. 8
( 14)


isation of the rhetorics of rebellion, we have the authentic echoes of
the Jesuits Suarez and Mariana as well as Buchanan. As the Earl of
Devonshire would put it in 1688: ˜we call it rebellion to resist a King that
governs by law, but to resist a tyrant we justly esteem no rebellion but
a necessary defence™.89 In terms of immediate force this is a long way
from James VI&I who insisted that kings could do no wrong; in terms of
presupposition, we are no distance at all “ a point indirectly supported by
the willingness of those of much the same mind as the earl to cite James as
an authority on kingship when his grandson had, as a king, ceased to be.
Perhaps the best illustration of identity in office as an inconclusive
necessity for mediating casuistries of resistance is to be found in George
Berkeley™s Passive Obedience. It is a considered piece, implacably hostile
to all doctrines of resistance, and at one with the most extreme arguments
for passive obedience that swirled around the Sacheverell controversies
from 1710.90 Obedience is an absolute moral rule. Any qualification
is rebellion, and all rebellion is criminal. He dismisses all arguments
derived from defence and tyranny as nothing more than casuistical
errors arising from the mistaken belief that evil may be done that good
may come of it. Yet there remains one limitation to obedience.91 It is due
only to a proper authority, qua authority. That is, the injunctions of the
law of nature apply only to the thing, the office of rule, and not to madmen
or invasive interlopers. ˜Which I shall not go about to prove, because
nobody has denied it.™92 Formally, we are taken back to Socrates™ debate
with Polemarchus “ is it just to return the knife to the madman? But

Goodwin, Right and Might Well Mett, p. 319.
See Condren, ˜Liberty of Office™, p. 480.
George Berkeley, Passive Obedience (1712, 1713) in Works, vol. VI, pp. 22“4, 28.
Ibid., pp. 26, 18, 35“44.
Ibid., p. 45; cf. Cumberland, De legibus, 9.6, Maxwell, trans., Laws of Nature, pp. 350“1.
The case of resistance to superior power 205
implicitly the argument unravels; for all the huffing and puffing, begged
questions are not blown away, for ˜Resistance™ was never said to be to just
authority, it was defence against madmen, usurpers and tyrants. The
identity and actions of personae in office was everything.

Around 1678, the Earl of Devonshire had sought advice from Hobbes
on whether Leviathan could furnish arguments to control the monarchy
by changing the succession. Within ten years he had come to a more
Lockean conclusion. This invites consideration of Hobbes™s and Locke™s
statements on and around the question of resistance. Each man™s political
theory is to be sure very different. The point here is to use the casuistry of
defence to illustrate only how they shared presuppositions of office and
nominal identity and employed the common vocabulary derived from
Neither writer justifies rebellion, though Hobbes was accused of doing
so, and Locke has often enough been carelessly commended for the
same achievement. Each accepts that resistance as defence is a right of
nature to be exercised when relationships of government have dissolved.
Each, then, is dealing with exceptional circumstances of casuistic mitiga-
tion. Without denying the right of defence in extremis, all Hobbes™s
theories minimised its disruptive significance. De cive sabotaged the argu-
ment from tyranny. In a state of war, civic relationships are dissolved;
thus the vocabulary appropriate to them becomes irrelevant. Whereas
Buchanan had treated the equation tyrant and enemy as an imperative,
that is, a tyrant should be dealt with as an enemy, Hobbes formulated
it as definitional redundancy; in a state of war, enemy is sufficient.93 If
there is a sovereign, then by definition there are subjects whose duty it
is to obey. Nevertheless, unlike Berkeley, Hobbes did allow self-defence
within the ambit of the peaceful polity. It was, however, restricted to the
isolated physical being whose (private) subject status in a relationship
of office has been destroyed. The defending self could not be a persona
acting with or for others. Self-defence cannot enlist, or put at risk those
still subject to the sovereign. We are asked to believe that such scrupu-
losity could be a consideration for one returned to the natural condition.
It is here that Locke uses notions of nominal identity so differently.

Hobbes, Philosophical Rudiments, p. 177; Hawke, Killing is Murder, p. 28, who had read
Hobbes, attributes this definitional evaporation of tyranny to Wolfgang Musculus. No
text is cited but possibly he had in mind In Epistolam D. Apostoli Pauli ad Romanos
commentarii (Basel, 1600), or earlier editions.
206 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
Protective relationships can be dissolved by those who in exceeding
their power are transformed into tyrants and rebels. Against these, the
people may defend themselves. When this is discussed more fully (chap-
ter 15) it will become apparent that the Marian question of who was really
guilty of rebellion was as pressing in 1690 as it had been in 1550. From
another route we are confronted again with the problem of what may be
called Ellesmere™s axiom, the danger of distinguishing man from office;
and the ˜straights and complexities™ that arise whether we do or don™t.

And woman too: after John Bull had heaved the fateful bottle at his first
wife™s head and killed her (obviously self-defence), he found among
her papers a ˜Vindication of the Rights of Cuckoldom™. It was enough
to have rotated John Knox in his grave. ˜Mrs Bull™s Vindication™ is a
parody of the speeches delivered at the trial of Dr Sacheverell but it has
a much wider significance.94 Asking at what point can there be a limit
to passive obedience and whether the Church of England really sub-
scribed to such a principle without exception, were questions recognisably
central to any ˜resistance theory™; and Mrs Bull™s ˜Vindication™ amounts
to an allegorical abridgement of the casuistry prompted by accusations
of rebellion.
˜It is evident™, she begins with glib Jeffersonian assurance, ˜that matri-
mony is founded upon an original contract™ in which the wife gives over
her rights to her husband who thus acquires ˜the property of all her
posterity™. The obligation, however, is mutual and if broken on either
side ceases to bind.95 ˜Where there is a right, there must be a power to
maintain it . . . This power I affirm to be that original right, or rather
that indispensible duty of cuckoldom, lodged in all wives.™ No wife,
she continues, is bound without consent. Originally all ˜economical
government™ is lodged in husband and wife, the husband being the execu-
tive part. But the wife™s share and original right of cuckoldom remain.
Can anyone affirm that she has no remedy other than prayers and tears,
or an appeal to a supreme court? There is no universally fixed relationship
between the terms husband and wife. ˜In some eastern nations [husband]
signifies a tyrant with an absolute power of life and death . . . in Italy

John Arbuthnot, The History of John Bull (1712), in George Aitken, ed., The Life and Works
of John Arbuthnot (Oxford, 1892), ch. 8, p. 208, ch. 13, pp. 214“17; Patricia Koster,
˜Arbuthnot™s Use of Quotation and Parody™, Philological Quarterly, 48 (1969), pp. 201ff.
Arbuthnot, The History of John Bull, ch. 13, p. 215; cf. Robert Sanderson, ˜The Case of
the Validity of a Matrimonial Contract™, in Works, vol. V, p. 123.
The case of resistance to superior power 207
it gives . . . the power of poison and padlocks™. Yet in England, France
and Holland, the word husband implies ˜free and equal government™,
securing in ˜certain cases™ the ˜liberty of cuckoldom™. There is, then, no
˜absolute unlimited chastity™ (obedience). The exhortations to chastity
are meant only for ˜ordinary cases™; without qualification it is an unrea-
sonable reflection on the church, taking it to condone oppression. In
contrast, the ˜doctrine of the original right to cuckoldom™ is from the
law of nature, superior to all human laws, and has never been relin-
quished by English wives. To deny it is to damage marriage and the
necessary means of perpetuating families. The recent European con-
flagration brought about by the failure of a dynasty because of the
˜scrupulous nicety of a silly Queen™ is one of ˜the effects of the narrow
maxims of your clergy, that one must not do evil that good will come of
it™. If the true basis of marriage be sapped and ˜tyrannical maxims in-
troduced, what must follow but elopements instead of peaceable
In this fashion Arbuthnot exhibits an easy familiarity with the casuistic
nature of arguments from defence against unqualified obedience. There
is the characteristic slippage from right to duty integral to conceptions
of liberty of office; and the emphasis on considering the scope of an office.
In exceptional cases, obedience cannot hold, and doctrines demanding
it indiscriminately are at once at odds with natural law and English
custom and encourage oppression and tyranny. The ˜narrow maxim™ that
one must not do evil in hope of some good following, is itself only for
ordinary cases. To put the matter another way, if this whole ˜Vindication™
is an exercise in gentle tapinosis at the expense of the verbal posturing
surrounding the Sacheverell trial, it is an echoing concatenation, of
˜state casuistry™ what we have since deemed resistance theory, a playful
pastiche of the themes of defence and extremity that go back in English
to Peter Martyr Vermigli. Duncan Forbes was clearly wrong after all
about marriage and divorce.
Arbuthnot was a High Church Tory, of sorts, sympathetic to
Dr Sacheverell and so distinctly ambivalent about the Revolution of
1688, if it was considered as an act of resistance. But in the chapter
immediately following ˜Mrs Bull™s Vindication™, he describes how parties
formed around her doctrine. Husbands tried to force their wives into
signing papers detesting it. The wives divided into opposing camps, the
Devotos who complied, the Hitts who refused. The distinction, he
remarks, was often ˜more nominal than real™, some Devotos exercising

