With special thanks to Constituting America and Heritage College, we will be taking part in their project:The U.S. Constitution: A Reader. It is a 90 day challenge to learn and dive deeper into understanding the Constitution.
In case you missed it, catch up with day 7 HERE.
Day 8 brings to light Algernon Sidney and his Discourses Concerning Government.
First, it is important to know who you are reading from just as important as it is what was written. It lays a great foundation for what was written. And in this case, it is extremely important to know about Algernon Sidney.
Algernon was a political theorist and an outspoken opponent of King Charles II. He was later charged with plotting against the King and was eventuall executed. Ultimately, he was executed for his final writing: Discourses Concerning Government.
So, how influential could he and this work of his be? Thomas Jefferson said that Locke and Sidney were two primary sources for the view of liberty of the Founding Fathers. John Adams wrote to Jefferson about Algernon saying:
“I have lately undertaken to read Algernon Sidney on government. … As often as I have read it, and fumbled it over, it now excites fresh admiration [i.e., wonder] that this work has excited so little interest in the literary world. As splendid an edition of it as the art of printing can produce—as well for the intrinsic merit of the work, as for the proof it brings of the bitter sufferings of the advocates of liberty from that time to this, and to show the slow progress of moral, philosophical, and political illumination in the world—ought to be now published in America.”
As you can see, Algernon Sidney was truly influential to our Founding Fathers. So, now let us take a look at the reading for today. It is also worth noting that today’s reading is just a few small selections from his Discourses.
Probably the biggest theme to take away from the start is that Sidney was a religious man and lead by his faith. He knew that everything was given by God and that He governed the world. He noted that no one man had “dominion of the whole world,” except His son Jesus Christ who was sent here on behalf of Him.
Another theme taken from this reading is that no one is heir to the power held by one man. This was directed to the laws of England, which operated under law that the son was to inherit that of his father. So, if he was Prince, he would late inherit the throne of his father.
The last of today’s reading has a clear message that the Ruler shall not have a power above the Law. He says:
“. . . But nothing can be more absurd that to say, that one man has an absolute power above law to govern according to his will, for the people’s good, and the preservation of their liberty . . .“
Strong words from a man that would ultimately be put to trial for what he says.
This is a profound reading, and it can be found HERE. Please take the time to read and study it.
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