. 12
( 14)


Theophilus Downes, A Discourse (1690), pp. 16“18; 13; Jones, Conscience and
Allegiance, pp. 218“19.
Palmer, The Englishman™s Allegiance, pp. 203, 212“14, 217; Anon., A Caution against
Inconsistency, Or The Connexion between Praying and Swearing in Relation to Civil
Powers (1689?), A2v.
Sherlock, The Case of Resistance to Supreme Powers (1684), p. 198.
324 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
are being taught to name things with the wrong words.52 In Jacobean eyes,
Hobbes assumed the shape of the arch-casuist of rebellion.53 George
Hickes was explicit in tying the ˜uncouth™ and ˜unheard of™ principles of
Hobbism to the Engagement and was scathing on the ˜unlimited sense™
given to obedience to higher powers. It makes any man who can mount
Bucephalus an Alexander.54 Because such latitude would let in Turkish
rule, it was a threat to the church and Christianity, the obedience of
˜protean subjects™ being the least regarded by any ruler.55 He rounded
waspishly on Sharp™s attempt to maintain the integrity of clerical office
by drawing a line between ˜state points™ and matters of religion: as
if morality and priestly duty could be so easily constrained.56 In attribut-
ing an acceptance of irresistible power to the subscribers of the Engage-
ment and many of his contemporaries, he condemned them as companions
in Cromwellian evil, and projected as a clerical nightmare something
Arbuthnot would urbanely turn into a theory of political autonomy
(above, chapter 10). The spectre of ˜state points™ would shortly become a
smoothly inverted vision of routine amorality.

The proposition that government depended on consent was neither new
nor revolutionary. It permeated the workings of society, was formally
evoked in the symbolism of crowning and in elections and was not neces-
sarily inconsistent with the virtually axiomatic notion that the office of
rule was established by God. The notion of consent, however, was cap-
acious, covering inferred acceptance, tacit consent, considered choice

W. Anderton, Remarks on the Present Confederacy (1693); Anon., A Caution against
Inconsistency, Av.
See, generally, Collier, Dr. Sherlock™s Case (1691); Anon., A Confutation of Sundry
Errors (1691); George Hickes, A Vindication of Some Among Ourselves (1692);
Theophilus Downes, An Examination of the Arguments (1691); but especially Hickes,
An Apology for the New Separation (1691), p. 6.
Hickes, Apology, pp. 3“4, 6; ˜The Duchess of York™s Ghost™, Huntington MS EL 8770
(35/B/43): ˜Nor is confirm™d to any certain line,/ Possession makes all Government
Divine.™; see also Palmer, The Englishman™s Allegiance, p. 213 on the invitation to
William ˜of our great men™.
Hickes, Apology, p. 6; Collier, Dr Sherlock™s Case, pp. 5“9; the allusion to the ˜Turk™ may
seem hyperbolic, but Socinians and others were deeply admiring of Islam as superior
to established Christianity, and were Hobbesian fellow-travellers: Champion, Pillars of
Priestcraft, ch. 4. Others also feared ˜Turcism™ as an implication of Erastianism; its head
had been raised in the Engagement controversy, de Moulin, The Power of the
Magistrate, pp. 29, 31.
Hickes, Apology, pp. 5“8; cf. Sharp, ˜General Directions™ at length; Burnet, however,
would show how aggressively such a restricted view of his proper ˜sphere™ could be used.
See his speech of 1713, in History, vol. VI, pp. 154“61.
The oath of allegiance and the Revolution of 1688“9 325
or contractual agreement. To point to the discrepancy between the rheto-
rics of consent and the lack of choice and narrowness of franchise may be
to lose much of the point. Whatever its content, the topos of consent
affirmed a sanctioning origin for office; the absence of consent was the
sign of office-abuse. Moreover, as oath-taking always entailed consent,
and oaths were central to debate, so too was consent.
Additionally, consent provided verisimilitude to the proceedings through
which William became king more plausibly than those through which
Cromwell became Protector: as noted, the monarchy was now arguably
elective.57 If so, reference to consent might undermine the view that the new
rulers were usurpers. Yet the elasticity of consent complicated any simple
contrast. As writers in a Hobbesian idiom could argue, even in conquest,
consent preceded settled rule.58 Consent was central because although its
formal meaning might be clear, its application remained contested and
could be tantalisingly unspecific. Concomitantly, reliance on the rhetorics
of consent enabled the accusation of tyranny to flourish. This had become
central to the later stages of the reign of Charles I when a controversial
emphasis on tyranny gradually emerged, justifying his execution as
After 1688 talk of tyranny seems infinitely more widespread, casual and
generalised than it had been earlier. I have touched on a partial explan-
ation. James™s rule could be construed almost a priori as tyrannical; he
was a shepherd turned wolf.59 This, of course, was no novel casuistical
ground for disobedience. The Elizabethan Bishop Bilson continued to be
cited for having argued that alienation of office was grounds for action.60
James VI&I battled the very tyranny his grandson invited into the
kingdom and so assumed the virtuously emblematic status that Elizabeth
had held for those critical of him.61 James II helped restore James I.
To a sort of tyrannous incapacity, could be added ˜the late daring Pranks
of Tyranny™, suspension of laws relevant to the established church and
challenging its spiritual authority.62 A number of writers rehearsed the

See also Burnet, History, vol. III, pp. 355“6; but cf. Israel, ˜The Dutch Role™, pp. 128“30,
on the constraints imposed by the Dutch presence.
See Anon., Some Short Considerations relating to the settling of the government humbly
Offer™d . . . (1689), in State Tracts (1705), vol. I, p. 175.
Edward Stephens, Four Questions Debated, in State Tracts (1705), vol. I, p. 164; Richard
Baxter, Against the Revolt to a Foreign Jurisdiction (1691), at length; Francis Fullwood,
The Agreement Betwixt the Present and the Former Government (1689), pp. 32“5.
See, for example, Allix, An Examination (1689); Anon., Anatomy of a Jacobite Tory
(1689); Long (?), A Resolution of Certain Queries, p. 23; Atwood, The Fundamental
Constitution (1690, 1705), pp. 447“50; Lamont, ˜Richard Baxter™, pp. 342“5.
Fullwood, The Agreement, p. 34.
Ibid., p. 36; Atwood, Reflections, p. 59.
326 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
Parsonian reading of the coronation oath, although the Jesuit™s name
was conspicuously absent. It was a contract, and having sworn to uphold
religion James had broken his trust, automatically releasing his subjects
from obligation. Such arguments allowed accusations of breach of con-
tract or violation of oaths to be blurred and become largely inter-
changeable.63 Burnet draws attention to the new-found popularity of a
contractual reading of the coronation oath and a denial of its being
merely proclamatory. It was an easy means of reiterating a purely nom-
inal identity in office.64 Finally, once James had gone, tyranny was simul-
taneously a lurid and safe abridgement of office-abuse because more
easily severed from the horrific injunction to commit tyrannicide, with
its feared consequence of confusion and the conjuring of the ghosts of
Charles I and Cromwell. Defoe, for example, would be able to celebrate
liberation without contemplation of chaos:
But if the Mutual Contract was dissolv™d,
The Doubt™s explain™d, the Difficulty solv™d
That Kings, when they descend to Tyranny,
Dissolve the Bond, and leave their Subjects free.65

With this general indictment of tyranny now synonymous with office-
abuse, it became easier to run together quite distinct accusations about
departure from office that might justify a new allegiance. According to
the non-jurors, this was ˜loose and impertinent™.66 Yet they could be
equally loose in associating William with the tyrant Tarquin, whose wife
Tullia was like Mary, the daughter to the king he replaced.67 Generally,
the word tyranny was a staple of argument and one not much subject to

Thomas Erle, ˜Paper of Instructions™, in Erle papers, Churchill College, Cambridge,
Archives, 4/4, fol. 3v: ˜All oaths of compacts and agreements (being the strongest
ligaments [of] sosieties) carries allways about them tassit salves and savings, of Generall
and implied conditions. The King first breaking his oath with his subjects, they are no
longer bound by their oath of allegiance to him™; Kennett, Dialogue, pp. 31“5, for whom
William I™s coronation oath was ˜a Bargain and Compact™, p. 14; Anon., Counsel to the
True English: Or a Word of Advice to the Jacobites (1691), p. 9.
Burnet, History, vol. III, pp. 357“8; Richard Claridge, A Second Defence of the Present
Government (1689), p. 28; Anon., An Examination of the Scruples of those who refuse to
take oaths of allegiance, in State Tracts (1705), vol. I, p. 302.
Daniel Defoe, The True-Born Englishman, in Selected Writings, ed. John Boulton
(Cambridge, 1975), p. 72.
Hickes, Vindication (1692), pp. 41“2.
˜The Duchess of York™s Ghost™; ˜Tarquin and Tullia™ (1689), Huntington MS EL 8770
(35/B/43), pp. 78“93, 52“60.
Anon., A Justification of the Whole Proceedings (1689); K. William, Wherein it is Set
Forth (1689); Richard Claridge, A Defence of the Present Government (1689); Claridge,
The oath of allegiance and the Revolution of 1688“9 327

