The Querist is an ingenious text with a conception of money that was to prove prescient when viewed from the monetary reality of the twenty-first century. But Berkeley did not write this text as an abstract analysis of economic categories, whatever his visionary pretensions. He, his intellectual circle, and his Church were confronting an emer-gency and his proposals were seriously put before the Dublin (and London) political Establishment as a response to a concrete prob-lematic. Berkeley clearly had a hope that his plan for a National Bank and Mint would be given a chance to prove their power in practice. Although that hope was denied by the political reality of Irealand and Britain in the 1730s, as we shall see in the next section, what was the basis of his hone?


Eighteenth Century Custom Duty National Bank Supreme Power Public Spirit 
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  1. 1.
    For an interesting example of passive obedience rhetoric in action in the twentieth century see Paton (1974).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    One can note many modern homologies of Berkeley’s approach to questions of development. For example, Berkeley tried (in theory at least) to transform a method of absolute submission into a path of independence. His strategy was not unlike many late twentieth century schemes touted under the rubric of “self-reliance” or “autarkic development” for the post-colonial economies. The writings of Samir Amin offer a rich source of comparison with Berkeley’s The Querist, see Amin (1990).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Quoted in Dickson (1977: 20–21). The Passive Obedience doctrine did not become one of the thirty-nine articles of the Church of England established in the seventeeth century. The closest to it was Article XXXVII which begins “The King’s Majesty hath the chief power in this realm of England, and other his dominions, unto whom the chief government of all estates of this realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction.” For a nineteenth-century discussion of this article see Macbride (1853: 517–25).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The men and women who, in the 1720 and 30s, participated in the slave revolts and urban insurrections in the Americas, in the “pirate Utopias” of Africa, or in the raids and rebellions of the Scottish Highlands were hardly subjects of this discourse.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Berkeley’s Passive Obedience was presented in a charged political climate which ironically made the defense of a doctrine of “slavishness” a mark of revolution. On November 5, 1709 (the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot and the landing of William of Orange), Dr. Sacheverell preached a sermon at St. Paul’s on “The Perils of False Brethern.” He charged that the “steady belief of the Subject’s Obligation to an Absolute and Unconditional Obedience to the Supreme Power, in all things lawful, and the utter Illegality of Resistance upon any pretence whatsoever” was “quite Exploded, and Ridicul’d out of Countenance, as an Unfashionable, Superannuated, nay (which is more wonderful) as a Dangerous Tenent” (see Probyn (1979: 75–80). Dr. Sacheverell went on to finger the Whig ministry as “false brethern” who are undermining the prerogative of the Church of England. His provocativeness made his charges self-fulfilling. The defense of the Passive Obedience doctrine was dangerous in his case. The Whig ministry impeached him of “high crimes and misdemeanours” and brought him to trial at Westminister Hall in 1710. Demonstrations in his defense broke out and “The CHURCH and QUEEN, the CHURCH and DOCTOR” was chanted throughout London and the provincial towns during his trial. He was convicted, but he received a light punishment: a three-year moratorium on sermonizing. But the damage was done to the Whig ministry, which appeared to be leaning too much toward toleration of Dissenters. It was voted out of office later on in the year, and a new Tory ministry sympathetic to High-Church views went to power. A book-length discussion of the case and its implications can be found in Homes (1973). Berkeley in Dublin undoubtedly had his eye on London in 1712. His lecture on Passive Obedience (delivered during the period of Sacheverell’s moratorium) seems to have been calculated to draw favorable attention to him there, if not in Ireland.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
  7. 7.
  8. 8.
  9. 9.
    PO 14. The importance of passivity in Christian morality was widely acknowledged and often criticized in the nineteenth century. Mill (1859: 29) wrote, “Christian morality (so-called) has all the character of a reaction it is, in great part, a protest against Paganism. Its ideal is negative rather than positive, passive rather than active; Innocence rather than Nobleness; Abstinance from Evil rather than energetic Pursuit of Good.… It is essentially a doctrine of passive obedience.” The reactionary passivity of Christianity was the object of cynical contempt in both Marx’s and Nietzsche’s thought.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
  11. 11.
