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Extra resources for Coleridge’s Political Thought: Property, Morality and the Limits of Traditional Discourse

Sample text

In the 'Lectures on Revealed Religion' Coleridge had attempted to work out the implications of radicalised Christianity for property and government. The stress was on the interrelationship between equality and freedom, and the solution proposed was not, strictly speaking, a political one, since it tended to question the legitimacy of authoritative relationships. However, it established the sorts of considerations that needed to be taken into account if freedom and equality were to be advanced in a political context.

This had important implications for the anti-property and anti-political-authority features of Coleridge's early theory. As we have seen, a central point about the divine source of the Mosaic code was that it was successful among a people who were neither more enlightened nor more virtuous than their neighbours. The character ascribed to the Jews helped to make the case for the dispensation a very strong one; it also lent credence to claims about its actual 'role in the fulfilment of God's purposes.

Coleridge's overriding concern was with a conception of freedom and equality derived from Christian sources, but his argument depended upon a perspective on property, independence and political personality that was essentially Harringtonian. It represented a fairly radical restructuring of the neo-Harrington paradigm (which was essentially nostalgic: it defended what was, and sought the recovery of the past) in the interests of political and social goals that were located in the future. In other words, Coleridge's Christian moralism had the effect of radicalising civic humanism, and in that respect his early political thought was based upon a conception of morality which generated political radicalism rather than eliminated the need for it.

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