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Transatlantic Discourses of Freedom and Slavery during the English Revolution

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Abstract

Three themes in the discursive history of freedom and slavery during the English Revolution are explored here: the liberty of conscience, the liberty of the body, and the liberty of commerce. In the contests waged to define these liberties, contending factions of revolutionaries refashioned their opponents’ concepts of freedom as forms of bondage. Although explored in discrete fashion by historians, these discourses of religious, bodily, and commercial liberty hardly operated independently from one another.  Indeed, they became increasingly entangled as the Revolution reached its imperial turn (ca. 1649-1655), accompanied as it was by the rise of the slave trade in the West Indies and debates over the nature of “free trade” that circulated between England and the colonies.  Ultimately, to recover the entangled nature of these languages of liberty and their importance in the Revolution’s history of ideas, we must move beyond England itself and into the wider Atlantic world to grasp the material contexts that conditioned the Revolution’s discursive history. 

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In recent decades, the so-called Cambridge School has produced some of the most exciting work on the intellectual history of early modern Europe. Historicizing the study of political thought, these scholars have employed close linguistic analysis to deconstruct the competing and often conflicting meanings of political ideas, stressing how such ambiguity reflects the diverse historical inheritances and contextual contingencies of discursive political traditions. In essence, the practitioners of the Cambridge School have illustrated the fruitlessness of attaching historically transcendent meaning to political concepts, which can be understood in their various permutations in time and over time, but never beyond time. Perhaps the best work done by historians working in this mode has focused on the languages of liberty that flourished in the age of the English Revolution (ca. 1640-1660). Their studies of the Revolution have shown us how “liberty” was rarely understood or discussed in its own right in the mid-seventeenth century. Instead, contemporaries constantly resorted to the language of slavery, a seemingly self-evident concept, to define liberty through its antithesis. My discussion here focuses on three discourses of liberty in the wider discursive history of freedom and slavery in the age of the English Revolution: the liberty of conscience, the liberty of the body, and the liberty of commerce. Although all the revolutionaries prized these liberties, no conceptual consensus existed regarding either their ideological substance or their proper political applications. In the discursive contests the revolutionaries waged to rightly define these liberties, contending factions, predictably, applied the rhetorical device of slavery to reconfigure their opponents’ views of freedom as the harbingers of bondage. Crucially, these discourses on the liberties of consciences, bodies, and commerce hardly operated independently from one another, although their interdependence during the Revolution has attracted little scholarly attention. Indeed, they became increasingly entangled as the Revolution reached its imperial turn (ca. 1649-1655), accompanied as it was by the rise of the slave trade and debates over the nature of “free trade».

To recover the history that explains both the entangled nature of these languages of liberty and their historical importance requires a historiographical intervention. As a growing body of literature has demonstrated, the English Revolution was not merely an English, British, or European affair; it was most decidedly an Atlantic event. Although most Cambridge School studies of the Revolution contain themselves to European sources, its languages of liberty were not merely European transmissions; instead, they were generated by the circulation of ideas and experience within a wider historical geography that encompassed the Atlantic world. The observation involves more than mere spatial considerations. I argue here as I have elsewhere that broadening our view of the Revolution’s impact from the national to the Atlantic yields rich rewards for intellectual history; specifically, restoring the Revolution’s authentic Atlantic context can help us recover the origins of abolitionist thought, an event that most historians place in the eighteenth century. Wedded as it was in the mid-seventeenth century to a transatlatic radical republican program, abolitionism represented perhaps the most important breakthrough in the early modern history of ideas, although for reasons discussed below, the existence of this breakthrough, let alone its significance, has eluded the English Revolution’s most talented intellectual historians.

