The commonwealth tradition and the Wilkite controversies

Rachel Hammersley

in The English Republican tradition and eighteenth-century France

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780719079320
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702345 | DOI:
The commonwealth tradition and the Wilkite controversies

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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It was not just in America that the ideas of the commonwealth tradition proved influential during the 1760s and 1770s. The escalation of the American situation coincided with domestic controversies associated with the colourful journalist and politician John Wilkes. Like the American conflict, the Wilkes controversies raised issues that were central to the British commonwealth tradition, not least the relationship between liberty and authority, the tendency for power to become corrupt, and the importance of representative government and free speech in countering that corruption. Moreover, these themes resonated in France too, against the background of the conflict between the Crown and the parlements, and especially the Maupeou Coup. The events of the 1760s and 1770s in America, Britain and France thus breathed new life into the old commonwealth texts and rendered them of relevance once more on both sides of the Atlantic.

Keywords: John Wilkes; representative government; free speech; British commonwealth; Maupeou Coup; America; France

Chapter.  5128 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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