William and Mary could be seen as rulers by de facto acquisition, al-
though the rupture was less decisive than in 1649; a repeat performance
had, by definition, precedent.69 It was also rather different from the brutal
sequence of king, axe, Cromwell. There was still a king and the ruling
queen was a Stuart. James™s Protestant daughter was now in waiting; the
family could be re-affirmed as the unit of hereditary continuity.70 Irre-
spective of the gradations of de facto practice, to see the Revolution as
marking a triumph of de facto theory is decidedly wide of the mark.71
I have argued that might versus right, de facto versus de jure, was only
a prejudicial formulation of the issues of the Engagement. It was now
sustained by the non-jurors, who collapsed different propositions into
one accusatory phrase that could be given additional currency by being
turned back on them. As they admitted, they could give only non-moral,
de facto compliance, pro tem.72 The issue of who was really a de facto
supporter was a formulation of the Marian question of who was really
rebellious, arising more clearly than it had in the wake of the Engagement.
It was a matter of asking not just who might have acquired office
de facto, but also of who really ruled de facto, by force.73 Here we see
the fuller point of the redescriptive energies surrounding William™s arrival;
invasion by an ambitious foreign prince or a selfless response to a plea
were opposed preconditions for locating the true origin of de facto
rule, not government but tyranny.74 As with the Engagement, some
did not accept the validity of the loaded distinction between de facto and
de jure.75 Given the persistent blending of arguments from right, useful-
ness and necessity, this was not unreasonable. Emphasis on the tyranny of

A Second Defence (1689); Anon, A Defence of Their Majesties (1689); B. R., Satisfaction
Tendered (1689); Anon., The Anatomy of an Arbitrary Prince (1689); Daniel Defoe (?),
The Advantages of the Present Settlement (1689).
Defoe, Jure Divino, bk. 10.
Thomas Comber, The Protestant Mask (1692/3); Fullwood, Agreement, pp. 25“9; see
also Lawson, Politica, p. 101.
J. P. Kenyon, Revolution Principles: The Politics of Party 1689“1720 (Cambridge, 1977),
ch. 3; Goldie, ˜The Revolution of 1689™, p. 487.
Claridge, A Second Defence, pp. 23ff.
Anon., A Remonstrance and Protestation of all Good Protestants of This Kingdom . . .
together with Reflections Upon it (1689). This is, incidentally, the first text of which I am
aware to make use of Marvell™s recently published ˜Ode of Cromwell™s Return from
Ireland™, pp. 13, 16.
Anon., A Remonstrance, succinctly puts both sides, pp. 5, 7, 11, 13.
Comber, A Discourse (1689); Atwood, Reflections, p. 62, it was groundless and wicked.
Even 1066 is massaged into the shape of 1689, pp. 20“1, as it was by Kennett, Dialogue,
pp. 12“14. Defoe, Jure Divino, p. viii, dismisses de facto and de jure as a new distinction.
328 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
James™s rule was a denial of purely de facto triumph by William. Right-
eous restoration of good rule was always going to be more than mere
possession; only tyranny occupied office de facto.76
To misread the arguments of the Allegiance controversy as a triumph of
de facto ˜theory™ really needs explaining and may be a result of giving
disproportionate weight to the writings of William Sherlock and his
opponents.77 From being an outspoken advocate of passive obedience,
he justified allegiance to William and Mary on grounds that strongly
echoed the arguments of the subscribers of 1649“52; consequently, the
guns primed by the original refusers could easily be trained on him.
Condemned as a man of expedience, an oath-breaking Hobbist turncoat,
he excited anger by denying any prudential plasticity. But, whatever his
motivations, his argued position, like that of the original Engagers, was
never one of preferring might over right, or pragmatism over principle.
His faith in the moral reciprocity of protection and obedience remained
commonplace, retaining its strong connotations of God™s required obedi-
ence to office.78 Additionally, he drew on a number of justifications for
his outspoken allegiance to the new rulers, rejecting the analogy with
Cromwell, who having failed to settle the country, was never properly its
protector. As with so many, providence played an arbitrary role in his case
and there were always the moral obligations of his sacred clerical office to
put true religion even before obedience to rulers. On this he had been
insistent when preaching before James in 1685. To see 1689, then, as a
victory for de facto theory may be to side inadvertently with the non-
jurors™ outrage. It is certainly to mistake a widespread accusation from the
negative register of office for a theory that could triumph; it is a little like
discovering the ascendancy of Communism in McCarthyist America. At
least that was a dominant ideology somewhere.
Ascham may have been seasonal again in 1689, because his argu-
ments for a moral reciprocity between ruling and obeying did not rely
on Romans 13, the perceived weakness of Rous and of Sherlock. In 1689,
the lines of this kind of moral claim, again, like so much else, are more
tumbled with others than in 1649“52. The Convention parliament of
1660 provided a sanctioning model for the Convention of 1689“90, so
from this authoritative historical resource was drawn a constitutional

Fullwood, The Agreement, pp. 68, 33“9; Anon., A Remonstrance, pp. 11“15.
Anon., ˜The Female Casuist™ and ˜An Epitaph for Passive Obedience™ (1688), Huntington
MS EL 8770 (35/B/43), pp. 164“6, p. 23, both suggest that self-interest was typical in
changing sides.
Fullwood, The Agreement, p. 68, citing Calvin™s Case; see also Long, Reflections, at
The oath of allegiance and the Revolution of 1688“9 329
precedent justifying the new rule irrespective of dynastic rupture, or issues
of might versus right.79 This also gave allegorical plausibility to argu-
ments from trust and contract, increasingly important, if unstable, vari-
ations on a general theme of consent.80 Further, any move beyond the
boundaries of consent allowed a right of resistance which if exercised
(an option most seemed reluctant to extertain) facilitated redescription
of the whole sequence of events in an adaptable amalgam of damning
indictments. Superficially there was an element of ad hoc-ery in this, but
a presupposition of office facilitated the kaleidoscopic combination.

Parliamentary debates provide ample illustration. According to John
Howe, the king™s tyranny had ended his government.81 Sir Robert Sawyer
thought the words to describe James™s departure ˜all one™; the issue was
whether government had dissolved. Turning the state ˜Topsy Turvy™ had
been a refusal to govern, and abdication was the most plausible descriptor
if it referred to the exercise of office.82 The king™s office, according to
Sir William Poltny, is from the people, and is not for their destruction.
James II™s conduct has been ˜a Cessure of the Trust™, an abdication; it
was necessary and not treasonable to distinguish the person from
the power. If a constable acts within the king™s authority he must be
obeyed, if drunk and abusive self-defence is allowed. The king, stated
Sir John Mainard, ˜has deposed himself ™.83 Monday, 28 January: ˜Re-
solved, That King James the Second, having endeavoured to subvert the
Constitution . . . by breaking the original Contract between King and
People, and, by the advice of Jesuits, and other wicked Persons, having
violated the fundamental Laws, and having withdrawn himself out of this

˜Grey™s Debates™, Serjeant Maynard (20 February 1688), p. 93, in Jones, Parliamentary
History, p. 189.
Burnet, History, vol. III, p. 357, misleadingly writes of contractarian and anti-
contractarian parties. For the diversity of contract uses, see Miller, ˜The Glorious
Revolution™, pp. 545“54.
˜A Journal of the Convention™, in Jones, Parliamentary History, p. 234.
Ibid., pp. 236, 238.
Ibid., p. 239; cf. Hobbes, ˜Questions™; ˜Journal™, in Jones, Parliamentary History, p. 242;
possibly an allusion to Lewis of Bavaria, but more likely to the Leges Edwardii
confessoris: see Greenberg, The Radical Face, p. 278. This style of argument was partially
identified by Thomas Slaughter in his claim that to abdicate actually meant to have been
deposed, from which he reaffirmed the dominance of resistance theory, but the opposite
conclusion is more warranted: abdication of responsibility was self-deposition, so a
means of avoiding ˜resistance theory™. See Slaughter, ˜“Abdicate” and “Contract”™,
pp. 323“8.
330 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
Kingdom, has abdicated the Government.™84 Nominal identity and the
elision of the terms of office-abuse gave enormous descriptive latitude.
It also lubricated discussions concerning the office held by those
deciding what James had done and how to re-settle the nation. ˜There is
only one Question . . . whether we are a Parliament, and what we shall do
when we are a Parliament.™85 The alternative, that the sitting was a
convention, had the considerable appeal of evasive reach, suggesting little
more than a special status of parliament™s business, or designating
some foundational act, or contractual moment from which constitutions
and normal parliaments might arise.86 Contractual or not, a myth of
popular foundation through a convention was also more plausible in
1690 than it had been in 1649, and it facilitated an understanding of the
Revolution as a thorough restoration and a bulwark for the work of
reformation. These were considerable advantages in undercutting any
idea that here stood a brave new world, ramshackle on pure de facto
power. And the general designation of a convention stuck in imperfect
and impatient times.87 In January, Sir Thomas Clarges remarked to his
fellows that ˜you are here as a Convention, which is a resemblance of a
Parliament™. On 19 February, Sir Robert Sawyer pointed out that the
earlier Convention had started as a parliament, yet Charles and it had
been in their positions de facto. Hugh Boscowen remarked that the present
Convention was more of a parliament than the one of 1660, and should
proceed in its business.88
But, like the situation as a whole, no self-description was unproblematic
and the two issues ran in tandem. If the Convention arose from a dis-
solution, this could well call up the spectre of levelling and of a Hobbesian
natural condition deemed a ˜bold and dangerous assertion™ and a ˜ridi-
culous notion™.89 Thus Sir Robert Sawyer: if there has been a dissolution,
the proceedings have no authority; but if James is taken to have abdicated,
those involved can still be representatives. To this the palpably irritated
Boscowen retorted that if it was necessary to wait for a better ˜way to sit