Samuel Gorton, a fiery-tempered clothier from Lancashire, braved the Atlantic crossing to America in 1636 seeking «liberty of conscience in respect to God» following his experience with religious persecution in Old England. But on the afternoon of October 14, 1643, Gorton was forced to endure what he thought he had left behind, as soldiers from Massachusetts burned Shawomet, the village that Gorton had founded in Rhode Island, to the ground. Five years before, Gorton and several of his comrades had been exiled from Massachusetts for «sedition» after refusing to conform to puritan clerical orthodoxy. In their Rhode Island exile, Gorton and his followers vowed to protect their liberty of conscience by leaving religious belief and practice free from magisterial restriction. But fearing heretical corruption from such a «fountain of error», the Massachusetts government deputed its militia to destroy Shawomet and arrest Gorton and his confederates. Early that November, after a forced march in shackles to Boston, the Massachusetts Court punished the dissenters to a year of bondage and hard labor in chains. Although popular protest in the Bay Colony against Gorton’s «enslavement» forced his release months later, his fight against religious persecution was far from over; indeed, it could not be contained to the colonies. To seek justice, Gorton transformed his colonial persecution into an Atlantic event during the age of the English Revolution, fleeing to London to plead before the Revolutionary Parliament for a colonial charter to promote religious tolerance in New England.

While in London, Gorton wrote a pamphlet that he entitled Simplicity’s Defense. Published in 1646, the work recounted the Shawomet attack and the Boston trial. Here Gorton described how the government of Massachusetts had acted arbitrarily, ruling as a law unto itself and against the laws of both God and Old England. As «freeborn Englishmen in America», England’s ancient constitution protected the colonists' property and bodies from wanton violence and warrantless captivity. But instead of living under «the laws of our native country (which) should be named amongst them, yea those ancient statute laws», Gorton observed that Massachusetts had made his community subject to «pretended and devised laws (which) we have stooped under, to the robbing and spoiling of our goods, the livelihood of our wives and children». He saluted Winthrop as the «Great and Honoured Idol General» who by the «sleights of Satan» endeavored «to subject and make slaves» of all those within and without his jurisdiction. But despite their appeal to English law, as antinomians, Gorton and his followers believed that their first duty was to pursue the completion of the Protestant Reformation by remaining obedient not to puritan clerics and magistrates, but to «the law that God had written on our hearts», which they discerned through their consciences as guided by scripture and the holy spirit. «Now the rule is evident», Gorton wrote,

that if the ministration of justice and judgment belongs to no officer, but to a man as a brother, then to every brother, and if to every brother, whether rich or poor, ignorant or learned, then every Christian in a commonwealth must be king, and judge, and sheriff and captain, and Parliament man, and rule, and that not only in New England but in Old, and not only in Old, but in all the Christian world; down with all officers from their rule, and set up every brother for to rule. [1]

No man, no king, no court could rightfully claim to limit the divine sovereignty of the discerning liberty with which God had endowed his creation. When man-made authorities, such as the Massachusetts court, ruled arbitrarily over their fellow creatures, they not only violated English law, they usurped the very sovereignty of God. In New England, as Gorton wrote, such tyrannical hubris bound not only the consciences of the people, but their bodies as well. The radical's days in chains as a convict laborer made his testimony to bondage in the Bay Colony personal.

The transatlantic circuit through which Gorton tendered his petition and thus his radical reformation mission would impact the struggle for liberty of conscience in Revolutionary England. Gorton's foe, Edward Winslow, a founder of Plymouth Colony and a commanding figure among the political elite of New England, left for London to make Massachusetts’ case against the radicals. Countering the latter’s argument that the Bay Colony had violated any colonists’ liberty of conscience, Winslow argued instead in his own pamphlet, Hypocrisy Unmasked (1647), that puritan clerics and magistrates were the absolute champions of liberty of conscience. It was proper, just, and necessary, he argued, for godly ordained authorities to protect the people’s consciences, and thus the commonwealth as a whole, from spiritual corruption and error; to allow antinomians such as Gorton and company to persist in their heresies would promote sedition and pollute the spiritual estate of the commonwealth. As Winslow wrote in Hyprocrisy Unmasked, «the Civil Magistrate is the minister of God, a Revenger to execute wrath on him that doth evil. And therefore a broad difference is to be put between such evil doers and those tender consciences who follow the light of God’s word». Here Winslow defined liberty of conscience not as Gorton had, as religious toleration, but as the liberty to worship God free from corruption and error in an orderly commonwealth commanded by godly magistrates. He bolstered this line of thought by drawing attention to Gorton’s increasingly radical profile in London. [2] While residing in the City, Gorton had attracted the ire of more moderate puritans by preaching to congregations of Levellers first in London and eventually in the New Model Army. Antinomian radicals, the Levellers had fostered the most successful popular republican program of the Revolution, organizing a mass movement based in London that forged links with the provinces and the military. Their program strove for a religiously tolerant constitutional settlement to the English Revolution based on a democratic franchise. When Winslow republished Hypocrisy Unmasked in 1649, he retitled it, The Danger of Tolerating Levellers in a Civil State. In the new edition, Winslow cautioned the English that just as Gorton and his like had seditiously undermined the authority of God’s anointed in America, he and his Leveller allies would do the same vis-à-vis Parliament and the puritan clergy in England. Winslow did not exaggerate the Leveller threat; mass meetings and unruly protests in London and mutinies in the New Model Army, occasioned by petitioning campaigns gathering tens of thousands of signatures, forced the army high command, at the behest of Parliament, to crush the Levellers, which it did so through waves of arrests and executions. [3]

