ńňđ. 3
(âńĺăî 14)



Mainstone Parish Records, Shropshire County Records Office, 3277/1/2; on Highley, see
Goldie, ‘The Unacknowledged Republic’, p. 163.
Archer, Pursuit of Stability, p. 64; Coulton, ‘Rivalry and Religion’, pp. 28–50.
Powell, Puritan Village, pp. 98–100.
Institutionalised office 59
might be obliged to lay aside ecclesiological principle in order to fulfil
the essentials of office. Some religious deviance was, then, not always
an ecclesiological barrier, despite the doctrinaire nature of dispute.33
Occasional or partial conformity was common after the Restoration
among nonconformists; John Humfrey attended his parish church and
ran his own.34 Goldie notes that in Terling, in Essex, eleven convicted
nonconformists served in church offices between 1662 and 1688.35
At different times and for different sorts of office, principles of election,
selection, inheritance, education, wealth or distribution by lot might be
used, and although always carrying a social standing, office could be
onerous. The constable might be anyone’s whipping boy, the sheriff
possibly a wiser and poorer man after serving his time. In London, from
1559 to 1600, seventy-one men refused the office of sheriff; the draper,
John Bird, complained that his election in 1587 had been driven by
malice.36 There were fines for the avoidance of office and the neglect of
duties. Failure could result in dispossession of privilege.37 Powell remarks
of Sudbury, that in becoming a free burgess, a citizen was anything but
free. The hyperbole is understandable, but the paradox depends upon
anachronistic understandings of freedom.38 Notions of liberty integral to
a world of offices will be explicated in the following chapter. It is enough
here to state that burdensome office was the price paid for a social voice
and was what freedom amounted to. It was the weight of recognised
responsibility. As the Pole Goslicius remarked, voicing a notion of liberty
that was also only ‘a particular interpretation’ by much later standards, a
citizen’s liberty lay ‘chiefly in being capable of offices’.39

This impressionistic survey naturally begs a number of questions and any
attempt to convert the vestiges of social practice into a raw percentage of
office-holders would necessarily be inconclusive. Offices were not always
occupied, and some people held multiple positions, making social identity

Braddick, State Formation, pp. 301–3.
Douglas R. Lacey, Dissent and Parliamentary Politics in England, 1661–1689 (New
Brunswick, N. J., 1969), pp. 23–4.
Goldie, ‘The Unacknowledged Republic’, p. 164.
Archer, Pursuit of Stability, p. 21; Braddick, State Formation, p. 30.
Powell, Puritan Village, p. 46; Archer, Pursuit of Stability, p. 35; Goldie, ‘The
Unacknowledged Republic’, p. 168.
Powell, Puritan Village, p. 44.
Peltonen, Classical Humanism, p. 109, commenting on Goslicius, The Counsellor:
exactly portrayed in two bookes (1598), pp. 79–80.
60 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
concomitantly richer and problematic. Moreover, one needs to distinguish
the activities of standing officers from the intermittent responsibilities of
jury service and voting, the latter having attracted disproportionate atten-
tion. If, as Mark Goldie remarks, democracy is defined in terms of a
meaningful franchise, psephology is likely to seem central to charting
democratic development.40 In the mid-seventeenth century, the electorate
may have been around 40 per cent of the adult male population and
inclusive of some women; by the early eighteenth, it may have shrunk to
around 20 per cent of men only. Yet, in an age when most elections were
uncontested, and election tended to be a circuit-breaking substitute for
selection, little can be made of this.41
More important, as Goldie argues, is that voting was played out against
a broader background of official participation.42 Due attention to this led
Patrick Collinson to call England a monarchical republic.43 It is, however,
important to distinguish constitutional preference from organisational
necessity. Constitutional republicanism is a doctrine about a preferred
regime, one without a monarch. This will be discussed in chapter 7. The
use of the word republic as a portmanteau for the exigencies of social
engagement, however, is another matter. The duty to find someone to
scavenge the neighbourhood rubbish does not of itself politically empower
whoever we can get to do it, and has no antithetical implications for
monarchy. The unacknowledged republic, to allude to Goldie’s analysis
as an alternative form of democracy, or as the grounding for some
ascending theory of legitimation, had been a feature of social structure
from time immemorial. What J. E. A. Jolliffe called the ‘legal republics’ of
the shires had existed as a counterpoint and condition for the might of the
Angevin kings,44 a situation that still applied to the uneven authoritarian-
ism of the Tudors and Stuarts.45 To treat the absence of bureaucracy as a
sign of republicanism is to relieve the concept of most of its meaning.
Beyond organisational micro-structure, any republican inference from
participatory necessity is directly relevant to the response to emergency

Goldie, ‘The Unacknowledged Republic’, pp. 153–4.
Ibid., pp. 157–8; on female franchise see Patricia Crawford, ‘ “The Poorest She”: Women
and Citizenship in Early Modern England’, in Michael Mendle, ed., The Putney Debates,
1647 (Cambridge, 2001).
Goldie, ‘The Unacknowledged Republic’, pp. 158–9; Crawford, ‘The Poorest She’,
pp. 197, 203–10.
Collinson, ‘The Monarchical Republic of Elizabeth I’, in Elizabethan Essays, pp. 31–58.
J. E. A. Jolliffe, Angevin Kingship (London, 1970 edn), p. 13.
Cf. Hindle, The State, p. 26, and the literature there cited; Collinson distinguishes a
monarchical republic from constitutional republicanism, but persists with the general
term none the less; see, at length, ‘The Monarchical Republic’.
Institutionalised office 61
in high places. To modern eyes, the formation of ‘the Association’ in 1584
can easily look republican.46 This was an agreement of armed fellows to
bond in defence of the Queen, a human fasces in the face of the pope. But
any ‘republicanism’ here is created by overlooking the absence of a stand-
ing army and presupposing a natural ideological opposition between
monarchy and republic. As I shall argue, this can be a misleading projec-
tion from the shared rhetorics of office, and it was the need to maintain the
office of rule that was the spur to ‘the Association’, not an embryonic
Ultimately, however, the extent of genuine civic participation is hardly
more central to my case than the undulations of franchise. It is the
extensiveness of the claims themselves that matter, forming a ‘liquid
empire’ of words, flowing, as I have already indicated, across the whole
of society.47 Every city, as William Cavendish warned Charles II in 1659/
60, every town and every village could be seen as a little commonwealth,
but so too could every vestry, workshop and family.48 For Winstanley, a
man unlikely to agree much with Cavendish, the family was but the
smallest link in a chain of magistracy, and so no less subject to the impress
of office than the state and church.49 William Gouge referred to the family
as ‘a little church, a little commonwealth it is a schoole wherein the first
principles and grounds of government and subjection are learned’.50
Books on marriage and parenting are part of a veritable genre of De
officiis. The midwife’s work, though carried on in a closed domain that
we might consider private, was deemed an office. Those who promoted
and reflected upon trade did so in terms of the responsibilities of assumed
offices, from the Virginia Company, that latter-day byword for economic
aggrandisement, to those spokesmen for developing commerce, Scott and
Mun.51 The merchant, insisted Mun, had a vocation and it was above all

Stephen Alford, ‘The Politics of Emergency in the Reign of Elizabeth I’, in G. Burgess
and M. Feinstein, eds., English Radicalism, 1550–1850 (Cambridge, forthcoming);
Peltonen, Classical Humanism, p. 48.
I am indebted to Dr John Sutton’s play ‘Kenelm Digby and the Liquid Empire’ for this
Goldie, ‘The Unacknowledged Republic’, at length, esp. pp. 161–7; Powell, Puritan
Village, p. xviii; Hindle, The State, pp. 204–22; above all Braddick, State Formation, at
Gerrard Winstanley, The Law of Freedom in a Platform: or True Magistracy Restored
(1652), ed. Robert W. Kenny (New York, 1973), pp. 85, 91–2.
Gouge, Domesticall Duties, p. 18; see also Ste B., Counsel to the Husband (1608).
Andrew Fitzmaurice, Humanism and America, chs. 4, 5; Andrew Fitzmaurice, â€˜â€śEvery
Man, that Prints, Adventures”: The Rhetoric of the Virginia Company Sermons’, in
Lori Anne Ferrell and Peter McCullough, eds., The English Sermon Revised: Religion,
Literature and History, 1600–1750 (Manchester, 2000), pp. 24–42.
62 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
necessary that he know his duties, for he ‘is worthily called The Steward
of the Kingdoms Stock . . . a work no less of Reputation than Trust, which
ought to be performed with great skill and conscience’.52 As Craig
Muldrew has demonstrated, the material was held generally to be depend-
ent on an ethical economy of responsibility that created a form of social
credit; to see isolated economic self-interest as significant in the seven-
teenth century, to see an economic civil society to which people actually
belonged, is to elide post-Smithian categories with the evidence.53 We may
hypothesise an informing motivation of economic aggrandisement, but it
has to be read against the grain of the printed word.54 The liquid empire
seeped even into gaols. One inmate of Wood Street wrote of its being a
little ‘Hole’ like ‘a citty in a commonwealth, for as in a citty there are all
kinds of officers, trades and vocations, so there is in this place as we may
make a pretty resemblance between them’.55
As office conferred order, and gave a voice, so the range of voices
enhanced status. A royal charter of 1319 had laid it down that freedom
of the city required first that a man be ‘of some mistery’.56 It was later
explained to a stranger in St Saviour’s parish, Southwark, that before he
could become a vestry man he had ‘to make tryall of other offices’.57 Of
the constable, remarked Butler, ‘He is never admitted to reign in the street
as constable until he has been swabber or scavenger, and made them
clean.’58 Archer concludes on the matter by remarking that ‘[O]ffice-
holding . . . served to identify individual citizens with the regime.’59 It
would be truer to say that office-holding was the regime.60

