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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

William Lamont
Affiliation:
University of Sussex
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Summary

A Holy Commonwealth is Richard Baxter's invisible masterpiece. It is high time that it was made more visible. It was written in 1659, but its author disowned it publicly in 1670. This did not save the work from being part of a great book-burning by repressive authorities in 1683. Baxter's A Holy Commonwealth was in good company there, alongside Hobbes's Leviathan and Milton's writings.

This is to flatter Baxter. He is not in the same league as Hobbes or Milton. His book is a curiously constructed work, which begins with a number of high-minded generalities, and only relatively late in the text gets down to discussing the practical alternative ways of governing the country. There is a very important chapter on resistance theory, in which he draws upon the writings of William Barclay, Thomas Bilson and Hugo Grotius to show the exceptional circumstances in which a ruler should be disobeyed. The last chapter is in the form of a confessional: the application of these theories to his own personal reasons for disobeying Charles I in 1642. A careful reading of the text, we shall see, will show that there is a logic to the whole, and if he ends with a personal apologia, rather than some grand summing-up statement of political theory, we have to remember that it is an unfinished treatise. Before Baxter could finish his work, it was overtaken by events.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1994

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  • Introduction
  • Richard Baxter
  • Edited by William Lamont, University of Sussex
  • Book: Baxter: A Holy Commonwealth
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139170260.002
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  • Introduction
  • Richard Baxter
  • Edited by William Lamont, University of Sussex
  • Book: Baxter: A Holy Commonwealth
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139170260.002
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Richard Baxter
  • Edited by William Lamont, University of Sussex
  • Book: Baxter: A Holy Commonwealth
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139170260.002
Available formats
×