Journal of Early Modern Studies

Volume 11, Issue 1, Spring 2022

Philosophy, Religion, and Science in Seventeenth-Century England

Pierangelo Castagneto
Pages 149-180

Algernon Sidney and the Republican Tradition in Jeffersonian America

During the second term of Jefferson’s presidency, with Europe and the world ravaged by the Napoleonic Wars, it became extremely difficult for the young Republic to defend the principle of sovereignty from the threats of France and Britain. In response to attacks on American shipping, in 1807 Congress passed the Embargo Act, an economic measure designed to convince the two belligerents to respect U.S. neutrality by cutting off American shipping to all foreign nations. This controversial decision, firmly opposed by the Federalist Party, received strong support from one of the most fervent Jeffersonians of the time, Gideon Granger (1767-1822). A lawyer from Connecticut, Granger wrote An Address to the People of New England (1808) under the pseudonym of Algernon Sidney, where he reintroduced into public debate some of Sidney’s archetypal themes, emphasizing the natural right to oppose abusive power and the vital necessity to preserve republican virtues in order to drive away moral and political corruption.