As an illustration of the complexity of Anglo-Dutch intellectual connections in the seventeenth century, this essay focuses on the transnational context for the writing and reception of Grotius’s De imperio summarum potestatum circa sacra. DI was composed by Grotius during the dispute between Remonstrants and Contra-Remonstrants, but it was addressed not solely to a Dutch audience, but also to an English one. DI was intended by Grotius and by his patron Oldenbarnevelt to win the favour of James I to the cause of the Remonstrants in the context of their struggle against the orthodox Calvinists, the Contra-Remonstrants. Grotius praised the control of James I over the state church, and expressed his admiration for the hierarchical organisation of Anglican episcopacy. In doing so, he expressly took the English civil and ecclesiastical government of James I as a blueprint for the solution of the Dutch religious troubles. This article argues that despite of Grotius’s attempt to gain the approval of James I’s entourage before sending DI to press, DI was criticized both by his English interlocutors and, consistently throughout the century, by English Anglican-Royalist readers. The first part of this article will sketch the Anglo-Dutch cultural and political context which formed the background of DI. Secondly, it will examine the English sources of this work and how Grotius bent them to his and Oldenbarnevelt’s internal and foreign policy. Finally, it will offer some brief considerations concerning the controversial reception of DI in mid-seventeenth century England with a special focus on the Anglican tradition.
Grotius’s attempt to find a compromise both between reason and revelation, and between free will and predestination, his philological approach to the reading of Scripture, his refusal to engage in doctrinal disputes, and his insistence on ethics as the core of Christian teaching, were increasingly important in shaping a powerful strand of thinking about the Anglican church from the Great Tew circle to post-Restoration latitudinarianism. The references to Grotius’s apologetic work which appeared in moderate Anglican writing should be understood by setting them in a broader context encompassing the settlement of Anglican Church, its religious doctrine, and its relations with civil authority. In order to recover the complexity of the political and ecclesiological context for the English translations of De veritate, I will divide the period from 1632 to 1686 into three distinct phases: the initial phase goes back to the 1630s, when the members of the Great Tew circle at Oxford facilitated the circulation of the early translations and editions of De veritate in England within the context of Caroline/Laudian religious policy. The second covers the 1650s, when a number of Grotius’s works were translated by the Anglican theologian Clement Barksdale in order to provide a new ideology for the post-Laudian Anglican Church. The third phase spans from the Restoration until 1686, when De veritate converged in the complex political and intellectual background of ‘latitudinarianism’.
In the present article I examine the influence of Grotius's works on English republican literature by focusing on the writings of Anthony Ascham. Ascham's interpretation of Grotius is set in the context of the multifaceted uses of the Dutch lawyer's works in the 1640s and in early 1650s, comparing it to Marchamont Nedham's use of Grotius in support of the republican regime. In order to explain the purposes behind Ascham's and Nedham's deployment of Grotian language, I seek to connect them with the politics of propaganda carried on by political groupings within the Parliament between 1648 and 1650. Finally, by pointing to Ascham's use of Grotius, some considerations follow concerning Anglo-Dutch republicanism in mid-seventeenth century.