Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV: The Heritage of Liberty - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1982, vol. 5, No. 2
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IV: The Heritage of Liberty - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1982, vol. 5, No. 2 
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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The Heritage of Liberty
Literature of Liberty covered a related set of articles in the preceding issue under the title “History & Liberty.” With an accelerating tempo, contemporary scholarship (in the fields of history, economic thought, political theory, and social theory) has investigated and clarified the debates, beginning in the early modern era, over religious and political liberty, property theory, natural rights, class analysis, and republican ideology. Students of human liberty living today are fortunate to be the beneficiaries of these impressive new interdisciplinary researches. In the future, we can expect even more brilliant syntheses relating the value of liberty to human development.
Neo-Harringtonians on Power, Interest, & Virtue
“J.G.A. Pocock's Neo-Harringtonians: A Reconsideration.” History of Political Thought 1 (Summer 1980): 237–259.
Historian J.G.A. Pocock has studied the intellectual tradition of civic humanism and republicanism from 15th century Italy to the American Revolution. As part of this civic humanism interpretation, Pocock analyzes writers he classifies as “neo-Harringtonians”—17th and 18th century developers of the thought of the English republican author of Oceana, James Harrington (1611–1677). The neo-Harringtonians, according to Pocock, posed a major challenge to England's political leadership and the type of society that was emerging under its corrupt guidance. “Pocock places at the center of this neo-Harringtonian perspective an idealization of medieval society and government as the epitome of English liberty and a corresponding concern about those social and economic trends—especially the increasingly commercial and urban character of English society—that threatened to undermine the traditional basis of English freedom. Pocock believes that this political and historical view pervaded the writings of the neo-Harringtonians and exerted a great influence on social thinking in the 18th century.
Goodale critiques various aspects of Pocock's interpretation of the neo-Harringtonians, by studying, successively, the thought of: such early Commonwealthmen (and their defence of liberty) as Henry Neville (author of Plato Redivivus in 1681), Andrew Fletcher (author of Plato Redivivus in 1681), Andrew Fletcher (author of A Discourse of Government with Relation to Militia's in 1697); and the neo-Harringtonian opposition to Walpole, John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon (authors of the influential Cato's Letters during the 1720s), and Lord Bolingbroke (1678–1751).
Goodale stresses the leitmotifs of suspicion of governmental power and privilege, the “balance” of power, and the adjustment of private vs. public interest, and the need for a civic spirit in the social, economic, and political thought of the neo-Harringtonians: “Concern over the domination of private interests operating through the political superstructure distinguished the political analysis of the neo-Harringtonians. Above all else, they were inheritors of a republican tradition who found themselves in a monarchy and, therefore, with a king and court as a permanent private interest in the government. A monarchical system seemed to be compatible with a greater degree of stability and freedom than Harrington had imagined possible. In Pocock's view, the neo-Harringtonians reacted to this fact by twisting Harrington's political concepts until they could accept and even celebrate England's limited monarchy. On the contrary, it was their adherence to Harrington's republican analysis that made these neo-Harringtonians wary of England's political system and gave to their political and historical thought an intellectual tension that Pocock's approach to their work cannot capture.
Pocock also errs in supposing that the neo-Harringtonians viewed commerce, trade, credit and money as necessarily opposed to liberty. On the contrary, from Neville to Bolingbroke, these writers did not present a conflict between commerce and land, virtue, and liberty, but rather they described the rise of trade and commerce as an aid to the growth in the number of economically independent citizens. Pocock and Isaac Kramnick mistake “discussions of political causes of corruption and tyranny as proof of a belief in the essential corruption of commercial life.” Not commerce, but politicized and privileged governmental control over the operations of commerce (“corruption”) is the recurring target of the neo-Harringtonians.
“In his recent study of early modern political thought, Quentin Skinner describes two approaches to the question of how best to provide for the general interest. One school of thought, to which Harrington surely belonged, relies upon the effective working of political institutions to defend the general good. The other stresses that it is ‘the proper spirit’ of the rulers, the people and the laws which needs above all to be sustained. The special quality of the neo-Harringtonians is the tension in their thought produced by an adherence to Harrington's belief in the primacy of political institutions at the same time that their analysis of contemporary political life pushed them towards a belief that only civic virtue could ultimately protect the general interest.”
