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The Elements of Consensus in Jacobean England

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Abstract

The history of political discourse in early-seventeenth century England divides into two phases. The difficulty is in knowing where to draw the dividing-line between them. It was perhaps not until the end of the 1630s or later that changes in political debate became unmistakable, yet it is also arguable that a new mood of political reflection was making itself felt as early as the 1590s.1 Perhaps when all considerations are taken into account the best year to single out as important in marking a change remains 1625, when Charles I succeeded his father. Before that date James had managed, more or less, to keep going a stable consensual system. And though change might initially be visible only in retrospect, it seems clear that crucial to the change that did occur was the person of Charles himself. But before we can understand the nature of those changes, and their significance (if any) for the Civil War, it is necessary that we understand the structure of what went before. It must be remembered that what we are examining here is not the structure of languages or theories. We have already examined one of these structures (the language of common law), and a general survey of others is available in the work of Dr. Johann Sommerville.2 What matters here is the structure of debate, how ideas were used, not the internal logic of ideas themselves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Cf. J. P. Sommerville, ‘Richard Hooker, Hadrian Saravia, and the Advent of the Divine Right of Kings’, History of Political Thought vol. 4 (1983), pp. 229–245.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. P. Somerville, Politics and Ideology in England 1603–1640 (London, 1986), chpts. 1–3.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For some discussion of traditions see Quentin Skinner, ‘Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas’ in James Tully (ed.), Meaning and Context: Quentin Skinner and His Critics (Cambridge, 1988)Google Scholar
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  5. 4.
    For a useful introduction to ‘languages’ of political thought see Anthony Pagden (ed.), The Languages of Political Theory in Early-Modern Europe (Cambridge. 1987 esp. chpt. 1 by Pocock.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    For introductions see particularly Wilfrid Prest (ed.), The Professions in Early Modern England (London, 1987)Google Scholar
  7. Wilfrid Prest (ed.), Lawyers in Early Modern Europe and America (London, 1981). For a critical word on the concept of profession see Michael Hawkins, ‘Ambiguity and Contradiction in “the Rise of Professionalism”: The English Clergy, 1570–1730’, in A. L. Beier, D. Cannadine & J. M. Rosenheim (eds), The First Modern Society: Essays in English History in Honour of Lawrence Stone (Cambridge, 1989), chpt. 7.Google Scholar
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    Wilfrid Prest, The Inns of Court under Elizabeth I and the Early Stuarts 1590–1640 (London, 1972), p. 23.Google Scholar
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    Thomas Wilson, The State of England, 1600 in Joan Thirsk & J. P. Cooper (eds), Seventeenth Century Economic Documents (Oxford, 1972), p. 756.Google Scholar
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    See, e.g. J. G. A. Pocock, ‘The Commons Debates of 1628’, Journal of the History of Ideas vol. 39 (1978), pp. 329–34. Also Conrad Russell, Parliaments and English Politics, 1621–1629 (Oxford, 1979), chpt. VI, pp. 349ff., 363ff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  12. 13.
    There is a good discussion of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the early-seventeenth century in Louis A. Knafla, Law and Politics in Jacobean England: The Tracts of Lord Chancellor Ellesmere (Cambridge, 1977), chpt. VI, esp. pp. 137ff. See also G. R. Elton, The Tudor Constitution (Cambridge, 1972), pp. 214–16, 152–3. Now see also R. M. Helmholz, Roman Canon Law in Reformation England (Cambridge, 1990), esp. chpts. 2 & 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    For its business see Reginal G. Marsden (ed.), Select Pleas in the Court of Admiralty (London, Selden Society, 1894), vol. I, pp. lxv–lxxi.Google Scholar
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    Levack, ‘English Civilians’ in Prest (ed.), Lawyers in Early Modern Europe and America p. 116; and at greater length, for all matters of the employment of civilians, Brian P. Levack, The Civil Lawyers in England, 1603–1641 (Oxford, 1973), chpt. IGoogle Scholar
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    E.g., George L. Mosse, The Struggle for Sovereignty in England (East Lansing, 1950), p. 4Google Scholar
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  19. 18.
    See the English translation of Cowell’s work, John Cowell, The Institutes of the Lawes of England, Digested into the Method of the Civill or Imperiall Institutions (London, 1651). On these writers see Richard J. Terill, ‘The Application of the Comparative Method by English Civilians: The Case of William Fulbecke and Thomas Ridley’, Journal of Legal History vol. 2 (1981), pp. 169–185 Peter Stein, ‘Continental influences on English Legal Thought, 1600–1900’ in Stein, Character and Influence chpt. 15; and Levack, Civil Lawyers chpt. IV. Also C. P. Rodgers, ‘Legal Humanism and English Law — The Contribution of the English Civilians’, The Irish Jurist vol. 14 new series (1984), pp. 115–36.Google Scholar
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    Note for example how the writers grouped by J. W. Allen into his chapter on ‘Theories of the Constitution and of Sovereignty’ in Allen, A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century (London, rev. ed., 1960), Pt II, chpt. X, are writers with a civil law rather than a common law background.Google Scholar
  21. 20.
