CVUA Karlsruhe | Arzneimittelfälschungen a. http://www.ua-bw.de/pub/beitrag.asp?subid=2&Thema_ID=13&ID=1. Globalisierung und Internet beflügeln den Handel mit gefälschten und illegalen Arzneimitteln in immer stärkerem Sogenannte „Lifestyle-Medikamente" dienen nicht primär der Bekämpfung von Krankheiten, sondern sollen vor allem diekörperliche Leistungsfähigkeit oder das
Bardzo tanie apteki z dostawą w całej Polsce kupic cialis i ogromny wybór pigułek.
Cultuurwetenschap.beLIBERTY, TYRANNY AND THE WILL OF GOD:
THE PRINCIPLE OF TOLERATION IN
EARLY MODERN EUROPE AND COLONIAL INDIA
Jakob De Roover1 & S.N. Balagangadhara2 Abstract: Early modern political thought transformed toleration from a prudential
consideration into a moral obligation. Three questions need to be answered by any explanation of this transition: Did religious toleration really become an obligation of the state in this period? If this was the case, how could tolerating heresy and idolatry possibly become a moral duty to Christians? How could Europeans both condemn practices as idolatrous and immoral, and yet insist that these practices ought to be tol- erated? To answer these questions, the article shows how the early policy of toleration in British India was constituted by a Protestant theological framework. Toleration turned into a moral obligation, it is argued, because the Reformation had identified lib- erty in the religious realm as God’s will for humanity. This gave rise to a dynamic in which Christian states and churches were continuously challenged for their violations of religious liberty. The principle of toleration developed as a part of this dynamic.
Much is written on the rise of toleration in early modern Europe.3 This vast body of scholarship raises an important issue: Did religious toleration become a moral value during this period and, if yes, why? After all, one could and did defend the attitude of toleration as a modus vivendi on various pragmatic grounds. However, this pragmatic stance attained the status of a normative value during this period. How did this transition come into being? Why did people start arguing that toleration is a universal duty of all states? How could it become a moral obligation of even those colonial states which ruled over 1 Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation (FWO), Flanders. Email: 2 Research Centre, Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap, Ghent University, Apotheek- 3 The Emergence of Tolerance in the Dutch Republic, ed. C. Berkvens-Stevelinck, J.I. Israel and G.H.M. Posthumus Meyjes (Leiden, 1997); J. Coffey, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1588–1689 (London, 2000); Tolerance and Intoler- ance in the European Reformation, ed. O.P. Grell and B. Scribner (Cambridge, 1996); John Locke: A Letter Concerning Toleration in Focus, ed. J. Horton and S. Mendus (London and New York, 1991); W.K. Jordan, The Development of Religious Toleration in England (4 vols., 1932–40; repr. Gloucester, MA, 1965); H. Kamen, The Rise of Tol- eration (London, 1967); B. Kaplan, Divided By Faith: Religious Conflict and the Prac- tice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, MA, 2007); J. Lecler, Histoire de la Tolérance au Siècle de la Réforme (2 vols., Paris, 1955); J. Marshall, John Locke, Toleration and Early Enlightenment Culture (Cambridge, 2006); Calvinism and Reli- gious Toleration in the Dutch Golden Age, ed. R. Po-Chia Hsia and H. van Nierop (Cam- bridge, 2002); R. Vernon, The Career of Toleration: John Locke, Jonas Proast, and After HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT. Vol. XXX. No. 1. Spring 2009
For personal use only -- not for reproduction ‘devil worshippers’ elsewhere? We shall address the last question with the hope that, in the process, some light can be shed on the first two.
The Birth of Toleration: Problems and Puzzles
The rise of the modern theories of toleration is a puzzle for students of history.
The puzzle is about the nature of toleration in these theories: toleration is a moral value and cultivating tolerance in society is a moral duty on the part of both citizens and state. Before the rise of this normative conception, it is not as though tolerance did not exist, either in the West or elsewhere.4 In Ancient Rome, for instance, religious tolerance was a matter of prudence. Because of the uncertainty in affairs human, many felt it was wise to allow different religiones to flourish in the Roman Empire. With the emergence of Christian- ity as the state religion, toleration of certain practices gradually became a modus vivendi because the stability of civil society was at stake.
The modern theories of toleration add a new dimension to the debate: the moral obligation to tolerate things different. Quite obviously, we are not claiming that prudential considerations and modus vivendi arguments are absent. But the additional normative component in this debate needs empha- sis, because it is not in evidence before the Protestant Reformation. The need for such an emphasis becomes obvious if we look at how the rise of liberal tol- The textbook histories advance the claim that the principle of toleration arose from a discovery made during the Wars of Religion: it was irrational to impose one religion on a society. A respected historian of Western philosophy The centuries of warfare following the Reformation that split Western Christianity into Catholic and Protestant versions taught a harsh lesson.
Without compulsion there will never be uniformity in public religious pro- fession, and even with compulsion there will never be agreement in belief.
Persuasion never convinces everyone, and compulsion, it seems, does not work in the long run. Toleration . . . seems to be the only way to avoid con- stant warfare. In Western liberal democratic societies toleration is now Charles Taylor agrees that the origin point of modern secularism and toler- ation lies in the search in battle fatigue and horror for a way out of the Wars of 4 This point is argued in Beyond the Persecuting Society: Religious Toleration Before the Enlightenment, ed. J.C. Laursen and C.J. Nederman (Philadelphia, 1998).
5 J.B. Schneewind, ‘Bayle, Locke, and the Concept of Toleration’, in Philosophy, Religion, and the Question of Intolerance, ed. M. Razavi and D. Ambuel (Albany, 1997), For personal use only -- not for reproduction Religion.6 Or, in the words of a key reference work: ‘It took a good deal of pious killing before toleration gained widespread acceptance in Europe. Bat- tle fatigue presented the state with an opportunity to rise above divisive con- flict and focus on the pursuit of shared interests and aims, such as peace, freedom, and material prosperity.’7 The suggestion is that intellectuals and rulers in early modern Europe were horrified and exhausted by decades of religious warfare. This brought them to the conclusion that uniformity in belief could no longer be imposed either through compulsion or through per- suasion. Hence, the principle of toleration was born.
This explanation contains several difficulties. First, it is tricky to maintain that the duration of a religious conflict generally has a salutary effect on its future course. Contemporary cases like the Middle East and Northern Ireland suggest the contrary. Second, even if true, this account does not answer the following questions: How could the Christian societies of Europe conclude that toleration was a normative value or moral obligation? Given that Chris- tianity saw heresy and idolatry as violations of God’s will, how could some of the brightest Christian minds argue that religious dissent ought to be tolerated universally? As believers held that human beings lived to obey the divine law, how did they justify the claim that it was a moral duty to accommodate prima Besides these two difficulties, other problems emerge if we look at the cog- nitive demands put on any account that appeals to battle fatigue. The first pos- sibility is to treat this account as a contingent argument: in this era, in this place, battle fatigue resulted in the emergence of toleration. If ad hoc argu- ments are inadmissible in historical explanations, the only choice open to us is to treat it as a contrastive explanation: in this place and era, battle fatigue led to toleration whereas the same did not do so elsewhere because . . . The suit- ably filled out ellipsis would be the contrastive explanation that one looks for.
Unfortunately, we do not know what constitutes historical evidence for battle fatigue. The evidence could consist of explicit claims from some period that people are tired of wars, or of multiple sermons preaching the need for peace, or various meetings and demonstrations of people petitioning for the end of war. If we accept these ‘facts’ as evidence, we should also say that the battle in Northern Ireland, the involvement of Britain in the Iraqi war, and the struggle between Palestinians and Israelis have generated ‘battle fatigue’ in their respective populace. Despite this fatigue, wars have persisted in all these places. If one wants to avoid being ad hoc, one has to explain why in one era battle fatigue led to toleration but fails to do so in another. Without such a 6 C. Taylor, ‘Modes of Secularism’, in Secularism and Its Critics, ed. R. Bhargava (New Delhi, 1998), pp. 31–53, p. 32.
7 Stephen Macedo, ‘Toleration and Fundamentalism’, in A Companion to Contempo- rary Political Philosophy, ed. R.E. Goodin and P. Pettit (Oxford and Cambridge, MA, For personal use only -- not for reproduction contrastive explanation, no account of the emergence of toleration on grounds The second possibility is to take these explanations as enunciations of a general law: when battle fatigue emerges, then religious wars end. Such an explanation is either trivial or false. It becomes trivial: ‘people stop fighting because they do not fight anymore’. People do not fight anymore because people do not want to fight any more; and the refusal to fight gets dubbed as ‘battle fatigue’. This is no explanation, but almost a tautology. Not quite a tau- tology either, because it presupposes the following psychological ‘law’ as true: when people do not do something, then this is because they do not feel like doing that any more. This law is trivially false. Therefore, no matter how we look at this explanation, we cannot trace toleration to battle fatigue.
Political or economic considerations also fail to explain the emergence of tolerance as a moral value. Some Christians did argue that it was more prudent to tolerate heretics and idolaters than to face civil strife. Such prudential con- siderations provide us with hypothetical imperatives of the following form: if one desires x then one should do y. However, toleration as a value is an uncon- ditional moral obligation; it is not just prudential. In fact, one might use any number of pragmatic strategies to put an end to religious conflicts. Why should one invent the unconditional norm of toleration — a categorical imperative — to be obeyed everywhere and at all times?8 Here, battle fatigue or political and economic causes will not do as answers.
