During recent decades, the notion of natural-law theory's pre-eminence in eighteenth-century political thought has come under sustained challenge. One significant exception to this rule can be found in the history of Britain's connection with its king's German Electorate of Hanover. Specialists have considered Britain and Hanover to have formed a ‘Personal Union’, a category of natural law in which states sharing the same ruler remained legally independent of one another. The concept itself is eighteenth century; in fact, it was first coined and applied to the electoral relationship with Britain by the Hanoverian jurist Johann Stephan Pütter. While Pütter's terminology was new, it clearly drew upon the classics of natural law. Personal Union tended to legitimate the status quo, but cannot explain opposition to Britain's relationship with Hanover. This derived instead from ancient and Renaissance republicanism.
Republicanism and natural law were not always as incompatible as they were in the case of Hanover; indeed, writers often used them interchangeably in other contexts. But in order to correct the traditional focus on natural law, historians have had to examine republicanism separately. Of course, the nomenclature of republicanism more often refers to its historical origins in Rome and Florence than to the objectives of its later British exponents. As J. G.A. Pocock put it, ‘republicanism in England was a language, not a programme’. Some republicans compassed the overthrow of the monarchy.
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