Newton: The Making of a Politician

In the spring of 1687 Newton sent Edmond Halley the last sheets of Book Three of the Principia. Now complete, it would be published in the summer of 1687 and would quickly cement Newton’s reputation as the greatest natural philosopher of his time. Even before he sent the last parts of his master work to Halley, he had became embroiled in a dispute over efforts by the Catholic king James II to force Sidney Sussex college to confer an MA degree on Alban Francis, a Benedictine monk. As I have shown elsewhere, the Newton was a leader in the university’s resistance to what they took to be encroachments on its religious rights and traditions. In May 1687 Judge Jeffreys told a deputation of university scholars (including Newton) to depart from a courtroom and sin no more, and Newton seems to have withdrawn to his college rooms to study various religious topics. However, even while the university representatives were meeting Jeffreys and other members of the Ecclesiastical Commission, James was issuing directives that before long would tempt Newton into a bona fide political career. In April the monarch issued his first Declaration of Indulgence, a royal decree that suspended the operation of the so-called Test Act. This prevented all those (whether Catholic recusants or protestant nonconformists) who refused to take Anglican communion from worshipping freely and from holding public office. Later in the year he took measures to install Catholics into senior offices, circulating a questionnaire to lords lieutenants and JPs asking whether they would be willing to repeal the Test Act and penal laws, and accept the Declaration of Indulgence. Over the following months, those who refused to do so were removed from office, and James inserted in their stead men who were sympathetic to his aims. In early 1688 he intruded large numbers of Catholics into his expanding army, which many feared would become a standing army supported financially by a pro-James parliament.[1]

Two events in June 1688 created unprecedented opposition to James’s authority, and effectively sealed the fate of his regime. On the 10th, his second wife Queen Mary of Modena gave birth to a boy, James Francis Edward, who was now next in line to inherit the Crown and thus continue the Catholic monarchy for the forseeable future. Second, just over a year after its first issue, James republished the Declaration of Indulgence and ordered it to be read in all churches. This was a more concerted attempt to achieve what he had set out to do a year earlier, though it had the effect of diminishing the loyalty of many conservative Anglicans who for decades had preached the need for subjects to display passive obedience to the king. In alliance with dissenters who had not accepted the benefits offered by James under either Declaration, senior bishops objected to the order and refused to read it. Seven of them, including the Archbishop of Canterbury William Sancroft, asserted that the king did not have the power to suspend penal laws such as the Test Act and in early June they were put in the Tower of London. They were tried at King’s Bench on 29 June, acquitted the next day, and received with hysterical adulation by waiting crowds. It was now only a matter of time before James’s position became untenable.[2]

James’s tribulations provided a wonderful opportunity for his Dutch nephew and son-in-law, William of Orange. From a defensive standpoint, William wanted to forestall any potential alliance between James’s sizeable forces (which included Irish Catholics) and the army of Louis XIV. On a positive front, he wanted to command those forces against the French king, and bring them into his anti-French alliance. For many within England, his religious allegiance made him the most obvious replacement for James, and disgruntled exiles developed close contacts with William’s advisors from 1687. Numerous conversations between William’s senior officials and various English supporters took place in the spring of 1688, and immediately following the acquittal of the bishops, a quasi-official invitation was issued to him by a group later called ‘The immortal Seven’. This promised a highly positive reception from the vast majority of Englishmen who would welcome a saviour who would restore their religion, liberties and properties. In late summer William acquired sufficient finance to build a substantial invasion fleet, and in September he convinced the Dutch States-General that it was imperative to launch his forces in order to pre-empt an Anglo-French alliance. At the end of the month he issued his own ‘Declaration’, composed by his senior advisor Gaspar Fagel and translated by Gilbert Burnet, promising to safeguard free elections and to restore the laws, liberties, customs and religion of the people. The text was careful not to blame James for the current situation, and in another declaration issued on 10 October William denied that he had any pretensions to the Crown. It was in this text that he referred to the invitation made by a host of grandees (the immortal Seven) as a justification for his invasion. Helped by a wind that Burnet and others claimed was a sign of God’s providence, the fleet arrived in Torbay on the auspicious date of 5 November. Just over a month later William was on the outskirts of London, and it was only a matter of days before James made his first attempt to flee the country.[3]

As these momentous events unfolded, the author of the Principia retreated to his intellectual world. One of the few pieces of evidence relating to his concern for mundane affairs in 1688 is a typical indictment of his hapless tenants, which ended in a lawsuit against them. He spent some time preparing to publish a major work on optics but exerted a much greater effort on religious issues, particularly on prophecy. He was not, however, ignorant of the events that were now fast transforming the political landscape. At some point, he and Humphrey Newton (his amanuensis) combined to copy out a printed translation of a letter sent by James’s Jesuit advisor Edward Petre to Louis XIV’s confessor, Father La Chaise, detailing the increasing problems facing the English monarch. The epistle bemoaned the lack of sufficient Catholics of officer material in England and Petre urged La Chaise to persuade qualified Englishmen to “come over & they shall be certain of employmts either in ye old troops or in ye new that are speedily to be raised.” He added that a libel had recently been discovered in which the author called for thanks to be given to God “for ye Queens being great of a Cushion.” The Jesuit remarked that the culprit, if found, “should be made to take his last fare-well at Tyburn.” The letter discussed Petre’s successes in placing Catholics at Magdalen College in Oxford, as well as the possibility that the Bishop of Oxford might openly declare himself a Roman Catholic. Another manuscript in Newton’s stock of political papers detailed the complaints of the Oxford clergy against the patronizing attitude of their Bishop, and he had Humphrey copy out the petition of the Seven Bishops. In his own way, he kept his eyes firmly on the dangerous encroachments of popery.[4]

1. A Revolutionary Fellow

Even before William arrived to deliver the English people from oppression, Newton prepared himself to play a part in the political system. As early as September, soon after it was annouced that a parliament would be imminently summoned, he was known to be standing as an MP for the university, and there was a presumption that he would be elected. There is no doubt that Newton would have stood as an anti-monarch candidate, still ready to thwart the latest efforts of the beast to pervert the true religion. This was James’s last great effort to influence legislation in his favour, but William’s arrival made it impossible for him to call a parliament. The day after a provisional government was assembled in London on 10 December, a panicked James fled towards France. However, to the horror of William and his supporters he was caught by fishermen in Kent, and slowly made his way back to London in an increasingly triumphal march. While the nation teetered between sovereigns, the university town was suddenly immersed in the feverish political atmosphere. A number of Cambridge students and fellows took up arms as a safeguard against a local “rabble” who were breaking into various houses, ostensibly in search of armed Catholics. Alderman Samuel Newton (like Humphrey, no relation to Isaac) recorded that many of the same rabble were scholars, noting on 14 December that the whole town “was in uproare and fearfull crying out … arme arme for the Lords sake” to defend themselves against 5 or 6,000 Irish Catholics allegedly on their way from Bedford. Things had calmed down by the end of the evening but on the following day, the vice-chancellor John Covel sent out a letter of warning to the heads of the various colleges, urging all members of the university to engage in civil behaviour lest the actions of extremists “bring the unruly peoples fury upon us all”. James returned to the Capital on the 16th and attempted to begin negotiations with his nephew and son-in-law, but William was no longer prepared to accept any role short of monarch. James left for the second and final time on the 23 December, unwilling to accept the heavily circumscribed terms for his role that were being drawn up by senior ministers.[5]

Having assumed executive responsibilities, at the end of December William submitted a letter to Cambridge University demanding that it elect representatives in order to constitute a free parliament “for the Preservation of the Protestant Religion, and restoring the Rights and Libertyes of the Kingdom”. Newton, previously ready to stand in more difficult if less tumultuous circumstances, put himself forward as a candidate against Sir Robert Sawyer and Edward Finch, recently appointed under-secretary to his older brother Daniel, the second earl of Nottingham. Sawyer, attorney-general for the last four years of Charles’s reign, was an arch-villain as far as Whigs and dissenters were concerned, not least for having signed over 120 dispensations non obstante in favour of Catholics. Most egregiously, in November 1681 he had attempted unsuccessfully to get a grand jury to bring in a bill for treason against the earl of Shaftesbury, and in 1683 he had led the Court harassment of city corporations under the quo warranto provision. Following the discovery of the Rye House Plot, he had led prosecutions against Russell, Sidney and Sir Thomas Armstrong. Sawyer gradually fell out of favour under James, and successfully acted as counsel to the Seven Bishops during their trial in the summer of 1688. Since September 1688, when he had been prepared to stand for election to James’s hastily convened parliament, he had been vigorously lobbying William Sancroft (Chancellor-elect of the University from 15 December) for his support, and he laid out his concerns about his prospects in a letter to Sancroft in early January 1689. This text shows that although Sawyer enjoyed substantial backing within the university, there was robust pressure being placed on Covel to rule that he was ineligible on the grounds of his non-residency at a Cambridge college. Sawyer suspected that Covel would side with his enemies, who were almost certainly supporters of Finch, an alumnus of Covel’s college (Christ’s) rather than of Newton.[6]

On 15 January 1689, a week before the Convention was to convene, Newton and Sawyer were elected as the two MPs for Cambridge University. The result was perilously close, and given Finch’s connections, entirely remarkable, with Sawyer receiving 125 votes, Newton 122 and Finch 117. The vast majority of those fellows that voted for Finch termed him ‘praenobilem’ or ‘honorabilem’, while two called him ‘nobilissimum’. Sawyer was described by most of his supporters as ‘dominum’ or ‘militem’, but the descriptions of Newton went much further and reflected his standing as a great scholar. Forty three described him as ‘praeclarum’ and twenty as ‘magistrum’, while others were even more lavish in their praise. Henry Jenkes thought Newton was ‘virum Integerrimum’, seven fellows (including Humphrey Babington) called him ‘dignissimum’ and five ‘doctissimum’. Of those who knew him personally, or who had served with him in front of Jeffreys, John Laughton, Covel, Norris and Smoult all called him simply ‘praeclarum’. Perhaps the greatest accolade came from his old tutor Benjamin Pulleyn, who wrote that Newton was ‘summum virum’. Newton was already the brightest star in Cambridge but as much as his eminence in the world of learning, his defence of the university before the commissioners must have played a seminal role in his election. There was little time to prepare for his role, and he left Cambridge on the 18th or 19th of January, probably lodging in Broad Sanctuary to the west of Westminster Abbey. Having effortlessly shed the identity of a scholarly hermit, he was now thrust into the extraordinary bustle of post-revolutionary politics.[7]