  12. 12.
    The publication of Passive Obedience was to have a disastrous impact on his early career, especially during the anti-Jacobite witch hunt immediately following the Pretender’s 1715 invasion. Berkeley lost a modest Church preferment in St. Paul’s in Dublin 1716 due to accusations of Jacobitism and the text of Passive Obedience was used as evidence. See David Berman’s discussion of this point in Berman (1994: 83–85). This mishap probably led to Berkeley’s decision to become “bear leader” to the son of the Bishop of Clouger, George Ashe, and his four-year absence from England and Ireland.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Two classic contemporaneous twentieth century texts on the difficulties of knowing and obeying rules is Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. Berkeley’s Passive Obedience is their eighteenth century forerunner.Google Scholar
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    Petty’s real “dream” was to turn Ireland into a sheep run, his “sinking” scheme was offered in jest.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
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    See Laslett (1960: 333).Google Scholar
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    Functionalism in sociology is a twentieth century equivalent of eighteenth-century theodicy, especially in its notion of a “latent function.” See Merton (1968), part I, chapter 3.Google Scholar
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    See Mandeville (1924: 369).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    For another reading of eighteenth-century economic discourse that empha-sizes a conceptual instead of a logical transformation see Hirshman (1977).Google Scholar
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    For a standard commentary on the relation of Mandeville to Berkeley see Oldsamp (1970: 173–83). Olscamp concludes his chapter on the comparison with the following, “Aside from the criticisms of Shaftesbury, there is only one thing I can find upon which Berkeley and Mandeville agree: that we impute guilt on the basis of our knowledge of motives.” For a recent facsimile edition of Mandeville’s Letter to Dion see Berman (1989: 253–324). Mandeville’s offer to “exchange” scoldings of their respective followers is on pp. 307–8.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Quoted in Caldecott (1970: 66).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Berkeley was apparently interested in the actual sensations of the hanged. Oliver Goldsmith in his “Memoirs of the late famous Bishop of Cloyne” notes: “An action of his however soon made him more truly ridiculous than before; curiosity leading [Berkeley] one day in the crowd to go to see an execution, he returned home pensive and melancholy, and could not forbear reflecting on what he had seen He desired to know what were the pains and symptoms a malefactor felt upon such an occasion, and communicated to his chum the cause of his strange curiosity; in short he was resolved to tuck himself up for a trial, at the same time desiring his companion to take him down at a signal agreed upon.... Berkeley was therefore tied up to the ceiling, and the chair taken from under his feet, but soon losing the use of his senses, his companion it seems waited a little too long for the signal agreed upon, and our enquirer had like to have been hanged in good earnest; for as soon as he was taken down he fell senseless and motionless upon the floor,” Berman (1989: 172).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    On the fall of the Tory regime and the ‘15 see Speck (1977), chap. 7. On October 19, 1714 John Arbuthnot wrote a response to a now lost letter of Swift’s— which was full of “spleen” over the downfall of the Tory ministry—giving news of friends in their circle including John Gay and Berkeley: “Poor philosopher Berkeley; has now the idea of health, which was very hard to produce in him, for he had an idea of a strange fever upon him so strong that it was very hard to destroy it by introducing a contrary one,” Swift (1965ii: 137).Google Scholar
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    On the compatibility of oppositional ideology (Jacobite, Country, Tory, or Patriot Whig) with mercantile theory see Colley (1992), chap. 2, “Profits,” and Rogers (1989: 56–61).