Algernon Sidney 1622-1683

For the complete text of Sidney's work (1698 edition), see:
"Discourses Concerning Government"

Source Text: Algernon Sidney, "Discourses Concerning Government" (Third Edition, A. Millar, London, 1751).

Compiled and Edited by J. David Gowdy, President, The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute, email:

All references are cited as follows: [chapter]:[section]:[page].

"[T]he principle of liberty in which God created us . . . includes the chief advantages of the life we enjoy, as well as the greatest helps towards felicity, that is the end of our hopes in the other." I:2:5

"[T]hey could not . . . lay more approved foundations, than, that man is naturally free; that he cannot be justly deprived of that liberty without cause; and that he does not resign it, or any part of it, unless it be in consideration of a greater good, which he proposes to himself." I:2:5

"[L]iberty . . . 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." I:2:6

"[They] . . . being careless of their liberty, or unable to govern themselves, were . . . 'slaves by nature'. . . ." I:2:6

"[T]he whole fabric of tyranny will be much weakened, if we prove, That nations have a right to make their own laws, constitute their own magistrates; and that such as are so constituted owe an account of their actions to those by whom, and for whom, they are appointed." I:2:8

"Implicit faith belongs to fools; and truth is comprehended by examining principles." I:3:8

"Who will wear a shoe that hurts him, because the shoemaker tells him it is well made? or who will live in a house that yields no defense against the extremities of weather, because the mason or carpenter assures him it is a very good house? Such as have reason, understanding, or common sense, will, and ought to make use of it in those things that concern themselves, and their prosperity, and suspect the words of such as are interested in deceiving or persuading them not to see with their own eyes, that they may be more easily deceived. This rule obliges us so far to search into matters of state, as to examine the original principles of government in general, and of our own in particular. We cannot distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or know what obedience we owe to the magistrate, or what we may justly expect from him, unless we know what he is, why he is, and by whom he is made to be what he is. These perhaps may be called 'mysteries of state,' and some would persuade us they are to be esteemed 'arcana;' but whosoever confesses himself to be ignorant of them, must acknowledge that he is uncapable of giving any judgement upon things relating to the superstructure; and in so doing evidently shows to others, that they ought not at all hearken to what he says." I:3:9

"The rights of particular nations cannot subsist, if general principles contrary to them are received as true." I:4:11

"To depend upon the will of man is slavery . . . the laws of natural liberty . . . solely [consist] in an independedency upon the will of another [man] . . . ." I:4:12

"There can be no peace, where there is no justice; nor any justice, if the government instituted for the good of a nation be turned to its ruin." I:6:15

"If there be any precept, that by the light of nature we can in matters of this kind look upon as certain, it is, that the government of a people should be given to him that can best perform the duties of it. No man has it for himself, or from himself; but for and from those, who, before he had it, were his equals, that he may do good to them. If there were a man, who in wisdom, valour, justice, and purity, surpassed all others, he might be called a king by nature; because he is best able to bear the weight of so great a charge; and, like a good shepherd, to lead the people to do good . . . Solomon tells us, 'That a wise child is better than an old and foolish king.'" I:13:29.

"[I]f governments arise from the consent of men, and are instituted by men according to their own inclinations, they did therein seek their own good; for the will is ever drawn by some real good, or the appearance of it. This is that which man seeks by all the regular or irregular motions of his mind. Reason and passion, virtue and vice, do herein concur.... A people therefore that sets up [government does it so]...that it may be well with themselves and their posterity." I:16:38.

"[I]t is no less absurd to deduce a right from him that had none, than to expect pure and wholesome waters from a filthy, polluted, and poisonous fountain." I:17:43.

"[T]hat exemption from the dominion of another, which we call liberty . . . is the gift of God and nature." I:17:44.