2. The Convention

The central issue for the Convention was to decide the terms on which James had departed, which would dictate the form of monarchical power enjoyed by his daughter and her husband. Tories such as Sawyer, along with many senior bishops, felt that James had been harried out of office and denied that his actions in departing the country had left the throne ‘vacant’. Instead, they argued that the proper order of succession dictated that the crown should pass to his daughter Mary, with William reigning as a regent. Hardliners, many of whom accepted the legitimacy of the birth of James’s son, refused to accept that William had any right to become king, and called for the return of James, who was the monarch de iure divino. Many of this group would never swear allegiance to William and soon resigned their offices as non-jurors. At the other end of the spectrum stood radical ‘true’ Whigs such as the ex-Leveller John Wildman, his fellow plotter John Hampden, Thomas Wharton, the cleric Samuel Johnson, and Viscount Charles Mordaunt. This group argued that James — whom they considered a traitor and a tyrant — had voluntarily abdicated, and that the throne was vacant. On its extremes were a handful of supporters of the ‘Old Cause’ who yearned for a return to the values of the Commonwealth, and who believed that James’s actions had left the ‘people’ in a position to elect a sovereign. More moderate Whigs held that a ‘contract’ between the king and the people had been broken, a feat accomplished by the numerous illegal actions and concerted efforts to subvert the religion and liberties of the English people committed by the last two Stuart kings. Whigs pushed for the immediate recognition of William as king, but crucially this was to be accompanied by a major change to the constitution to limit the power of the sovereign.[8]

On 28 January the House of Commons debated the status of the constitution. After intense discussions, the Commons concluded the following day that James had broken an ‘original contract’ with the people, and had abdicated, meaning that the throne was vacant. In response, the Lords insisted on retaining the term ‘deserted’, thereby constraining the succession to Princess Mary, or in extremis, allowing the possibility that James might return. In conference with the Lords on 4 February, John Hampden (MP for Wendover and son of the eminent dissenting leader Richard) led the Commons’ position that James had broken the contract, subverted the laws of the land, and abdicated. The Lords stuck to their guns, but William insisted that he would not accept a subordinate position to his wife; in turn Mary made it known that she was not in favour of being the sole monarch. With a need for a speedy resolution because of the deteriorating condition in Ireland, the Commons voted 282–151 in favour of a vacant throne on 5 February and the Lords caved in on the following day. A joint statement claimed that James had “withdrawn himself from the kingdom” having “endeavoured to subvert the constitution of the kingdom, by breaking the Original Contract between king and people, and by the advice of Jesuits, and other wicked persons.”[9]

Attention immediately turned to the process of making William king, and a compromise was reached according to which William and Mary would rule jointly, with William wielding executive authority. After a number of days spent discussing various grievances, on 12 February the Commons completed the wording of a Declaration of Rights, which outlined the conditions under which Parliament would offer the monarchy to William and Mary. This condemned the actions of James and enjoined a new oath on office-holders (including university dons), forcing them to promise and swear to be faithful and bear “true Allegiance” to William and Mary, and to swear that they abhorred, detested and abjured the “Damnable” Catholic doctrine justifying deposition and murder of sovereigns excommunicated or deprived by the pope.[10]

In the vote on 5 February, Newton sided with the majority, and a week later he sent Covel a copy of the Declaration of Rights as well as a proclamation affirming William and Mary king and queen. The proclamation gave thanks to God for his use of the Prince of Orange to effect the miraculous deliverance of England from popery and arbitrary power, and Newton requested that the university read it “wth a seasonable decorum because I take it to be their interest to set ye best face upon things they can, after ye example of ye London Divines.” The Declaration was submitted to William and Mary on the 13th, and they accepted the terms. The university was quick to display its fidelity to the new regime, and on the following day John Laughton, Newton’s great friend at Trinity and now the university librarian, gave the university’s thanksgiving sermon at Great St. Mary’s. On the 19th Covel read out the university’s own proclamation, which faithfully rehearsed the wording from parliament’s original version. The proclamation repeated the assertion in the Declaration that its members would “henceforth acknowledge and pay … all faith and true Allegiance” to William and Mary, though this statement was deeply troubling for large numbers of fellows who had sworn a similar oath to the previous regime.[11]

Newton was aware of the tensions at Cambridge but did not hide his Williamite bias. Two days after the university issued the proclamation of support for the new monarchs, he told Covel that he was content that the proceedings had been “performed wth so much decenc[y] by ye wiser & more considerable part of ye university”. However, he acknowledged that some “of less understanding (whom it may be difficult to perswade)” might baulk at taking the new oaths. Typically, he sent down a series of ‘Propositions’ in order to remove “the scruples of as many as have sense enough to be convinced wth reason.” First, he reiterated his position of early 1687 that English subjects were freemen and hence could not swear fidelity and allegiance to the monarch beyond what was due to him by the law of the land. With reference to the situation that had existed under James, Newton remarked that the law placed restrictions on the obligations placed on free Englishmen to swear to be faithful and true to any monarch, for otherwise “we should swear ourselves slaves & ye King absolute.” Second, it followed from this that if there were no longer a legal obligation of fidelity and allegiance to James, then the obligation to the same enjoined by any previous oaths would also cease. Obedience to the law was more fundamental than the obligation to be faithful to any oath whatsoever, and this was because the oath was a legal and not a religious obligation. With James again in mind, Newton added that if one swore an unlawful oath to a particular monarch, then one might well be put into a position of breaking the law and even becoming a rebel or a traitor.[12]

Newton added that in the right conditions, legal obligations existed to the monarch whether or not the ruler was king de facto or de jure, a view that was apparently confirmed by Sawyer. To determine whether obligation was lawful, Newton invoked the notion of ‘protection’ that underlay the ‘contract’ between a monarch and his or her people. Allegiance and protection were always mutual, he told Covel, and so “when K. James ceased to protect us we ceased to owe him allegiance by ye law of ye land. And when King W. began to protect us we began to owe allegiance to him.” As for the high church recalcitrants (“the “dissatisfied party”) unmoved by his reasoning on this matter, Newton invoked their own principles and told Covel that they “ought not to judge & censure their superiors but to obey & honour them according to ye law & the doctrine of passive Obedience.” This was of course carefully crafted to mimic the language that supporters of James had used to urge allegiance to him.[13]

On 25 February the Commons agreed to bring in a bill replacing the older oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy with new oaths based on the Declaration of Rights. In the next weeks Newton discussed with Covel the practical difficulties in granting degrees when the new oaths had not yet been formally agreed by parliament. On 2 March, he told Covel that even before the bill had been passed into law, members of both houses had taken the oaths and the Test in order to confirm the institution of the Convention as a proper parliament, “none in town scrupling them that I have heard of.” Two weeks later he informed Covel that the bill for imposing new oaths had been read three times in the House and that the draft he had seen only contained directions for imposing oaths on those who took new preferments. At the end of the month, Newton advised Covel that they be administered in English as soon as the relevant bill was published. However, having urged Covel to get individual colleges and other university institutions to review their statutes, he soon informed him that the Lords had rejected the bill concerning the new oaths sent up from the Commons.[14]

The Commons discussed punishments for fellows and college heads on the 14th of April. They determined that any person holding office, including dons, college heads and ‘professors of sciences’, would have until 1 August to take the new oaths, after which they would be suspended for a period of six months. During this time they could take the oaths and recover their positions, but if not, they would be permanently deprived. The amended bill was read for the third time and passed on the following day but the Lords demanded further amendments on the 18th. These in turn were discussed and rejected over the following days by a committee of the lower house, who affirmed that all members of the professions needed to take the oaths as much as did other subjects, and that these needed to be done openly. After a consultation between representatives of both houses on the 24th of April, the Lords effectively agreed to the original Commons wording and on the same day William gave it his royal assent.[15]

On 10 May Newton advised Covel that only those taking degrees and those newly preferred needed to subscribe to the Declaration. As opposition to the oaths increased in Cambridge, Newton told Covel that the Declaration had only to be subscribed and not sworn, but added that if it was the former then an independent record of that subscription be made and retained. For some time troubled fellows had been agitating for a definition of “true allegiance” and they drew up a petition demanding that its meaning be clarified. Newton gathered that there was substantial disagreement over about whether to send the petition to London and informed Covel that although he could neither persuade or dissuade anyone from putting their name to it, an explication of the term would do no good and possibly a great deal of harm. Although the majority of the university took the oaths, 59 members drew up a petition to the monarchs and to the Commons asking for clarification about the nature of ‘allegiance’, and they asked that in the mean time they should be excused from the requirement to take it. Ultimately 37 fellows were expelled from the university for failing to take the oaths, while St. John’s College harboured at least 20 non-jurors until 1717. Among the non-jurors were John Peachell, erstwhile vice-chancellor during the Alban Francis case, and seven fellows from Trinity — one of whom was Humphrey Babington.[16]

At the end of April, Newton announced that he and Sir Thomas Clarges had been given permission to draw up a bill for confirming the charters and privileges of the two universities and he urged Covel to send up two people to consult with them, adding “pray let ‘em be moderate as well as intelligent”. Clarges was a highly experienced member of parliament who had early on opposed James, and later shown his firm support for William in the last months of 1688. Having represented a number of different constituencies over the previous three decades, he became a member for Oxford University in the Convention. Early in May Newton told Covel that he had access to the equivalent bill drafted in Oxford and that its central points included a clause “empowring the Visitors, two Divinity Professors & Master of every College to revise ye statutes of that College & strike out what ever favours Popery & instead thereof to insert other precepts in [sic] favour agreable to ye reformed religion.” Newton had Humphrey copy out an Elizbethan Act ‘for the confirmation of ye Charters liberties & privileges of ye universities of Oxford & Cambridge’, and he notes a number of areas where anti-Catholic statutes might be strengthened. There is every reason to think that the wording of the new draft bill was engineered by Newton, and it constituted a major riposte to James II’s perceived meddling with the statutes of Oxford and Cambridge by means of the Ecclesiastical Commission. Nevertheless, the bill would not pass during Newton’s tenure as a member of parliament.[17]

Covel posed a number of questions to Newton and Sawyer on this issue, including the local jurisdiction of the university in relation to the town. There was also a note requesting that it university physicians be exempted from the prohibiting clause within the Henrician charter granted to the Royal College of Physicians that prevented them from practising medicine in London without the permission of the College of Physicians. Not surprisingly, Covel’s list of comments also included the demand that the Elizabethan statutes regarding the university and the charters relating to the foundation of colleges should not be dispensed with by the sovereign except at the request of the university or college. When he received the list of points, Newton remarked that he had discussed the reservation concerning the dispensing power attached to the confirmation of the statutes with Sawyer, but that they had agreed that “it was not advisable because it would not be to confirm to you a privilege but to give you a new one & to take away an undoubted & indisputable right of ye Crown.” As for the reference to the College of Physicians, he added that he had relayed this point to a member of the College “& find it will not be admitted wthout engaging the house in a hazzardous debate.”[18]

