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THE SAXON REPUBLIC AND ANCIENT CONSTITUTION IN THE STANDING ARMY CONTROVERSY, 1697–1699

  • ASHLEY WALSH (a1)
Abstract

The pamphlet controversy caused by the proposal of William III to maintain a peacetime standing army following the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) tends to be understood as a confrontation of classicists and moderns in which the king's supporters argued that modern commerce had changed the nature of warfare and his opponents drew on classical republicanism to defend the county militia. But this characterization neglects the centrality of the Saxon republic and ancient constitution in the debate. English opponents of the standing army, including Walter Moyle, John Trenchard, and John Toland, went further than adapting the republicanism of James Harrington, who had rejected ancient constitutionalism during the Interregnum, to the restored monarchy. Their thought was more Saxon than classical and, in the case of Reverend Samuel Johnson, it was entirely so. However, the Scot, Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, adapted neo-Harringtonian arguments to argue that modern politics could no longer be understood by their Gothic precedents. Above all, the king's supporters needed either to engage ancient constitutionalists on their own terms, as did one anonymous pamphleteer, or, as in the cases of John, Lord Somers, and Daniel Defoe, reject the relevance of ancient constitutionalism and Saxon republicanism completely.

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Downing College, Regent Street, Cambridge, cb2 1dqajw246@cam.ac.uk
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I thank Mark Goldie, Callum Murrell, Katherine A. East, and the two peer reviewers for offering perceptive comments on earlier drafts of this article. I am grateful to the Sir John Plumb Charitable Trust for financial support in undertaking this research.

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1 Moyle, Walter and Trenchard, John, An argument, shewing that a standing army is inconsistent with a free government and absolutely destructive to the constitution of the English monarchy (London, 1697), p. 26.

2 For early studies of the controversy, see Miller, E. Arnold, ‘Some arguments used by English pamphleteers, 1697–1700, concerning a standing army’, Journal of Modern History, 18 (1946), pp. 306–13; Schwoerer, Lois, ‘The literature of the standing army controversy, 1697–1699’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 28 (1965), pp. 187212; idem, The role of William III of England in the standing army controversy – 1697–1699’, Journal of British Studies, 5 (1966), pp. 7494; idem, ‘No standing armies!’ The antiarmy ideology in seventeenth-century England (Baltimore, MD, 1974), pp. 155–87; Western, J. R., The English militia in the eighteenth century: the story of a political issue, 1660–1802 (London, 1965), pp. 89103.

3 Moyle and Trenchard, Argument, p. 18; Toland, John, The militia reform'd (London, 1698), p. 75; Trenchard, John, A short history of standing armies in England (London, 1698), p. 2.

4 See Worden, A. B., ‘Introduction’, in Ludlow, Edmund, A voyce from the watch tower, ed. Worden, A. B. (Camden Fourth Series, 21, London, 1978), pp. 1738, 41.

5 Hayton, D. W., ed., The parliamentary diary of Sir Richard Cocks, 1698–1702 (Oxford, 1996), pp. 31–2.

6 Ibid., p. 31. See also pp. 16, 122–3, 187, 199–200, 280–1.

7 Hayton, D. W., ed., Debates in the House of Commons, 1697–1699 (Camden Fourth Series, 34, London, 1987), pp. 343407. See also Horwitz, H. G., Parliament, policy and politics in the reign of William III (Manchester, 1977), pp. 224–7, 229.

8 Shaftesbury to Molesworth, 6 Jan. 1708/9, Letters from the right honourable the late earl of Shaftesbury to Robert Molesworth (London, 1721), p. 23.

9 Knights, Mark, Representation and misrepresentation in later Stuart Britain: partisanship and political culture (Oxford, 2005).

10 Anon., A list of King James's Irish and popish forces in France (London, 1698).

11 Moyle, Walter, The second part of an argument shewing that a standing army is inconsistent with a free government (London, 1697), p. 26.

12 For the opposition, see, classically, Fink, Zera, The classical republicans: an essay in the recovery of a pattern of thought in seventeenth-century England (Evanston, IL, 1945), p. 185; Robbins, Caroline, The eighteenth-century commonwealthman (Cambridge, MA, 1959), pp. 4, 99, 103–5.

13 For civic humanism, see Baron, Hans, The crisis of the early Italian Renaissance: civic humanism and republican liberty in an age of classicism and tyranny (Princeton, NJ, 1955); Pocock, J. G. A., The Machiavellian moment: Florentine political thought and the Atlantic republican tradition (Cambridge, 1975), chs. 1014.