"[A] civil society is composed of equals, and fortified by mutual compacts." II:2:68

"[T]ruth can never be repugnant to justice." II:2:68

"[G]overnments are not set up for the advantage, profit, pleasure or glory of one or a few men, but for the good of the society." II:3:70

"For till the commonwealth be established, no multitude can be seditious, because they are not subject to any humane law; and sedition inplies an unjust and disorderly opposition of that power which is legally established; which cannot be when there is none, nor by him who is not a member of the society that makes it; and when it is made, such as entered into it, are obliged to the laws of it."
"This shewing the root and foundation of civil powers, we may judge the use and extent of them, according to the letter of the law, or the true intentional meaning of it; both which declare them to be purely human ordinances, proceeding from the will of those who seek their own good; and may certainly infer, that since all multitudes are composed of such as are under some contract, or free from all, no man is obliged to enter into those contracts against his own will, nor obliged by any to which he does not assent: Those multitudes that enter into such contracts, and thereupon form civil societies, act according to their own will: Those that are engaged in none, take their authority from the law of nature; their rights cannot be limited or diminished by any one man, or number of men; and consequently whoever does it, or attempts the doing of it, violates the most sacred laws of God and nature." II:5:81.

"[F]or if the liberty of one man cannot be limited or diminished by one, or any number of men [unless by common justice for crimes], and none can give away the right of another, 'tis plain that the ambition of one man, or of any faction of citizens, or the mutiny of an army, cannot give a right to any over the liberties of a whole nation." II:5:82.

"For when a people hath either indefinitely, or under certain conditions and limitations, resigned their power into the hands of a certain number of men; or agreed upon rules, according to which persons should, from time to time, be deputed for the management of their affairs, the acts of those persons, if their power be without restrictions, are of the same value as the acts of the whole nation, and the assent of every individual man is comprehended in them. If the power be limited, whatsoever is done according to that limitation, has the same authority." II:5:82-83.

"[T]hose who have no sense of right, reason or religion, have a natural propensity to make use of their strength to the destruction of such as are weaker than they . . ." II:8:95.

"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:11:104-105.

"Plato, Aristotle, Hooker, and (I may say, in short) all wise men have held, that order required, that the wisest, best, and most valiant men, should be placed in the offices where wisdom, virtue, and valour, are requisite. If common sense did not teach us this, we might learn it from scripture. When God gave the conduct of his people to Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and others, he endowed them with all of the virtues and graces that were required for the right performance of their duty." II:11:105.

"Nothing can be called stable, that is not so in principle and practice, in which respect human nature is not well capable of stability; but the utmost deviation from it that can be imagined, is, when such an error is laid for a foundation as can never be corrected. All will confess, that if there be any stability in man, it must be in wisdom and virtue, and in those actions that are thereby directed; for in weakness, folly, and madness, there can be none. The stability therefore that we seek, in relation to the exercise of civil and military powers, can never be found, unless care be taken, that such as shall exercise those powers, be endowed with the qualities that should make them stable." II:11:106.

"All human constitutions are subject to corruption, and must perish, unless they are timely renewed, and reduced to their first principles." II:13:117.

"[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.

"[A]ll 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. . . . Such as carry on the like designs with less valour, wit, and generosity of spirit, will always be more bitterly bent to destroy all that are good, knowing, that the deformity of their own vices is rendered most manifest, when they are compared with the good qualities of those who are most unlike them; and that they can never defend themselves against the scorn and hatred they incur by their vices, unless such a number can be infected with the same, and made to delight in the recompenses of iniquity that foment them, as may be able to keep the rest of the people in subjection." II:19:146 -147.

"[A]ll governments are subject to corruption and decay; but with this difference, that absolute monarchy is by principle led unto, or rooted in it; whereas mixed or popular governments are only in a possibility of falling into it: As the first cannot subsist, unless the prevailing part of the people be corrupted; the other must certainly perish, unless they be preserved in a great measure free from vices: and I doubt whether any better reason can be given, why there have been more monarchies than popular governments in the world, than that nations are more easily drawn into corruption than defended from it . . ." II:19:149.

"[C]orruption 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.

"It is ill, that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults, and wars; but it is worse, to bring nations to such misery, weakness, and baseness, as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending, and to give the name of peace to desolation." II:26:206.

"[P]opular and regular governments have always applied themselves to increase the number, strength, power, riches, and courage, of their people, by providing comfortable ways of subsistence for their own citizens, inviting strangers, and filling them with all with such a love to their country, that every man might look upon the public cause as his own, and be always ready to defend it." II:26:209.

"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.

