Literature of Liberty: Joseph Priestly & English Radicalism

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Eighteenth-century middle-class English radicalism represented a rebirth. The earlier seventeenth-century English radicalism, achieving a full flowering during the English Revolution, became a thin intellectual connection after the Restoration. The stout advocates of the “Old Cause”—the liberty-loving Commonwealthmen—are more significant in the history of ideas than in the political movements of their time. However, with the Bill of Rights of 1689 and the Whig ascendency, English radicalism was free to reemerge. There was much for the Middle Class to be radical about.

The Whig ascendency brought both respect for individual rights from arbitrary power and the vast growth of government power and its source in taxation. To fight wars without sufficient popular support, ministers resorted to deficit financing. New public financial institutions were necessary to underwrite unpopular wartime expenditures. A Public Finance Revolution materialized. The Bank of England, with the powers of a central bank, was created by the government to underwrite loans to the government; the National Debt was organized to develop credit for the government…

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Literature of Liberty Reviewer
Literature of Liberty Reviewer
Literature of Liberty Reviewer