Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Original and Institution of Civil Government, Discuss'd

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Original and Institution of Civil Government, Discuss'd

Article excerpt

The Original and Institution of Civil Government, Discuss'd. By Benjamin Hoadly and edited by William Gibson. (New York: AMS Press, 2007, Pp. xxxvi, 345. $145.00.)

On 13 December 1709, the House of Commons met to consider complaints raised by the sermons of the high Tory Dr. Henry Sacheverell, and especially his notorious 5th of November sermon "The Perils of False Brethren both in Church and State" which had very recently been preached at St. Paul's' Cathedral in London and even more recently been published by Henry Clements. It did not take long for the Whig-dominated Commons to pass a resolution that his sermons were "malicious, scandalous and seditious libels." After this condemnation a Tory member of Parliament complained that if the Commons wanted to condemn the political beliefs of divines, they should examine carefully the works of a clergyman other than Sacheverell. By this, he meant the then rector of the London parish St. Peter's Poor, Benjamin Hoadly. In response, the Commons also voted that day to commend Hoadly for his vigorous defense of the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 and the House took the extraordinary step of going so far as to recommend to Queen Anne that she seriously consider granting ecclesiastical preferment to Hoadly. While such preferment was not fordicoming from the queen, Hoadly did find himself much in favor at the court of King George I as well as George II, and he was quickly elevated to the sees of Bangor, Hereford, Salisbury, and finally Winchester under the early Hanoverians.

This book offers a modern edition of Hoadly's best-known work of political theory, The Original and Institution of Civil Government, which was published in 1710, in the wake of his unusual commendation by the Commons. The book revived the seventeendi-century debate between John Locke's social contract theory and Robert Filmer's patriarchalist politics and did much to keep Locke's contractarianism alive in the minds of eighteenth-century readers. While Hoadly has long been recognized, for better or for worse, as the example par excellence of eighteenth-century Whig churchmanship, he has too often been dismissed or ignored by both political and ecclesiastical historians. Gordon Schochet deemed Hoadly to be little more than a "crude and unintelligent" rationalist and deist in his Patriarchalism in Political Thought (1975, 223), a book which was nevertheless one of the few until recendy to give at least some consideration to Hoadly's political thought. …

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