English Radicals and the American Revolution

English Radicals and the American Revolution

English Radicals and the American Revolution

English Radicals and the American Revolution

Synopsis

Bonwick brings together related elements that have been treated separately on previous occasions--English radicals as personalities, their relations with one another, their connections with Americans; the imperial controversy between England and the colonies; the movement for parliamentary reform in England; and the campaign for civil rights for Dissenters. The study brings fresh meaning to English radicalism and ideas about liberty during the revolutionary era.

Originally published 1977.

Excerpt

In the age of the American Revolution the main line of English radicalism ran with those who stood in the commonwealth tradition. Though clearly a minority in a conservative nation, they were neither a small squadron of obscure and pedantic theoreticians nor a totally uniform group. Rather, these moderate radicals were a heterogeneous body of men and women, several of whom were prominent figures in the intellectual life of the country. Among their many interests, they believed it the duty of all men to formulate and hold political opinions, especially in times of crisis, and they argued that statesmen had no right to exclude the people from knowledge of political affairs.

The radicals' understanding of the two grand themes of the American Revolution -- the war of independence and the experiment in government -- was rooted in a complex network of social attitudes, spiritual values, intellectual principles, and ideological requirements. Most radicals belonged to those middle ranks of society who formed a broader political nation outside the aristocratic circles of national authority. As individuals they often participated in a wide range of reform activities, though for analytical convenience they can be roughly brigaded into those whose first . . .

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