PARADOXICALLY, throughout history, Liberals have initiated revolution and have fought against it. They have been opposed to democracy, though they have claimed it for their own. They have fought against republics, though Republics were formed in their name. They have supported dictators, although the Dictators have then proceeded to crush the Liberals. Liberalism, then, is a complex political activity with the colors of the chameleon; it cannot be understood abstracted from a given concrete historical situation.

Liberalism is no eternal spirit generated by immaculate conception, as some Liberals would have us believe; it is a flesh and blood movement with a well-defined history in time and space. Its classic home has been those well-developed countries where capitalism once and for all overthrew the domination of feudal economy and rapidly expanded its markets. Liberalism, at the start, was the expression of the capitalist class, already triumphant in the economic sphere, attempting to conquer in the political field. The strongholds of the movement were—and remain today—England, France, and the United States.

Liberalism, coinciding with the rise and domination of capitalism, required several centuries to mature and passed through a number of stages. With the appearance of merchant capital as a powerful driving force in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries came the Renaissance; with the development of trade and the rise of manufactures (hand factories) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries came the Reformation. Modern industry has brought the period of People’s Revolution. The period of the Renaissance and that of the Reformation marked the inception of that movement which has become known in the political world as Liberal, although these earlier developments confined themselves mainly to the cultural and ethical fields of social life.

The Renaissance could not have been born in the rough, stable-like structures of the feudal knights. For the arts to flourish cities were necessary; for cities to be created there were needed first of all trade and commerce and money. In the Mediterranean, following the religious Crusades of the twelfth century, trade became enormously stimulated.

There money-men first came into prominence. Entrenched behind the city-states under their control, they were able to develop a culture entirely their own. Traveling far and wide, burning with curiosity, and fairly shining with ever increasing knowledge, they were able to rise above the ignorance of petty provinciality and to envision the wonderful kaleidoscopic panorama of the entire world as they then knew it. Such experiences were bound to give to the men of genius of that time a versatility, a catholicity, and a profundity that has rightly given the name of “Renaissance,” or rebirth, to the entire period.

Art and science followed in the wake of the money-men of merchant capital. The consequent upsurge and hegemony of the Italian cities in the Mediterranean trade engendered a tremendous social fermentation. Men of intellect in increasing numbers turned from the land to the sea, and from the country to the city. They began to revive the traditions of ancient Rome and of Greece, to point out the glories that were once of the Mediterranean cities of antiquity, even menacingly to hint at the republics of the olden days. And thus the merchants began their struggle for power with an appeal to the past, with a demonstration that before feudalism was even known, merchants and city-states had ushered art and science and culture into the world.

This was the time of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and a host of others who stand out, not merely as artists of a given medium, whether painting, sculpture or architecture, but who shine as craftsmen and scientists as well, who could move freely from one branch of learning to another. This was the period, too, of the development of literature, the time of Bocaccio and Dante. Later there occurred a great blossoming forth of science in all its branches, from mathematics to geology. The names of Galileo, Keppler, and Copernicus are no small ones with which to conjure, even to this day. Modern languages began to develop. Historians appeared. A real beginning was made in political science with such men as Machiavelli. The feudal coterie was left to rot with its theological disputations, and if the merchant element could not as yet overthrow landed interests steeped in the past, it could circumvent, undermine, and overcast them.

In everything they did, the Renaissance artists bound themselves closely to the money-men. They broke down the stern architecture of the feudal castle and constructed light and airy mansions fit, not for the boorish pugnacious knights of old, but for merchant princes whose chief occupations were pursued in sumptuous banquet halls and boudoirs. The rococo style of the late Renaissance found favor as eminently fitting the newly acquired luxury. The art of painting developed to the greatest degree, portrait painting most of all, for such art is best appreciated by those more fond of indoor sitting than of outdoor riding. Naturally, too, under such circumstances, women began to come into their own; they became an object of art as well as the subject of artists. The era of the salon was at hand.

As the Mediterranean began to lose its importance because of the opening up of the Atlantic, and as Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and finally France and England were thrust into the lap of glorious opportunities, the Renaissance followed in exact order. The brief period of Spanish-Portuguese hegemony was marked by the scientific achievements under Prince Henry of Portugal, the writings of the Spanish Jurist-Theologians, and later the paintings of Velasquez. However, the shifting currents of history soon left these countries stranded, gradually transformed into cultural wastes.

The advent of increased trade to the Netherlands introduced the period of the Flemish and later of the Dutch Renaissance. In the seventeenth century, at least half of the Dutch population was composed of merchants, artisans, or seamen. It is during this century that the Dutch attained the highest point in their relative standing and political power.

However, by this time not merely commerce was being developed, but manufactures as well; thus aesthetic culture was forced, to share place with practical science, both natural and social. Art, that crowing cock, found itself increasingly displaced by the prosaic cackling hen of science regularly laying its golden eggs. In Holland there was not only a Rembrandt and a Franz Hals, but also a Spinoza and a Descartes, both of whom deliberately chose to make the Netherlands their adopted country. While Holland was daring to carry out an insurrection that terminated at first in a non-democratic republic and later in a constitutional monarchy, practically the first of its kind where the bourgeoisie was in complete control, the Dutchman Grotius was laying down a theoretical justification of these developments in an attempt to build a basis for a body of international law.

With the rise of factories in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the spread of new methods of production, the money-men who had made their wealth through the circulation of commodities now found themselves supported by men who had transformed money into capital, that is, men who actually were producing commodities for a world market in a factory system based on craftsmen, skilled in the use of specialized tools and working for wages. It was indeed time for these capitalists and money-men to transform culture, art, literature, and science into custom and morals. However, to change the ethics of a country it was necessary to reckon with the religious institutions of the time, particularly with the Catholic Church, which had frozen the ethics of the older ruling classes into eternal moral precepts hallowed by God.

It must not be supposed that the Catholic Church had been impervious to the influence of money

and of personal property as distinguished from land and real property. Quite the contrary was the case, indeed. We may confidently declare that the Pope resided in Italy, or rather that the Roman Bishop reached and maintained his exalted status of Pope, precisely because Italy had been, and continued to be, the most developed commercial country. While it is true that the Catholic Church had a vast landed interest, in fact repeatedly based its conduct upon that interest, it is no less true that the Pope, as Pope, derived his financial might, not from his land estates, but from the vast drain of gold and personal wealth that poured in upon him from all parts of Europe. His emissaries in collecting the tithes due him did not collect in land or in kind, but in forms of wealth that could be used as money, namely, precious metals and jewels of all sorts. The Pope was the richest money-man of all Europe.

It was for just this reason that the Catholic Church could become a catholic church. Land ownership leads to provinciality, to particularity. Money, however, can move in every direction and is treated as a universal equivalent; it is truly a catholic object. Is it any wonder that it was the Jews, money-men and traders par excellence, who were able to transcend ancient particularist mythology and arrive at a belief in but one God? Has there ever existed a monotheism not concomitant with trade routes and commercial wanderings?

This dual material basis of the Catholic Church, land and money, gave rise to grave conflicts both in the relations between Church and Crown, and within the Church itself. The strategic positions were held by the Bishops, and the struggles that arose hinged around the question, who should control the Bishops, King or Pope? In the Middle Ages, when money played a very subordinate role to land, the Bishops felt in no wise inferior; it was they who controlled the lands in each country. Because the realty could not be moved to Rome, the Bishops were connected far more closely with the native aristocracy, from whose ranks they most often came, than with the Pope. Although the Bishops were supposed to be elected by the clergy of the diocese, they soon became entirely subservient to the temporal rulers whose appointees they really were.

