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For God, King, and PeopleForging Commonwealth Bonds in Renaissance Virginia$
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Alexander B. Haskell

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781469618029

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469618029.001.0001

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Providence, the Renaissance Atlantic, and Law

Providence, the Renaissance Atlantic, and Law

(p.25) [1] Providence, the Renaissance Atlantic, and Law
For God, King, and People

Alexander B. Haskell

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter introduces the late Renaissance preoccupation with the interplay between God's will and earthly power by focusing on three issues. Envisioning the law as pathways of rightful conduct where Providence and human initiative intersected, colonizers viewed Christopher Columbus's discovery as as a divine sign that Christians were free to cross the ocean. Because distinguishing lawful pathways from erroneous ones was a matter of conscience, the literature that emerged to justify the Virginia venture took the familiar form of casuistry. Centered on the callings or divinely appointed offices by which humans contribute to bringing about the eschatological promise of the world's redemption, casuistry underlay, for instance, the magus and humanist John Dee's claim, in 1577, that Elizabeth I had a duty as a grace-filled empress to issue her first letters patent authorizing Sir Humphrey Gilbert's colonizing voyages. And colonization was inevitably defined as a project in forging commonwealths that brought everyone to his or her duties, for only in such a morally complete polity would Virginia satisfy God and contribute to coaxing sinners away from the primitive individualism left by the Fall.

Keywords:   legal pathways, casuistry of colonization, commonwealth formation, Christopher Columbus, John Dee, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, eschatology, The Fall

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