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Discourses concerning government Paperback – May 13, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Nabu Press (May 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1149353457
  • ISBN-13: 978-1149353455
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 7.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,666,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By eunomius on August 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Despite its obscurity, this is a profound work of great historical importance to the foundations of the American Revolution as well as the perpetual struggle for liberty and justice. Algernon Sidney(1622-1683) was acclaimed by friends of liberty throughout the eighteenth century for his martyrdom in the stuggle against tyranny and arbitrary government. On December 7, 1683, he was executed by the Crown for the crime of high treason. While a conviction for this crime had long required two witnesses to testify for a defendant's guilt, the government was only able to produce one man, while the other witness was this very book, his great "Discourses," which were used against him because of the fact that they expounded subversive ideas.
Even today, at the dawn of the 21st century, it can quite accurately be said that his ideas are still subversive. Sidney, like his more famous contemporary, John Locke, was a staunch supporter of the natural rights of the individual to life, liberty, and estate(property). This work in particular, like Locke's "First Treatise," was originally undertaken as a refutation of Robert Filmer's "Patriarcha," which represented perhaps the clearest exposition of the theory of rule by "Divine Right." Sidney's work, however, is far more than a simple refutation. He engages in lengthy, erudite discussions of the relationship of liberty and slavery, liberty and power, master and slave, as well as virtue and corruption. Moreover, he presents an especially profound and radical case for the right to resist, oppose, reform, and even overthrow tyrannical government.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By C. Dunn on November 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
From the interesting foreword by Thomas G. West:

"Thomas Jefferson regarded John Locke and Algernon Sidney as the two leading sources for the American understanding of the principles of political liberty and the rights of humanity. Locke's Second Treatise is readily available, but since 1805 only one major reprint of Sidney's Discourses has appeared until now. This neglect is as undeserved today as it was when John Adams wrote to Jefferson in 1823:

'I have lately undertaken to read Algernon Sidney on government.... As often as I have read it, ... it now excites fresh wonder that this work has excited so little interest in the literary world.' [Adams recommends this book,] 'as well for the intrinsic merit of the work, as for the proof it brings of the bitter sufferings of the advocates of liberty from that time to this, and to show the slow progress of moral, philosophical, and political illumination in the world...'"

That ought to be recommendation enough, but if you wonder why you should read Sidney in addition to (or instead of) Locke, West's foreword is especially enlightening:

"Sidney proves to be closer to the Greek and Roman classics than Locke is. It is characteristic that Sidney quotes frequently from the ancients while Locke hardly ever does. But the ancients were not 'classical republicans' in a Machiavelian sense. Their political thought always began or ended with the individual human being, not in the sense of an isolated unit, but as a being oriented by human nature to a life in accord with reason. [West then identifies] "particular illustrations of this broad difference between Sidney and Locke".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steven H. Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on March 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
Algernon Sydney (1623-1683) was an English politician, republican political theorist, colonel, and opponent of King Charles II of England, who became involved in a plot against the King and was executed for treason. Thomas Jefferson regarded John Locke and Sidney as the two leading sources for the American understanding of the principles of political liberty and the rights of humanity. Amazingly, however, this book has only seldom been reprinted, until recently. Sidney wrote the book in response to Sir Robert Filmer's book, Filmer: 'Patriarcha' and Other Writings (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought), which defended the "divine right of kings." Sidney's book was first published posthumously in 1698.

He observes that "there is no such thing in nature as a slave" (Pg. 17), and that "No right can come by conquest." (Pg. 32) All just magisterial power is "from the People." (Pg. 69) In the context of a discussion of defense in time of war, he makes his famous statement (best known through Benjamin Franklin's quotation of it in Poor Richard's Almanac), "God helps those who help themselves." (Pg. 210)

He strongly supports the right of men to dissolve human societies, and "justly defend themselves against injustice by their own natural right, when the ways prescribed by public authority cannot be taken." (Pg. 340) Governments are established "for the good of the governed" (Pg. 355), and laws are not made by kings, "because Nations will be governed by Rule, and not Authority." (Pg. 392) It is not the king that makes the law, "but the law that makes the king." (Pg.
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