Arbuthnot, The History of John Bull, ch. 13, pp. 215“16.
208 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
their original rights regardless of what they signed, some Hitts being ˜very
honest™.97 The moral was not to rely upon agreements made under
duress, and for husbands to behave decently rather than believe their
wives. One man, he remarks, having had complete faith in the principle
of absolute fidelity, discovered one day that his wife had eloped. James II
took too literally the principle of absolute obedience. Yet the pulpiteers
of the High Church who promoted it avoided the issue of its casuistic
limit. As Arbuthnot teasingly insinuated, the difficulty for them lay in
accepting that the alternative to absolute obedience, namely defence in
the teeth of innovation, tyranny and the usual cast of ethical suspects,
was indeed a form of the very casuistry they normally abhorred.
Arbuthnot™s shift from doctrinal parody to the extreme situations
that generated casuistic mitigation illustrates what Hobbes called the
equivocal nature of metaphor. It is no more likely that Arbuthnot set
out to defend a theory of resistance than he seriously proposed a practice
of infidelity; yet it takes some determination to keep this in mind. It
was, after all, what he styled the ˜scrupulous nicety of a silly Queen™ that,
on his understanding, brought about thousands of deaths through war
once the Spanish succession had ended. In 1712 Arbuthnot was very
much one of the peace party. Might he have had some sympathy for a
variation of Emilia™s choice “ to cuckold a husband for the sake of
preserving a kingdom? Moreover, the allegory works with long-standing
homologies between marriage and governance, the family and the polity.
The plausibility, thoroughness and uncontrollable nature of these stem
from the vocabularies of office that could be moved indifferently be-
tween them. Some attention to this will serve as a conclusion to the first
two parts of this study.

Ibid., ch. 14, p. 217.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _Metaphor____________________________ _ _ and__________ _ _ _ political_______________________ _ _ _autonomy______________________________________________________________

He shews that People have a Right to private Truth from their
Neighbours, and oeconomical Truth from their own Family; that they
should not be abused by their Wives, Children and Servants; but, that
they have no right at all to Political Truth.
(John Arbuthnot, The Art of Political Lying, 1712)

From God and the sun to the mice in the fields; between them kings,
constables, prison life and the protean philosopher. All were informed
by the vocabulary of office, and so it is now necessary to confront
the distinction between central and peripheral use, literal and figurative.
There is, after all, a difference between the House of Lords and the house of
office, between the sun calling the mice to their offices and anyone calling
Charles I an ˜officer™. Yet such differences need handling with care; the
grounds for making them are not unproblematic. The terrain covered here
is at times difficult but the journey across it is important for understanding
the argument and its implications for the study of history and politics.
A metaphorical use involves carrying a locution from one established
field of discourse to another, hence the original Greek, metaphora, a
carrying across, from meta þ phorein (to convey messages), and hence
the Latin translatio. Consequently, any understanding of the metaphorical
is dependent upon awareness of a prior conceptual demarcation of experi-
ence. Metaphor is thus a creature of the specificity and adequacy of
classification. For if lines of demarcation are uncertain, the difference
between the metaphorical and what linguists call extensional use within
a domain can be hard to pin down. It is difficult to see, for example, at
what point if any the noun settle (Old English, a seat or chair) becomes
metaphorical with such a noun as settlement, meaning dwelling place,
diplomatic conclusion, legal termination, or constitutional arrangement.
Inigo Jones™s notebooks provide a more pointed case. Jones wrote of the
design of a building through the nomenclature of rhetoric, of ornament,

210 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
arrangement and disposition. This seems metaphorical, yet he was draw-
ing on Alberti™s architectural theory, employing the Italian disegno, a
much broader notion that encompassed rhetorical organisation. Thus,
insofar as disegno was carried into English, Jones™s conceptual language
is ambivalently on the edge of the metaphorical and extensive.1 Or,
consider the following, from a book addressed directly to the literal and
not the ˜equivocal™ (metaphorical) conception of parental office, often
enough extended to refer to the magistrate:
Some mens office is about stones, timber, metall, and such like: some handle
plants, herbs and flowers: some cattell, foules of the ayre, or fish of the sea: the
Physitian looketh to the health of the body, the Lawyer to the state of the lands or
goods; but the Parent is put in trust with a more honourable charge, to govern the
chiefest creature under heaven.2
It is not self-evident where office is being used metaphorically when
ranging over the whole terrain of social relationships. It is, moreover,
difficult to distinguish cause from effect: does the diversity of overlap-
ping meanings of office prepare the ground for metaphorical transfer, or
evidence its power? In any given case it could be either.
The dependence of metaphorical movement upon classificatory ad-
equacy raises a further issue insofar as even general classifications change
over time. The domains of the natural and supernatural, animate and
human, organic and mechanical, all have histories. This suggests the
usefulness of making a meta-distinction between autochthonous and
analytic metaphors. A locution may be an analytical metaphor, and may
seem metaphorical now because we draw a firm line between domains
of word use where none was made in the past. It may be, as has been
argued since Vico, that we perceive more patterns of demarcation than
people did in ancient and medieval times; universities certainly have more
disciplines that purport to evidence and explore a greater complexity in
the world than was once apparent. We are apt to draw firm lines between
philosophy and science as people in the sixteenth century did not, and
so treat locutions moving from one to the other as figurative as contem-
poraries would not. Conversely, autochthonous metaphors are those
that have sprung directly from past patterns of conceptualisation; their
erosion may inhibit our recognition of figurative usage. Vico™s belief that
in antiquity everyone spoke in metaphors may have been a function of

I am grateful to Dr Liam Semler™s paper, ˜Designs on the Self: Inigo Jones, Marginal
Writing and Renaissance Self-Assembly™, delivered at the ˜Theory and Practice of Early
Modern Autobiography™ seminar, Humanities Research Centre, Australian National
University, December 2002.
Anon., The Office of Christian Parents (1616), B1, p. 9.
Metaphor and political autonomy 211
not understanding how the Homeric world was conceptually organised.
Analogously, the belief that the Greeks were colour-blind arose from not
understanding the organisation of the semantic field of colour terms in
Leaving aside the question of what might be read metaphorically now,
there are three broad ways in which the metaphorical was contentious in
the seventeenth century. Metaphor as such might be considered inappro-
priate to a form of discourse; individual metaphors might be rejected or
their implications challenged. It is in this third form of controversy that
meanings are most obviously changed. But new meanings are created
simply by the analytic invention of the figurative, or by not seeing its
autochthonous creation. Either process gives a different semantic status
to words we nevertheless share with our forebears. Pico™s metaphor of
˜Man™ for philosopher becomes the concept of the modern individual if
its figurative status passes by unnoticed. This is akin to Henry Smith™s
explanation for the doctrine of transubstantiation: it was a metaphor
that had been mistaken for a literal transformation.3 So, too, the soul is
secularised whenever we take within its metaphorical range the modern
˜Self ™, or morally autonomous agent as a rights-bearing person. Thus, in
large measure, the reconstruction of the past into manageable semi-
modern shapes is the progeny of the often inadvertent treatment of meta-
phor. A theory of the humours, once believed literally, retains plausibility
in a metaphorical half-life; conversely, a metaphor is revivified by being
made to be literally about something else.
Shifting patterns of presupposition add further complications. For
many in early modern society, the world was cohered by reading analogic-
ally, typologically, allegorically or microcosmically. This, for example,
allowed a word like oeconomia to refer both to the ordering of a household
and the structure of creation, resulting in the seventeenth-century body of
writings on oeconomia animalis. Assumptions of microcosmic relation-
ships helped standardise a metaphor as a technical term in materialist
natural philosophy.4 Because there were no digressions in God™s universe,
everything could be seen as a sign of something.5 The semiotics of God™s
love was a pervasive example.6 Charles II™s failure to produce a legitimate
heir was a problem for the succession; it was also a symbol of moral
corruption, for although ˜Man™ and office might be separated physically,

Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric, p. 262.
Walter Charleton, The Natural History of Nutrition (1659); discussed in Booth, ˜A Subtle
and Mysterious Machine™, ch. 4.
See, in particular, Maclean, Logic, Signs and Nature, ch. 8.
Sharpe, Re-Mapping, p. 109.
212 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
one could always be used symbolically for the other.7 Encouraged by a
semiotic optimism, metaphor at once instantiated such reading and helped
confirm the rationality of the cosmos.
A presupposition of meaningful interconnection required, then, figura-
tive ingenuity. Hardly surprisingly, adjacent presuppositions of office
assisted the mobile armies of terms to forage from the magistrate to the
minister and the mouse. As I stated at the outset, presuppositions do not
come down to us in splendid isolation. Thomas Hobbes polemically
exploited the highly conventionalised pastoral metaphors of office in
the process of diminishing that of priests to little more than a walking
sign of virtue; the long-asserted responsibilities of correcting, judging,
admonishing were appropriated to ruling office. ˜The Civill Soveraign is
the Supreme Pastor, to whose charge the whole flock of his Subjects is
committed, and consequently that it is by his authority, that all other
Pastors are made.™8 In this way, presuppositions can be seen as figurative
lubricants, making plausible what I have elsewhere called prodigal™s
return. An expression from one domain is taken into another and such a
metaphor might ˜stick™,9 become acclimatised and assume some concep-
tual space of its own. One reason for such transference lies in the domain
into which the metaphor is taken (the area of metaphorical attraction)
already being prepared. Far from being a merely colourful incursion, the
metaphor blends with established nomenclature. There is nothing like
shared presuppositions for easing the process. Such a grounding creates
an aura of appropriateness; metaphors, as Aristotle remarked, should not
be too far-fetched.10 When they seem suitably decorous, the new terms
might only be returning home like prodigal children.
Thus, in anatomy, the vocabulary of office helped explain the opaque
complexity of the body, once it was assumed that all parts were purposive,
had some telos, for God whose office was to order all things would leave
no redundancies. Functionality thus inserted the thin end of a wedge of
intentionality and responsibility that could be attributed to the material
and inert; organs and bodily functions were relationally defined in terms