"Men are valiant and industrious, when they fight for themselves, and their country; they prove excellent in all of the arts of war and peace, when they are bred up in virtuous exercises, and taught by their fathers and masters to rejoice in the honors gained by them: they love their country, when the good of every particular man is comprehended in the public prosperity, and the success of their achievements is improved to the general advantage: they undertake hazards and labors for their government, when it is justly administered; when innocence is safe and virtue honored; when no man is distinguished from the vulgar, but such as have distinguished themselves by the bravery of their actions; when no honor is thought too great for those who do it eminently, unless it be such as cannot be communicated to others of equal merit: they do not spare their persons, purses, or friends, when the public powers are employed for the public benefit, and imprint the like affections in their children from infancy." II:28:217.

"Fruits are always of the same nature with the seeds and roots from which they come, and trees are known by the fruits they bear: as a man begets a man, and a beast a beast, that society of men which constitutes a government upon the foundation of justice, virtue, and the common good, will always have men to promote those ends; and that which intends the advancement of one man's desire and vanity, will abound in those that will foment them. All men follow that which seems advantageous to themselves. Such as are bred under a good discipline, and see that all benefits, procured to their country by virtuous actions, redound to the honor and advantage of themselves, their children, friends, and relations, contract, from their infancy, a love to the public, and look upon the common concernments as their own. When they have learnt to be virtuous, and see that virtue is in esteem, they seek no other preferments than such as may be obtained that way; and no country ever wanted great numbers of excellent men, where this method was established." II:28:218.

"[I]f vice and corruption prevail, liberty cannot subsist; but if virtue have the advantage, arbitrary power cannot be established." II:30:241-242.

"[T]hey who admit of no participants in power, and acknowledge no rule but their own will, set up an interest in themselves against that of their own people, lose their affections, which is their most important treasure, and incur their hatred, from whence results their greatest danger." II:30:242.

"[N]o man can confer upon others that which he has not in himself . . .
[E]quality of right, and exemption from the dominion of any other is called liberty . . . he, who enjoys it, cannot be deprived of it unless by by his own consent, or by force . . .
[A] multitude, consenting to be governed by one man, doth confer upon him the power of governing them; the powers therefore that he has, are from them; and they who have all in themselves can receive nothing from him, who has no more than every one of them, till they do invest him with it."

"[If] force be the root of the right that is pretended, another force, by the same rule, may overturn, extinguish, or transfer it to another hand. If contracts have intervened, the force ceases; and the right that afterwards doth accrue to the persons, must proceed from, and be regulated according to those contracts." II:31:245.

" Every man ought to be just, true, and charitable; and if they were so, laws would be of no use . . ." III:1:254.

"[O]ne owes no more to another, than another to him, unless for some benefit received, or by virtue of some promise made. The duty arising from from a benefit received, must be proportionable to it: that which grows from a promise, is determined by the promise or the contract made, according to the true sense and meaning of it." III:1:255.

"He that neither is nor has any title to be a king, can come to be so only by force, or by consent. If by force, he does not confer a benefit upon the people, but injures them in the most outrageous manner. . . . If by consent, he who is raised from amongst the people, and placed above his brethren, receives great honors and advantages, but confers none. The obligations of gratitude are on his side, and whatsoever he does in acknowledgement to his benefactors for their love to him, is no more than his duty; and he can demand no more from them, than what they think fit to add to the favours already received. If more be pretended, it must be by virtue of that contract, and can no otherwise be proved, than by producing it to be examined, that the true sense, meaning, and intention of it, may be known." III:1:256.

"Men are naturally propense to corruption; and if he, whose will and interest it is to corrupt them, be furnished with the means, he will never fail to do it. Power, honor, riches, and the pleasures that attend them, are the baits by which men are drawn to prefer a personal interest before the public good; and the number of those who covet them, is so great, that he who abounds in them will be able to gain so many to his service as shall be sufficient to subdue the rest. It is hard to find a tyranny in the world that has not been introduced in this way; for no man by his own strength could ever subdue a multitude; none could ever bring many to be subservient to his ill designs, but by the rewards they received or hoped. By this means Caesar accomplished his work, and overthrew the liberty of his country, and with it all that was then good in the world. They who were corrupted in their minds, desired to put all the power and riches into his hands, that he might distribute them to such as served him." III:6:275.