Soon after its violent repression of the Leveller movement, the English state, via the newly established Revolutionary Republic, embarked upon its first concerted program of imperial expansion. The program included the colonial conquest of Ireland (1649), the armed subjugation of Royalist colonies in the West Indies and the Chesapeake (1651), and a victory over the Dutch (1652-1654) in the first of three seventeenth century naval wars against its most potent maritime rival. But the Republic turned to legislation as well as force of arms to bring its Atlantic empire into being, most notably through the first Navigation Act (1651), which opened up what its authors called a «free trade», a long-held goal of the Revolutionaries, for all English merchants. Written chiefly by Maurice Thomson and Martin Noell, two slave traders and absentee plantation owners with estates in the Chesapeake and Caribbean, the Navigation Act closed off the colonies to foreign trade and ended any existing English trading monopolies in the nation’s Atlantic colonies. [4]

While all merchants saw commercial expansion as vital to English empire-building, the exact nature of the «free trade» clamored for in England and the colonies remained in dispute. As Dudley Digges wrote in 1615 «well-minded merchants like Hercules in the cradle» would make England «a staple of commerce for all the world to advance the reputation and revenue of the Commonwealth». [5] In 1641, at the outset of the English Revolution, Henry Robinson urged Parliament to help the nation’s merchants make «England the Emporium or Warehouse from whence other Nations may bee furnished with forraine commodities». [6]

Commerce was clearly described as crucial for English empire-building, but as its discursive context reflects, the Navigation Act of 1651 intervened in an international, seventeenth century debate about the nature of imperial “free trade”. Hugo Grotius sparked the debate in 1609 with the publication of Mare Liberum. Here, the Dutch jurist argued that unlike landed territory, the sea could not be divided into politically exclusive dominions; it was in the interest of each state, and thus of humankind in general, to leave the seas to open navigation and thus unrestricted commerce. [7] John Selden, taking the opposite tack in his 1635 book, Mare Clausum, found that England’s imperial destiny lay in circumscribing English waters, both in Europe and in ports abroad, to English commerce, to protect English sovereignty and the prosperity that such sovereignty assured when applied to England’s watery dominions. [8]

The English free trade debates of the Revolutionary era fell along the ideological fault lines established by Grotius and Selden. In a 1651 pamphlet entitled The Advancement of Merchandize, Thomas Violet argued that free trade should end merchant monopolies among English merchants and allow foreign merchants to trade in English ports at home and abroad. He warned Parliament that «we must match the Dutch at their own weapons, and give them as great privileges, as they have given to our Clothiers [...] and by this way you will make England truly the Empress of the Sea, when every Sea-Port-Town will be an Amsterdam». [9] A year later, the Republic’s propagandist in chief, Marchmont Nedham, sought to bolster public support for the Navigation Act and by virtue the naval war with the Dutch by translating Selden’s two volume Mare Clausum into English under the title, Of the Dominion, or Ownership, of the Sea.