Steven Zwicker, ˜Virgins and Whores: The Politics of Sexual Misconduct in the 1660s™, in
C. Condren and A. D. Cousins, eds., The Political Identity of Andrew Marvell (Aldershot,
1990), pp. 89“91.
Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 42, p. 373.
Cavendish, ˜Of Affectation, Horae subsecivae™, p. 20.
Aristotle, Rhetoric, trans. W. Rhys Roberts (New York, 1954), 1404, 17“22. Prodigal™s
return is also characteristic of larger transdisciplinary theories; one doctrine might seem
to provide independent confirmation of another because its origins from a shared source
have been forgotten; see, for example, Buc, The Dangers of Ritual, pp. 229“30, 237“8.
Metaphor and political autonomy 213
of their offices.11 Charleton™s later lectures reveal another typical
manifestation of terminological circulation lubricated by metaphors of
As the design or end of the [Segovian Mint] was to Coin money, which is the bloud
of all States . . . for the support of Government: so the office and work of [the heart]
is to stamp the character and Vitality upon the mass of bloud, for the maintanance
of life in all parts of the body, and regulation of the whole Animal oeconomy.12
The incipient circularity in such processes of reasoning need not be
laboured: recall the terms used of soul and conscience often derived from
the language of office, then taken back to explicate the duties of office
(above, chapter 6). By the same token, a jarring diversity of figuration in a
relatively cohesive body of literature might itself signal discordancy in
conceptualising office. Counsel might be the ˜staff and guide™; the fingers
on the hand; ripened fruit; or the sun set by the dial.13 The patterns of
association that individual images form are clear enough, but they create
differing expectations of the relationships between counsel and rule.

The point here is that we need to pay attention to such presuppositions
lest we inadvertently replace them with our own, so misconstruing the
surviving evidence, even when being attentive to the words concerned.
Insofar as there was a general presupposition of office it was likely to
subordinate distinctions that we habitually and unselfconsciously privil-
ege. When we do so, conceptual schemata and priorities are plausibly
projected onto the past because language is superficially shared; models
of change can then get embedded in the evidence for which they end up
being mistaken. Because the distortions are often subtle, the point may
best be made through illustration. Michael Braddick™s splendid account
of English state formation is marred in this way. In salutary fashion he
explores the manner in which changes to established social offices had
the unintended consequence of making England much more like Weber™s
conception of a state by 1700 than it had been in 1550. But in organising

Charleton, Enquiries into Human Nature, p. 140; see Booth, ˜A Subtle and Mysterious
Machine™, p. 153; Haworth, Anthropologia, p. 177 on the ˜office™ of respiration.
Walter Charleton, Three anatomical lectures (1683); Booth, ˜A Subtle and Mysterious
Machine™, p. 201 who notes that Charleton was relying on Kenelm Digby, Two Treatises
(Paris, 1644), p. 208. Images of circulation and coinage became common after William
Harvey™s work.
Cavendish, ˜Self Will, Horae subsecivae™, p. 28; Goslicius, The Counsellor, p. 162; Anon.,
A Worthy Panegyrick (1658?, 1680), stanza 8; The Letter of Sir John Suckling (1640,
1679), p. 2.
214 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
his material through Weberian conceptual vocabulary and using a
Weberian ideal type as a measure of change, occasionally he elides the
evidence with his model; office is reduced to social or political office, and
all offices are accepted as derivative expressions of a Weberian conception
of legitimate power defining the state. This must obviously accommodate
the conclusion but sits oddly with much of the talk of office that has come
down to us; it reverses the priorities of the evidence in which what we
designate legitimate political power was often closer to being understood
as a species of something more general.14 Similarly, Michael McKeon has
valuably explored the contingent nature of intellectual demarcation in
the seventeenth century, especially with reference to the crucial absence
of a field of ˜literature™; yet he takes for granted the primacy of the political
in the context of which we have developed and imposed later disciplinary
boundaries. Thus he refers to the book-list of the printer and possibly
agent for the Earl of Shaftesbury, John Starkey, and notes that Starkey
used no classification for ˜literature™, consigning Suetonius and Rabelais
to ˜history™. Starkey used no category of ˜politics™ either, but on this more
striking discrepancy McKeon is silent, perhaps because he presupposes
the importance of seeing things politically.15 It is additionally relevant
that Starkey™s probable collaborator in re-printing Lawson™s Politica in
1689, the parliamentarian Richard More, used much the same classifica-
tions and omitted the political in cataloguing his library, which included
works by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Machiavelli, More and Hunton.16 At
least in these cases there is some organisation to act as a barrier to the
inadvertent salting of the evidence with our own conceptual priorities, but
not so with Samuel Jeakes of Rye. His modern editors commend political
radicalism as an ˜exciting feature™ of Jeakes™ collection, despite neither the
political nor the radical featuring at all as principles of classification;
feature of is simply conflated with imposed upon.17
This may seem a churlish criticism of fine scholarship, but prepares
the ground for showing how putting one foot, as it were, beyond the
chalk circle of our own tacitly accepted conceptual schemes can lead to

Braddick, State Formation, pp. 82“4.
Anon., A Letter from a Person of Quality to his Friend in the Country (1675), p. 2 names
Starkey as an agent; McKeon, ˜Politics of Discourses™, p. 46; see also Michael McKeon,
Politics and Poetry in Restoration England: The Case of Dryden™s Annus Mirabilis
(Cambridge, Mass., 1975), Introduction.
Condren, ˜More Parish Library, Salop™, pp. 145“6.
M. Hunter, G. Mandelbrote, R. Ovenden and N. Smith, eds., A Radical™s Books: The
Library Catalogue of Samuel Jeakes of Rye, 1623“90 (Woodbridge, 1999); cf. the greater
conceptual care shown by Petchey, The Intentions of Thomas Plume, p. 18, who does not
elide how we might classify the books with Plume™s own Jeakes-like organisation in terms
of date and size.
Metaphor and political autonomy 215
difficulties. Kevin Sharpe, acutely aware of how an untenable distinction
between public and private has helped make part of the oeuvre of James
VI&I ˜political™, nevertheless refers to Counsell to the Husband as system-
atically politicising the relationships between husband and wife.18 The
book does describe marriage through the vocabulary of rule, but it is we
who are apt to equate this with politics. Marriage is taken as a matter of
reciprocal duty, with both partners subject to the office of the teacher in
order to establish a foundation for the family in Christ. A structure of
official relationships articulated through such words as government, tyr-
anny and rebellion was just as easily called a church as a commonwealth; a
bullied husband could be a crucified St Peter as easily as a deposed
monarch.19 The work in fact seems to show a presuppositional accept-
ance of office informing the civic and domestic, and it was this that eased
the circulating movement of vocabulary between these permeable (and
variously named) spheres of experience. Nicholas Grimalde, who was
apt to equate reason with an understanding of human offices, had almost
made the point explicit. A man of reason must transfer it to ˜the govern-
ance both of his household privately™, and to ˜the whole commons
openly™.20 Indeed, even to imply a two-way movement is simplification.
In much marriage literature marital relationships are theologised ana-
logously to the way in which the office of the humble shepherd was
sanctified as an expression of the grandeur of rule. Marriage was a
potential microcosm of the universal battle between God, the exemplum
of office and good rule, and the ever disruptive ˜ghostly enemy™ Satan; no
wonder it could be a church as much as a polity.21
To refer to Counsell to the Husband, then, as politicising the family gives
a modernising primacy to the specifically political that is clear only because
it is abstracted, assumed and projected onto the evidence. It conflates what
is analytically necessary, or taken for granted now, with what the agent
seemed to be doing in using his words. From the same anachronistic
perspective we might conclude that John Evelyn politicised husbandry at
every turn. After all, he called deforestation usurpation and tyranny and
commended planting as the work of ˜Patriots and good commonwealths-
men™ caring for England™s ˜wooden walls™.22 But Evelyn took husbandry to
be an office, and this enabled him to graft a Themistoclean civic virtue to

