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Patriots and the Country Party Tradition in the Eighteenth Century: The Critics of Britain’s Fiscal-Military State from Robert Harley to Catharine Macaulay

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Skjonsberg, Max 


The distinguished historian Steven Pincus has recently argued that “Patriotism” was a distinctive ideology in the middle of the eighteenth century which indicated “governmental activism” and support for “the British way of governing, grounded in the principles set forth in England’s Revolution of 1688-89.” By contrast, this essay shows that “Patriot” was more commonly used as a generic term for opposition politicians in eighteenth-century Britain. Moreover, for much of the century, the term was frequently associated with a slightly more precise and substantial set of political arguments: those associated with the “Country party” platform. In its eighteenth-century guise, the Country party’s raison d’être was opposition to the growth of executive power since the Glorious Revolution. It was not a party as such but rather an opposition stance and a set of principles which occasionally brought together Tories, Whigs, independent Country gentlemen as well as self-proclaimed Patriots. In the eighteenth century, “the Country” was especially scathing of the “financial revolution” and the growth of the fiscal-military state in the years after 1688-9. By its continuous association with the Country party tradition, Patriotism and suspicion of the growth of executive power and government finance were intimately linked.



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Intellectual History Review

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Isaac Newton Trust (21.08(w)TR)
Leverhulme Trust (ECF-2021-456)
Leverhulme Trust