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Quoted in Dickson (1977: 178). Berkeley went through the same transfor-mation. His first “political” work, Passive Obedience (1712), was a stock Church Tory document on the Pauline theme: “Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” By 1721 Berkeley moved on with the times and penned An Essay Towards Preventing the Ruin of Great Britain, a jeremiad based on the crisis generated by the South Sea Bubble, that became a basic text of the “country” ideology. Was Berkeley a crypto-Jacobite, as many in the Church hierarchy suspected? Berkeley amply demonstrated his anti-Jacobite sentiments during the ‘15 in letters and in his Advice to the Tories who have taken the Oath (London, 1715). Was there any basis to these suspicions? Berman’s discussion of the question is most illuminating. He argues that Berkeley might very well have been a Jacobite in 1712, but due to events in the following two years he was morally obliged to change his views because the Pretender did not renounce Roman Catholicism, George I came to the British crown “without force or artifice,” and most influential Tories had taken an Oath of Allegiance to George, Berman (1994: 81–97). Berman, however, neglects the “material interests” that would make proclaiming Jacobitism suicide for an Anglo-Irish cleric. Berkeley put it very well in his excited correspondence with Percival about the ‘15. “What advantage some great men here [in London] out of employ may purpose from the Pretender’s coming among us, they know best; but it is inconceivable what shadow of an advantage an Irish Protestant can fancy to himself from such a revolution,” Letters, To Percival, Aug. 9, 1715, p. 90. When Berkeley writes “inconceivable” we must assume that he has definitely weighed all alternatives and found them null.Google Scholar
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    The literature discussing the categories and self-descriptions of the Par-liamentary opposition in the early eighteenth century—Jacobite/Country/Tory/Pa-triot Whig—is enormous and is now going through a revisionist period, especially in response to the Thatcherite redefinition of the political landscape of Britain in the 1980s. Some high points among the older view are Dickson (1977) and Speck (1977) while the “revisionists” include Clark (1982) and Colley (1982). W. A. Speck’s response to the revival of Tory revisionism can be found in his Speck (1983: 38–40).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    A fine discussion of the unity of the English ruling class see Speck (1977). He concludes his chapter on “The making of the English Ruling Class” with the following words, Speck (1977: 166): “John Bull, ‘the picture of the plain country gentleman,’ established himself as the embodiment of the English virtues. Com-monsensical, complacent, and self-confident, his very solidity depicted the assurance of the ruling class that the divine right to rule had passed from the Stuarts to themselves.”Google Scholar
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    Some important studies of the oppositional literature are Goldgar (1976), Speck (1983), and Gerrard (1994). An introduction to the pro-ministerial writers of the period see Dowie (1984).Google Scholar
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    Essay, p. 337.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Pope echoed Berkeley’s sentiments a decade later in lines 139–142 of “Epistle to Bathurst.” All quotes from Pope’s verse are in Pope (1966): Statesman and Patriot ply alike the stocks, Peeress and Butler share like the Box And Judges job, and Bishops bite the town, And mighty Dukes pack cards for half a crown.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Pope joked about the alienation of the state in his lines on Peter Walters, a wealthy financial wheeler-dealer of the time: Wise Peter sees the World’s respect for Gold And therefore hopes this Nation may be sold: Glorious Ambition! Peter, swell thy store And be what Rome’s great Didius was before, Crown of Poland venal twice an age, To just three millions stinted modest Gage. Pope, “Epistle to Bathurst,” lines 123–128.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    As Pecham sang to Walpole in the audience of The Beggar’s Opera Gay (1973: 5): And the statesman, because he’s so great Thinks his trade as honest as mine.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    A friend of Walpole’s once said: “to attain his political ends, which were wise and just, he was willing to bribe the whole lower house, and he would not have recoiled from bribing a whole nation.” Walpole was one of the first capitalist politicians who had to create legitimacy out of the money form. Many in the Tory camp did not believe that it could be done, or, if it could, a catastrophe would soon follow. To keep such a “liquid” government afloat, the money had to be available, see Speck (1977).Google Scholar
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    “Epilogue to the Satires, Dialogue I,” lines 159–160.Google Scholar
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    The rise of the “National Debt” simply solidified the state as a commodity, see Marx (1909iii: 465).Google Scholar
