A new edition of John Toland’s early 18th century pamphlet, An Account of the Courts of Prussia and Hanover, has just been published in print and e-book editions by The Manuscript Publisher.
The appearance of this new edition will be of interest to students of Irish and European history of the early Enlightenment period, as well as anyone familiar with the life and work of one who has been described as ‘Ireland’s forgotten philosopher’. Its availability in modern, accessible formats, will further popularise the writings of one who is largely unknown in the English-speaking world and sadly neglected in his home country.
John Toland, who was born in Co. Donegal in 1670, was notorious in his lifetime for his fiery polemics that challenged political and ecclesiastical authority of the day. At the same time, these Accounts also show him to be a capable chronicler and a keen social observer. Even after 300 years, they remain highly readable and continue to be cited by historians of the period.
“What we get from reading them is an engaging and accessible picture of life in those German courts, and of the people who inhabited them at the turn of the 17th to 18th Century.” - J.N. Duggan, General Editor and author of John Toland: Ireland’s Forgotten Philosopher, Scholar ... and Heretic (2010)
Having left Ireland (for good as it happened) following the controversy surrounding his first book Christianity not Mysterious, Toland found himself in England, eking out a living from writing pamphlets that championed various Whig causes. One such pamphlet, entitled Anglia Libera published in 1701, supported the Act of Settlement of the same year. This led to Toland being invited to travel to Hanover, as part of Lord Macclesfield's delegation, which delivered the Act to Sophia, Electress of Hanover. The Act named Sophia and her Protestant descendants as heirs to the British throne, should Queen Anne die without a successor.
In Hanover, Toland was well received, especially by the Electress Sophia:
He was also introduced to the court philosopher, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who thought him to be “a man of esprit and is not lacking in erudition, but he pushes things too far.” (see J.N. Duggan, 2010)
Toland visited the court of Berlin the following year, where he made a similar impression on the Electress’s daughter, the Queen in Prussia, Sophia Charlotte. The two had a lot in common and struck up a warm friendship. Toland even addressed one of his books to her: Letters to Serena published in 1704. In the Accounts, she is referred to as having, “so just an Idea of Government, that in all Germany they call her the Republican Queen.”
Toland’s support for the Hanoverian succession might appear contradictory, given his staunch Republican leaning, which expressed itself in opposition to the Divine Right of Kings. In common with other Whigs however, Toland based his support on the assumption that ultimately, real power would be vested in Parliament:
"I have always been, now am, and ever shall be persuaded that all sorts of magistrates are made for and by the people, and not the people for or by the magistrates ... and consequently that it is lawful to resist and punish tyrants of all sorts ... I am therefore avowedly a Commonwealth's man" - John Toland, Vindicius liberus (1702)
An Account of the Courts of Prussia and Hanover; sent to a Minister of State in Holland by John Toland is published in print and e-book editions by The Manuscript Publisher and available to buy online.
Other works of John Toland that are published by The Manuscript Publisher are available to buy online, in print and e-book editions, along with the historical biography, John Toland: Ireland's Forgotten Philosopher, Scholar ... and Heretic by J.N. Duggan, who is General Editor of this project to publicise and make available Toland's writings. J.N. Duggan's official website can be found at BooksbyJNDuggan.com