3. Toleration

On one significant issue, namely religious toleration, Newton was seriously compromised by the political debates of early 1689. As a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, William was keen to promote a religious settlement that would allow a number of dissenters to be comprehended within the Anglican Church. Moreover, part of his interest in repealing the Test Act was to gain the support of Catholics who, he hoped, could serve in the Army and Navy against the French. The Earl of Nottingham introduced a Bill for Indulgence in the Lords on 28 February based on one he had drawn up 9 years earlier, and soon after being made Secretary of State on 5 March he introduced a Bill for Comprehension. The latter was drawn up after a series of meetings with leading bishops and removed the requirement that a minister administering the sacraments wear the surplice, make the sign of the cross, or kneel. On 16 March, William himself told both Houses that he preferred the removal of the sacramental part of the Test Act and that he hoped they would “leave room for the admission of all Protestants that are willing and able to serve.” The same day, high church Tories including Clarges, Sawyer and Heneage Finch who were concerned that comprehension would import schism into the church, met in the Devil Tavern under Sawyer’s chairmanship to organise opposition to William’s proposal. They decided that they would move to expel all members of the House of Commons that would not conform to the Test Act, and in the context of such sustained opposition, the Lords rejected a proposed revision of the bill on 18 March.[19]

At this point it seemed that the ideal of comprehension had been successfully killed off but on 1 April, John Hampden was appointed to head a Commons committee for preparing a new Comprehension Bill (in contrast to Nottingham’s earlier bill). The resulting document proposed to allow into the Anglican fold ministers who had been ordained in any Reformed Church but it was stymied after another meeting in the Devil Tavern of 9 April. Here a large number of Whigs and Tories reached a compromise whereby the comprehension issue would be considered and determined by the Church of England Convocation, while Tories would support the outstanding Bill for Indulgence allowing limited religious toleration. Dissenters hoped for and indeed expected support for the latter from Anglicans; this was partly on account of their support for the Seven Bishops, who in their petition had stated explicitly that dissenters should be treated favourably in the next parliament and Convocation. However, senior members of the Church had cooled towards dissenters in the aftermath of the Revolution, and many dissenters feared that allowing the comprehension issue to be decided by Convocation was effectively to sign its death warrant. Indeed, despite support from senior bishops such as Tenison, Tillotson, Sharp, Patrick and Compton, who all spoke in favour of it, the bill had little chance of passing in Convocation and failed to do so. William attempted to revive the comprehension issue towards the end of the year by authorising convocation to consider changes in the Book of Common Prayer, but this came to nothing.[20]

Throughout this period Newton continued to work with Clarges and Sawyer on drafting the sections of the Oaths Bill and the Charters and Privileges Bill that were relevant to Oxford and Cambridge. On 18 April he was coopted onto a committee to consider the plight of impoverished French ministers who had fled to England, and the committee reported on the 24th that as a group, the distressed refugees should receive £17,200 per annum. There is no evidence relating to his views on the passage of the Comprehension Bill, but the content of the toleration bill was clearly relevant to his private religious views. As it happens, on 15 May two separate bills were read for the second time, one from the Lords, for exempting protestant dissenters from the penalities of certain laws, and the other, from the Commons, to discuss a more general law granting liberty and indulgence to dissenters. The Commons version was not discussed after its second reading. Clarges argued that one paragraph from the Commons bill should be inserted into the Lords bill, namely that all penal statutes against protestant dissenters should be repealed, whereas the Lords version restricted their suspension to the duration of meetings. The final version only exempted dissenters from the existing penalties.[21]

Newton was named as part of a Commons committee that met on 16 May to discuss the second drafts of the bills, but there is no evidence that he spoke up about the proviso in the Lords bill stating that no-one who denied the Trinity should benefit from the indulgence. The day before, however, John Hampden had bravely objected to the Trinitarian requirement. Throughout the summer of his first parliamentary career, Newton spent a great deal of time with Hampden. Hampden was an extreme Whig throughout the 1680s and early 1690s, but he had also developed radical freethinking opinions when in France during the early 1680s. Here he met the great Catholic critic Richard Simon and was soon convinced that many of the epistemological, historical and textual supports for protestantism, including the text of the Bible itself, were doubtful. Hampden not only sponsored Simon’s work but was also instrumental in publishing shorter Latin and English versions of Simon’s Histoire Critique du Vieux Testament (both of which appeared in 1684). However, in April 1688 he composed a ‘confession’ in which he told friends that he had recanted his former libertinism, for which he had been severely punished by God. In this extraordinary document he admitted that he had imbibed heinous doctrines and nihilistic exegetical techniques from Simon, with whom he had remained in contact for some time after his sojourn in France, in order to “obtain the Reputation of Wit and Learning”. It is clear that Hampden was extremely knowledgeable about Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and indeed, had given financial support towards the publication of Simon’s proposed ‘critical polyglot’ with the express intention of corroding the authority of Scripture. Burnet went so far as to call him the “learnedest gentleman” he had ever known, an able critic in Latin, Greek and Hebrew.[22]

Hampden’s political tendencies mirrored his extreme religious views, but if the latter abated somewhat, his political radicalism never did. He had been linked to the Earl of Shaftesbury, Algernon Sidney and in particular to the republican John Wildman from the start of the Exclusion Crisis, and was deeply implicated in the Rye House Plot on the grounds that his London house had served as the meeting place for the plotters. A convinced republican in the early 1680s, he was imprisoned in July 1683 soon after the discovery of the Plot. Although a second witness could not be found to corroborate allegations against him, he was found guilty in February 1684 and fined the massive sum of £40,000. Unable to raise this amount, he remained in prison for nearly two more years. When another witness did appear after the failure of the Monmouth uprising in 1685, Hampden was tried for high treason and after confessing to the existence of the plot, barely escaped with his life. He confessed to his and others’ roles in the Plot and was forced to pay £6,000 to Judge Jeffreys and Father Petre. Unwilling to have any truck with the pro-dissenting manoeuvres of James, he began working with William’s agent, John Johnston, in late 1687, and was evidently trusted by William in the early months of the Revolution, not least because he was a vocal supporter of war against France. Nevertheless, Burnet thought that his experience of incarceration had left him permanently melancholic, while both the Marquis of Halifax and the king himself thought him insane in the first months of 1689. According to Halifax, Hampden’s alleged madness was the reason why William turned down his suggestion that Hampden be made Ambassador to the Netherlands.[23]

Like many extreme Whigs, he was frustrated and disillusioned by the lack of radical legislation achieved by the middle of 1689. Moreover, he was clearly intent on using parliament to exact revenge for his and the Whig martyrs’ treatment at the hands of their oppressors earlier in that decade. The labelling of Hampden as barely sane should be read in part as a political slur, and he was a leading and able figure in sixteen different parliamentary committees throughout 1689. At the same time he had sufficient energy, if not wisdom, to conduct an affair with the earl of Monmouth’s wife, Carey, and the king suggested that Monmouth (elevated from his title of Viscount Mordaunt on 9 April) did whatever his wife and Hampden suggested. In any case, he was a leading light in the group of radical Whigs who upset the king from the early summer because of their increasingly strident efforts to exclude Tory ministers from an Indemnity Bill.[24]

In May, while Newton kept silent, Hampden argued that the bill forced people to declare their opinion on abstruse questions of coequality and consubstantiality, and threatened to rekindle controversies over Socinianism and Arianism. More radically, he used the forum to give a potted history of the Nicene crisis, arguing that disputes over the Creed had led to a situation where the orthodox had been forced to call in the secular arm. The orthodox state had burned the Arian heretics, thereby providing a template for all the later burning of heretics by Christians. Finally, there was no precedent for “Parliament of Lay-men” to make a creed to which people should subscribe. In response Clarges pointed out that the second article of the Church of England already held that the Son had been eternally begotten from the Father, and that he was the very and eternal God. Hampden’s speech produced no effect, and on the 17th, the committee announced their proposed amendments to the Lords bill, including their agreed statement that those seeking the indulgence should profess faith “in God the Father and in Jesus Christ his Eternal Son, the true God, and in the Holy Spirit, One God blessed for evermore”. Hampden’s comment about the possibility of renewed disputes over the Trinity was made in the full knowledge that the topic had very recently become a key topic in the Republic of Letters. Newton could not possibly have revealed his private views on the matter to other MPs, but given that their friendship began during this period it is virtually certain that he gave some indication of his beliefs to Hampden.[25]

At some point over the following days, the Commons bill was dropped, leaving only the much more limited version crafted by the Lords. After a meeting on 22 May to iron out remaining differences between the Houses, the bill was passed into law two days later as ‘An Act for exempting their Majesties’ Protestant subjects, dissenting from the Church of England, from the penalties of certaine laws’. Despite its historical designation as the epoch-making Toleration Act, it was not an enactment of a statute in favour of toleration, and the freedoms available to nonconformists under the Act were severely circumscribed. Although dissenters could now worship in licensed meeting houses, the doors to their meetings could not be locked, barred or bolted, and the sacramental section of the Test Act according to which the sacrament of the Church of England had to be received within three months of taking office remained in force. Indeed, ministers had to subscribe to all the articles of the Church of England save articles 34–36, the clause regarding infant baptism in article 27 and the clause in article 20 stating that the Church of England had the power to decree rites or ceremonies and authority in controversies of faith. The demand that dissenters swear (or if they scrupled, subscribe) the eternity and deity of the Son was retained in the version that became law, and in section XVIII the exemption from penalties was denied to papists and those who denied in preaching or writing the doctrine of the blessed Trinity.[26]