On the other hand, the King was often glad to work closely with the Bishops. They could sanctify his usurpations; they were far better government agents than the other nobles; they were much more literate and cultured and, what was most important, they were barred from marriage and thus could not build up family holdings that could threaten the power of the Crown. Thus, in his struggle against the power of the feudal knights and lords, the King found it to his interests to favor the Bishops who were already divorced from ambitions of inheritance and political domination.

The rise of commerce, however, and the shift of property from realty to personalty, gave the Pope the material opportunity to break the hold of the Crown upon the Bishops. The chief instrument for this purpose was the Crusades, by means of which the Catholic Church at Rome increased its wealth and position enormously, not only because of the re-growth of the importance of the Mediterranean, but because of the weakening of feudalism entailed by the Crusades. During this period the Pope freed himself from the control of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and declared that only the Cardinals, and not the temporal ruler, could elect the Pope. It was also in this period that the Pope broke the hold of the Crown upon the Bishops and made them responsible to the Church only, Rome assuming the authority to move them around from country to country, wherever needed. From now on the rulers of the Vatican concentrated upon building up a highly efficient and centralized machine, immensely superior to all rivals, one which reached its peak with the truly remarkable organizations of Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jansenists.

Since the Catholic Church was supported by the business men of the day, it soon reached out its mighty arm to protect and foster business and commerce. This could be done primarily through the workings of the Church Courts and through Canon Law which, with the rise of the power of the Church, became the chief instrument of the State in handling personal affairs and personal property. The business of the Church Courts included all cases in which clergymen were involved, or in which the persons involved were connected with the Church, or where the Church should be called in as protector, such as cases pertaining to monks, students, crusaders, widows, orphans, the helpless, etc. They also adjudicated cases wherein the rites or prohibitions of the Church were involved, such as marriage, wills, sworn contracts, usury, blasphemy, sorcery, heresy, etc. This was the place where people could come to have their personal affairs adjusted, where the merchants naturally thronged to get justice and settle their differences. The history of modern legal science begins with the revival of the study of Roman Law in the twelfth century.

The amount of money which soon began to pass through the hands of the Church can be deduced from the fact that, during the Great jubilee of 1300, so great were the donations of money at Rome that it took two attendants, working night and day with rakes, to shove away the money offerings thrown before the altar. Thus was the alliance between Church and Commerce firmly cemented.

Certain it is that the Catholic Church soon became thoroughly commercialized. Commercial and financial leaders became Popes, and the Church became the great patron of the Renaissance with all its liberal implications. Does this not account for the fact that so much of the art of the time is religious in its subject matter? So long as commerce and money continued to open up the markets of the world and to develop Western Europe, Catholic internationalism could not be opposed successfully, and so long as money was confined solely to the sphere of circulation and had not yet become money capital in any large sense of the term, the Catholic Church could remain supreme in its field. However, later, with the rise of commodity production, of factory owners and wage-workers, a political economy grew up that was bound to take national lines and to run counter to the ultramontane policy of the Catholic Church.

Having utilized the Catholic Church to the utmost, the nascent capitalists were now prepared to shift their allegiance from Pope to King, in an effort to build up an absolute monarchy which could unify the nation behind the commercial commodity-producing classes of the country.(*1) The change in the mode of production of wealth, the shift from feudal self- sufficiency to capitalist commodity production, meant a change not merely in the relation of man to natural objects, but above all in the relation of man to man in the production of the necessities of life. This, in turn, demanded a change of conduct, of attitude, of morals, of custom, of ethics. Against these changes, the Catholic Church, finding itself outmoded, began to fight with all the power at its command. Reformation and Counter- Reformation were the result.

Thus it is with the religious texts of the Reformation that political Liberalism really gets its start. In the course of the struggle, moral and religious battles soon became political. Jurisprudence was emancipated from theology. As capitalist business evolved, and as the period of Revolution was ushered in, Liberalism emerged as a mature independent political movement. As a specific political movement, then, we can say that Liberalism dates generally from the eighteenth century (seventeenth century among the English and Dutch) and reaches its maturity in the nineteenth century.

Liberalism and Revolution-who today would think that once they were twins! Yet that very period which was marked by the rise of Liberalism witnessed the “Great Rebellion” of 1640-1660 and the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 in England. It saw the American Revolution of 1776 and the Great French Revolution of 1789, as well as the series of European revolutions that culminated in 1848. It was in the course of these events that Liberalism found its best expression, came into its own.


Naturally enough, England was the first great land where the merchant capitalist class and other capitalist interests, profiting by the country’s favorable geographic position, by the events in Europe, and by their own advanced social development, were first able to impress their will through revolution, and gradually, by a series of compromises, to seize control of the State. England was favored by the fact that it could not be invaded easily by outside reactionary forces because of the strength of its navy defending the turbulent Channel and because internal dissensions and wars were weakening its rivals. A study of the English Civil Wars in the seventeenth century will enable us to trace the evolution of Liberalism from its very beginning.

That the struggle between the old ruling classes and the newer ones demanding their place in the pattern of English affairs could be compromised in England was a result of the fact that both these country and city interests had been fusing together for some time previously. On one side, there remained at the opening of the seventeenth century only a remnant of the old feudal nobility. The country estates were being managed on commercial principles, and a recently ennobled aristocracy, financially close to the city capitalist interests, had arisen. On the other side, the merchants and moneyed men, entrenched in the cities, had waxed quite strong, had penetrated the countryside, and had formed a rural gentry class of their own. Thus, while at bottom the English conflict was a struggle between a new capitalist class and the old landlord class, yet the newer elements were settled in the country as well as in the city, and against them was a modernized landlord class that had become thoroughly penetrated by capitalism.

An important clue to the understanding of the relationship of social forces of the period, a clue that is generally overlooked yet which explains much, is provided by the position of the English merchant marine. After the discovery of America, world history had definitely shifted from land to sea, and the old lords and knights were left high and dry. The feudalists might look fine on a horse, but they did not appear to advantage on a ship.

The nascent capitalists, completely controlling the merchant marine, were quick to utilize the enormous possibilities in their grasp. England’s greatness rested on her merchant marine, the backbone of her navy. Through it, she could attain unprecedented economic power and world supremacy. For how long could the men behind this merchant marine be denied the political power in the country? This question was precipitated when the King imposed severe taxes on tonnage and shipments.

The English already had the inspiring example of the Dutch. Holland, as it gained control of goodly portions of the world’s commerce, the Baltic trade, the spice trade to the East, etc., and as it built up its factories and cities, had been able to wrest itself free from the feudal grip of Spain, trouncing that country repeatedly on the high seas. This freedom, in turn, so unleashed the power of the Dutch that they became masters of the sea, and the merchants and the capitalist class of the Netherlands prospered greatly.(*2)

In line with this commercial and financial development, responsive to the modern needs of the times, and led by the great banking center of Amsterdam, Holland established a limited monarchy and set the example, not only in politics but in general culture, for English Liberals. Religious toleration even of Jews became definitely established. A great theory of natural law and of the natural rights of man was worked out by Grotius. From the disciples of Descartes there developed a regular school of scientific materialists, while Spinoza in his ethic and politic gives us a viewpoint extraordinarily close to that of the English.(*3) The embroidery of these Dutch patterns by the English shows what an extremely close connection there existed between the two countries, a connection symbolized by the bringing over of William of Orange to administer the English constitutional system of 1688.

The old English rulers represented economic classes no longer of benefit to society, classes which imposed, rather, such rules and regulations as to choke economic advancement. Loss of economic strength had led to social decay and political parasitism. There was but one class able to remove the incubus of Absolute Monarchy and to break the fetters around industry and commerce. In a period when the proletariat was just being born, and when the city had to take the lead, that class could be only the one in control of the new and increasingly dominant forces of commerce and industry, namely the capitalists.