Sharpe, Re-Mapping, pp. 164“5, 108“9.
Ste B., Counsel to the Husband, pp. 2, 41“2, 22“3, 7“8, 71.
Grimalde, Ciceroes Three Bokes of Duties, pp. Ciiij“v.
˜The State of Matrimony™, in Certain Sermons, p. 320; Ste B., Counsel to the Husband,
p. 8; ˜The State of Matrimony™, pp. 322, 321; Gouge, Domesticall Duties, p. 698 on the
office of the master.
Evelyn, Sylva, B1v, pp. 1“2.
216 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
the practicalities of arboreal management in a way that was less
metaphorically fanciful than it might seem now when we treat the political
as a sort of natural kind. To read that priority into Sylva is to stand the tree
upon its branches.
A work such as Wing™s The Crown Conjugal would initially support
this sort of inversion. Wing distinguishes the political from the domestic
and personal, and at times suggests no more than an analogical relation-
ship between them.23 ˜As reason and policie is the crowne monarchicall,
so wilbe [sic] our guide in the crowne matrimoniall.™ But again, the shared
grounding for the analogy lies in patterns of duty and office. This allows
the relentless exploration of the imagery of a crown that to modern eyes
politicises marriage. As the wife is the husband™s crown, so he is a king,
and a disobedient wife a ˜house rebell a house traytor™;24 but for writers
like Wing, a king was a father and the previous monarch had been married
to her people. After her death, James in a speech to parliament made
laborious play with these linked metaphorical patterns for office. ˜What
God has joined™, he said, ˜let no man rend asunder. I am the husband the
whole Isle is my lawful wife; I am the Head and it is my body; I am the
shepherd, and it is my flocke.™ And, he added, he sought unity between
his kingdoms, for he would not be a polygamous husband.25 To read such
arguments as politicising is to miss the ebb and flow of the prodigal™s
return made plausible by a presupposition that was a good deal more
than political. In partial contrast to Wing, the author of The Office of
Christian Parents insisted that designating a magistrate as a parent was
figurative, but seemed to take quite literally a notion of parental tyr-
anny.26 As Samuel Rutherford later insisted, in writing of the most ˜polit-
ical™ of issues: there is no moral difference between a monarch™s betrayal
of trust and any other who holds an office; physicians, parents, masters,
patrons, husbands and the pilots of ships all might be resisted. ˜Every
tyrant is a furious man.™27 What is at issue is a specific case of the ethics of
office not an insulated political doctrine. It follows from explicating such
a widespread presupposition of office that what we have come to regard
as early modern political theory is an artificial and potentially misleading
The argument, then, is not that distinctions concerning the civic,
the domestic, the legal and the political passed unnoticed in the

23 24
Wing, The Crown Conjugal, p. 6. Ibid., pp. 69, 80ff, 140.
James VI&I, Speech (19 March 1603), in Workes, p. 488.
Anon., The Office of Christian Parents, pp. B1, 194.
Rutherford, Lex, Rex, Q.28.
Metaphor and political autonomy 217
seventeenth-century night. On the contrary, Aristotelian traditions had
long insisted on family and polity having different tele. Before Thomas
Aquinas adapted Aristotle, Hugh of St Victor in his Didascalicon defined
the political as synonymous with the civic and public and distinct from
the domestic and economic.28 John Ponet could later write confidently
of ˜politicke power™ without needing to define his terms; it was but one
manifestation of God™s power to be found in the vocational relationships
between masters and servants, husbands and wives. Sovereignty theory
in seventeenth-century Germany certainly built on an inherited literature
to create a perceptible form of political theory; and Edward Gee could
use the expressions civil magistracy and political power interchangeably.29
The argument is, rather, that shared presuppositions in office made these
distinctions far more negotiable metaphorically than they have become,
and made them, above all, derivative of what was presupposed about
the world as a whole: they were framed, as it were, by God and Satan,
one the epitome of office, the other of its abuse. There was nothing novel
about this in the post-Reformation world. The literature that Maurizio
Viroli discusses as defining a language of politics for modernity to inherit,
did nothing of the sort. It was shot through with the interplay of con-
ceptual vocabulary and imagery that compromised any such isolated
identity; activity beyond the political was still properly a matter of offices,
and political relationships could be described as marriages.30 Thus, in a
post-Reformation world, the Lord Mayor of London could be presented
in pageant as a spouse (chapter 2). Defoe could write of the 1688 Revolu-
tion as divorce; Arbuthnot could concoct ˜Mrs Bull™s Vindication™ as a
cautionary tale about the casuistry of passive obedience.
I have argued before that the conceptual domain of the political was
far less secure than we have taken it as being, and, when we find it, had a
significantly different semantic content, and that ˜politics™ and its cognates
had variable and somewhat different meanings from those they have since
acquired. A politician might be an idealised counsellor, or an atheist.31
Writing in the politica genre was jurisprudential and it was still common
during the seventeenth century to keep politics and its cognates distinct

Hugh of St Victor, Didascalicon, discussed in Maurizio Viroli, From Politics to Reason of
State: The Acquisition and Transformation of the Language of Politics 1250“1600
(Cambridge, 1992), pp. 31“2.
Ponet, Shorte Treatise, pp. 51, 47; Edward Gee, The Divine Right and Original of Civill
Magistracy (1658), p. 26.
Viroli, From Politics to Reason of State, on Henry of Rimini, pp. 40“1; on Lucas de
Penna, pp. 62“3.
Condren, The Language of Politics, chs. 1, 2; Cf. Anon., The Sage Senator, sub-title;
Anon., The Catholike™s Supplication for Toleration (1604), p. 10.
218 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
from the vocabulary used for what we call political communities. In
this uncertain linguistic environment, our politically central concept of
the state still had an ambivalent place. Machiavelli, who had used the
word state in The Prince to designate effective possession, had referred
to the republics and states of Christendom in a way suggesting a novel
dubiety in the latter.32 As late as 1660 the word state could still carry this
I am suggesting now, as an explanation of this fragility, that the reliance
on a moveable vocabulary of office may have diminished the need, or
inhibited the capacity, for maintaining any clear-cut demarcation between
political and non-political as later it has become customary to draw it; so
habitual that it passes unnoticed when etched back into the evidence.
Further, that it is the under-determination of the figurative use of the
vocabulary of office that has facilitated this anachronistic slippage. That
is, lacunae in the evidence together with patterns of figuration ease the
restrictive conventions of discourse, erode safeguards of meaning
and encourage supplementation with later understandings. This point
applies not only to the domestic and the political but, as I have evidenced
(chapter 3), to the parallel distinction between the public and the private.
It reinforces the claim that much of what we designate political theory
might have been seen differently, and through a different discursive prism,
consigned to a well-established discipline such as theology, law or rhetoric,
or regarded, for better or for worse, as casuistry. Thus the absence of
official and political as organising categories in book-lists can be seen to
be for diametrically opposed reasons. ˜Political™ animals like More and
Starkey did not necessarily need libri politici (law, theology, history, even
miscellaneous, might do), but the official was so pervasively informing it
was not helpful in classifying anything beyond, perhaps, editions and
translations of De officiis.
This raises the question of whether the erosion of a presuppositional
grounding in office is a principal condition for the development of polit-
ical theory as we understand it. If, as Braddick concludes, the formation
of the modern state was largely the unintended consequence of the ten-
sions between older social offices, the question has extensive resonance
and it will be touched on again briefly in the epilogue.34 And, certainly,
what we have gathered together as early modern political theory is easily
rendered accessibly modern by erasing its groundings in perceptions of
office. The issue is, no doubt, too simply put, but it requires that we

Machiavelli, Il Principe e Discorsi, Disc. 1, ch. 12.
33 34
Anon., The Sage Senator, p. 170. Braddick, State Formation, at length.
Metaphor and political autonomy 219
look afresh at that allegedly defining mark of modern political
understanding, the autonomy of politics thesis. This is, above all, because
it has been widely held that Machiavelli discovered political autonomy
and early modern argument refined and propagated awareness of it “ not
least in England where Starkey printed Neville™s translations of the
famous Niccolo 35 Reconsideration of the autonomy thesis and its main
variant, reason of state theory, is a condition for us to be able to write a
history of political theory in this period that is not significantly artifical.

To put the thesis in the most general terms, political activity is held to be
autonomous from morality. It operates either by no morality, or by moral
rules of its own. On either variant, external standards are irrelevant, or
only of conditional importance. This may be deplored, celebrated or
stated as a fact about the world but, regardless, the autonomy thesis is
predicated on there being a cohesive awareness of the political in the
first place, to be contrasted with a monolithic (implicitly deontological)
moral perspective. Benedetto Croce appears to have been the first to
claim that Machiavelli discovered ˜la necessita e l™autonomia della politica™
and it is still common enough to hold him responsible.36
Machiavelli™s Prince was published posthumously and had probably
not been intended for print. One clue lies in the off-hand way in which
Machiavelli introduced the central metaphor of the state, lo stato, the
first and quite unexplained noun in the body of the work and one used
some 114 times in the text that followed.37 Yet although lo stato does
not seem to be an established term of print discourse, Viroli has evi-
denced its prior existence in the manuscript world of Florentine politics;
Machiavelli™s taking it for granted suggests less his metaphorical im-
agination, as I have mistakenly argued, than the use of an idiom appro-
priate to an audience whose actions were part of the arcana imperii of
his city.38 This would also explain the use of lo stato, albeit less frequently,
in The Discourses. The work is also strikingly more meagre than The