˜Grey™s Debates™, in Jones, Parliamentary History, p. 121.
Anon., Proposals to the Present Convention, in Somers Tracts (1689), vol. VIII, p. 34;
Maynard, ˜Grey™s Debates™, in Jones, Parliamentary History, p. 197.
Humfrey (?), Good Advice (1688); Fullwood, Agreement, pp. 44“6; Anon., A Discourse
Concerning the Nature, Power and Proper Effects of the Present Convention (1689), in
State Tracts (1705), vol. I, pp. 218, 220, 221“4.
Burnet, History, vol. IV, pp. 41“2, 72“3.
˜Grey™s Debates™, in Jones, Parliamentary History, pp. 101, 181“2.
Burnet, History, vol. III, p. 362; A Letter to a Member of the Convention, in Somers
Tracts (1689), vol. VII, p. 25; see also William, Wherein it is Set Forth; see also Tim
Harris, ˜The Leveller Legacy: From Restoration to Exclusion Crisis™, in Michael
Mendle, ed., The Putney Debates (Cambridge, 2001), pp. 219“40.
The oath of allegiance and the Revolution of 1688“9 331
than as you are, you may sit till doomsday™.90 Abdication solves nothing,
for there is still ˜a little one beyond the sea too, that will pretend . . .
Therefore declare “that the throne is void,” and fill it™.91 This resolution
was sent up to the Lords, where it too was found difficult; a vacant throne
implied an elective responsibility.92 In one form or another, some under-
standing of consent becomes inescapable as a criterion for settlement.
Ultimately, as Francis Fullwood reflected, the Convention opted for the
words abdication and vacancy as the least contentious to describe the
situation.93 There had been neither forfeiture nor resistance.
In the Declaration of Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons,
Assembled at Westminster (13 February), those involved would style
themselves as ˜a full and free Representative of this Nation™. In this grand
if under-determined capacity they resolved to offer the throne to William
and Mary. In accepting, William stated that he regarded the Declaration
as a great proof of trust. He reiterated that he had come to England only
to preserve ˜your Religion, Laws and Liberties™ and assured them that
he would act only for the good of the Kingdom, ˜to advance the welfare
and glory of the nation™.94 Those who flourished new oaths of allegiance
were formally consenting to the joint rule. This studiedly ceremonial
occasion thus concluded with the flavour of a coronation oath.

Behind the oaths that would be sworn to king and queen lay an attempt
to avoid another Engagement controversy. A carefully balanced com-
mittee of the loyalists lords Nottingham, Rochester and the Bishop of
Peterborough, together with the emphatically Williamite lords Wharton
and Delamere, had been given the task of formulating new oaths. Previous
ones that might cause agonies of conscience and conflicting obligations
were repealed. Replacement oaths of allegiance and supremacy proposed
by the committee formed the peroration of the Declaration before William
and Mary. The oath of allegiance read: ˜I, A. B. do sincerely promise
and swear that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to their Majesties
King William and Queen Mary.™95

˜Grey™s Debates™, in Jones, Parliamentary History, pp. 118“19; see also Sir Thomas Lee,
Col. Birch, 20 February 1688, in ibid., pp. 199, 198.
Ibid., p. 119.
˜Notes of a Noble Lord™, in ibid., p. 80.
Fullwood, Agreement, pp. 33, 56.
Jones, Parliamentary History, p. 45.
Jones, Conscience and Allegiance, p. 280.
332 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
What Burnet called the oath™s ˜ancient simplicity™ strongly suggests
that it was set on encompassing rather than sorting sheep from goats.96
The range of people being required to swear, of ˜all office or employment
ecclesiastical or civil™, supports this.97 Yet again it illustrates the wide
scope of office in the polity to which James VI&I had appealed in the
wake of the Gunpowder Plot and the appropriateness of a short skia-
graphic oath, in the idiom of the Engagement, to an adequately encom-
passing end. It was all the more easy to take if it was read as a
proclamation of the reach of subjection.98 The new oath of supremacy,
however, sought to exclude all Romish interference, so going beyond
James VI&I™s demands for only civil allegiance. The distinction between
temporal and spiritual offices had proved too porous. Thus, ˜A. B.™ had
to swear abhorrence from the heart of ˜that damnable doctrine . . . that
princes may be excommunicated or deprived by the Pope or any authority
of the See of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or
any other whatsoever™. And A. B. had further to declare, in a manifest
tightening of the oath of 1606, that ˜no foreign Prince, person, prelate,
state or potentate, hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, super-
iority, pre-eminence or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual within this
realm™. As Beddard tellingly remarks, in this the Augsburg principle
was inverted. The religion of a people would determine that of the mon-
arch; the Reformation in England, brought in by a king, had undone
Out of 10,000 clergy only 400 could not take the oath of allegiance.
Among them, however, were eight bishops who, forced to alienate official
administrative tasks to laymen, created in their dioceses a temporary
but symbolic erosion of priestly office.100 From the evidence of print, the
issue for them remained the sanctity of spiritual office epitomised in the
oaths already sworn.101 Passive obedience was a theological doctrine
and clerics claimed to be arbiters of what this meant. If this situation
contrasted starkly with the numbers who lost their livings after 1662, it
also probably inflamed fears of equivocation. The simpler an oath, the
more it might accommodate Sandersonian ˜high™ or ˜low™ readings and
the more the imposers might themselves be suspected of equivocation.
Conversely, the more it closed loopholes, so challenging conscience, the
more it might be rejected or be taken with indifferent sincerity. The new

Burnet, History, vol. III, p. 380.
Jones, Conscience and Allegiance, p. 280; Goldie, ˜The Revolution of 1689™, pp. 482“3.
Kennett, Dialogue, p. 30.
Jones, Conscience and Allegiance, pp. 280“1; Beddard, Kingdom, p. 65.
Goldie, ˜The Revolution of 1689™, p. 479; Burnet, History, vol. IV, p. 12.
Evelyn, Diary, 15 January, 1689, vol. IV, p. 614; 26 April, 1689, p. 637.
The oath of allegiance and the Revolution of 1688“9 333
oath of allegiance was subject to the first danger, that of Supremacy
subject to the second. The oath of allegiance was probably meant to be
decidedly latitudinarian, its force depending upon understandings of
˜faithful™ and ˜true allegiance™ where there was no mention of right. All
these points were rehearsed in both Houses.102 As one tract put it, the
˜highest™ reading was that faithful and true meant defending the new
monarchs against all comers; the ˜lowest™ meant little more than de facto
acceptance of them until James II had an opportunity to recover his
throne.103 This protean potential, so strongly echoing the Engagement,
may itself explain the small numbers of non-juring clergy. An abjuration
oath was much debated in parliament in 1690, and when James died
the 1701 Oath of Abjuration unceremoniously insisted on allegiance to
William as right and lawful king.104 For a minority, the agonies of con-
science rippled well into the eighteenth century. Dr Henry Sacheverell
remains in the wings.
Drawing on Hickes™s Apology, Mark Goldie has suggested that there
were six or seven hypotheses as to what had happened when James ran and
William came: resistance, from historical precedent, or natural right;
breach of contract, justifying deposition, or as action taken in extremis;
possession, as effective protection; abdication, a conquest, or providential
deliverance.105 These hypotheses fall into two rough sub-groups: those
concentrating on what James had done, and those using his actions to
assess what was done by others.
A number of things are crucial about this. First, because Hickes was
a less than disinterested guide, his account needs treating with caution.
Contract and resistance are disproportionately significant, perhaps, as
Paul Monod has noted, because non-jurors regarded contract as particu-
larly vulnerable to refutation. Goldie, in fact, has observed a reluctance
by those supporting the Revolution to accept that it had been an act of
resistance. This is because resistance remained easily reconfigured as a
euphemism for rebellion, setting a dangerous precedent in an uncertain
future; it could even be an expression of popery.106 No wonder Hickes
subsumed so much under its auspices, and that arguments from defence
and dissolution are absent from his listed hypotheses. Defence was the

Burnet, History, vol. IV, pp. 76“7.
Anon., A Discourse Concerning the Signification of Allegiance (1689), pp. 1“2; Clark,
˜Johnson™, pp. 84“5.
Burnet, History, vol. IV, pp. 76“7; The Abjuration Oath reprinted in Jones, Conscience
and Allegiance.
Goldie, ˜The Revolution of 1689™, pp. 486, 529.
See Monod, English Jacobitism, p. 21; Goldie, ˜The Revolution of 1689™, p. 489; Long (?),
Reflections, pp. 2, 10.
334 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
most noticeable counter to the accusation of rebellion; dissolution could
be used, albeit with diminishing success, to avoid resistance and rebellion
altogether.107 For Hickes it was all euphemistic of rebellion. If all the
eggs could be dropped into one rebellious basket, they might be easier to
break at a blow. Secondly, in a vibrant print environment, with unknown
and even unimagined audiences, diversity of argument had appeal on
the basis of quite conventional rhetorical injunction. The arguments in
print, therefore, like those in the Convention, ran together and slipped
between topoi such as conquest, possession, natural right, abdication
and defence. What, to repeat, generated this flexibility of argument was
an extensive grounding in a belief that James™s rule had been tyrannical.
On all sides, then, the issue actually in dispute was the limits and functions
of the office of rule and what it entailed for the ruled as concentrated in
the act of swearing an oath; all of this functioned theoretically as pre-
conditions to justify taking new oaths for old. Questions of consent
become difficult to avoid because an awareness of rupture was inescap-
able; and re-affirming rule through an oath meant nothing if it did not
presuppose some consent of the soul.

