Wednesday, July 3, 2013

150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

One hundred fifty years ago, on July 1-3, 1863, the most important battle of the American Civil War was fought.  

"General Robert E. Lee concentrated his full strength [leading the Army of Northern Virginia] against Major General George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac at the crossroads county seat of Gettysburg at what would come to be known as the Battle of Gettysburg. On July 1st, Confederate forces converged on the town from west and north, driving Union defenders back through the streets to Cemetery Hill. During the night, reinforcements arrived for both sides. On July 2nd, Lee attempted to envelop the Federals, first striking the Union left flank at the Peach Orchard, Wheatfield, Devil’s Den, and the Round Tops with Longstreet’s and Hill’s divisions, and then attacking the Union right at Culp’s and East Cemetery Hills with Ewell’s divisions. By evening, the Federals retained Little Round Top and had repulsed most of Ewell’s men."

"Late in the afternoon of July 2, 1863, on a boulder-strewn hillside on the left flank of the Union line, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain dashed headlong into history, leading his 20th Maine Regiment in perhaps the most famous counterattack of the Civil War. The regiment’s sudden, desperate bayonet charge blunted the Confederate assault on Little Round Top and has been credited with saving Major General George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac."

"During the morning of July 3rd, the Confederate infantry were driven from their last toe-hold on Culp’s Hill. In the afternoon, after a preliminary artillery bombardment, Lee attacked the Union center on Cemetery Ridge. The Pickett-Pettigrew assault (more popularly, “Pickett’s Charge”) momentarily pierced the Union line but was driven back with severe casualties. Stuart’s cavalry attempted to gain the Union rear but was repulsed."

The assault line of Pickett's Charge, comprised of approximately 12,500 Confederate soldiers engaged in the attack, extended a half-mile in width. "The hapless attackers were required to advance one mile through an open field and over a stone fence before they could engage their enemy. The majority of this distance was covered at a rank-and-file walk while Union troops poured deadly cannon and rifle fire upon them. The Confederates could not fire back. The Union troops, however, maintained a murderous hail of rifle fire by organizing themselves into efficient lines of four soldiers. After the first in line fired, he would move to the back of the line to reload his weapon while the next in line fired."

"The impact of this efficient killing machine on the approaching Confederates was devastating. As their comrades fell, their units would reorganize and tighten their ranks. Smoke from the cannonade from both sides soon drifted over the field dramatically reducing visibility. The noise was deafening. As they approached within a a few feet of the Union line, the Confederates charged. Some were able to scale the low stone wall separating them from their enemy, but the devastating fire from the Union troops forced a retreat. The battle was over."

Approximately 10,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died over three bloody days at Gettysburg, while another roughly 30,000 were wounded.

"Gettysburg holds significance for many reasons:

• It was a turning point in the war, ensuring the preservation of the nation [under the Constitution].
• Four months later, it was the site of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, where he described his vision for a “new birth of freedom” for America. It was what many consider the best summation in our nation’s history of the meaning and price of freedom.
• In the decades following the battle, it became a symbol of reconciliation, as soldiers from the Union and the Confederacy returned to the battlefield to shake hands across the fence lines."
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“The world …can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

--Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
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Sources:
http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/gettysburg/maps/pickettscharge.html
http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/gettysburg/gettysburg-history-articles/defense-of-little-round-top.html
www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/pickettscharge.htm‎
http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org/media/assets/TheSignificanceofGettysburg.pdf

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Bill of Rights and James Madison’s Statesmanship


On June 8, 1789, Representative James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights into the First Congress.  Madison delivered what was arguably the most important speech of his political career.  It was a masterpiece of rhetorical statesmanship.  Madison attempted to persuade those with whom he agreed that a Bill of Rights was not very necessary to support it in order to save the Constitution and produce unity in the new republic. 

Madison had surprisingly opposed a Bill of Rights since it was introduced during the Constitutional Convention by Virginian George Mason and advocated by the Anti-Federalists throughout the ratification debate in the states.  During a long exchange with Thomas Jefferson, then in Paris, Madison privately articulated his reasons for opposing a Bill of Rights.  