Henry Neville, trans., The Works of the Famous Niccolo Machiavell (1675), printed by
John Starkey, who was also implicated in the bogus letter by Machiavelli prefacing The
Prince, for which he provided a provenance.
See Benedetto Croce, ˜Elimenti di politica™ (1929), in Etica e politica (Rome, 1973 edn),
pp. 204“5; cf. Sharpe, Re-Mapping, pp. 67“70, 160, 178; the most important study in this
tradition is still probably Gennaro Sasso, Niccolo Machiavelli. Storia del suo pensiero
politico (Naples, 1958).
J. H. Hexter, ˜Il Principe and lo Stato™, in The Vision of Politics on the Eve of the
Reformation (London, 1973), pp. 150“78.
Viroli, From Politics to Reason of State, pp. 134ff.
220 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
Discourses in its use of the rhetorics of moral justification to be found in
printed books. It is not, then, a work that assumes any obvious sense of
office. Moreover, the central figure of the prince is, despite appearances,
ideally one of protean adaptability. Indeed, with a touch of parodic
critique, he is not unlike the pilloried courtier of character literature
and a plausible inspiration for the ˜Machiavels™ of the stage. In a different
moral environment Burckhardt seized on the apparent autonomy to make
Machiavelli™s Prince central to his own argument about the emergence
of modern individualism. In his steps trod Croce.
What is significant about The Prince is not its acceptance of immoral
behaviour. It had long been held in medieval legal casuistry that the
special status of the ruler in having official responsibility for the condition
of the regnum allowed conduct that was otherwise reprehensible.39 It
remained the case that an appeal to office mitigated villainy, and placed
a control on activities such as studied hypocrisy and fraud. From this
notion of status regni comes one aspect of the rich metaphor of lo stato.
One can find Machiavelli arguing in such terms in The Discourses (1.9);
but what is striking in The Prince is that all the emphasis on the import-
ance of being able to dissemble in necessity is almost without justifica-
tion. Survival in a dangerous world seems virtually an end in itself. The
need to control the environment of activity, almost as a personal property,
provides a second metaphorical dimension to Machiavelli™s lo stato.40
A qualification, however, is needed. To begin with, there is the casuistic
emphasis on necessity, presupposing that the breach of normal ethical
expectations should not be gratuitous, something upon which Machiavelli
insists. In any case, as Renaissance ethical judgement was predominantly
tied to the specific offices in which people found themselves, it is important
to note the residue of office in The Prince. This ethical trace is military
rather than political and it is easy for us to overlook it, because, after all,
we see Machiavelli as a political theorist. This despite his work not being
organised around the vocabulary of politica, and being sparing even in the
use of words with the polit root.41 In this context, seeing him as a civic
writer would be an improvement, potentially covering a variety of offices
beyond the political and including that of the soldier. In a number of ways
Machiavelli moves to collapse the civic into the military, insisting on the
martial as the sine qua non for civic life. Neal Wood has argued that
military life, down to and including the ranking structure of an army,

Gaines Post, Studies in Medieval Legal Thought. Public Law and the State, 1100“1322
(Princeton, 1964), p. 308, n. 141.
Hexter, Vision of Politics, pp. 150“78.
J. H. Whitfield, Discourses on Machiavelli (Cambridge, 1969), ch. 9, esp. pp. 169ff.
Metaphor and political autonomy 221
was a clarifying model for the political. He has pointed out that in The Art
of War (1521) Machiavelli used the term principe to mean ruler and
general, and in The Prince itself an image of the prince as soldier is per-
persistent.42 He is advised to make the practice and study of war his
central concerns “ even hunting should be an exercise in the military
exploration of topography “ and the work culminates by urging the
military adventure of liberating Italy from the barbarians. The structure
hinges on several chapters devoted to the type of army he should have
and the exemplars of princely conduct are largely soldiers.43 Fortune, such
a central preoccupation in warfare, thus becomes vital to civic life.
One aspect of this is that the moral qualities of the soldier, especially
as inherited from Roman theory, fortitude, courage, discipline, hard work,
foresight and initiative, are tacitly accepted as the moral qualities of the
prince.44 Not all these would necessarily be ethical in any post-Kantian
way and, as Franciscans and Cistercians could attest, they were not the
exclusive preserves of pagan Roman and stoic theorising. The point is
simply that these qualities were accepted as aspects of the military persona,
and of the general especially. In the uncertainties of war, fortune required
the virtues of flexibility and foresight, the dangers demanded discipline,
industry and courage. These qualities by no means exhaust the richness of
virtu in Machiavelli™s work; but they cover much of it and they are enough
to constitute the ethics of a particular office, their exercise amounting to a
form of prudence.45 And rather than separating morality from politics, or
discovering an autonomous political morality, Machiavelli never ques-
tions these martial attributes. When he wrote, notoriously, that it is
necessary for a prince to know how to be bad “ ˜sapere intrare nel male,
neccessitato™ “ there was no implication that badness meant rejecting
soldierly virtue.46 The specific virtues he rejected, namely piety, liberality,
honesty, are questioned, because if practised automatically they would be
at odds with what must always be fostered: vigilance, foresight, flexibility
and courage. Here, then, are affirmed the qualities Othello is supposed to
exhibit and which, we are told, have made him a potent servant of Venice.
Moreover, it is a part of Machiavelli™s understanding of the office of the

Neal Wood, ˜Introduction™ to Niccolo Machiavelli, The Art of War, trans. Ellis
Farnworth (Cambridge, Mass., 2001), pp. iii“lxxxvii.
Neal Wood, ˜Machiavelli™s Concept of Virtue Reconsidered™, Political Studies, 15 (1969),
pp. 159“72.
Ibid., for a discussion of the implications of this.
On the full diversity of meaning attached to virtu, see J. H. Whitfield, ˜The Anatomy of
Virtue™, in Machiavelli (Oxford, 1947), pp. 95“105; Russell Price, ˜The Senses of Virtu in
Machiavelli™, European Studies Review, 3 (1973), pp. 315“45.
Machiavelli, Il Principe, ch. 18, pp. 73“4.
222 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
general that he behaves in ways that can be celebrated; thus the moral
imperative of ridding Italy of the barbarians and thus, too, the explicit
denial of Agathocles™ virtu.47 It is this residue of office that has to be
overlooked, as it was by Innocent Gentillet, to convert the prince into
an emblem of evil, to transform the figure into an unrestrained self-
fashioning and autonomous individual, or to see Machiavelli™s use of the
term virtu as systematically amoral, or immoral. Over the full range of
its employment, it is neither. Insofar as the military ethos is important, we
are a very long way from the autonomy of politics.
As an addendum, it is noteworthy that when Machiavelli was appropri-
ated to nineteenth-century nationalism, then to fascism, it was done in
part by reading into his loose and metaphorical usage of the term lo stato
the later deified concept of the nation state which his prince could then be
seen as serving. In that service heroism was regained through ideologies
stressing the ennobling subordination to the greater good. A remnant of
office was transformed and re-created, a form of status regni was donned
in a black shirt.
The early modern world remains a plausible locus for the origins of
political autonomy as it does exhibit an insecure and variable perception
of moral modality detectable in Machiavelli™s Prince. From the sixteenth
century there are certainly hints of something occasionally approaching a
moral autonomy for the polity in affirmations of reason of state. It has
been quite conventional to posit reason of state as a pretty coherent
doctrine, codified during the mid-sixteenth century and used to justify
political policy in contradistinction to morality or religious orthodoxy.
In this way, reason of state theory has been presented as some version
of the autonomy thesis and, like that, has even been taken to have enjoyed
some sort of ideological triumph.48 A simplistic view of Machiavelli
has, then, had wider ramifications. As Harro Hopfl has pointed out,
however, the use of the expression, seemingly coined and used once by
Guicciardini circa 1520 (la ragione e uso degli state),49 does not point in
any singular doctrinal direction. Sometimes used in the processes of
demonising Machiavelli, it could also signal nothing more than accept-
able casuistical adjustment, neither opposed to morality nor to religious
orthodoxy. Unless the expression was part of the lurid armoury of polem-
ical accusation, in which context it is a reliable guide only to hostility,

Ibid., ch. 8, p. 44.
See Viroli, From Politics to Reason of State, pp. 238ff.
Quoted in Harro Hopfl, ˜Orthodoxy and Reason of State™, History of Political Thought,
23 (2002), p. 214, n. 10.
Metaphor and political autonomy 223
it makes best sense in a context of casuistic prudence.50 It illustrates the
ease with which later doctrines can be projected into the invitingly casual,
fugitive and fragmented.
What some usage amounted to was a recognition that there could be
discourse about the civic or political, and touching the arcana imperii to
one side of extraneous moral considerations, but not necessarily beyond
office. This is about as much, I have suggested, as we get from Machiavelli,
who had a sort of autonomy thesis thrust upon him by way of condem-
nation. Some evidence to support such a hypothesis can be found in
Viroli™s research into the raw conceptual materials for reason of state
arguments found in the papers of fifteenth-century Florentine committees.
More can be gathered from Scipione Ammirato and Arnoldus Clapmarius
writing directly on the issue and for whom Tacitus was the authoritative
touchstone. Their arguments pivoted on a distinction between a good
and bad reason of state: the good, certainly involving dissimulation, was
predictably a function of service and office, with ends and limits to its
use; the bad was an abuse of office.51 A little more can be gleaned by
comparing William Cavendish™s direct manuscript advice to Charles II
with the modifications made by Margaret for publication. In what she
presented as a series of moral sententiae we can detect an ethicising
redescription of some fairly brutal practical maxims to the end of main-
taining Charles on his throne. To the question of whether princes should
rule by love or fear, William concludes, use both ˜as occation serves™ and
force only on necessity; to the same question Margaret summarises, on
William™s behalf, always rule justly.52 In fact, her paraphrases of his
maxims often insert references to words like justice and mercy where they
were quite absent from the advice actually given to Charles.
Of the two variants of the autonomy of politics thesis the first, that the
political domain is immoral, would seem to be little more than a conven-
tional expostulation about the abuse of office. The second, that the
political has moral requirements of its own, is, I think, closer to what
people did argue when accepting the value of some reason of state. What