Religious, Social, and Political Democracy
“Religion and Democracy in the Puritan Revolution.” Democracy 2 (April 1982): 39–45.
The author, an expert on the seventeenth-century English Revolution, whose works include Milton and the English Revolution and Century of Revolution, distills his researches to summarize the interconnections of religion and social-political beliefs during the “Puritan Revolution” of 1640–1660. The political implication of much of religious dissent of the common people during the Revolution was radical egalitarian democracy.
During the English Revolution, for the first time in history, an organized political party—the Levellers—put forward fully articulated theories of political democracy. It is crucially important to understand that this period expressed all politics in religious terms whether in support or attack of the constituted political authority. The seventeenth-century Church of England was the chief prop of the social and political hierarchy. Through it, political socialization and obedience was inculcated. Before 1640, James I well formulated the nexus binding together religion and social order: “No bishop, no King, no nobility.”
By challenging the status of bishops, the Puritans unwittingly but logically endorsed not only religious equality but also political equality. “Puritanism then was mainly a political movement with a revolutionary ideology, though its ideas were expressed in religious idiom.” For at least two and a half centuries before the Revolution of 1640, underground heretical movements had preached that God could speak democratically to the lower classes as well as to the privileged classes. 1640 eliminated censorship and gave voice to the pent-up insubordinate and democratic feelings of the common people. Among those dissenters, the Levellers between 1645–1647 drew the democratic and secular conclusion from this religious-political popular ferment. Gerard Winstanley, leader of the smaller group of “Diggers” or “True Levellers” likewise secularized religious liberty and equality to take on the form of proto-communism.
The 1640s free religious discussion, thus, led to a social, political democratic revolution. Rejecting the elitist anti-democratic notion of man's depravity and predestination Winstanley asserted that all men would be saved. “The possibility of a sinless society had been the dream of the heady 1640s, but the Quakers survived to bear witness to the divine spark in all men and women” after the Restoration of 1660 attempted to abolish such dangerous democratic tendencies as the denial of King, bishops, and sin.
The Elite's Reaction against ‘Enthusiasm’
“The Reaction to Enthusiasm in the Seventeenth Century: Towards an Integrative Approach.” The Journal of Modern History 53 (June 1981): 258–280.
Historians have devoted increasing attention to the “secularization” or “disenchantment” in religious attitudes occurring in European society during the second half of the 17th and the early 18th centuries. The reaction against religious “enthusiasm” in this period should be seen as an integral part of this broader cultural shift among the elites of Europe. “Enthusiasm” was used as a derogatory term by social, cultural, and political elites to attack individuals or groups who claimed to have direct divine inspiration, whether European millenarists, the radical sects and early Quakers in England in the Interregnum period, or the French Cévennes Prophets who came to England after the Revocation. This reaction against enthusiasm was multifaceted, affecting writing style, views on medicine, madness and melancholy, scientific paradigms, and religious attitudes, and casts light on the social and political motives behind the European elite's increasing reluctance to resort to supernatural explanations of events. The hostile reaction of the political, intellectual, scientific, and ecclesiastical establishment to the “enthusiasts” helped to shift the ideological foundations of 17th-century socio-cultural order.
Church historians, such as Ronald Knox in Enthusiasm, stress how the very nature of enthusiasm with its individualistic claims to private judgment questioned authority and hierarchical institutions. The “heretical Marxist” Leszek Kolakowski in Chrétiens sans église emphasizes the existentialist-individualist theme of a dialectical relationship between the enthusiasts (representing the party of Grace and Individual Faith) and the orthodox reaction (representing the party of Law and Organization). Enthusiasm is part of a continuing conflict between an establishment and its more individualistic non-conformist opponents.
Enthusiasm transcends religious or theological questions and involves other issues—social, political, and cultural—peculiar to the period. For example the anti-enthusiastic reaction cultivated a “sober,” rationalistic literary style and discredited appeals to the imagination, passions, and high-flown rhetoric. Heyd traces the medical, literary, theological, cultural, scientific, and political filiations of the debate over enthusiasm back to Plato and Aristotle, through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, until the cultural polemics of the early modern period.