The anonymous Friendly Debate was one of the lengthier pamphlets,
presented as the private papers of a modest minister, so displaying
and exploiting the clerical tensions in the crisis of allegiance. A dia-
logue between a non-juror, Dr Kingsman, and his Williamite neighbour
Gratianus Trimmer, it is set before a thanksgiving sermon for the new
It opens in Platonic style, with a journey. Kingsman is visiting his friend,
and after initial skirmishes they adjourn to Trimmer™s chilly study,
allowing both access to the authorities they need. Kingsman™s role is to
raise objections to abandoning oaths, exhibiting disloyalty, rebelling
and rejoicing at the triumph of de facto rulers. His is the pious non-juring
voice of passive obedience, drawing on the anti-Engagement arguments
of Robert Sanderson.109 Trimmer dextrously handles one distinct ac-
count of affairs after another, but always to the same end: allegiance to

Lawson, Politica, pp. 226“34; Comber, A Letter to a Bishop, pp. 5, 14; for the use of
Lawson, see Condren, George Lawson™s Politica, chs. 13, 14.
Anon., A Friendly Debate between Dr. Kingsman, a Dissatisfied Clergy-Man and
Gratianus Trimmer, a Neighbour Minister (1689); see also Kennett, Dialogue, which has a
less elaborate structure to similar ends.
Anon., Friendly Debate, p. 14; see also Downes, Discourse; Dr G. B., A Word to the
Wavering, p. 2.
The oath of allegiance and the Revolution of 1688“9 335
the new regime is morally required, abuse of office has destroyed the old,
and only in that context must the sanctity of oaths be considered. The
subject™s obligation entails judgement that makes passive obedience a
dereliction of duty.110 Only the trimmer understands true loyalty and, as
Halifax had it, keeps the little boat of state on a true bottom. Because
James did not keep ˜his Religion to Himself ™, he threatened the kingdom.
Therefore, loyalty to him is disloyalty to Christ.111 Here, in short order,
is an initial co-optive predication of the crucial terms loyalty and duty
as attributes of the subject™s responsibility, followed by an awareness of
the difficulties of keeping the spiritual and temporal realms distinct, an
insistence on allegiance being to office rather than person and a faith in
the sanctioning power of providence. These are all shaped into a piece of
extensive casuistical argument. The litany of James™s misgovernment,
undefended by Kingsman, allows Trimmer to extend loyalty to office to
the point at which identity in office dissolves the issue. ˜I am subject to
the King, and not to him who . . . hath made Himself none.™ He continued,
˜[As] Sir Thomas More said, the Lord Chancellor is gone, when his Person
was there present, but out of Office.™112 Lawson™s authority reinforces
the argument: obligation to the king ceases with the monarch™s death,
with tyrannous conduct, or with actions that dissolve the constitution. ˜If
one term of the relation be changed or ceased, the obligation of the other
relate and Correlate ceaseth.™113 On this basis it will be urged that James
was not deposed and there was no rebellion.
Kingsman meanwhile has repaired to the law of nature. Obedience is
from nature, to which Trimmer replies that obedience to the pope is not,
and by it James relinquishes any natural right to rule. How is it, then,
asks Kingsman, that men swore obedience at his coronation? They swore,
states Trimmer, and suffered in good faith, but James broke his trust
and threatened tyranny. Thus there was no rebellion or breach of oath
only defence; the invasion was a deliverance providentially arranged.114
Kingsman™s reiteration that there had been a rebellion because of ˜our

Anon., Friendly Debate, p. 3; Kennett, Dialogue, pp. 31“2.
Anon., Friendly Debate, pp. 2, 60, 3, 49; see also Long (?), A Resolution, fol. Ar.
Anon., Friendly Debate, pp. 6“7; 25“6, 71, misprinted as 17, 72“3; see also Fullwood,
Agreement, pp. 32“4; Anon., The Doctrine of Passive Obedience (1689), pp. 1“2; Anon.,
An Enquiry into the Present State of Affairs (1689), pp. 10“11; Comber, Letter to a
Bishop, p. 4.
Anon., Friendly Debate, pp. 6“7, 21. The references are to the first edition; recall also
Ascham (?), An Answer to the Vindication of Dr. Hammond (1650), p. 5, on the terms
governor and governed as ˜relatives™.
Anon., Friendly Debate, pp. 6, 7“8, 39, 12“13; Kennett, Dialogue, an ˜unfathomably
stupendous deliverance™, pp. 1, 11“12. See also Anon., The Doctrine of Passive
Obedience, p. 2; Anon., An Enquiry, p. 10.
336 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
Oaths™ opens discussion of the limitations of all promissory oaths. Ordin-
arily these should be kept, states Trimmer, but because of their reciprocal
nature, when rule becomes tyranny, they must cease. Tyranny now
stretches beyond papal pleonexia to the systematic misuse of necessary
prerogative, a criterion for marking abuse of office and the transformation
of its inhabiting persona.115 Kingsman insists that prerogative cannot be
so restricted; the liberties of the subject are concessions and therefore
resistance is rebellion. This synoptic view of absolutism is supported
by Filmerian arguments from Adam as the universal father, introduced
by Trimmer for the purpose of ridicule, and by the serious proposition
that rights and ownership are the contingent gifts of the sovereign.
Rejecting this, Trimmer enlists Queen Elizabeth as a ruler who recognised
that sworn allegiance was limited by what was due. The crown was
absolute only in being imperial: she owed no fealty to a foreign prince;116
so oaths are conditional upon offices being maintained, and upon a
veritable hierarchy of loyalty to those in office, to country and to God.
How, asks Trimmer rhetorically, ˜can I swear to . . . the Imperial Crown,
when [James] hath parted with . . . Authority . . . to the Pope? This would
be to swear against Him and not for Him.™ James was not an absolute
monarch where his office required it. Swearing under Charles II to be
loyal to his successors meant Protestant successors.117 Oaths cannot
be taken in vacuo; they assume stable constitutional relationships.
Loyalty, then, necessitates consideration of the English monarchy
which is neither absolute nor entirely hereditary. Trimmer now argues
more generally, introducing a notion of contract, to which he returns in
an addendum. Government, having begun in families, gradually grew
into kingdoms and the ˜derided Contract and Consent of the People™
has provided a sound principle for distinguishing rule from tyranny.118
His authority is Hooker. As the coronation oath shows and the Con-
vention plausibly illustrates, consent does not require a gathered multi-
tude to be meaningful.119 Indeed, an original contract is more than ˜a
Popular Flourish™, it is close enough to the work of the Convention to sit
with the traditions of a polity that has always negotiated the office of
rule.120 This allows yet another justification for taking new oaths for old.

