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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 act that confirmed the succession of Sophia of Hanover was a republican device to exclude both popery and tyranny. The third Earl of Shaftesbury even wrote to Benjamin Furly in Holland, claiming that his ‘friends’ had been involved in the committee for the legislation.1 The subtitle of the act, ‘for the further limitation of the crown and better securing the rights and liberties of the subject’, established for many contemporaries its radical ambitions. A later commentator, echoing these points, described the act as ‘the last great statute which restrains the

in Republican learning
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Milton, Harrington and the Williamite monarchy, 1698–1714

: wicked priests. Far from being the ‘Christian advocates for the rights and privileges of millions of people’, the clergy made ‘miserable and lasting slaves’. 6 One of the persistent claims made by contemporaries about republicans like John Toland forged the connection with the ‘Calves-Head’ club. Republicans were conspiring, seditious regicides plotting the destruction of monarchy. Occasions like the 30 January anniversary became powerful platforms for fixing the image of regicide in public discourse. The memory of 1649 was a starting point from which to condemn any

in Republican learning

stoic approach to questions of religion, and applauded the classical defence of moral philosophy (‘to lead a happy life virtue alone is sufficient, and is itself an ample reward’), the final section advanced a republican defence of the converging benefits of political and intellectual liberty enshrined in the rule of ‘right reason’.15 Toland proudly acknowledged ‘we are willing to be brought up, and govern’d by this law, not by the lying, and superstitious fictions of men’.16 Firmly premised both on the ideas and explicit extracts from Cicero’s key works (especially

in Republican learning
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Imposters, legislators and civil religion

the end-product of a complex series of manuscript traditions, literary shadowplay and intellectual conversation that dated back to the earlier 1700s.14 Establishing precisely who was responsible for the composition of the clandestine work, and who transformed it into a semi-public text, has been the subject of much historical debate. Some years ago the suggestion was advanced that the work was the product of a semi-masonic group, ‘The Knights of the Jubilation’, and consequently was part of a radical, materialist and republican assault upon the shibboleths of the

in Republican learning

all fundamental doctrine was accessible to human reason unaided by the Church. Having secured public notoriety with this work (which was both prosecuted and burnt by official means) Toland spent the later 1690s producing an influential series of political works. This labour included an important collection of republished republican writings from the 1650s, as well as specific pamphlets contributed to controversial debates concerning issues like the standing army. Throughout the 1690s, and the early 1700s, working closely with powerful political figures like the

in Republican learning
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Lessons for the Conservatives?

2 Edward Ashbee The US Republicans The US Republicans: lessons for the Conservatives? Edward Ashbee Both Labour’s victory in the 1997 general election and the US Republicans’ loss of the White House in 1992 led to crises of confidence among conservatives. Although there were those in both countries who attributed these defeats to presentational errors or the campaigning skills of their Labour and Democrat opponents, others saw a need for far-reaching policy shifts and a restructuring of conservative politics. This chapter considers the character of US

in The Conservatives in Crisis
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‘Commonwealth’ politics under George I, 1714–22

Republican politics after 1714 6 . Sapere aude: ‘commonwealth’ politics under George I, 1714–22 O n the night of 1 March 1710, London was convulsed by rioting crowds. During the course of the evening dissenting meeting-houses were attacked and destroyed, lords, earls and bishops were insulted and affronted in the streets, and many citizens were beaten, assaulted and even killed. Any who refused to join in with the chant of ‘High Church and Sacheverell’ were ‘knocked down’ by armed and increasingly violent men.1 Abigail Harley writing to Edward Harley in

in Republican learning
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John Toland and print and scribal communities

historiography. Five of the individuals (Robert Molesworth, Thomas Hewett, Lord Castleton, Matthew Aylmer and Lady Carriere) were intimately connected with the Hanoverian Whig political establishment, most of them favouring the neo-republican wing of the party.4 As will be discussed in detail below, Robert Molesworth was a significant political figure, author of influential ‘commonwealth’ works, and political principal of the ‘Old Whigs’ in and out of Parliament. Like Molesworth, four of these men had been Whig members of Parliament, who consistently supported the tolerant and

in Republican learning
Libraries, friends and conversation

Muggleton, Penn and Naylor. Notably, the commonwealth political tradition, to which Toland was to make a seminal contribution, was also well represented in the form of monarchomach and republican works by Hotman, Buchanan, Milton, Harrington, Gordon and Molesworth. To supplement this variety of orthodox and radical material were ‘dangerous books’ by Bruno, Spinoza, Vanini, Blount and Tindal. Toland’s intimacy with the library can be seen in Collins’s possession of a number of his manuscripts. Like others in Toland’s circle, Collins accumulated these books by the

in Republican learning