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date: 08 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the philosophical consideration of different forms of government in eighteenth-century Britain. It begins by considering the British constitutional settlement in the wake of the Glorious Revolution and the Union of Parliaments. Taking on board Voltaire and Montesquieu’s praise of the beneficial effects of the settlement (rule of law, toleration, separation and balance of powers), the chapter will examine how British philosophers came to understand the nature of the British constitution. A major theme will be the gradual move away from contract theories of legitimacy and republican notions of citizenship and towards utilitarian calculations of the beneficial social and economic effects of political stability. This becomes particularly apparent in the increasing desire to apply ‘science’ to the understanding of political order.

Keywords: constitution, rule of law, liberty, separation of powers, rights, stability, property, toleration, contract, utility

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