The “tender conscience” of seventeenth-century British discourse redirected the course of political history and the history of the emotions. In the 1640s, the unimpeachable repute of the tender conscience as a spiritual identity provided lay citizens with the authority needed to voice political dissent. The growing antiprelatical movement found in the tender conscience a ready-made resistance theory. For John Milton, the work of defining this conscience is so closely tied to arguments for the legitimacy of revolutionary action that his oeuvre can be read as a protracted struggle to establish its boundaries.

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