The English Civil Wars, although caused by the King’s heavy taxation of the bourgeoisie without their consent, were fought with religious texts, as though religious and not economic questions were the basic issues. In the seventeenth century this was the only means by which the immature capitalist class could express its interests. Besides, this was the traditional approach. A class struggling for power generally proceeds to the offensive under defensive traditional slogans and theories. Against the landed aristocratic classes endorsing the Pope and the Catholic Church, the business man throughout Europe supported Calvin, or Luther, or some other Protestant movement against the Pope. Calvin had complained that the Pope was making Christianity a business; he, in turn, wanted to make business Christly. Calvinism took all the virtues of the capitalist class and turned them into the eternal light of the Lord.

"Once the world had been settled to their liking, the middle classes persuaded themselves that they were the convinced enemies of violence and the devotees of the principle of order. While their victories were still to win, they were everywhere the spear-head of revolution. It is not wholly fanciful to say that, on a narrower stage but with not less formidable weapons, Calvin did for the bourgeoisie of the sixteenth century what Marx did for the proletariat of the nineteenth, or that the doctrine of predestination satisfied the same hunger for an assurance that the forces of the universe are on the side of the elect as was to be assuaged in a different age by the theory of historical materialism."(*4)

In England, the religious Protestant approach was made all the easier; the quarrel of the English ruling class with the Pope, a century earlier, had already taken the violent form of a break with Catholicism and the organization of an English Protestant Episcopal Church. In religion, as in economics, the aristocracy had already accepted some of the formulas of the merchants, and the way had been paved for the capitalist class to declare that its fight for Calvinism, for Puritanism, or for Separatism, as the case might be, was but the logical extension of what had already become the accepted mode of action

Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church, which came in the sixteenth century, after the Pope had parceled out the new world to Spain and Portugal, had several results so far as England was concerned. It operated directly, first, to end the interference of the Pope in national and international affairs; second, to transfer the clergy from agents of a foreign power to agents of English absolute monarchy; third, to confiscate Church lands; fourth, to accelerate the process by which the rents were raised, the commons seized, and the tenants driven off the lands; fifth, to initiate the struggle against the Catholic powers for world colonies, counter to the Pope’s Bull.

This break with the Church consolidated national economy, reduced still further the power of the nobility, and aided the commercial and financial classes. That the break was so violent, as compared with the struggle between the King of France and the Catholic Church, was due in part to the greater power and maturity of English national capitalism, and in part to the rigid opposition England was encountering from the papal powers.

In France, two centuries earlier, rising French nationalism could only compromise, not break with the Catholic Church. In their temporary victory over the Pope during the Babylonian Captivity (1305-1377) at Avignon, the French had prevailed upon the Pope to favor their own national interests, particularly over those of their rival, England. In 1376 a report was made in the English Parliament that the taxes levied by the Pope in England were five times those raised by the King. No wonder the English began to rebel and to produce such heretics as Wyclif. Thus was the line of English Protestantism drawn from Wyclif to Henry VIII to Cromwell.

In the struggle against Catholicism-and it was the threatened return to the Catholic Church by the Stuarts that sharpened the conflict-the middle class was able to cement a firm alliance with a large section of the new landlords by virtue of the fact that these latter feared they would have to relinquish the stolen church lands and property, were Catholicism to return. In such event, it is estimated, ownership of one-tenth of the entire soil of England would have changed hands. Further, seizure of the Commons and other lands by large landowners had driven the peasantry off the land and had provided the necessary proletariat for the capitalists. This explains the alliance which united the English middle class with the largest section of the great landowners, and it is this alliance which essentially distinguishes the English Revolution from the French, wherein much large landed property was destroyed by parceling out the soil.

While there was still a numerous free peasantry in England at the time, it is none the less true that whereas, under feudalism, the landlords had tried to bind their serfs to the soil, by the seventeenth century they were driving them off the land. Thus it was that the Puritan Revolution remained so strictly a narrow struggle between the King and the middle classes, while the mass of poor agrarians merely stood by, aiding neither side. That the peasants took little part in the English Civil Wars is amply attested by the small numbers composing the armies in the field; at Marston Moor, the King had eighteen thousand men, Parliament twenty- six thousand; at Naseby the King had but nine thousand men. Both sides had to conscript and to impress. In 1645, at the height of the war, Parliament had but sixty to seventy thousand men in all of its armies.(*5)

For many centuries there was no class strong enough to challenge the Feudal State. The ruling class, therefore, had enforced not only its legal codes but also its moral standards. Morals and law had become fused; public policy and social morality seemed identical. And since, in a stagnant State, morality and not politics predominates, it had been quite fitting that the Church should lead and the State should act as the police officer of the Church. As new powerful classes arose in the sixteenth century to challenge the old order, morality gave way to politics; the courts were taken from the hands of the Church, which became but the ecclesiastical department of the State.(*6) The early Protestants did not challenge this state of affairs; in fact, their early complaint was that the State was not controlling the Church sufficiently.

It should be borne in mind that it had been the commercial and financial classes which, emerging from feudalism, had supported the King in his fight against the feudal and ecclesiastical robber barons and, for their own purposes, had aided the rise of Absolute Monarchy. Naturally, these elements hesitated to attack monarchical authority as such at the start. Generally, it is easier and safer to attack the morality of the ruling class than its power of State. Therefore, classes seeking State power pave the way for the coup d’etat by a flank attack on the morals and mores of the ruling class.

In the beginning, then, as the capitalists began their fight for profits, for free trade and free markets, and as this conflict drove them to a struggle for a cheap government and a sympathetic one, their program, the program of seventeenth century Liberalism, came to grips with the program of the old order. Against the Catholic religion, Liberalism set up the more urban Protestant one.(*7) It did not fight religion, but made religious fervor more intense.

Seventeenth-century Liberalism did not separate Church from State. Rather, what the early Protestants tried to do was to guide the State, by substituting their church for that of the aristocracy. The minister thus became their political leader. This was most clearly exemplified in the Puritan theocratic State established in New England. Here the Church- State was carried to its farthest extreme; all departments of life were supposedly regulated according to the law of God.

Against the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings, religious Liberalism set up the Calvinist one of Predestination in an effort to prove to the capitalist that the same eternal laws of God which the aristocracy claimed for itself were in reality upon his side. Whereas the capitalist declared the Law antedated and was superior to the King and called for the rule of Law as against the rule of Kings, who violate the Law,(*8) the aristocrat insisted that the Law of the Realm speaks through the King. In both cases the law of society depended upon the law of God.

Against the luxuriousness of the Catholic Church there was set up the asceticism of the Protestant; against the licentiousness of the aristocracy, the thrift, the discipline and moderation,’ the sobriety and diligence of the entrepreneurs Both advocated the rule of property, but whereas the aristocracy, the “elite by birth and talents,” wanted the minority of the land- lords graced by the will of God to do the ruling, the business man wanted the “elite of character” to do the leading, and those qualities which constituted character were precisely the godlike virtues which he himself possessed in abundance. If the Catholic conceived of the princely Pope as embodying the monopoly of godliness, the Protestant business man took God from the bosom of the priest and put Him in his own breast. In religion, as elsewhere, competition replaced monopoly.

The Liberal Church militantly advanced on all fronts in the struggle against the old order, of which the Catholic clergy were but a part. The Catholic Church had banned as usury the lending of money at interest; this was now permitted. The old Church had praised charity to beggars; beggary was now looked upon as a crime.