Free trade under the auspices of the Navigation Act pleased English merchants who had wished to do away with pre-existing commercial monopolies. The Act, however, proved equally unpopular with English sugar planters in the West Indies, who had depended on Dutch merchants for many commodities; the most profitable of these so-called commodities came in human form in the way of enslaved Africans. Without Dutch slave traders, as the planters knew, the wildly lucrative sugar boom on Barbados would never have exploded. The Council and Assembly of Barbados responded to the Navigation Act with a Declaration that they published not in London but in The Hague, obviously to reach their Dutch commercial allies in the most direct fashion possible. The Declaration flatly stated that the people of Barbados were refusing to obey the Act, particularly the clause forbidding «all Forraigners from holding any commerce with the inhabitants of this Island». For the islanders, restricting commercial liberty in this way was economically unfeasible. According to the Declaration, they had depended upon «the Dutch for their subsistence». They would, furthermore, never «be so ungratefull to the Dutch for former help as to deny them or any other Nation the freedome of our Ports and Protection of our laws». Moreover, as the colonists observed, the Dutch sold «us [commodities] much cheaper to us then [the merchants] of our own nation». The Barbadians also felt that the Navigation Act was as politically unjust as it was economically destructive. The colonists had settled Barbados without any assistance from a far off Parliament that proposed to rule over their commercial lives even though the colonists had «no representatives no persons there chosen [by them] to propose or consent». The Declaration concluded by calling «for free trade both at home & abroad», a customary liberty that they argued had long been enjoyed by all «true Englishmen» [Declaration 1651, 1-5]. [10]

The planters also knew that English slave traders within and outside Parliament had written the bill in part to promote their own investments, and so the planters regarded the Navigation Act as the height of corruption that had «enslaved» them to a regime of grasping regicides. Having established their arbitrary government in England through the sword, the Revolutionaries had violated the rights of free born Englishmen in the colonies to protect the property they had accumulated through «free trade», which they, in contrast to Parliament, defined as nationally unrestricted commerce. Here we see how partisans in the Navigation Act debates used the same language of liberty to define conflicting policies, a discursive pattern that also marked the struggle over liberty of conscience. But free trade discourse revolved around a a common economic interest that surpassed the historical significance of a rhetorical patterns. For both merchants in England and English planters in the West Indies, free trade meant the freedom to trade slaves. [11]

Exploring the ideologically-conflicted discourse of freedom and slavery in the age of the English Revolution becomes even more illuminating when, in circum-Atlantic fashion, we move from England and Barbados and back to Rhode Island. In 1652, as the debates over free trade and, by virtue, the future of the English slave trade, began in earnest, Samuel Gorton steered legislation through the Rhode Assembly to end slavery and slave trading in the colony. As the ordinance stated,

«whereas there is a common course practiced amongst English men to buy negers to that end they may have them for service or slaves forever; for the preventing of such practices among us, let it be ordered, that black mankind or white being forced by covenant bond, or otherwise be set free as the manner is with the English servants». The law also prohibited colonists from selling their slaves by charging a fine, 40 pounds sterling, for any who attempted such a sale; the fine was more than twice the going rate for a slave in Barbados; in this way, the assembly legislated the profitability out of the slave trade. The Rhode Island abolition law was the first of its kind in the early modern Atlantic, and it was informed by knowledge of slavery and slave trading around the Atlantic. The first clause of the ordinance makes this clear, taking note that it had become «common course amongst Englishmen to buy negers to have them as slaves forever. [12]

Importantly, five years before the abolition ordinance, Rhode Island had ratified a religiously tolerant, republican constitution entitled The Acts and Orders of Rhode Island. The whole body of the colony’s freeman had met in their separate towns, where they participated in drafting, deliberating, and ratifying the constitution, which rejected the ancient constitutional mix of monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic forms of government, stating explicitly «that the form of government established is democratical; that is to say, a government held by ye free and voluntary consent of all, or the greater part of the free inhabitants». Although democracy was commonly held to be the gateway to anarchy in the early modern period, the Acts and Orders declared that far from having democracy «prove an anarchy and so a common tyranny», the Rhode Islanders believed that “popular” government prevented anarchy by making elected officials directly accountable to the people and the rule of law, thus ensuring against the lawlessness of arbitrary government. [13]