4. Patronage Games

Newton was closest to Hampden at the very point when Hampden was leading the efforts to oust those ministers who had served under Charles and James. In his diary entry for 3 July Robert Hooke recorded that there had been a dispute about Newton at the Royal Society during which Newton and Hampden were present. This was probably about the issue of priority of the discovery of Universal Gravitation but Hooke was not about to discuss this or any other matter with his nemesis, writing that he fled the scene immediately and “returnd not till 7.” At the same time, Hampden spent a great deal of time in the company of the Swiss mathematician Fatio de Duillier, who was also part of a group of people with whom Newton socialised. Both worked hard over the following months to gain Newton a plumb administrative position. On 9 July, Newton visited Huygens and his brother Constantijn at Hampton Court, while the next day, Christiaan went with Newton and Fatio to London to be present while Hampden recommended Newton to the king for the imminently vacant provostship of King’s College. On the 18th of July, Huygens was present when Hampden approached the Duke of Somerset (the new Chancellor of Cambridge University) at a concert, again on the subject of Newton’s preferment. However, when Hampden biliously singled out Halifax for his service to the Stuarts at the start of August, an irate William offered him the position of Ambassador to Spain, apparently so that he could be rid of him. Hampden refused. Long after this Huygens continued to assume that Hampden was part of Newton’s intellectual circle, and in February 1690, he was one of the individuals to whom Huygens asked Fatio to give presentation copies of his Traité de la lumière.[27]

For a number of years Fatio was Newton’s most significant acolyte. Having met Gilbert Burnet in Geneva in early 1686, he had travelled to the Netherlands in 1686 to inform the Prince of Orange of a plot to kidnap and even murder him. Burnet swiftly allied himself to William’s interests, and would effectively effectively become his clerical spokesman in England from late 1688. Aside from Burnet, Fatio used his time in Holland to cultivate intellectual contacts and he soon met and impressed Huygens with his mathematical aptitude. Having published an article on tangents in the Bibliothèque Universelle in April 1687, he travelled to England just as Newton’s Principia was about to appear in the bookshops. After some serious lobbying, he was made a fellow of the Royal Society in May 1688 and gave a paper on Huygens’s theory of gravity in July. Initially a convinced Cartesian, Fatio switched roles from being primarily a spokesman for Huygens in England, to being the chief representative of Newton on the Continent. However, he was more than merely a mouthpiece for either of the two great natural philosophers. Over the next two years he worked on his own theory of gravity, a version of which was read out at the Society on 26 February 1690. Although contemporaries such as Hooke, Halley and David Gregory (and for that matter Newton) were dismissive of Fatio’s theory, he always claimed that Newton judged his own account to be the best conceivable mechanical explanation of gravity that could be given. For a while Fatio had serious credibility as both a mathematician and physicist, and over the following years, Huygens, Leibniz and others believed that he was the best person to edit a second edition of the Principia.[28]

The most eminent mathematicians and natural philosophers on either side of the Channel rightly assumed that Fatio’s proximity to Newton meant that he knew the master’s thoughts and deeds better than anyone else. He was at Newton’s side on a number of occasions during the summer of 1689, and his admiration for Newton soon knew no bounds. In November 1689 he told a correspondent that with sufficient money he would raise statues to Newton, and called him “the most honourable [honnête] man that I know and the ablest mathematician who has ever lived.” By now he was lodging in London with his “intimate friend” Hampden. The latter got Fatio a job as a tutor to his nephew but in the winter of 1689/90, Fatio seems to have developed a tenencey towards depression that would bedevil him for many decades. In June 1690 he left England for the Netherlands in charge of two pupils, returning in September 1691. In Holland he had recurrent attacks of uncontrollable blushing, possibly related to the melancholy he was also experiencing. He also renewed his intellectual acquaintance with Huygens, but according to the dissenting historian Edmund Calamy, he developed an unhealthy interest in Spinozist ideas.[29]

Supported by Burnet, who was as effusive about his intellectual abilities as he was of Hampden’s, Fatio’s revelation of the plot against William must have stood him in good stead with the new court. He spent a number of days with Huygens in June, July and August and seems to have been constantly present when Huygens and Newton met to discuss mathematics, optics and gravity. Beyond physics and mathematics, the most important topic he discussed with Newton in 1689 was related to efforts to repeal the statute of Henry IV concerning the multiplying of gold and silver. Boyle’s motivations for promoting the repeal were grounded on the belief that the statute was obscure and ambiguous, and discouraged the industry of highly skilled individuals. His support must have also been connected with the use of alchemical ‘red earth’ or powder — on 20 June he discussed the use of such a powder to transmute base metals into gold with Huygens, and he probably talked about the issue with Newton at the same time. Indeed, at the Royal Society meeting of 3 July Hampden told the Society that the central inducement to the repeal of the Act had come from Boyle and Gilbert Burnet, “who affirm to have seen projection, or the transmutation of other metalls into Gold.” The bill was read for the first time on 27 May and after its second reading on 27 June it was sent for discussion to a group that included all MPs from Cornwall, Wales, Devon, Derby and York. It finally received Royal Assent on 20 August. The Act stated that the rationale for the repeal was simply that various highly skilled people working in metallurgy and related arts were put off from innovating because of the fear that they might fall foul of the statute. Any precious metals produced as a result of a multiplication process had to be taken to the Mint at the Tower of London and having been assayed and valued, the refiners would be paid the full value for their metals.[30]

Although he briefly returned to Cambridge on the day after the bill was read for the first time, the most accomplished parliamentary adept was — at least privately — opposed to the repeal. He was well placed to track amendments to the bill as it passed through parliament though the wording of the legislation clearly concerned industrial production rather than transmutation. It is not surprising, therefore, that he was not named to the committee that scrutinised the bill after its second reading. Nevertheless, he told John Locke later on that Boyle had “procured” the repeal of the statute in connection with various mercuries that would grow hot with gold, a topic that had been the basis of a paper published by Boyle in the Philosophical Transactions in 1676. After this earlier publication, Newton had told Henry Oldenburg that although he was not convinced that such substances could actually be produced, Boyle had done well not to reveal all of the recipe to the world. It was obvious however, that Newton was deeply disturbed that the noble natural philosopher had revealed as much as he already had.[31]

The issue of the publication of alchemical secrets — and of Boyle’s apparently irresponsible attitude to it — remained with Newton. An intriguingly mutilated letter from Newton to Fatio of 10 October 1689 clearly indicates that this issue, and alchemy more generally, had been a central topic of conversation between them over the summer, and shows that Fatio was already a trusted and even intimate confidant. Newton thanked Fatio for informing him about the work of a ‘friend’, presumably an alchemical acquaintance, and he remarked that he would be glad to lodge with him when he came to London for parliamentary business the following week. He rehearsed his earlier implied criticism of Boyle, saying that Boyle had frequently offered to communicate with him but that Newton had declined the offer on the grounds that he considered Boyle “too open & desirous of fame”. After Boyle’s death at the end of 1691, Newton had a protracted exchange of letters with John Locke, Boyle’s executor, over the question of whether Boyle had actually produced an active alchemical agent, whether Boyle had deliberately concealed the way of making the material from Newton, whether it was in fact possible to produce such a chemical entity, and whether — despite all this — Locke could send him a copy of the recipe to accompany the powder. In the letter to Locke Newton remarked that when he had asked Boyle about the procedure, presumably in 1689, he was not satisfied that Boyle had successfully tried the operation himself, or had even seen it performed by anyone else. These dealings with Locke over the red powder and the recipe for making the powder display clearly the tortured attitude Newton had towards alchemy and publication, and shed fascinating light on the man himself.[32]

5. King’s College Music

If Newton was upset about the toleration bill and the repeal of the act against multiplying, his failure to gain the provostship at King’s almost immediately afterwards was a much more serious personal blow. This defeat would trigger his lengthy campaign to leave Cambridge for good, a plan that only reached fruition in the spring of 1696 when he was appointed Warden of the Royal Mint. In the meantime he experienced more disappointments than in the rest of his career combined. In 1691, when he was desperately involved in seeking a senior place in London, he composed a draft letter to Locke in which he complained that the possibility of taking up the mastership of Charterhouse was not something he coveted. The salary and perks were inadequate while, he added, “the competition is hazzardous & I am loath to sing a new song to ye tune of King’s College. “A formal way of life”, he complained, “ is what I am not fond of.” His friend John Laughton told him that Tillotson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was acting on his behalf, but Newton would have recalled that the support of the most powerful figure in the land had not been sufficient to gain him the most senior position at King’s College in August 1689. Although the Provost of King’s, John Coplestone, was not to die until the 24th of that month, Newton worked furiously for a number of weeks beforehand to sollicit the position. Newton satisified neither of the two requirements that the incumbent be either a graduate or fellow of King’s, and in holy orders. Nevertheless, he collated evidence relating to precedents for ‘unqualified’ persons being put into the provostship by royal choice, and he collected all the relevant statutes relating to the foundation of the college. From this material, supplied by William Petyt, the avid parliamentarian and new keeper of the Tower parliamentary records office, Newton constructed a history that he called ‘The case of King’s College.’[33]

Newton’s work in this business must be understood in the context of the parliamentary work he was doing in connection with the protection of college and university statutes. As for his own essay, the drawing up of a complex legalistic brief provided no hurdle to him. According to the documents, Henry VI founded King’s in 1441 by means of letters patent “wherein he granted power to five Commissioners or to ye major part of them or of ye survivors of them to make statutes for the College & to alter interpret or dispense wth those statutes.” But two years later, when the statutes had still not been made, he revoked this motion and entrusted the power of changing the statutes to the Crown. According to Newton, Henry now “reserved to himself a power of altering interpreting or dispensing wth those he should make or of making new ones.” In relation to this Newton asked: “<is not the law>, that a power once in the crown remains in it for ever unless expresly granted away?” His successor Edward IV inherited this possession and authority both in his office as a king and by means of powers granted to him “by a right antecedent to ye foundation of these Colleges granted him by Acts of Parliament.” Thanks to these same Acts, he took away the lands and revenues of King’s and Eton, but then restored some of them, thereby gaining him the title of ‘founder’ which passed to all his successors. Being their “perpetual ffounder,” Newton continued, it was reasonable that the monarch should have the same powers over these colleges as over others, “that is, of interpreting, enlarging, overruling & even revoking their statutes & making new ones.” Given that one of Newton’s primary roles in the Commons was to help draw up legislation that would protect college statutes from Crown interference, his position looks to be both remarkable and deeply hypocritical. Nevertheless, his argument was that King’s was a very special case, an institution in which the Crown had retained the right to choose provosts as they saw fit.[34]

The statutes of King’s were therefore not privileges but laws which could be revoked at royal pleasure. Newton claimed that they were not granted but imposed, and “Tis the nature of things granted that they cannot be revoked without ye consent of ye Granted person to whom they are granted, but of Laws imposed that they may be repealed by the authority alone wch made them.” The king’s decision had always been final; the practice had always been for the college to inform the monarch of the vacancy and to elect his nominee, and this had never been disputed. Although the king had usually nominated those who were technically eligible, Newton located two provosts who had been appointed even though they had been ineligible. In the case of the second, Sir Thomas Page (appointed in 1676), he was a layman nominated by Charles II and elected without any opposition. Newton added that “some of ye Electors are still living & ye Viceprovost who admitted him is still Viceprovost.”, doubtless realising that this fact was to his advantage. Moreover, since the college had previously nominated individuals who did not meet with the universal approval of the electorate, and on other occasions had nominated more than one person, they had “always allowed the King a right of nominating persons in some respect unqualified.”[35]