Protestantism had brought no good to the masses of English poor, however. With the rise of capitalism their standards became worsened. In the Middle Ages “… fortunately for the English people … their habit, even under the adverse circumstances of their existence and the uncleanly ways of their life, was always to subsist on abundant provisions of naturally high quality. They ate wheaten bread, drank barley beer, and had plenty of cheap, though perhaps coarse, meat. Mutton and beef. were within the reach of far more people than they now are."(*9)"I find that the fifteenth century and the first quarter of the sixteenth were the golden age of the English labourer, if we are to interpret the wages which he earned by the cost of the necessaries of life. At no time were wages, relatively speaking, so high, and at no time was food so cheap.(*10)” Wages were about six pence per day when the weekly cost of food averaged but six pence. The working day was one of eight hours. Often the workers were paid for Sundays and holidays and given their maintenance besides.(*11)

It is with Henry VIII that the sharp change occurred. The currency was debased, the wages fell, the guilds protecting the artisans were destroyed.

This process was continued under Queen Elizabeth. Between the middle of Elizabeth’s reign and the breaking out of the Parliamentary war, prices doubled.(*12) Pauperism greatly increased. Wages were fixed at an extremely low level. In 1593, “The work of a whole year would not supply the labourer with the quantity which in 1495 the labourer earned with fifteen weeks’ labour.(*13)

The demand for labor was very great, since the markets were being extended and machinery had not as yet been introduced. The capitalists declared, with Luther, that pilgrimages, saints’ days, and monasteries were an excuse for idleness and must be suppressed; vagrants either must be banished or compelled to labor. Innumerable writers advanced schemes for reformed workhouses, which should be places at once of punishment and of training. If, under feudal traditions, the individual had called upon authority and social forces to aid him, now he was to rely only upon his individual will and work. Man, individual man, became the center of the universe.


As the English Civil Wars of the seventeenth century progressed, new forces began to enter the arena and to impart a different color to the Liberal movement. The Great Rebellion began to outstrip its original aims, as the French Revolution was to do a hundred years later. After the first Civil War (1642-1646), the Liberals, who in England were the Presbyterians, took control of the government through the Long Parliament. These Liberals comprised those wealthy elements who were discontented with their lack of political power. They sought to make the King responsible to them, but by no means did they wish more power than that vested in them through a Constitutional Monarchy in which they had the decisive voice.(*14) However, it was not these wealthy elements who had fought the war. The small and middle property holders had borne the brunt of the fighting, and already the masses were beginning to stir in their own right. They attempted to push the Revolution farther and farther to the Left, and it was they who now turned Liberalism into Radicalism.

The Radicals had separated themselves from the Presbyterians, and, since all movements at this time took on a religious garb, had organized the Independents. During the Civil War these Independents formed the Party of Levellers. The Independents, in turn, were divided into various sects, according to the class position of their members. To the Right, representing the upper section of these middle layers, the “country gentlemen,” were the Puritans(*15) (corresponding in religious views to the Congregationalist Church in the United States, although in England some retained their presbyters). This upper section was able to win over many of the nobility and the clergy as well as strata of the lower orders of artisans and peasants, and it was this group who dominated. The military and political leaders of the Puritans were Cromwell and Ireton; the Puritan element formed the caste of the lower officers in the Army of Rebellion (the higher officers were mostly Presbyterians). However, few of these officers were part of the Levellers, who, as yeomen and city apprentices, composed the main bulk of the army soldiery.

Among the Puritans there arose a fight on the part of the common soldiers against those they regarded as the “Gentlemen” Independents, and the soldiers formed their own council to which were elected two from each company.

Cromwell’s views of the Levellers and his class bias are well illustrated by the following: “It is some satisfaction if a commonwealth must perish, that it perish by men and not by the hands of persons differing little from beasts! that if it must needs suffer, it sh’d rather suffer from rich men, than from poor men, who, as Solomon says ‘when they oppress leave nothing behind them but a sweeping rain."(*16)

To the Left of the Puritans, made up of still poorer elements, were such groups as the Anabaptists,(*17) and the Quakers.(*18) This Left Wing of the Independents, differing from the Puritans, was called “Separatist” because it desired the separation of Church and State. Whereas the Puritans fused morality and law and wanted to make the State moral, the Separatist Left Wing wanted mutual tolerance, although those on the extreme left were hostile to the State as such.

The Quakers could be described, in a way, as religious Anarchists with some Social-Democratic ideas. Living and dressing simply and by regulation, the Quakers regarded all Christians, even women, as priests. They refused to take off their hats to anyone. They advocated the separation of Church and State and were opposed to all paid clergy, and to the payment of tithes. Repudiating war, standing for penal and prison reform, for widest dissemination of education and science, and opposed to slavery, the Quakers played a prominent part in the reform movement in the eighteenth century. Theirs was a religion without ritual, and they were the founders of middle class philanthropy.

The recognized leader of the Quakers, John Bellers, took the view that labor was the standard of value by which to measure all necessaries. He wrote: “If there were no labourers, there would be no Lords. And if the Labourers did not raise more Food, and Manufactures than what did subsist themselves, every Gentlemen must be a Labourer, and idle Men must starve."(*19) During the days of the Civil Wars, however, it was not Bellers, whose influence came later, who was the spiritual father of the Quakers, but Jerrard Winstanley.(*20)

Winstanley was the leader of the extreme Left wing, known as the “True Levellers” or Diggers. They were called “Diggers” because they dared to dig on the common lands, retaking them from the landlords and reclaiming them for the whole people. In a stirring “Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England: Directed to all that call themselves or are called Lords of Manor&,” the Diggers boldly averred: “---. the Earth was not made puposely for you to be Lords of it, and we to be your Slaves. .---. Therefore we are resolved to be cheated no longer, nor to be held under the slavish fear of you no longer, seeing the Earth was made for us as well as for you."(*21)

In his chief work(*22) Winstanley advocates a system of society where the land shall be worked in common, where buying and selling, which are the causes of war, are abolished, where no money circulates, where there exist common storehouses to which all bring their goods, and where all have the duty to work. There he staunchly affirms: “No man can be rich, but he must be rich, either by his own labors, or by the labors of other men helping him. If a man have no help from his neighbor, he shall never gather an Estate of hundreds and thousands a year: If other men help him to work, then are those Riches his Neighbors, as well as his; for they be the fruit of other mens labors as well as his own."(*23)

Under Winstanley’s proposed rule there would be no lawyers or clergymen. Marriage would be based on love. The Administration of the State would be elected annually, all voting except those who aided the king, and capitalists who bought or sold the produce of the land.(*24) Poor men, tested in struggle, would be chosen to lead the Commonwealth.

Even the most militant of the Levellers, such men as John Lilburne, shied away from the extreme program of the Diggers; Lilburne, indeed, expressly disclaimed any sympathy with their views.(*25)

“On April 16 appeared a new manifesto, in which he [Lilburne] and his comrades protested against the application of the term Levellers to themselves, especially if it was understood to include a desire for the ‘equaling of men’s estates, and taking away of the proper right and title that every man has to what is his own.” (*26) Yet, among the mass of poor people who composed the Party of Levellers, only the Diggers represented the laboring interests solely. Many of them were Deists, some Atheists; later many identified themselves with the Quakers. (*27)

As the first Civil War came to an end with the victory of the Long Parliament and the Presbyterians over the King, these Liberals found that the Army had begun to take the theories of democracy seriously. (*28) The Army Levellers insisted that since Parliament itself represented only a minority, Parliament yield to the people. Parliament had retained the game laws and tithes, had preserved the privileges of the great trading companies and now, thoroughly frightened, began to make overtures to the King and tried to disband the Army. Whereupon, the Army broke into Parliament, cleaned out the Liberals, and left only the Independents in a Rump Parliament.” (*29) This led to the second Civil War (1648-1649) in which the King’s forces, although now aided by the Liberal Presbyterians, were decisively crushed. (*30)

From the very beginning the bourgeoisie had been fearful that the, Civil War would go too far in upsetting the property structure. At first the army of Parliament had been led by several big Lords but after the defeat of the king at Marston Moor these officers were mortally afraid not of being defeated but of beating the king too much. They therefore sabotaged the further conduct of the War and Cromwell was forced to bring charges against the Earl of Manchester. (*31) As the old officers laid down their commissions Cromwell’s Model Army took the lead. In his turn, Cromwell, too, tried to restrict the composition of the army. Captain Cromwell told Cousin Hampden, "They never would get on with a set of poor tapsters and town-apprentice people, fighting against men of honour. To cope with men of honour they must have men of religion." (*32) None the less, in spite of all of Cromwell’s efforts, his men began to get out of hand and to set up their own soldiers Soviets and their own dual power to Parliament.

