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The Rights-Bearing Englishman

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Chapter Summary

It is possible to single out some key strands of thought which laid the basis for subsequent depictions of the Englishman as historic rights-bearer. First, the Stuarts are foreign in orientation and need to be instructed in English ways. Second, there is something distinctively free about the English system and therefore about the Englishman himself. It was, in short, the Englishman's political baptism and its effects that were transcendently important. A prominent new dimension is the use of Englishness as rallying rhetoric for purposes other than traditional loyalist ones. Englishness becomes shorthand for all that has been raised in parliament in an atmosphere of protest. The opposite of the Levellers' true English citizen is the persona of the slave. The trope of the 'poor spoyled free-borne English-man' therefore, as developed in Leveller argumentation, provided a clear illustration of the readily-assumed and often reiterated association between the slavish and the foreign.

Keywords: Englishman; historic rights-bearer; Leveller argumentation; parliament

10.1163/9789004243873_010
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