Newton added that the instance of Eton, founded by Henry VI according to the same plan as King’s, gave support to his argument. The college had the same constitution as King’s and in its own case the king had “not only constantly nominated the Provost but often nominated him from other places then the Statutes appoint, & sometimes nominated a Lay-man.” So the same practice applied to King’s, whose “statutes authorize ye College to elect only persons so qualified as they prescribe but do not bar the King from nominating authorizing them to elect others.” Four things followed from these thoughts. First, that the king had the power “of interpreting & altering their statutes & making new ones” as in any other royal institution; second, that the king could give authority short of applying what amounted to a technical dispensation to King’s to elect technically unqualified people; third, that the king had a traditional right to nominate the provost which was based on the legal right established in the reign of Henry VI and confirmed by Edward IV, and last, that this custom implied that the college members were to elect as is prescribed in the statutes “unless when their Founder gives them authority to elect otherwise.”[36]

In the 1689 election Newton was not the first to be nominated by the Crown, that honour having gone to a Stephen Upman who was a fellow of Eton. Upman, who also had been nominated in 1681, was compromised by having preached a sermon in favour of James’ Second Declaration of Indulgence. The fellows reasserted their right to elect their own nominee, namely Charles Roderick, headmaster of Eton and fellow of the college. In place of Upman, Newton was nominated by the Crown following vigorous lobbying from Hampden, who waited until the day after Coplestone’s death to remind the earl of Shrewsbury that the king had only a few days to assert his right of nomination in the case of a man “of great and known merit”. It should be said that the precise status of William’s support for Newton’s nomination is opaque. The meeting to decide the issue took place at Hampton Court on 29 August 1689 in the presence of the king, and it is clear from reports of the events on that day that the Crown favoured the Lucasian professor. Nevertheless, Shrewsbury’s language in writing to members of the college before the meeting indicates that William would only “interpose” in the proceedings after discussions between college representatives and the attorney and solicitor-generals (the Whigs George Treby and John Somers). The senior legal officers obtained the college statutes to prepare their case, though they probably benefitted, as the Royal Society did in the case of determining the calculus priority dispute just over two decades later, from Newton’s own preparations.[37]

In the event, the efforts were to no avail. For the college, George Stanhope defended its statutory rights and dismissed Newton’s arguments and precedents. The college insisted that while they admitted that William’s predecessors had customarily nominated provosts, “the Persons so nominated have been generally such as their Majties knew by an intimation from the College or otherwise were in every other respect well qualified.” In the case of Sir John Cheeke (provost 1549–53), cited as the first precedent in his favour by Newton, the college responded that he was a trustworthy Protestant elected in the aftermath of the Reformation, and that in such a religious turmoil, while the college remained “obnoxious”, it was obliged to ignore the statutes. Now, according to the college, “there is no such necessity, & the College have all taken the oaths to the new King and Queen.” Stanhope argued that Page was one of the senior fellows of the college and thus his case could not be cited as a precedent for a “foreigner.” As for the requirement to be in orders, Charles had indeed mandated that Page be made D.D. although contra Newton’s account, the college was apparently by no means unanimous in accepting this award, “looking on the same as illegal, & not above 6 of the Present fellows assisted at it, & now the whole society declares that proceeding illegal.” Moreover, “whatever qualification Sr Tho. Page wanted it was in his own Power to have it & for that reason probably he obtain’d the place.” With an emphatic finality the college concluded that Newton lacked a qualification “which he never can have” that is, never having been a member of the college in any form.[38]

According to the college’s defence, the second condition relating to eligibility for the priesthood was on the grounds that (i) the only institution able to possess the lands given to them was an ecclesiastical corporation; (ii) the founder’s intention seemed to be that that institution should be spiritual, and (iii) the provost had to be presented to the Bishop of Lincoln within fifteen days of the election, after which the latter would grant a letter of induction which would allow the provost in person to “officiate at the Altar on certain solemn days mentioned in the Statutes.” No layman could perform this office. In all this business it is Newton’s apparent preparedness to perform the religious aspect of the provost’s role that is most striking. This was a well known part of the office, and a prospective head of the college could not have been expected to avoid it. Page’s doctorate in divinity was a last minute affair, and six years later Upman had also had a hastily arranged D.D. conferred on him by Sancroft, though this had been to no avail. In 1689, as we shall see below, the Crown had a lesser divinity degree conferred on the candidate put up after Newton, while the college’s own preferred candidate was neither in orders nor had a relevant degree. Newton had been steadfast in his opposition to James, a feature that surely played well with some members of the college, and he was already acknowledged as a great scholar. Yet aside from being a fellow of the neighbouring college, he had actively sought to avoid taking holy orders. Did a taint of something rather nasty outweigh his loyal defence of the institution?[39]

The religious question does not seem to have been the decisive factor in refusing to accept Newton, and the deciding factor seems to have been that the King’s fellows were only too aware of the destabilising recent use of the dispensing power. The Cambridge Platonist Benjamin Whichcote had been inserted into the provostship in March 1645, but was removed by Charles II at the Restoration. Charles immediately intruded his own candidate (James Fleetwood), who was followed by yet another mandated provost (Page). It is remarkable that Newton, who had appeared before Jeffreys and who had just been involved in drawing up legislation to safeguard the statutes of colleges, should have fallen foul of accusations that he was benefitting from the use of a dispensation. As we have seen, a majority of fellows had opposed Upman precisely because he had supported James’s declaration, implying that there was a sizeable contingent in the college who were sympathetic to Newton’s political views. Aside from the monarch’s actions against Magdalen and Sidney Sussex, the spate of recent intrusions meant that the fellows were emboldened to take a stand against arbitrary royal power. Nevertheless, their own candidate fell short in a number of respects. Roderick was not in orders, and he had none of the degrees of divinity or law that the fellows claimed was required by the statutes. However, “at the Intercession of the College”, according to a later reminiscence, the university immediately made him a doctor of law, and Thomas Sprat, the Bishop of Rochester and erstwhile proselytiser for Restoration English philosophy, ordained him privately at Westminster.[40]

The king’s representatives did not lightly drop their support for Newton’s candidacy, and did so only after a complex exchange of legal arguments that pitted three fellows of the college, including Oliver Doiley and Stanhope (both well known to Newton), against Treby and Somers. Once Newton’s cause was lost, the Crown countered the fellows’ choice by producing letters of nomination for John Hartcliffe, but the fellows argued that he was also disqualified. A bachelors degree in divinity was conferred on Hartcliffe within a week but the fellows had elected Roderick on 3 September. To save royal embarrassment and assuage William’s anger at being disobeyed so brazenly, the acting Archbishop of Canterbury John Tillotson stage-managed a situation in which one fellow apologised for the college’s intransigence, in return for which the king, who took a break from the exertions of the Newmarket races to visit Cambridge on 7 October, graciously allowed them their right to elect whoever they wanted.[41]

6. Radical Company

There was little time for self-pity, and at the start of September Newton went back to Trinity College, no doubt mindful of his political enemies in the two adjoining colleges. Presumably he renewed his acquaintance with William when the latter dined at Trinity in October, and he remained at the college for about a week, after which he returned to London to resume his seat in the Commons. As we have seen, he almost certainly lodged with Fatio, and possibly also with Hampden. In the bitterly divisive session of the House that followed, Newton’s political allies briefly flourished. In November, the radical Whigs succeeded in having a ‘murder committee’ founded to investigate the trial of earl Russell. Two of its promoters were Newton’s patrons, Charles Montagu and the earl of Monmouth, while Hampden was called as a witness to testify to the Marquis of Halifax’s complicity in the earl’s execution. They attacked tories who had aided James’ regime and in December Hampden referred implicitly to the large number of treacherous men who had retained their political places after the Glorious Revolution. He went so far as to implicitly criticize William in a rash speech that called for the inclusion in office only of “unsuspected persons”.[42]

Hampden was the prime movers in procuring the expulsion of Sawyer from the House on 20 January 1690, on the grounds of his key role in the prosecution and subsequent execution of Sir Thomas Armstrong. The vote was a resounding 131–71 in favour of removing Sawyer but the parliamentary session was ended a week later. Sawyer’s reputation at Cambridge was probably enhanced by this decision, and he was re-elected in the parliament that commenced two months later. In other areas the radicals were conspicuously unsuccessful. The ‘Sacheverell clause’ in the Corporation Bill, which sought to exclude from office for seven years anyone who had given up borough charters without the consent of the majority of the corporation, was narrowly defeated in early January. Newton voted for this clause, but since he voted for Sawyer in the subsequent election, we may assume that he opposed the latter’s expulsion. The only subject for which there is any evidence of his participation was the continuing issue of confirming the charters of Oxford and Cambridge, along with their liberties and privileges. Newton must have worked on this with Clarges and Sawyer throughout November 1689, and the first reading of the bill took place on 4 December. On the 13th, a petition drawn up by Oxford townsmen against the bill was read, and partly as a result of their concerns, the second reading of the bill was defeated on the same day that Sawyer was ejected from the House. An amended bill was read on the 25th of January, but after further objections from legal representatives for the city of Oxford, a new committee was created to consider the wording. Newton was named on the committee, but William, dismayed by the radical Whig attacks on many of his ministers, ended the parliament on the 27th.[43]

Newton returned to Cambridge on 4 February, presumably disillusioned with the fate of the bill. He did not stand for the following parliament in March 1690 and Edward Finch was elected with Sawyer. It must also have been relevant that his more radical allies had lost their influence, and Fatio informed Newton on 24 February that the king himself had arranged with Richard Hampden to ensure that John was not elected for the next Parliament. Monmouth, he continued, was dissatisfied with the way the court was tending, and the king had thrown in his lot with the high church tories. Fatio told Newton that he and Hampden had been considering travelling up to see him in Cambridge but that they had desisted on hearing that he was to return to London. That Newton should have chosen to spend a large amount of time in public with a loose cannon like Hampden is conclusive evidence of his political convictions, and Fatio’s letter implies that Hampden’s vendetta against Sawyer had not dented their friendship.[44]

