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The Politics of Radical Religion: The Bristol Lectures of 1795

  • John Morrow
Chapter
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Part of the Coleridge’s Writings book series (COLWRIT)

Abstract

Coleridge’s earliest political writings developed out of a series of lectures given in Bristol in 1795. These lectures were intended to provide a source of funds for the revised pantisocratic scheme, and many of the arguments advanced in them were closely connected to that scheme. Others were tailored more closely to English circumstances than to the special conditions that emigration would make possible, but the concern with liberty and equality that lay behind the pantisocratic proposal had a marked impact on Coleridge’s view of the need for reform in contemporary society. In the extracts printed below, Coleridge is sharply critical of the political and religious establishments, condemns the war against France, and is favourably, although not uncritically, disposed towards recent political developments in that country. The three major themes that emerge from these writings are the need for reformers to act on the basis of fixed principles; the importance of enlightening those who are to be liberated; and the necessity for disinterested reformers to take a leading role in the process of enlightenment. Coleridge advances these claims in the context of analyses of the corruption and injustice which mark the structures and practices of politics and religion.

Keywords

British Constitution Present Bill High Priest Fixed Principle Summum Bonum 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 5.
    Milton, Samson Agonistes, II. 1649–54 (modified).Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Originally based on a deputation from the Gironde, this group, led by J. P. Brissot (1754–93), formed a focus for moderate members of the French National Assembly. The Girondists clashed with the extreme republican group, the Jacobins, led by Maximilien de Robespierre (1758–94). By the summer of 1793 the Jacobins were portraying the Girondists as a significant and cohesive party which threatened the popular forces of the Revolution. Brissot and many other Girondists were executed in Oct 1793 during a Jacobin-inspired purge of ‘enemies of the Revolution’.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, 2 vols (1793) I, 207.Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    From Brissot de Warville (alias J. P. Brissot; see note 6 above), New Travels in the United States Performed in 1788 (Dublin, 1792) pp. xvi–xvii. Coleridge and Southey used Brissot’s work as a source of information about North America when planning their pantisocratic settlement.Google Scholar
  5. 20.
    William Crowe, ‘Verses Intended to Have Been Spoken in the Theatre to the Duke of Portland at His Installation as Chancellor of the University of Oxford, in the Year 1793’, Lewesdon Hillwith Other Poems (1804) pp. 60–1.Google Scholar
  6. 23.
    Richard Hurd, A Discourse, by Way of General Preface to … Bishop Warburton’s Works, Containing Some Account of the Life, Writings, and Character of the Author (1794). Hurd was Bishop of Worcester.Google Scholar
  7. 25.
    Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 4 vols (1783) I, 171.Google Scholar
  8. 27.
    William Paley, The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, 2 vols (1794) II, 220–1. The last sentence is a paraphrase, not a direct quotation. Coleridge’s information on representation was derived from The State of the Representation of England, Scotland, and Wales … (1793) pp. 36–9.Google Scholar
  9. 28.
    Paley (1743–1805) is reputed to have made the remark in excusing himself from signing a petition against the rule that those taking a degree at Oxford or Cambridge should subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Paley was actually sympathetic to the cause, but depended on the University, and hence also the Church, for his livelihood; he was a fellow and tutor of Christ’s College Cambridge, and Archdeacon of Carlisle (DNB). The story is recounted in Lectures 1795, pp. 310–11, n. 3.Google Scholar
  10. 30.
    James Burgh, Political Disquisitions, 3 vols (1776–8) III, pp. 438–9.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Morrow
    • 1
  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonNew Zealand

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