Most of the Madison’s reasoning was based upon the fact that he believed, along with James Wilson and Alexander Hamilton, that the Founders had created a natural rights republic with enumerated powers in a written constitution.  The rights of mankind were built into the fabric of human nature by God, and government had no powers to alienate an individual’s rights.  Moreover, leaving certain rights out or vaguely defining them was a recipe for disaster since the government could then act with respect to rights where it had no power according to the original compact. 

Although he enumerated several reasons for his opposition, Madison then gave his friend hope when he averred that most important reason in favor of a Bill of Rights was that, “The political truths declared in that solemn manner acquire by degrees the character of fundamental maxims of free Government, and as they become incorporated with the National sentiment, counteract the impulses of interest and passion.”  Madison thought the liberties would become engrained in the American character.

When he arose to give the speech on June 8, Madison faced hostility from several Federalists who thought the House of Representatives had more pressing business to attend to and seemed to ignore their promise of “subsequent amendments” safeguarding liberties during the ratification debates. Madison wanted to make sure that obligation was fulfilled because he knew that failing to do sure would strengthen the Anti-Federalist push for a second Convention to alter the Constitution and that it would stir up continuing opposition to the new republic. 

Madison began his speech by stating that a Bill of Rights would prove to the Anti-Federalists that the Federalists were “as sincerely devoted to liberty and a republican government.”  In an act of reconciliation and magnanimity, he reached out to the Anti-Federalists because, “We ought not to disregard their inclination, but, on principles of amity and moderation, conform to their wishes, and expressly declare the great rights of mankind secured under this constitution.”   

Madison then explained that the people had something to gain, but nothing to lose from the protection of their sacred liberties.  He was concerned that if the Congress did not act, a second Constitutional Convention would fundamentally alter the structure of government.  He wanted to avert this possibility at all costs.  But he did “wish to see a door opened to consider, so far as to incorporate those provisions for the security of rights.” 

Perhaps surprisingly to modern ears, the greatest danger would not come from the executive or judicial branches but from the legislative.  In a republican form of government, the people are most directly represented in the legislative branch which makes the laws.  Therefore, it is the most powerful branch where the greatest danger really comes from the “great body of the people, operating by the majority against the minority.” 

Madison then neatly summarizes the arguments of the Federalist opponents of the Bill of Rights, admitting that “the arguments are not entirely without foundation.”  He agreed that the national government had enumerated powers and could not act outside those powers to violate liberties in addition to the fact that states already had bills of rights.  A Bill of Rights might also leave some rights out, thereby rendering them insecure and subject to violation.  “This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard urged against the admission of a bill of rights,” he admits.  

Although he thought that the state legislatures would guard against encroachments by the national government and that the states were the “sure guardians of the people’s liberty,” Madison had witnessed severe repression of the rights of conscience and majority tyranny in Virginia and thought the proposed Bill of Rights should apply to the states as well as the national government.  “It must be admitted,” he argued, “that the state governments are as liable to attack these invaluable privileges as the general government is, and therefore ought to be as cautiously guarded against.”  The members of Congress fought zealously against limitations upon the states and Madison lost this battle.  Until the Fourteenth Amendment “incorporated” the Bill of Rights, it only applied to the national government. 

Madison magnanimously completed his lengthy speech by reaffirming the significance of considering amendments to the Constitution protecting liberties and fulfilling the sacred pledges made during the ratification debates.  “If we can make the constitution better in the opinion of those who are opposed to it, without weakening its frame, or abridging its usefulness, in the judgment of those who are attached to it, we act the part of wise and liberal men.” 

This important speech was a model of statesmanship.  It sought to produce unity on constitutionalism in the new American republic by reaching out to opponents and prudently deflecting calls for additional constitutional conventions, which Madison thought would result in chaos.  He could have done what was politically expedient and deferred to those who wanted to delay consideration of a Bill of Rights though Madison saw that the Federalists probably meant never to take it up.  They had won the debate after all, and the Constitution was ratified.  Madison would not let them off the hook and held them to their pledge to safeguard the traditional and natural rights of mankind in a free republic.  He set aside his own belief that the Bill of Rights was not wholly necessary and stood firm for principle and the public good.  That is why, amid the commemorations of Memorial Day, D-Day, and Independence Day we should remember the principles of June 8 for which those brave soldiers were fighting when they gave their “last full measure of devotion.”  
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Tony Williams is the Program Director for the Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute.  He is the author of four books on the founding of America including America’s Beginnings: The Dramatic Events that Shaped a Nation’s Character. 


