This article explores how, and why, Robert Persons's A conference about the next succession to the crowne of Ingland (1594) scandalized late Elizabethan England. By invoking the spectres of popular sovereignty and political resistance, Persons, as is well known, threatened to disrupt the succession of James VI of Scotland to Elizabeth I's throne. In doing so, however, he also undermined the very notion that the English crown passed by succession at all. After discussing Persons's political thought, this article examines the responses to it by such writers as John Hayward, Henry Constable, Peter Wentworth, and James VI himself. Their turn towards natural law as a basis for James's title was, it is argued, a direct consequence of the Conference’s argument. As well as shining long-overdue light on Hayward's political thought, the article thus argues that the reception of Persons's Conference was a significant influence on the development of English political thought in the early seventeenth century.
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