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    Epistle to Bathurst, lines 21–48.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    For a historical materialist argument explaining why the oppositional elements of the English ruling class rejected a revolutionary path see Colley (1992: 71–85).Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    An Essay on Man, lines 281–294.Google Scholar
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    “Epistle to Bathurst,” lines 250–274. Erskine-Hill, (1975: 15–41) unearths the “real” Man of Ross, John Kyrle, Esq.Google Scholar
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    “Epilogue to the Satires, Dialogue I,” lines 161–170.Google Scholar
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    Marx (1909iii: 918).Google Scholar
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    On Berkeley’s difficulty in gaining preferment see The Dictionary of National Biography article on Berkeley as well as Berman’s discussion of the Jacobite aura surrounding him in Berman (1994: 85–96).Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    For Petty on the excise see Wilson (1965: 212). Brisco (1967: 88–89) notes, “Walpole did not contribute anything new to the theory [of equitable taxation], as it is found in the recital to an ordinance dated August the fourteenth, 1649, which describes the excise as ‘the most equal and indifferent levy that could be levied on the people.’ Petty in his treatise on Taxes reaches the same conclusion. Thus in his theory of taxation Walpole simply accepted that which had been the established belief for more than half a century.” The relative weights of the excise, land tax and customs duties can be examined in Figure 4.2 of Brewer (1988: 96–97). Brewer’s is a problematic text, for it raises an immense, and important scholarly superstructure on an insipid collection of social platitudes at its base. Thus when it comes time to state upon whom the immense tax burden of eighteenth-century English govern¬ment weighed, Brewer can only speak of the Poor and the Consumers, as in “But the conclusion seems inescapable that excises hit the pockets of most consumers rather than just the purses of the prosperous” (p. 217).Google Scholar
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    Linebaugh (1992: 153–83).Google Scholar
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    Paul Langford writes that “Particularly in the City the riotous atmosphere of March and April had become distinctly alarming. On April 11, after his announce-ment that the excise was to be given up, Walpole had to be escorted from the Commons by his friends and some fifty special constables, and narrowly escaped personal injury; the same evening effigies of Walpole and Queen Caroline were burnt in Fleet Street, Smithfield and Bishopsgate Street,” Langford (1975: 91).Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Quoted in Dickson (1977: 184). John Brewer’s description of the bureau¬cratic machinery for collecting the Excise is of great interest and can be found in Brewer (1990: 101–114). Linebaugh’s discussion of the methods of evading customs duties is to be found in Linebaugh (1992: 160–175).Google Scholar
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    Marx (1909iii: 910).Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Quoted in Langford (1975: 159).Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Quoted in Langford (1975: 160).Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of this matter see E.P. Thompson’s classic article “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” reprinted in Thompson (1991).Google Scholar
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    Epistle to Bathurst lines 113–120.Google Scholar
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    A short discussion of this parliamentary crisis is in Speck (1977: 214–17). The journalistic assault on Walpole’s Excise scheme is reviewed by Langford (1975: 44–59). In fact, Pope’s “politicization” was definitively marked by the Excise crisis according to Goldgar (1976: 132). Rogers (1989: 377) agreed with older historians like Morley who noted “how skillfully the opposition orchestrated the protest, playing upon popular fears of oppressive taxation and state vigilance with the image of Monster Excise devouring the people, and coordinating the local celebrations with constituency instructions against the bill. Only in London—where the mob jostled Sir Robert, broke the windows of the Post Office and ‘of all other houses not illuminated,’ and ‘stopt every coach that came by, and made them cry” No Excise’ “—did the protest threaten to get out of hand.”Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    As with the Wood’s Half-pence agitation, Berkeley was extremely reticent about the Excise crisis in his correspondence. Four days after the retraction of the Excise bill he writes enigmatically to Prior, “The political state of things on this side the water I need say nothing of. The public papers probably say too much; though it cannot be denied much may be said.” Letters, B. to Prior, 14 April 1733, 217. At that time he seemed to be more concerned about an effort to amend the Test and allow dissenters to be JPs in Ireland because, it was claimed, there were so few Anglicans in many counties to take the positions, see B. to Prior, 27 March 1733.Google Scholar