Right up to the sixteenth century, toleration of heretics was a temporary expedient at best. Catholic theologians and canon lawyers conceived tolerantia as non-interference in certain immoral acts (like prostitution) and with Judaic worship in order to prevent greater evils: adultery, rape and force- ful conversion.9 During the Reformation, irenic thinkers like Erasmus consid- ered that granting civil tolerance to the different Christian ‘sects’ was a judicious step in avoiding civil war. This was to be a transient phase in the res- toration of Christian unity.10 The Politiques in France and elsewhere provided an independent temporal purpose to the state, which should not be subordi- 8 Richard Tuck has shown the connection between scepticism and the rise of tolera- tion as a moral principle to be untenable. Seventeenth-century sceptics ‘would have agreed that there are not, and could not be, grounds for enforcing one’s own beliefs upon another simply because of the nature of those beliefs’, but would add that ‘beliefs could be enforced upon unwilling subjects for pragmatic or political reasons’. R. Tuck, ‘Scepti- cism and Toleration in the Seventeenth Century’, in Justifying Toleration: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives, ed. S. Mendus (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 31–60, p. 35.
9 I. Bejczy, ‘Tolerantia: A Medieval Concept’, Journal of the History of Ideas, LVIII 10 Lecler, Histoire de la Tolérance, Vol. 1, p. 138; N.M. Sutherland, ‘Persecution and Toleration in Reformation Europe’, in Persecution and Toleration, ed. W.J. Sheils (Oxford, 1984), pp. 153–61, p. 153.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction nated to the demands of religious unity.11 None of these groups perceived tol- eration as a moral ideal. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, however, several thinkers began to argue that religious toleration was the duty of all states, and that the liberty of conscience was the right of all individuals.
How could this normative stance materialize in this age? The normative aspect raises an interesting issue. The weights of different components in the toleration debate were reordered: the prudential and prag- matic arguments were cognitively subordinated to the normative component.
That is to say, in the public discourse about toleration, there was a discernible change: whatever their individual motives, most authors were constrained to defend toleration on normative grounds. The moral principle has priority over any other consideration. In this sense, toleration becomes a moral obligation.
Of course, this does not suggest that the Western liberal democracies are always tolerant; one merely says that they ought to be. This ‘ought’ is a moral ‘ought’ instead of being just a prudential or hypothetical ‘ought’.
How can one show that the liberal states of Europe operated under a moral obligation of toleration, when all we have to go by is the writings of some thinkers? Naturally, one could point out the failure of these states to be toler- ant in some cases; such facts do not prove the absence of a norm of toleration.
Which other facts could prove its presence? If in their public discourse, state officials take recourse to some or another normative principle of toleration, then, clearly, they are expressing a moral obligation to act in some particular way. Whatever they might say in their pri- vate correspondences or letters (which tell us about the psychological motives of the individual in question), we need to see whether they appeal to norma- tive principles in their public defence (where they present their official or public face to the world) of the attitude of toleration. We will look for such evidence in British India. Why British India? By the end of the eighteenth century, the moral stance regarding heresy and paganism that had emerged among certain groups in Europe also cropped up in the colonies. The Hindu religion and the caste system were said to consti- tute an ‘evil tyranny’. Both missionaries and Orientalists agreed that the Brah- min priests cloaked their human fabrications as divine revelations and, to satisfy their own desires, manipulated the ignorant believers.12 Yet, the Orien- talists, much to the dismay of the missionaries, argued that the British ought to tolerate religious practices of the Hindus. At the dawn of the Raj, the rulers endorsed this claim. Religious toleration became a guiding moral principle of 11 H. Butterfield, ‘Toleration in Early Modern Times’, Journal of the History of Ideas, XXXVIII (1977), pp. 573–84.
12 R. Gelders and W. Derde, ‘Mantras of Anti-Brahmanism: Colonial Experience of Indian Intellectuals’, Economic and Political Weekly, XXXVIII (2003), pp. 4611–17.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction This belief in the moral value of toleration contains a prima facie inconsis- tency. Most, if not all, British colonials in this period were Protestant believ- ers. Even though they belonged to different denominations, they shared: (1) a broadly Protestant interpretation of the Bible that looked at it as the revelation of God’s will; (2) the belief that this will was the divine law that ought to be obeyed by all human creatures; (3) therefore, the conviction that, as a Chris- tian, it was one’s duty to persuade other human beings to submit themselves to the divine law.13 Minimally, this implied that one should prevent violations of the law of God, when in a position to do so. The British colonials also agreed that Hindu practices and beliefs violated God’s law. From this, it seems to fol- low that, wherever the authorities could do so, they ought to have prevented idolatry. Given Christian restrictions on forced conversion, the state could perhaps not eradicate Hindu beliefs; but it ought to have prevented their practice. Yet, a large group of administrators and scholars not only argued that the Hindu practices and beliefs ought to be tolerated but even made Hindu law into the foundation of colonial jurisdiction.14 How to understand this Some writings on the Indian Empire acknowledged this quandary explic- itly: ‘Is it impossible to be faithful to our highest obligations, while at the same time we exhibit perfect toleration towards all systems of religious belief besides our own?’15 The colonial belief in religious toleration, thus, seems to entail a prima facie inconsistency. How could these educated minds hold on to the following two positions at the same time? (a) Christian believers ought to persuade humanity to comply with God’s will. (b) The colonial state ought to tolerate violations of His will and its Christian governors and citizens ought to grant freedom to those who violate the same.
To sum up, any hypothesis about the emergence of the principle of tolera- tion in modern Europe and its colonies has to answer the questions: (1) whether religious toleration really became a moral obligation in this period; (2) if this was the case, how tolerating heresy and idolatry could possibly become a moral obligation to Christian thinkers and movements; and (3) how European colonials could both condemn certain religious practices as 13 In the preface to the Code of Gentoo Laws (1776), the Orientalist Nathaniel B.
Halhed writes about the confidential reliance ‘which we put in the Divine Text upon the authority of its Divine Inspirer himself’; while Sir William Jones describes England as ‘a country happily enlightened by sound philosophy and the only true revelation’. N.B.
Halhed, A Code of Gentoo Laws or, Ordinations of the Pundits, ed. M.J. Franklin (1776, repr. London and New York, 2000), p. xiii. W. Jones, Institutes of Hindu Law or, the Ordinances of Menu, ed. M.J. Franklin (1798, repr. London and New York, 2000), p. xvi.
14 B.S. Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (Delhi, 15 G.F. Laclear, The Christian Statesman and Our Indian Empire (Cambridge, For personal use only -- not for reproduction immoral and idolatrous, and yet make the case that these practices ought to be The Liberty of Hindu Tyranny
Was toleration perceived as a moral obligation by the British officials in India? The first governor-general of Bengal, Warren Hastings, introduced religious toleration as the official policy and informal temper of British rule.16 This entailed that one tolerated, studied and even endorsed the beliefs, prac- tices and laws of the Hindu population. The dominant explanations of this situation run along two lines. On the one hand, the debates about the colonial policy expressed the concern that the subordinated population would unite and overthrow British rule if it failed to accept indigenous customs.17 On the other hand, this has been linked to the power-knowledge nexus in the colonial state: the British desired to know the Hindu beliefs, laws and customs and sanctioned the same in order to secure colonial power and its economic bene- fits.18 In other words, political and economic expediency constitute the main explanation of the British policy of toleration.
This explanation often takes the following form.19 When the East India Company became a governing power on the subcontinent, two major policy decisions were made: (a) to exclude the settlement of British civilians, so as to avoid antagonizing the natives and creating a troublesome settler power; and (b) to continue government protection of Indian religions and ban evangelization by Christian missionaries. With these measures, it is said, the British intended to placate the natives and prevent rebellion. In doing so, the Company took on the role of Muslim and Hindu rulers before them.
16 P. Spear, The Oxford History of Modern India 1740–1975 (New Delhi, 1965), 17 W. Hastings, ‘Minute of Evidence (1813)’, Minutes of Evidence — British Parlia- mentary Papers, Vol. 4 (1812–13) (Shannon, 1968), pp. 1–8; T. Munro, ‘Minute of Evi- dence (1813)’, Minutes of Evidence — British Parliamentary Papers, Vol. 4, pp. 121–34; Teignmouth, ‘Minute of Evidence (1813)’, Minutes of Evidence — British Parliamentary Papers, Vol. 4, pp. 9–20.
18 Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge, pp. 57–75; N.B. Dirks, The Scan- dal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain (Cambridge, MA, 2006), pp.
209–24; E.F. Irschick, Dialogue and History: Constructing South India, 1795–1895 (Delhi, 1994); L. Mani, Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1998); Lynn Zastoupil and Martin Moir, ‘Introduction’, in The Great Indian Education Debate: Documents Relating to the Orientalist-Anglicist Controversy, 1781–1843 (Richmond, 1999), pp. 1–72.