It is almost certainly for these allegiances that Hooke was told by Charles Hickman in February 1690 that Newton was “the veryest Knave in all the Ho[use]”. At the time he spoke to Hooke Hickman was rector of Farnham Royal and within months would be made chaplain-in-ordinary to William and Mary. In October he gave a thanksgiving sermon before the House of Commons in which he condemned Catholic “adversaries” for trying to subvert the laws and religions of England, arguing that God had delivered a sinful nation by means of William. Hickman stressed that members of the Church of England had remained loyal to the monarch under great provocation, but laid blame for the events of the previous years firmly at the hands of James’s false friends. Notwithstanding Hooke’s bias against Newton, Hickman’s remark is surely significant. Since Newton’s religious views were unknown outside his rooms at Trinity, Hickman must have been damning him for his political opinions, presumably because he was always in the company of Hampden and others. Hampden would soon be dropped from Newton’s list of acquaintances, but the latter had already acquired a set of new and equally radical friends.[45]

After a few weeks in Cambridge Newton left his alma mater on 10 March 1690, and he stayed in London for over a month. Much of that time was spent with Fatio, discussing the latter’s theory of gravitation, reading over Huygens’s recently published Traité de la Lumière (since Newton could not read French) and listing corrections to the Principia. More significantly, he now developed a close intellectual relationship with John Locke, whom he had met, probably at the house of the earl of Pembroke, between summer 1689 and the following winter. Locke doubtless revered Newton for his intellectual accomplishments but at this time Newton’s standing as a Whig politician must have weighed equally in his mind. Secretary to Shaftesbury, Locke had been deemed a subversive by the government in the aftermath of the Rye House plot and had fled into exile in the Netherlands in September 1683. Here he met scholars such as Jean Le Clerc and Philip Van Limborch, who promoted the ideal of a polity that permitted a wide range of political and religious views. He also had time to work on his three great works on religious toleration, representative government and philosophy, all of which were published within a year of his return to England in February 1689 in the entourage of Princess Mary. Although their friendship was briefly rocked by Newton’s paranoid delusional ravings in the Autumn of 1693, for more than a decade Locke would be a faithful friend willing and able to discuss issues in natural philosophy, religion, economics and politics.[46]

Soon after the Revolution Locke’s key patron, the radical Whig Charles Mordaunt (soon earl of Monmouth) persuaded the king to offer him the position of ambassador to Frederick III, Elector of Brandenburg. Locke turned this down, accepting instead the much more mundane position of Commissioner of Appeal for Excise. This involved him in tedious business and left him little time for scholarly pursuits; over the next few years he complained on a number of occasions to his friend Philipp Van Limborch that learning had been supplanted by politics and business, leaving him no leisure for study. Locke’s asthma gave him another reaon to escape the foul air of the metropolis and at various times throughout the year he lodged in country homes outside London. At the end of May 1689 he was staying in a “philosophical apartment” at the Monmouths’ fabulous twenty acre rural retreat in Parsons Green, and at other times during the summer he stayed with Pembroke. Despite his role in the excise, and the distracting attention of the political situation, he still found time to shepherd three major works through the press, all of which had been largely completed in the previous decade. His Epistola de Tolerantia was published a month before the toleration bill was passed into law, and the translation by William Popple appeared in October. The Essay Concerning Human Understanding and the Two Treatises concerning Government appeared before the year was out (though both are officially dated 1690).[47]

Apart from his relationship with Montagu, who had risen meteorically since their days at Trinity, Locke now brought Newton within the orbit of Monmouth. As Viscount Mordaunt, Monmouth had been closely linked to Shaftesbury during the Exclusion Crisis and was a highly visible opponent of James II, criss-crossing the Channel in 1686 and 1687 to work with Williamite supporters in order to co-ordinate anti-James activity in London. When Fagel and Burnet drafted William’s declaration to the English people in 1688, Mordaunt, Wildman and others proposed a much less moderate version in which the Anglican clergy were condemned for their collusion in the crimes of the Stuarts. A man of action, Mordaunt recommended that William invade England as early as the summer of 1687, and he led a cavalry regiment into Exeter in November 1688. Although the king thought he spent too much time with Republicans such as Wildman, and considered him “ungovernable”, Mordaunt was a trusted confidant in the early months of the Revolution and he was soon rewarded with membership of the Privy Council and a more prestigious title. His star waned in the summer of 1689, and at the start of June Queen Mary expressed serious doubts about his sanity when he was made part of the advisory council of nine following William’s departure for Ireland. She was particularly upset by his vicious attacks on tories who had been senior ministers in the two previous regimes, and at one stage he allegedly offered her a vast sum of money to dissolve the parliament. In early August, as we have seen, William himself became angry with the constant carping by radicals such as Monmouth and Hampden against his Tory ministers, and he began to suspect that there was a Republican agenda behind the attacks. Despite this, Monmouth had unrivalled access to London dissenting money, and when funding was tight at the start of 1690 he was just about able to keep in William’s good graces by conjuring up hundreds of thousands of pounds from supporters.[48]

The chief object of Monmouth’s patronage was Locke. They probably met in Utrecht in the autumn of 1686, when both were the targets of James’s spies, and Locke became close friends with Monmouth and his wife Carey. Locke travelled back with Carey when she returned to England in the entourage of Princess Mary and they arrived on English soil on 12 February 1689. Even before he left, Locke was indicating his impatience with the slow pace and often petty nature of business in the Convention. Indeed, he agreed with Carey Monmouth and other radicals that the Convention had been given (and failed to make use of) a unique opportunity to reconstitute the English government in such a way that it would better preserve Englishmen’s rights and liberties. In the spring of 1689, while Newton was in the thick of revolutionary politics, Locke was riveted by the discussions about comprehension and toleration. The version of the bill for indulgence that passed into law in May was a pale shadow of what Locke had wished for, though he told Van Limborch in June that it provided the basis for peace. However, when he learned in September of plans to discuss comprehension in the next session of the Commons, he vigorously denied that peace could be achieved by any means other than proper toleration. Men would always differ in their opinions, he claimed, and rival groups would continue to “quarrel and wage war on each other unless the establishment of equal liberty for all provides a bond of mutual charity by which all might be brought together into one body”.[49]

Locke began writing an essay on toleration in the immediate aftermath of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in October 1685. In the published Epistola he set out to demonstrate that persecution exercised by a state religion or by an independent ‘orthodox’ religion was contrary both to Christian principles and to the law of nature. The text confined itself to religious toleration, although Locke also argued that no-one should be deprived of any civil rights as a result of differences over religious matters. From the outset he set out to show that toleration was the chief characteristic of the true church. Although each religious group claimed the title of orthodoxy for itself, no particular form of religious worship, established by the state or otherwise, could prove indubitably from tradition, reason or revelation that it was the only correct form. Orthodoxy and the external trappings of worship were signs of men aiming at power and dominion over one another rather than an indication of the meekness and humility that were marks of the true Christian church. No one religious grouping could arrogate to itself the right to coerce belief, and more generally, the civil magistrate had no business trying to constrain or influence what was properly a matter for private conscience or for voluntary religious assemblies or associations. Instead, its role of the state was to secure men in their civil interests, such as life, liberty and health, and in their possessions. Underlying this argument was the notion that personal beliefs could not in fact be changed by coercion, but only by “inward perswasion”, that is, by individuals sincerely aiming at religious truth. Allowing others the freedom to practise their religion, and to find religious truth, made a state truly Christian.[50]

Despite the fact that Newton was a serving politician when Locke’s key works appeared appeared, the Epistola was far more likely to have interested him than the Two Treatises. Nevertheless, as in the case of their religious views, and indeed their views on religious toleration, there is no doubt that their political views coincided very closely.

As Newton left London to return to the academic world early in 1690, Locke and Monmouth made serious efforts to find a senior office for him in London. In the spring there was talk of one of the three major positions at the Mint (his backers had their eyes on the Comptrollership), and letters to Locke later in the year make it clear that both Monmouth and his wife were actively pursuing this position on Newton’s behalf. Initially Fatio and Locke tried to foment a patronage connection by persuading Newton to give advice to Monmouth on a proper tutor for his son. Fatio told him in February that he had recently seen Locke and had asked him to “speak earnestly” of Newton to Monmouth but added that Locke had recommended that before he did this, Newton should write to Monmouth about a tutor — presumably Fatio. The precise role Newton was supposed to play in this interaction with Monmouth is obscure, since Locke himself was adamant that a scholarly tutor was not the right person at this stage for the boy (who was about ten). He told Monmouth that he did not concur with the latter’s plan of turning his boy into a “thorough scholar” and said he preferred that an experienced tutor “dispose him to virtue, knowledge, and industry”, since inculcating a love of knowledge would allow him to make great advances in whatever field he chose, with or without teachers. He used Newton’s mathematical autodidacticism as an example of how, with a sound basis in Latin and the sciences, even the most difficult topics could be self-taught.[51]

At their meeting in March 1690 they discussed a number of topics including how to demonstrate that planets might move in ellipses. Locke knew the gist of the Principia well, having tried to come to grips with the work within months of its publication. Indeed, having consulted Huygens concerning the trustworthiness of the mathematical proofs, Locke wrote a laudatory review of the work in the Bibliothèque Universelle for 1688, concentrating on Newton’s notion of attraction and his destruction of the Cartesian system. Locke praised the “incomparable Mr. Newton” in the first edition of the Essay concerning Human Understanding of 1690, and indeed his understanding of Newton’s achievement was soon to change his view about natural philosophy. Used to the empiricist historical tradition of natural philosophy cultivated by Robert Boyle, Locke believed that a proper scientia of natural objects, according to which we would know the real essences of things, was impossible. His discussions with Newton led him to believe that the latter had provided certain principles that could be the basis of demonstrative reasoning in philosophy. In his essay on education of 1693, Locke argued that that if others followed Newton’s lead in applying mathematics to the cosmos by giving a similar account of other parts of nature, there would be “more true and certain Knowledge” than could have been expected.[52]

While Locke came to believe that natural philosophy might have demonstrable principles, his acquaintance with Newton rocked his belief that one could discover principles that might function as a basis for a science of morality. Much of Locke’s thinking is revealed by a letter written to James Tyrrell in the summer of 1690. In the first edition of the Essay Locke had claimed that moral philosophy was capable of being demonstrated “from Principles, as incontestable as those of the Mathematicks, by necessary Consequences”, but he responded negatively to Tyrrell’s appeals for him to demonstrate that the rewards and punishments of an afterlife were established by what Locke called a divine law. Locke replied that to pose this question was to seriously misunderstand what he was doing, namely analysing how individuals actually went about comparing their actions to a rule, namely the divine law. In any case, Locke told Tyrrell that although demonstrations in morality and religion could progress further than they had done so far, it was not obvious that there were people with ability to develop these subjects. Despite Newton’s achievements, Locke told Tyrrell that “there are many perhaps millions of propositions in Mathematiques which are demonstrable which neither you nor I can demonstrate and which perhaps no man has yet demonstrated or will do before the end of the world”. Two years later William Molyneux asked Locke to compose a book on morals demonstrating their first principles “according to the Mathematical method”. Locke replied that he had indeed believed that morality could be demonstrated in such a way but whether he could do it was another question: “Every one could not have demonstrated what Mr. Newton’s book hath shewn to be demonstrable.” Newton was not only a great mathematician, but as Locke later told his cousin Peter King, his religious knowledge was equalled by very few. Their friendship was founded on an even broader field of subjects, of which economics, politics, science and religion were the most significant.[53]

[1] For general accounts of the background to the Glorious revolution see J.R. Western, Monarchy and Revolution. The English State in the 1680s (London, 1972); J.R. Jones, The Revolution of 1688 in England, (London 1988); T. Harris, Revolution. The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy, 1685–1720 (London, 2006); S. Pincus, 1688: The First Modern Revolution, (New Haven, 2009).