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jefferson & Madison's Guide to the Constitution



Get a FREE copy of “Jefferson and Madison’s Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Constitution” by J. David Gowdy
This publication is intended to assist teachers, students, parents, and citizens in understanding and appreciating the Constitution of the United States of America. It is designed as a handbook for studying the Constitution in the tradition of the founders, using the source documents and writings identified by them as the “best guides” to its principles and meaning. These sources include the writings of Locke and Sidney, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and Washington’s Farewell Address.
A main purpose of this book is to serve as a teacher and student manual for use in secondary schools, but is also for use by parents in the home, as well as by individual citizens. It is intended to organize and summarize in a clear and usable fashion, all of the sources identified by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as those required to teach and understand our constitutional liberties and unalienable rights.
It is incumbent upon each of us to study and ponder the heritage of liberty, and to assist in fulfilling the intent of our Founding Fathers to “advance and diffuse” this essential knowledge concerning human rights, equality, and the Constitution into our nation’s schools and homes, which in the past have stood on the front line as guardians of the “sacred fire of liberty.”
To download “Jefferson and Madison’s Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Constitution” by J. David Gowdy for future reading please right mouse click, then click save to download – Jefferson-And-Madisons-Guide-To-Understanding-and-Teaching-The Constitution
Click to learn more about the Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Honoring Our Veterans

By: Tony Williams

Americans honor those who have served every Memorial Day and acknowledge the sacrifice that untold thousands have made, and are making, in the service of their country by attending parades, thanking a veteran, wearing a poppy, or posting on their social media pages.  We thank the veterans for serving their country and those who gave “their last full measure of devotion” dying for their country and for the principles of liberty and republican self-government as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. 

Annually on Veteran's Day, we naturally think of those who have fought abroad in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other armed conflicts since September 11, 2001.  We also think much of our fathers who fought in Korea or Vietnam during the Cold War, or our grandfathers who struggled against the forces of darkness in Iwo Jima or Normandy during World War II when “uncommon valor was a common virtue.”  But, when Americans commemorate the sacrifice of their soldiers and the principles for which they fought, they also reach back into the distant past. 

The tradition of fighting for American principles of liberty and self-government was seen in the horrendous battles of Antietam and Gettysburg when brother fought against brother for a “new birth of freedom.”  They fought for those principles at Fort McHenry and in New Orleans against the British in the War of 1812, what many historians have called the “second war for independence.” 

But, we reach even farther into the past to honor who defended freedom and democracy in ancient Greece against the Persian Empire who offered submission, slavery, and tyranny.  On the plains of Marathon in 490 B.C., a mostly Athenian army stood against King Darius and slaughtered over 6,400 of the enemy while suffering only 192 losses, soon revered as the “Marathon Men.”  At the Hot Gates of Thermoplyae in 480 B.C., Spartan King Leonidas and his band of 300 (and several hundred allies) slew as many as 20,000 Persians, delaying King Xerxes’ invasion and teaching him about the power of armies defending their lands, their families, their freedom, and their consensual governments.  While Xerxes burned a deserted Athens later that year, free men sailed out at Salamis and handed the Persians a decisive defeat that caused the king to flee home.  On the fields of Plataea in 479 B.C., the Greeks pledged an oath before their victory that, “I will fight as long as I am alive, and I shall not value living above my being free . . . And I shall bury in the same spot the dead of those who have fought as my allies, and shall leave behind none of them unburied.” 

For me, Memorial Day weekend has always been a time of reflective reading in the history of soldiers and their wars.  I have spent time over the years reading books from Stephen Ambrose’s epic histories of D-Day and World War II to David McCullough’s 1776 narrating the dramatic events of Washington’s heroic Crossing of the Delaware. 

Here are some recently published books this spring that will help citizens reflect on the soldiers throughout history that have contributed to the legacy of liberty and free government.

