‘A free Government & Religion rational & pure’: Two Versions of Nation
This chapter contrasts two interpretations of Britain as a nation of Liberty. The first half of the chapter discusses Elizabeth Montagu’s trip to France. She described herself as particularly blessed in belonging to a nation with ‘a free Government & Religion rational & pure’ and became interested in the question of whether French or English women were the happiest, and she concluded that her nation’s women were the happier because of their mixture of town and country pursuits. The chapter argues that the golden mean, or via media, of the Church of England is central to Montagu’s Anglican sociability. In the second part, a Dissenting version of the ‘free Government & Religion rational & pure’ is explored in the writings of Anna Laetitia Barbauld. The chapter discusses her response to the failure of the motion to repeal Test and Corporation Acts in 1790 (which made Dissenters second-class citizens).
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