Folio, pp. , 462, , [1 (blank)]; old marginal repair to S4; an excellent, broad-margined copy in contemporary Cambridge-panelled calf, gilt red morocco lettering-piece to spine; a few scuffs, skilfully rebacked and recornered with lettering-piece relaid; ownership inscriptions of Charles Pearson, 1834, and Francis Caldwell Holland, 1894, to upper pastedown.
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Discourses concerning Government … published from an original Manuscript of the Author.
First edition of this major text of republican theory, of exceptional impact in Britain, Europe, and America in the following century. Written between 1681 and 1683, the Discourses circulated in manuscript until their first edition fifteen years after their author’s execution. Placing Sidney ‘alongside Milton as the master of republican eloquence’ (ODNB), the text contains ‘the only explicit seventeenth-century defence of “rebellion”’, allowing the manuscript found in Sidney’s possession to be used as the second witness necessary for his trial for treason when no other could be found to testify against him.
‘If the laws of God and men are therefore of no effect, when the magistracy is left at liberty to break them, and if the lusts of those, who are too strong for the tribunals of justice, cannot otherwise be restrained, than by seditions, tumults, and war, those seditions, tumults and wars, are justified by the laws of God and man … they who deny this deny all help against an usurping tyrant, or the perfidiousness of a lawfully created magistrate, who adds the crimes of ingratitude and treachery to usurpation’. The work also defends change as ‘unavoidable’.
ESTC R11837; Wing S3761.
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