"As no man can serve two masters, no man can pursue two contrary interests . . ." III:7:281.

"[L]aws are made to keep things in good order without the necessity of having recourse to force." III:13:306.

"[L]aw must be given to all, and the good can be no otherwise distinguished from the bad, and the wise from the foolish, than by the observation or violation of it." III:13:307.

"Men are so subject to vices and passions, that they stand in need of some restraint in every condition; but most especially when they are in power." III:13:308.

"It is not therefore the king that makes the law, but the law that makes the king." III:14:310.

"Corruption of judgement proceeds from private passions . . . and tho' a zeal for the public good may possibly be misguided, yet till it be so, it can never be capable of excess." III:14:312.

"[A]s kings, and all other magistrates, whether supreme or subordinate, are constituted only for the good of the people, the people only can be fit to judge whether the end be accomplished." III:14:313.

"But if all depended upon the will of a man, the worst would be often the most safe, and the best in the greatest hazard; slaves would be often advanced, the good and the brave scorned and neglected. The most generous nations have above all things sought to avoid this evil: and the virtue, wisdom, and generosity of each, may be discerned by the right fixing of the rule, that must be the guide of every man's life, and so continue their magistracy, that it may be duly observed. Such as have attained to this perfection, have always flourished in virtue and happiness: they are, as Aristotle says, governed by God, rather than by men, whilst those who subjected themselves to the will of a man, were governed by a beast." III:15:316.

"Property is also an appendage to liberty; and it is impossible for a man to have a right to land or goods, if he has no liberty, and enjoys his life only at the pleasure of another, as it is to enjoy either, when he is deprived of them." III:16:318.

"[I]f the safety of the people be the supreme law, and this safety extend to, and consist in, the preservation of their liberties, goods, lands, and lives, that law must necessarily be the root and the beginning, as well as the end and the limit, of all magistratical power, and all laws must be subservient and subordinate to it." III:16:318.

"[I]f the safety of nations be the end for which governments are instituted, such as take upon them to govern . . . are by the law of nature bound to procure it; and in order to this, to preserve the lives, lands, liberties and goods of every one of their subjects . . . . If all princes are obliged by the law of nature to preserve the lands, goods, lives and liberties of their subjects, those subjects have by the law of nature a right to their liberties, lands, goods, etc., and cannot depend upon the will of any man, for that dependence destroys liberty, etc." III:16:320.

"[W]e are free-men governed by our own laws, and man has a power over us, which is not given and regulated by them." III:17:329.

"[S]uch principles as make men honest and generous, do also make them lovers of liberty, and constant in the defence of their country . . ." III:19:341-42.

