Discourses concerning government: by Algernon Sidney, ... Publish'd from an original manuscript. The second edition carefully corrected. To which is added, the paper he deliver'd to the Sheriffs immediately before his death. And an alphabetical table.
Sidney, Algernon, 1622-1683.
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SECT. II. The common Notions of Liberty are not from School-Divines, but from Nature.

IN the first Lines of his Book he seems to denounce War against Man∣kind, endeavouring to overthrow the Principle of Liberty in which God created us, and which includes the chief Advantages of the Life we enjoy, as well as the greatest helps towards the Felicity, that is the end of our hopes in the other. To this end he absurdly imputes to the School-Di∣vines that which was taken up by 'em as a common Notion, written in the Hearts of all Men, denied by none but such as are degenerated into Beasts, from whence they might prove such Points as of themselves were less evi∣dent. Thus did Euclid lay down certain Axioms, which none could deny that did not renounce common Sense, from whence he drew the Proofs of such Propositions as were less obvious to the Understanding; and they may with as much reason be accus'd of Paganism, who say that the Whole is greater than a Part, that two Halfs make the Whole, or that a streight Line is the shortest way from Point to Point, as to say, that they who in Politicks lay such Foundations as have bin taken up by Schoolmen and others as undeniable Truths, do therefore follow them, or have any regard to their Authority. Tho the Schoolmen were corrupt, they were neither stupid nor unlearned: They could not but see that which all Men saw, nor lay more approv'd Foundations, than, That Man is naturally free; That he cannot justly be depriv'd of that Liberty without cause, and that he dos not resign it, or any part of it, unless it be in consideration of a greater good, which he proposes to himself. But if he unjustly imputes the In∣vention of this to School-Divines, he in some measure repairs his Fault in saying, This has bin foster'd by all succeeding Papists for good Divinity: The Divines of the reformed Churches have entertain'd it, and the Common Peo∣ple every where tenderly embrace it. That is to say, all Christian Divines, whether reform'd or unreform'd, do approve it, and the People every where magnify it, as the height of human Felicity. But Filmer and such as are like to him, being neither reform'd nor unreform'd Christians, nor of the People, can have no Title to Christianity; and, in as much as they set themselves against that which is the height of human Felicity, they declare themselves Enemys to all that are concern'd in it, that is, to all Mankind.

But, says he, They do not remember that the desire of Liberty was the first cause of the Fall of Man: and I desire it may not be forgotten, that the Liberty asserted is not a Licentiousness of doing what is pleasing to every one against the Command of God; but an Exemption from all human Laws, to which they have not given their assent. If he would make us believe there was any thing of this in Adam's Sin, he ought to have prov'd, that the Law which he transgrest was impos'd upon him by Man, and consequently that there was a Man to impose it; for it will easily appear that neither the reform'd or unreform'd Divines, nor the People following them, do place the Felicity of Man in an exemption from the Laws of God, but in a most perfect conformity to them. Our Saviour taught us not to fear such as could kill the Body, but him that could kill and cast intoPage  4Hell: And the Apostle tells us that we should obey God rather than Man. It has bin ever hereupon observ'd, that they who most precisely adhere to the Laws of God, are least sollicitous concerning the Commands of Men, unless they are well grounded; and those who most delight in the glorious Liberty of the Sons of God, do not only subject themselves to him, but are most regular Observers of the just Ordinances of Man, made by the consent of such as are concern'd according to the Will of God.

The Error of not observing this may perhaps deserve to be pardon'd in a Man that had read no Books, as proceeding from Ignorance; if such as are grosly ignorant can be excus'd, when they take upon them to write of such Matters as require the highest knowledg: But in Sir Robert 'tis pre∣varication and fraud to impute to Schoolmen and Puritans that which in his first Page he acknowledg'd to be the Doctrin of all Reform'd and Un∣reform'd Christian Churches, and that he knows to have bin the Princi∣ple in which the Grecians, Italians, Spaniards, Gauls, Germans, and Bri∣tans, and all other generous Nations ever liv'd, before the Name of Christ was known in the World; insomuch that the base effeminate Asiaticks and Africans, for being careless of their Liberty, or unable to govern them∣selves, were by Aristotle and other wise Men call'd Slaves by Nature, and look'd upon as little different from Beasts.

This which hath its Root in common Sense, not being to be overthrown by Reason, he spares his pains of seeking any; but thinks it enough to render his Doctrin plausible to his own Party, by joining the Jesuits to Geneva, and coupling Buchanan to Doleman, as both maintaining the same Doctrin: tho he might as well have join'd the Puritans with the Turks, because they all think that one and one makes two. But whoever marks the Proceedings of Filmer and his Masters, as well as his Disciples, will ra∣ther believe that they have learn'd from Rome and the Jesuits to hate Gene∣va, than that Geneva and Rome can agree in any thing farther than as they are oblig'd to submit to the Evidence of Truth; or that Geneva and Rome can concur in any Design or Interest that is not common to Mankind.

