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Political Thought in England from Locke to Bentham   By: (1893-1950)

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First Page:

HOME UNIVERSITY LIBRARY OF MODERN KNOWLEDGE

No. 103

Editors:

HERBERT FISHER, M.A., F.B.A. PROF. GILBERT MURRAY, LITT.D. LL.D., F.B.A. PROF. J. ARTHUR THOMSON, M.A. PROF. WILLIAM T. BREWSTER, M.A.

POLITICAL THOUGHT IN ENGLAND

FROM LOCKE TO BENTHAM

BY

HAROLD J. LASKI

SOMETIME EXHIBITIONER OF NEW COLLEGE, OXFORD, OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY IN HARVARD UNIVERSITY, AUTHOR OF STUDIES IN THE PROBLEM OF SOVEREIGNTY AND AUTHORITY IN THE MODERN STATE

NEW YORK HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY LONDON WILLIAMS AND NORGATE

1920

NOTE

It is impossible for me to publish this book without some expression of the debt it owes to Leslie Stephen's History of the English Thought in the Eighteenth Century . It is almost insolent to praise such work; but I may be permitted to say that no one can fully appreciate either its wisdom or its knowledge who has not had to dig among the original texts.

Were so small a volume worthy to bear a dedication, I should associate it with the name of my friend Walter Lippmann. He and I have so often discussed the substance of its problems that I am certain a good deal of what I feel to be my own is, where it has merit, really his. This volume is thus in great part a tribute to him; though there is little that can repay such friendship as he gives.

H.J.L.

HARVARD UNIVERSITY Sept. 15, 1919

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. INTRODUCTION 7

II. THE PRINCIPLES OF THE REVOLUTION 24

III. CHURCH AND STATE 77

IV. THE ERA OF STAGNATION 127

V. SIGNS OF CHANGE 159

VI. BURKE 213

VII. THE FOUNDATIONS OF ECONOMIC LIBERALISM 281

BIBLIOGRAPHY 317

INDEX 321

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

The eighteenth century may be said to begin with the Revolution of 1688; for, with its completion, the dogma of Divine Right disappeared for ever from English politics. Its place was but partially filled until Hume and Burke supplied the outlines of a new philosophy. For the observer of this age can hardly fail, as he notes its relative barrenness of abstract ideas, to be impressed by the large part Divine Right must have played in the politics of the succeeding century. Its very absoluteness made for keen partisanship on the one side and the other. It could produce at once the longwinded rhapsodies of Filmer and, by repulsion, the wearisome reiterations of Algernon Sidney. Once the foundations of Divine Right had been destroyed by Locke, the basis of passionate controversy was absent. The theory of a social contract never produced in England the enthusiasm it evoked in France, for the simple reason that the main objective of Rousseau and his disciples had already been secured there by other weapons. And this has perhaps given to the eighteenth century an urbaneness from which its predecessor was largely free. Sermons are perhaps the best test of such a change; and it is a relief to move from the addresses bristling with Suarez and Bellarmine to the noble exhortations of Bishop Butler. Not until the French Revolution were ultimate dogmas again called into question; and it is about them only that political speculation provokes deep feeling. The urbanity, indeed, is not entirely new. The Restoration had heralded its coming, and the tone of Halifax has more in common with Bolingbroke and Hume than with Hobbes and Filmer. Nor has the eighteenth century an historical profundity to compare with that of the zealous pamphleteers in the seventeenth. Heroic archivists like Prynne find very different substitutes in brilliant journalists like Defoe, and if Dalrymple and Blackstone are respectable, they bear no comparison with masters like Selden and Sir Henry Spelman.

Yet urbanity must not deceive us. The eighteenth century has an importance in English politics which the comparative absence of systematic speculation can not conceal... Continue reading book >>




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