Anon., Friendly Debate, pp. 13“14; Fullwood, Agreement, p. 38; cf. Hickes, Apology, pp.
Anon., Friendly Debate, pp. 15“17, 18“19; cf. Burnet, History, vol. III, p. 92.
Anon., Friendly Debate, pp. 25“6; cf. Bilson, Christian Subjection, pt. 2, pp. 145“6; also
Anon., An Enquiry, p. 10.
Anon., Friendly Debate, pp. 28, 61“78, 29; Kennett, Dialogue, p. 14.
Anon., Friendly Debate, p. 30; Kennett, Dialogue, pp. 14“15.
Anon., Friendly Debate, pp. 62“5; contrast Anon., Vindiciae juris regii, p. 21.
The oath of allegiance and the Revolution of 1688“9 337
Breach of contract can mean forfeiture of office as well as dissolution of
In this expository layering of arguments around a simple principle,
Kingsman™s responses gradually compress to a splutter ˜Conscience and
Allegiance™.122 In contrast, Trimmer expatiates and dialogue becomes
declamation. There is something authentically Socratic in this encroach-
ment of tedium and something structurally Platonic in the argument
coming full circle, back to the meaning of duty and what is due to office.
In this there is also a typically Platonic inversion. Kingsman eventually
signals agreement, but his last two short sentences suggest latent disloy-
alty to the new regime. He will keep his oath to James and do nothing to
harm his cause should he return: real rebellion and disloyalty under
pretext of sacred oaths is to be looked for in the non-juror.123 A distribu-
tive predication balances the opening co-option of true loyalty. A com-
pound rhetorical question hangs in the air: who really knows his duty, who
is really rebellious, who really should be tarred with the de facto brush?124

In the following year John Locke™s Two Treatises was also printed an-
onymously. It was well tuned to the surrounding debates, and can be used
to illustrate the widespread tendencies to elide discrete conceptual voca-
bularies. The work™s overall similarity to A Friendly Debate is evident.
Both reject Filmer™s arguments as biblically implausible and theologi-
cally obnoxious. Both rely on consent to sanction rule and qualify the
hereditary principle.125 Each subverts what is taken to be the funda-
mental feature of absolutism: untrammelled prerogative. In terms almost
identical to the language of Trimmer and the earlier ˜Philodemius™
(Anthony Ascham?), Locke summarises prerogative as ˜nothing but
the Power of doing publick good without a Rule™.126 But later he reverts
to the conventionally hostile understanding, like Trimmer, collapsing

Cf. Defoe, Jure Divino, bk. 6, p.15: ˜And they who what they should defend invade,/
Forfeit their Office, have their Trust betray™d.™
Anon., Friendly Debate, p. 60.
Ibid., p. 62; cf. Anon., The Case of Allegiance to a King in Possession (1690), p. 3;
William Sherlock, The Case of Allegiance due to Sovereign Powers (1691), pp. 46“7.
Cf. Defoe, Jure Divino, p. i; Fullwood, Agreement, pp. 60“1.
Locke, Two Treatises, 1, paras. 9“11.
Locke, Two Treatises, 2, para. 166; see also ˜Philodemius™, The Original and End, p. 23;
for a recent discussion of this topic see C. Fatovic, ˜Constitutionalism and Contingency:
Locke™s Theory of Prerogative™, History of Political Thought, 25, 2 (2004), pp. 276“97.
Despite seeing Locke as an advocate of rebellion, p. 285, Fatovic rightly sees prerogative
as central to casuistic theory, see p. 295.
338 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
prerogative into arbitrary power and both into tyranny.127 This creates
slavery because the tyrant is unbounded and acts in self-interest. Rights,
argues Locke, are only for the fulfilment of duties; freedom is not allowing
˜every Man to do what he lists™, it is bounded by law.128 Against tyranny
stands liberty of office.
Like the author of the Friendly Debate, Locke relies upon the con-
tingency of official identity to invert the language of political condemna-
tion. Father, magistrate or master (the conventional examples of social
office) exist in the same man, but their continuity depends upon rule-
bound conduct. A persona may cease through ill actions, and in this
respect there is no difference between great and petty officers.129 To avoid
slavery, a people might defend itself against those who had once been
their magistrates.130 Thus what is called rebellion can really be self-defence
against tyranny, dissolution of government and violation of contract.
Those who have been entrusted with office and tyrannously bring about
such a situation ˜are truly and properly Rebels™.131
The same well-worn sententiae of nominal identity are found in Locke™s
comments on oaths: they presuppose social, rule-bound activity.132 Like
˜Trimmer™, he insists that allegiance is but ˜an Obedience according to
Law™; and is contingent on the prince remaining the representative of the
public will. Once a prince quits this persona and behaves as ˜a single
private Person™, he loses right, for obedience is owed to the public will of
the society, that is, to its offices. When the Two Treatises was written,
Charles II was widely feared to be in contravention of his oaths, and the
disquiet had remained relevant to James.133 Locke™s and Trimmer™s en-
tirely conventional position springs from the same source as the doctrine
of equivocation: recognition that meaning partially depends upon the
tacitly accepted, especially concerning the point and limit of office.
Locke™s was clearly not a doctrine of equivocation, but that a statement
might be under-determined by its own content could have similarly
qualifying effects when applied to swearing. It is also the burden of
Locke™s song to collapse both arbitrary and absolute rule into the state
of war in which reciprocal responsibilities are impossible.134 The sort of

Locke, Two Treatises, 2, paras. 210, 224, 137, 164, 166; Kennett, Dialogue, p. 24.
Locke, Two Treatises, 2, paras. 199, 57.
Ibid., 2, para. 202.
Ibid., 2, paras. 227, 239, 220; cf. also Wildman (?), Some Remarks Upon Government
(1688/9), in State Tracts (1705), vol. I, p. 152.
Locke, Two Treatises, 2, paras. 226, 196.
Ibid., paras. 186, 195.
Ibid., para. 151; see also Kennett, Dialogue, pp. 30“8.
Locke, Two Treatises, 2, paras. 17, 199.
The oath of allegiance and the Revolution of 1688“9 339
rule claimed by Charles II™s apologists which he and then James were
believed to exercise was condemned because unrestrained: it abrogated
obligations and oaths.
The issue of contract has been discussed earlier insofar as it reinforced
a particular reading of the coronation oath; as I have suggested, argu-
ments from breach of oath and contract could be simply variant for-
mulations of office-abuse. Like the author of the Friendly Debate, Locke
uses a notion of contract to insist that government is consensual and
limited. Even in cases of invasion and usurpation, the point at which
consent replaces war marks the beginning of a polity. The ground thus
variously prepared, the resounding final chapter conflates notions of
forfeiture of governing right, dissolution of government, resistance as
self-defence, always only in the extremity of a state of war (created by
the real rebels) and an appeal to heaven presupposing providential
answer. Sir Robert Sawyer had suggested that the distinct terms used to
describe James II™s exit might be ˜all one™; Locke went a long way to show
just how much this could be so.
A contract motif is important in adding force to this popular af-
firmation of the enormity of office-abuse, but it was enough for Locke
to be able to argue that specific political arrangements informed by prior
understandings were reasonably taken to be contingent on mutual trust.
Locke™s use of contract is a polished repair of the mirror for magistrates
that Hobbes had tried to shatter. And, as Hobbes™s warlike natural
condition was given verisimilitude by the Civil Wars, Locke™s inconvenient
but more social state of nature was a rough and reasonable match for
the turbulent London in which the Convention met. The Lockian state
of war had ended with James™s departure.
Locke had a continuing close interest in the Americas, revising the
constitutions of the Carolinas at about the same time as the Two Treatises
were being written. David Armitage has persuasively argued that the
work was probably only finished in 1682, with the late insertion of the
chapter on property.135 If so, its presence and character may be explained
by casuistic opportunism. Locke had one eye on the natural condition
of the Indians and what might be done about it. But one eye remained on
London. The result was split vision. The need for ˜property™ to do double
duty required a shift to an encompassing generality that drew on but
erased the established distinction between real and personal property, or
the one drawn by Ascham between subsistence and surplus property.
Locke put much emphasis on rights of possession being contingent upon

Armitage, ˜John Locke, Carolina and the Two Treatises of Government™, pp. 1“26.
340 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
good use, a point most relevant to real and Ascham™s surplus property for
which possession was not absolute. In the Americas, this could be
employed to justify dispossessing the Indians who might not husband
land as profitably as the colonisers. Conversely, in England an appeal to
the sanctity of ownership could be used in an opposing way. When labour
was mixed with material goods, especially those needed for subsistence,
it was plausible to claim that an absolute right of ownership was created.
The argument was medieval. Expropriation of such personal property
without consent stood, then, as the traditional mark of the tyrant, and
so could justify self-defence. Such arguments were much in the London
air while the work was being written.136
Despite a strong family resemblance to tracts like A Friendly Debate,
the Second Treatise gives remarkably little attention to religion. Locke
evokes Thomas Bilson on the alienation of magistracy to a foreign
power, but does not discuss the principal possibility of alienation to
Rome, or Rome via France. Again, he only alludes to arbitrary power
being used to change the religion of society, arguably the predominant
fear of Charles II™s last years.137 Picking up the familiar ship and state
imagery exploited by Trimmer, Locke remarks that if a man is always
being steered towards Algiers despite the prevailing conditions, he can
assume that is where he is being taken. This may be a direct allusion to a
sequence of allegorical pamphlets printed in support of Charles between
1679 and 1680 about a ship off the coast of Algiers (Rome) and the
captain™s problems with the crew (rebels).138 Locke™s general account of
property can easily be taken to embrace religion, for it was conventional
enough to treat religion as a property, and Locke™s discussion has been
seen as a defence against the possible re-distribution of real estate under
a Catholic prince. Such scaremongering arguments were voiced by
Locke™s contemporaries but they are not in the Second Treatise.139
On these counts, oversight seems less likely than strategic displacement;
and it is the absence of sectarian polemic as much as anything present
in the Second Treatise that has helped in the effective removal of the work
from its intellectual milieu.140 The point of bypassing religion might have

