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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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Sir William Berkeley, the Hobbists, and the End of Renaissance-Era Colonization

Sir William Berkeley, the Hobbists, and the End of Renaissance-Era Colonization

(p.272) [5] Sir William Berkeley, the Hobbists, and the End of Renaissance-Era Colonization
For God, King, and People

Alexander B. Haskell

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter traces the end of Renaissance-era colonization in the tensions between Thomas Hobbes's new theory of state sovereignty and the more-traditional Christian humanism of Sir William Berkeley. As Virginia’s governor for more than a quarter century, Berkeley applied an establishmentarian approach to governance that he had first developed, in the 1630s, in the theological-philosophical coterie known as the Great Tew circle. Adopting a Pyrrhonian skeptical view of God's truths as accessible only in the mundane civil achievements of humans, Great Tew members like Berkeley's friend Edward Hyde, later first earl of Clarendon, exalted established laws and institutions as the only true guide to following God's will. Eschewing both the godly assurance of the Puritans and the extreme skepticism of Hobbes, Berkeley sought to steer Virginia through an era marked by the English Civil War, the Restoration of monarchy under Charles II, and new Hobbesian initiatives to realize a unitary state that centered on England and whose colonies were meant to be provinces rather than commonwealths. When, in 1676–1677, Nathaniel Bacon, Jr., launched his own Presbyterian Hobbist challenge to Berkeley's authority in Bacon's Rebellion, planters themselves ultimately rejected Hobbism in favor of the colony's familiar commonwealth bonds to king and God.

Keywords:   Thomas Hobbes, Sir William Berkeley, establishmentarianism, Great Tew Circle, Edward Hyde, first earl of Clarendon, Pyrrhonian skepticism, English Civil War, Restoration, Charles II, Nathaniel Bacon, Jr., Bacon's Rebellion

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