Ibid., pp. 217“18, 223ff; see also Donne, Pseudo-Martyr, pp. 47“8; see also Peter S.
Donaldson, Machiavelli and the Mystery of State (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 112“19; tracts
printed around the outbreak of the Civil Wars make this casuistic status abundantly
clear, see for example, Anon., The Contra-Replicant (1642): reason of state must not be
renounced in circumstances of extremity, p. 19; also in Anon., The Moderator Expecting
Sudden Peace or Certaine Ruine (1642), reason of state is used in necessarily dispensing
with rules of law, and every prince should do so if he is as wise as he is pious, p. 21.
Scipione Ammirato, Discorsi sopra Cornelio Tacito (1594); Arnoldus Clapmarius, De
arcanis rerumpublicarum (1605), on whom see Donaldson, Machiavelli, pp. 113“40.
Cavendish, ˜Advice™, fol. 79; Margaret Cavendish, Life of . . . Newcastle, p. 4, p. li; see
Condren, ˜Casuistry to Newcastle™, pp. 180“1, and at length for other examples.
224 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
is misleading is to see this as some exclusive and coherent theory of politics
per se.53 It would be truer to say that the beginnings of something like
an autonomy of politics, and an acceptance of reason of state, are to be
found in patterns of modal casuistry. They are reinforced wherever that
casuistry could be assumed to be acceptable for a given audience. This,
I hazard, was the case for both Machiavelli and William Cavendish.
Each wrote manuscript advice directly for, or directed at, a prince who
must first be a general and who will survive only by exercise of the skills
and policies that maintain effective control. It was a form of argument
arising from an understanding of office in which the specific virtue of
prudence, as appropriate and balanced conduct according to the end or
telos of an activity, was an indispensable criterion for good conduct. Just
as one would expect, given the porosity of the notion of the political,
prudence was not a defining feature of politics as such. The ˜domestic™
saying ˜spare the rod and spoil the child™, which Cavendish uses, was an
adage of prudent discipline, implying a casuistic autonomy of parenthood.
Indeed, the specificity of ethics of office could offer all sorts of moral
autonomies for particular callings.54 In maintaining that ˜extraordinary
cases™ allow a departure from the authoritative ancient principles of
church government, Lawson suggests a distinct reason of church. In
asserting that the separate ˜orbs™ of men and women have their character-
istic virtues and vices, Browne may be taken as intimating a reason of
gender. Francis North insisted that what in a private man was a culpable
failing, namely proud ostentation, was in a judge a necessary virtue of
office. This sounds like a clear autonomy of law.55 If these be written off
as cases of ad hoc apologetics of scant theoretical consequence, presum-
ably the same attitude should be adopted to those who wrote passingly of
reason of state. Ammirato™s and Clapmarius™s exposition of reason of
state, however, cannot be treated in this way, and what is crucial is that
their arguments alike stem from modal casuistry. No single body of law,
they argue, offers adequate imperatives and sanctions for all human
situations; thus we have different bodies of law to complement each
other. Reason of state is the corrective mechanism that mediates the

In Behemoth, for example, Hobbes shows a clear-eyed awareness of both, but this does
not mean that he is part of a Tacitist or reason of state ideology; his own science of
politics was presented as a coherent alternative to such practices and ad hoc explanations
of the social world. See Noel Malcolm, ˜Behemoth Latinus: Adam Ebert, Tacitism and
Hobbes™, Filozofski vestnik, 24, 2 (2003), pp. 118“20.
Mason, Tribunal of Conscience, pp. 40“2.
Lawson, Politica, p. 185; Browne, Christian Morals, p. 337; Chief Justice Francis North,
The Lord Keeper™s Speech (1682); see also de Bohun, The Justice of the Peace, Preface,
p. A (mispaginated).
Metaphor and political autonomy 225
laws impinging on the state and, for Clapmarius, sovereignty.56 Andrew
Tooke™s adaptive translation of Pufendorf ™s De officio similarly univer-
salises the issue in terms of offices rather than politics: equity might even
be styled a reason of natural law. It is impossible, to recall Tooke™s (and
Pufendorf ™s) point, that all cases can be ˜compriz™d in the Universal Law™
and equity demands its suspension given a peculiar case.57 In short,
wherever there is a rule of conduct established by and for an office, there
is a potential autonomy from extrinsic moral expectations, or normal
conduct within its ambit.
To assume the historical validity between morality and politics, between
private morality and public political life, is simplistic and distorting; and
it is in mislocating such presupposed dichotomies that the autonomy
thesis looks to be established by the seventeenth century. Overwhelmingly,
we need to recast putative assertions of autonomy, political or otherwise,
in the light of the casuistry of office-holding. The end of any office could
be taken to override normally expected behaviour seen under its auspices
and, I think, what might be isolated as expressions of a theory of reason
of state, or a recognition of the autonomy of politics, must very often be
taken as examples of modal casuistry reliant on the accepted tele of valued
offices. Reference has already been made to the Earl of Strafford and
William Pym (chapter 8), and to Richard Beacon and Gilbert Burnet, both
of whom cited the authority of Cicero for the justification of peremptory
and arbitrary conduct in order to save Rome.58 Richard Beacon, again, in
Solon His Follie asserted more generally that what for a public magistrate
is policy, in a private man is deceit.59 It is an exonerating redescription of
lying, but it has its place in the Reformation imperative of dealing with
Ireland; it is a piece of modal casuistry. Just as easily, Lord Burghley
had concluded the opposite: considering the telos of counsel, deceit was
allowable only in private men.60
Daniel Tuvill provides a more sustained case, exhibiting a sceptical
awareness of the corruptions and dangers of public as opposed to (his
distinction) private life. The direct honesty and justice of the private
man is in contrast to the suspicious conduct appropriate to the public.
The somewhat alien scope he gives to public and private has already been
noted (chapter 3), but Tuvill™s main point was that, in a corrupt age, the

Donaldson, Machiavelli, pp. 119, 124“7.
Tooke, Whole Duty of Man, ch. 2, sect. 10, pp. 47“8.
Beacon, Solon his Follie, p. 16; see Peltonen, Classical Humanism, p. 157; Burnet, History,
vol. IV, p. 334.
Beacon, Solon his Follie, p. 12; cf. Ponet, Shorte Treatise, pp. 128“9.
William Cecil, Lord Burghley, letter to Sir Robert Cecil, 21 May 1593, cited in Mack,
Elizabethan Rhetoric, p. 182.
226 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
courtly world is that in which it is safest to assume office-abuse, the private
that in which the requirements of office are fulfilled. Thus it is not so
much that in court life, if you will, political morality is absent, but that
it must be guarded.61 The dove of simple virtue must ally herself with
the cunning serpent. This may plausibly be written off as obfuscation,
but it is the sort of obfuscation that stops well short of attributing
autonomy to the courtly world. The valorous lion must don ˜the outer
hide™ of the fox.62 To enter the world of court life requires adjustments,
but always within the ambit of Christian integrity; it is a sphere of
prudence subservient to Christianity. In a world of office-abuse there
must be the constant exercise of supreme intelligence; only Christ could
unmask Judas who had fastidiously ˜performed all the ceremonious
offices™ that love required.63 Despite isolated expressions, this amounts
to much less than a theory of political autonomy, and despite well-digested
Machiavellian imagery it takes us no further from casuistry than did The
Prince. Those like Hitchcock and Raleigh who embraced a sort of Ma-
chiavellianism qualified it, as I have noted above (chapter 8): dubious
means must serve a moral end.
Nevertheless, to repeat, from exercises in the casuistry of office, specif-
ically state casuistry, or reason of state, to be found in the writings of
Tuvill, Beacon and many others back to the legal doctrine of status regni
that preceded Machiavelli, it is easy to construct a coherent doctrine of
the autonomy of politics. This seems to have been done first (dangerous
word) not by writers adapting Machiavelli™s work but by those hostile
to and caricaturing modal casuistry. In the mid- to late seventeenth
century, arguments for the acceptance of new rulers were distorted by
their opponents in ways that insinuated some domain impervious to the
righteous moral judgements of the clergy, the religious who Machiavelli
would not have imposing their ethical priorities on the civic world. To
some extent a kind of political autonomy was a reductio of a feared erosion
of the authority of clerical office. As we will see, this was a feature of
George Hickes™s response to the new monarchy of William and Mary.64
On the basis of such polemic and by a considerable leap of poetic imagin-
ation, John Arbuthnot developed a modern and clearly recognisable
doctrine as a satiric exploration of the implications of the ˜state casuistry™
men like Hickes found so abhorrent. Arbuthnot™s Art of Political Lying
(1712) is an ironic descant on at least one hundred years of casuistic