19 See Penny Carson, ‘The British Raj and the Awakening of Evangelical Con- science: The Ambiguities of Religious Establishment and Toleration, 1698–1833’, in Christian Missions and the Enlightenment, ed. Brian Stanley (Grand Rapids, MI, 2001), pp. 45–70; Dirks, The Scandal of Empire, pp. 209–24, p. 298. For an overview of the his- torical developments, see Sir John W. Kaye, Christianity in India: An Historical Narra- tive (London, 1859), pp. 366–96.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction A regulation framed by Lord Cornwallis and Sir George Barlow in 1793 stated that ‘the regulations which may be adopted for the internal government of the country will be calculated to preserve to [the natives] the laws of the Shastre and the Koran in matters to which they have been invariably applied’, and also ‘to protect them in the free exercise of their religion’.20 The domestic sphere was specifically put off-limits. An Act of Parliament declared that ‘in order that due regard may be had to the civil and religious usages of the natives, be it enacted that the rights and authorities of fathers of families and masters of families, according as the same may be exercised by the Gentoo or Mahomedan law, shall be preserved to them within their families respec- tively’.21 Several scholars have noted that the British rulers, in creating a Hindu and a Muslim family law, were following the English circumstance, in which marriage and inheritance fell under Anglican Church law and not par- There are two kinds of problems with this explanation. The first is that it does not answer the question we raise, which is not about explaining how or why tolerance had a pragmatic value to the East India Company. Surely, the sources of the period show that such arguments played a role in the develop- ment of its policy. The first two Orientalists who compiled the Hindu legal code, Nathaniel Halhed and William Jones, invoked the many benefits of allowing the subjects to live by the laws ‘which they have been taught to believe sacred’.23 Hastings, the patron of these scholars, shared their notions of expediency. However, this is nothing new. Our question is this: why did toleration become an unconditional moral obligation during this period? Here, arguments from political expediency do not help. After all, such argu- ments existed in Europe for centuries on end without toleration assuming the Secondly, the above explanation begs the question. The British looked for justifications for the practices of the Indians in their ‘religious texts’. In fact, they searched feverishly for scriptural sanctions even for practices that their own religion condemned. They did not merely follow the practice of the ear- lier Muslim rulers; they tried to identify the Hindu scriptures, codify them and build laws around them. In other words, scriptural foundations played a nor- mative role in justifying colonial toleration. By appealing to the Hindu texts, the British provided a normative justification for the laws they enacted. Why resort to such justifications unless they felt that they had to justify their tolera- 20 Kaye, Christianity in India, pp. 374–5.
22 J.D.M. Derrett, Religion, Law, and the State in India (London, 1968), pp. 233–7.
R.W. Lariviere, ‘Justices and Panditas: Some Ironies in Contemporary Readings of the Hindu Legal Past’, The Journal of Asian Studies, XLVIII (1989), pp. 757–69.
23 Jones, Institutes, p. xvi. See also Halhed, Code of Gentoo Laws, p. xi.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction We will take the colonial policies with respect to Indian practices like sati, the self-immolation of widows, in order to demonstrate that toleration had indeed become a moral obligation. We deliberately focus on this practice, which was soon to be banned in colonial India, because there was never a moment of doubt in the British minds that it was inhuman and that it violated God’s will. Yet, instead of banning it straightaway, the administrators looked for justifications of this practice in the so-called sacred scriptures of Indian religion. By the end of the eighteenth century, most colonials thought of sati as the most detestable precept of the system of Hindu law. Nevertheless, until Lord William Bentinck, governor-general of India, decided to abolish it in 1829, the colonial government tolerated the practice.24 The question whether or not sati was a religious practice was central to the British colonial discourse about the burning of widows. Was it a part of the sacred law of the Hindu religion or was it a purely civil custom? In the second half of the eighteenth century, Halhed had ridiculed Alexander Dow, author of an early dissertation on the Hindus, for his denial that sati was a religious duty of Hindu widows.25 The same issue would soon be raised by the collec- tors and magistrates in Bengal, since it had been claimed that the native reli- gion should be tolerated. From 1789 onwards, these officials noted that the ‘rites and superstitions of the Hindoo religion should be allowed with the most unqualified tolerance’, but asked for special instructions with regard to ‘a practice at which human nature shudders’ like sati.26 The nizamat adalat or provincial court was requested by the government ‘to ascertain . . . by means of a reference to the pundits’, how far the practice of sati was ‘founded in the religious opinions of the Hindoos’.27 All agreed that the practice ‘horrid and revolting even as a voluntary one, should be pro- hibited and entirely abolished’.28 Still, in 1812, the government noted that the pundits had concluded that sati was part of Hindu law: The practice, generally speaking, being thus recognized and encouraged by the doctrines of the Hindoo religion, it appears evident that the course24 For a postcolonial analysis see Mani, Contentious Traditions. Andrea Major shows greater awareness of the role of the European background in the colonial debate in her Pious Flames: European Encounters with Sati 1500–1830 (New Delhi, 2006).
25 Halhed, Code of Gentoo Laws, pp. xlvi–xlvii, lxx–lxxi. A. Dow, ‘A Dissertation concerning the Customs, Manners, Language, Religion and Philosophy of the Hindoos’, in The British Discovery of Hinduism, ed. P.J. Marshall (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 107–39, 26 Letter from the Collector of Shahabad (M.H. Brooke), to Charles Earl Cornwallis, Governor General in Council, Fort William, in British Parliamentary Papers (hereafter BPP) 1821, Vol. 18, p. 22. See pp. 22–4 for other examples.
27 ‘Extract Bengal Judicial Consultations, 7th February 1805’, in BPP 1821, Vol. 18, 28 ‘Extract Bengal Judicial Consultations, 5th December 1812’, in BPP 1821, Vol.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction which the British government should follow, according to the principle of religious toleration already noticed, is to allow the practice in those cases in which it is countenanced by their religion; and to prevent it in others in which it is by the same authority prohibited.29 In official government discourse, the following was clear: where local customs deviated from ‘the Shaster’ or the sacred texts, the latter had prece- dence and these customs ought to be abolished. Even though awareness of the regional variations in this matter existed, the colonial state did not system- atically try to find out whether local Hindus really considered sati to be an important practice. Some individual magistrates did do so. The official stance, however, revolved around the issue of scriptural sanctions: the pundits were asked whether in ‘case of . . . a widow’s burning herself with the corpse of her deceased husband, are any and what rules prescribed by the Shasters for the manner in which the rite is to be performed?’.30 Similar questions were raised about other practices, such as the burying alive of those who suffered from severe leprosy, of which it was determined that ‘in the case of Hindoos it . . . is countenanced and enjoined by their reli- gion’.31 Therefore, the practice had to be allowed. However, the same was denied to infanticide, child sacrifice and the practice of women of the ‘joogee cast who have buried themselves alive with their husbands’. While the latter practice appeared to have ‘been established among themselves time immemo- rial’, it was abolished by colonial law, because it was ‘not tolerated by the Shaster’.32 In such cases the customs of native subjects were not to be respected, even if abolition of a practice might lead to dismay. This indicates how prudence fails to explain the toleration policy of the British, since this would entail allowing any practice which was established ‘time immemorial’ among the natives. Rather, the search for scriptural sanction suggests that one aimed to give a moral foundation to the policy of toleration.33 29 ‘To the Register of the Nizamut Adawlut’ (5th December 1812, signed by G. Dowdeswell, chief secretary to government), in BPP 1821, Vol. 18, p. 31.
30 ‘Translation of certain Questions proposed to the Hindoo Law Officers of the Sudder Dewanny Adawlut, regarding the burning of Widows, &c. and their Replies in conformity with the authorities current in Bengal and Benares’, in BPP 1821, Vol. 18, 31 ‘Extract from the Report of the Criminal Cases adjudged by the Court of Nizamut Adawlut, in the year 1810’, in BPP 1821, Vol. 18, p. 26.
32 Letter from Searman Bird, senior judge and J. Rattray, 2d judge at Dacca to M.H. Turnbull, esq. Register to the Nizamut Adawlut, Fort William (19th August 1816), in BPP 1821, Vol. 18, p. 101. See also the regulation on pp. 126–31.
33 See Mani, Contentious Traditions, p. 15 for a typical explanation of the toleration of sati as a pragmatic measure. As a correction, read Major, Pious Flames, pp. 186–98, which acknowledges the importance of the moral principle of toleration in the colonial For personal use only -- not for reproduction Though prudential considerations had a role to play, in the first decades of the nineteenth century the debate on sati is replete with normative reasoning.
This is equally clear in the writings of those officials who opposed sati. They shared two major concerns with the advocates of toleration: the scriptural foundation of the practice and the voluntary nature of the act. The acting superintendent of police of the Lower Provinces, Walter Ewer, desired to undermine one of the justifications for toleration when he wrote that ‘there are many reasons for thinking that such an event, as a voluntary suttee, very rarely occurs’ and ‘that the widow is scarcely ever a free agent at the performance of a suttee’. Instead, he suggested, the widow was the victim of ‘the surrounding crowd of hungry brahmins and interested relations’. Since sati was not a vol- untary act but a priestly imposition, Ewer suggested, the religious liberty of Hindu widows was not at stake. Hence, the toleration of this cruel practice became immoral. Next, Ewer turned to the question of scriptural sanction.
Even though some texts recommend it, he pointed out, Manu and other authorities of great respectability do not and the act ‘is nowhere enjoined by any of the Shasters’. Besides, the practice ‘may be almost called local’ and therefore it could hardly be part of the Hindu religion and its sacred law.34 Both the government regulations and most replies to Ewer’s letters left no doubt as to the official adherence to the ‘fundamental’ and ‘invariable princi- ple of the British government to protect the whole of its subjects in the free exercise of their religion, and in the performance of their religious ceremo- nies’.35 Those who agreed with Ewer simply tried to amplify his attack against the normative arguments for tolerating sati.36 Later, the official debate in the Bombay Presidency invoked more or less the same set of arguments pro and contra toleration. So did the disputes in popular journals and pamphlets.
