ENGLAND: FROM THE WHIGS TO THE LIBERALS
IN Tm early eighteenth century the dominant political belief of first the Whigs and then the Tories too was that of the sublime wisdom of the constitution of 1688. From Liberty as enshrined therein every blessing flowed--virtue, prosperity, excellence in the arts and sciences. Like Romans and Venetians before them, the English considered their version superior to all its prototypes-- sometimes because of the fully equal share of the king, sometimes because, with representation and limited suffrage, the democratic element was not really democratic at all. The enormous literature in prose and verse celebrating English liberty does however often continue to consider English history and origins; while, as Voltaire observed, the English of the Augustan age liked to see themselves in Roman dress (though many people at this time believed antiquity had nothing really to teach the present age). But for a time Spartan precedents are rarely and briefly recorded. King Theopompus, incidentally, owing to the new stress on the king's share in the constitution, can turn up in a surprising context. In 1719 Steele, opposing the Peerage Bill that threatened to deprive the king of the power to create new peers, was one of those who argued that this would destroy the famous equilibrium in favour of aristocracy, and he points out that Theopompus, gracious and moderate as he was, made a disastrous mistake in giving power to the ephors. 'This unwary step prov'd fatal both to the Crown and the People, and ended in the ruin of the Constitution.'1
But though, by the time of George I, there was little disagreement on fundamental issues, there was plenty of antagonism to____________________
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Publication information: Book title: The Spartan Tradition in European Thought. Contributors: Elizabeth Rawson - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1991. Page number: 344.