Eyes Turned Heavenwards

  • Alastair Davidson


The emergence of the new merchant society in Europe and North America created the premises for human rights. This chapter traces the rule of law established between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries in parts of western Europe and its colonies. The rights that it established did not extend to foreigners or anyone who did not conform sufficiently to the ingredients of the national culture. I focus on Holland, England and the United States, where we see the greatest advances in rights for national citizens, though the two European states excluded all “outsiders”. I focus on what responses about rights and justice this provoked among the excluded. Three examples are given of a new, critical view of national-popular rules of law: first the trial of Charles I and the views expressed there by the victim of the state; then the sectaries, especially the Quakers, who did not conform to the national rules of belonging through obedience to the established church and third, new theories of rights required where national-popular laws could not run, mainly on the high seas and the battlefield where there was no shared citizenship and therefore no rights. In each case, rights for all are demanded as consonant with human reason and, as argued by Grotius, clearly quite novel in their nature.


Social Contract Seventeenth Century National Community Social Contract Theory Individual Reason 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alastair Davidson
    • 1
  1. 1.Monash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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