In 1822, for instance, sati became the subject of a lively polemic in the Asiatic Journal. A letter claimed that ‘almost all of the poor females who are insidiously immolated to promote the views of priestcraft and self-interest, are previously stupified and intoxicated by drugs, and do not offer themselves a willing sacrifice’ and also denied the scriptural sanctions.37 Abolition was the only just policy towards the practice, the author argued, as had been the case for infanticide and child sacrifice. Another letter written in reply to these 34 Letter from W. Ewer, Acting Superintendent of Police in the Lower Provinces to W.B. Bayley, esq. Secretary to Government in the Judicial Department (Calcutta, 18th November 1818), in BPP 1821, Vol. 18, pp. 227–9.
35 ‘A Regulation for maintaining an observance of the Restrictions prescribed by the Shaster in the burning of Hindoo Widows on the Funeral Piles of their Husbands, or oth- erwise’, in BPP 1821, Vol. 18, p. 126. See pp. 232–40 for the replies to Ewer.
36 See the letter from E. Molony, acting magistrate at Zillah Burdwan, to W. Ewer, esq. Acting Superintendent of Police, Lower Provinces, Fort William (Zillah Burdwan, 14th December 1818), in BPP 1821, Vol. 18, p. 235.
37 J. MacDonald, ‘On the Hindoo Laws Respecting the Burning of Widows’, Asiatic Journal, XIII (March 1822), pp. 220–6.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction claims questioned the legitimacy of the comparison and restated the reasons . . . [I]t is solely because the burning of widows has its foundation, whether erroneously or not, in the religion of the country, that the British laws do not and ought not to interfere. Infanticide, however, practised in India, has no sanction from any one of its systems of religion, but, on the contrary, is abhorred and repudiated by them all. It is simply a civil act, and is, there- fore, cognizable by simply civil or temporal laws; but the burning of wid- ows is a spiritual and religious act (however detestable), and therefore only out of the reach of that code of criminal law which the British nation has Yet, the normative grounds for the toleration of sati gradually crumbled. In 1823, the Court of Directors of the East India Company wrote from London to the Bengal Judicial Department that they were ‘averse . . . to the practice of making British courts expounders and vindicators of the Hindoo religion, when it leads to acts which, not less as legislators than as Christians, we abom- From England, the pressure for abolition of sati would grow stronger by the year. As the moral justifications lost their weight, the advocates of toleration emphasized arguments from expediency: government interference would induce alienation and disorder and create a potential uprising. But the oppo- nents easily countered this point: the British government and its legal appara- tus had violated a central tenet of the Hindu religion like the sanctity of Brahmins (by allowing the death penalty for Brahmins) and this had not cre- ated any significant disorder. The same went for the legal abolition of child sacrifice and other customs. Besides, the practice was local rather than univer- sal and its popularity limited to specific groups.40 Eventually, Lord Bentinck would abolish sati in 1829. By that time, the Bengalis had themselves adopted the normative language of toleration: a petition objected that the abolition infringed upon a sacred duty of Hindu widows and was therefore ‘an unjust and intolerant dictation in matters of conscience’.41 It is not our aim to chronicle the career of the practice or of the colonial atti- tudes towards it. Rather, what interests us is the delayed banning of practices like sati and the public manner in which such practices were banned.
38 E.A. Kendall, ‘On the Burning of Hindoo Widows’, Asiatic Journal, XIII (May 39 Letter from the Court of Directors to the Bengal Judicial Department, Lower Prov- inces (London, 17th June 1823), in BPP 1824, Vol. 24, p. 45.
40 See BPP 1825, Vol. 24, pp. 13, 20–6; and BPP 1826–7, Vol. 20, pp. 4, 28–30. See also ‘Our Indian Empire’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, LXXX (1856), 41 ‘The Petition of the orthodox Hindu community of Calcutta against the Suttee Regulation’, in Raja Rammohun Roy and Progressive Movements in India, ed. J.K.
Majumdar (repr. New Delhi, 1988), pp. 156–63, p. 156.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction Invariably, the attempt was to locate the ‘sacred law texts’ of the Indians and to seek either justification or condemnation there. Why? This question cannot be answered by the claim that ‘the project of the colonial state . . . sought to develop an exact science of ruling, which was, in turn, dependent on precise knowledges’ and ‘a uniformly applicable law’.42 Other governments in India had neither needed such a uniformly applicable law nor looked for it in the Hindu ‘sacred texts’. To add that this had to do with ‘the conception of textuality’43 of the Europeans merely shifts the question: whence this concep- tion which compelled them to identify strict moral laws in Hindu texts? Though true, the argument from familiarity, which suggests that the British were familiar with the significance of ecclesiastical law and scriptural inter- pretation in England, also fails as an answer. What were the British familiar with? They held the idea of an ‘ancient law giver’ or ‘greatest legislator’ who prescribed the moral rules that a religious community ought to follow. In Manu, the British thought they had found such a ‘law giver’ — the Hindu equivalent of what Moses was to the Jews and Mohammed to the Muslims.44 In his texts, so to speak, they tried to discern the fundamental moral laws that Indians obeyed or ought to obey. They also codified this text, because the basic moral obligations of the Hindu religion and its followers had to be In short, the British argued that, if certain practices belonged to the ancient religious laws of the Hindus, the colonial state had a moral obligation to toler- ate them. Irrespective of individual motives, the formulation of colonial poli- cies appealed to these laws. This suggests that the normative dimension had been added to the public discourse about toleration. It had become a norma- tive principle to the colonial state in British India. In other words, the colonial policies provide evidence that toleration had indeed turned into a moral obli- Throughout the nineteenth century, sources from colonial India confirmed that it was seen as such. In 1814, an official government document stated that the transfer of power from native to European agency had rendered it incum- bent upon the colonials, ‘from motives of policy as well as from a principle of 42 Mani, Contentious Traditions, pp. 36–9.
44 The Europeans had looked for such an ancient lawgiver long before they learned about and translated the Manusmrti. At first, they believed to have found him in ‘Bremaw’ or Brahma, e.g. H. Lord, A Discoverie of the Banian Religion (London, 1630), pp. 40–5, where it is described how the ‘Banians’ believed that God communicated reli- gion (or His law) to the world by a book delivered to Bremaw, which was named ‘the Shaster’. A few of the many citations on Manu as the ancient lawgiver: BPP 1823, Vol.
17, p. 103; Jones, Institutes of Hindu Law, pp. iii–iv, xvi; J. Kaye, The Suppression of Human Sacrifice, Suttee, and Female Infanticide (London and Madras, 1898), p. 22; MacDonald, ‘On the Hindoo Laws’, p. 222; J. Peggs, India’s Cries to British Humanity For personal use only -- not for reproduction justice, to consult the feelings, and even yield to the prejudices, of the natives, whenever it can be done with safety to our dominions’.45 The editors of an Anglo-Marathi missionary periodical argued as follows in 1846: ‘The tolera- tion of the various systems of religion by the British Government in this coun- try is . . . not merely good policy; it is the course which every Christian Government is in duty bound to pursue’.46 In 1859, a historical narrative of sixty years of colonial rule in India stated: ‘What was held to be the duty of the Government was the practice of general toleration towards all the religions professed by the people under their rule, permitting every man, without restraint and without interference, to worship his God, true or false, in his own Our answer is incomplete. The analysis of the colonial debate on toleration underscores the main puzzle: how could Christians insist that it was a moral duty to tolerate religious practices that, so they believed, constituted viola- tions of God’s law? How could toleration have become a moral obligation in Christian Europe? The analysis also puts restrictions on the potential answers, since these should be able to explain why the colonial state was convinced that it ought to tolerate a practice if this had its foundations in the Hindu religious scriptures. For the reasons stated above, the prudential claim that Hindus were more attached to religious practices and would rebel against interference fails Instead, we need to look into the early modern European debates on tolera- tion. A paper published in the Baptist missionary publication Friend of India of March 1821 acknowledged the European roots of the controversy, when it suggested that ‘female immolation’ was ‘a practice cognizable by the civil power, though sheltered beneath the mantle of religion’. It turned to John Locke’s letters concerning toleration in order to argue that the moment ‘a purely religious rite . . . infringes on the laws of society, its character is changed, and is transformed into a civil crime’. Locke was quoted as saying that the magistrate ‘ought not to forbid the preaching or professing of any speculative opinions in any church, because they have no manner of relation to the civil rights of the subject; for it does not belong unto the magistrate to make use of his sword in punishing every thing indifferently which he takes to be his sin against God’. To the question of whether this allowed child sacrifice or similar crimes in a religious assembly, Locke answered that such ‘things are not lawful in the ordinary course of life, nor in any private house, and 45 ‘Court of Directors’ Public Department dispatch to the governor-general in coun- cil of Fort William in Bengal, dated 3 June 1814’, in The Great Indian Education Debate, ed. Zastoupil and Moir, pp. 93–7, p. 94.
46 Anonymous, ‘Toleration of False Religions’, The Dnyanodaya, 15 December 47 Kaye, Christianity in India, pp. 367, 375.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction therefore neither are they so in the worship of God’.48 The distinction between religious and civil practices seemed self-evident to Locke and so did the claim that the former ought to be allowed freely, while the latter ought to be pun- ished if immoral. To make sense of this perspective and solve our puzzle, we need to turn to the background which had shaped Locke’s views on the matter.
Religious Liberty and Its Realm
The principle of toleration lays down an unconditional duty that the state or the individual ought to be tolerant. The conclusion is normative in nature. For this to happen, a normative premise has to be added to the chain of arguments.