The wealthy and middle property holders had defeated the aristocracy; the middle and poor property holders had defeated the wealthy Liberals. Now it was the turn of the middle property holder to feel the pressure of the poorer classes, comprised of yeomen, apprentices, and artisans. Under their plebeian pressure, Charles I was executed, and the Commonwealth proclaimed.

The Levelers, as a Democratic party, stood for manhood suffrage, for the rights of the soldier as against the officer, for equal electoral divisions, for biennial parliaments, for a Republic, for careful restriction of the rights of Parliament as against those of the people. To these proposals were added demands for a direct tax according to wealth, and for measures for the insurance of work and the decent maintenance of the poor, the aged, and the sick. However, not even this democratic group would go so far as to urge that wage earners or paupers should vote. (*33)

The attitude of the leading Puritan gentlemen towards the interests of labor was quite clear. “The eager spirits who crowded into the House of Commons, the mounted yeomen who rode with Hampden, the men who fought and won at Marston Moor and Naseby, thought no more of the peasant and the workman, had no more care for bettering him, than the Irish Patriots of 1782 cared for the kernes and cottiers on whose labours they lived. For in the midst of this battle of giants—the English poor who lived by wages were sinking lower and lower, and fast taking their place in the contrast with the opulence which trade and commerce began, and manufacturing activity multiplied, as the beggarly hewers and drawers of prosperous and progressive England.” (*34)

When Leveller agitation became acute in 1647, the leaders of the Model Army laid down the law in no uncertain terms. Cromwell” … branded the proposal for the universal franchise as anarchy, and carried a vote dismissing officers and agitators alike to their regiments. (*35) And “Ireton developed his theory of the English Constitution, namely, that it was intended to secure property. To that end it had limited the suffrage to those who had a fixed stake in the kingdom. Once extend this franchise to all men on the ground that by nature they had a right to it, as necessary to their liberties, and all property was gone; for it could be argued on the same ground that by nature any man had a right to any property that he needed for his support.” (*36) When some of the poor soldiers stepped up and asked what rights did they have since they possessed no property, Ireton brazenly replied the right to live under the rule of property.

Just as Parliament had tried to restrict the King, so did the Levellers try to define the powers of Parliament. In the beginning of their struggle against the privileges of the Crown, in 1640, the leaders of Parliament had been careful not to deny that the source of the law lay in the King, but merely claimed that the law-making powers of the King were limited by the fundamental law of the land. It was this fundamental law, indeed, that protected the law-making prerogatives of the Crown. Later, in 1642, Parliament began to maintain that it was the sole interpreter of what the law of the land really was. “The power to interpret the constitution of the kingdom was the bridge that carried the Long Parliament from the doctrine of the supremacy of the law to the doctrine of the supremacy of Parliament.” (*37) In the end Parliament decided to assert that it, and it alone, could make the law, since, it was declared, Parliament was the supreme council to the King, whose advice the King was bound to take. Thus Parliament became like a supreme court from which there was no appeal and took on the functions of court, council and legislature.

But “if every regal act on the part of the King could be supposed to be the result of counsel, and if he were debarred from accepting other counsel than that of Parliament, he became a mere automaton to register its decrees.” (*38) Parliament had begun the struggle with the claim that the King had to listen to the representatives of the people, it ended up with refusing the King any say whatever and claiming absolute power not only over the King but over the people as well.

It was now the turn of the Levellers to point out that it was ridiculous on the part of Parliament to claim to represent the nation as a whole when so many were disfranchised. If the people might on occasion revoke the grant of power they had made to a king, they could also revoke the grant of power they had made to their representatives and that the real source of the law lay not in Parliament but in the people.

The “Gentlemen” Independents, who, under the pressure of events had joined with the soldiers against the Liberal Parliament, soon came to blows with their Left Wing. The leaders of the democrats were shot or jailed. The insurrectionary move within the army was put down with a stern hand. The Rump Parliament, now only a handful and thoroughly futile, was dissolved, (*39) the Protectorate established, and the Revolution ended. (*40)

“The Leveller constitutional theories, however, have not vanished from the world. Around the fundamental principle of the limitation of government by paramount law, the Levellers developed a body of constitutional and political doctrines that suggest the main theories of American constitutional law. The sovereignty of the people, the inalienable right of the individual, the binding force of paramount law, the enforcement of political law by judicial action-all of these are American doctrines.” (*41)

Under Cromwell the government did not go beyond limited Liberal propositions. Every concession was made to the wealthy classes. Only a small number of the leading Royalists lost the whole of their estates, the rest merely having to pay fines ranging from one-tenth to one-third of the value of their property. Titles were not abolished, and Church and State not separated, although a good deal of toleration was permitted, even towards the Jews. (*42) Liberal reforms took place in the courts, in civil and criminal law, and in taxation. Civil marriage was established (*43) at this period, relief of prisoners for debt was effected, and some care for lunatics was inaugurated.

Cromwell laid the basis for the imperialist policy of England. Under him, the first trade war was begun against Holland, Nationalism was fostered, the Navy was thoroughly reorganized, and reaction was defeated. The United Kingdom was saved, Scotland and Ireland subdued.

Upon these developments, the Liberals hastened to end their opposition to the Dictatorship of Cromwell. Indeed, they urged him to take the crown, since to these Liberals both a republic and a democracy were equally unbearable. Later, upon the death of Cromwell, this Liberal group was able to effect the “Glorious Whig Revolution” and bring the line of William of Orange into England on the basis of a Constitutional Monarchy and the supremacy of Parliament, under which the big capitalist elements could control.” (*44)


The upper layers of the middle class had emerged triumphant from the political revolution of the seventeenth century. But the strain had been a severe one, and they had been forced to put forth theoreticians who would extricate politics from religion and attempt to state their position in scientific terms. Such policies became all the more necessary as the Liberals attempted to work out a Petition of Rights for themselves and constitutions for the American colonies. Attuned to the general advance by science, the Liberal Whigs were forced to become pioneers in the science of politics and in constitution-making. From the upper middle class the modern theorists of Liberalism first arise; Locke (*45) and Hume, the forerunner and founder respectively of the Utilitarian school, dominate the scene in England and in America for over a hundred years.

The wealthy capitalists now coming into power in England realized clearly that they had arrived at their position only as the result of compromise. In their Liberal way they had opposed both the old regime and the Revolution. The progress of the Civil Wars had revealed what a small proportion of the population they actually constituted. They hastened, then, to make peace with all possible elements, whether royalist or democratic. The turmoil of the Rebellion and the Restoration and the struggles of the various groups for power had shown them the need for a new program and a new set of principles.

We have seen that both the Liberals and the Radicals, in their fight against the Absolute Monarchy, had called for government by law and not by one man. The law was to be the law of God as evinced in the traditional customs and laws of the country, a law which, it was claimed, Charles I had violated. But the violence of the Revolution had unleashed, it seemed, many different conceptions of God and many diverse points of view. If the Liberals were to establish any sort of stable government, it was vital for them to compromise with as many of the sects as possible, and to tolerate them all, except those irreconcilables that stood for active revolution or counter-revolution. To do this, it was necessary for the Liberals to drop entirely what seemed to them the inadequate laws of God and to try to reach some more enduring, steadier basis for their theory.