Scott, Algernon Sidney and the Restoration Crisis, pp. 185“6, 271“3.
Locke, Two Treatises, 2, paras. 239, 210.
Anon., The Seamans Dream (1679); Anon., A Letter from Leghorn; Anon., An Answer to
Another Letter from Leghorn (1680); Anon., An Answer to a Second Letter from Leghorn
(1680); Anon., A Newsletter from Leghorn . . . to a Merchant in London (1680).
Andrew Marvell, An Account of the Growth of Popery and Arbitrary Government (1677),
pp. 13“14; Wildman, Some Remarks.
On the analogous absence of historical reference, see J. G. A. Pocock, The Ancient
Constitution and the Feudal Law (Cambridge, 1987 edn.), pp. 236“8.
The oath of allegiance and the Revolution of 1688“9 341
been to render irrelevant priestly claims about their authority to guide
consciences. Locke™s work, however, has been further secularised, sitting
ill with his devout antipathy to Catholicism. It is possible to take this
revisionism too far and argue that Locke is modern because of what he
did not say. Nevertheless, what he did say followed the same patterns
of argument and relied on the same interchangeable casuistic topoi,
axioms and adages as works now largely forgotten. Yet he remains a
writer of whom we constantly expect too much, or the wrong sort of thing,
perhaps because of the philosophical significance of the Essay and so
the Two Treatises persistently incites the energies of rescue, rehabilitation
and re-writing; all conditional on the silence of the text.
Locke™s synoptic collapse of the vocabulary of casuistic justification is
a response to James VI&I, Trew Law of Free Monarchy and Hobbes™s
De cive. Locke quotes James VI&I as an authority on kingship.141 To ˜the
old question™, however, of who is to judge the difference between exercise
and abuse of office, he replies the people, so cutting through or deflecting
all distinctions. In hearing no discrete clerical voice, Locke sides with
men like Ascham and Hobbes on the question of the limits of the office
of the priest. His notion of the people is as general and accommodating
as that of their consent and property. Modern commentators expecting
clear commitments in such language have had room to move in differing
directions. For some, Locke™s people were an exclusive elite, for others
a proof of democratic commitment so advanced as to explain Locke™s
marginal status in contemporary debates.142
Such a polarisation unnecessarily confuses our priorities with Locke™s.
A broad and inclusive notion of the people in situations of emergency
was neither new nor (to allude to the incoherent hyperbole) the preserve
of those too radically modern for their times. It was implicit in the
rhetorics of patriotism; and if found in the screaming injunctions of
Ponet, Goodman, Cardinal Allen and Edward Sexby, it is also there in
the panic of James VI&I after the Gunpowder Plot. In emergency every
man has an office to come to the aid of his country. To recall William
Ames, in extremis, every man becomes a public officer. Or, as White
Kennett remarked, in extraordinary cases there are no rules.143 The pref-
ace of the Second Treatise, like the final chapter, is at one with just this
inclusive tradition of patriotic casuistry. It was ˜the people of England

Locke, Two Treatises, 2, para. 200, see also para. 133, on ˜commonwealth™; cf. also
Fullwood, Agreement, p. 34.
On the reception, see Mark Goldie, ˜Introduction™, in The Reception of Locke™s Politics
(London, 1999), vol. I, esp. pp. xx“xxiii.
Kennett, Dialogue, pp. 33“6. His account of the origin of society and function of
executive rule is also like Locke™s, pp. 10“12.
342 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
whose love of their Just and Natural Right, with their Resolution to preserve
them, [that] saved the Nation when it was on the very brink of Slavery
and Ruine™.144 From this, however, we can neither infer that he was
similarly inclusive in times of normality, nor that he countenanced only
the people as a landed elite. The issue was beside the point. Modern
analyses, insisting that he stand here or there on a democratic principle
have missed the evident casuistic markers, put where they matter, at the
outset and reinforced at the end. The common ground Locke shared
with others about office and its abuse, threatening ˜Slavery and Ruine™
and a looming state of war, defined the fault-line of necessary casuistry,
and suggests that he was at one with many of those around him. Locke
might not have been cited much because he, in particular, was not much
needed. Yet, by evading so many specifics he was more easily used as
the turmoils of the 1680s faded into the past. When he wrote, around
1682, however, he was indeed embarked on a dangerous enterprise; the
protean potential was the unintended consequence of circumspect gener-
ality. The Two Treatises were a threat of future action and an act of
great polemical courage; in 1690 they could superficially be given focus
on the past; James II tamed the revolutionary Locke, for the time being.

Locke, Two Treatises, Preface, p. 155.

I know what Persona means in the Dictionary, and therein lies all your
Divinity. And therefore, I say . . . Farewell.
(John Eachard, A Second Dialogue, 1673)

Like Burnet™s depiction of the reign of James II, the web of office has been
broken, though by no single act. Dealing with language is, remarked
Wittgenstein, like trying to mend a cobweb with your fingers, and it would
be fruitless to try such a repair now. Cobwebs, however, do stick and can
at a pinch bind wounds. Office has had an arachnidean virtue of tenacity,
even in the processes by which it has been over-stretched, torn and used to
patch up the fissures in later notions of what counts as ethical conduct
and political theory. So what has happened to the spider and what help
might an enhanced understanding of office provide? It is a difficult ques-
tion, not least because it has to be asked almost at the same time as it
has been powerfully argued that the modern state arose as a consequence
of official entanglements: institutionalised offices became more formal-
ised, and their functions were extended, in which processes a controlling
centre became more robust.1 If true, is this a case of the offspring consum-
ing the parent; if the state is the result, what has happened to notions of
I have looked at a world in which some tacit understanding and ex-
pectation of office shaped the moral argument of early modern England,
argument that was neither driven exclusively by a universalist deontology,
nor by consequentialism. Insofar as office informed the political, that
category of experience was itself compromised, or subordinated to the
point of becoming contingent for those who might be expected to rely
upon it. Any treatment of politics during this period as sui generis or
independent is artificial “ a convention of academic convenience and

Braddick, State Formation, at length.

344 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
syllabus management. All this may be difficult to accept; we no longer
live in that world, its vocabulary and patterns of use are not ours. If, to put
it synoptically, a social domain constructed of offices was presupposed,
the reasons for its decline, fragmentation and transformation must be
intrinsic. And implicit in much of my discussion are explanations for
the changed environment in which we live. The following hypotheses are
as tentative as they are rudimentary.
First, then, from antiquity Carneadean scepticism, or cynicism, pro-
vides one clue in its recognition that whatever might be described as a
virtue could be designated a vice and with its alternative thesis that what
really drives the world is self-interest. The rise of what is called interest
theory, out of the writings of figures like Machiavelli, Guicciardini and
Lipsius, with a garnish of authority from Tacitus, may be seen as a graph
charting disappointed expectations of office. There was no straightfor-
ward vector of replacement, for in part interest theorists regarded what
I have called the negative register of office as of the greatest value in
understanding the world. In an analogy drawn from relationships of
office, Henri duc de Rohan wrote that as princes rule subjects, so interest
rules princes and he clearly regarded interest, like a reified office, as a
fundamental principle of continuity to be preserved. A state™s interest,
then, was not unlike the end of an office, the neglect of which was
irresponsible. Yet, in adding that interests should be augmented, he com-
promised the similarly constitutive notion of a limit.2 After a fashion, this
ambivalent relationship with and development from notions of office
allowed office and interest to rub along almost in as complementary a
fashion as honestas and utilitas.3 But it also allowed for forms of explan-
ation independent of any ethics of office. A succinct illustration is found
in Henry Neville™s short allegory of the Civil Wars.4 A number of players
sit around a card table. Each is a persona for an interest that can be
encapsulated in some maxim, of the sort de Rohan had formulated.
And it is the interplay of these that explains the rules of the game; a partial
control over events can be achieved only by manipulating the drives of
other players. The problem for Neville was that no one understood this
better than the Jesuits; they might, he concluded, still win in the end. In
Neville™s vision there may be doctrines of office, and behaviour that