"Reason and experience instruct us, that every man acts according to the end he proposes to himself. The good magistrate seeks the good of the people committed to his care, that he may perform the end of his institution: and knowing that chiefly to consist in justice and virtue, he endeavors to plant and propagate them; and by doing this he procures his own good as well as that of the public. He knows there is no safety where there is no strength, no strength without union, no union without justice; no justice where faith and truth, in accomplishing public and private contracts, is wanting. This he perpetually inculcates, and thinks it a great part of his duty, by precept and example, to educate the youth in a love of virtue and truth, that they may be seasoned with them, and filled with an abhorrence of vice and falsehood, before they attain that age which is exposed to the most violent temptations, and in the which they may, by their crimes, bring great mischiefs upon the public. He would do all this, tho' it were to his own prejudice. But as good actions always carry a reward with them, these contribute in a high measure to his own advantage. By preferring the interest of the people before his own, he gains their affection, and all that is in their power comes with it; whilst he unites them to one another, he unites all to himself: in leading them to virtue, he increases their strength, and by that means provides for his own safety, glory, and power.
"On the other side, such as seek different ends must take different ways. When a magistrate fancies he is not made for the people, but the people for him; that he does not govern for them, but for himself; and that the people live only to increase his glory, or furnish matter for his pleasures; he does not inquire what he may do for them, but what he may draw from them. By this means he sets up an interest of profit, pleasure, or pomp, in himself, repugnant to the good of the public, for which he is made to be what he is. These contrary ends certainly divide the nation into parties; and whilst every one endeavors to advance that to which he is addicted, occasions of hatred for injuries every day done, or thought to be done, and received, must necessarily arise. This creates a most fierce and irreconcilable enmity, because the occasions are frequent, important, and universal, and the causes thought to be most just. The people think it the greatest of all crimes, to convert that power to their hurt, which was instituted for their good; and that the injustice is aggravated by perjury and ingratitude, which comprehend all manner of ill; and the magistrate gives the name of sedition or rebellion to whatsoever they do for the preservation of themselves, and their own rights. When men's spirits are thus prepared, a small matter sets them on fire; but if no accident happens to blow them into a flame, the course of justice is certainly interrupted, the public affairs are neglected; and when any occasion, whether foreign or domestic arises, in which the magistrate stands in need of the people's assistance, they, whose affections are alienated, not only shew an unwillingness to serve him with their persons and estates, but fear that by delivering him from his distress, they strengthen their enemy, and enable him to oppress them; and he, fancying his will to be unjustly opposed, or his due more unjustly denied, is filled with a dislike of what he sees, and a fear of worse of the future. Whilst he endeavors to ease himself of the one, and to provide against the other, he usually increases the evils of both and jealousies are on both sides multiplied. Every man knows that the governed are in a great measure under the power of the governor; but as no man, or number of men, is willingly subject to those who seek their ruin, such as fall in so great a misfortune continue no longer under it than force, fear, or necessity, may be able to oblige them. But as such a necessity can hardly lie longer upon a great people, than till the evil be fully discovered and comprehended, and their virtue, strength, and power, be united to expel it; the ill magistrate looks upon all things, that may conduce to that end, as so many preparatives to his ruin; and by the help of those, who are of his party, will endeavor to prevent that union, and diminish that strength, virtue, power, and courage, which he knows to be bent against him. And as truth, faithful dealing due performance of contracts, and integrity of manners, are bonds of union, and helps to good, he will always by tricks, artifices, cavils, and all means possible, endeavor to establish falsehood and dishonesty; whilst other emissaries and instruments of iniquity, by corrupting the oath, and seducing such as can be brought to lewdness and debauchery, bring the people to such a pass, that they may neither care nor dare to vindicate their rights, and that those who would do it, may so far suspect each other, as not to confer upon, much less to join in, any action tending to the public deliverance.
"This distinguishes the good from the bad magistrate, that faithful from the unfaithful; and those who adhere to either, living in the same principle, must walk in the same ways. They who uphold the rightful power of a just magistracy, encourage virtue and justice; teach men what they ought to do, suffer, or expect from others; fix them upon principles of honesty; and generally advance every thing that tends to the increase of the valour, strength, greatness, and happiness of the nation, creating a good union among them, and bringing every man to an exact understanding of his own and the public rights. On the other side, he that would introduce an ill magistrate, make one evil who was good, or preserve him in the exercise of injustice when he is corrupted, must always open the way for him by vitiating the people, corrupting their manners, destroying the validity of oaths and contracts, teaching such evasions, equivocations, and frauds, as are inconsistent with the thoughts, that become men of virtue and courage; and overthrowing the confidence they ought to have in each other, make it impossible for them to unite among themselves. The like arts must be used with the magistrate: he cannot be for their turn, till he is persuaded to believe he has no dependence upon, and owes no duty to the people; that he is of himself, and not by their institution; that no man ought to inquire into, nor be judge of his actions; that all obedience is due to him, whether he be good or bad, wise or foolish, a father or an enemy to his country. This being calculated for his personal interest, he must pursue the same designs, or his kingdom is divided within itself, and cannot subsist. By this means those who flatter his humor, come to be accounted his friends, and the only men that are thought worthy of great trusts, whilst such as are of another mind are exposed to all persecution. These are always such as excel in virtue, wisdom, and greatness of spirit: they have eyes, and they will always see the way they go; and, leaving fools to be guided by implicit faith, will distinguish between good and evil, and chose that which is best; they will judge of men by their actions, and by them discovering whose servant every man is, know whether he is to be obeyed or not. Those who are ignorant of all good, careless, or enemies to it, take a more compendious way; their slavish, vicious, and base natures, inclining them to seek only private and present advantages, they easily slide into a blind dependence upon one who has wealth and power; and desiring only to know his will, care not what injustice they do, if they may be rewarded. They worship what they find in the temple, tho' it be the vilest of idols; and always like the best which is worst, because it agrees with their inclinations and principles. When a party comes to be erected upon such a foundation, debauchery, lewdness, and dishonesty, are the true badges of it. Such as wear them are cherished; but the principal marks of favor are reserved for those, who are the most industrious in mischief, either by seducing the people with allurements of sensual pleasures, or corrupting their understandings by false and slavish doctrines. By this means, a man who calls himself a philosopher, or a divine, is often more useful than a great number of tapsters, cooks, buffoons, players, fidlers, whores, or bawds. These are the devil's ministers of a lower order; they seduce single persons; and such as fall into their snares, are for the most part men of the simpler sort; but the principal supporters of this kingdom are they, who by false doctrines poison the springs of religion and virtue, and by preaching or writing (if their falsehood and wickedness were not detected) would extinguish all principles of common honesty, and bring whole nations to be best satisfied with themselves, when their actions are most abominable. And as the means must always be suitable to the end proposed, the governments that are to be established or supported by such ways must needs be the worst of all, and comprehend all manner of evil."