From a purely pragmatic or prudential argument, it is logically impossible to derive an unconditional moral obligation.49 The logical relationship between factual premises and normative conclusions puts constraints on any explana- tion for the emergence of the normative dimension in the toleration debates.
No socio-economic or political explanation, which refers to facts only, can explain the presence of a normative premise or its acceptance by the parties in the debate. Instead, one has to look for a background framework containing One route is to trace this normative dimension in the writings of the chief thinkers of the Western tradition and argue that it trickled down to other layers of society. This is a variant of the ‘genius theory’, which portrays the idea of toleration as the invention of a few enlightened minds. This approach has rightly been left behind, since it faces the difficulty of explaining what inspired these individuals to invent the moral principle of toleration.50 In itself, exceptional intelligence could not account for the radical step of seeing toleration as a moral obligation. Our claim is not that some genius took this step, which became accepted over a period of time. We shall show that a back- ground phenomenon accounts for the genius of Locke and his predecessors.
Locke and other advocates of the principle of toleration share the concern to separate the sphere of religion from politics. Despite the centuries that divide them, there is a striking convergence between this concern of political 48 The paper in question was reprinted in the Parliamentary Papers, see ‘Extract from a Paper “On Female Immolation”; published in the Quarterly Series of the “Friend of India”, for March 1821’, BPP 1824, Vol. 23, pp. 20–1. Both the argument and the quotes from Locke were also adopted in a speech (presented to the Courts of Proprietors of East India Stock) by J. Poynder, Human Sacrifices in India (London, 1827), pp. 14–16.
49 This is the consensus in moral philosophy, even though some have tried to bridge the gap between ‘is’ and ‘ought’. See The Is-Ought Question: A Collection of Papers on the Central Problem in Moral Philosophy, ed. W.D. Hudson (London, 1979).
50 Franklin Baumer, ‘Intellectual History and Its Problems’, Journal of Modern His- tory, XXI (1949), pp. 191–203, p. 195. See J.C. Laursen, ‘Imposters and Liars: Clandes- tine Manuscripts and the Limits of Freedom of the Press in the Huguenot Netherlands’, in New Essays on the Political Thought of the Huguenots of the Refuge, ed. J.C. Laursen (Leiden, 1995), pp. 73–108, p. 90.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction thinkers in seventeenth-century Europe and that of British colonials in nineteenth-century India. Both called on the distinction between the religious and the secular political realm: which beliefs, practices, justifications were In a key document of the early modern debate, the Letter Concerning Toler- ation (1689), Locke intended to ‘distinguish exactly the business of civil gov- ernment from that of religion, and to settle the just bonds that lie between the one and the other’.51 He advocated this separation because men have two sep- arate sets of interests in life: on the one hand, they strive for salvation; on the other, they have civil interests in the temporal world. If the business of the civil government were not separated from religion, he feared, both would be disturbed by controversies. That is, Locke said, every individual should be free to worship God as his conscience dictates. On the other hand, a part of human life is subject to the coercive laws of ‘public justice’.52 Where origi- nated this distinction between two spheres of human existence — the tempo- Early in the history of Christianity, it was believed that the world is split into two different realms, the spiritual and the temporal. Each human soul should turn away from ‘the carnal world’ or ‘the earthly city’ in which we live, and turn towards ‘the spiritual world’ or ‘the City of God’. In this spirit- ual realm, the Holy Spirit converts the human soul. The more one seeks the spiritual realm, the more one submits oneself to God’s will and gradually becomes a true Christian.53 This spiritual realm was opposed to the temporal carnal realm. Human beings also have sinful bodies, which live in this realm, From Augustine to Aquinas, the dominant political thought in Europe took this two-fold division of human existence as its starting-point. On the one hand, the aim of religious institutions like the monastery and the clerical hier- archy was to become as spiritual as possible. Naturally, any religious institu- tion such as the monastery or the church could at best be a feeble reflection of the one true spiritual community. On the other hand, secular institutions of human authority existed to restrain the corrupt human body from indulging in During the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, the earlier Christian relationship between the spiritual and the temporal worlds was transformed dramatically. Whereas the spiritual and the temporal had been 51 John Locke, ‘A Letter Concerning Toleration’, in Two Treatises of Government and a Letter Concerning Toleration, ed. I. Shapiro (New Haven, 2003), pp. 211–54, 53 G.B. Ladner, The Idea of Reform: Its Impact on Christian Thought and Action in the Age of the Fathers (New York, 1967); K.F. Morrison, Understanding Conversion (Charlottesville, 1992); G. Tellenbach, Church, State and Christian Society at the Time of the Investiture Contest, trans. R.F. Bennett (1936; repr. Toronto, 1991), pp. 4–5, 41.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction equated with the clergy and the laity in the medieval church, Protestantism claimed that there was no such hierarchical division of humanity. No spiritual estate of priests could exist as opposed to a temporal estate of laymen.54 All human beings lived in these two worlds simultaneously. All believers were priests. All human souls ought to be free so that they might be ‘regenerated’ by the Holy Spirit. This was the core idea of ‘Christian liberty’.55 As sinners, we fail to submit ourselves to the will of God. Therefore, the divine will has to act in each one of us and instil true faith in our hearts. In short, the Holy Spirit enables ‘new birth’ or conversion: once regenerated, we cannot but live This notion implied that all human laws imposed upon the believer in the spiritual realm were violations of true religion. The belief that one could serve God by following the laws prescribed by the priestly hierarchy became idola- try: human laws and works chained true faith. The Reformers began to denounce the Catholic tradition and its canon law as idolatry. An entire chap- ter of Calvin’s Institutes carried the title ‘The power of making laws in which the pope, with his supporters, has exercised upon souls the most savage tyr- anny and butchery’. These laws, Calvin asserted, had violated Christian lib- erty and invaded the Kingdom of Christ, ‘thus the freedom given by him to the conscience of the believers is utterly oppressed and cast down’.57 The main problem, he continued, was that human laws were prescribed as though they were spiritual laws, ‘enjoining things necessary to salvation’, but ‘our con- sciences do not have to do with men but with God alone’. Calvin concluded that ‘if God is the sole lawgiver, men are not permitted to usurp this honor’.58 Christian liberty was God’s gift to humanity, the Reformation asserted, and anything that opposed it was a violation of His will. This gave rise to a politi- cal theology, viz. the theory of the two kingdoms. One aspect of government is spiritual, ‘whereby the conscience is instructed in piety and in reverencing God; the second is political, whereby man is educated for the duties of humanity and 54 See Luther’s tract ‘To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation’ (1520), in Martin Luther: Three Treatises (Minneapolis, 1970), pp. 1–112.
55 There were many different positions within the Protestant Reformation — not a monolithic phenomenon. However, we are identifying a common pattern in the views on Christian liberty. This concerns the theological ideals of the early Reformers, which would be revived by radical Protestants. The magisterial Reformation often failed to practice the Christian liberty that it preached.
56 See P. Melanchthon, ‘Loci Communes Theologici’ (1521), in Melanchthon and Bucer, ed. W. Pauck (Philadelphia, 1969), pp. 3–150, p. 123. See also Luther’s ‘The Freedom of a Christian’ (1520), in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, ed. T.F.
Lull (Minneapolis, 1989), pp. 585–629; and Calvin’s chapter on Christian liberty in The Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. J.T. McNeill, trans. F.L. Battles (Louisville, 57 Calvin, Institutes, Vol. 2, p. 1180.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction citizenship that must be maintained among men’. The former has to do with the life of the soul and the latter with the concerns of the present life and the laws. ‘For the former resides in the inner mind, while the latter regulates only outward behavior. The one we may call the spiritual kingdom, the other, the political kingdom.’59 Only outward behaviour could be regulated by human authorities, while the inner mind was left to God’s omnipotence. Luther had already stressed the point in his polemical tract on Temporal Government (1523): ‘The temporal government has laws which extend no further than to life and property and external affairs on earth, for God cannot and will not permit anyone but himself to rule over the soul.’60 In sum, this model of Christian liberty claimed the following: (a) all human beings live in two realms — the kingdom of Christ and that of human author- ity; (b) in the spiritual sphere, they strive for the salvation of their souls, which is a purely individual affair over which God alone has authority; (c) in the temporal sphere, they are sinful bodies who pursue the preservation of their earthly interests and must always obey the laws of the secular powers. The two kingdoms should never be mixed up — the state should never prescribe laws in the spiritual realm — for this was equivalent to ranking human author- ity above that of God. In short, it was the will of God that human souls be free in His spiritual kingdom. Therefore, toleration of heresy became a moral duty of all states and spiritual liberty the basic right of all human beings.61 Two difficulties arise at this point. Firstly, given its own intolerance, how could the Reformation tradition lie at the root of the principle of toleration? The fact that early Reformers proclaimed Christian freedom as God’s gift to humanity does not tell us anything about its scope. Both Luther and Calvin argued that this freedom was limited to the spiritual realm. Many types of blasphemy, heresy and idolatry, they added, extended beyond that realm and could not be tolerated. Often, a distinction was made between private reli- gious belief and the practice and propagation of falsehoods. Clear violations 60 M. Luther, ‘Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed’, in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, ed. Lull, pp. 655–703, p. 679.