These Men allow'd to the People a liberty of deposing their Princes. This is a desperate Opinion. Bellarmin and Calvin look asquint at it. But why is this a desperate Opinion? If Disagreements happen between King and People, why is it a more desperate Opinion to think the King should be subject to the Censures of the People, than the People subject to the Will of the King? Did the People make the King, or the King make the Peo∣ple? Is the King for the People, or the People for the King? Did God create the Hebrews that Saul might reign over them? or did they, from an opinion of procuring their own Good, ask a King, that might judg them, and fight their Battels? If God's interposition, which shall be hereafter explain'd, dos alter the Case; did the Romans make Romulus, Numa, Tullus Hostilius, and Tarquinius Priscus Kings? or did they make or beget the Romans? If they were made Kings by the Romans, 'tis certain they that made them sought their own good in so doing; and if they were made by and for the City and People, I desire to know if it was not better, that when their Successors departed from the End of their Institution, by en∣deavouring to destroy it, or all that was good in it, they should be cen∣sur'd and ejected, than be permitted to ruin that People for whose good they were created? Was it more just that Caligula or Nero should be suf∣fer'd to destroy the poor Remains of the Roman Nobility and People, with the Nations subject to that Empire, than that the Race of such Monsters Page  5 should be extinguish'd, and a great part of Mankind, especially the best, against whom they were most fierce, preserv'd by their Death?

I presume our Author thought these Questions might be easily decided; and that no more was requir'd to shew the foremention'd Assertions were not at all desperate, than to examin the Grounds of them; but he seeks to divert us from this enquiry, by proposing the dreadful Consequences of subjecting Kings to the Censures of their People: whereas no Consequence can destroy any Truth; and the worst of this is, That if it were receiv'd, some Princes might be restrain'd from doing Evil, or punish'd if they will not be restrain'd. We are therefore only to consider whether the People, Senat, or any Magistracy made by and for the People, have, or can have such a Right; for if they have, whatsoever the Consequences may be, it must stand: And as the one tends to the Good of Mankind in restraining the Lusts of wicked Kings; the other exposes'em without Remedy to the Fury of the most savage of all Beasts. I am not asham'd in this to concur with Buchanan, Calvin, or Bellarmin; and without Envy leave to Filmer and his Associats the Glory of maintaining the contrary.

But notwithstanding our Author's aversion to Truth, he confesses, That Hayward, Blackwood, Barclay, and others who have bravely vindicated the Right of Kings in this Point, do with one consent admit, as an unquestiona∣ble Truth, and assent unto the natural Liberty and Equality of Mankind, not so much as once questioning or opposing it. And indeed I believe, that tho since the Sin of our first Parents the Earth has brought forth Briars and Brambles, and the Nature of Man has bin fruitful only in Vice and Wick∣edness; neither the Authors he mentions, nor any others, have had impu∣dence enough to deny such evident Truth as seems to be planted in the Hearts of all Men; or to publish Doctrins so contrary to common Sense, Virtue, and Humanity, till these Times. The production of Laud, Man∣waring, Sibthorp, Hobbs, Filmer and Heylin, seems to have bin reserv'd as an additional Curse to compleat the Shame and Misery of our Age and Country. Those who had Wit and Learning, with something of Inge∣nuity and Modesty, tho they believ'd that Nations might possibly make an ill use of their Power, and were very desirous to maintain the Cause of Kings, as far as they could put any good colour upon it; yet never denied that some had suffer'd justly (which could not be, is there were no Pow∣er of judging them) nor ever asserted any thing that might arm them with an irresistible Power of doing mischief, animate them to persist in the most flagitious Courses, with assurance of perpetual Impunity, or en∣gage Nations in an inevitable necessity of suffering all manner of Outra∣ges. They knew that the Actions of those Princes who were not altoge∣ther detestable, might be defended by particular Reasons drawn from them, or the Laws of their Country; and would neither undertake the defence of such as were abominable, nor bring Princes, to whom they wish'd well, into the odious extremity of justifying themselves by Argu∣ments that favour'd Caligula and Nero, as well as themselves, and that must be taken for a Confession, that they were as bad as could be ima∣gin'd; since nothing could be said for them that might not as well be ap∣plied to the worst that had bin, or could be. But Filmer, Heylin, and their Associats, scorning to be restrain'd by such considerations, boldly lay the Ax to the Root of the Tree, and rightly enough affirm, That the whole Fabrick of that which they call Popular Sedition would fall to the ground, if the Principle of natural Liberty were remov'd. And on the other hand it must be acknowledg'd that the whole Fabrick of Tyranny will Page  6 be much weaken'd, if we prove, That Nations have a right to make their own Laws, constitute their own Magistrats; and that such as are so constituted, owe an account of their Actions to those by whom, and for whom they are appointed.