Gutnick Allen, Signy: Spatial Citizenship in Seventeenth-Century Political Thought.

Recent work on early modern political thought has suggested that we should see the seventeenth-century as a moment of transformation. The increasing emphasis on the idea of contract or covenant as the grounds of political legitimacy, we are told, resulted in a de-coupling of the idea of the state from that of space or territory. Such accounts are frequently developed by contrast to an alternative republican or civic humanist tradition, with its emphasis on the nature and preconditions of virtuous active citizenship. In this paper, I will argue that this is an incomplete account of how early modern thinkers conceived of the limits of the citizenry. Instead, I will suggest that we can locate, in the work of a politically diverse group of early modern thinkers, a concern with the relationship between property, residency and political rights which is distinct from both republican and voluntaristic or contractarian accounts of ‘the people.’ I label this conception ‘spatial citizenship’, and argue that it is based on taking property as a proxy for perpetual local residency. This way of thinking about community membership can be clearly found in the contrasting arguments presented in the 1647 Putney debates between soldiers and officers of the New Model Army. Responses to Leveller calls for a wider definition of ‘the people’ avoided mention of a relationship between property and activity in favour of one between property and national interest; citizens were, in the words of Henry Ireton, those whose holdings or businesses meant that they were ‘tied to [the] place’ of the nation and could not ‘be removed anywhere else.’ To be physically rooted, in this model, is itself the very essence of good citizenship rather than simply its precondition. Those unable to demonstrate this particular form of sustained commitment to the commonwealth are, legally, ‘foreign’, with rights to justice but not to political participation, including the franchise. These arguments were developed specifically to counter political claims made on the basis of alternative justifications such as natural right, custom, consent, or shared values. This paper will explore the ways in which this idea was developed and actively repudiated by thinkers such as John Milton. It will also connect this distinction, between those with property and those without, with broader early modern debates about what rights could be claimed by those, whether the unpropertied or foreign denizens, who were seen as incapable of helping to constitute the national interest.