While historians of republican thought in the English Revolution have largely neglected the influence of colonial experience, contemporaries did not, as we know from Winslow’s discursive conflation of Gorton’s radicalism with Leveller republicanism. Putting the Acts and Orders in Atlantic context is particularly revealing in this regard. The Rhode Islanders established their constitution in 1647, the same year that the Levellers proposed their own, called the Agreement of the People, which like its colonial counterpart, combined the ideals of religious toleration with democratic republicanism. Linking the radical republican programs that unfolded diachronically in Old and New England, we see how the Atlantic dimensions of Leveller ideology carried the struggle against political slavery into a protest against the rise of economic slavery in the colonies. The historical significance of this process can hardly be understated, as it undid the classical link between slavery and republican liberty, with the former providing the material foundations for the latter to thrive. Indeed, in the midst of the English Revolution’s imperial turn, the classical inheritance of the slave-holding republic was experiencing an early modern renaissance, one that would be affirmed over a century later by the framers of the Constitution of the United States. While many southern delegates to the Constitutional Convention sought to guard against their political «enslavement» by ensuring their liberty in the property of their slaves, the colonial radicals of the Atlantic’s first revolutionary age believed that the tyranny and vice that flowed from slavery and slave trading would destroy republican virtue in a reformed commonwealth.

In conclusion, the discourses of liberty of conscience, liberty of the body, and commercial liberty evolved in a historically interdependent fashion, circulating around the Atlantic world within the wider discourse of freedom and slavery that characterized the political culture of Revolutionary England and its colonies. From the magistrate’s perspective, Samuel Gorton’s liberty of conscience, once made a civil liberty, would enslave the body politic to the arbitrary power of democratic seditionists bent on the anarchic project of usurping the divinely ordained prerogatives of the puritan magistracy. But from Gorton’s perspective, the puritan magistracy's discretionary power to enforce religious conformity on behalf of the public good actually usurped the divine sovereignty of the believer’s conscience. From the perspective of Gorton and the antinomian radicals of Rhode Island, only democratic forms of government could protect the divine prerogative of universal religious freedom. Complete liberty of conscience was critical for antinomians, as spiritual experimentation provided the way to discern the true path to reformation. Magistrates, however, reconfigured spiritual experimentation into sedition, producing in Gorton’s own words, a condition of political «slavery» that had led the court to claim «dominion over bodies» via hard labor in chains as the ultimate means to preserve its own misguided notion of religious liberty. Turning to the debate over the Navigation Act, both sides used the term «free trade» to define their support for antithetical imperial policies regarding mercantile competition. But the contentious discourse that evolved from a shared political language nonetheless promoted a common, commercially lucrative goal: free trade in any discursive guise would promote slave trading. Transcending the rhetorical dialectics that wed English liberty to the slave trade via the promotion of free trade, radical Rhode Islanders tried to abolish the slave trade, viewing it not as a form of commercial liberty, but as a threat to republican liberty. In the end, without an Atlantic perspective on English Revolutionary discourse, recognition of such a milestone in early modern political thought remains impossible.

Finally, the Atlantic context that illuminates the abolitionist dimensions of radical republican discourse in the English Revolution also sheds light on the limitations of the linguistic turn in the study of political thought. To put a finer point on the matter, the real question here involves the emphasis that historians of the Cambridge School of political thought have placed upon language, as if it more than anything else can reveal the mutability and historically transient meanings of terms like freedom and slavery. Although it has contributed invaluably to our understanding of the history of ideas in the early modern period, the Cambridge School has confined the study of slavery in the English Revolution to the discursive realm, using it as a mere metaphor for the condition of subjection to political tyranny. Yet the Revolutionary period marked the rise of plantation slavery in the English Atlantic; not coincidentally, the discourse of freedom and slavery in the free trade debate occasioned by the Navigation Act reflected a turf battle over how the slave trade was to be conducted in the West Indies. Colonial radicals in Rhode Island transcended this debate by passing an abolitionist law that conveyed their belief that the tyranny of chattel slavery would corrupt the virtue of republican liberty in a just commonwealth. To be grounded in any kind of authentic reality, the history of political thought in the English Revolution, like the history of any political event, must take into account material contexts as well the linguistic and high political. Without broadening the contextual universe of discursive analysis, we risk reducing the history of freedom and slavery in the English Revolution to the interplay of rhetorical devices, when it ultimately produced the original attempt to equate republican liberty with the end of chattel slavery.