[2] James’s first wife, Anne Hyde, died in 1671, having produced six children. Only Mary and Anne, the future queens of England and Scotland, survived.

[3] W. Speck, Reluctant Revolutionaries. Englishmen and the Revolution of 1688 (Oxford, 1989).

[4] Newton to a friend, 11 January 1687/8; ‘Newton Correspondence’, 2: 502–4; National Library of Israel, Yahuda Ms. 32; Trinity College Library Cambridge, Ms. R.16.38.442A, fol. 1r (cf. further notes on the same at ibid. R.16.38.434A and 435A), from the printed version of the letter ‘Translated from the French’. For Petre, James, Louis and the Pope, see Miller, ‘Popery,’ 229–38. Lot 294 of the 1936 Sotheby Sale was composed of two copies in Latin of a letter written by a Jesuit in Liège to one in Freiburg; lot 31 was ‘Some Queries concerning Liberty of Conscience, Directed to William Penn and Henry Care’ (4pp); ‘Fourteen Directions in aid of the King’s Government’ (2pp), and ‘Address of the Lord Lieutenant, Gentlemen and Freeholders of the County of Cambridge to William of Orange’ (1p), all of which were apparently in Humphrey Newton’s hand.


See The Entring Book of Roger Morrice, 6 vols, vol. 4, ed. S. Taylor (Boydell, 2008), 308; Covel to Masters and Heads of Colleges, 15 December 1688, ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3: 1; J.E. Foster, ed., The Diary of Samuel Newton, Alderman of Cambridge, (Cambridge, 1890) 97 and R. Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politicks and Locke’s Two Treatises of Government (Princeton, 1986), 541–3. For the wider context of James’s departure see R. Beddard, A Kingdom without a king: The Journal of the provisional Government in the Revolution of 1688, (Oxford, 1988); Jones, ‘Revolution of 1688’; Harris, ‘Revolution’, 311–13.

For Locke’s view on the implications of James’ flight see ‘Two Treatises’, Bk. 2, §219: “There is one way more whereby such a Government may be dissolved, and that is, when he who has the Supream Executive Power, neglects and abandons that charge, so that the Laws already made can no longer be put in execution. This is demonstrably to reduce all to Anarchy, and so effectively to dissolve the Government.”

[6] Prince of Orange to the University of Cambridge, 29 December 1688, ‘Newton Correspondence’, 1–2 and 3:8n1; Paul Halliday, ‘Sir Robert Sawyer’, NewDNB; B.D. Henning, The History of Parliament: The Commons 1660–1690, 3 vols (London 1983), 1:150 and M.B. Rex, University Representation in England, 1604–1690, (London, 1954), 296–348, esp. 301–2.

[7] His address is given in a letter to Covel of 15 May; see ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3: 23.

[8] M. Goldie, “The Revolution of 1689 and the structure of political argument. An essay and an annotated bibliography of pamphlets on the allegiance controversy,” Bulletin of Research in the Humanities, 33(1980), 473–564; idem, “The roots of true Whiggism, 1688–1694,” History of Political Thought, 1, (1980), 195–236, esp. 197–200; Ashcraft, ‘Revolutionary Politicks’, 559–60. There was some ambiguity over what abdication and vacancy meant in this situation, but for most Whigs it meant the de facto relinquishing of sovereign power, whether intentional or not.

[9] Harris, ‘Revolution’, 323–8; Kenyon, ‘Revolutionary Principles’, 7–14; Ashcraft, ‘Revolutionary Politcks’, 569–71.

[10] See House of Commons Journal for 12 February; L. Schwoerer, The Declaration of Rights, 1689 (Baltimore, 1981), 27–56; J.P. Kenyon, Revolution Principles. The Politics of Party 1689–1720, (Cambridge 1977), 7–13; and Harris, ‘Revolution’, 331–44.

[11] Newton to Covel 12, and 19 February, ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3:10–11, 12 and 14; Foster, ‘Alderman Newton’s diary’, 98. For Covel’s estrangement from William and Mary, see Morrice, ‘Entering book’, 5: 194.

[12] Newton to Covel, 21 February, 1688/9; ‘Newton correspondence’, 3: 12; For the general significance of oaths in seventeenth century England, see C. Hill, “From oaths to interest,” in idem., Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England, (London 1964) and C. Robbins, “Selden’s pills: state oaths in England 1558–1714,” Huntington Library Quarterly, 35, (1972), 303–21. For Newton’s antipathy towards the imposition of oaths on university lecturers, see his essay on university reform from the early 1690s in A.R. and M.B. Hall, eds., The Unpublished Scientific Papers of Isaac Newton, (Cambridge: CUP, 1962), 373.

[13] Newton to Covel, 21 February, 1688/9; ibid., 3: 12–13. For de facto theory in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution, see Kenyon, ‘Revolutionary Principles’, 21–34 and in particular Mark Goldie, ‘Revolution of 1689’, esp. 487–8 (for the significance of Henry VII’s ‘de facto’ and Edward III’s treason statutes).

[14] Newton to Covel, 2 16 and 29 March, 1688/9, 29 March 1689; ibid., 3: 15, 18–19.

[15] Newton to Covel, 6 April; ibid. 3: 17; see also Journal of the House of Commons, (London, 1802), 10: 89, 93–4, 102–3.

[16] Newton to Covel, 10 and 15 May 1689, Newton and Sawyer to Covel, 15 May 1689; ‘Newton Correspondence’ 3: 23 and 24; Morrice, ‘Entering book’, 5: 175 and 190–1. See also Gascoigne, ‘Cambridge in the Enlightenment’, 71–5.

[17] Newton to Covel, 6 and 30 April, 7 May 1689; ibid. 3:17, 20, 21–2; see also ‘Journal of the House of Commons’, 10: 112. For the text of the act see Keynes Ms. 124.

[18] See Newton to Covel, 10 and 15 May 1689; ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3:22–3. For the debates surrounding the statutes of the Royal College of Physicians, see H.B. Cook, The Decline of the Old Medical Regime in Stuart London, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986), 210–22.

[19] See Morrice, ‘Entering book’, 5: 42, 47–8, 53–6, 69–70. 79 and 89; H. Horwitz, Parliament, Policy and Politics in the reign of William III (Manchester 1977), 22–9; Horwitz, ‘Revolution Politicks,’ 87–92; Lacey, ‘Dissent’, 235–236; J. Spurr, “The Church of England, comprehension and the Toleration Act of 1689,” English Historical Review, 104 (1689), 927–46, esp. 937–8 and more generally R. Thomas, “Comprehension and indulgence,” in O. Chadwick and G. Nuttall eds, From Uniformity to Unity, 1662–1962, (London, 1962), 189–253.

[20] See Morrice, ‘Entering book’, 5: 81, and more generally Horwitz, ‘Revolution Politicks,’ 87–92; Pincus, ‘First Modern Revolution’, 427; Lacey, ‘Dissent’, 235–236 and Spurr, ‘Church of England’, 942–4.

[21] See Newton to Covel, 16 March 1688/9 and 10 May 1689; ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3: 18 and 22; HCJ, 10: 93, 102, 134 and 137; Morrice, ‘Entering book’, 5: 116–17.

[22] For Hampden see the article by Richard Greaves in the New DNB; John Dunton, The Hazard of a Death-bed Repentance, argued from the Remorse of Conscience of W- late D- of D- when Dying etc. (London, 1728), 31–3, and J. Champion, “Pè;re Richard Simon and Biblical criticism,” in J. Force and D. Katz, eds, ‘Everything Connects’: In conference with Richard H. Popkin. Essays in his Honor, (Leiden and Boston, 1998), 56–8.

[23] Greaves, ‘Secrets’, 136–8, 169, 219 and 236–9; Ashcraft, ‘Revolutionary politicks’, 363 and esp. 595; J. Scott, Algernon Sidney and the Restoration Crisis, 1677–1683 (Cambridge 1991), 301–15; H.C. Foxcroft, ed., The Life and Letters of Sir George Savile … first Marquis of Halifax, 2 vols (London 1898), 2: 204 and 229, and Lacey, ‘Dissent’, 401. The fine meted out to Hampden was singled out in the Declaration of Rights as a prime example of arbitrary abuse of power during Charles’s reign.

[24] R. Greaves, NewDNB article on Hampden; L. Naylor and E. Cruickshanks, “John Hampden,” in B.D. Henning, The History of parliament: the House of Commons, 1660–1690, (London, 1983). Carey was the daughter of Sir Alexander Frazier, to whom Newton had written in the winter of 1674/5 on the subject of gaining dispensation from holy orders; ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3: 146–7.

[25] For the discussions relating to the bill’s pro-Trinitarian clause see A. Grey, Debates in the House of Commons, from the Year 1667 to the year 1694, 10 vols, (London 1769), 9: 252–3.

[26] Horwitz, ‘Revolution Politicks,’ 91–5; Lacey, ‘Dissent’, 237–9; Grey, ‘Debates’, 9: 253. For Morrice’s surprise at the bill passing see idem, ‘Entering book’, 5: 118.

[27] R.W. Gunther, Early Science at Oxford, 15 vols (Oxford, 1921–39), 10: 133; Newton Correspondence, 3: 31–2; Les Oeuvres Complètes de Christiaan Huygens, 22 vols, (The Hague 1888–1950), 9:744–9 and 357–8. Newton composed two papers on mechanics for Huygens in August; see Newton Correspondence, 3:25–33 and 33–5.