61 Others have noted this link between theology and toleration. In 1938, A.S.P.
Woodhouse argued that the ideas of Christian liberty and the priesthood of all believers were transferred to the political sphere. See Woodhouse, Puritanism and Liberty (London, 1938), pp. 60–100. For recent sources, see J. Coffey, ‘Puritanism and Liberty Revisited: The Case for Toleration in the English Revolution’, The Historical Journal, XLI (1998), pp. 961–85. J.C. Davis, ‘Religion and the Struggle for Freedom in the Eng- lish Revolution’, The Historical Journal, XXXV (1992), pp. 507–30; P.J. Kelly, ‘John Locke: Authority, Conscience and Religious Toleration’, in John Locke, ed. Horton and Mendus, pp. 125–46; Andrew Murphy, Conscience and Community: Revisiting Tolera- tion and Religious Dissent in Early Modern England and America (University Park, PA, 2001), pp. 11–16; J. Waldron, God, Locke, and Equality: Christian Foundations in Locke’s Political Thought (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 208–12.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction of faith could not be tolerated, as the famous case of Servetus testified. So, even though spiritual liberty was proclaimed to be God’s gift to humanity, this normative principle could be interpreted in various ways. The value of reli- gious toleration changed accordingly as the scope of the principle expanded.
Secondly, how can theology explain a social transformation as important as the rise of a moral principle of toleration? How could it shape the attitudes of Christian dissenters in the seventeenth century? How could it propel the his- tory of toleration? To answer these questions, we need to figure out the role which the notion of ‘the will of God’ plays in the Christian religion.
Reformation, Toleration and God’s Will
What does it mean to say that religious liberty was viewed as God’s will for humanity? How is this related to the introduction of a normative dimension in the idea of toleration? An answer to these questions requires appreciating that the historical development of Christianity revolves around its notion of divine providence. This religion tells us the world — everything that was, is and will be — embodies the will of the Creator.62 It also claims that His will is ‘factual’ and ‘normative’ at the same time. That is to say, His will produces the world and this world becomes the best of all possible worlds. The factual and the normative — the ‘is’ and the ‘ought’ — are united in the will of God.
However, human beings are unable to comprehend this unity because, in our limited understanding, the factual and the normative fall apart. It is impos- sible for human beings to make sense of the unity between the ‘is’ and the ‘ought’. Therefore, on our own, we can never understand either the Sovereign or His will. At the same time, Christianity has also professed that God’s will operates in human history. History is the unfolding of divine providence.
Therefore, to understand historical events, one has to decipher what God From the early middle Ages, certain institutions — first the monastery and later the church — were seen as the embodiments of the divine will. This implied that these institutions exemplified the unity of the factual and the nor- mative. However, human beings failed in expressing this unity. They noted the disjunction between the ‘ought’ and the ‘is’ in the monastery or the church: corruption prevailed; injustice existed; there was the frailty of the flesh. From the human point of view, the factual and the normative always fell apart in these institutions: the factual became testaments of human sins; the normative took the form of ideals that one had to live up to. This situation led to new attempts to realize the unity of fact and norm. Hence, first the 62 S.N. Balagangadhara, ‘The Heathen in His Blindness . . .’: Asia, the West and the Dynamic of Religion (1994; 2nd edn. New Delhi, 2005), pp. 298–307.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction monasteries and later the church were continuously reformed according to ever stricter monastic rules and canon laws.63 The history of medieval and early modern Western Christianity exempli- fied this dynamic: certain institutions, embodying the will of God, unite the factual and the normative; yet, human attempts to realize this unity could not but fail to do so. In the subsequent phase, this failure generated new attempts, which failed yet again, and so on. In this sense, in Christian Europe, the will of God was not a concern of theologians alone: the strong sense of the unfolding of such a will in human history generated a particular attitude towards society and its development. The existing social institutions were never what they ought to be. Hence the widespread tendency in the Western societies to reform the church or society according to a normative image, which specified When the Reformation singled out religious liberty as God’s will for humanity, it provided a powerful impetus to the history of toleration. In all parts of Protestant Europe, certain groups began to accuse the authorities of having taken away this liberty yet again. They pointed out that spiritual free- dom had not yet been realized. Neither church nor society was what it ought to be. In fact, the Calvinist and Lutheran churches had installed a ‘popish tyr- anny’. Once more, men had corrupted religion by building clerical institu- tions, claiming religious authority and imposing human laws in the spiritual realm. Therefore, the churches had to be reformed. The first of these voices appeared in the German and Swiss territories. Both silent dissenters like Valentin Weigel and outspoken rebels like Sebastian Castellio charged the churches with the sin of placing human precepts above the Word of God and persecuting anyone who refused to give in.64 Thus, they argued, these Protestant churches were no better than papal tyranny.
In the Dutch Republic, similar criticisms of the Reformed Church would emerge soon after. In the lively period from the 1580s to the Synod of Dordrecht in 1618, this nation became the arena of a battle between strict confessional Calvinists and anti-confessional Protestants that would culminate in the clash between Remonstrants and Contraremonstrants. As Benjamin Kaplan argues, this was not an isolated phenomenon unique to the Dutch, but 63 A few overviews are: H.J. Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge, MA, 1983); P. King, Western Monasticism: A His- tory of the Monastic Movement in the Latin Church (Kalamazoo, MI, 1999); S. Kuttner, The History of Ideas and Doctrines of Canon Law in the Middle Ages (London, 1980), pp. 1–16; Tellenbach, Church, State and Christian Society.
64 Concerning Heretics, ed. and trans. R. Bainton (New York, 1935); Castellio, De l’Impunité des Hérétiques, ed. M.F. Valkhoff (1555; repr. Geneva, 1971); Susan C.
Karant-Nunn, ‘Neoclericalism and Anticlericalism in Saxony, 1555–1675’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, XXIV (1994), pp. 615–37; A. Weeks, Valentin Weigel (1533–1588): German Religious Dissenter, Speculative Theorist, and Advocate of Tol- For personal use only -- not for reproduction ‘was in fact a local manifestation of a much broader struggle between the champions and opponents of confessionalism’.65 Both anticlerical Protestants like Caspar Coolhaes and Dirck V. Coornhert and the later Remonstrants accused the Dutch Reformed Church of being a ‘Genevan tyranny’ — an imi- tation of the ‘popish tyranny of conscience’. Its consistory and classis were likened to the institutions of the Roman hierarchy. Its confessions, catechisms and church discipline were human inventions inspired by the papacy and the canon law. The Calvinist clerics were hauled over the coals as corrupt priests whose true aim was worldly power.66 Naturally, this gave rise to an equally forceful counterattack by the Reformed theologians, who deplored this antag- onism as the work of libertines aspiring to destroy the order of true religion.67 Ultimately, the Calvinist party would triumph in the Synod of Dordrecht.
In these decades, a dynamic emerged in the Protestant world, which pro- jected the norm of religious liberty as God’s will. This counteracted the dynamic of confessionalization, so widely discussed in contemporary Refor- mation historiography.68 We would like to suggest that the tension between confessionalization and its anti-confessional counterpart in early modern Europe resulted from two distinct ways of imagining God’s will for humanity.
On the one hand, the confessional party identified the divine purpose with a particular confessional system of doctrine and discipline imposed and pro- tected by a clerical authority. The result divided Europe into distinct confes- sions, each of which was obsessed with fixing doctrinal boundaries and 65 B. Kaplan, Calvinists and Libertines: Confession and Communion in Utrecht, 1578–1620 (Oxford, 1995), p. 5. See also B. Kaplan, ‘ “Remnants of the Papal Yoke”: Apathy and Opposition in the Dutch Reformation’, Sixteenth Century Journal, XXV 66 J. Arminius, ‘A Declaration of the Sentiments of Arminius’ (1608), in The Writ- ings of James Arminius, ed. J. Nichols and W.R. Bagnall (Grand Rapids, 1956), pp. 193–275; D.V. Coornhert, Proeve vande Nederlandtsche Catechismo (Haarlem, 1582); D.V. Coornhert, Synodus vander Conscientien Vryheidt (1582; repr. Amsterdam, 1630); D.V. Coornhert, Justificatie des Magistraets tot Leyden in Hollant (Amsterdam, 1597); D.V. Coornhert and J. Lipsius, Proces vant Ketterdoden ende Dwang der Conscientien (Gouda, 1590); S. Episcopius, Dool-hof der Paus-gesinden (Gorinchem, 1680); S. Episcopius and J. Uytenbogaert, Belijdenisse ofte Verklaringhe Van ’t ghevoelen der . . . Remonstranten . . . over de voornaemste Articulen der Christelijcke Religie (s.l., 1621); Caspar Janszoon Coolhaes: De Voorlooper van Arminius en der Remonstranten, ed. H.C. Rogge (2 vols., Amsterdam, 1856–8).
67 H. Arnoldi Vander Linde, Vande Conscientiedwangh (Delft, 1629); R. Donteclock, Proeve Des Gouschen Catechismu (Delft, 1608); J. Triglandius, Den Recht-gematichden Christen (Amsterdam, 1615); J. Triglandius, Verdediging vande Leere end D’eere der Gereformeerde Kercken ende Leeraren (Amsterdam, 1619); V. Van Drielenburch, Proefken oft Staelken Van Iohanis Wtenbogaerts ende Iacobi Taurini Onderlinghe Verdraeghsaemheyt (Amsterdam, 1616).