To the English more propitious even than the laws of God were the laws of nature. Nature had been good to the English. It had placed them in the exact center of world trade. Nature had created a stormy Channel between them and their rivals; it had provided them with large groups of excellent artisans; it was the storehouse for the materials of their production by which they had built up the strongest economy in the world. England had long produced the finest wool. Now the services of Flemish weavers driven to England by the Dutch Wars were available. By the seventeenth century minerals, too, were being worked. It followed naturally that England should be a home of physics, mathematics, invention, science (Bacon, Newton). Since the laws of Nature were kindly, they gradually became idealized as eternal, became synthesized into Natural Law; and from Natural Law evolved the “Natural Rights of Man.”

For centuries before John Locke, various theories of Natural Law had been propounded. In their struggle against the temporal powers, the Popes and Catholic Church theoreticians had often tried to show that God’s Law did not necessarily mean the King’s Law. Indeed, the Jesuits had set forth a regular theory of tyrannicide to apply wherever the King repudiated God’s Law. Under St. Thomas Aquinas, in the thirteenth century, the church theory was developed that God’s Law speaks through Natural Law, a body of eternal moral principles hallowed by God and the Church and to be discovered by reason; or, as St. Thomas Aquinas puts it: Natural Law was a reflection of the “reason of divine wisdom governing the whole universe.” (*46)

We have already seen that the growth of the power of the Catholic Church coincided with the breakdown of feudalism and the emergence of the Renaissance. In setting up its system of Natural Law above the rules and precepts of the given States, the Church was in reality reflecting a new morality and culture that was coming to life with the money-men. At the same time the Church was bolstering up its own authority and that of the Canon Law.

We have also noted that by the sixteenth century, with the rise of the factory system and the growth of the class struggles within each country, the Church became subordinate to the national State, even in Catholic countries. And when Spain began to rule Italy and to nominate the Popes, Church intellectuals, no longer able to dominate the State, could only try to control it. This the great Jesuit organization set out to do; for centuries it was eminently successful in cementing together the interests of Catholic King and Church.

It was at this time, too, that the Roman Law was being adopted throughout Europe. When ancient Rome became a great State, the old regulations of the Twelve Tables, which had guided the rulers of the old clans or gens, were suitable no longer for the new conditions, and these old rules, had been modified by the Jurisconsults, especially as they affected members of other groups not Roman tribesmen. A body of law called ius gentium had been compiled, embracing also principles supposed to be of universal validity supported by the morality and decency of all communities. The standards of the ius gentium became homologous to those of Natural Law. Natural Law thus became regarded as the law that applied to all humanity, regardless of the civil laws, and that ought to, apply to an races and nations in their conduct among themselves.

The ius gentium had been codified under the Christian Roman Emperor Justinian. Using this Code as a basis and conforming with the new political developments of Europe in the sixteenth century, there arose, naturally foremost in Spain, a school of jurist-Theologians who developed the ius gentiutn into a body of Natural Law that could act to restrain states and limit their activities both in regard to other states (Spain’s control over the Vatican?) and in regard to the relation of State to subject. At the same time individual activity also could be limited by these principles of Natural Law.

With the rise of the Protestant revolt, and particularly with the break of the Dutch from both Spain and the Catholic Church, Jurisprudence and Law were finally divorced from theology, and the system of Natural Law was conceived as based, not upon Canon or Church Law or even upon the Roman Law exclusively, but solely upon eternal reason. However, with Grotius, the pious belief was also put forth that it is the will of God to will only reason, and in England, the same viewpoint was expressed later by Blackstone. (*47) Thus, according to these thinkers, civil law-the precepts and commands of the State-is limited by certain principles of morality which are eternal and superior to State law. Through this fiction of Natural Law, the new business class was pressing its own morality and trying to make the law conform to the new standards necessary to the rising class. With Grotius, as later with Blackstone, this abstract Natural Law is translated into the “Natural Rights” of humans that the law is bound to defend. (*48)

Thus in England, at first, Natural Law was not conceived to be in opposition to God’s Law. Indeed, it was part of God’s Law, the way God’s Law worked out. By this device, however, theory became concentrated upon Natural Law and evaded God’s supernatural Law. We have seen that Protestantism had brought God from the heavens and centered Him in man. Religion had become earthly, and the philosophers now became more and more materialistic. Soon church law could be ignored. (*49)

Natural Law was substituted not only for God’s Law but for the laws of man. The law of the State had to conform to the Law of Nature as then conceived. Man was part of nature. (*50) He possessed natural rights as part of the Law of Nature. Herein the English differed from the Spanish and church theologians who had preceded them, in that the English tended to put Natural Law upon the same basis as any law of science. At the same time, however, the English identified as far as possible this Natural Law with the historic rights of Englishmen and the ancient customs of the country. Just as science was discovering the laws of physics, mathematics, astronomy, etc, so could man’s reason discover the Natural and Eternal Rights of Man. Once discovered, these could not be changed by society nor by any laws of the State, for this would be in violation of the Law of Nature and could spell only revolution and destruction.

In previous centuries, in the setting up of an ideal system of Natural Law superior to State positive law, by no means had there been an attempt to overthrow the temporal authority of the State as against its subjects. Indeed, the doctrines of Aquinas were used as a prop to authority rather than as a means of shaking it, for the idea that positive law must conform with Natural Law could always be used to prove that whatever the civil law, it was in true conformity with the eternal and immutable principles of God and Nature. This was essentially the smug position of Blackstone. The great importance of the English Liberal theoreticians, however, consisted in the fact that they used the principles of Natural Law to ‘break down the authority and rules of the State as then existing. With Locke, as later with Thomas Paine and Rousseau, theories of Natural Law take on a revolutionary color.

Here, then, was the thesis of the Liberals of 1688 and of the eighteenth century. It was the inevitable product of their political position. The Liberals fought the positive religions of the classes both above and below them with agnostic and sceptic metaphysics. Against the dogmatic laws, eternal and immutable, of this or that church which proclaimed either the old aristocracy or the new democracy as rulers, the Liberals now set up the eternal and immutable laws of Nature by which they alone might rule. God became more and more impersonal and finally faded away entirely.

In the seventeenth century, neither one nor the other of the combatants could achieve an historical, evolutionary point of view. Material interests and positions of conflicting classes were forced to take on “eternal” and “inalienable” forms. With science yet poorly developed, and with the mass of people illiterate agrarians, this was the most effective and indeed the sole method open to the Liberals; they had to find for themselves a “solid” and “eternal” basis for their rule as reliable as that which the former ruling classes had possessed.

Between the Royalists and the Radicals, the position of the Liberals, as the beneficiaries of the Compromise Liberal Revolution of 1688, forced them into a completely eclectic and compromising program which borrowed now from this group, now from that, to justify things as they were. Atheism and the Catholic Church, Royalty and Democracy, landlords and plebeians, all factions had to be fought, all had to be appeased. And as the Liberals balanced one against the other, it seemed to them that they alone were tolerant, were fair and impartial, could see both sides to every subject. Theirs was the common sense, middle-of-the-road position which to them became the golden-rule method whereby the greatest amount of steady progress could be attained.

Here is one difference between Liberals and Radicals; one speaks in terms of “tolerance,” the other of “intolerance.” But as Thomas Paine keenly remarked on this subject, “Toleration is not the opposite of Intolerance, but is the counterfeit of it. Both are despotisms. The one assumes to itself the right of withholding Liberty of Conscience, and the other of granting it.” (*51) Together with this accent on toleration goes the emphasis on the force of reason and persuasion. Yet the intellect can be only a guide and not a force. It cannot substitute itself for visceral sensations, for human emotions and passions which alone can drive people to change the world. The social philosophy of reasonableness could be adopted only by those who were especially favored, who could refuse to act too strenuously, who, in short, represented a small clique who could make their way by intrigue, but never by fighting, to power. Such, essentially, were the Liberals.