    This account of Bodin is based particularly on Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (Cambridge, 2 vols, 1978), vol. II, pp. 287ff., read in the context provided by Donald R. Kelley, Foundations of Modern Historical Scholarship: Language, Law and History in the French Renaissance (New York, 1970); andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Cf. Julian H. Franklin, Jean Bodin and the Rise of Absolutist Theory (Cambridge, 1973), p. 93.Google Scholar
  24. 23.
    ‘That which naturall reason doth constitute among all men, is observed by all alike, and termed the lawe of Nations’: John Hayward, An Answer to the First Part of a Certaine Conference. (London, 1603), sig. A4. Hayward is quoting Gaius from Digest I, 1, 9.Google Scholar
  25. 27._Ibid., pp. 131–40; Levack, ‘English Civilians’, in Prest (ed.), Lawyers in Early Modern Europe and America p. 125; Stein, ‘Continental Influences’ in Stein, Character and Influence pp. 211ff.; and Peter Stein, Regulae luris: From Juristic Rules to Legal Maxims (Edinburgh, 1966), chpt. IX.Google Scholar
  26. 28.
    Levack, Civil Lawyers pp. 131–3; G. R. Elton, Reform and Renewal: Thomas Cromwell and the Common Weal (Cambridge, 1973), pp. 138ff. See Thomas Starkey, A Dialogue between Pole and Lupset (ed T. F. Mayer) (London, 1989), pp. 128–9.Google Scholar
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  29. 33.
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  31. 34.
    Larkin & Hughes (eds), Stuart Royal Proclamations vol. I, p. 95. See also Brian P. Levack, The Formation of the British State: England, Scotland, and the Union 1603–1707 (Oxford, 1987), pp. 51–2; & p. 2, n. 4. I am not convinced that the two meanings of ‘imperial’ discussed by Levack are quite as sharply distinguished as he implies.Google Scholar
  32. 35.
    State Trials vol. II, col. 589; also cols 633, 641 (Coke’s Report); and 576 (Moore’s Report). The maxim reads: ‘cum duo jura concurrunt in una persona, aeguum est ac si essert in diversis’. Bruce Galloway, The Union of England and Scotland 1603–1608 (Edinburgh, 1986), p. 151. Note Wheeler’s remark that the anti-Unionist arguments were ‘relying heavily on civil law maxims’: Harvey Wheeler, ‘Calvin’s Case (1608) and the McIlwain-Schuyler Debate’, American Historical Review vol. 61 (1956), p. 589.Google Scholar
  33. 36.
    Doddridge’s ‘A Brief Consideration of the Union of two Kingdoms’ is reprinted in Bruce R Galloway & Brian P. Levack (eds), The Jacobean Union: Six Tracts of 1604 (Edinburgh, 1985).Google Scholar
  34. 38.
    Hans S. Pawlisch, Sir John Davies and the Conquest of Ireland: A Study in Legal Imperialism (Cambridge, 1985), pp. 9–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 39.
    Hans S. Pawlisch, ‘Sir John Davies, the Ancient Constitution, and Civil Law’, Historical Journal vol. 23 (1980), p. 696; also in Pawlisch, Sir John Davies and the Conquest of Ireland p. 168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 46.
    For introductions see Charles H. McIlwain, ‘Introduction’ to The Political Works of James I (Cambridge, Mass., 1918), pp. xxxv–1xxxGoogle Scholar
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  38. 47.
    The text of the oath is in J. R. Tanner, Constitutional Documents of the Reign of James I, 1603–1625 (Cambridge, 1930, reprinted 1961), pp. 90–1. The 1610 Act extending its scope is in ibid., pp. 105ff. See also Proclamations of 29 April 1608 and 2 June 1610 in Larkin & Hughes (eds), Stuart Royal Proclamations vol. I, pp. 184–5, 245–50.Google Scholar
  39. 48.
    Though civil law references could crop up in it also — see, e.g. James I, A Premonition (1609) in McIlwain (ed.), Political Works of James I p. 121.Google Scholar
  40. 49.
    For an introduction to the sorts of theories alluded to here see Ewart Lewis, Medieval Political Ideas (London, 2 vols, 1954), vol. II, chpts VII & VIIIGoogle Scholar
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  43. 51.