Tuvill, The Doue, pp. 37“9; Tuvill, ˜Of Accusation™, in Essays, fols. 124“7.
Tuvill, ˜Of Accusation™, in Essays, fol. 125.
Ibid., fol. 82; Tuvill, The Doue, p. 36.
Hickes, Apology, pp. 7“8.
Metaphor and political autonomy 227
analyses of office, and it does offer a firm distinction between public and
private much as we would now take it. The private and the economical,
that is the domestic, are informed by shared values quite properly absent
from the political.65 Only in the private realm, pontificates Arbuthnot™s
spurious ˜Author™, are we entitled to expect honest dealings. He offers a
general description of political discourse, action and the institutions that
serve and channel them, that is systemically discrepant with everyday
moral life. The political is not simply evil or anarchic, but it is autonomous
in the modern sense of following its own rules; it has a weird coherence,
vocabulary and decorum of its own and is therefore amenable to a thor-
ough scientific analysis of its laws. The ˜Author™ has discovered, distilled
into print and will sell what Machiavelli was thought to have known.
Doctrines are not always developed by people who believe in them, or
expect them to be taken literally.66

If, to sum up, we survey the political structures and modes of discourse
in early modern England, it can appear that we are dealing with social
roles that individuals might take up, or from which they might be ex-
cluded, within a regime on which they may have reflected in some way.
This all sounds innocent enough but it is not. First, it virtually reads into
the past a firm, almost universal distinction between public and private,
of institutionalised political role and private individuality, or public and
private spheres. Second, to this binary pattern can be attached fitting
notions of negative (private) freedom and positive, political, participatory
liberty. Third, this in turn leads to presupposing an interplay of socially
constructed identity and inner autonomy. I have suggested along the way
that the impositions of all of these pairings are, regardless of permuta-
tions, inadequate to the patterns of presupposition about human moral
identity in an office-driven world. One result has been to imagine com-
mitments to only later concepts of liberty (chapter 4); another has been
to mythologise a doctrinal republicanism from a positive register of office
entailment (chapters 3, 7) and so exaggerate the cohesiveness and ex-
clusivity of an ideology. Another, noted immediately above, has been

John Arbuthnot, Pseudologia Politike, Or The Art of Political Lying (1712); for
discussion, Condren, Satire, Lies and Politics, esp. chs. 6 and 7; see also Head, Proteus
Redivivus for the closest antecedent.
I know only of one apparently gullible buyer, who thought the author was genuine and
the opus in preparation c. 1710 regrettably lost. There may be one born every 250 years:
see Robert M. Adams, ˜The New Art of Political Lying™, in Bad Mouth: Fugitive Papers
on the Dark Side (Berkeley, 1977), pp. 43“4.
228 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
to firm up an awareness of the autonomy of politics from altogether less
conclusive intimations gathering around understandings of the contested
integrity of office and the equity that was taken to complement any
practice of official rule-following. In some form, however, a good range
of questionable oppositional pairings are needed if we are to see even
embryonic liberalism in the early modern world. Using liberalism to effect
an historiographical redescription is to insinuate a whole perspective
(above, chapter 4).
Partially at issue in all this are the anachronisms caused by mislocating
our own later vocabularies. It has been a long-standing custom to embed
them in the past, as if they were shared despite differences of language.
In Russellian terms, it is a confusion between object and meta-language.
We may, for example, want to call the Basilikon Doron a piece of ideology,
and in doing so we may realise that we are re-classifying to render more
accessible a world which did not have the concept term ideology. We may
proceed in this way, either because a limited historical imagination con-
fines us to the play of the conceptually familiar, and so, at least without
uneconomic effort, we have little option but to read a document as if it
were ideology. The use of scare quotes around the salient terms signals
an unwillingness to go too far in understanding a suspiciously alien
world and a willingness to try and have our cake and eat it. Or, we
designate something an ideology because, despite the absence of that
concept term, we hold ideology to be a necessary category of the political;
therefore, if there is politics, there must be ideology. If the language of
the past does not adequately express the concept, it is our job to rectify
the failure and properly disclose the political. If such linguistic correction
becomes sufficiently self-conscious, it may be philosophically defensible.
It is, however, clearly to hypostatise our own concept of the political and
so shift from historiography to the metaphysics of politics. Yet, for
whatever reason, when we say that James VI&I™s opponents intended, or
tried to repudiate his ideology, that he was worried about their radicalism,
or hostile to their liberalism, or conservatism, we have confused object
and meta-language, what is inherent in the evidence with the explanatory
and elucidatory tools we take to it: ˜Dryden spoke both commonplace and
ideology, and he was understood accordingly by his contemporaries.™67
Ultimately, the metaphor of the tool for language has its limitations;
words are more than a set of optional instruments aiding or confounding
historiographical understanding. Eventually we all reach some conceptual
threshold, some Kantian antinomy, a limit to imagination beyond which

McKeon, Poetry and Politics, p. 42.
Metaphor and political autonomy 229
we cannot move without treating object and meta-language as one, a
point at which our language constitutes an inescapable perspective for
viewing the evidence. This may be posited as a limitation or a condition
of human understanding, but historians are rarely dealing with problems
at such an ultimate terminus. The pretence that they are is euphemistic
for a refusal to set aside present priorities. If we can recognise a difference
between myth-making and historiography, it pivots on our tolerance of
concept implantation by redescription by (let us call a spade a spade) how
relaxed we are about altering the evidence. And if we describe the inten-
tional activity of figures like James VI&I or Dryden in terms of their
understandings of ideologies, we are augmenting it. To generalise the
matter, it is little better than giving up the ghost if we admit the anachron-
isms involved in our descriptive vocabulary and then proceed as if they
do not matter.68
This, however, is only part of the problem. More insidious is the
misreading of conceptual relationships where individual items in the vo-
cabulary remain invariant and even enjoy a continuity of emotional
force, as is the case with the terms liberty and corruption. For this there
is no simple clue to help identify what is going on; and for this sort of
structural anachronism a simple Russellian distinction between object
and meta-language is hardly adequate. But the occlusion of the full
ramifications of early modern presuppositions and language of office
has played no small part in ensuring its continuing practice.

Greenberg, The Radical Face, p. 3; Racken, Stages of History, pp. 94“5.
Part III

˜I, A. B.™
11 An overview of the oath in
seventeenth-century argument

Now Oaths are so frequent, they should be taken like Pills, swallowed
whole; if you chew them you will ¬nd them bitter; if you think what you
swear,™twill hardly go down.
(Selden, Table Talk, 1686, para. 94)

The ancient and sacrosanct practice of oath-taking epitomised office in
action, and like the term office, the English ˜oath™ was one of a whole
family of quasi-synonyms and potentially casuistic qualifiers, such as
protest, vow, promise, confess, affirm, declare, believe and know, incite-
ments all to controversy. A vow, for example, could be a promise to God,
an oath called upon Him as a witness, but sometimes the words could be
interchangeable. In Twelfth Night, Sir Toby Belch tells Viola that Sir
Andrew Aguecheek will fight only ˜for™s oath sake™, referring to this as
˜his vow™.1 The vow of a nun taking holy orders is included in The Booke of
Oathes.2 At the end of the century, while Roger Palmer called oaths and
vows synonyms, White Kennett insisted they were different.3
Other terms in the ambit of swearing, such as protest, or declare, could
seem less onerous than the specific oath. Their presence in oath-like
documents is partially explained by a common distinction made between
assertory and promissory oaths.4 The assertory oath was in Austinian
terms a constative: it attested to a state of affairs, such as one™s identity
in a court of law. The promissory, however, was an Austinian performa-
tive; like a wager, it was a creative act, having ˜constructive power™.5 The

Shakespeare, Twelfth Night 3.4; also Browne, Christian Morals, p. 337; Earl of Orrery,
The Black Prince (1672), 5.4, p. 60.
Booke of Oathes (1649), p. 194.
Kennett, Dialogue, p. 15; Palmer, The Englishman™s Allegiance, p. 207.
Robert Sanderson, De juramento (1655), 1.8, pp. 17“18; also Works, vol. IV, pp. 243“
306; see also Tooke, The Whole Duty of Man, ch. 11, 10, p. 127.
Sanderson, De juramento, 1.13, pp. 31“2; ˜The Case of the Rash Vow™, in Works, vol. V,
p. 64; cf. John Austin, How to Do Things with Words, ed. J. O. Urmson (London, 1955);

