Restoration Political Thought

  • Mark Goldie
Part of the Problems in Focus Series book series (PFS)


In 1661, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Edward Turnor, likened England after the execution of Charles I to the five-day anarchy permitted among the ancient Persians so that they might appreciate kingly rule. ‘The forms and species of government are various’, he explained, ‘monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical: but the first is certainly the best, as being the nearest to divinity itself’.1 As these remarks suggest, civil war and regicide made a generation of gentlemen more, not less, willing to endorse the doctrines that sovereignty lay in the crown and that rebellion was never justified. It now seemed incontrovertible that the crown’s supremacy was the foundation of the gentry’s own authority. ‘There can be nothing’, wrote Thomas Hobbes, ‘more instructive towards loyalty and justice than will be the memory, while it lasts, of that war’.2


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  1. Several treatises of political theory written or published during the Restoration are available in modern editions. For Filmer, Halifax, Hobbes, Locke, Neville, Newcastle and Sidney, see notes 2, 19, 25, 40, 48, 58 and 66 to Chapter 2. Practically nothing from the works of the Tory mainstream is available, but see R. Eccleshall (ed.), English Conservatism since the Restoration (London, 1990).Google Scholar
  2. For the background to Restoration political thought, see: Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (2 vols, Cambridge, 1978);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. J. H. Burns and M. Goldie (eds), The Cambridge History of Political Thought, 1450–1700 (Cambridge, 1991);Google Scholar
  4. J. P. Sommerville, Politics and Ideology in England, 1603–1640 (London, 1986);Google Scholar
  5. J. G. A. Pocock (ed.), The Varieties of British Political Thought, 1500–1800 (Cambridge, 1993);Google Scholar
  6. N. Phillipson and Q. Skinner, (eds), Political Discourse in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge, 1993).Google Scholar
  7. There is no general treatment of the culture of Restoration kingship: on particular aspects see items mentioned in notes 11–18 to Chapter 2; see also C. Edie, ‘The Popular Idea of Monarchy on the Eve of the Stuart Restoration’, HLQ 39 (1976) 343–73. On Filmer and patriarchalism,Google Scholar
  8. see: G. J. Schochet, Patriarchalism in Political Thought (Oxford, 1975, 1988);Google Scholar
  9. G.J. Schochet, ‘Patriarchalism, Politics and Mass Attitudes in Stuart England’, HJ, 12 (1969) 413–41;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. J. Daly, Sir Robert Filmer and English Political Thought (Toronto, 1979);Google Scholar
  11. M. J. M. Ezell, The Patriarch’s Wife (Chapel Hill, N. C., 1987).Google Scholar
  12. More generally, see: J. Daly, ‘The Idea of Absolute Monarchy in Seventeenth Century England’, HJ, 21 (1978) 227–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. J. N. Figgis, The Divine Right of Kings (Cambridge, 1896; New York, 1965) remains a classic.Google Scholar
  14. On Tory and Whig historiography, see J. G. A. Pocock, The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law (Cambridge, 1957, 1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. and J. W. Gough, Fundamental Law in English Constitutional History (1955, 1961).Google Scholar
  16. The literature on Locke is huge. Two recent books to single out are J. Tully, An Approach to Political Philosophy: Locke in Contexts (Cambridge, 1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. and J. Marshall, John Locke: Resistance, Religion and Responsibility (Cambridge, 1994).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. For the topics I have discussed, see especially J. Franklin, John Locke and the Theory of Sovereignty (Cambridge, 1978)Google Scholar
  19. and C. Condren, George Lawson’s ‘Politica’ and the English Revolution (1989).Google Scholar
  20. See the bibliography in Locke, Two Treatises of Government, ed. M. Goldie (London, 1993).Google Scholar
  21. For other Whigs, see: J. Scott, Algernon Sidney and the English Republic, 1623–1677 (Cambridge, 1989) and Algernon Sidney and the Restoration Crisis, 1677–1683 (Cambridge, 1991);Google Scholar
  22. A. C. Houston, Algernon Sidney and the Republican Heritage in England and America (Princeton, 1991);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. B. Worden, ‘The Commonwealth Kidney of Algernon Sidney’, JBS, 24 (1985) 1–40;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. J. W. Gough, ‘James Tyrrell, Whig Historian and Friend of John Locke’, HJ, 19 (1976) 581–610;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. C. Condren and A. D. Cousins, (eds), The Political Identity of Andrew Marvell (Aldershot, 1989);Google Scholar
  26. Z. Fink, The Classical Republicans (Evanston, 1945).Google Scholar
  27. More generally, see: B. Behrens, ‘The Whig Theory of the Constitution in the Reign of Charles II’, Cambridge Historical Journal, 7 (1941) 42–71;Google Scholar
  28. O. W. Furley, ‘The Whig Exclusionists: Pamphlet Literature in the Exclusion Campaign’, Cambridge Historical Journal, 13 (1957) 19–36.Google Scholar
  29. Such is the importance of Charles I’s Answer to the Nineteen Propositions that several books have paid substantial attention to its implications for the history of political thought: C. C. Weston, English Constitutional Theory and the House of Lords, 1556–1832 (London, 1965);Google Scholar
  30. C. C. Weston and J. Greenberg, Subjects and Sovereigns (Cambridge, 1981);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment (Princeton, 1975);Google Scholar
  32. M. Mendie, Dangerous Positions: Mixed Government, the Estates of the Realm, and the ‘Answer to the XIX Propositions’ (Alabama, 1985).Google Scholar
  33. On the treatment of Hobbes during the Restoration, see: M. Goldie, ‘The Reception of Hobbes’ in Burns and Goldie (see above); D. E. C. Yale, ‘Hobbes and Hale on Law, Legislation, and the Sovereign’, Cambridge Law Journal, 31 (1972) 131–56;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. J. Bowie, Hobbes and his Critics (1951, 1969). I have not had space to consider ‘interest’ and ‘reason of state’ arguments.Google Scholar
  35. For a start here, see J. A. W. Gunn, Politics and the Public Interest in the Seventeenth Century (London, 1969).Google Scholar

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© M. Goldie 1997

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  • Mark Goldie

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