[28] In general see C. Domson, Nicolas Fatio de Duillier and the Prophets of London, (New York 1981); F.E. Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac Newton, (Cambridge, Mass., 1968), 191–212; S. Mandelbrote, “The heterodox career of Nicolas Fatio de Duillier,” in J. Brooke and I. Maclean, eds, Heterodoxy in early modern Science and Religion, (Oxford, 2005), 263–96 and R. Iliffe, “’Servant of two masters: Fatio de Duiller between Newton and Huygens,” in E. Jorink and A. Maas, eds, Newton in the Netherlands, (Leiden, 2012), 67–91. Fatio described the significance of his own theory of gravitation, as well as his exploits in the service of the Prince of Orange, in letters to Conduitt, 5 April and 26 August 1732, and to a Dr. Worth, 26 January 1732; see Keynes Ms. 96(H) .

[29] Domson, ‘Fatio’, 32–3, 39 and 43–6; ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3: 45–6; Westfall, ‘Never at rest’, 493–7; Manuel, ‘Portrait’, esp. 193 (for evidence of Fatio’s concern with melancholy in February 1690); Calamy, Historical Account of my Life, ed. J. T. Rutt, 2 vols (London 1829), 2: 73–4 and Iliffe, ‘Servant of two masters’. In October 1689 Newton mentioned that the letter to Fatio was to be left with Mr Tourton & Partner at Mr Panchier’s in Bucklersbury in barge yard near Stockmarket London’ (‘Correspondence’, 3: 45); on his return in September 1691 Fatio lodged with a French apothecary, a Mr. Benoit, at Suffolk Street; in Sept. 1692 Newton wrote to Fatio ‘at Megret’s a French Jeweller in Suffolk St. in Westminster’ (‘Correspondence’, 3: 231) and in Jan. 1693 he wrote to Newton ‘from London in King Square Court near Soho Sq. at Mr Brent’s Next door but one to the sign of the Dolphin in Soho’ (‘Correspondence’, 3: 242). His much later account of his and Burnet’s part in alerting William to the assassination attempt is laid out in detail in a letter to John Conduitt of 26 Jan. 1732 (Keynes Ms. 96 (N)) (NP).

[30] See Gunther, ‘Diary’, 10: 128, 141; Boyle to Kirkby, 29 April 1689 in M. Hunter et al. eds, The Correspondence of Robert Boyle, 1636–91, 6 vols (Pickering 2001), 6: 288–9. For Boyle’s alchemical interests see L. Principe, The Aspiring Adept: Robert Boyle and his Alchemical Quest, (Princeton, 1998). See also M. Hunter, “Alchemy, magic and moralism in the thought of Robert Boyle,” Brit. Soc. Hist. Sci., 23 (1990), 387–410, esp. 404–6. Parliament was adjourned on 20 August and reconvened a month later; Newton travelled to Cambridge on 28 August and returned to London around the 6 September.

[31] Newton to Oldenburg, 26 April 1676, ‘Newton Correspondence’, 2: 1–2.

[32] Newton to Locke, 2 August 1692, ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3: 217; Royal Society Copy Journal Book, 7: 213–4; Newton to Fatio, 10 October 1689; ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3: 45.

[33] Newton to Locke, December 1691; ibid., 3:184; Keynes Ms. 124 (a series of transcriptions of parliamentary records signed by Petyt) and Keynes Ms. 117. For Petyt, the author of The Antient Right of the Commons of England Asserted in 1679–80, see Pocock, ‘Ancient Constitution’, 226–30, 343–8 and C.C. Weston and J.R. Greenberg, Subjects and Sovereigns: The Grand Controversy over Legal Sovereignty in Stuart England, (Cambridge 1981), 197–9, 344–5.

[34] Keynes Ms. 117, fol. 1r-v. Newton’s source for Edward IV’s restoration of revenue to the college was Thomas Fuller’s The History of the University of Cambridge since the Conquest, (1655), 76; see Keynes Ms. 120.

[35] Ibid., fols 1v-2r.

[36] Ibid., fol. 2r-v.

[37] CSPD 1689, 25 and 26 August 1689. Fascinatingly, Newton appears to have been in the presence of Hooke on the day after the Hampton Court meeting — see Gunther, ‘Diary’, 10: 144.

[38] Keynes Ms. 117A and 117B. Ms. 117A is a copy of John Reynolds’s ‘An Account of King’s College’s Recovery of their Right to chuse their own Provost’; the recollection postdates 1705 since Newton is referred to as ‘Sir Isaac Newton’, while internal evidence indicates that the text was written up after Reynold’s death. Reynolds had only gone up to King’s from Eton in 1688; see ibid. fol. 1v.

[39] Keynes Ms. 117B, fol. 2r; for Upman see A. Austen-Leigh, King’s College, (London, 1899), 153- and 301–2

[40] Keynes Ms. 117A, fol. 1v; Austen-Leigh, ‘King’s College’, 153–6; J.P.C. Roach, ed., A History of the County of Cambridge and the isle of Ely, vol. 3, The City and University of Cambridge, (Oxford, IHR, 1959). Page apparently died in 1681 from disciplining an undergraduate, just as John North was to do two years later.

[41] Cooper, ‘Annals’, 5: 479–80; Foster, ‘Alderman Newton’s Diary’, 102–3; Austen-Leigh, ‘King’s College’, 157–8 and CSPD, 1689–90, 280–1. Hartcliffe was viewed by many fellows as a traitor because he had warned the Crown that the fellows were preparing to elect a new provost in secret. According to Reynolds, the King only relented to the fellows’ demands at the behest of the Duke of Somerset. Sprat, who was an initial member of the Ecclesiastical Commission, was elevated to the bishopric in 1684 and attacked the Rye House plotters in a work of 1685. For this, and for his great loyalty to James, he was detested by the radical Whigs, although he had refused to proceed against the Seven Bishops and took the oath of allegiance to William; see John Morgan’s article on Sprat in the NewDNB.

[42] Newton to Fatio, 10 October 1689, ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3:45; Morrice, ‘Entering book’, 5: 269–70 and 324. Parliament reconvened on 19 September but was immediately dissolved for another month; it is unclear from the Buttery Bills whether Newton made the journey to London for the brief sitting but presumably he would have done so; see Edleston, ‘Correspondence’, lxxxviii.

[43] Morrice, ‘Entering book’, 1: 364 and 5: 375–6 (Morrice gave the division as 130 vs. 77);

[44] Fatio to Newton, 24 February 1689/90; ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3: 390;

[45] Gunther, ‘Early science,’ 10: 184 (entry for February 3rd); Hickman, A sermon preached before the Honorable House of Commons, at St. Margaret’s Westminster on Sunday the 19 th of October, 1690 (London, 1690), 7–8, 11–12 and 23–4. He was High Church bishop of Derry from 1703 to .

[46] For the intellectual contexts of Locke’s Dutch sojourn see Cranston, ‘Locke’, 223–303; R. Woolhouse, Locke: A Biography, (Cambridge 2007), 197–265 and J. Marshall, John Locke, Toleration and enlightenment Culture, (Cambridge 2007), 469–99. A moderate tory, Pembroke had voted against declaring William and Mary as king and queen. He was a good mathematician and natural philosopher and was elected President of the Royal Society in 1689–90, although he was unable to attend a single meeting due to his appointment as Ambassador to the Dutch States General. He was married to the daughter of Sir Robert Sawyer.

[47] Locke to Van Limborch, 26 January 1688/9, 12 April, 6 June and 7 August 1689 and 14 November 1691; ‘Locke Correspondence’, 3: 527–9, 538–9, 539–40, 546, 633–4 and 673–4. For Locke’s efforts to find an appropriate physical and intellectual retreat see Cranston, ‘Locke’, 313–4, 317–8, 321, 323, 327–8, 363, 374 and 376.

[48] Morrice, ‘Entering book’, 5: 335–6; John Hattendorf, New DNB article; Goldie, ‘Roots,’ 200–1, 226 and esp. 235n132; Schwoerer, ‘Declaration’, 106, 109–10; Ashcraft, ‘Revolutionary Politicks’, 532–5, 537, 549–50 and 595–6, and R.L. Greaves, Secrets of the Kingdom. British Radicals from the Popish Plot to the Revolution of 1688–1689, (Stanford 1992).

[49] Carey Mordaunt to Locke, 22 December 1688 and 21 January 1688/9, Locke to Clarke, 29 January 1688/9 Locke to Van Limborch, 6 June and 10 September; De Beer, ‘Locke Correspondence’, 3: 527–9, 538–9, 539–40, 546, 633–4 and 673–4 and 689. See also Ashcraft, ‘Revolutionary Politicks’, 534–5; M. Cranston, John Locke. A Biography, (Oxford 1985), 285, 307, 310, 312 and 347–8.

[50] Locke, A Letter concerning Toleration, (London, 1689); Marshall, ‘Resistance’, 356–70.

[51] Fatio to Newton, 24th February 1689/90; ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3: 390; Locke to Monmouth, late February/ March 1689/90, ‘Locke Correspondence’, 4: 16; more generally see Woolhouse, ‘Locke’, 203–6 and 254. For the patronage efforts over the spring and summer of 1690 see Henry Starkey to Newton, May 1690 (cited in Westfall, ‘Never at Rest’, 497), and Newton to Locke, 28 October and 14 November 1690, in ‘Locke Correspondence’, 4: 155–6 and 165.

[52] See Cranston, ‘Locke’, 330–7 esp. 337, ‘Newton Correspondence’, 3: 71–8 and John Locke, Some Thoughts upon Education, ed. John Yolton (Oxford 1989), 246. For Newton’s demonstration, dated ‘Mar 89/90’, see Herivel, The Background to Newton’s Principia, (Oxford 1965), 108–117, esp. 114; for Locke’s reliance upon Huygens see Westfall, ‘Never at Rest’, 470–1 and esp. 470 n8. See also J.L. Axtell, “Locke’s review of the Principia,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 20 (1965), 152–61, esp. 154–7 and L. Downing, “Locke’s Newtonianism and Lockean Newtonianism,” in Perspectives on Science 5 (1997), 285–310, esp. 292–3.

[53] Essay (1690), IV. iii 18 and IV.12.8; Locke to Clarke, 9 March 1691, Locke to Tyrrell, 4 August 1690, Molyneux to Locke, 27 August 1692 and Locke to Molyneux, 20 September 1692; Locke, ‘Correspondence’, 4: 110–12, 222–4, 507–8 and 524.

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Professor Rob Iliffe
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Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

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