Of particular importance is the social and cultural debate over enthusiasm within the ideological context of the English Revolution. J.R. Jacob has shown, in Robert Boyle and the English Revolution, how Boyle “was on the one hand attracted to, and influenced by the piety and millenarian vision of the hermetic tradition, but on the other opposed to the interpretation that the radical sects had given to it. Boyle stressed patient work, reason, and experimental philosophy as antidotes to the sectarian claims for direct inspiration, claims which he regarded as subverting the social and moral order. He similarly presented his corpuscular philosophy as an alternative to the Aristotelian and Platonic conception of autonomous and vitalist natural forces, conceptions which were used by mortalists and pantheists like Overton and Winstanley in the 1640s and 1650s, and by the Rosicrucian enthusiasts. . . in the 1660s.”
Likewise, Margaret C. Jacob, in The Newtonians and the English Revolution shows how the Newtonian ideology was influenced by a dialectical confrontation with and reaction against the enthusiasts. A generation earlier we see the ties between the Latitudinarian revolt against enthusiasm in the 1650s and the emergence of the new scientific ideology of the Royal Society in the 1660s.
In sum, a systematic and interdisciplinary study of the social carriers of the smear term “enthusiasm” and its variegated connotations and denotations reveals much about the social history of the reaction to enthusiasm. The elites feared enthusiasm as a challenge to their social and cultural status. These elites wished to promote the norm of the “sober, reasonable, and self-controlled person” as a way to maintain the social order and their authority. The enthusiasts, as radical and inspired critics of the existing social and intellectual order, were representatives of “anti-structure.”
The Levellers & Natural Law
“The Levellers and Natural Law: The Putney Debates of 1647.” The Journal of British Studies 20 (Fall 1980): 74–89.
Professor Gleissner analyzes the use of natural law—the idea that man has a determinate nature which he needs to realize by the aid of reason—by the Levellers in the period following Charles I's imprisonment during the English Civil War. He seeks to relate the Levellers' understanding of the natural law concept to the traditional teaching about it. He believes that the Levellers' radical natural rights philosophy may have arisen from the assumptions about man that have been historically associated with the theory of natural law. The Putney debates reveal that the Levellers' perception of man and the world derived ultimately from the natural law writings of Plato and Aristotle transmitted to the Levellers from Aquinas and Hooker.
In late October 1647 the Levellers presented to Cromwell at Putney “An Agreement of the People,” a formal set of revolutionary social and political demands which developed out of The Case of the Army. The principal radical spokesmen in the debates were Colonel Thomas Rainborough and John Wildman, both of whom were familiar with the classical theory of natural law and well able to apply it to their situation. Their familiarity with natural law is evidenced from their convictions “(1) that all men share an essential structure that determines certain fundamental human inclinations or tendencies; (2) that the good for all men is the realization or fulfillment of these inclinations; (3) that norms or moral laws are derived from man's nature and his efforts to achieve authentic fulfillment. From these premises, they went on to argue for full participation in government of all freemen—even the propertyless—as a matter of justice, whereas Cromwell and Ireton continued to uphold the practical necessity of reserving the exercise of political authority to men of ‘permanent fixed interest’ in the kingdom in order to assure internal stability and peace.” The Levellers thus approached the question of a constitutional settlement as an ethical or moral one, based on the premises of natural law.
Other Levellers, Lilburne and Overton, discerned the radical potential in the natural law theory by invoking self-propriety as the basis of universal rights. Natural law served as a bridge to the utopian traditions of the Renaissance, and such thinkers as Richard Hooker and George Buchanan seem to have contributed to the Levellers' understanding of the political uses of natural law. Gleissner surveys the parallels between natural law doctrine and Leveller statements on such topics as the origin and dissolution of government, property, right, and freedom. The Levellers transcended Cromwell's and Ireton's conservative, pragmatic, and ad hoc political thinking by invoking the framework of natural law morality. Any government—not just King Charles'—Wildman held to be unjust if it limited men in their natural law right to pursue their natural end. “Always, however, the Levellers' purpose was to protect the individual's right to live a more fully human existence without hindrance” and thus proposed universal manhood suffrage within this natural rights framework. The Levellers contributed in “formulating that broad libertarian platform of the commonwealthmen so vital to a later generation of Americans.” Natural law vindicated their optimism about the natural desire of men to actualize their potentialities and to become more fully human.