"If the public safety be provided, liberty and propriety secured, justice administered, virtue encouraged, vice suppressed, and the true interest of the nation advanced, the ends of government are accomplished . . ." III:21:351.

"No law made by man can be perfect, and there must be in every nation a power of correcting such defects as in time may arise or be discovered." III:22:357.

"[S]ince no power ought to be admitted which is not just; that none can be just which is not good, profitable to the people, and conducing to the ends for which it was constituted; that no man can know how to direct the power to those ends, can deserve, or administer it, unless he do so far excel all those that are under him in wisdom, justice, valour, and goodness, as to possess more of those virtues than all of them; I say, if no such man, or succession of men, be found, no such power is to be granted to any man, or succession of men. But if such power be granted, the laws of nature and reason are overthrown, and the ends for which societies are constituted, utterly perverted, which necessarily implies an annihilation of the grant." III:23:360.

"As governments were instituted for the obtaining of justice, and . . . the preservation of liberty, we are not to seek what government was the first, but what best provides for the obtaining of justice, and preservation of liberty. . . . Laws and constitutions ought to be weighed, and whilst all due reverence is paid to such as are good, every nation may not only retain in itself a power of changing or abolishing all such as are not so, but ought to exercise that power according to the best of their understanding, and in the place of what was either first mistaken or afterwards corrupted, to constitute that which is most conducing to the establishment of justice and liberty." III:25:365-66.

"Whatsoever therefore proceeds not from the consent of the people, must be 'de facto' only, that is, void of all right; and it is impossible there should be a right of destroying that which is grounded upon none; and by the same rule that one man enjoys what he gained by violence, another may take it from him." III:31:403.

"The Liberty of a people is the gift of God and nature." III:33:406.

"The only ends for which governments are constituted, and obedience rendered to them, are the obtaining of justice and protection; and they who cannot provide for both give the people a right of taking such ways as best please themselves, in order to their own safety." III:33:407

"The creature having nothing, and being nothing but what the creator makes him, must owe all to him, and nothing to any one from whom he has received nothing. Man therefore must be naturally free, unless he be created by another power than we have yet heard of. The obedience due to parents arises from hence, in that they are the instruments of our generation; and we are instructed by the light of reason, that we ought to make great returns to those from whom under God we have received all. When they die, we are their heirs, we enjoy the same rights, and devolve the same to our posterity. God only, who confers this right upon us, can deprive us of it: and we can no-way understand that he does so, unless he had so declared by express revelation, ore had set some distinguishing marks of dominion and subjection upon men; and as an ingenious person not long since said, caused some to be born with crowns upon their heads, and all others with saddles upon their backs. This liberty therefor must continue, till it be either forfeited, or willingly resigned. The forfeiture is hardly comprehensible in a multitude, that is not entered into any society; for as they are all equal, and 'equals can have no right over each other,' no man can forfeit any thing to one, who can justly demand nothing, unless it may be by a personal injury, which is nothing to this case; because where there is no society, one man is not bound by the actions of another. . . .
"[F]or men could not could not resign their liberty, unless they naturally had it in themselves. Resignation is a public declaration of their assent to be governed by the person to whom they resign; that is, they do by act constitute him to be their governor. This necessarily puts us upon the inquiry, why do they resign, how they will be governed, and proves the governor to be their creature; and the right of disposing the government must be in them, or they who receive it can have none." III:33:406-407.