William Scott, An Essay on Drapery (1635); Thomas Mun, England’s Treasure by
Forraign Trade (1664) (reprinted Oxford, 1949), p. 1.
Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation, at length, and on Scott, pp. 47, 127; Craig
Muldrew, ‘Interpreting the Market: The Ethics of Credit and Community Relations in
Early Modern England’, Social History, 18, 2 (1993), pp. 163–5.
Andrew Fitzmaurice, ‘Classical Rhetoric and the Literature of Discovery, 1570–1630’,
Ph.D. thesis (Cambridge University, 1995), ch. 5.
Ackroyd, London, pp. 261–2; on such standard homologies between life and prison see,
for example, R. Anselment, ‘Stone Walls and ’I’ron Bars: Richard Lovelace and the
Conventions of Seventeenth-Century Prison Literature’, Renaissance and Reformation
29 (1993), pp. 17–20; Dosia Reichardt, â€˜â€śAt my grates no Althea”: Prison Poetry and the
Consolations of Sack in the Interregnum’, Parergon, new series, 20, 1 (2003), pp. 139–61.
Cited in Margaret R. Somers, ‘The “Misteries” of Property. Relationality, Rural-
Industrialization and Community in Chartist Narratives of Political Rights’, in John
Brewer and Susan Staves, eds., Early Modern Conceptions of Property (London, 1995),
p. 73.
Cited in Archer, Pursuit of Stability, p. 64; also Pilhens, The Story of Hungerford, p. 22.
Butler, Characters, p. 261.
Archer, Pursuit of Stability, p. 64.
Braddick, State Formation, pp. 19, 21.
Institutionalised office 63

Notions of office also provide a context for arguments about citizenship
in England. I have previously outlined something of the contentious
semantics of this. Thomas Mayer and Markku Peltonen have shown that
discussion of political citizenship became integrally related to the assimi-
lation of classical Latin and later Italian writings, and was central to the
development of English political vocabulary.61 These enquiries can be
brought together by observing that debates about the word citizen and
its relationships to adjacent terms such as subject, trader and merchant,
were important because it was assumed to signify a set of official rela-
tionships; conceptual space was official space. This is as true of Thomas
More’s suspicions about the propriety of using the word subject in the
context of civic rule as it was to David Owen’s contrary insistence, a
hundred years later, that the word subject was the only appropriate term
for the ruled.62
London, however, greatly complicated issues of office and citizenship.
It was effectively a primate city and could be called a state. Throughout
the whole period under discussion, London was swelled with migration,
despite disease, plague and the short life expectancy of its inhabitants. To
outsiders it was fearsomely bloated on a constant influx of foreigners. In
1550 the population was roughly 70,000, or 2 per cent of the population,
by 1650 it was around 400,000, around 8 per cent. In 1700 its population
was approximately 575,000, at which date its nearest rivals, Bristol and
Norwich, had populations of 20,000. No other urban area had more than
14,000 people.63 From the reign of Elizabeth, fruitless attempts were made
to curb the unruly spread. Coke expressed concerns, carrying his authority
deep into the seventeenth century.64 It took a developer like Nicholas
Barbon to put a case in purely celebratory terms; the bigger London was
the better for all: trust me I’m a builder.65
London was teeming, rich and jealous of its traditions of self-government.
For William of Malmesbury it was a commune and in the fourteenth

Condren, The Language of Politics, pp. 91–114; Mayer, Thomas Starkey and the
Commonweal, pp. 43–76, 139–68; Peltonen, Classical Humanism, pp. 54–118.
See Damian Grace, ‘Subjects or Citizens? Populi and Cives in More’s Epigrammata’,
Moreana, 97 (1988), pp. 133–6; David Owen, Herode and Pilate Reconciled (1610).
Craig Horton, â€˜â€ś. . .the Country must diminish”: Jacobean London and the Production
of Pastoral Space in The Winter’s Tale’, Parergon, new series, 20, 1 (2003), p. 91; Angus
McInnes, English Towns (London, 1980), pp. 2–4; Braddick, State Formation, p. 54.
B&Y, The Arraignment of Co-ordinate Power (1683), p. 6; Thomas Violet, ‘To the . . .
Chancellour of England’, p. 12, appended to A Petition Against the Jewes (1661).
Stow, Survay, pp. 557–62; Nicholas Barbon, A Discourse Shewing the Great Advantages
New-Buildings, And the Enlarging of Towns and Cities Do Bring to a Nation (1678).
64 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
century it was called a res publica.66 In the fifteenth century, Edward IV
acted primus inter pares among London merchants; in the sixteenth, even
Elizabeth was obliged to court as much as she cajoled. Its trained bands
could assume the size and status of an army; its play of interests and
institutions prohibited any secure court control.67 In the seventeenth,
Charles I lost London, and in London lost his head. With myths of
foundation by refugees from Troy, the city could pretend to the status of
a new Rome. Even disaster might play its part in enriching such symbolic
associations. Troy, Rome (and Sodom) had all burned. In thieves’ cant,
London was ‘Rome-vill’.68 Members of London’s ruling elite were some-
times styled optimates, lesser citizens populares, so linguistically assimilat-
ing the understanding of citizenship to ancient models even before the
popularisation of Ciceronian and Italianate models of civic autonomy.
The city, then, was a commonwealth, its citizens sometimes having only
a selective recognition of any extraneous subjection. London was never so
ill as it was now, preached Hugh Latimer in 1548, but the sentiment could
probably be repeated in almost any year.69 Stow, who presented his
Survay as an act of citizenly duty, wrote also to reassure the suspicious.
‘I confess that London is a mighty arme and instrument to bring any great
desine to effect’, but it ‘is a Citizen, and no Citie, a Subject and no free
estate’.70 In so far as London was the paradigmatic city, and potentially a
microcosm of the wider realm, this had conceptually disruptive potential.
It could be ‘a mighty beast/ Behemoth or Leviathan at least’.71 The office
of citizen might threaten hypertrophy like the city itself. The Italianate and
Latinate theoretical materials of citizenship and love of patria assumed a
civic politics and fed this expansion. So the proudly proclaimed office of
citizen might end up in formal tension with that of subject. London
oscillated, as Stow’s prose suggests, between being a capital city and a city
state; it lurched between Hamburg and Paris, Venice and Madrid. Its
corporations were a long-standing model for a body politic.72 It is no
surprise that the spectre of London overshadows Cavendish’s ‘Advice’ to
Charles II. William I had built the tower of alien stone to watch as well as
protect the jewel in his crown. Cavendish would go further: London must

Ackroyd, London, pp. 48–9–51.
Archer, Pursuit of Stability, at length.
Ackroyd, London, p. 265.
Latimer, Sermon (18 January 1548), in Fruitful Sermons, fol. 17r.
Stow, Survay, A3, pp. 557, 558; Anon., Urbis Londiniensis (c. 1666).
Anon., The Character of London Village (1684).
W. C., A Discourse for King and Parliament (1660), p. 4; Some Considerations touching
Succession and Allegiance, in State Tracts, vol. I, pp. 334–5.
Institutionalised office 65
be garrisoned, mewed up, its charters of citizenship scrapped or it would
rule.73 London, as palpitating Richard Baxter put it, was ‘the heart of the
whole nation’; if infected with false doctrines, the contagion will spread to
all.74 When Hobbes, in De cive took the city to mean the state, he insisted
that, for the sake of peace, the word citizen meant subject. It was above all
London’s unpredictable importance that required the domestication of its
defining social office.

