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The Saxon republic and ancient constitution in the standing army controversy, 1697-1699

Walsh, Ashley ORCID: 2019. The Saxon republic and ancient constitution in the standing army controversy, 1697-1699. Historical Journal 62 (3) , pp. 663-684. 10.1017/S0018246X18000316

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The pamphlet controversy caused by the proposal of William III to maintain a peacetime standing army following the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) tends to be understood as a confrontation of classicists and moderns in which the king's supporters argued that modern commerce had changed the nature of warfare and his opponents drew on classical republicanism to defend the county militia. But this characterization neglects the centrality of the Saxon republic and ancient constitution in the debate. English opponents of the standing army, including Walter Moyle, John Trenchard, and John Toland, went further than adapting the republicanism of James Harrington, who had rejected ancient constitutionalism during the Interregnum, to the restored monarchy. Their thought was more Saxon than classical and, in the case of Reverend Samuel Johnson, it was entirely so. However, the Scot, Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, adapted neo-Harringtonian arguments to argue that modern politics could no longer be understood by their Gothic precedents. Above all, the king's supporters needed either to engage ancient constitutionalists on their own terms, as did one anonymous pamphleteer, or, as in the cases of John, Lord Somers, and Daniel Defoe, reject the relevance of ancient constitutionalism and Saxon republicanism completely.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0018-246X
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2022 08:11

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