Victor Davis Hanson, The Savior Generals: How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars that were Lost – From Ancient Greece to Iraq (New York: Bloomsbury).  Hanson, one of our greatest classicists, military historians, and writers has penned a series of portraits of important generals including Themistocles, Belisarius, William T. Sherman, Matthew Ridgway, and David Petreus, who have snatched victory from desperate moments of seemingly lost wars.  Hanson tells us that he chose generals from consensual societies because “the very notion of ‘savior’ is embedded within some sense of a moral universe that should be saved.”  Hitler’s generals often won against great odds, but “their causes ultimately were better lost than won.” 

Paul Cartledge, After Thermoplyae: The Oath of Plataea and the End of the Greco-Persian Wars (New York: Oxford University Press).  Cartledge is one of the best academic popularizers of ancient Greek history.  He debunks the origins of the Oath of Plataea but provides a nice study of the Greek world and the wars with the Persians.  He argues that Plataea “was one of those historic rarities, a truly decisive battle.  Moreover, its result brought a surprisingly positive outcome not just for the Greeks but arguably for the entire future of western civilization as a whole.” 

Nathaniel Philbrick, Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution (New York: Viking).  Philbrick is a popular historian and non-fiction writer who has produced a solid narrative history of Bunker Hill, seeing it as a result of a decade of British tyranny.  He writes of the importance of the battle: “The Battle of Bunker Hill is the critical turning point in the story of how a rebellion born in the streets of Boston became a countrywide war for independence.”

Allen C. Guelzo, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion (New York: Knopf).  Guelzo, arguably the finest living scholar on Abraham Lincoln, has produced an outstanding military history of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Guelzo rejects his fellow academic historians who scoff at the writing of military history and notes its significance: “We cannot talk about the American nineteenth century without talking about the Civil War, and we cannot talk about the Civil War without acknowledging, even grudgingly, that the Civil War’s singular event was a war,” and the singular battle in Guelzo’s eyes was Gettysburg. 

Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Night: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (New York: Henry Holt).  Military historian Rick Atkinson ends his epic trilogy of Americans liberating Europe from the iron grip of Nazi tyranny in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, and now Northern France.  His massive achievement is the crowning story of the courageous men who stormed the beaches. 

Finally, two recent books, Richard Beeman’s Our Lives, Our Fortunes & Our Sacred Honor, as well as Joseph Ellis’ Revolutionary Summer, promise to be excellent books on the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the principles for which soldiers fought and died for.  We at the WJMI honor the sacrifice of those who fought for Western and American freedom from the plains of Marathon to the mountains of Afghanistan. 

Tony Williams is Program Director of the Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute, is a teacher and an author of four books on the Founding period, and lives with his family in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Quotes Concerning the Federalist Papers

“[The Federalist Papers] have thrown new light upon the science of government; they have given the rights of man a full and fair discussion, and explained them in so clear and forcible a manner as cannot fail to make a lasting impression.” --George Washington

“[The Federalist Papers] will merit the Notice of Posterity; because in it are candidly and ably discussed the principles of freedom and the topics of government, which will be always interesting to mankind so long as they shall be connected in Civil Society.” --George Washington                                
“[The Federalist Papers are] the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written.”  --Thomas Jefferson

“For all posterity the "Federalist" must remain the most authoritative commentary upon the Constitution that can be found; for it is the joint work of the principal author of that Constitution and of its most brilliant advocate.” --John Fiske (American author and historian)
“These essays have been appraised as 'the greatest treatise on government that has ever been written,' and its writers have been ranked as of the same order with Aristotle, Montesquieu, and Locke." –J. Reuben Clark, Jr. (Solicitor and Undersecretary of the U.S. State Department, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico).
“The Federalist letters are among the classics of American literature. Their practical wisdom stands pre-eminent amid the stream of controversial writing at the time.” --Winston Churchill
“[The Federalist Papers are] the most important work of political science ever written in the United States.” --Clinton Rossiter (Professor and historian, Cornell University)
“The Ideas of The Federalist should be essential elements of civic education, because they are core values and principles of the American heritage and foundations of national unity in a pluralistic society.” --John J. Patrick (Professor and author, Indiana University)

It would be difficult to overstate the significance of The Federalist for understanding the principles of American government and the challenges that liberal democracies confront early in the second decade of the 21st century.” --Peter Berkowitz (senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution)
“We must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.  Have we read the Federalist papers?” --Ezra Taft Benson (former Secretary of Agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower)

If you have not read the Federalist Papers, you simply cannot fully understand the Constitution, its principles and purposes. Available free online at the Library of Congress (among other sites): http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html or order in paperback from Amazon.com: https://smile.amazon.com/Federalist-Papers-Signet-Classics/dp/0451528816/  I invite you to start today...