In any realm, however, there were subjects and subjects, just as in any
city there were citizens and citizens, and this directs attention to aristoc-
racy standing around the pinnacle of institutionalised office. As Richard
Brathwaite remarked, ‘[none] are less exempted from a Calling
than great men’ – albeit recognising that many ‘offices are deputed to
sundrie men’. Those deemed noble, or aristocratic, exhibited the most
conspicuous, elaborate and sensitive of social identities; and were likely
to attract or engross many social offices. ‘The higher the place the
heavier the charge.’ For Brathwaite, nobility should be the very pattern
of office-holding.75
The question of what made true nobility had been in the air since the
days of Dante and Chaucer; it had been explored in Utopia, and became a
formal topic for university disputation.76 It was recognised that the qual-
ities defining the ideal persona of the aristocrat – liberality, gentleness,
wisdom – might be discrepant with conduct and lineal boasting.77
Apparel, wrote Sir Thomas Elyot, should be a sign of distinction not
pride, for true nobility could be found in any estate. The word noble was
the ‘surname of virtue’ that lay in the metal not the imprint of the gold
coins called nobles.78 Consequently, true nobility in the present required
emulation of the past. Such arguments were not merely idealistic, they
reiterated the standards by which anyone pretending to nobility should be

Cavendish, ‘Advice’, fols. 1–2.
Cited in Tim Cooper, Fear and Polemic in Seventeenth-Century England: Richard Baxter
and Antinomianism (Aldershot, 2001), p. 92; see also B&Y, Arraignment, p. 6.
Brathwaite, The English Gentleman, pp. 115, 119.
See Quentin Skinner, ‘Thomas More’s Utopia and the Virtue of True Nobility’, in
Visions of Politics (Cambridge, 2002), vol. II: Renaissance Virtues, pp. 213–44; on
university disputation, see Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric, p. 53.
Thomas Rogers, A Philosophical Discourse Entitled The Anatomy of the Mind (1576), lib.
2.68; Henry Peacham, The Compleat Gentleman (1622), p. 159; Goslicius, The
Counsellor, pp. 36–7; Warren, Royalist Reform’d, p. 1.
Sir Thomas Elyot, The Book Named the Govenor (1531), ed. S. E. Lehmberg (London,
1962 edn), 2 iii, pp. 104–5.
66 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
judged. George Meriton, drawing more explicitly than Elyot on Plato’s
myth of metals, blended conceptions of the aristocracy of mind, lineage or
wealth to advocate entry into the additional office of the priesthood.79 In
recognising God as our true father, priests may bring together all the
virtues associated with nobility. Lineage could thus be a sign, aristocracy
a metaphor for a higher office. So to a different end Meriton exploited the
commonplaces that nobility did require specific virtues and an august
pedigree. Without virtue, Albertus Warren later remarked, the gentleman
was ‘conspicuously sordid’.80
Regardless of ‘true’ nobility, the maintenance of standing was of intense
importance to aristocracy in the setting of a society preoccupied with
reputation. The effort involved, however, in sustaining this august form
of social office might sully lineage and evaporate honour.81 Identity was a
function of imagined time and the semiotics of social space. A hundred
and thirty years after Elyot had argued that inner virtue should shine
through dress and display, William Cavendish bemoaned the fact that any
woman might have a turkey carpet by her bed. For the survival of the
institution of monarchy itself, the symbols of nobility must be maintained:
‘to make no Difference between great ladys, & Citizens wifes, in aparrell is
Explorations of the potential tension between virtue and position were
framed largely in terms of social office. ‘I owe her Maiestie the office: dutie
of an Earle Marshall of England; I have bene content to doe her the service
of a Clarke’, wrote the honour-attentive Earl of Essex, ‘but I can never
serve her as a villain or a slave.’83 Her successor saw three sorts of iniquity
in the English aristocracy arising directly from the fragility of social
position: tendencies to oppress, give indiscriminate support to agents
and to fight over any slight of honour. These were all misunderstandings
of aristocratic responsibility.84 In a similar idiom Hobbes, too, empha-
sised the ‘violences, oppressions and injuries’ that great persons might do.
‘Impunity maketh Insolense; Insolence Hatred; and Hatred an Endeavour
to pull down all oppressing . . . greatnesse’.85

George Meriton, A Sermon of nobilitie (1607), B3r–v, D, C2; see Peltonen, Classical
Humanism, p. 159.
Warren, Royalist Reform’d, p. 1.
Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation, pp. 149–56; Cavendish, ‘Advice’, fols. 53–4;
Meriton, Sermon, C3v.
Cavendish, ‘Advice’, fol. 53.
Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric, p. 121.
James VI&I, Basilicon Doron (Edinburgh, 1599, 1603) in Workes (1616), pp. 161–2.
Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 20, p. 238.
Institutionalised office 67
Most of the literature on aristocracy assumed a mutual interdependency
of office arising from the monarch’s being the fount of honour, but as
Markku Peltonen has argued, things were never so simple.86 After the
execution of Charles I, it became plausible to claim that a democracy gave
a greater space for the exercise of aristocratic heroics.87 William Cavend-
ish’s reflections on aristocracy must be seen partially in the light of this
alternative. Maintaining the aristocracy (and its carpets), he pleaded, was
in the king’s interest because it would support him in return, or only
replace him with another king – compensation, no doubt, for deposition.
But there is a qualification even to Cavendish’s Machiavellian stress on
self-interest. It was the loyal part of the nobility that, taking the war ‘att
their owne Charge’, kept up Charles I, beyond expectation.88 This is close
to arguing that the aristocracy must be furnished with the means of
fulfilling its supporting office to the ruler. It was even closer to asking
for cash. The privileges of aristocracy were, however, justified more expli-
citly through reference to its office when Margaret Cavendish printed the
maxims of the ‘Advice’.89 Sustenance of privilege and its display was a
duty to lineage and reputation, so profligacy might seem a self-destructive
responsibility. Social and financial credit could be semiotically tied to each
other as expressions of trust. Butler parodied this attitude in his image of a
degenerate noble, debt-ridden and worthless, who exists only in the past of
his lineage and to whom present laws do not apply.90
Peltonen has applied a valuable analytic distinction between vertical
and horizontal dimensions of aristocratic honour. The vertical concerned
the aristocrat’s place in a social hierarchy; it was something easily aug-
mented and rewarded, or diminished in the business of exercising institu-
tionalised office. Horizontal honour was the relationship of those sharing
an official identity and it could be lost, regained, but not augmented.91
Practices of hospitality and gift-giving were played out on both dimen-
sions, but were vital to vertical honour; its enlargement might depend

Markku Peltonen, The Duel in Early Modern England: Civility, Politeness and Honour
(Cambridge, 2003), pp. 65–79.
Warren, Royalist Reform’d, pp. 4–5.
Cavendish, ‘Advice’, fol. 54.
Margaret Cavendish, The Life of the Thrice Noble, High and Puissant Prince, William
Cavendish, Duke, Marquess and Earl of Newcastle (1667), ed. C.H. Firth (London, 1896),
pt. 4; see Conal Condren, ‘Casuistry to Newcastle: The Prince in the World of the Book’,
in Nicholas Phillipson and Quentin Skinner, eds., Political Discourse in Early Modern
Britain (Cambridge, 1993), esp. pp. 180–3.
Pepys remarks on the notoriously conspicuous Cavendish extravagances, in Diary, 26
April 1667; Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation, pp. 3–7, 149–72; Muldrew,
‘Interpreting the Market’, p. 169; Butler, Characters, pp. 67–8.
Peltonen, The Duel, pp. 35–9, 115–16, drawing on the work of Frank Stuart.
68 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
upon material acquisition. The satisfaction of honour, however, took
place only among equals, for whom reputation was tantamount to
identity. Together these requirements of liberality and honour’s jealous
defence might generate the ‘oppressions and injuries’ of which Hobbes
warned. They were at the heart of a modal ethics of office that could sit ill
with other moral expectations.
There was something of a primitive and Mediterranean ethos to aristo-
cratic patterns of generous display, an inherited understanding that the
gift was reciprocal in its bestowal of honour. To trace the gift through the
cultural capital of heroic epic poems, from The Iliad to Beowulf, is to
follow the semiotics of identity, achievement and disaster. Sumptuary laws
provided some control on extravagance in the early modern world, but
aristocrats continued to live in the costly environment of a shame culture.
Honour, like the ancient Greek time, was itself understood as something
largely given.92 Elizabethan nobles might dread the financial conse-
quences of a visit from Gloriana, but honour demanded appropriate
hospitality. As Hobbes put it with imperious sweep:
And riches are honourable; as signs of the power that acquired them. – And gifts,
costs, and magnificence of houses, apparel, and the like, are honourable, as signs
of riches. – And nobility is honourable by reflection, as signs of the power in the
ancestors . . . And the contraries, or defects, of these signs are dishonourable . . .
and so we estimate and make the value or worth of a man.93

During Hobbes’s lifetime, the gift relationship and its elaborate rules of
decorum continued to proclaim and occasionally disrupt social standing,
for the protocols of giving had to be congruent with official relationships.
In many cases, such as the convention of thanking judges with gifts of
gloves, the offering was subject to some social control in the interests of
warding off corruption. And, as Wilf Prest has documented, from the late
seventeenth century, the judiciary gradually became sensitised to the
difference between gifts and bribes, ever negotiable yet always differenti-
ating exercise of office from abuse. In this process, Sir John Fitz-James
and Sir Matthew Hale became bywords for punctiliousness in the niceties
of official decorum.94 Despite the injection of legal families into the

Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (1643), ed. Henry Gardiner (London, 1845), p. 91.
Thomas Hobbes, The Elements of Law (1640), ed. Ferdinand Tonnies (London, 1969
edn), 1.8.5; As he later wrote, ‘The honour of great Persons is to be valued for their
benificence, and the aydes they give to men of inferiour rank, or not at all.’ Leviathan,
ch. 30, p. 238.
Prest, ‘Judicial Corruption’, pp. 67–95; James Malcolm, Anecdotes of the Manners and
Customs of London, 2 vols. (London, 1811, 2nd edn), vol. I, pp. 238–40.
Institutionalised office 69
aristocracy during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it is unclear if
there was any ‘trickle-up’ effect to contain display and extravagance.
The right to duel was essential to honour among equals, a recognition of
the fragility of an identity contingent upon perceived interrelationships.
Its problems were hardly unique to England; casuistic discussions of the
violent defence of honour assume a French or Spanish sensitivity to
position.95 It was not entirely the creation of the Renaissance, but duelling
was given great impetus from Italian courtesy books of the sixteenth
century. This literature blurred the identities of aristocrat, courtier, war-
rior and counsellor by using much the same vocabulary of office for each,
and so the context of discussion for the duel needs to be not one of
ideologies and ambivalently emerging self-hood, but, like the other aspects
of aristocratic identity, the maintenance of a persona, the accretion of
social offices and the tensions of ethical modality.96
Castiglione’s Il Cortigiano (1528) attributed an explicitly Ciceronian
officium to the noble and courtier and made the defence of reputation a
perpetual responsibility. Other writers followed in its train.97 Honour was
a gale, as Tuvill put it, driving a man to ‘every haughty enterprise’;98 and
the little boat of nobility was poled along by the sword, an emblem even
more potent than a turkey carpet by the bed.99 Practice and theory walked
in tandem, the increasing practice of duelling being subjected to more
critical attention.100 The Earl of Northampton, hostile only to its extent,

Stephen Toulmin and A. R. Jonsen, The Abuse of Casuistry (Los Angeles, 1988), pp. 224–5.
The proud duelling Spaniard was something of a joke up to the nineteenth century: Jan
Potocki, The Manuscript Found at Saragossa (1815), trans. Ian Maclean (Harmonds-
worth, 1995), pp. 35–41.
Cf. Peltonen, The Duel, pp. 17–59; on conflicting ideologies and emergent self-hood,
p. 306.
Baldesar Castiglione, Il Cortigiano (1528), trans. George Bull, in The Book of the
Courtier (Harmondsworth, 1987 edn), p. 57; see, for example, J. K., The Courtiers
Academie (1598), trans. of Annibale Romei, Discors; Barnaby Rich, Allarme to England
(1578), discussed in Peltonen, The Duel, pp. 42–3.
Daniel Tuvill, ‘Of Reputation’, in Essays Politicke and Morall (1608), fol. 119.
Margaret Cavendish, Sociable Letters (1664), cited in Peltonen, The Duel, p. 179; cf.
Barbara Donagan, ‘The Web of Honour: Soldiers, Christians and Gentlemen in the
English Civil War’, Historical Journal, 44, 2 (2001), pp. 365–89, who shows how an
office-informed sense of honour could mitigate violence.
In the 1580s, only five aristocratic duels were recorded, in the 1590s, twenty. The number
had risen to thirty-three in the second decade of the seventeenth century; see Markku
Peltonen, ‘Francis Bacon, the Earl of Northampton and the Jacobean Anti-Duelling
Campaign’, Historical Journal, 44, 1 (2001), p. 10. Duelling remained a feature of the
army; in 1809 two senior members of Lord Portland’s ministry put aside Napoleon as
the principal enemy on Putney Heath, and the Duke of Wellington, a notoriously bad
shot, also fought a duel with Lord Winchelsea.
70 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
suggested that the Marshall’s office could channel issues of honour to
avoid institutionalising patterns of revenge and feud. In line with this,
Jeremy Taylor would permit only judicial duels.101 The weight of opinion,
however, went further. Bacon regarded duelling as expressing an entirely
false sense of aristocratic persona. For Thomas Comber, the preoccupa-
tion with reputation was a delusion and a pretence. The duel was virtually
self-murder and its source lay in monkish superstition and pagan impiety.
It was an affront to the office of the sovereign and the law.102 The world of
social office could be undone from the top.
To designate the duel a private combat was to see it as unchristian and
at odds with true nobility.103 Yet, despite the strengthening chorus of
hostility, it remained a sort of self-defence, where the aristocratic persona
extended to the perception of family honour. So, the defining right to duel
was justified not as private, but as an obligation to the very civility for
which the aristocrat stood. For Northampton, despite the abuse of duel-
ling, reputation had to be recovered even if reduced by no more than ‘the
weight of a graine’. An insult, as Lessius had put it, was a theft beyond
money, so defence of honour must be weighed against the consequences of
escalating social disruption.104 The monetary image of theft itself went
beyond the material; it tied the duel to the maintenance of proper rela-
tionships of office against Gygean acts of rapacity. Being perceived in
terms of social office, duelling had an end and a controlling sphere of
operation. Hobbes advised the young Charles Cavendish in 1638, ‘I be-
seech you take no occasions of quarrell but such as are necessary & from
such men only as are of reputation. For neither words uttered in heate of
Anger, nor ye wordes of youthes unknowne in the world, or not knowne
for Vertue are of scandall sufficient to ground an honourable duell on.’105
Concomitantly, it was a highly ritualised practice with intricate conven-
tions protecting its exclusivity. On one occasion, the very short-sighted Sir
William Petty was challenged by Sir Hierome Sanchy, and having right of

Jeremy Taylor, Ductor dubitantium (1660), 3.2, rule 6.
Francis Bacon, ‘The Charge of Francis Bacon . . . touching Duels’, in Works, vol. IV,
pp. 110–11; Peltonen, ‘Francis Bacon’, p. 17; Ames, Conscience, ch. 32, p. 182; Thomas
Comber, A Discourse of Duels (2nd edn 1720), pp. 28, 3–8, 15–18.
Peltonen, The Duel, for example, pp. 78–9, 108–10, 212–15; Evelyn, Diary, vol. IV, 19
February 1686, p. 501, on this ‘unChristian custom’. An exception is Selden, Table Talk,
36, pp. 41–2, who allows duelling the authority of the ancient church. When it began
depended much on the degree of hostility to it.
Cited in Peltonen, ‘Francis Bacon’, p. 21; cited in Toulmin and Jonsen, The Abuse of
Casuistry, pp. 223–7, esp. 224–5.
The Correspondence of Thomas Hobbes, ed. Noel Malcolm, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1994), vol. I,
22 August 1638, p. 53.
Institutionalised office 71
place and weapon, chose carpenters’ axes in a dark cellar. The parodic
ridicule was so effective, Aubrey recalls, that the point of honour was
Aristocracy, in sum, was presented as office-dependent. The difficulty
lay in which dimension of office should predominate and how far the
social duties undertaken within the polity, such as the Earl of Essex
serving as a court clerk, augmented or confused the persona, sustained
or subverted social order. Formal social office was an emblem of aristo-
cratic standing and expectation, albeit one that could compromise the
triumphant persona and sap its resources. Yet if these were repaired,
standing might be diminished through accusations of corruption and
private interest. Throughout the seventeenth century, an uncertain ethical
modality sustained an inherent tension of office. Meriton’s plea for aris-
tocrats to take on the formal office of the priest demanded a starker choice
than his rhetoric indicated; and if the modern state was the unintended
consequence of changes in social office, the contraction of the aristocratic
persona was one part of them.

Offices might be fraught and contentious but acceptance of the social
world as necessarily constituted by them was ubiquitous. In the previous
chapter, I concluded that the isolation of the purely political can be
artificial when read back into the ceremonial dimension of early modern
England. With this caveat in mind we need now to reconsider related
anachronisms arising from the nature of the distinction between the public
and the private. Normally these terms are taken to refer to mutually
delineating and equally legitimate domains of experience, with perhaps
the public having its rationale in protecting, framing and controlling the
private, and not infrequently with the public being a rough synonym for
the political or the legitimate reach of the state. Even if a historical
awareness leads us to reconfiguring the public sphere as an interaction
of offices, this is distorting when imposed on the seventeenth century.107 A
world that could denigrate aristocratic duelling as private, and that saw
the most ‘private’ domains of family and prison life as no less subject to
the impress of office than that of the constable or church warden, should
alert us to the dangers of taking our own conceptual pairings for granted.
Only occasionally do they get superficial support from the way language

Aubrey, ‘Sir William Petty’, in Brief Lives, p. 304.
Braddick, State Formation, pp. 82–4; less explicitly, Geoff Baldwin, ‘Individual and Self
in the Late Renaissance’, Historical Journal, 44, 2 (2001), pp. 346, 363.
72 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
was used. Thomas Mun, for example, urged that private gain must run in
tandem with public good, but Mun’s private gain is still the dividend of the
steward’s noble vocation. Again, Daniel Tuvill held that private persons
can look justice in the eye, whereas public ones must cloak their virtue.108
But the argument, pivoting on the necessity of secrecy, was about the
dangers of court life and the relationships between deliberative and foren-
sic rhetoric.109 For others, it was the private that was secret.110 Similarly
with Hobbes, the private is sometimes tainted with the illicit and conspira-
torial, and what might now be designated the public entails the subject
being seen as private, that is without liberties in relationship to the
sovereign. This crossover between apparently contrasting concepts should
forewarn us of problems to come.111
There were several permutations on the meaning of private, each of
which expressed a relationship to office. First, the private could designate
a worthless residue, life at the bottom of a bottle.112 Mulcaster’s criticism
of private education was that as merely individual tutoring it was, socially
speaking, worthless; it becomes public, and therefore valuable, simply by
involving more students.113 Second, the word could denote passive duty of
obedience of those within a given relationship of office. Tyndale’s private
world is a shared equality of subjection to Christ.114 William Willymat’s
private subjects are those who should all equally obey the magistrate. Yet,
when he wrote of these subjects beyond ‘publicke charge’ and ‘office’, it
was still necessary for the private man to stick to his own ‘calling’.115 In the
same vein, Peter Heylyn argued that as all in magisterial office are public
persons with respect to those below them, they too were private when
considered in relationship to those above them.116 As Samuel Parker later
put it, private men were not properly sui juris, being directed by ‘the