14 Pocock, Machiavellian moment, pp. 423–32. See also Brewer, John, The sinews of power: war, money, and the English state, 1688–1783 (Cambridge, MA, 1990).

15 Pocock, Machiavellian moment, pp. 426–36.

16 Robertson, John, ‘The Scottish Enlightenment at the limits of the civic tradition’, in Hont, István and Ignatieff, Michael, eds., Wealth and virtue: the shaping of political economy in the Scottish Enlightenment (Cambridge, 1983), pp. 138–40; idem, The Scottish Enlightenment and the militia issue (Edinburgh, 1980), pp. 913.

17 Pocock, J. G. A., The ancient constitution and the feudal law: a study of English historical thought in the seventeenth century (revised edn, Cambridge, 1987), pp. 242–3, 268–9; Burgess, Glenn, The politics of the ancient constitution: an introduction to English political thought, 1600–1642 (Basingstoke, 1992), pp. 3757; Cromartie, Alan, Sir Matthew Hale, 1609–1676: law, religion and natural philosophy (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 1129, 30–9, 98–102, 119–20; Randolph, Julia, Common law and Enlightenment in England, 1689–1750 (Woodbridge, 2013), pp. 169–70.

18 Burgess, Politics of the ancient constitution.

19 Smith, R. J., The Gothic bequest: medieval institutions in British political thought, 1688–1863 (Cambridge, 1987); Sandoz, Ellis, ed., The roots of liberty: Magna Carta, ancient constitution, and the Anglo-American tradition of rule of law (Indianapolis, IN, 1993); Kidd, Colin, British identities before nationalism: ethnicity and nationhood in the Atlantic world, 1600–1800 (Cambridge, 2004); Randolph, Common law and Enlightenment.

20 Kenyon, J. P., Revolution principles: the politics of party, 1689–1720 (Cambridge, 1977), pp. 35–8.

21 Moyle and Trenchard, Argument, p. 13.

22 Ibid., p. 14.

23 Trenchard, Short history, p. iv.

24 Pocock, Ancient constitution, pp. 372–4.

25 Pocock, Machiavellian moment, pp. 406–61.

26 Pocock, Ancient constitution, pp. 18–19; idem, Machiavellian moment, pp. 340–1. But, as Glenn Burgess and Janelle Greenberg have shown, ancient constitutionalists could propose reform and even rebellion and regicide. See Burgess, Politics of the ancient constitution, p. 6; Greenberg, Janelle, The radical face of the ancient constitution: St Edward's ‘laws’ in early modern political thought (Cambridge, 2006). For the reception of Roman law among ancient constitutionalists, see Skinner, Quentin, ‘Classical liberty, Renaissance translation and the English Civil War’, in Visions of politics, ii: Renaissance virtues (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 308–43.

27 Johnson, Reverend Samuel, The second part of the confutation of the ballancing letter (London, 1700), p. 1.

28 Toland, Militia reform'd, p. 69.

29 Worden, A. B., ‘The Revolution of 1688–9 and the English republican tradition’, in Israel, Jonathan, ed., The Anglo-Dutch moment: essays on the Glorious Revolution and its world impact (Cambridge, 1981), pp. 242–3. See also Norbrook, David, Writing the English Republic: poetry, rhetoric and politics, 1627–1660 (Cambridge, 1999); Scott, Jonathan, Commonwealth principles: republican writing of the English revolution (Cambridge, 2004).

30 Worden, ‘Revolution of 1688–9’, pp. 248–9.

31 Among Protestant humanist accounts of ancient constitutionalism in Europe, English republican favourites included François Hotman, Francogallia (1573), George Buchanan, De jure regni apud Scotos (1579), and Hugo Grotius, Liber de antiquitate reipublicae Batavicae (1610).

32 Robertson, John, ‘Universal monarchy and the liberties of Europe: David Hume's critique of an English whig doctrine’, in Phillipson, Nicholas and Skinner, Quentin, eds., Political discourse in early modern Britain (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 349–73.

33 Moyle and Trenchard, Argument, pp. 2–3.

34 Toland, Militia reform'd, p. 93.

35 Moyle and Trenchard, Argument, p. 29.

36 Harrington, James, The political works of James Harrington, ed. Pocock, J. G. A. (Cambridge, 1977), p. 196.

37 Ibid., p. 198.

38 For another, see Mahlberg, Gaby, Henry Neville and English republican culture in the seventeenth century: dreaming of another game (Manchester, 2009), pp. 139–86.

