History of European Ideas 42 (8):1042-1054 (2016)

SUMMARYOriginally composed as a series of polemical essays to a weekly newspaper called The London Journal, appearing from November 1720 to July 1723, John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon's Cato's Letters had a lasting influence on the development and evolution of Country ideology. It was, as is well known, one of the most widely read and influential books in Revolutionary America. Because of the enduring influence it had on the dissemination of the civic humanist tradition from Britain to North America, Cato's Letters has been more often than not taken out of historical context. This article revisits Cato's Letters by placing it against the background of the War of the Quadruple Alliance of 1718–20. What Trenchard and Gordon strove to do was to construct a distinctively Whig vision of Britain's maritime future that in a fundamental way rested on the Hanoverian Succession of 1714 and justified the conduct of foreign policy under George I and, more especially, the controversial alliance with France in 1716. The focal point of Cato's foreign-policy platform was Gibraltar. But were it not for the timely burst of the Mississippi Bubble in 1720, Trenchard and Gordon could not have retrained their civic humanist association of libertas and imperium with such assurance and confidence.
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DOI 10.1080/01916599.2016.1169771
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