Daniel Tuvill, The Doue and the Serpent (1614), pp. 37–9.
Ibid., p. 64.
Rami Targoff, Common Prayer: The Language of Devotion in Early Modern England
(Chicago, 2001), p. 21; ‘Of Swearing’, in Anon., Certain Sermons (1683), p. 41; Anthony
Ascham, Confusions and Revolutions of Governments (1649), pp. 113, 143; Anon., A
Letter from Leghorn from Aboard the Van Herring, p. 2.
Hobbes, Leviathan, cf. chs. 21, 22; see also Kevin Sharpe, Re-Mapping Early Modern
England: The Culture of Seventeenth-Century Politics (Cambridge, 2000), ch. 4.
John Hitchcock, A Sanctuary for Honest Men: or an Abstract of Humane Wisdom (1617),
pp. 34–5; for discussion, Peltonen, Classical Humanism, pp. 158, 149.
Richard Mulcaster, Positions wherein those primitive circumstances be examined (1581),
ch. 39, pp. 185–6.
Christina Malcolmson, Heart Work: George Herbert and the Protestant Ethic (Stanford,
1999), pp. 267–8.
William Willymat, A Loyal Subjects Looking-glasse (1604), pp. 47–9, 58–9.
Peter Heylyn, The Rebells Catechism (1643), p. 16.
Institutionalised office 73
publick Conscience’.117 Such a meaning survives in the rank of a private
Consequently, what was private could be no more than an absence of a
right in a given situation. In mid-sixteenth century Germany this could
make even a prince ‘private’ (Privatfurst).119 During the same period, Sir
Ralph Sadler reported on ‘private persons’ giving the advice that should
be given by counsellors.120 The use of private in such contexts was occa-
sionally without prejudice. During the Interregnum, Colonel Hutchinson
gave counsel as a ‘private neighbour’ because he refused formal office
under Cromwell. Michael Dalton referred to private men as lacking rights
with respect to a specific law; hence the private nature of aristocratic
duelling.121 The equation of the private not with a sphere of independence,
but with an absence of right, sometimes carried the explicit corollary that
the only liberty was liberty of office. As Peter Wentworth protested in
1576, he was no private person, but as a member of the Commons was
‘publique and a councellor to the whole’.122 Private persons submit and
obey; lacking the responsibilities of office, they are ‘vnweighed by lib-
erty’.123 So when William Ames argued that in extreme threat to society
‘every private man becomes a minister of public justice’, he was stating
that all those within networks of official relationships took on active
responsibilities with the liberties necessary for them.124 In sum, this
common pattern of related uses refers not to anything as absolute as a
private sphere of belonging, but simply to the conduct fitting to a given

Samuel Parker, A Discourse of Ecclesiastical Polity (1670, 1671 edn), p. 308; see David
Martin Jones, Conscience and Allegiance in Seventeenth-Century England (New York,
1999), pp. 178–9; Gordon Schochet, ‘Between Lambeth and Leviathan: Samuel Parker
on the Church of England and Political Order’, in Nicholas Phillipson and Quentin
Skinner, eds., Political Discourse in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 201–8.
‘I cannot put him to a private soldier, that is the leader of so many thousands’ (Falstaff),
2Henry IV 3.2.
See, generally, von Friedeburg, Self-Defence, pp. 56–70; cf. Taylor, Ductor, 3.2, p. 111:
no prince is a private person in following the laws.
Sir Ralph Sadler, ‘Embassy to Scotland’, letter 10 August 1543, in State Papers, 2 vols.
(Edinburgh, 1809), vol. I, p. 251.
Lucy Hutchinson, Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson (London, 1968 edn),
p. 293; Dalton, Country Justice, ch. 7, p. 33; ch. 117, p. 331; see also John Ponet, A
Shorte Treatise of Politicke Power (Strasbourg, 1556), pp. 24, 35; Francis Bacon, ‘The
Charge of Sir Francis Bacon . . . Touching Duels’, p. 110.
Cited Peltonen, Classical Humanism, p. 45.
Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, A publication of his majesties edict, and severe
censure against priuate combats and combatants (1613), quoted in Peltonen, The Duel,
p. 110.
Ames, Conscience, p. 179.
74 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
The frequently negative connotations of the private could go further,
indicating abuse and corruption, and even marking the nominal trans-
formation of a persona beyond office. This usage was well established in
Germany by the mid-sixteenth century.125 Personal or familial resources,
such as those of the Renaissance aristocratic diplomat, were proper if put
to public, unselfish use, within the bounds of, or serving an office; mag-
nificence was a public virtue, a private vice.126 People enjoying private
wealth, argued Richard Beacon, either neglected their duties or used their
resources to pervert public office that ends up ‘in open market’.127 This
Machiavellian theme is later evident in Harrington’s Oceana, and it was in
this tradition that Milton and Sidney worked when associating monarchy
so closely with a private interest. They helped forge, not a distinction
between the public and private, but between a commonwealth and its
nemesis, a monarchy. They came to question the validity of the cliche that
a king rules for the public good, a tyrant for private profit. Throughout
society, private interest threatened a replacement of office-holders with
creatures; a bad ruler might become a private person. For de Bohun, it is
corruption for a justice of the peace to consider his private interest or think
it can be advanced along with his office.129 The word private, marking the
corruption of any official persona, is similarly noted with cynical aplomb
by Butler. By definition, any officer is ‘a person of double capacity, public
and private, and that may be one reason, why he is said to deal doubly
with all men’.130
Beyond such raillery, there is, however, a sense in which it was impos-
sible to sustain any coherent distinction between public and private
domains, or, for that matter, public, personal and domestic in a world
pervaded by notions of office. When Nicholas Grimalde first translated
Cicero’s De officiis, he promoted it as ‘in a manner new again’ by urging its
equal relevance to ‘private life to attaine quietnesse and contemplation: or
in office being to winne fame and honour’.131 The point pivots on the
distinction between active and contemplative lives; for Grimalde, both are
infused with the values and proprieties of office. Some people, instructed
William Gouge in the following century, might think that if they have no

Von Friedeburg, Self-Defence, pp. 62–3.
Rogers, A Philosophicall Discourse, ch. 31, fol. 149v.
Richard Beacon, Solon His Follie (Oxford, 1594), pp. 98–9, 50–1; see Peltonen, Classical
Humanism, pp. 79.
The Sage Senator (1660), p. 165; Anon., An Answer to the Second Letter from Leghorn
(1680), p. 2.
De Bohun, The Justice of the Peace, pp. 29, 128–30.
Butler, Characters, p. 295.
Grimalde, Ciceroes Three Bokes of Duties, epistle Aiij.
Institutionalised office 75
public calling they ‘have no calling at all’: not so. Those wholly employed
in private affairs are still part of the microcosm of the domestic common-
wealth. Moreover, as the preservation of the family is for the good of the
commonwealth, so household duty ‘ may be accounted publicke worke’
undertaken by ‘publicke officers’. The ‘Horae subsecivae’ makes much the
same point with respect to masters and servants; they are the representa-
tions of a more public government.132 With such variable delineation
between public and private as degrees of office-holding, it is sometimes
unclear if reference to the private is synonymous with the domestic, or
distinct from it; such matters were of only subsidiary significance in
discussions of the importance of office wherever it is found.
If we look at a more studied and sophisticated exploration, it becomes
apparent that the vocabulary of office undercuts any coherent delineation
of a private world. In the Advancement of Learning, Bacon addressed such
issues in insisting upon the responsibilities of the philosopher to the active
life.133 He distinguishes ‘a private, free, and unapplied course of life’ and
discusses what he calls ‘private and particular good’. He stipulates a
double nature of good, personal and public, ‘the one a total substantive
in itself; the other, as it is a part or member of a greater body’.134 In the
context of such distinctions, he places the difference between the contem-
plative and active lives. Yet despite the hardly careless language, we are a
long way from anything analogous to the private realm and public sphere
that we find in the nineteenth century.
For Bacon, a realm of purely self-regarding acts, or purely private
contemplation, is for God and angels alone.135 For mankind, even the
contemplative extreme of the monastic life performs the duty of prayers as
an office. Bacon expresses this by a formal specification of the private and
by an adumbration of its content. First, he divides private good into
conservation and advancement, each a form of responsibility, concerning
‘the regimen and government of every man over himself’ and providing a
virtuous disposition to acquit public duties. The world of public office is
divided into the civil and politic, as a man is a member of a state, and as he
is in a given ‘profession, vocation or place’, having ‘respective duty’.136
Second, when Bacon outlines the content of these residual offices, he
leaves virtually no space for any private or domestic realm beyond them.

