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The Growth of a Rhetoric of Liberty

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Chapter Summary

The key to unlocking the back-story lies in recovering the expansive rhetoric surrounding the freeman in the first half of the seventeenth century. The first involves the elaboration of certain rights and liberties as being constitutive of Englishness. The second strand of thinking owes more to ideas drawn from both Roman law and the Roman histories. The purpose of building up the profile of the free Englishman or, for that matter, the free-born Englishman is always and invariably polemical. Finally, in the Civil War period, the floodgates of thought are truly opened wide and there is an efflorescence of reflection on what it meant to possess true liberty. The civic virtues, such as courage, military readiness, honesty and reason, cluster around political and legal definitions of what it meant to be an Englishman. So also do values such as economic industriousness and cultivation of property.

Keywords: Civil War period; Englishman; liberty; rhetoric

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