The Historical Journal



THOMAS HOBBES AND THE BLACKLOIST CONSPIRACY OF 1649


JEFFREY R.  COLLINS  a1
a1 University of Chicago

Abstract

In a jarring passage toward the conclusion of Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes endorsed the abolition of episcopacy and the establishment of an Independent religious settlement within England. Most historians have ignored this feature of Leviathan, or have dismissed it as an off-hand aside of no consequence. Others, more plausibly, have construed it as part of a royalist scheme (encouraged by Queen Henrietta Maria and her supporters) to secure a Stuart Restoration by allying with the English Independents. This article offers an alternative theory. It argues that Hobbes's attentions were probably drawn to Independency by the political machinations of a group of idiosyncratic Catholics gathered around the philosopher-priest, Thomas White (alias Blacklo). In 1649, White and his ‘Blackloist’ followers engaged in secret negotiations with Oliver Cromwell. In exchange for religious toleration for Catholics, the Blackloists promised allegiance to the Commonwealth and conformity to a Congregationalist religious settlement. This article examines Hobbes's close personal links with the leading Blackloists, documents similarities in their reactions to Independency, establishes the strong intellectual influence Leviathan had on Blackloist tracts, and demonstrates that royalists consistently linked Hobbes with the Blackloist treason. The article concludes that the Blackloist plot to betray the Stuart cause, rather than any royalist scheme to strike a deal with the Independents, provides the most compelling contextual explanation for Thomas Hobbes's endorsement of Independency.