The Statesman's Science

The Statesman's Science: History, Nature, and Law in the Political Thought of Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Pamela Edwards
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 312
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/edwa13178
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  • Book Info
    The Statesman's Science
    Book Description:

    Author of "Kubla Khan" and the epic "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Samuel Taylor Coleridge is remembered principally for his contributions as a romantic poet. This innovative reconsideration of Coleridge's thought and career not only demonstrates his importance as a philosopher but also recovers romanticism as both an aesthetic and a political movement. Pamela Edwards radically departs from classic theories of Coleridge's development and reads his writing within the framework of a constantly shifting political and social landscape.

    Drawing on the ideology, rhetoric, and institutional theory at the turn of the late British Enlightenment, Edwards unearths the fundamental continuities in Coleridge's writing during the revolutionary period of 1794 to 1834, paying particular attention to the rhetoric of Coleridge's pamphlet and miscellaneous writings, the journalism of the Napoleonic years, his philosophical and ultimately political treatises within the contexts of his notebooks and letters, and his readings and intellectual friendships. What emerges is a clearer understanding of Coleridge's political philosophy and his contributions to the origins and ideology of British Liberalism.

    Coleridge's interest in history, nature, and law as inherently interconnected projects producing an ideal or scientific reading of society reveals a developed progressive social and cultural state theory anchored in individual conscience, moral autonomy, and a civic and participatory human agency. If the Statesman could understand and finally master this scientific view of the world, he would be able not only to adjust political and social institutions to comprehend the historical contingencies of the moment but to see through the problem of the moment to the dynamic of change itself.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50652-6
    Subjects: History, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION The Politics of Reputation, or, the Myth of a Modern Apostate: Party, Faction, or Critical Ideology?
    (pp. 1-10)

    Coleridge claimed that he was “ever a man without a party.”¹ Others, including contemporary friends and associates from Robert Southey² to Henry Crabb Robinson, have viewed Coleridge’s portrait of himself as a lifelong “independent” as disingenuous. But careful examination of the political thought of Coleridge from his earliest writings on politics and religion in 1795 to his last and most coherent work of political thought, in On the Constitution of the Church and State in 1830, confirms that neither a “Young Radical” nor an “Old Tory,” Coleridge contributed to what Mill himself termed a second school of liberalism.³

    “Liberal” is...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Romantic Radicalism
    (pp. 11-42)

    The problem in considering Coleridge’s political trajectory has largely been the consequence of attempting to read his various early works and private utterances as though they were all of one piece. This same error has been replicated with respect to his later writings; however, the superimposition of order has tended to reverse the focus on political questions. That is to say, critics have searched for the radical tones in the early writings and sought out the most conservative aspects of the later work in their search for apostasy, or indeed even consistency, in Coleridge’s life. While I would argue for...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Attacking the State
    (pp. 43-66)

    The close of 1795 provided Coleridge with the occasion to apply certain of his general political principles to specific questions of policy and legislation. During his Bristol Lectures in February 1795 and throughout his revision and publication of those lectures as Conciones ad Populum in December 1795, Coleridge methodically anatomized the connections between historical process, public opinion, and political change. As a consequence, he was able to set his attacks on the Pitt administration, charged as they were by the crisis of the war, within the context of the long-standing Whig tradition of oppositional loyalism. This “patriot” loyalism, pairing the...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Defending the Constitution
    (pp. 67-91)

    Coleridge’s conception of the law was that it contained a constituted dialogue between the governors and the people. He did not expect that any simple legislative solution to social and political crisis existed within the limits of a single positive statute. But he did believe that the complex of laws attached to certain policies alleviated problems of distress and suffering, whereas others compounded them. While government may not solve the problems reflected by the “voice of tens of thousands” it had a duty to attend to that voice.¹ In this sense, Coleridge’s constituted dialogue between the people and their government...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Liberty and Law
    (pp. 92-110)

