Select Document: Sir George Radcliffe’s “Original of Government” (1639) and Absolutist Political Theory in Stuart Ireland

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    Abstract

    A seventeenth-century manuscript miscellany, which once belonged to Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh, contains a short treatise on the origins of government by Sir George Radcliffe. Radcliffe was legal assistant to Sir Thomas Wentworth, lord deputy of Ireland (from January 1640 earl of Strafford and lord lieutenant). The treatise insisted on the divine origin of all human political power and implied that the best form of government was absolute monarchy, in which the monarch was free of all human law and subject to divine restraint alone. It will be suggested below that the composition of this treatise can be dated to the summer of 1639. This introduction will offer an outline of Radcliffe’s education and political career, explain the genesis of his treatise on government, point out some pertinent aspects of its argument, and finally assess the document’s significance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)308-317
    JournalIrish Historical Studies
    Volume39
    Issue number154
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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