On the questions of religion and philosophy, eclectic Liberalism showed itself a veritable artful dodger in evading issues; it stole piecemeal points from the programs of now one side, now the other. (*52) God existed. But He could be known not through logic but only through intuitive reason. Religion was founded upon faith. But both faith and religion must correspond to the laws of nature, which are reasonable. Christianity itself was correct, but only because it was reasonable. As for miracles and acts of providence, all these were possible, provided they were reasonable. However, did not knowledge come from God, and was not man blessed at birth with different capacities, of which the nobles had the greater share? No, man was conditioned by environment entirely. He entered this world with a blank mind; (*53) all entered equally; all knowledge (opinion) was derived from sensational experience.

On the other hand, matter or substance, independent of thought, also really existed, (*54) although it, too, like God, could never be known. (*55) All we could ever know were the qualities, the characteristics, the actions of matter or substance. The views of science were mere changeable opinions. Moreover, matter, existing and acting independently of man, affected man. Man’s will, therefore, was not free, but determined by environment. (*56) Was man, then, part of matter; could matter think? Yes, matter could think. But, matter could not substitute itself for God; it was simply the way in which God worked.

So much for philosophy. What about politics? The on-coming capitalist class, in its fight against the entrenched feudalists, was forced to take other ground than that of class distinctions to justify its power. To the Status of feudalism the bourgeoisie counterposed Contract, the term with which they above all were familiar, and through the operations of which they had amassed wealth and power. To the question: “What was the origin and justification of State power?” these new businessmen answered that the State had come into existence, not as an expression of God’s unchanging will, but as the voluntary contract through which men hoped to get liberty .Even a section of the aristocracy in England, that part which had become thoroughly bourgeois, had begun to justify its existence on the basis of the Social Contract. Their new theoretician was Hobbes, (*57) who declared that man in the state of nature had preceded man in the social state. To Hobbes, man was born bad. The state of nature was marked by everyone’s fighting everyone else for material interests. To escape from this intolerable condition, men had covenanted together to form a society with a definite hierarchy headed by a monarch. In this way natural man achieved liberty through the power of the State. Liberty meant power. Absolute Monarchy could not be changed; to do so would be to break the sacredness of the original contract. Moreover, Absolute Monarchy meant an ordered society which alone could bring liberty to all.

That sections of the aristocracy could utilize “Contract” as a ground of defense shows to what extent capitalist opinions had penetrated into the highest strata of English society. In proportion as the noblemen had to submit to the capitalist class, their theory had to change from a defense of Status to a defense of Contract, from reliance on force to dependence on persuasion and reason, from faith in divine right to materialist meta- physics. The aristocrats formerly defended the rigid status of their caste by Divine Right. Now they were willing to concede that they had not ruled from the beginning of time, that there had existed a system of “natural” society antedating theirs. However, the aristocrats conceded this only in order to claim that their rule had advanced the material forces of society and through order and power had brought freedom out of chaos. It was the defeat the aristocracy was undergoing that gave such gloominess to Hobbes’ views. Certainly man was bad to the ancien regime. But, for that matter, so were the material forces of nature, so favorable to the capitalists.

Gradually the Liberals expanded and embellished the theory of Social Contract to fit their own interests. Their program also admitted that classes had not always ruled and that there had been a primitive state of nature. To the Liberal, however, man in the state of nature had been not bad, but good. The political State was not necessary to make man moral. (*58) He had been endowed by Natural Law with certain Natural Rights. These Natural Rights were to be found in the Petition of Rights of 1688. They were founded on the necessity of each man for life, liberty, and property. In order better to secure these rights, men had entered into a voluntary covenant to form a society. This covenant was not eternal. The past could not bind forever the present and future. When the majority desired to change the covenant, when they felt their inalienable Natural Rights were being taken away, they had the right to revolt and to overthrow the State. (*59) Sovereignty resided in the community as a whole. Thus did Liberalism become a theory for the justification of revolution, at least of the Liberal Revolution of 1688.

In politics, as it had in religion, Liberalism used an individualistic approach which later became the chief approach. Individual liberty was every man’s objective in society. Nevertheless, since liberty must not mean liberty to interfere with one’s neighbor, who was to decide where one individual’s liberty began and the other’s ended? The State was to be the judge, the State which stood above classes. Thus Liberalism justified the State, at least the Liberal State of 1688, and thundered to the rabble that the Revolution had to end.

In practical politics, the Liberals advocated a monarchy, but a constitutional monarchy, with the Crown dependent upon a Parliament wherein the Liberals dominated all functions, including ministerial responsibility, financial control, and the army. While the Liberals opposed certain Rotten Boroughs, in order to secure for themselves a few more seats in Parliament, they were also against an enlarged franchise. In order to check the Crown, they were in favor of the governmental division of powers between the legislative and executive branches.

In the economic sphere, the Liberals made it plain that it was the wealthy commercial groups that had won the battle for power. Here, too, we turn to Locke. According to him, property was based on labor, and arose when, in primitive communism, an individual applied his labor to some object. (*60) Of course, with Locke, the owners of the means of production, such as the factory entrepreneurs, were also included among the laborers. Each individual, and especially the wealthy English capitalists, had the full right to use his property to his own advantage. Locke also fought for the wealthy to receive full gold coins from the State in repayment for light coins loaned. (*61) Locke was a mercantilist. To him, wealth meant gold, and it belonged in the pockets of his class. He stood against lowering the rate of interest by law. In foreign affairs, he promoted that ruthless mercantilist colonial policy which helped to launch the American Revolution. (*62)

In his attitude towards the actual laborer, Locke was exceedingly harsh. He advocated compulsory labor for the Irish linen spinners’ children who were to be sent to “schools” to work. His plan for reform of the poor laws was to suppress the brandy shops and to compel able-bodied paupers to work. Beggars were to be sent to government ships for three years under strict discipline or be punished by three years in prison. The remainder of the paupers were to be farmed out to manufacturers under a plan similar to that advocated for the children of the Irish linen spinners. (*63)Such was English Liberalism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


1. It is this Kingly support of business that impels historians to label these absolute monarchs “benevolent,” no doubt.

2. It was in connection with this struggle for sea power that Grotius wrote his work, on The Freedom of the Seas, and, as Holland invaded the fisheries under English control, forced the tart reply by the Englishman Selden’s book, Mare Clausum, or The Sea Closed. Later the battle for the freedom of the seas was to be taken up by the Americans.

3. Grotius wrote his chief work, The Rights of War and Peace, in 1625; Spinoza’s works were published in 1670 and 1677.

4. R. H. Tawney: Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, pp. 111-112

5. See C.H. Firth: Cromwell’s Army, p 22.

6. The great philosopher of this change was Machiavelli.

7. “Like early Christianity and modern socialism, Calvinism was largely an urban movement; like them, in its earlier days it was carried from country to country partly by emigrant traders and workmen; and its stronghold was precisely in those social groups to which the traditional scheme of social ethics, with its treatment of economic interests as a quite minor aspect of human affairs, must have seemed irrelevant or artificial. As was to be expected in the exponents of a faith which had its headquarters at Geneva, and later its most influential adherents in great business centers, like Antwerp, with its industrial hinterland, London, and Amsterdam, its leaders addressed their teaching, not of course exclusively, but none the less primarily, to the classes engaged in trade and industry, who formed the most modern and progressive elements in the life of the age.” (R. H. Tawney: Religion and the rise of Capitalism, p. 104.)