Sources

  • A Declaration Set forth by the Lord Lieutenant General (and) the Gentlemen of the Council and Assembly 1651, The Hague.
  • Digges D. 1615, The Defense of Trade, in a Letter to Sir Thomas Smith, Governor of the East India Company, London.
  • Gorton S. (1644) 1835, Simplicity’s Defense Against Seven-Headed Policy, London: reprint, Staples W.R. (ed.), Providence: Marshall Brown.
  • Grotius H. 1609, Mare Liberum, sive de jure quod Batavis competit ad Indicana commercia dissertatio, Leiden.
  • Johnson E. 1653, A History of New England from the English Planting until the Year 1652, London.
  • Robinson H. 1641, England’s Safety in Trades Increase, London, 20.
  • Scobell H. 1658, A Collection of Acts and Ordinances of General Use, Made in Parliament in Two Parts, London.
  • Selden J. 1635, Mare Clausum seu de Dominio Maris libri duo, London.
  • Violet T. 1651, The Advancement of Merchandize, London.
  • Winslow E. (1646) 1916, Hypocrisie Unmasked: A True Relation of the Proceedings of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Against Samuel Gorton of Rhode Island, London: reprint, Chapin H.M. (ed.), Providence: The Club for Colonial Reprints.

References

  • Armitage D. 2000, The Ideological Origins of the British Empire, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Donoghue J. 2010, ‘Out of the Land of Bondage’: The English Revolution and the Atlantic Origins of Abolition, «American Historical Review», 115 (4): 943-974.
  • Donoghue J. 2013, ‘Fire under the Ashes’: An Atlantic History of the English Revolution, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Farnell J.E. 1964, The Navigation Act of 1651, the First Dutch War, and the London Merchant Community, «Economic History Review», 16 (3): 439-45.
  • Gragg L. 1995, To Procure Negroes: The English Slave Trade to Barbados, 1627-1660, «Slavery and Abolition», 16 (1): 65-84.
  • Leng T. 2005, Commercial Conflict and Regulation in the Discourse of Trade in Seventeenth-Century England, «Historical Journal», 48 (4): 933-954.
  • Linebaugh P., Rediker M. 2000, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic, Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Menard R. 2006, Sweet Negotiations: Sugar, Slavery, and Plantation Agriculture in Early Barbados, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.
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  • Pestana C.G. 2004, The English Atlantic in a Revolutionary Age, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Pocock J.G.A. 1975, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Russell Bartlett J. 1857, Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England, 1636-1663, 2 voll., Providence: A. Crawford Greene and Brother.
  • Scott J. 2004, Commonwealth Principles: Republican Writing of the English Revolution, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Skinner Q. 1998, Liberty Before Liberalism, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Thematic Bibliography