Gouge, Domesticall Duties, pp. 18, 19; William Cavendish, ‘Master & servants, Horae
subsecivae’, p. 32; see also Browne, Religio Medici, p. 174.
Gaukroger, Francis Bacon, pp. 68–100.
Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, in Works, vol. II, pp. 223–3, 229–30.
Ibid., p. 225.
Ibid., pp. 233, 234.
76 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
Respective duty ‘doth also appertain the duties between husband and wife,
parent and child, master and servant: so likewise the laws of friendship
and gratitude, the civil bond of companies, colleges, and politic bodies, of
neighbourhood, and all other proportionate duties; not as they are parts
of government and society, but as to the framing of the mind of particular
persons’.137 If this fleetingly refers to the civil as well as the politic, in
Bacon’s vision, the private collapses into preparation for the civic and
politic frame. This employment of the nomenclature of office facilitates his
realignment of philosophy as a form of public service and a vital office.
Other writers also leave us distant from any private realm of autonomy
and non-interference. Goslicius is emphatic: as private life is an ornament
to the commonwealth, it is to be controlled. The private, as Robert
Sanderson maintained, was not separate from but included in the
public.138 The projectors Robert Chiver and John Cusacke effectively
exploited such an incorporation: the monarch’s public duty is to impose
benefits on the private.139 Informing this line of argument was a terra
nullius proposition, itself predicated on an understanding of office,
imported, very loosely, from Roman law and reinforced, no doubt, by
the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14–30). The world was entrusted
by God for good use and it was the office of the husbandman to improve
his lot; so fens might be drained, land enclosed. Failure to do so was an
abuse of stewardship and in neglecting office the husbandman might lose
his persona.140 Even for Hobbes, who gives a tantalising glimpse of a
private sphere by no more than diminishing reference to any office inde-
pendent of the sovereign, the contingently residual activities he notes refer
to the standard exempla of liberties of office, concerning trade, parental
responsibility and the relationship between masters and servants. The true
liberty of the subject has no location in any private realm; it is that
notoriously minimal right to attempt self-defence when official protection
has ceased and when such a person is, strictly speaking, no longer a
subject, no longer in a private relationship with the sovereign.141 As for
Hobbes’s sometime friend and antagonist, Edward Hyde, he makes a

Ibid., pp. 237–8; also Speech to Parliament, 17 February 1607, cited in Peltonen,
Classical Humanism, p. 144.
Goslicius, The Counsellor (1598), pp. 129, 118; Robert Sanderson, Sermons ad
Magistratum, in Works, ed. W. Jacobson (Oxford, 1854), vol. I; also de Bohun, The
Justice of the Peace, p. 129.
Linda Levy Peck, ‘Kingship, Council and Law in Early Stuart Britain’, in J. G. A.
Pocock et al., The Varieties of British Political Thought (Cambridge, 1996 edn),
pp. 111–13.
On the guarded use of res and terra nullius arguments, see Fitzmaurice, Humanism and
America, pp. 140–4.
Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 21, pp. 148, 150–4; ch. 22, p. 164.
Institutionalised office 77
distinction between private and public in the context of exploring private
friendship as a Ciceronian officium.142
In the light of how people actually wrote about public and private
as specifications of relationships of office, what can we make of the
Habermasian ‘public sphere’ and the search for its origins in early modern
England? The disembodied phrase ‘public sphere’ currently rattles like a
pinball through early modern historiography, an unproblematic concept
bouncing into the facts and lighting up the world. It is discovered, to use
that treacherous word, by listening to the right voices, be they courtly or
marginal.143 More reflectively, some have identified its presence as some-
thing in public but beyond state monopolies of discourse (presupposing a
state to monopolise), or alternatively by adumbrating an engagement of
the public (members of something later called the public) that prefigured a
modern development.144 At all events, what is needed is more facts to get it
It is, however, worth recalling that Habermas was not writing as a
historian, but building a theoretical model about the quality rather than
the extent of discourse, so historicising the model requires more than
added detail, taking its terms for granted and just looking for ‘it’ some-
what earlier.145 Like an idealised market, the Habermasian public sphere
requires equal participation by similarly informed people, debating issues
they have determined for themselves freely and rationally (as philosophers
do), and mediating the state and civil society (as intellectuals do). The
model was designed to cast critical light on nineteenth- and twentieth-
century society, and was predicated on a firm conceptual distinction
between public and private domains, of state and civil society, the latter
being taken up largely with economic activity. Additionally, Habermas’s
notion of rationality is very much a post-Enlightenment and secular one.
Keeping all this in mind, his own perfunctory attempt to ground the model
in history is distracting; and the physical location for the beginnings of the
public sphere in the London coffee-house culture of the late seventeenth
and early eighteenth centuries has only a knock-about plausibility.
Coffee-houses seem to have been club-like with special shared interests,
and while they would have been centres for rumour, news and gossip, it is

Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon, ‘Friendship’ (1670), in Essays Moral and Entertaining
(London, 1815), vol. I, pp. 112–14, 116.
For example, Natalie Mears, ‘Counsel, Public Debate and Queenship: John Stubbs’s
The Discoverie of a Gaping Gulf, 1579’, Historical Journal, 44, 3 (2001), pp. 629–50;
Peltonen, Classical Humanism, pp. 120, 165, 238.
David Norbrook, Writing the English Republic: Poetry, Rhetoric and Politics, 1627–1660
(Cambridge, 2000), for example, pp. 13, 74–5, 98–102; Hindle, The State, pp. 234–7.
Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere.
78 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
difficult to imagine any town or village from time immemorial that would
not have had some such meeting place. The attention given to, and suspi-
cions of coffee-houses, had a partial context in long-standing concerns
about drunkenness and may also have had as much to do with the novelty
of the drink, a dangerous competitor to alcohol, and what it might signify,
as with the quality or impertinence of discussion around it.146 Irrespective
of the coffee-house, any market or tavern might, given the loose usage
current, have been a public sphere: public places for members of the
public. Seventeenth-century usage would probably have called it private.
It may even have been the case that the dramatic expansion of London and
the instability of its population actually disrupted communication on
significant issues.147 Neither did the early eighteenth century convey much
confidence that its political debate was better informed and more rational
than that to be found in the past. As the word public continued to be so
strongly associated with the disinterest and responsibility of office-holding,
it would probably be difficult to find anyone engaged in argument not
associating themselves and their friends with issues of ‘public’ concern;
and certainly accusations about dishonesty, self-delusion and corruption
were largely explained by reference to the ‘private’. This suggests some-
thing different from the domains of public and private life taken back in
the search for the public sphere, and it is hardly surprising that early
humanists failed to resolve the tensions in our concepts.148 And irrespect-
ive of any location for debate, clergymen from the authority of the pulpit
continued to have remarkable sway in shaping the issues discussed.149
These features of discourse around the word public take us a good way
from the considerata of Habermasian rationality, and contradict rather
than qualify his notion of a public sphere. At the same time, it is probably
our own understandings of public, as in space, opinion and members of,
together with a greater awareness of the extent of early modern argument

Anon., A Satyr against Coffee (n.d. c. 1675); Anon., Rebellious Antidotes: Or a Dialogue
Between Tea and Coffee (1685); see also Anon., Obsequium et veritas (1681), p. 2; Anon.,
The True Protestant’s Appeal (1680), p. 2; Anon., Scandalum Magnatum, Or the Great
Tryal at Chelmsford Assizes (1681), p. 3; Anon., Reflections on a Catholick Ballard
(1675), stanza 2.
On the difficulties of drawing global conclusions from ‘print culture’ see Harold Love,
‘Early Modern Print Culture: Assessing the Models’, Parergon, new series, 20, 1 (2003)
pp. 45–64.
Baldwin, ‘Individual and Self’, p. 363.
Tony Claydon, ‘The Sermon, the “Public Sphere” and the Political Culture of Late
Seventeenth-Century England’, in L. A. Ferrell and P. McCullough, eds., The English
Sermon Revised: Literature and History, 1600–1750 (Manchester, 2000), pp. 208–34;
Conal Condren, ‘Between Social Constraint and the Public Sphere: Methodological
Problems in Reading Early-Modern Political Satire’, Contemporary Political Theory, 1, 1
(2001), pp. 92–6.
Institutionalised office 79
than Habermas had, that have provided the impulse to seek the origins
ever earlier. It would, no doubt, be possible to argue that a public sphere
developed as an unintended consequence of discourse at odds with the
notions of public and private with which people worked. Such a case,
however, cannot be made if the terms of the Habermasian model are
simply elided with the evidence of earlier argument. Conversely, if the
content of the model is rejected to keep the phrase upon its feet, one
wonders what the point is.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _The__________ _ _ _vocabulary_______________________________ _ _ _of_____ _ _ _office____________________________________________________________________________

