Front Page Titles (by Subject) True Whiggism: 1688–1694 - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1981, vol. 4, No. 3
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True Whiggism: 1688–1694 - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1981, vol. 4, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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True Whiggism: 1688–1694
“The Roots of True Whiggism, 1688–94.” History of Political Thought 1(Summer 1980):195–236.
Early English Whiggism underwent an erratic shift in ideas. The initial party led by Locke's patron, the first Earl of Shaftesbury, (1621–1683) aimed to exclude the Catholic, James, Duke of York from the throne, but was crushed by Charles II.
The Whig party which achieved permanent existence after 1688 was quite different in outlook. Guided by the four lords, known as the Junto, it was oligarchic, commercialist, and favored extensive executive power. The “judiciously conservative” Constitution of 1689 was a compromise under which, by 1695, the Junto had gained control of William III's government. As the party moved away from its “country” outlook, a number of critics, much studied by historians, sought to restore the principles of “true” Whiggism. The early critics of the Junto have been relatively neglected.
The three leaders of this movement were Major John Wildman, John Hampden, and Samuel Johnson. They had allies among the Lords, such as Mordaunt, Delaware, Macclesfield, Lovelace, Wharton, and Bolton, as well as the well-organized elements in the City of London, including many among the clergy, lawyers, and printers.
These radical, populist critics focused on several basic ideas. Many were advocates of an outright republicanism, but realized that if the monarchy could not be abolished, it was best to seek to limit its power through Parliament. A second enemy, beyond monarchical absolutism, was the tyranny of the established Anglican Church.
While many opponents of James II argued that the constitution was itself sound but that the King had abused it, the Commonwealthmen held that its faults made the abuses possible. A tension existed between those who stressed this historical-legal tradition, and those who argued from principles of reason and nature for a right to exist. The same ambiguity, of course, had been evident in the various factions during the Revolution of the 1640's. In 1688–1689, radicalism was undercut by the priority of getting a new King.
The radicals initiated a host of pamphlets early in 1689 offering advice to the impending Convention: the thrust being that the dissolution of the kingship suspended the constitution and returned political power to the people. The Convention, then, had the power to reconstruct the Constitution. Power ought to rest with the people's elected representatives in Parliament. The King ought to be elected with a universal oath of allegience. The right to bear arms and join a militia was essential to insure the right to revolution. A political education along “consensual” lines was advocated, while advocates of absolutism would be denied citizenship. These themes formed the substance of the “true” Whig literature from 1689 to 1693.
With few illusions about William, the radical Commonwealthmen sought to develop a limiting contract before he took office. It was through the efforts of the radicals that the Declaration of Rights, though watered down, was as comprehensive as it was.
The split between court and county Whigs did not take place in 1691 or 1692 as argued by some historians, but is best dated from February, 1689. The moderate court Whigs joined the conservativeminded Tories in offering William the Crown without the contractual stipulations thought necessary by the radicals.
The aftermath was a rearguard action. The country party of the Whigs was shocked at how easily ministers in the old regime returned to power, even though a few were castigated for their role in the earlier suppressions. In the early 1690's several developments undercut the effectiveness of the radicals. The influence of the King was used to either co-opt some, or keep others from office. Some of the older leaders died, and the allure of Jacobitism attracted others.