Saturday, May 11, 2013

Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” Speech

On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln won the Republican nomination for the vacant U.S. Senate seat from Illinois.  His opponent in the election would be Stephen Douglas.  Upon his nomination, Lincoln delivered the “House Divided” speech in the war of words of what would culminate in the Lincoln-Douglas debates later that year.

Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, reports that Lincoln composed the speech by writing out drafts on small scraps of paper which he numbered.  He then put the pieces of paper in his tall hat for safekeeping.  When he thought he had completed the speech, Lincoln assembled the pieces into their proper order and wrote out the entire speech.

The humble beginnings of the speech from a couple of scraps of paper to Lincoln’s masterpiece started with a well-known biblical quote (for a biblically literate audience) from the Gospel of Matthew 12:25: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

The topics he addressed would be the “popular sovereignty” doctrine enunciated by Douglas in the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and the more recent Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) decision by the Supreme Court.  Kansas-Nebraska allowed for popular sovereignty, or the principle that the territories could decide whether to allow slavery.  The Dred Scott decision declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional because the Court decided that Congress could not regulate slavery in the new territories.  These would be the object of Lincoln’s attack on the morality of slavery and its spread in the new territories.

Lincoln opens the speech by declaring that Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act with the intention of quelling the agitation of the slavery question.  That object was a fool’s hope and the act augmented rather than soothed the sectional tensions.  Lincoln therefore predicted that, “In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.”

After quoting Matthew, he then predicted that, “This government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free . . . . It will become all one thing, or all the other.”  Lincoln had a moral vision of self-government and slavery.  He understood that logically slavery must eventually exist everywhere or nowhere according to the popular sovereignty doctrine.  If slavery were right, then “its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new – North as well as South.”  If it were wrong, however, then, “The opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction.”

Lincoln believed that the Founding Fathers compromised temporarily with slavery to create the Union, but they thought it wrong and put it on the path to gradual extinction.  He and the Republicans wanted to restrict slavery to where it already existed and yet halt the expansion of the institution into the territories.  The Congress had the plain power to regulate the territories in Article IV, but the Kansas-Nebraska Act and Dred Scott reversed the constitutional authority to ban slavery in the territories.

Lincoln lambasted popular sovereignty as “squatter sovereignty” and nothing more than moral relativism.  He embraced the right of self-government but thought that Douglas’ version was “so perverted” that it reduced self-government to the idea that, “If any one man, choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object.”  Lincoln, like Thomas Jefferson, did not believe that one had a natural or constitutional right to do a wrong.  The foundation for republican government was rooted in natural law.  As Jefferson stated in his First Inaugural Address: “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”  Therefore, if popular sovereignty included the right to enslave another, the system would eventually spread throughout the Union.

Finally, Lincoln detected a conspiracy to expand slavery among Douglas, former President Franklin Pierce, Chief Justice Roger Taney, and current President James Buchanan.  Lincoln charged that they were erecting a framework and scaffolding to promote the acceptance of Dred Scott and popular sovereignty among the American people.  Buchanan, Lincoln said, “fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be.”  Meanwhile, Douglas’ popular sovereignty doctrine worked to “educate and mold public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, not to care whether slavery is voted down or voted up.”  In other words, they plotted to erect a morally relativist republic where slavery could be decided on by a democratic vote and spread all over the Union.

Lincoln lost the election to Douglas, but the two would square off again for the presidency in 1860.  Throughout these campaigns, Lincoln consistently maintained that slavery was an evil that should be restricted to where it already existed.  Thus, his ideas accorded with those of the Founders and the natural law ideals of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the “apple of gold” in the “picture of silver” as he would put it.