And woe unto the people that is brought into such straights and
(George Lawson, Politica sacra et civilis, 1660, 1689, ch. 15.8)

The scene set, I shall now turn to the moral vocabulary of office from
which disparate doctrines were developed. A concluding section, however,
will comment on the king’s two bodies, perhaps the best known of such
doctrines, prior to a fuller exploration of the discourse of office in the
following chapters. By the end of the sixteenth century, there was a clearly
related set of covering terms used to abridge understandings of office:
vocation, calling, profession, trade, sphere and end. These were not always
synonymous, but their use made claim to similar senses of the ethics of
office-holding and to the same complementary registers of justification
and critique. To begin with what I am taking to be the central word: office
was often used as a general term for a world of duties and purposes,
carried out by a persona who enjoyed concomitant liberties to those
ends. Casually employed, it might indicate only a specific ad hoc favour.
Shakespeare, who uses the term office and its cognates some 150 times,
employs it thus in Twelfth Night when Viola asks Sir Toby Belch to ‘do me
this courteous office’ of saying how she has offended.1 It sometimes meant
a specific field of responsibility and by extension a dedicated function;2
Walter Charleton surmised that the ‘parenchyma’ had the ‘office of a
strainer’.3 Hence also the lavatory, a house of office, was a room for one
purpose. The ‘silver sea’ served England ‘in the office of a wall’ and we

Shakespeare, Twelfth Night 3.4; John Bartlett, A Complete Concordance to Shakespeare
(London, 1979 edn) listing for office and its cognates.
Henry Sacheverell, The Perils of False Brethren (1709), A2v.
Walter Charleton, Enquiries into Human Nature (1680), p. 140; Emily Booth, ‘A Subtle
and Mysterious Machine: Walter Charleton’s Medical World’ (Ph.D. thesis, La Trobe
University, 2002), p. 157.

The vocabulary of office 81
find commonly, in the mid-seventeenth century, officers as functionaries.
The predicate ‘officious’ could mean dutiful efficiency.4
The words vocation and calling were usually interchangeable with each
other (from vocare, to call) and with office, a point touched on in chapter 3.
In the sixteenth century, Hugh Latimer had referred to a general calling or
vocation as a position in society, a particular calling as a beckoning from
God.5 William Perkins designated Christianity a general calling that pro-
vided the virtues to maintain the integrity of particular callings; the soul’s
proper demeanour to God had consequences for the way we conduct our
lives.6 Robert Sanderson argued that no man should be without a specific
calling, which was not simply a pastime or role, but a form of life. Callings
span the whole of society from grand and honourable offices to more
mundane employment. When Sanderson alluded to Cicero’s officia of
family, friends and country, he used calling as synonymous with office,
and to live in society without office was a sort of theft.7 John Tillotson
illustrates the ease with which people could shift between a wide range
of quasi-synonyms for office. He referred to our particular ‘work’ and
‘business’ ‘Calling and Charge’, ‘Duty’ and ‘all Offices’, ‘Trade and Pro-
fession’, insisting that ‘it is a great mistake to think that any Man is
without a Calling’. No one is above obligations and duties.8 All these
terms, employed with such apparent casualness, express an awareness of
constrained and relational spheres of responsibility.
The word sphere was often used to complain that someone was improp-
erly going beyond it, or could not see past it.9 Related to this are the

Shakespeare, Richard II 2.1; Anon., The Declaration of the Parliament of England (1649),
in Joyce Lee Malcolm, ed., The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth Century English
Political Tracts (Indianapolis, 1999), vol. I, pp. 369–90; Cavendish, ‘Horae subsecivae’,
fol. 39; Anon., A letter from Leghorn (1679), p. 1; rulers should be ‘officious handmaids to
their Trusts’: ‘Philodemius’, The Original and End of Civil Power (1649), p. 22.
Latimer, ‘Sermon before Convocation’ (1537), in Fruitful Sermons (1635), fol. 6v;
George Downhame, Two Sermons (1609), p. 2.
William Perkins, A Treatise of the Vocations, or Callings of Men, with the sorts and kinds
of them and the right use thereof, in Workes (Cambridge, 1609), vol. I, pp. 727–30; see
also James, Basilicon Doron (1603), in Workes, bk 1.
Robert Sanderson, Sermons ad Populum, sermon 4, St Paul’s (4 November 1621), in
Works, vol. III, pp. 118, 95, 99–102.
John Tillotson, ‘Of Diligence in our general and particular Calling’ (1685), in Fifteen
Sermons (1702), pp. 226, 228, 230, 237, 241; cf. John Sharp who does not always use the
terms synonymously, for he remarked darkly on callings that encourage sin: ‘A
Discourse on the various Callings in Life’, in Works, vol. V, pp. 98–9.
For example, Thomas Hodges, The Growth and Spreading of Haeresie (1647), p. 25;
George Lawson, Politica sacra et civilis (1660, 1689), ed. Conal Condren (Cambridge,
1992), 15.5, p. 226; Anon., The Whole Duty of Nations (1681), p. 67; Anon., Vox cleri pro
rege (1688), pp. 53–4; Sacheverell, Perils of False Brethren, A2; Anon., The Ladies
Calling (1673), b; also Gilbert Burnet, A History of his own Time, 6 vols. (Oxford, 1823),
vol. VI, pp. 154–5.
82 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
images of a ‘roome’, an ‘orb’, a province, ‘place’ and a ‘size’, from the now
obsolete meanings of a fixed order and a proper proportion.10 ‘For
realmes haue rules, and rulers haue a syse,/ Which if they kepe not,
doubtles say I dare/ That eythers gryefes the other shall agrise/ Till the
one be lost, the other brought to care.’11 The word ‘care’ was sometimes a
synecdoche for office and sometimes a specific locus of responsibility
within it. Shakespeare illustrates the range of its uses, from not caring,
taking care and expressing concern or interest, to meaning office: ‘My
youngest yet my eldest care’.12 In Richard II care as office is re-enforced
when Richard calls his crown his care and Bolingbroke later tells him that
‘part of your care you give me with your crown’.13 Beyond the Bard, Lord
Chief Justice Scroggs referred to ‘my care at this time’ in summing up at a
trial.14 The poem on Richard II, quoted above, also remarks on office-
abusers being brought to ‘care’, carrying the double meaning of being
held responsible and being made to suffer. Walter Charleton refers to
his care to decide upon authorities used in argument, assuring readers of
his responsibilities as a philosopher.15 The term ‘charge’ is similar, a
shorthand for a responsibility, what one is charged with doing.16
Trade could mean more than commerce. Traders as citizens were subject
to the demands of office, and from quite early in the sixteenth century a
subordinate use of trade conveys the whole decorum of moral inter-
course.17 Work might predominantly mean toil, but if placed in the context
of an ethical economy, the presuppositions of office become explicit.
Winstanley referred to ‘The Work or Office of a Task-Master’, of an
executioner, judge, the parliament and ministry.18 Hence ‘mystery’ which
usually concerned the skills of a guild or trade could be extended to mean
office; so too ‘traffic’: ‘I give thee kingly thanks Because this is in traffic of a
king.’19 Words like end, purpose or rule could function rather like sphere,

The Booke of Oathes (1649), p. 288; Burnet, History, vol. I, p. 12 (roome); Francis Bacon,
‘A Speech to the Speaker’s Excuse’, in Works, vol. VI, pp. 70, 73; Thomas Browne, True
Christian Morals, ed. Henry Gardiner (London, 1845 edn), p. 265 (orb); Burnet, History,
vol. I, p. 374 (place).
Baldwin, ‘Richard II’, in Mirror for Magistrates, lines 27–30, p. 113.
Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona 2.1; The Merry Wives of Windsor 2.1; The
Winter’s Tale 4.4; The Comedy of Errors 1.1.
Mirror for Magistrates, line 30, p. 113; cf. Shakespeare, Richard II 4.2; see also Andrew
Willett, An Harmonie on the First Booke of Samuel (1607), p. 154.
The Trials of Edward Coleman and William Stacey (1678), p. 89; see also Tillotson,
Fifteen Sermons, p. 247.
Walter Charleton, The Darknes of Atheism Dispelled by Light (1652), ‘To the Reader’, p. xix.
Burnet, History, vol. II, p. 305.
Grimalde, Three Bokes of Duties, Aiiij.
Winstanley, The Law of Freedom, pp. 100, 101–10.
B&Y, The Arraignment of Co-ordinate Power (1683), p. 7; Shakespeare, 1Henry VI 5.3.
The vocabulary of office 83
so function as synecdoches. This is particularly true of the abstraction
‘power’. As remains the case, it could be something of a ‘philosopher’s
stone’, doing and being all things.20 It could mean force, an army or any
resources that might enhance authority.21 Power was, however, more often
seen as a moral quality stemming from omnipotent God, a concentration
of the licit exercise of office. John Rocket actually translated officii as
power;22 and this was Locke’s usage in the Second Treatise. Power, then,
was often office in action which, when over-extended, either carried a
negative predicate variable such as ‘arbitrary’, or was simply transformed
into rhetorical antonyms like force or violence. As the word office could
itself act as a synonym for function, we can see how easily Ciceronian
terms of office could be mixed with Aristotelian notions of teleology and
purpose. ‘It is the excellency of our office to be instruments.’23
These general descriptors emphasise one of two mutually entailed
aspects of office, rationale and limit. Trade, work, end, function, all encap-
sulated rationality; the spatial images of room, orb, sphere, size and place
under-score the necessities of interrelationship and limitation. As the
covering terms all expressed subordination to some worthy end, service
or duty, they were tied to a compound understanding of representation, a
point perceptively accentuated in Samuel Butler’s pejorative character of
‘An Officer’. He loses his name and nature in his authority, ‘has no intrinsic
value and nothing to trust to but the stamp that is put upon him’.24
The persona manifested the office, representing it pars pro toto.25 Yet
additionally many personae claimed to represent those served or protected
by the office, standing for them. This could also be a relationship of the
part effectively being the whole, in so far as personae, such as shepherds,
were not accountable to the sheep under their care.26 Nevertheless, official
personae were often held to be accountable in some fashion, because of
the limited scope of office. Consequently, representation could either be
irrevocable, standing for, or it could be accountable to. Thus Bacon: the
sovereign’s officer effectively is the persona of the sovereign in executing
his duty, but is accountable to the sovereign for his actions.27 In some