"[T]he liberty that has no being, cannot be defended." III:33:408.

"[T]hose who delegate powers, do always retain to themselves more than they give, they [the people] who send these men [representatives], do not give them an absolute power of doing whatsoever they please, but retain to themselves more than they confer upon their deputies: they must therefore be accountable to their principals . . ." III:38:423.

"They who are enemies of virtue, and fear not God, are afraid of men, and dare not offer such things as the world will not bear, lest by that means they should overthrow their own designs. All poison must be disguised, and no man can be persuaded to eat arsenic, unless it be covered with something that appears to be harmless." III:39:426.

"Truth can never conduce to mischief, and is best discovered by plain words; but nothing is more usual with ill men, than to cover their mischievous designs with figurative phrases." III:39:427.

"[R]ight proceeds from identity, and not from similitude." III:39:428.

"The head must be of the same nature with the other members, or it cannot subsist. . . . [T]he head cannot have a subsistence without the body, nor any interest contrary to that of the body; and it is impossible for anything that is good for the head, that is hurtful to the body. A prince therefore or magistrate, who sets up an interest in himself distinct from, or repugnant to, that of the people, renounces the title or quality of their head. . . . The head cannot stand in need of an exterior help against the body, nor subsist when divided from it. . . . The head cannot desire to draw all the nourishment of the body to itself, nor more than a due proportion. If the rest of the parts are sick, weak, or cold, the head suffers equally with them; and if they perish, must perish also. . . . If any therefore . . . have merited the glorious name of head of nations, it must have been by their personal virtues, by a vigilant care of the good of their people, by an inseparable conjunction of interests with them, by an ardent love of every member of society, by a moderation of spirit affecting no undue superiority, or assuming any singular advantage, which they are not willing to communicate to every part of the political body." III:39:429-431.

"Laws ought to aim at perpetuity; but the virtues of a man die with him, and very often before him. . . . If virtue may in any respect be said to outlive the person, it can only be when good men frame such laws and constitutions as by favoring it preserve themselves. This has never been done otherwise, than by balancing the powers in such a manner, that the corruption which one or a few men might fall into, should not be suffered to spread the contagion to the ruin of the whole." III:43:446.

"The legislative power is always arbitrary, and not to be trusted in the hands of any who are not bound to obey the laws they make." III:45:455.

"Being ready to die under an accusation of many crimes, I thought it fit to leave this as a testimony unto the world, that, as I had from my youth endeavored to uphold the common rights of mankind, the laws of this land, and the true protestant religion, against corrupt principles, arbitrary power; and popery, I do now willingly lay down my life for the same; and having a sure witness within me, that God doth absolve, and uphold me, in the utmost extremities, am very little solicitous, though man doth condemn me. . . . I believe that the people of God in England have, in these late years, generally grown faint: some, through fear, have deflected from the integrity of their principles; some have been too deeply plunged themselves in worldly cares, and, so as they might enjoy their trades and wealth, have less regarded the treasure that is laid up in heaven: but I think there are very many who have kept their garments unspotted; and hope that God will deliver them, and the nation for their sakes. God will not suffer this land, where the gospel hath of late flourished more than any other part of the world, to become a slave of the world, he will not suffer it to become a land of graven images: he will stir up witnesses of the truth, and, in his own time, spirit his people to stand up for his cause, and deliver them. I lived in this belief, and am now about to die in it; I know that my Redeemer lives; and, as he hath in great measure upheld me in the day of my calamity, hope that he will still uphold me by his spirit in this last moment, and giving me grace to glorify him in my death, receive me into the glory prepared for those that fear him, when my body shall be dissolved. Amen."

From Algernon Sidney's Apology, Written on the Day of His Execution, December 7, 1683.