Liberty of Conscience

Primary Sources

  • The Cobbler’s Thread is Cut or The Cobbler’s Monument, 1640, London.
  • The Cobbler Vindicated, 1640, London.
  • Cotton J. 1647, The Bloody Tenet Washed and Made White in the Blood of the Lamb.
  • Cotton J. 1644, The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and Power Thereof, London.
  • Davenport J. 1643, An Answer of the Elders of the Several Churches in New England unto Nine positions, Sent Over to Them, by Divers Reverend and Godly Ministers in England, London.
  • Edwards T. 1646, Gangreana: or a Catalogue and Discovery... of the Many Errors of this Time, London.
  • Edwards T. 1646, The Second and Third Parts of Gangreana, London.
  • Gorton S. 1647, An Incorruptible Key Composed of the CX Psalm, London.
  • Gorton S. (1644) 1835, Simplicity’s Defense Against Seven-Headed Policy, London: reprint, Staples W.R. (ed.) 1835, Providence: Marshall Brown.
  • Overton R. 1645, The Arraignment of Mr. Persecution, London.
  • Prynne W. 1646, A Fresh Discovery of Some Prodigious New Wandering-Blazing-Stars and Firebrands… Whereunto Some Letters and Papers Lately Sent from the Sommer-Islands, are Subjoined…, London.
  • Prynne W. 1646, Independency Examined, Unmasked, and Refuted, London.
  • Taylor J. 1641, A Swarme of Sectaries, and Schismatiques: Wherein is Discovered the Strange Preaching (or Prating) of such as are by their trades Coblers, Tinkers, Peddlers, Weavers, Sow-Gelders and Chimney Sweepers, London.
  • Walwyn W. 1645, England’s Lamentable Slavery, London.
  • Walwyn W. 1645, A Help to the Right Understanding of a Discourse Concerning Independency Lately Published by William Prynne, London.
  • Walwyn W. 1643, The Power of Love, London.
  • Walwyn W. 1646, A Word in Season, London.
  • Walwyn W. 1646, A Word More To Mr. Thomas Edwards, London.
  • Ward N. 1647, The Simple Cobbler of Aggawam, London.
  • Williams R. 1644, The Bloody Tenet of Persecution, London.
  • Williams R. 1652, The Bloody Tenet Yet More Bloody, London.
  • Williams R. (1643) 1973, A Key into the Language of America, London: reprint, Teunissen J., Hinz R.J. (eds.), Detroit.
  • Winslow E. (1646) 1916, Hypocrisie Unmasked: A True Relation of the Proceedings of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Against Samuel Gorton of Rhode Island, London: reprint, Chapin H.M. (ed.), Providence.
  • Winslow E. 1649, Hypocrisie Unmasked reprinted as The Danger of Tolerating Levellers in a Civil State, London.
  • Winthrop J. (1644) 1968, 1990, A Short Story of the Rise, Reign, and Ruin of the Antinomians, Familists, and Libertines, London: reprint, Hall D.D. (ed.) 1968, 1990, The Antinomian Controversy: A Documentary History, Durham: Duke University Press, 199-310.

Secondary Sources

  • Coffey J. 1998, Puritanism and Liberty Revisited: The Case for Toleration in the English Revolution, «Historical Journal», 41 (4): 961-985.
  • Donoghue J. 2013, ‘Fire under the Ashes’: An Atlantic History of the English Revolution, Chicago: University of Chicago Press: Chaps. 2-5.
  • Donoghue J. 2013, Indentured Servitude in the Seventeenth Century English Atlantic: A Brief Survey of the Secondary Literature, «The History Compass», 10 (October). 
  • Gura P. 1979, The Radical Ideology of Samuel Gorton: New Light on the Relation of English to American Puritanism, «The William and Mary Quarterly», 36 (1): 78-100.
  • Gura P. 1983, Samuel Gorton and Religious Radicalism in England, 1644-1648, «The William and Mary Quarterly», 40 (1): 121-124.
  • Gura P. 1984, A Glimpse of Sion’s Glory: Puritan Radicalism in New England, 1620-1660, Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.
  • Hill C 1972, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution, New York: Viking.
  • Hughes A. 2004, Gangreana and the Struggle for the English Revolution, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Lovejoy D. 1985, Religious Enthusiasm in the New World: Heresy to Revolution, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Pestana C.G. 2004, The English Atlantic in an Age of Revolution, 1640-1661, Cambridge: Harvard University Press: Chap. 4.
  • Scott J. 2000, England’s Troubles: Seventeenth Century English Political Instability in European Context, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Scott J. 2004, Commonwealth Principles: Republican Writing of the English Revolution, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Scott J. 2004, What were Commonwealth Principles?, «Historical Journal», 47 (3): 591-613.
  • Tolmie M. 1977, The Triumph of the Saints, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Free Trade

Primary Sources

  • Council and Assembly of Barbados 1651, A Declaration Set forth by the Lord Lieutenant Generall and the Gentlemen of the Councell & assembly occasioned from the view of a printed paper. Entituled An Act Prohibiting trade with the Barbados, Virginea, Bermudes and Antegoe, The Hague.
  • Grotius H. 1609, Mare Liberum, Amsterdam.
  • Hakluyt R. (1583) 1993, A Particular Discourse Concerning the Great Necessity and Manifold Commodities that are Like to Grow to this Realm of England by the Western Discoveries Lately Attempted (commonly referred to as A Discourse on Western Planting), [London?]: reprint, Quinn D.B., Quinn A.M. (eds.), Discourse of Western Planting, London: Hakluyt Society.
  • Lilburne J. 1649, England’s New Chains Discovered, London.
  • Nedham M. 1652, Of the Dominion or Ownership of the Sea, London.
  • Overton R. 1649, The Second Part of England’s New Chains Discovered, London.
  • Robinson H. 1641, Englands Safetie in Trades encrease, London.
  • Violet T. 1651, The Advancement of Merchandize, London.
  • Worsley B. 1650, The Advocate, London.
  • Worsley B. 1652, Free ports, the Nature and Necessitie of Them Stated, London.