8. It was well expressed by Coke to King James in 1612: The King ought not to be under any man but God and the Law. But Coke did not fail to add that if the King did do wrong, not to the courts, but only to God was he accountable. (See R. Pound: The Spirit of the Common Law, p 61, who, however, carefully overlooks the second point of Coke’s remarks as to the courts’ lack of power. Compare Bracton’s Note Book, edited by F. W. Maitland, 1, 29-33.)

9. J. E. T. Rogers: Work and Wages, p.81 (abbreviated edition of Six Centuries of work and Wages, 1891 Swann Sonnenschein edition).

10. The same, p. 27

11. The Same, p.28 and following.

12. The same, p.45.

13. The same, p 58.

14. The Liberals desired no taxation except through Parliament, no arbitrary arrests and high-handed trials, no quartering of soldiers.

15. Naturally enough, the Puritans looked to Holland and America for their inspiration. Note that in America the Puritans and Left Independents, typified by the Pilgrims and by Roger Williams, were mutually hostile. The latter were for yeomen, the former for renters and laborers to settle in their colonies. Democratic Hooker had to leave Puritan Massachusetts for Connecticut where it was decided voters did not have to be church members.

16. Cromwell, as quoted in E. Bernstein: Cromwell and Communism, p. 164.

“To the doctrines of these men—now beginning to be known as Levellers—no one could be more hostile than Cromwell.” (S. R. Gardner: The History of the Great Civil War, 1642-1649, 111, 216.)

17. In the preceding century, the Anabaptists had been responsible for the peasants’ wars in Germany. They, therefore, had a Communist tradition.

18. The Quakers were just arising at this time.

19. J. Bellers: An Essay for Imploying the Poor to Profit (printed 1723), p.1.

20. “It is almost impossible to read Winstanley’s earlier theoretical pamphlets without being struck by the similarity in thought and doctrine with those to-day still held by the Society of Friends, or Quakers, whose original name amongst themselves, be it remembered, was the Children of Light.” (L. H. Berens: The Digger Movement in the Days of the Commonwealth, p. 49.)

21. The same, pp.90-91.

22. The Law of Freedom in a Platform or True Magistracy Restored (1652).

23. The same, p. 12.

24. Thus Winstanley was a forerunner of Lenin’s theory of the democratic-dictatorship of the workers and peasants.

25. G. P. Gooch: English Democratic Ideas in the Seventeenth Century, pp. 178-179.

26. S. R. Gardner: History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, 1649-1660, 1, 47.

27. The following may clarify the complicated situation somewhat:

Political Category -- Liberals

Religious View—Presbyterian

Political Category — Radicals

Religious View — Independent ("Gentlemen” Puritans); leader: Cromwell

Political Category — Radical-Levellers (leader: Lilburne)

Religious View — Independent (Puritans)—Separatist (Quakers); leader: Bellers (Anabaptists etc.)

Political Category — "True" Levellers, or Diggers (Social-Revolutionists) (leader: Winstanley)

Religious View — Theist, Deist or Atheist (some Quakers and Anabaptists)

28. See “The Agreement of the People as presented to the Council of the Army, Oct. 28, 1647” in

S. R.. Gardner: The History of the Great Civil War, 1642-1649, 111, 607-609, Appendix.

29. In this attack on the Long Parliament, “Cromwell joined the army because he wished to prevent the outbreak of anarchy or civil war.” (C. H. Firth- Oliver Cromwell, p.164.)

30. The Liberal Presbyterians held the City of London; unlike Paris of 1793, Liberal London was against the Radicals.

31. T. Carlyle: Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches, I, 195 (1897 edition).

32. The same, p.128.

33. Under the influence of the Levellers, Harrington wrote his Utopia, The Commonwealth of Oceana.

34. J. E. T. Rogers: work cited, p.97.

35. T. C. Pease: The Leveller Movement, p.224.

36. The same, p.219.

37. The same, p.7.

38. The same, p.20.

39. In 1640 there had been 490 members of Parliament; in 1649 there were only 90.

“The policy of Cromwell had been to establish a contemptible Parliament. He was successful, and the Parliament which he had created had become the laughing-stock of the nation. The day arrived when Parliament, owning its own unworthiness, resigned its authority to Cromwell.” (Napoleon’s Notes on English History, p.111, published 1905.)

40. The English capitalists were able to stop the Revolution far more easily than the French a century later. This abrupt end of the Revolution made all the leading characters appear thwarted and confined. Oliver Cromwell thus can be made out as both Robespierre and Bonaparte; John Lilburne as both Marat and Hebert. Such comparisons, however, must be guarded against as liable to misconstructions.

41. T. C. Pease work cited, p. 363.

42. More toleration was allowed the Catholics and Jews than the Unitarians. However, in the American and French Revolutions, the principal Liberals were by that time either Unitarian or Deist.

43. The various religious groups had different policies in regard to marriage. The Catholics believed in no divorce whatever; the Anglicans, divorce for adultery only; the Puritans advocated civil marriage, and divorce for desertion and cruel treatment. The earlier treatment for adulterers in Massachusetts (Puritan) was death. Later, it was changed to branding with a hot iron. In Plymouth, the Separatists were milder. As for the Quakers, they condoned divorce for all the various reasons given by the Bible.

44. It was no wonder that in 1899 a statue of the regicide Cromwell should have been erected in Westminster with the Crown’s consent.

45. Locke was born in 1632 and was forced to flee to Holland in 1683 after the Restoration (1660-1688). He returned to England in 1689. His principal works were written between 1689 and 1700.

46. See R. Pound: Law and Morals, p. 8.

“It is therefore evident that the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature’s participation of the eternal law.” (St. Thomas Aquinas: The Summa Theologica, Part II, First Part Question XCI, Article 2, p. 12, 1915 Translation by Dominican Fathers.)

47. See, for example, Wm. Blackstone: Commentaries of the Laws of England, I, 39 (1858 Harper edition).

48. From the authority of Empire and Church as an international agency, Grotius appealed to Humanity as furnishing the true law of nations. (See H. Grotius.:The Rights of War and Peace, p. 9, 1901 edition.)

49. According to Bacon, theological disputations only hindered the advancement of science.

50. According to John Locke, the moral sense of man came from God and was part of God’s Law. It was given to man by intuitive reasoning. Thus Locke’s morality: Do good (get pleasure); avoid evil (pain), was based on theology, and differed from the moral basis of Hume and Bentham, who came later

51. T. Paine: Rights of Man. (Writings, 1896 edition of M. D. Conway, II, 325.)

52. The Liberal arguments given here are those culled from the works of John Locke.

53. See J. Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book I (A. C. Fraser edition).

54. The same, Book II, ch. II, par. 2, p.145.

55. The same, Book II, ch. XXVIII, par. 30, p. 415.

56. Here is where the Englishmen, Hume and Locke, differ from Immanuel Kant.

57. His chief work was The Leviathan (1651).

58. This seemed to be also the view of the Englishman, Wm. of Ockam, who wrote his works over two hundred years before Locke. According to Wm. of Ockam, the moral development of man had passed through three stages:

(1) The stage before the Fall when all things were held in common and all men were free and equal;

(2) the stage after the Fall when the laws of Reason were needed;

(3) the stage of wickedness when the State arose and, together with it, economic and political servitude. (See M. Beer: Social Struggles in the Middle Ages, p. 113.)

59. J. Locke: Of Civil Government, Two Treatises, Book II, ch. VIII, par. 95, p. 164 (Everyman’s edition); also, ch. XVI, par. 196, p. 217.

This was also the view of Blackstone (See Wm. Blackstone: work cited, pp- 41-42).

60. The same, Book II, ch. V.

61. See Karl Marx: .A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, pp. 93-94.

62. Locke was a Commissioner of the Board of Trade. He was also one of the original Proprietors of the Bank of England established by Act of Parliament in 1694.

63. See Fowler: Locke, pp. 96-98