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    Letters, n. 187, B. to Prior, March 3, 1737, pp. 244–45. The “brief abstract” was a letter to A.B. Esq. entitled “The Plan or Sketch of a National Bank” and reprinted in Johnston (1970: 205–8).Google Scholar
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    The Considerations includes the following projection: “By such diffussion and Influence of the National Bank, a currency of Credit equal to Cash will be dispersed to the remotest Parts of the Kingdom, all Manufacture, Labour, and Industry receive a new life and Vigour, whereby in a little Time none but the sluggard, Lazy and Indolent can be poor.”Google Scholar
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    Madden’s Reflections and Resolutions is structured as a set of resolutions which seem to have been inspired as responses to The Querist’s queries. For example, his last resolutions appropriate to Members of Parliament include the following: XXX. We resolve as Members of Parliament, that we will promote such sumptuary laws, as will be most conducive to reform the manners of our people, by fencing against luxury and vanity in the better sort, and securing sobriety and frugality in the lower. XXXI. We resolve as members of Parliament, to remedy by all possible ways and means in our power, that great obstruction to the prosperity of this nation, the want of hands. XXXII. We resolve as members of Parliament, to provide and contrive all the best methods and ways we can for employing our people and encreasing their industry.Google Scholar
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    See Cullen (1983: 26–30). Indeed, in Berkeley’s correspondence to his lawyer, Thomas Prior, throughout the 1720s and 1730s, we find him, like many other absentee landlords and clerics, asking Prior to carry on his financial affairs through the banking firm of Swift and Co.Google Scholar
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    For details on this and other aspects of private banking in early eighteenth-century Ireland see Hall (1959: 1–26), “Banking Conditions in Ireland before 1783.”Google Scholar
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    A similar debate concerning the pre-requisites of a monetary society has broken out in the field of economic sociology in the last two decades, pitting neo-Mandevillean “economics imperialists” with neo-Polanyesque social “embedded-ness” theorists. For a discussion of the network of trust and obligation relations that is presupposed by money see Swedberg (1990) and Granovetter and Swedberg (1992).Google Scholar
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    On the end of the witch-hunt see Thomas (1971: 570–83); Russell (1980: 122–37). For a classic story of the confrontation of a satanic aristocrat like Rosse and a modernizing bourgeois like Samuel Madden (The Querist’s editor), see Jones (1942: 65–66).Google Scholar
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    The club and society was the seed of “civil society” as it is contempora-neously used (in contradistinction to Hegel’s and Marx’s use of the concept. An early theorist of this reincarnation of the term is Habermas (1989).Google Scholar
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    There is a chapter to be written on Berkeley and the Devil, of course. For if spirits can create ideas, then why should the only two sources of ideas be God and the Self? Berkeley seemed to be on the cusp between the end of the older substantialization of Evil, the Devil, so central to the witch-hunt ideology, and the functionalization and interiorization of Evil that Foucault writes about in his works on Madness, Sexuality, and Disease (although Foucault seems to have been oblivious to the witch-hunt).Google Scholar
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    McGowan (1982/83: 1–4) suggests that Berkeley might be the author of this pamphlet because the rhetoric and purpose of The Irish Blasters is similar to the Discourse. Google Scholar
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    It was for that reason that Berkeley arranged for the simultaneous publication of the three parts of The Querist in England with the help of Sir John Percival, Earl of Egmont. On Thursday, May 27, 1736, for example, Percival wrote in his Diaiy, “I also send Bishop Berkeley’s second part of Queries to Mr. Richardson to be printed.” Great Britain. Royal Commission of Historical Manuscripts (1923: 275).Google Scholar
