THE PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO OVERTURN AN UNJUST RULER

Système sociale. ou principes naturels de la morale et de la politique. Avec un examen de l’influence du gouvernement sur les moeurs.

‘Londres’ [recte Amsterdam, Marc Michel Rey], 1773.

Three vols in one, 8vo, pp. [vi], 210; 176; 167, [1 blank]; including half-titles; a very good, clean, fresh copy in contemporary mottled calf, sides filleted in gilt, flat spine gilt with fleurons, gilt morocco lettering-piece; some light rubbing along the joints, one or two very minor scuffs at edges.

£750

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Complete with all three parts, dealing with ‘Natural principles of morals’, ‘Natural principles of politics’ and ‘Influence of government on customs’, this edition was published anonymously and with a false imprint in the same year as the first. Holbach’s system of ‘natural politics’, based on the same premises as the materialism which animated the Système de la nature, freed public morals from the realm of received authority or religion and built its foundation on the will of the people. It was man’s duty to assume the full responsibility of mankind’s independence: ‘la morale convenable à l’homme doit être fondée sur la nature de l'homme; il faut qu'elle lui apprenne ce qu’il est, le but qu’il se propose, & les moyens d’y parvenir’. Sovereignty of the people did not mean disorder, quite the opposite: Holbach ‘rejected revolution as a solution to political problems, [asserting] that revolution is worse than the disease which it is supposed to cure' (Copleston, A history of philosophy, vol. IV, p. 50). The citizens’ happiness features as natural end and therefore natural foundation of any political body, the legitimate nature of which can and ought to be questioned if the citizens find the ruler unjust. The book was seized and put on the Index in 1775.

Vercruysse 1773-A5; Barbier IV, 621-22; Cioranescu II, 34061; Quérard IV, 119; see Einaudi 2911; Goldsmiths’ 10952; Higgs 5873; Kress S, 4739; Tchemerzine VI 246 (a).

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