Friends of religious equality : the politics of the English Nonconformists, 1847-67 - PhDData

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Friends of religious equality : the politics of the English Nonconformists, 1847-67

The thesis was published by Larsen, Timothy, in September 2022, University of Stirling.


The period between 1847 and 1867 was a time when the English Nonconformist communitj’ made an earnest efifort to develop its own political philosophy and to attempt to implement its own political agenda. Although the Nonconformist grie\ ances were the subject of heated agitation, many Dissenters came to see disestablishment as their ultimate political goal and religious equality as one of the key principles up>on which political decisions should be based. Militant Nonconformists were leading these developments, but their political worldview was increasingly the foundation for Dissenting p>olitical thinking as a w’hole. The principle of religious equality had its flowering in the efforts Nonconformists made to overturn measures which discriminated against people from other religious traditions, notably the undivided support which Nonconformitj’ gave to the campaign for Jewish emancipation. This political philosophy was grounded in theological traditions, particularly Congregational ecclesiology and the Voluntaryism which emerged from it. The application of Voluntary ism to politics also strengthened an instinct among Dissenters for state non-interference. This tendency had its most futile application in the attempt by many Nonconformists to deny the desirability of state education. The value they placed on religious equality and state non-interference also made many leaders of Dissenting politics suspicious of prohibition and Sabbatarian legislation. State non-interference proved not to be a genuine principle (Dissenters abandoned their opposition to national education) and other issues also lacked this much desired guide; the Crimean War exprosed the illusory nature of any imagined p>eace principle and the suffrage question lacked an absolute which could be used to anoint a sprecific reform plan. The principle of religious equality, however, passed most of the tests of this preriod and survived the rest: it was a grand vision at the centre of the pxrlitical philosophy of English Dissenters which emerged during these years.

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