68 In his Calvinists and Libertines, Kaplan gives an insightful analysis of this anti- confessional movement in the Dutch Republic. Weeks also notices it in his work on For personal use only -- not for reproduction concerned about the violation of its church laws. The Protestant confessions allowed Christian liberty, but only if it remained within the confines of church The anti-confessional opposition, on the other hand, equated God’s will with the universality of toleration and liberty of conscience. This entailed an attack on the clerical structures: they became instances of the worldly disrup- tion, division and destruction of true spiritual faith undertaken by the priest- hood and its doctrinal fabrications. The rise of a principle of toleration was the result of this anti-confessional movement. Its proponents perceived the fail- ure to abide by God’s will in the Christian churches and societies of their time.
Everywhere, they espied the religious tyranny of an evil priesthood, its hierar- chical laws and human additions to divine revelation. Consequently, they never ceased in their attempts to achieve the normative goal of liberty.
Given local exigencies, this process took various forms in different parts of Europe. The English Reformation had a pattern different from its German, Swiss and Dutch counterparts. To begin with, the Anglicans accused the Roman Church of imposing idolatry upon the English people. According to them, Catholic priests had misguided the monarch and usurped secular power.
Soon, the Puritans called for a further Reformation and pointed out that the Anglicans had failed in achieving Christian liberty. Henry VIII and his sup- porters had cast the church ‘into a mould half Popish halfe Protestant’, as Roger Williams put it.69 An observer told his fellow members of the Church of England: ‘We are for a Popery of our own, a Yoke of our own making that we would have the slavish Laity to wear.’70 Once the Presbyterian church was established, internal dissenters like the Baptists, the Quakers and radical Puri- tans challenged this on the grounds that it was not as God desired it to be: instead, it was tyranny over the minds and souls of men. In John Milton’s famous phrase: ‘New Presbyter is but Old Priest Writ Large’.71 After migrat- ing to the new world, the radical Puritans built their congregations in early America, only to see these attacked by dissenters as a violation of God’s will The advocacy of toleration in the English Reformation shared three elements with the anti-confessional dynamic in other parts of Europe. Firstly, the abhorrence towards the ‘tyranny’ of the dominant Christian churches was rooted in the theological belief that the two realms of the world should not be inter-mixed. Tyranny was the result of confusing the temporal with the 69 R. Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution (London, 1644), p. 64.
70 Anonymous, Old Popery as Good as New (s.l., 1688), pp. 16–17.
71 Milton accused the Puritan divines of being ‘the new forcers of conscience’ in this poem. He wrote: ‘Dare you for this adjure the civil sword; To force our consciences that Christ set free; And ride us with a Classic Hierarchy; New Presbyter is but Old Priest Writ Large.’ John Milton, ‘On the New Forcers of Conscience under the Long Parliament’ (1646), in The Complete Poems of John Milton, ed. C.W. Elliot (New York, 1909–14).
For personal use only -- not for reproduction spiritual, the sphere of law with that of liberty, and the realm of politics with faith. This made a travesty of true religion, the anonymous author of An Expe- Christs Kingdom is of another World, and requires none of the Policy of this to manage it; it ought to be kept pure and unmixt, being clear of another nature: We see Oyl in a Vessel of Water will not mix, but keep its Body intire to itself, no more ought Spirituals to be mixt with Temporals. But these Spiritual Politicians have mixt Heaven and Earth together, con- founded the World with their Policy, and so jumbled things together, that Christianity is almost lost in the Composition, so that men know not where Christianity must return to its primitive spiritual purity.73 Then, Christians could unite again around the essence of God’s revelation without human accretions. The seventeenth-century advocates of toleration emphasized the point repeatedly: false religion mixed the spiritual and political realms together. Thus, the true spiritual order was lost and ‘a Carnal, Worldly, Poli- tick, Ecclesiastical Church-State’ was erected in its stead.74 The second element was the offensive against ‘the priests of the devil’, who were held responsible for the imposition of fictitious laws as though these were God’s own law. The advocacy of toleration went hand in hand with assaults on clerics of all stripes and colours. This anticlericalism had its roots in the conviction that the individual believers ought to be free to subject their souls to God’s will. Leonard Busher castigated the Anglican episcopacy for forcing people by persecution: ‘Which showeth that the bishops and ministers of Rome and England are of one spirit, in gathering people to their faith and church, which is the spirit of Satan, who knoweth well that his kingdom, the false church, would greatly decay, if persecution were laid down.’75 The anticlerical point returns in the tract of a fellow Baptist, Samuel Rich- ardson, who argued The Necessity of Toleration in Matters of Religion (1647) with this motto: ‘Where Romish Tyrannie hath the upper hand, Darkness of minde, and superstition stand.’ In a debate between the nonconformists and 72 Anonymous, An Expedient for Peace: Perswading an Agreement amongst Chris- tians from the Impossibility of their Agreement in the Matters of Religion (London, 73 L. Busher, ‘Religions Peace: or a Plea for Liberty of Conscience’ (1614), in Tracts on Liberty of Conscience and Persecution, 1614–1661, ed. E.B. Underhill (New York, 74 The phrase is from R. Gordon’s Spiritual Order and Christian Liberty Proved to be Consistent in the Churches of Christ (s.l., 1675), pp. 7–9, 11–13. The point is also made in Coornhert, Justificatie des Magistraets; Coornhert and Lipsius, Proces vant Ketterdoden, pp. 61–3; J. Croope, Conscience-Oppression (London, 1656), pp. 9–10; J. Milton, A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes (London, 1659), pp. 37–8; Williams, 75 Busher, ‘Religions Peace’, pp. 19–20.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction the Presbyterian divines, Richardson had the former denounce the latter as follows: ‘You appear to us to be carnal, in that you are so full of strife, and envy against others, in seeking their destruction, who do differ from you.
Also, you serve not the Lord Jesus, but your own bellies.’ The nonconformists refused to submit to the Presbytery, for this was ‘false and antichristian’ and ‘a branch of the hierarchy and popery’.76 One can merely browse through the pages of the early modern tracts on toleration to encounter many such attacks against the priests, presbyters and other prelates.77 As it was put in Zeal Exam- ined (1652), the devil ‘having once leaped out of Heathenism into a form of Christianitie, he can easily passe from Popery to Prelacy, and from thence to Presbytery, and so to any other most refined form, when ever it shall be fur- nished with the temptations of profit and worldly power’.78 A third common element was the claim that the blending of the political and spiritual realms was the cause behind the division and conflict among the believers. At the end of the seventeenth century, a consensus had emerged among the British Protestants that persecution and religious strife were rooted not in religion but in the human corruption of religion. Worldly interests brought coercion, conflict and confusion in matters of religion. By contrast, ‘if every Man were left to himself, to follow what Religion he pleases’, the latitudinarian Edward Synge stated, ‘it is very probable that most Men, hav- ing no Worldly Interest to serve by this or that Religion, would in time, be brought to agree in all the great and necessary Truths of Religion; which are plain and evident to every sober and inquisitive Person’.79 The idea that dis- cord in religion emerged because of the imposition of human fabrications was 76 S. Richardson, ‘The Necessity of Toleration in Matters of Religion’, in Tracts on Liberty of Conscience, ed. Underhill, pp. 235–85, pp. 279–82.
77 A few examples from the British Isles and the Dutch Republic: C. Coolhaes, ‘Christelijcke Vermaninghe’ (1584), in Caspar Coolhaes, Vol. 2, ed. Rogge, pp. 7–31; Coornhert, Justificatie des Magistraets; Croope, Conscience-Oppression, pp. 3–4; W. Dell, Right Reformation (London, 1646); Gordon, Spiritual Order and Christian Lib- erty, pp. 10–13; R. Overton, The Araignement of Mr. Persecution (Europe, 1645), pp. 1, 14; C. Wolseley, Liberty of Conscience, the Magistrates Interest (London, 1668).
78 Anonymous, Zeal Examined: Or, a Discourse for Liberty of Conscience in Matters of Religion (London, 1652), p. 22. The tract was probably authored by H. Vane; see C. Polizzotto, ‘The Campaign against “The Humble Proposals” of 1652’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, XXXVIII (1987), pp. 569–81, p. 578.
79 E. Synge, A Gentleman’s Religion in Three Parts (London, 1698), pp. 6, 100–1.
80 See J. Arminius, ‘On Reconciling Religious Dissensions Among Christians’ (1606), in Writings of James Arminius, ed. Nichols and Bagnall, pp. 146–92; C. Coolhaes, ‘Apologia’ (1580), in Caspar Coolhaes, Vol. 1, pp. 165–6; Coolhaes, ‘Christelijcke Vermaninghe’, pp. 23–4; J. Corbet, A Second Discourse of the Religion of England (Lon- don, 1668), p. 10; J. Sturgion, ‘A Plea for Toleration of Opinions and Persuasions in Mat- ters of Religion’, in Tracts on Liberty of Conscience, ed. Underhill, pp. 309–41, p. 333; For personal use only -- not for reproduction The theological framework of toleration lent coherence to these claims: Christian liberty was the will of God and anything that went against it was tyr- anny. This is most striking in the work of the founding father of Pennsylvania.
