ultimately Lord Chancellor of England (April, 1718).5 As a legal officer Parker was a key administrative figure in the succession of George I, meeting him on his arrival in Greenwich in 1714. A popular courtier, Parker also gained favour with George I because of his judgement affirming the King’s rights over his grandchildren. Parker became first Lord of the Regency between 1718 and 1725. As a legal officer, Parker

in Republican learning

third Earl of Shaftesbury, Robert Harley and Sir Robert Molesworth, Toland became one of the most consistent and vocal publicists for Protestant liberties and the Hanoverian succession. During the 1700s he continued this public role writing (amongst many contributions) detailed defences of the Act of Settlement and the rights of the Electress and Elector of Hanover, of the Toleration Act, as well as fierce attacks upon the ‘popery’ of the High Church party in Convocation and Parliament. Alongside this explicitly political writing, Toland was involved in the production

in Republican learning
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Imposters, legislators and civil religion

relationship between matter and motion was the critical issue and that perhaps Toland understood little of the problem. As Leibniz clarified, Toland subscribed to the views of Hobbes, Epicurus and Lucretius in arguing ‘qui’l n’y a 168 MUP/Champion_08_Ch7 168 27/2/03, 10:24 am Respublica mosaica d’autre chose dans la nature que ses figures et mouvemens’.10 So, just as Toland was engaged in advancing a political defence of the Hanoverian succession in public, he was also discussing heterodox accounts of key metaphysical problems with the next successor. This convergence

in Republican learning
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Patristic erudition and the attack on Scripture

Subversive learning 8 . De studio theologia: patristic erudition and the attack on Scripture T oland had a clear and (to many contemporaries) dangerous political agenda. His public polemic on behalf of the Hanoverian succession had neatly blended a republican aspiration of establishing a government of reason with an internecine war against priestcraft and superstition. This warfare was fought on many fronts. The rules of engagement were diverse. In works like Christianity not mysterious, Toland articulated a public strategy of enfranchising the rights of the

in Republican learning

? That view stemmed from the circumstance that the Hanoverian Succession of 1714 effectively deprived the monarchy of a choice between the two parties of Whig and Tory. All ministries between 1714 and 1760 were Whig, albeit opposed Chap 1 19/8/02 2 11:41 am Page 2 George III: King and politicians often by malcontent Whigs as well as a dwindling number of Tories. This seemingly permanent political alignment, with Sir Robert Walpole, Henry Pelham and his brother the Duke of Newcastle successive leaders of the dominant ‘old Whig corps’, gave rise to terminology

in George III
Peace and cider

, down to local customs officers, to be a breach of political convention: ‘such a stretch of power, as is hardly constitutional’, he wrote to Hardwicke on 19 December.79 But the campaign was undertaken just because the old Whig corps had been in power for so long. Newcastle melodramatically compared the political atmosphere to the climate of fear in the reign of James II.80 But lives were not at stake, and a more accurate comparison would have been with the proscription of Tories after the Hanoverian Succession. Many of these men facing dismissal constituted an

in George III
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Milton, Harrington and the Williamite monarchy, 1698–1714

resistance and regicide into an intellectual defence of a dynastic succession involved considerable intellectual contortion. As we will see in the next chapter, Toland actively defended this limited form of monarchy by fusing it with a defence of Protestantism. Fresh from his editorial efforts in the late 1690s Toland became one of the staunchest defenders of the Hanoverian succession. This liberty was a language built as much out of Protestant languages of conscience as anti-monarchical sources. As Toland insisted in Vindicus Liberius, ‘the greatest glory of a free

in Republican learning
The Druids and the origins of ancient virtue

national policy (in this case specifically in defending and securing the Hanoverian succession). Aspirations, ambitions, influences and convictions are notoriously difficult to define with precision. Throughout his life, Toland was confident that he had something important to say, and that people would listen: he thought he was making a difference. Intellectual conversations in libraries, at after-dinner tables lubricated by fine claret in country retreats, or the more robust sociability of coffee-houses and refined politeness of metropolitan salons, were the venue for

in Republican learning