Henri duc de Rohan, De l™interest des princes et estates de la Chrestiente (Paris, 1639), pp.
104“6; cf. Bacon, Advancement, on the duties of augmentation and preservation.
Godwyn, The Negroe™s and Indians Advocate, A3.
Henry Neville, A Game of Piquet (1660); see also John Locke, The Correspondence of
John Locke, ed. Esmond de Beer, 8 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), letter 81
(October 1659), on custom and interest as the only ˜Luminarys of the world™.
Epilogue 345
conforms to them, but explanation and control require something else.
The metaphors of risk and game-play he helped set upon their way would
have a significant future in shaping a coherent conception of the political.
While Neville was warning about the dangers of the republic and Refor-
mation being trumped by Jesuitic cunning, William Cavendish™s very
different advice to Charles II exhibited a similar emphasis on control.
An ethics of office is persistently shuffled to one side in order to concen-
trate on defeating or playing interests by tying them to the crown. Only in
this way, Cavendish argued, would Charles survive.5
Overall, and analogous to the ways in which metaphors can become
sufficiently established to allow conceptual use distinct from their origins,
interest, fashioned from a vocabulary of office, became an idiom of criti-
cal analysis. John Selden indicates how much further matters could be
taken, extrapolating from his anti-clerical and Carneadean vision of the
priesthood. In contrast to a more elevated view of the clerical office in
which ordination was radically transformative, consequent upon the
grace that flowed through the ordaining hands, Selden took a starkly
proclamatory and Lutheran line.6 The imposition of hands is ˜nothing
but a designation of a Person to this or that Office™. There is no ˜indelible
Character™; a priest is like any man but for his title. Thus far this is an
emphatic expression of a separation variant of nominal identity, but
from this he generalised: ˜Men that would get Power over others, make
themselves as unlike them as they can.™7 This is close to seeing interest not
as an abuse but a function of office. A sub-theme of this study has
concerned the specific and highly contested office of the priest; with
Selden™s reflection in mind, it can be suggested that anti-clericalism pro-
vided the arguments and exempla of contention that corroded notions
of office as a whole. We do not have to extrapolate very far from Selden
to conclude that all relationships of office are expressions of power, a
term Selden uses not to mean the proper moral authority of office but a
desire for domination.
Secondly, the rhetorics of office were themselves increasingly indiscrim-
inate. One reason why I did not wish to shape my argument through a
concept of ideology, so narrating a story of a core ideological concept,
was to emphasise this persistently accommodating capacity in the lan-
guage. As I have noted, there is an irony in that the protean, of which there
was so much fear with respect to human conduct, was a feature of the

Cavendish, ˜Advice™, at length.
Compare Richard Vines, The Authours, Nature and Danger of Haeresie (1647), pp. 15“17.
Selden, Table Talk, pp. 65“6.
346 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
language through which that conduct was depicted. The very adaptability
of the vocabulary encouraged over-extension, especially as presuppos-
itions of office cohabited with semiotic understandings of the world.
Again, this problem was endemic, but after the Reformation there were
additional pressures towards a protean pragmatics of office-talk. In a
beleaguered Protestant country, in particular, there was the casuistic
imperative to an ad hoc vertical extension of office. Beyond the higher
reaches of theology, extending a notion of office to everyone, if only
opportunistically, ran the risk of dissipating official identity while simul-
taneously entrapping everyone in the intricacies of multiple personae.
To this was added incitement to stretch the vocabulary of office both
to assimilate modal transformations in the intellectual world and to sanc-
tion anyone exercising the office of rule. Partly through sovereignty theory
this latter form of horizontal extension began to reify government as an
object of study. This, clearly realised during the Engagement controversy,
threatened to make redundant any critical vocabulary for those actually in
office “ some seeds, perhaps, for the vision of an objective political science
to be pursued from the nineteenth century.8
Selden™s understanding of power was not unreasonable, although, as we
have seen, more conventional Lockean uses of the word survived along
with it. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, with the issues of the
Civil Wars still fresh, the almost routine inflation of the vocabulary of
office to justify anything was easily parodied, a point brilliantly demon-
strated by ˜Mrs Bull™s Vindication of the Rights of Cuckoldom™. In this,
Arbuthnot exploited a lack of discrimination in, and elision of, the polit-
ical vocabulary. The merging of distinct conceptual terms seems to have
been particularly evident in the debates around the Revolution of 1688“9.
By the early eighteenth century, office-talk suffered, then, from conjoined
problems of explanatory saliency, promiscuous adaptability and moral
It is in this context that alternative ethical theories arose, a little like
newly formed states, from the armoury of office itself. Utilitarianism and
Kantian deontology may, as I have indicated (above, chapter 8), be seen
as responses to the difficulties of an ethics of office, and each involved
turning aspects of arguments from office into global alternatives to it.
Kant™s hostility to casuistry needs little rehearsing. He condemned it
as failing to provide any over-arching principle of conduct, and for
mistaking an undifferentiated heap of arbitrary cases for morality
itself. Casuistry could justify anything, but only retrospectively; it was

Stefan Collini, Donald Winch and John Burrow, That Noble Science of Politics
(Cambridge, 1983).
Epilogue 347
dangerous, self-serving and capricious “ accusations that were all familiar
from the conventional if selective abuse of casuistry in the name of official
integrity. Instead, he destroyed the ethics of office by universalising a
singular sense of it. Persona became person because it had to be a coherent
moral singularity. The duty at the philological root of deontology became
unitary. In this way, all putatively moral conduct defining the noumenal
realm was subject to a uniform metaphysical principle. This single moral
law would obviate the need for casuistry and render unethical consider-
ation of the offices people actually held in their conduct in the phenomenal
Changes of emphasis in natural law theory provide a closely related
dimension of the process of ethical attenuation. During the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries, until roughly the last re-issue of Pufendorf ™s
works in 1759, natural law arose from and was a projection of relation-
ships of office, but ius, as right or law, gradually became eased away from
office, just as it was increasingly severed from divine law; the agent in the
ambit of natural law became the rights-bearing individual. Additionally, it
may be that the environment of laws in which agency operated became
physical and, as with Mandeville, psychological, so embedding interest in
a world view increasingly to one side of any notion of spheres of moral
From the end of the nineteenth century Kantian deontology and utili-
tarianism have proved convenient abstractions, each of which, on its own,
accounts poorly for the complexity of the world, but enables us to get
along in it. So there has remained a more circumscribed, and perhaps
more defensible arena in which a sense of office is vital, just as there
remains a place for casuistry to mitigate the failings of aprioristic ethics.
In theory, Max Weber provided a seminal example of the way in which a
distinct sphere for an ethics of office could be maintained in an increas-
ingly alien environment, through his theorisation of bureaucracy as offi-
cium and politics as a vocation. In practice, the professions of law and
medicine, along with the priesthood, have remained paradigmatic of the
official persona. But these provide locations for office in, rather than
grounding for, an altered situation that makes an older world at once
foreign but still intelligible. Yet here, in an ocean of commonsense de-
ontology and consequentialism, the situation has become decidedly con-
fused, the reliance on office and persona arbitrary. On the one hand, social
groups aspiring to the lucrative status of the professions of law and
medicine need at least the accoutrements of an official communal identity,

Hunter, Rival Enlightenments, pp. 274“363.
348 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
with its distinctive ethics, ends and arcane knowledge. Sometimes this
amounts to not much more than aping an ugly argot and the promulga-
tion of reassuring codes of conduct. On the other, the reliance upon the
fusion of duty and persona as constituting ethical conduct has suffered
from misuse by oppressive bureaucracies and war machines called to
account. In a different way, the relentless satire of the persona of the
bureaucrat played a part in Britain, and countries like it, in establishing
an environment in which civil service could be reformed on a model of
business efficiency, and its traditionally proclaimed office as independent,
institutionalised counsel of government compromised. Nevertheless, the
patent shortcomings of post-Kantian moral certainties, and their un-
worldy metaphysics of social explanation, have led to some partial re-
adjustment back to a reliance on conceptions of office as a moral category.
This should remind us that all theories of ethics can be misused and that
none does full justice to what we recognise as moral conduct.10
The general picture is one in which the ethics of office has at once
contracted and its filaments been taken to repair its successors. Some-
times there is an inadvertence, or historical ignorance in this. The ethics of
care, which in the western world has become something of a rationalisa-
tion of the ubiquitous social worker, is largely a massaged casuistry;
practical ethics, at its best well cognisant of an ethics of office, a reaffirm-
ation of casuistry™s centrality to any philosophy that wishes to have
serious engagement with the life beyond the seminar. More recently, what
has been called ˜virtue™ ethics has been presented as a third way between
utilitarianism and deontology, and an old way revived.11 The emphasis
has been upon relational identity and the moral qualities necessary for
proper conduct. Character and communal value are made central to
ethical judgement. This, too, it hardly needs labouring, rediscovers an
aspect of the ethics of office highly sensitive to the characteristics, skills
and qualities necessary for a given persona, defined only in reciprocal
relationships. The abstracted point of continuity, however, has aided the
retrojection of virtue ethics back into antiquity, so roping a classical
tradition into an appropriate lineage; but to do this, the modality of an
ethics of office has to be overlooked and the personae replaced by a post-
Kantian person. The resultant vision of the past, as David Burchell
has aptly remarked, is ˜heroically primitive™.12 It has played no small part

Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Cambridge, Mass.,
1989), pp. 495“521.
Alistair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame, 1981).
David Burchell, ˜Civic Personae: MacIntyre, Cicero and Moral Personality™, History of
Political Thought, 19 (1998), p. 103.
Epilogue 349
in continuing to keep an ethics of office obscure. It has created an inad-
equacy of perspective only reinforced by myth-making histories of ethics
preoccupied with moral autonomy, regardless of whether they are cele-
brations, or lamentations for its being a dreadful mistake.13 Rule utilitar-
ianism, again, offers some reconstitution of an ethics of office by positing
not utility per se as a criterion of ethical conduct, but the value of fixed
patterns of rules. To judge rule-following by the ends served is close to a
casuistry of office, as even a casual reading of Locke should make clear.14

Coinciding with the decline of a presupposition of office has been the rise
of political theory as a discrete field of study with its own projected
lineage, developing in the mid-nineteenth century and firming into its
present shape only at the beginning of the twentieth.15 It is possible, as I
have indicated (above, chapter 10), that a decline in the ubiquity of office
was one condition for the development of political theory, especially as
it is now studied with its dogged attention to ideological conflict and
the definition of our own political concepts; if so, the fashioning of a
suitable pedigree into a decisively political shape, to give a depth and
credibility to a juvenile discipline, has necessitated reconfiguring argu-
ments about office and casuistic exception in which the political was
often fleeting, unstable and subordinate. Many of the lineal figures of
early modern political theory have had their casuistries of office re-
tailored to our needs. Broad movements of political argument, relevant
to major and minor figures alike, have been largely structured by con-
cepts of ideology, intellectually cohesive and exclusive bodies of doctrinal
commitment. On the basis of such patterns of alterity there has been no
shortage of grandish narratives of the victory of one ideology at the
expense of others. The propensity is not without merit, for there were
divisive patterns of belief in the early modern world, and firm rationa-
lisations for organised violence. Moreoever, writing history on the model
of ideological conflict has the attraction of making the past tidy, exciting,
leading somewhere; the shock therapy of recognition pays dividends.

