Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Johnson > The Literature of Dissent > Michaijah Towgood
  The Literature of Dissent from Defoe to Watts Controversial Literature on Church Polity and Dogma  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

XVI. The Literature of Dissent.

§ 4. Michaijah Towgood.


From the lower ground of mere hand to mouth polemics, Watts’s treatises were also answered by John White in his Three Letters to a Gentleman Dissenting from the Church of England—letters which, in spite of the popularity which they enjoyed with the church party, would be otherwise inconsiderable, were it not that they gave birth to one of the most enduring monuments of the polemics of dissent. White’s Letters were demolished by Michaijah Towgood, presbyterian minister at Crediton. In The Dissenting Gentleman’s Answer to the Reverend Mr. White’s Letter (1746–8), Towgood gave to the world one of the most powerful and widely read pleas for disestablishment that dissent ever produced. So far as the literature of dissent on the subject of toleration and freedom of conscience is concerned, this monumental work is the last word spoken in the period here treated; for the activity of the dissenters’ committee of deputies (a dissenters’ defence board in the matter of civil disabilities) was entirely legal and secular in its motive and expression. 8    10

Note 8. This is shown, for instance, by such cases as the corporation of London v. Sheafe, Streatfield and Evans (1754–67). Lord Mansfield’s judgment in this important case is only another proof—if further proof were needed—that freedom was achieved not so much by dissent leading the national civic sense as by the national civic sense leading church and dissent alike. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  The Literature of Dissent from Defoe to Watts Controversial Literature on Church Polity and Dogma  
 
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