John Witte Jr. (Emory University School of Law) has posted Calvinist Contributions to Freedom in Early Modern Europe (in Timothy S. Shah and Allen D. Hertzke, eds., Christianity and Freedom: Volume 1: Historical Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 210-234) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This chapter, distilled from a book-length study of this topic, sketches the development of rights talk in those parts of the Western tradition inspired by the teachings of the Genevan Reformer, John Calvin (1509-1564). Building in part on classical and Christian prototypes, Calvin developed arresting new teachings on authority and liberty, duties and rights, and church and state that have had an enduring influence on Protestant lands. Calvin’s original teachings were periodically challenged by major crises in the West - the French Wars of Religion, the Dutch Revolt, the English Revolution, American colonization and the American Revolution. In each such crisis moment, a major Calvinist figure emerged - Theodore Beza, Johannes Althusius, John Milton, John Winthrop, John Adams, and others - who modernized Calvin’s teachings and converted them into dramatic new legal and political reforms. This rendered early modern Calvinism one of the driving engines of Western constitutionalism. A number of our bedrock Western understandings of civil and political rights, social and confessional pluralism, federalism and social contract, and more owe a great deal to Calvinist theological and political reforms.