Secondary Sources

  • Armitage D. 2000, The Ideological Origins of the British Empire, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Braddick M. 1998, The English Government: War, Trade, and Settlement, 1625-1688, in Canny N. 1998 (ed.), The Origins of Empire: The Oxford History of the British Empire, 1, New York: Oxford University Press: 292–96 (online edition 2001).
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  • Israel J.I. 1997, England, the Dutch Republic, and Europe in the Seventeenth Century, «Historical Journal», 4 (2): 117-121.
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  • Leng T. 2005, Commercial Conflict and Regulation in the Discourse of Trade in Seventeenth-Century England, «The Historical Journal», 48 (4): 933-954.
  • Pestana, C.G. 2004, The English Atlantic in an Age of Revolution, 1640-1661, Cambridge: Harvard University Press: Chap. 5.
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Liberty of the Body

Primary Sources

  • An Agreement of the People 1647, London.
  • A Banner of Truth Displayed 1656, London.
  • A Standard Set Up 1675, London.
  • Bayly C. 1663, A True and Faithful Warning unto the People and Inhabitants of Bristol, London.
  • Birch T. (ed.) 1742, A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, 7 vols., London.
  • Bullock W. 1649, Virginia Impartially Examined, and Left to Public View, London.
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  • Chapin H.M. (ed.) 1657, England’s Remembrancer, London.
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  • Hening W.W. 1900, The Narrative of General Venables, London: Royal Historical Society.
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  • Powell V. 1655, A Word for God or a Testimony on Truth’s Behalf from Several Churches and Diverse Hundreds of Christians in Wales, London.
  • Powell V. 1646, A Remonstrance of Many Thousands of People, London.
  • Sainsbury, E.B. 1860, Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, 1574–1660, London.
  • Some Observations on the Island of Barbados 1667, transcribed by Handler J.S., Shelby L. 1973, A Seventeenth-Century Commentary on Labor and Military Problems in Barbados, «Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society», 34.

Secondary Sources

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Note

1. Gorton 1644 [1835], 80-83.
2. Winslow 1646.
3. Winslow 1649. For Gorton’s time in London and the rise and fall of the Leveller movement, see Donoghue 2013, 170-197.
4. For the Navigation Act, see Scobell 1658, 2: 176. For scholarship on free trade and the Navigation Act, see Farnell 1964, 439-454; Armitage 2000, 100-124; Leng 2005, 933-954.
5. Digges 1615, 2-3.
6. Robinson 1641, 20.
7. Grotius 1609.
8. Selden 1635. See Book I: xx-xxiii for the colonial and imperial implications of Selden’s argument.
9. Violet 1651, 10-11.
10. Declaration 1651, 1-2.
11. For the Barbados sugar boom and ensuing boom in slave trading to the island, see Gragg 1995, 65-84; Menard 2006.
12. Russell Bartlett 1636-1663 [1857], 1:242-243.
13. Russell Bartlett 1857, 1: 38-65.

Three themes in the discursive history of freedom and slavery during the English Revolution are explored here: the liberty of conscience, the liberty of the body, and the liberty of commerce. In the contests waged to define these liberties, contending factions of revolutionaries refashioned their opponents’ concepts of freedom as forms of bondage. Although explored in discrete fashion by historians, these discourses of religious, bodily, and commercial liberty hardly operated independently from one another.  Indeed, they became increasingly entangled as the Revolution reached its imperial turn (ca. 1649-1655), accompanied as it was by the rise of the slave trade in the West Indies and debates over the nature of “free trade” that circulated between England and the colonies.  Ultimately, to recover the entangled nature of these languages of liberty and their importance in the Revolution’s history of ideas, we must move beyond England itself and into the wider Atlantic world to grasp the material contexts that conditioned the Revolution’s discursive history. 
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