William Penn suggested that many had the tendency ‘to disclaim the Popes Supremacy, and usurp it to themselves; to Preach down one Antichrist, and set up six and twenty’. If ‘Meekness, Mildness, Unity, Peace, and Concord, are the Vertues that embellish Christian Jurisdiction’, he added, ‘Cruelty, Rigor, Persecution and Violence, must be the marks of Antichristian Tyr- The story of Christian liberty again provided an argument for the freedom of conscience. Clerical coercion of religion was wrong, Penn said, because this violent and rigorous Proceeding and tyrannizing over the Consciences of Men, is contrary to the purpose of God in the Order of the Creation, who made and ordain’d all Man-kind free from Bondage, and never advanc’d him over all the Works of his Creation, to be a contemptible Slave to the Will of his fellow Creature, even in things Temporal; much less in matters God’s purpose was to free humanity from religious oppression by providing equal freedom to all consciences. Hence, when a faction of priests imposed a particular form of religion, it defied divine purpose. This sin was a disruption of the order, which the Lord expressed in His creation. Ultimately, this argu- ment guided radical Protestants such as Penn, Thomas Helwys, William Walwyn, Henry Robinson or Roger Williams to the following conclusion: ‘It is the will and command of God, that since the coming of his Sonne the Lord Iesus a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish or Antichristian consciences and worships, bee granted to all men in all Nations and Coun- Early modern thinkers could consistently argue that the duty of a Christian was to tolerate heresy, idolatry and other violations of the will of God because they held universal liberty of conscience to be God’s gift to humanity.
According to these Protestants, Christian liberty was the supreme principleJ. Taylor, The Liberty of Prophesying (London, 1648); W. Walwyn, A Still and Soft Voice From the Scriptures (London, 1647), p. 4.
81 Penn, The Reasonableness of Toleration, p. 5. See also William Penn, ‘The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience’ (1670), in The Select Works of William Penn, Vol. 2 (New York, 1971), pp. 128–64; and William Penn, Considerations Moving to a Toleration and Liberty of Conscience (London, 1685).
82 Penn, The Reasonableness of Toleration, pp. 10–11.
83 The quote is from the table of contents of Williams’ The Bloudy Tenent (1646). See T. Helwys, A Shorte Declaration of the Mistery of Iniquity (Amsterdam, 1612); W. Walwyn, The Compassionate Samaritane (London, 1644). See also two remarkable articles: N. Carlin, ‘Toleration for Catholics in the Puritan Revolution’, in Tolerance and Intolerance, ed. Grell and Scribner, pp. 216–30 and Coffey, ‘Puritanism and Liberty For personal use only -- not for reproduction willed by God. Toleration became a moral value because of the constant effort to realize His will on earth. Viewed as the divine order, the model of Christian liberty gave rise to a normative approach towards the toleration of heresy and The question as to how this principle of toleration spread in modern societ- ies lies beyond the confines of this article. Here, we merely propose that the theological framework of Christian liberty added God’s will as the normative premise which transformed the practice of toleration into a moral obligation.
Many were convinced that one had no right to interfere in others’ worship of the Lord, that one ought not to bind others to one’s own fallible understanding of His will, and that the realm of politics must steer clear of faith. This was the case because the norms reflected God’s eternal law. One’s basic duty as a Christian was to live up to that law.
Colonial Policy and Christian Liberty
Why was it so important to know whether the ‘sacred laws of the Hindu reli- gion’ sanctioned sati and other practices? To make sense of this question, we can now draw on certain notions shared by the different varieties of Reforma- tion Christianity. According to this religion, all human souls had access to God’s law. They lived on earth to obey this law. Nevertheless, the devil and his priests, who imposed their own fabrications as divinely revealed com- mandments on innocent believers, had corrupted this sense. Therefore, in order to understand such people and go about with them, one should find out what they believed to be the will of God for humanity. Which specific set of laws did the Hindus mistake for God’s revelation? This was the obsession of the early colonial scholars. Thus, Halhed stated that the Hindu’s ‘allegiance to his own supposed revelations of the Divine Will’ is as firm as that of the Christian and that the Hindu scriptures were seen ‘as the immediate Revelations of the Almighty’.84 William Jones believed that, in ‘the Ordinances of Menu’, he had found the original sacred laws of the Hindus, supposedly revealed by God to Manu. It ‘must be remembered’, he said, ‘that those laws are actually revered, as the word of the Most High’ by The Hindoo law stands upon the same authority as the Hindoo religion; both are parts of one system, which they believe to have been divinely revealed.
That law is regarded by them therefore with a superstitious veneration, which institutions avowedly of human origin do not produce.86 84 Halhed, Code of Gentoo Laws, pp. xiii–xv.
85 Jones, Institutes of Hindu Law, p. xvi.
86 C. Grant, ‘Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain (1792)’, in British Parliamentary Papers — Colonies East India, Vol. 5: 1831–1832 (Shannon, 1970), p. 34.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction James Mill in his History of British India confirmed the same: ‘From the opin- ion of the Hindus that the Divine Being dictated all their laws, they acknowl- edge nothing as law but what is found in some one or other of their sacred books.’87 Therefore, it was of utmost significance to find out whether sati or any other practice belonged to the Hindu religion and its scriptures. If it did, the Hindus would believe it to be one of the duties prescribed by God.
Why ought sati to be tolerated if this was the case? This is where Christian liberty and its model of the two kingdoms come in. According to this model, human authority could rule only over the secular realm — that is, the body and its material interests. In the religious realm, God alone could know, judge and rule. Abstracting from the role of prudential considerations, this theological background defined the limits of the normative attitudes of the British colo- nials, as it also had in Protestant Europe.88 Both Evangelicals and Orientalists conceived of paganism as the equiva- lent of popish idolatry: it could not but be a religious tyranny that usurped God’s authority. As the Evangelical Charles Grant put it, commenting on the ‘Hindu law’ of Manu’s Code: ‘Nothing is more plain, than that this whole fab- ric is the work of a crafty and imperious priesthood, who feigned a divine rev- elation and appointment, to invest their own order, in perpetuity, with the most absolute empire over the civil state of the Hindoos, as well as over their minds.’89 William Jones, the rationalist Christian and gifted Orientalist, called the same work ‘a system of despotism and priestcraft’.90According to the Brit- ish, Hindu religion revolved around demonic priests, who imposed a corrupt body of rites and rules on the believers as though these were necessary to sal- vation. Still, the normative stances towards this false religion ranged between On the one hand, the view that Christian liberty was God’s will for human- ity could be interpreted in a minimal way: it allowed for freedom of con- science to the individual Protestant believers but did not include the toleration of heresy and idolatry. This stance pointed out that the false religion of the Hindus was a spiritual tyranny. As such, the Hindu religion mixed up the reli- gious and political realms; the priests of that religion assumed the authority of divine revelation and ruled over the innocent souls. The task was to save such souls from the yoke of tyranny and grant them spiritual liberty. The evangeli- cal reformers in India intended to educate the Hindu subjects and prepare them to accept Christian truth by ‘liberating the individual conscience from 87 J. Mill, The History of British India in 6 Vols., Vol. 1 (London, 1826), p. 169.
88 An interesting way to test our hypothesis would be to examine the policies of colo- nial states from Catholic countries in the same period. As an anonymous referee points out, these often accommodated the religious practices of the native population to some extent. Our future research will have to address this issue.
89 Grant, ‘Observations on the State of Society’, pp. 34–5.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction the tyranny of the priests’.91 In this case, ‘Hindu tyranny’ ought to be replaced On the other hand, one’s attitude could draw on the maximal principle of liberty of conscience, which also included the toleration of idolatry. Accord- ing to this view, it is the will of God that every human being should always be free to follow what he or she believes to be His will. Among its justifications was the belief that no one could know God’s will with certainty. Therefore, even though one’s conscience might be confident that something was God’s truth, one ought never to bind any other conscience to one’s own interpreta- tion of His revelation. In the words of Dnyanodaya, the Anglo-Marathi Mis- So long as men do not interfere with the rights and privileges of others, they are responsible for their religious opinions and their modes of worship, not to the civil Government, but to the Majesty on high. The Government that interferes with the religious opinions of its subjects may justly be charged with tyranny. Instead of protecting them in the enjoyment of their natural rights, it becomes an oppressor. Such a course, whether it be regarded as good or bad policy, would certainly be most anti-christian and unjust.92 Conclusion
In conclusion, we locate the emergence of toleration as an unconditional moral obligation in the internal dialectic of Reformation Christianity. From here on, this religious value secularized itself and received its characteristic expressions in the post-Enlightenment political theories. This article did not intend to analyse either debates about sati or the role played by the Indian intellectuals in the abolition of the practice. Its primary interest has been to show that the early debates on sati throw the issue of the ‘norming’ of tolera- Even though the proponents of tolerating sati were considered as ‘atheists’ by their evangelical opponents, this historical opposition should not blind us to their shared normative framework, which is religious in nature. This is not to say that the early colonial officials lived in a mental world identical to that of the seventeenth-century Reformation, but rather that the same background framework constrained their thinking on the question of toleration. Naturally, many variables within this conceptual framework were interpreted differ- ently, but this article has focused on the constants. This framework is still unmistakably present in the liberal theories of toleration to this date.
If toleration could become a normative principle in Christian Europe and its colonies only because it was regarded as God’s will for humanity, how to 91 E. Stokes, The English Utilitarians and India (1959; repr. Oxford, 1963), p. 32.
W.J. Glover, ‘Objects, Models, and Exemplary Works: Educating Sentiment in Colonial India’, The Journal of Asian Studies, LXIV (2005), pp. 539–66.
92 ‘Toleration of False Religions’, The Dnyanodaya, 15 December 1846.
For personal use only -- not for reproduction interpret the fact that modern political theory still preaches it to all nations? Given the deep theological roots of the principle of toleration, one wonders to what extent contemporary liberalism has freed itself from this religious 93 For a detailed analysis of this issue, see J. De Roover and S.N. Balagangadhara, ‘John Locke, Christian Liberty and the Predicament of Liberal Toleration’, Political Theory, XXXVI (2008), pp. 523–49.
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