    The pursuit of liberty, like the pursuit of happiness, is a hunt in which the ostensibly sought-after quarry is almost never captured by those hunters who give chase to it. This is generally because the hunt usually dissolves into squabbles about what species of quarry is actually the most desirable and how the prizes shall be shared out. In essence, although there was in many polities of the early nineteenth century a stated desire to be “free” and to enjoy “liberty” rather than “oppression,” the differing ways in which these words were used makes one wonder if taxonomically one would...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Morality and Will
    (pp. 111-132)

    Coleridge’s views of political and juridical freedom must be understood in light of his underlying moral and religious philosophy. This far-reaching, metaphysical, and foundational religious philosophy was central not only to Coleridge’s doctrine of the will but to his views on the importance of conscience and, through conscience, the political and social pull of duty. By “religious philosophy” then, he never meant any specific sectarian doctrinal belief. Rather, he attempted to articulate his own Schellingesque Naturphilosophie, with strong aesthetic and ethical components.¹ In “Elements of Religious Philosophy” from his Aids to Reflection of 1825, Coleridge remarked that “if there be...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Science and Nature
    (pp. 133-150)

    Coleridge’s writings after the turn of the nineteenth century were elaborate and complex variations on the basic themes of politics, power, law, and morality that had been announced in his earliest publications from 1795 through 1800. Typically, “apostasy” theorists such as Thompson and Erdman have argued that Coleridge, whether through “disenchantment” or “default,” “turned” in 1802 away from the radicalism of his youth to a trueblue Toryism.¹ The argument thus far has contested the apostasy theory and rejected the view that Coleridge “changed sides” in 1802 by deserting from the Jacobin ranks and treasonably skulking over to the Tory camp....

  12. CHAPTER 7 History and Life
    (pp. 151-174)

    Coleridge used a number of self-plagiarized catchphrases to describe his view of the processes and powers, both natural and civil, that constituted human experience. These included variously “the Science of the Legislator,” “the Harmony of Government,” “the Science of History,” and “the Life of Nature.” His understanding of the relationship between the science of the legislator and the harmony of government has already been discussed with regard to his accounts of public opinion and political and moral will. However, the underlying connections between these two formulations of political society are best understood in reference to the deepest foundation of Coleridge’s...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Defending the Church
    (pp. 175-200)

    The debate on the proper power relations between church and state permeated British politics and society from the Reformation through the end of the nineteenth century. The church–state conflict was a central, unavoidable, undeniable factor in national life; every political philosopher of consequence in Coleridge’s time took note of it. Although British society had arguably become more secular in the course of the eighteenth century, political and social life still included the church to a greater degree than it would in the twentieth—or even the late nineteenth—century. The border disputes over the size and nature of the...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Attacking the Doctrine
    (pp. 201-215)

    The moral and progressive independence of the clerisy was one of the most “radical” components of Coleridge’s Church and State. Their role was antithetical to the promulgation of doctrine. If the foundation of political virtue in the republic was to be secured by landed independence, Coleridge reasoned, the possibility of moral virtue could only be founded in the equally substantial and enduring spiritual property of intellectual capital. The clerisy, unlike the clergy, were avatars of moral freedom rather than keepers of the sacred flame of any particular, and necessarily exclusive, creed.

    In this respect, Coleridge could not have been more...

  15. CONCLUSION Regulating the Body Politic
    (pp. 216-220)

    Whether his ideas found expression in pamphlets, public lectures, or private letters, Coleridge pursued one singular and unified objective in all of his political works from 1795 to 1830.This lifelong goal was to produce a comprehensive and systematic theory of the social state as a living matrix, a matrix that in its best forms would sustain and promote the idea of individual freedom. With that in mind, I have emphasized that Coleridge’s metaphysics and the “medico-philosophical” language of his political and social thought were central components of a larger politico-ethical system. His Idea of the state, therefore, must be viewed...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 221-266)
  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 267-282)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 283-294)