39 Molesworth, Robert, An account of Denmark, with Francogallia and some considerations for the promoting of agriculture and employing the poor, ed. Champion, Justin (Indianapolis, IN, 2011), p. 174.

40 Moyle and Trenchard, Argument, pp. 2–3.

41 Ibid., p. 22.

42 Moyle, Second part of an argument, pp. 7–8.

43 Toland, Militia reform'd, p. 18.

44 Johnson, Reverend Samuel, A confutation of a late pamphlet (London, 1698), p. 31.

45 Johnson, Second part of the confutation, p. 80.

46 Greenberg, Radical face. See also Zook, Melinda, ‘Early whig ideology, ancient constitutionalism, and the Reverend Samuel Johnson’, Journal of British Studies, 32 (1993), pp. 139–65, at pp. 141–2, 143–4, 157–8; idem, Radical whigs and conspiratorial politics in late Stuart England (University Park, PA, 1999), pp. 60, 62, 165–6.

47 Johnson, Second part of the confutation, p. 67.

48 Ibid., pp. 76–7. See Horn, Andrew, The booke called, the mirrour of justices (London, 1646), p. 9.

49 Johnson, Second part of the confutation, preface.

50 Bacon, Nathaniel, The continuation of an historicall discourse of the government of England (London, 1651), p. 195.

51 Johnson, Confutation, p. 23.

52 Greenberg, Radical face, p. 77.

53 Johnson, Confutation, pp. 26, 31, 19.

54 Goldie, Mark, ‘The unacknowledged republic: officeholding in early modern England’, in Harris, Tim, ed., The politics of the excluded, c. 1500–1850 (Basingstoke, 2001), p. 182. See also Walsh, Ashley, ‘John Streater and the Saxon republic’, History of Political Thought, 39 (2018), pp. 5782.

55 See Collinson, Patrick, ‘The monarchical republic of Queen Elizabeth I’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 69 (1987), pp. 394424; McDiarmid, John F., ed., The monarchical republic of early modern England: essays in response to Patrick Collinson (Aldershot, 2007).

56 Skinner, Quentin, Liberty before liberalism (Cambridge, 1998). For an alternative account, emphasizing the Greek origins of classical republicanism in ideas of happiness and justice, see Nelson, Eric, The Greek tradition in republican thought (Cambridge, 2004).

57 Moyle and Trenchard, Argument, p. 5.

58 Toland, Militia reform'd, p. 32.

59 Rahe, Paul, Republics ancient and modern: classical republicanism and the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, NC, 1992), pp. 429–30, 998; idem, Against throne and altar: Machiavelli and political theory under the English republic (Cambridge, 2008). See also Sullivan, Vickie, ‘The civic humanist portrait of Machiavelli's English successors’, History of Political Thought, 15 (1994), pp. 7396; idem, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and the formation of a liberal republicanism in England (Cambridge, 2004); Ward, Lee, The politics of liberty in England and Revolutionary America (Cambridge, 2004).

60 John, Lord Somers, A letter ballancing the necessity of keeping a land-force in times of peace, with the dangers that may follow on it (London, 1697), p. 15; Trenchard, John, A letter from the author of the argument against a standing army, to the author of the ballancing letter (London, 1697), pp. 14, 15.

61 Moyle and Trenchard, Argument, pp. 7, 4.

62 Johnson, Second part of the confutation, p. 1.

63 Somers, Letter ballancing, p. 11.

64 Trenchard, Letter to the author of the ballancing letter, p. 9.

65 Johnson, Confutation, p. 11.

66 Toland, Militia reform'd, pp. 92–4.

67 For Sidney, see Scott, Jonathan, Algernon Sidney and the Restoration crisis, 1677–1683 (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 245–7, 257–60.

68 Sidney, Algernon, Discourses concerning government, ed. West, Thomas (Indianapolis, IN, 1996), pp. 363–4.

69 Ibid., p. 376.

70 Ibid., pp. 366–7.

71 Ibid., pp. 252–3.

72 Ibid., p. 458.

73 See Kidd, British identities before nationalism, pp. 211–49.

74 Sidney, Discourses, p. 487. See also Sidney, Algernon, Court maxims, ed. Blom, Hans, Mulier, Eco Haitsma, and Janse, Ronald (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 67–9.

75 Sidney, Discourses, pp. 526–7.

76 Ibid., p. 497.

77 Clare Jackson, Restoration Scotland, 1660–1690: royalist politics, religion and ideas (Woodbridge, 2002), p. 94.

78 For a general history, see Harris, Tim, Revolution: the great crisis of the British monarchy, 1685–1720 (London, 2006).