Read Abraham Lincoln’s “A House Divided Speech” here: http://www.constitutingamerica.org/blog/?p=4305

Tony Williams is the Program Director for the Washington-Jefferson-Madison Institute, which teaches teachers American Founding principles and documents, in Charlottesville, VA.  He is also the author of four books, including America’s Beginnings: The Dramatic Events that Shaped a Nation’s Character.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Algernon Sidney's Discourses: Virtue and Liberty


Written in argument against Filmer's Patriarcha (which argued for the divine right of kings to rule, without popular consent), Algernon Sidney's Discourses Concerning Government reviews the history, strengths and weaknesses of governments from Biblical through Greek and Roman times, to the European and English eras.   A contemporary of Sidney, Bishop Burnett, stated that Sidney "studied the history of government in all its branches, beyond any man I ever knew." [1]  Sidney's primary arguments in Discourses are: (1) political power is different from paternal power, and kings do not have an inherited or divine right to rule; (2) people have the divine (natural) right of liberty which includes the right to choose their governors; (3) a popular, republican form of government is best; (4) virtue is necessary for rulers and the populace to maintain a prosperous and free society; and (5) kings and magistrates are subject to the common law. [2] A thoughtful reading and consideration of Sidney’s writings should restore him to his rightful position alongside John Locke in the study of the principles of the American republic. The following are quotes from Sidney's Discourses on the relationship of virtue, power, and liberty.

"Machiavel, discoursing on these matters, finds virtue to be so essentially necessary to the establishment and preservation of liberty, that he thinks it impossible for a corrupted people to set up a good government, or for a tyranny to be introduced if they be virtuous; and makes this conclusion, 'That where the matter (that is, the body of the people) is not corrupted, tumults and disorders do not hurt; and where it is corrupted, good laws do no good:' which being confirmed by reason and experience, I think no wise man has ever contradicted him." II:11:104-05.

"[Rome] that city which had overthrown the greatest powers of the world must, in all appearance, have lasted for ever, if their virtue and discipline had not decayed, or their forces been turned against themselves." II:15:128.

"All things in nature have their continuance from a principle in nature suitable to their original: all tyrannies have had their beginnings from corruption. …The contrary is seen in all popular and well-mixed governments: they are ever established by wise and good men, and can never be upheld otherwise than by virtue: the worst men always conspiring against them, they must fall, if the best have not power to preserve them." II:19:146-47.

"Corruption will always reign most, where those who have the power do most favour it, where the rewards of such crimes are greatest, easiest, and most valued, and where the punishment of them is least feared. …liberty cannot be preserved, if the manners of the people are corrupted …" II:25:201.

"Like effects will ever proceed from the like causes. When vanity, luxury, and prodigality are in fashion, the desire for riches must necessarily increase in proportion to them: and when the power is in the hands of base mercenary persons, they will always (to use the courtiers phrase) make as much profit of their places as they can. Not only matters of favour, but of justice too, will be exposed to sale; and no way will be open to honors or magistracies, but by paying largely for them. He that gets an office by these means, will not execute it gratis: he thinks he may sell what he has bought: and would not have entered by corrupt ways, if he had not intended to deal corruptly." II:25:203.

"Virtue is the dictate of reason, or the remains of divine light, by which men are made beneficent and beneficial to each other. Religion proceeds from the same spring; and tends to the same end; and the good of mankind so entirely depends upon the two, that no people ever enjoyed anything worth desiring that was not the product of them; and whatsoever any have suffered that [which] deserves to be abhorred and feared, has proceeded either from the defect of these, or the wrath of God against them. If any [leader] therefore has been an enemy to virtue and religion, he must also have been an enemy to mankind, and most especially to the people under him." II:27:212.

"If vice and corruption prevail, liberty cannot subsist; but if virtue have the advantage, arbitrary power cannot be established." II:30:241-242. [Copied by Thomas Jefferson into his Commonplace Book]


[1] Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government (London: A. Millar, London, 1751),  "Memoirs of Algernon Sidney, Esq.", xxviii (Sidney's father was a scholar in his own right, and maintained an extraordinary library containing several thousand volumes, including philosophical, political, historical and religious writings, ancient access from his early years.  West, xxviii (cited below)
[2]  Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government, Thomas G. West, ed. (Liberty Fund, Inc., Indianapolis, 1996), Introduction xix.