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Jonathan Mayhew: Conservative Revolutionary

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In this article I suggest that perceived tension in Jonathan Mayhew's political and social thought is resolved by taking full account of the conservative (i.e. traditional) aspects of his political thought. Mayhew's social thought did contain elements that were profoundly conservative, most notably his belief in a relatively fixed social hierarchy. More, the presumption of a natural social ordering of men and the attendant emphasis on deference stands in tension with the more radical principles that characterized Mayhew's political theory. This tension can be reconciled, however, by his faith in a king characterized by a paternal regard for his subjects, an assumption that continued to shape colonial political thought at the start of the British-colonial crisis. I conclude by suggesting that the greater tension lies not in his political theory, but rather between his political theory and a preaching style that at times undermined the very social and political order he sought to maintain.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Political Science, James Madison University, MSC 7705, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, USA, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2011


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