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Discourses Concerning Government, 2nd Edition

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Oxfam Shop Smithdown Road

Written in response to Sir Robert Filmer's "Patriarcha" (1680), the "Discourses Concerning Government" by Algernon Sidney (1623-1683) has been respected for more than three centuries as a classic defence of republicanism and popular government. Sidney rejected Filmer's theories of royal absolutism and divine right of kings, insisting that title to rule should be based on merit rather than on birth; and republics, he thought, were more likely to honour merit than were monarchies. Like Milton, Sidney revered and idealised the Commonwealth (1649-1660) as England's noble achievement in the grand tradition of ancient Greece and Rome. Sidney's treatise was published posthumously in 1698, 15 years after he was executed for complicity in a plot to assassinate Charles II. Sidney's papers, including a draft of the "Discourses", were used as evidence against him. Although there is nothing in the work incompatible with a constitutional monarchy, the indictment claimed that it was a "false, seditious and traitorous libel", citing sentences which stated that the king is subject to law and is responsible to the people. Sidney's "Discourses" was widely read in the colonies, and influenced a number of American revolutionary leaders.

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  • Liverpool, Merseyside

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