Schneewind, The Invention of Autonomy, and Taylor, Sources of the Self, are two sides of
the same coin.
Brad Hooker, Ideal, Code, Real World (Oxford, 2000), pp. 3“30; and Robert Goodin,
˜Utilitarianism as Public Philosophy™, in A. Vincent, ed., Polictical Theory: Tradition and
Interpretation (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 67“88.
Robert Blakey, A History of Political Literature from the Earliest Times, 2 vols. (London,
1855); W. Dunning, A History of Political Theories (New York, 1902).
350 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
Nevertheless, any fascination we might have with pin-pointing the
interplay of ideologies needs to be read against rather alien features of
early modern text use. Consistency of argument was not always cherished
and the fashion for the cento, for philosophical eclecticism and common-
place books all put it at a discount, allowing almost any respectable
authority to sit down to tea with another. Additionally, the criteria of
intellectual coherence have been stable neither over time nor intellec-
tual space, and there was a pronounced tendency in seventeenth-century
England to create oppositional groupings from projected patterns of
inferential, or practical consequence. These are not straightforward
evidence of social division, or stable intellectual allegiance.
Qualifications aside, the problem of identifying political ideologies is
often less with previous text uses than with recent ˜discoveries™ of trad-
itions, doctrines and languages. It is easy to forget that when we are the
organising agents, discovery can be a matter of modelling and, in a subtle
way, invention. In recent years we have been treated to mixed monarchy
theory as a new dominant ideology;16 to the replacement of Ciceronianism
with Tacitism; the emergence of a theory of reason of state;17 the rise of
absolutism, Arminianism, republicanism and the synthesis of this last
ideology with its imagined antithesis, liberalism. These replace, or refine
the older surges of capitalism and puritanism, perhaps constitutionalism,
and democracy. At all events, isms have proved indispensable in impos-
ing a clarifying shape on the movements of time. John Locke™s life has
been presented as an apotheosis of enlightened development from con-
servatism to radicalism.18 Some of these stories are more fanciful than
others, but tidy history is apt to be fanciful history. The more a commonly
shared register in the use of a vocabulary is mistaken for an exclusive
ideolect, and the more the surviving evidence of language use is elided
with modern categories of analysis, the more tidiness shifts into falsity
and falsity trips to the brink of fantasy. There is something to be said for
a rise of absolutism; reference to Tacitus can mark a weary disappoint-
ment with conduct in office; but there is less to say for a new ideology
of civility (above, chapter 5), and rebellion as an emergent ideology is a
step beyond the brink.19
I have, then, been canvassing something less than the discovery of yet
another rising ideology in this yeasty world, namely the relative stability

Weston and Greenberg, Subjects and Sovereigns.
Tuck, Philosophy and Government.
Richard Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politics and Locke™s Two Treatises of Government
(Princeton, 1986).
Greenberg, The Radical Face, pp. 203“4, 244.
Epilogue 351
of the principal use patterns of a vocabulary that cut across what we see
as ideological divisions. If the resources of office could undoubtedly be
used divisively, they were also the means by which talismanic names we
take as ideological markers could be brought together: expectation of
office and its vocabulary were lubricants of textual assimilation. A linguis-
tic consensus expressed in shared usage was the means of and condition
for dispute, and we cannot hope to understand seventeenth-century polit-
ical reflection without paying it attention independently of our own
political vocabulary.
It has yet to be shown, one way or the other, whether ideology is a
necessary agent in the study of the history of the pre-modern world, and
addressing this issue has not been my direct concern. But historians have
been rather too free with the label, usually without saying what they
mean by it, yet treating it as a sort of natural kind, an adjunct to treating
politics in a similar fashion.20 It should also be apparent by now that we
can get a long way in early modern political theory without automatic
recourse to ideological modelling. I have shown how easily adjustable
patterns of sententiae from the cultural capital of office-talk might,
depending on circumstances, be accentuated, diminished or displaced
from one writer to another. So, for example, we have a family resemblance
between the maxims of ˜absolutism™ and ˜de facto theory™: those extol-
ling allegiance to authority and those suspending it in extraordinary cases.
The propensity to create reified political identities has obscured the re-
sourcefulness and fluidity of argument. The effect has been as creatively
parochialising as it has become familiar. This is not to eschew all expla-
natory models as such. In one way, the hypothesis of a presupposition
of office, presented as an analytic abridgement (Introduction, chapter 1)
is a rudimentary model intended to explain much of the character of
early modern argument; but it is a descriptive synopsis, not the application
of a neoteric vision of politics dependent upon much later conceptual
The projection of immediate enthusiasms, firmed up sometimes to
create conceptual models of genuine insight, does serve to keep aca-
demic discourse buoyant, in part because it helps date it.21 But for theor-
etical constructs with the virtues of abstraction, elegance and explanatory

Condren, Status and Appraisal, a work much exercised by the anachronisms of political
theory analysis, did not even question the universality of a concept of ideology. As far as
I am aware, the work was never criticised for such myopia.
It is salutary to recall that barely a generation ago, in literature now largely forgotten, it
was fairly automatic to pull the history of political theory along with conceptual cold-war
horses; which political theorists were totalitarians and who was really on the side of
352 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
suggestiveness, a little detail goes a long way. To return to a point made
at the outset: the elegance of any model screens out material, thereby
accentuating a pattern; but once the model is treated as the evidence, or
embedded beneath it, differing forms of difficulty become apparent.
Models as underlying truths become shibboleths and metaphysical prin-
ciples to be defended and rescued by so much tinkering to accommodate
deviant evidence that their virtues are lost in defensive tautology and
anachronism. This has been the fate of Marxism. But nescient modelling
may also generate historiographical blindness. Most western academics
live in a fairly secular world, and so secularisation is likely to be seen as a
salient feature of modernity, one requiring the development of explana-
tory models in the idioms of Feuerbach or Weber. Overlooking the oath,
or not recognising it as problematic, above all because it was a religious
act, has been a remarkably economical way of creating a premature
secularisation of political debate in which issues of office then need to be
pared down to suitably secular politics, of promises and agreements and of
contractual rights, in order to conform to expectations.
The lineage of political theory, which it had taken barely a hundred
years to fabricate into a near two-millennia achievement of (western)
civilisation, began to unravel within a generation of the fall of the first
atomic bombs. It survives as a teaching device and, although convenient, it
should not be convenient to consider it true.22 Yet the pressures to sell
more books to students with partial and distracted interests has itself
been enough to keep simple anachronistic outlines and old myths alive
and well. Meanwhile it has been increasingly documented that the vari-
ety, depth and errant complexity of political thinking defies the simple
linear shape that began with Plato and has proceeded ever since in self-
conscious selection until it reached NATO. This study has been a part of
this self-critical enterprise, raising the question of how far what is pre-
sented as early modern political theory is a mythic misconstrual of some-
thing else we have come near to forgetting. However that is answered, we
are led to a more fundamental if ahistorical question. Is it feasible to
construct an explanatory model of how political vocabularies are estab-
lished and transformed: wherever it began, by what mechanisms have
humans spun out that web of words in which to entrap the world
as political in the first place? It is this interrupted speculation on
bodies political that constitutes the work ahead.

John G. Gunnell, The Descent of Political Theory: The Genealogy of an American
Vocation (Chicago, 1993), for a thorough account of the invention of a discipline, its
lineage and more recent fragmentation.

Some printed titles have been slightly abbreviated. Where modern printings have
been used, the first date in brackets gives earlier or initial publication year, or
period of composition. For pre-modern books the place of publication is London
unless otherwise indicated. The place and publisher is given only for modern
works. Where authors are known only by initials, I have kept to the order of

A. A. (Anthony Ascham) (1647), ˜Of Marriage™, Cambridge University Library,
MS Gg I.4 Tracts.
Anon. (1688), ˜The Female Casuist™, Huntington MS EL, 8770 (35/B/43).
(1688), ˜An Epitaph for Passive Obedience™, Huntington MS EL, 8770


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