The juxtaposition of two polemical pieces with Penn's tract provides us with the opportunity to: firstly, suggest changes over time concerning persecution in response to the narratives offered in the historiography; and, secondly to contrast two apparently separate types of document: on the one hand the Protestant polemic, and on the other something which seems (for reasons which I will discuss) to bear the hallmarks of the tolerationist
literature, which many accounts continue to insist came into prominence in the late seventeenth century.
Unfortunately for Rawls and his ambitious claims about political liberalism and the culmination of liberty of conscience, this belief-action split has been directly opposed to tolerationist
impulses, and frequently associated with the suppression of religious minorities.
Illo's more recent "Areopagiticas Mythic and Real," Prose Studies 11 (1988): 3-23, catalogues recent "tolerationist
" and "libertarian" readings of Milton, still insisting that the "real" Areopagitica is "illibertarian," a "political document of repression" (21).
(6) There Israel has pointed to the influence of three tolerationist
doctrines: Baruch de Spinoza's defense of freedom of conscience in Tractatus theolagica-politicus (1670) and Tractatus paliticus (1677); Pierre Bayle's fideistic notion of toleration in Pensees diverses (1683) and Commentaire philosophique (1686); and John Locke's cautious defense of freedom of worship in his three letters concerning toleration (1689-92).
Contemporary history was in turn read through biblical history as well as through debates about present-day Jews, whose proposed readmission became 'the most searching tolerationist
dilemma' of this period." (11) With regard to Milton's specific role in this nationalist reading project, Sauer argues that
Foxe's politics were those of an aggressive reformer, and he has been called an early tolerationist
. The entire Book of Martyrs, with its accounts of Marian persecution, can be seen as pleas for toleration.
He is not himself Socinian nor is his epic, but Stoll shows that just as Socinians were prime advocates of the toleration of religions, so the epic pictures a tolerationist
Christ that in this aspect is a mirror of the heresy.
In a recent study of tolerationist
thinking in seventeenth-century England, John Coffey draws a pointedly ambiguous picture and joins other scholars in warning against ascribing modern conceptions of liberty and pluralism to the men and women of that era, Baptists included, whose mentalities were very different from our own.
The pieces may be divided into three rough groups: those exploring authors recognized or claimed in their day as heretics; pioneers of tolerationist
thought who downplayed the role of heresy in their writings; and philosophers of heresy who offered synoptic accounts or phenomenological or genealogical definitions of the phenomenon of heresy.
David Lowenstein's forceful and admirable handling of blasphemy--an explosively heretical notion in Puritan England--asks why it is that Milton's well-known tolerationist
views gave way to his endorsement of the 1650 Blasphemy Act with its horrible provisions for suppression of blasphemers such as the Quaker George Nayler.
For example, Locke and his tolerationist
associates were as adept at formulating anti-intolerance arguments based upon the writings of Augustine, the actions of the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, and the most recent activities of the French monarchy in the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
At this point, we might be tempted to say that Astell's high regard for friendship gives her something in common with her political enemies, the Whig tolerationists
and the 'republic of letters' for whom friendship was also a means to moral improvement.