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In this chapter, I find traces and articulations of the neo-Roman idea of freedom in an entirely different intellectual context than the one so eloquently analysed by Quentin Skinner in Liberty before Liberalism: the Francophone Counter-Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century. Like the neo-Romans, the counter-revolutionary authors studied here, François-Xavier de Feller and Charles-Alexandre de Calonne, stated that you can only be free as a citizen in a free state. However, a ‘free state’ for these authors did not mean popular self-government, but instead consisted of the monarchical rule of law and the moderate exercise of royal and clerical power. For these authors, the French Revolutionary Republic was the very opposite of a free state, a murderous despotism as well as anarchy without rules, that turned its subjects into slaves.
Chapter Three considers central questions in the French political thought of this era, regarding the status of the ‘ancient’ constitution, the power of election and deposition, and the divisive nature of debates about succession laws. It demonstrates the complex nature and range of responses to Hotman’s Francogallia in these contexts, as well as exploring the role of both the Estates General and the often-overlooked Paris parlement in conserving the constitution. It also considers the problem of ‘popular sovereignty’ and its implications for League political thought, establishing that the Leaguers were only interested in the elective, and deposing, powers of the ‘prudent multitude’ and not the wider populace. The double incorporation of the people, as a whole, into the commonwealth and the church is shown to be centrally important in these debates.
This chapter builds on the framework and context established in Chapter 1, which in many ways shaped the political experience of Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke (1678–1751). It provides a revisionist interpretation by demonstrating that, rather than an anti-party writer, Bolingbroke is best understood as the promoter of a very specific party, a systematic parliamentary opposition in resistance to what he perceived to be a Court Whig faction in power. Drawing on all of Bolingbroke’s well-known works, as well as his lesser-known journalism and unpublished sources, the chapter shows how most of his writings were calculated to legitimise opposition in the shape of a specific kind of political party: the Country party.
This chapter demonstrates the importance of Paul de Rapin-Thoyras (1661–1725) for subsequent discussion of political parties in the eighteenth century. Before his famous Histoire d’Angleterre (1724–7), the Frenchman had already made a name for himself by writing a pamphlet entitled Une Dissertation sur les Whigs et les Torys (1717), which is the chief focus of this chapter, although the Histoire is also briefly surveyed and contextualised. The chapter examines Rapin’s intervention against the backdrop of his expulsion from France along with other Huguenots in 1685, the Glorious Revolution of 1688–9, and the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. By focusing on Rapin’s Dissertation, this chapter demonstrates the centrality of religion and religious denominations in the construction of political parties. In political theory, Rapin’s Dissertation can be regarded as an intellectual milestone, as it was the first clear expression of the idea that balance between parties, as distinct from Machiavelli’s social orders, is recommendable as a way to achieve proper balance in a mixed constitution.
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