John Eachard, Mr Hobbs State of Nature Considered in a Dialogue Between Timothy and
Philautus (1671), in Works (1773), vol. II, p. 22.
Sir Walter Raleigh, The Cabinet Council (1658), ch. 16, p. 42.
John Rocket, The Christian Subject (1650), p. 119.
Anon., A Letter from the King of Morocco to Charles I (1680), p. 3.
Butler, Characters, p. 295.
Anon., The Sage Senator, p. 1.
Henry Hammond, A Vindication (1650), p. 36.
Francis Bacon, ‘An Explanation of What Manner of Persons Those Should be, That are
to Execute the Power or Ordinance of the King’s Prerogative’ (n.d.), in Works, vol. VI,
pp. 102–6.
84 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
bodies of literature, the Leveller pamphlets provide a reasonably reliable
example; the word representative is usually reserved for someone acting
pars pro toto, whereas ‘officer’ implies accountability. Although Hobbes
refers to the office of the sovereign, that sovereign is an irrevocable
representative, at once the persona of the office and, in Leviathan, the
authorised voice of the protected; officer designates those accountable to
the sovereign.28 Because understandings of representation were shaped by
complementary aspects of the notion of office, the vocabulary of repre-
sentation was flexible, but however deployed, debates about the words
representative and officer dissolved into arguments over office: care and
accountability, telos and limitation.

As the office-holder represented the office, the description of office could
be approached through the characteristics of the idealised persona, the
qualities and capacities necessary for true representation. To draw on a
distinction I have made before, this was a vocabulary of status and it may
be distinguished from a vocabulary of action – the terms specifying the
behaviour appropriate to the office-holder’s status.29 Crucially, both pat-
terns of vocabulary come in a positive and a negative register, the latter
spelling out, as Hamlet has it, ‘the insolence of office’. Together they
suggest a rough matrix of adverbial and adjectival language.

Status terms referred to all those skills and aptitudes as well as formal
virtues that made a person fit for office.30 According to John Sharp,
all callings had their God-given faculties.31 Some of these were fairly

Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 23, also distinguishes public ministers from other officers. All are
accountable, but the former are agents of the persona of the ruler rather than serving in
some other capacity; cf. George Lawson, An Examination of Mr Hobbs, His Leviathan
(1657), pp. 78–81.
Condren, The Language of Politics, ch. 3.
Rogers, A Philosophicall Discourse, gives a valuable survey of the semantic content of
the attributes and virtues supported by ancient authority.
John Sharp, ‘A Discourse on the Various Callings in Life’, in Works, vol. V, pp. 83–4;
Sanderson, Ad Populum, pp. 119–43.
The vocabulary of office 85
specific. Learning and disinterest were required of judges, physical courage
and industry of soldiers, love of parents, piety of priests, liberality of
nobles. Some qualities were held to be requisite for pretty well all offices.
Fulke Greville asserted that ‘Mans chiefe vertue, is Humilitie,/ True know-
ledge of his wants, his height of merit’.32 Browne substituted charity, its
having as many forms as there are ways of doing good; to gloss this
assertion, as many forms as offices. As a scholar, he wrote, ‘I am obliged
by the duty of my condition’ to foster learning, and not make ‘my head a
grave but a treasury of knowledge’.33 Reference to a general calling could
express an over-arching presence of office, the virtues of which should
infuse particular spheres of activity.34 Thus, the postulation of, as it were,
a quasi-deontological office acted as a counter to the implications of a
world defined by the diverging ethical expectations of different offices,
implications that if unchecked might terminate in a Carneadean moral
The result was a discordance, or a blurring between universal impera-
tives, such as the New Testament injunctions to love and charity, and the
demands of office. Reference has already been made to the tensions
between aristocratic honour and more general Christian duty, but recog-
nition of some dissonance between conduct in office and broader expect-
ations was probably common. The ‘Swallowfield articles’, drawn up in
1596 by the inhabitants of a cluster of Wiltshire villages, stipulated that
‘offycers shall not be dislyked of for the doynge of theyr offyce’.35 A sort
of theoretical resolution was possible by maintaining a formal universality
which took on meaning only within the context of an office, as we find
with Browne’s insistence on the primacy of charity. A more pervasive
example is provided by prudence which amounted to blending judgement
with conduct. As a practical virtue of balanced behaviour it could only be
specified modally; its moral content presupposed the ends of an office.36
Other formally universal virtues were given content as injunctions to stay
within the compass of an office. Humility was a form of knowing one’s
place and duty as an insurance against interference. It was, claimed
Selden, a virtue preached by all, practised by none, and if taken to

Fulke Greville, ‘An Inquisition upon Fame and Honour’, in Certaine Learned and
Elegant Workes (1633), ed. A.D. Cousins (New York, 1990), stanza 33, p. 39.
Browne, Religio Medici, p. 158.
Tillotson, ‘Of Diligence’, pp. 228–36.
‘Swallowfield Articles’, 4 December 1596, Huntington Library, cited in Braddick, State
Formation, p. 74.
Rogers, Philosophicall Discourse, chs. 9–10, pp. 83v–90r, ch. 12, p. 92v; Raleigh, Cabinet
Council, chs. 13, 14; Bohun, The Justice of the Peace, pp. 34–5, for whom it is the
cardinal moral endowment for the justice of the peace.
86 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
extremes, made anyone comprehensively useless.37 Humility was also the
characteristic posture of the soul and perhaps acquired a wider signifi-
cance because of the importance accorded to the soul’s office-like rela-
tionship to God. Understanding was also sometimes canvassed as a
universally informing value. Mutual trust was in practice so important
that honesty was also widely taken to be the sine qua non for virtue in
office; although for some writers it was at least qualified by the need for
dissimulation in courtly office, and for others was only paradoxically
required of the player.38
Since antiquity, the cardinal virtue of justice had remained a matter of
right conduct within bounds, taking and giving what was due. George
Herbert wrote of the country parson, it is his justice not to encroach on the
professions of others, but keep to his own.39 When understood so for-
mally, it is difficult to see justice being much more than a recognition that
a world of offices required conduct appropriate to its maintenance. With-
out going into any awkward detail, Henry Mason asserted that every
calling had its own pattern of fitting conduct, and concomitant sins that
marred it. All and any might endanger the soul.40 Beyond such a Platonic
guarantee of office, the justice of the judge, soldier, parent, the charity of
the scholar and the noble, had, like prudence, varying content. It was thus,
as we will see with liberty, a formal quality taking on distinct meaning only
as a specification of office. There was little by way of a rigid supervening
template of morality, and so the ethics of office exhibited a variable moral
modality, sometimes disguised and sometimes modified by reference to
universal criteria of judgement.
Some of the characteristics of office-holders were technical skills,
others more strictly moral categories. Edmund de Bohun lists prudence,
patience, humility, industry, honesty, learning, quick apprehension and
chastity as necessary to the justice’s persona.41 But as requirements of a
sphere of responsibility were coloured by the inherently normative di-
mension of an office, so an ethics of office blended the technical with the
moral such as de Bohun’s industry and honesty. Hence Machiavelli’s
assessment of Agathocles; his wickedness was such that, despite his
successes, he was unworthy of celebration. The qualities that make the

Selden, Table Talk, p. 50.
Elyot, The Book Named the Governor, ch. 24, on understanding; on credit, trust and
honesty, see Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation, pp. 148–95.
George Herbert, A Priest to the Temple (1652), ch. 23.
Henry Mason, The Tribunal of Conscience (1627), pp. 31, 40–5; see also Sanderson, Ad
Populum, p. 143.
Bohun, The Justice of the Peace, pp. 8–11, 34–9.
The vocabulary of office 87
good soldier are more than martial skills.42 Tyrants might be noted for
physical courage but this might intensify rather than mitigate tyranny.43
The ethicising expectation was that skills and capacities always be put to
the service of office. It was by conduct in office that we judge and would


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