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Parliamentary sovereignty, popular sovereignty, and Henry Parker's adjudicative standpoint

Cromartie, A. (2016) Parliamentary sovereignty, popular sovereignty, and Henry Parker's adjudicative standpoint. In: Bourke, R. and Skinner, Q. (eds.) Popular sovereignty in historical perspective. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 142-163. ISBN 9781107130401

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Discussions of popular sovereignty in early modern England have usually been premised upon a sharp distinction between ‘legal/constitutional’ forms of discourse (which merely interpret the law) and ‘political’ ones (which focus upon the right to make it). In such readings of the period, Henry Parker has a pivotal position as a writer who abandoned merely legalistic thinking. This chapter takes a different view. It argues that Parker’s major intellectual achievement was not so much to abandon legal/constitutional discourse as to offer a theorisation of its most distinctive features: he offered an account of a new kind of politics in which concern for ‘interests’ in property and in self-preservation replaced humanist concern with promotion of virtue. Parker drew upon ideas about representation best expressed by Sir Thomas Smith and ideas about law best expressed by Oliver St John. The theory he developed was not intended as a justification of legislative sovereignty, but of adjudicative supremacy. His picture of the two Houses as supreme adjudicators was meant to block the path to direct democracy. But the adjudicative standpoint they came to occupy presupposed that freeborn adults had ‘interests’ in life, liberty, and possessions. This had democratising implications.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Early Modern Research Centre (EMRC)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:46454
Publisher:Cambridge University Press

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