79 Riley, P. W. J., King William and the Scottish politicians (Edinburgh, 1979), pp. 125, 150–1.

80 Fletcher, Andrew, Political works, ed. Robertson, John (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 34. See also Fletcher, Andrew, A discourse concerning militias and standing armies (London, 1697), pp. 511.

81 Fletcher, Discourse concerning militias, p. 7.

82 Ibid., p. 5; Fletcher, Political works, p. 6.

83 Fletcher, Political works, p. 2.

84 Ibid., pp. 5, 6.

85 Ibid., p. 43.

86 Ibid., p. 23.

87 Defoe, Daniel, Argument shewing, that a standing army, with consent of parliament, is not inconsistent with a free government (London, 1698), p. 15.

88 Ibid.

89 Defoe, Daniel, Some reflections on a pamphlet lately published (London, 1697), p. 16.

90 Defoe, Argument, p. 3.

91 Somers, Letter ballancing, pp. 9–10.

92 Ibid., p. 10.

93 Defoe, Argument, p. 3.

94 Ibid., p. 16.

95 Anon., A letter to A, B, C, D, E, F, &c. concerning their argument about a standing army (London, 1698).

96 Ibid., p. 9.

97 Ibid., pp. 11–12.

98 For the Brady controversy, see Pocock, Ancient constitution, pp. 182–228.

99 Seaberg, R. B., ‘The Norman conquest and the common law: the Levellers and the argument from continuity’, Historical Journal, 24 (1981), pp. 791806; Greenberg, Radical face, pp. 253–64, 269–70, 280–6.

100 Anon., Letter, p. 11.

101 Ibid., p. 14. See also Defoe, The true-born Englishman (London, 1701), lines 195–6, 229–32, 203–4.

102 Anon., Letter, p. 12.

103 Ibid., pp. 15–16.

104 Ibid., p. 21.

105 Ibid., p. 23.

106 Burgess, Politics of the ancient constitution, pp. 26–7.

107 Anon., Letter, p. 24.

108 Burton, I. F., Riley, P. W. J., and Rowlands, E., ‘Political parties in the reigns of William III and Anne: the evidence of division lists’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, special supplement no. 7 (1968), pp. 43, 33n.

109 Worden, ‘Introduction’, in Ludlow, Voyce from the watchtower, pp. 19, 39–41, 42–7; Klein, Lawrence E., Shaftesbury and the culture of politeness: moral discourse and cultural politics in early eighteenth-century England (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 126, 137–8.

110 Justin Champion, ‘Introduction’, in Molesworth, Account of Denmark, pp. ix–xii, xix–xxi.

111 Shaftesbury to Molesworth, 12 Jan. 1708/9, Letters, p. 26. See Cruickshanks, Eveline, Handley, Stuart, and Hayton, D. W., eds., The history of parliament: the House of Commons, 1690–1715 (5 vols., Cambridge, 2002), iii, pp. 70–2, iv, pp. 826–35.

112 Cooper, Anthony Ashley, third earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristics of men, manners, opinions, times, ed. Klein, Lawrence E. (Cambridge, 1999), p. 403.

113 See Klein, Culture of politeness, pp. 123–37.

114 Browning, Reed, Political and constitutional ideas of the court whigs (Baton Rouge, LA, 1982), pp. 3566.

115 John, Henry St, Bolingbroke, Viscount, The works of the late right honourable Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke (8 vols., London, 1809), ii, pp. 158–9, 162.

116 Sir Blackstone, William, Commentaries on the laws of England (2 vols., Philadelphia, PA, 1893), i, pp. 408–9.

117 Burgh, James, Political disquisitions (3 vols., London, 1774–5), ii, p. 345.

118 Cartwright, Major John, An appeal, civil and military, on the subject of the English constitution (London, 1799), p. vi. See also George Owers, ‘The political thought of Major John Cartwright’ (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge, 2015), pp. 186–256.

119 Pocock, J. G. A., Barbarism and religion (6 vols., Cambridge, 1999–2015), i, pp. 94120.

120 Cress, Lawrence Delbert, Citizens in arms: the army and militia in American society to the war of 1812 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1982), pp. 42, 45–6, 158.

I thank Mark Goldie, Callum Murrell, Katherine A. East, and the two peer reviewers for offering perceptive comments on earlier drafts of this article. I am grateful to the Sir John Plumb Charitable Trust for financial support in undertaking this research.

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