234 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
assertory, then, could easily be synonymous with declaring and it might
only require subscription to its terms.6 The promissory oath was more
problematic and accepted as binding only on tacit conditions. These
Sanderson summarised as being sworn with God™s permission, consistent
with a superior power, existing oaths, and assuming circumstances were
not radically transformed.7 Keeping these in mind was enough to ensure
that oaths were never impervious to casuistic exception.8 Additionally,
there was always the meta-duty incumbent upon any office-holder to
consider the end of the office, and therefore give priority to the point of
any oath in question. The difference between assertory and promissory
oaths, however, was not absolute, for the importance of asserting often
lay in the performative dimension of oath-taking. So, during the Restor-
ation, any potential officer had to ˜declare and believe [constative] that it
is not lawful upon any pretence whatsoever to take up arms against the
King™.9 If this were not taken as implicitly promissory, it would have been
There is a less than clear distinction between performatives and con-
statives as such, and the uncertain barriers between assertory and promis-
sory oaths allowed a vocabulary of knowing, asserting and subscribing to
be swept into the vortex of swearing, abjuring and vowing. A number of
terms, then, might simply have been used to make promissory oaths, or
fashion something less rigorous than swearing. This negotiable indeter-
minacy meant that words in the immediate context of the oath could look
suspiciously ˜soft™, and appear as euphemistic displacements for it. The
˜domino effect™ of language might make agreements and affirmations
oaths in all but name.10 In early modern England there was widespread

on the more general relevance of Austinian terminology to Renaissance law, see Ian
Maclean, Interpretation and Meaning in the Renaissance: The Case of Law (Cambridge,
1992), pp. 168“70, 209.
As God was all-knowing, the assertory vow was redundant and this might suggest a
clear difference between oaths and vows, as Sanderson argued, ˜The Case of the Rash
Vow™, pp. 63“4, but in practice this was not so.
Sanderson, De juramento, 2.10, pp. 32“3; Joseph Hall, The Lawfulness and Unlawfulness
of an Oath or Covenant (Oxford, 1643), pp. 1“3; Anon., A Mirrour of Allegiance (1647),
p. 17; Anon., New Quaeres of Conscience Touching the Late Oath: Desiring Resolution
(Oxford, 1643), fols. Ar-v; see also Selden, Table Talk, pp. 70“1; Tooke, The Whole Duty
of Man, ch. 11, 6, p. 126.
Sanderson, De juramento, pp. 54“5; Shakespeare, Love™s Labour™s Lost 1.1.
The Corporation Act (1661); the Act of Uniformity (1662) and the Act for Restraining
Nonconformists from Inhabiting in Corporations (1665), quoted in Jones, Conscience
and Allegiance, pp. 279“80.
Thus to subscribe could be a specifically written act appropriate to assertion or
declaration, and so not be taken to signify a promissory oath, but it could be the written
form of a promissory oath. Compare Shakespeare, Love™s Labour™s Lost 1.1, in which
the young King of Navarre insists that he and his fellows subscribe to a promissory oath
An overview of the oath 235
recognition of the latitude that language allowed in clarifying or obscuring
meaning.11 So, one function of ritual was to isolate acts of swearing,
guaranteeing that an oath and its end was unambiguous.12 This reinforced
the gravitas of the oath but was not always effective in eradicating inter-
pretative latitude. The Solemn League and Covenant was ceremonially
buttressed by sermons and distributed throughout the country with in-
structions for swearing to it as an oath. It was even prefaced with the
biblical text ˜And all Judah rejoiced at the oath™ (2 Chronicles 15: 15).
Although for some its oath-like status only inflated its impropriety, others
insinuated that its implications had been deviously disguised. Why, asked
one critic, is it presented as a vow and covenant; is it thought that avoid-
ing the term ˜oath™ will make it easier to take?13 Sometimes there were
indeed advantages for an authority in avoiding the term. In issuing The
Protestation, parliament had enhanced its own office by encouraging
people to do something very close to swearing, yet as Robert
Sanderson surmised may have avoided the ominously exacting ˜oath™ with
its requirement to swear.14 Given a culture so attentive to such discrimin-
ations, it is unlikely that Sir Robert Boyle operated on a double standard
in refusing to swear oaths himself while requiring that his servants ˜prom-
ise & ingage™ to him.15 Boyle™s insistence was consistent with his distaste
for swearing.16
Oaths entailed a triadic relationship between people in official capacities
and divine power as an absent presence.17 They were expressions of

(or vow) to study without interruption, frivolity or women for three years, with Anon.,
A Letter from a Person of Quality (1675) in which subscription is contrasted with
swearing, see below, n. 94.
Robert Parsons, A Treatise Tending to Mitigation (1607), chs. 7, 8, pp. 275“81, 296“306,
313“18, 328“30; Henry Mason, The New Art of Lying Covered by Jesuits under a Vaile of
Equivocation (1624), ch. 1; Sanderson, ˜The Case of the Engagement™ (1650), in Works,
vol. V, p. 23.
Henry Parker (?), The Oath of Pacification (1643), p. 6; Thomas Comber, The Nature and
Usefulness of Judicial Swearing (1681/2), pp. 17“20; Hobbes, Elements, 1.15.16“18;
Rogers, Philosophicall Discourse, digests a range of ancient symbolic acts accompanying
swearing, ch. 47, pp. 200v“1r.
Anon., The Anti-Covenant; or A Sad Complaint (Oxford, 1643), pp. 24“5.
Sanderson, ˜The Case of the Engagement™, pp. 18“34, see below, chapter 14; Sanderson,
The Reasons of the Present Judgment of the University of Oxford (Oxford, 1647), in
Works, vol. V, pp. 387“8, seems also to distinguish oath from protestation in referring to
The Oath of Supremacy and the Protestation; see, additionally, Cressy, ˜The Protestation
Protested, 1641 and 1642™, p. 255.
Boyle papers, Commonplace book 189, fol. 13r, quoted Shapin, A Social History of
Truth, p. 403; cf. Sir Robert Boyle, Free Discourse Against Customary Swearing (c. 1647,
1695), in Works, ed. Thomas Birch, London (1772), vol. VI, pp. 1“32.
Boyle, Free Discourse, p. 11; see also Boyle, ˜The Dayly Reflection™, pp. 220“1.
A rare exception is found in Samuel Harsnett™s reading of Ezekiel, 31: 11 where God™s
˜As I live™ is taken literally to have been an oath sworn to the Jews, but as Harsnett also
236 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
religion as religio, bonds forming the ˜safest knot™, for the performance of
duty.18 This mainstream belief did, however, need reiterating. If the reli-
gion of an oath fails to bind, insisted Archbishop Tillotson in 1681,
nothing will.19 One might, depending on context, ˜know™, or ˜affirm™, or
˜protest™ without explicit invocation of religious faith; but calling on, or
vowing to God, was to wager the soul; swearing, therefore, had to be by a
god in which one believed “ it could be taken as a form of worship.20
Swearing, as Dante had it, relinquished God™s gift of free will, and as
others explicated, had to be in good conscience with conscience being
followed even when erroneous. Mind and words must always be as
one.21 If an oath is lawful, wrote Hunton, citing Ezekiel, it is obligatory
and the king of Judah should not have broken his oath even though
to keep it was to harm his people.22 A diversity of biblical texts could
have been cited to reinforce the responsibility, not least the Third Com-
mandment, ˜Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in Vain™
(Exodus 20: 7). A public fundamental oath, Hunton insisted, is the
equivalent of divine law and William Prynne would relentlessly contrast
Old Testament allegiance to divine law with the alacrity with which he
believed new oaths were sworn in contradiction to old.23 Because swearing
was conventionally assumed, or asserted to be a God-given institution,
it dangerously entangled religion with potentially more tractable issues
and through judicial oaths bonded law to religion.24 One might, and some

insists that oaths have to be sworn by something higher, the argument might better be
considered a mess rather than an exception. See Richard Stuart, Three Sermons by the
Reverend and Learned Dr. Richard Stuart, to which is added a Fourth Sermon by Samuel
Harsnett (1656), pp. 122“3, 126.
Thomas Alcock, cited in J. C. D. Clark, ˜Religion and Political Identity: Samuel
Johnson as Nonjuror™, in J. C. D. Clark and Howard Erskine Hill, eds., Samuel Johnson
in Historical Contexts (Aldershot, 2002), p. 81; also John Spurr, ˜Perjury, Profanity and
Politics™, Seventeenth Century, 8, 1 (1993), p. 29; see also Christopher White, Of Oathes
(1627), pp. 1“3, and numerous others. The oath as religious bond was almost a phatic
Sanderson, De juramento, 1.2, pp. 5“6; Comber, Judicial Swearing, p. 3; Tillotson cited
in Clark, ˜Religion and Political Identity™, p. 82.
Hobbes, Elements, 1.15.16“18; Tooke, The Whole Duty of Man, ch. 11, 6, p. 126; on the
oath as worship, Boyle, Free Discourse, p. 11.
Dante, The Divine Comedy, ed. and trans. Charles S. Singleton (Princeton, 1970“5),
Paradise, 5.19“30; see Joan Ferrante, The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy
(Princeton, 1984), pp. 260, 360“1. Sanderson, De juramento, 1.11, pp. 23“4; Mason,
Tribunal of Conscience, pp. 2“10; Tooke, The Whole Duty of Man, ch. 11, 6, p. 126;
Taylor, Ductor dubitantium, pp. 111“13; Miles Coverdale, A Christe exhortacion (1574),
fol. 13.
Hunton, Treatise, pp. 6“7; Sanderson, De juramento, p. 2.
Hunton, Treatise, p. 4; William Prynne, Concordia discors (1659), pp. 17“29; de Bohun,
The Justice, p. 157.
Coverdale, A Christe exhortacion, fol. 3; John Sharp, Sermon 16, c. 1680, in Works, vol.
IV, p. 284; Comber, Judicial Swearing, pp. 27“8, 17; de Bohun, The Justice, p. 160.
An overview of the oath 237
did, swear on a surrogate for God, a sign, according to Stillingfleet, of
dangerous atheistic drollery.25 To swear on one™s honour, the stars in the
firmament, on one™s lady™s foot, by ˜thine own fair eyes™, on a ˜parcel-gilt
goblet™,26 or by Grimalkin the Rebel Cat, threatened to destabilise and
weaken the potency of the institution without which offices could not be
There are additional ways in which the oath concentrated the impon-
derables of office-holding. First, because those involved were personae, the
question of to whom and in what capacity one swore could provide


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