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    Joseph Stock, “An Account of the Life of George Berkeley (1776)” in Berman (1989: 35–36). A more accurate picture of Berkeley’s vicissitudes in his hunt for preferment on his return from Rhode Island see Luce (1949: 155–58). His Tory cum Jacobite past, his “immaterialism,” his Bermuda project came back to haunt him, but the Queen’s support (along with his friend Percival’s) was enough to overcome the resistance.Google Scholar
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    He might have also heard the rumor that Frederick had joined the Freemasons in 1737.Google Scholar
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    For a description of the opposition as nostalgic see Kramnick (1968: 5–6). Kramnick sums up Bolingbroke’s position as, in essence, “reactionary” and Walpole as “progressive”: “The old order sought by Bolingbroke in his nostalgic flight from the political and economic innovations of his day was a dream which could not suffice for this new age. Walpole and his world represented an essential step on the path to a stable and modern British economy and polity.”Google Scholar
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    This axiom continued to be affirmed down through the end of eighteenth century and it certainly applied to the “War of Jenkins’ Ear.” David Dickson, for example, in Dickson (1987: 85) notes, “Rumours of Spanish-backed invasion of Ireland circulated through the country in 1740, but more firmly-based reports of an intended French invasion of Ireland or England in February 1744, on the eve of the French declaration of war, led to drastic anti-catholic measures by Devonshire’s administration: all magistrates in the country were instructed ‘strictly to put in execution’ all penal laws relating to ecclesiastics and firearms.”Google Scholar
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    The Irish “natives” passive response to the ’45 was a spectacular counterexample to the axiom. For a discussion of this passivity see Dickson (1987: 86–87); Berkeley wrote an open letter at the time directed to the Irish Catholics urging their non-resistance. But like all axioms, it survived quite a bit of countervailing evidence.Google Scholar
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  104. 46.
    War goes to the heart of the “mercantilism as a system of power” which “[forces] economic policy into the service of power as an end in itself.” Therefore war is the primary act of the state, as Colbert aphorized: “Trade is the source of finance and finance is the vital nerve of war.” For a classic discussion of mercan¬tilism as a system of power see Heckscher (1955: 13–49). The development of the eighteenth-century debate between mercantilist machtpolitik and the irenic potentialities of capitalist development is traced in Hirschman (1977: 48–66). Although a discourse that incorporated the position that “money-making” is a non-violent activity in the context of the slave trade and genocide in the Americas must have had a huge gullet.Google Scholar
  105. 47.
    The embargoes, directives and taxation indeed did take place, see Dickson, (1987: 85). The reasons for the embargo are nicely presented by Cullen (1972: 56–57): “While in many wars some official countenancing of trade with the enemy continued, this toleration never extended in the eighteenth century to provisions. Given the general dependence by European navies and their support ships on Irish beef in particular, the official policy was to take all steps possible to prevent provisions reaching actual or prospective enemies. As the prospect of war led to a general upsurge in demand for Irish provisions, the first step in the enforcement of the policy was the imposition of a general embargo. This was not intended to last. While imposed, it had the advantage of depriving the enemy of provisions and at the same time ensuring that enhanced foreign demand might not reduce supplies for the provision of the English navy.” What was even more catastrophic for the Querist, for Berkeley and for Ireland was the war-related famine of 1740 which ended in the death of between an eighth to a fifth of the island’s population.Google Scholar
  106. 48.
    Letters, n. 206, Feb. 2, 1742, pp. 259–60.Google Scholar
  107. 49.
    Letters, n. 209, March 28, 1742, p. 262.Google Scholar
  108. 50.
    The Irish famine of 1740, like most other famines, had an epidemic phase and Berkeley tried to deal with fevers, dysentery and diarrhea through the use of various remedies. He found tar water the most effective and in 1744 he wrote Siris: A Chain of Philosophical Inquiries concerning the Virtues of Tar-water and Divers Subjects Connected Together and Arising One from Another. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Constantine George Caffentzis
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Southern MaineUSA

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