    Certaine Sermons or Homilies appointed to be read in Churches (London, 1623), title page. I have used in all citations of this the facsimile reprint: Mary Ellen Rickey & Thomas B. Stroup (eds), Certaine Sermons or Homilies Appointed to be Read in Churches in the Time of Queen Elizabeth I (1547–1571): A Facsimile Reproduction of the Edition of 1623 (Gainesville, Florida, 1968).Google Scholar
  44. 56.
    Lancelot Andrewes, ‘A sermon preached before the kings Majestie at Holdenbie, on the V. of August, A.D. MDCX.’, in Andrewes, XCVI Sermons (London, 1629, 2nd ed., 1631), pp. 795–7.Google Scholar
  45. 58.
    Samuel Ward, Jethro’s Justice of Peace. A Sermon Preached at a generall Assises held at Bury St Edmunds, for the Countie of Suffolke (London, 1621), p. 34.Google Scholar
  46. 59.
    Thomas Scot, God and the King, in a sermon preached at the Assises holden at Bury S. Edmonds, June 131631 (Cambridge, 1633), p. 1.Google Scholar
  47. 60.
    Edward Reynolds, The Shieldes of the Earth. A Sermon preached … at the Assizes holden at North-hampton: February 25 1634 (London, 1636), pp. 6, 20.Google Scholar
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    John White, A Sermon Preached at Dorchester in the County of Dorcet, at the Generall assizes held the 7 of March, 1632 (London, 1648), pp. 3, 10.Google Scholar
  49. 62.
    W. H. Greenleaf, Order, Empiricism and Politics: Two Traditions of English Political Thought 1500–1700 (Westport, CT, 1980). p. 53.Google Scholar
  50. 63.
    Ibid., p. 52. The position I allude to here is that of Greenleaf (esp. chpt. II). But it should be noted that even he found a puzzle in this: Aquinas had used order theory for constitutionalist purposes, so how could the same theory by used for the opposite ends in the seventeenth century? See W. H. Greenleaf, ‘The Thomasian Tradition and the Theory of Absolute Monarchy’, English Historical Review vol. 79 (1964), pp. 747–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 64.
    For this reading of the political implications of order theory see James Daly, ‘Cosmic Harmony and Political Thinking in Early Stuart England’, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society vol. 69, no. 7(1979), esp. pp. 21–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  53. 65.
    The standard discussion is Gordon Schochet, Patriarchalism in Political Thought: The Authoritarian Family and Political Speculation and Attitudes, especially in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford, 1975). See also: Schochet, ‘Patriarchalism, Politics and Mass Attitudes in Stuart England’, Historical Journal vol. 12 (1969), pp. 413–41Google Scholar
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  56. 66.
    Edward Forsett, A Defence of the Right of Kings (London, 1624), p. 23. Forsett’s work was, in fact, a contribution to the Oath of Allegiance controversy. Forsett’s most famous work is also based on a complex analogical argument (the comparison is between natural and political bodies), but it is not primarily a work of patriarchal theory: Edward Forsett, A Comparative Discourse of the Bodies Natural and Politique (London, 1606).Google Scholar
  57. 67.
    Laslett dated the composition of Patriarcha to around 1640, but more recently a variety of different estimates has been given. Richard Tuck has convincingly argued for the earlier date. See: Peter Laslett (ed.) Patriarcha and Other Political Works of Sir Robert Filmer (Oxford, 1949), p. 3Google Scholar
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    For fuller discussion see Schochet, Patriarchalism chpt. VIII; and James Daly, Sir Robert Filmer and English Political Thought (Toronto, 1979), chpt. 3.Google Scholar
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    Richard Mocket, God and the King: or, A Dialogue shewing that our Soveraigne Lord King James, being immediate under God within his Dominions, Doth rightfully claime whatsoever is required by the Oath of Allegeance (London, 1615), p. 6.Google Scholar
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    For an overview of some of this see R. Malcolm Smuts, Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England (Philadelphia, 1987), Pt. I (‘The Cults of Monarchy and the Wars of Religion’).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  64. 85.
    The most notable exception was John Knight, imprisoned in 1622 for a sermon on resistance: Calendar of State Papers Domestic 1619–23, pp. 379, 380, 386, 400. A letter was sent to the Universities condemning Knight — Acts of the Privy Council 1621–23, p. 237. See also Thomas Cogswell, The Blessed Revolution: English Politics and the Coming of War 1621–1624 (Cambridge, 1989), p. 31.Google Scholar

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© Glenn Burgess 1992

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