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Polite Republicanism And The Problem Of Decline

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Chapter Summary

Usually appearing weekly and generally written by anonymous authors, the eighteenth-century Spectators provided a running normative commentary on virtually every aspect of contemporary life. The great initiator of this form of periodical literature in the Dutch Republic was Justus van Effen. Van Effen realized that his efforts to combat courtly and absolutist French politesse and to offer polite republican citizenship as an alternative would greatly gain in persuasive power if he could show that the polite republican society he so highly recommended was viable in real life and not just a philosophical utopia. Both classical antiquity and the Batavian past were unsuitable for this purpose, for polite republicanism had to be presented as the highest stage in the progress of society. The analysis of Dutch decline in morals and manners offered by the mid eighteenth-century Nederlandsche Spectator and other similar Spectatorial publications were a powerful simplicity.

Keywords: Batavian past; classical antiquity; Dutch decline; eighteenth-century Spectators; French politesse; Justus van Effen; polite republicanism



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