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A Paradise of ReasonWilliam Bentley and Enlightenment Christianity in the Early Republic$
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J. Rixey Ruffin

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195326512

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195326512.001.0001

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 The Liberal Symbiosis

 The Liberal Symbiosis

Chapter:
(p.119) 7 The Liberal Symbiosis
Source:
A Paradise of Reason
Author(s):

J. Rixey Ruffin (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195326512.003.0009

By the middle of the 1790s Bentley was arrayed against classical liberalism in both its Christian and its economic forms. Those forms had in fact come together in a newly powerful symbiosis, both in the tangible sense of the Federalist Party and in the ideological sense of encouraging a mutually beneficial confluence of self‐defined morality, wealth, and divine pleasure. If Birmingham in 1791 and then the embargo in 1794 had begun the schism between Bentley and his liberal peers, Thomas Paine's Age of Reason finalized it. Bentley was not a deist, but Christian naturalism was ontologically no different than deism. So he was lumped in with Paine as a threat to Christianity by supernaturalists who themselves had decided to put aside their soteriological differences and unite against the philosophical threat. The second half of the decade brought more radicalism yet, most notably the writings of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, just when Federalist fears and their resultant sedition laws aimed more suspicion yet at men like William Bentley. By 1800, a defensive Bentley's transformation from classical liberal to republican was complete.

Keywords:   Federalist, Thomas Paine, Age of Reason, deism, ontology, naturalism, William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, republicanism, sedition

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