Algernon Sidney


Sidney (1623–1683) was executed for treason by the King of England. His Discourses on Government was offered in evidence against him. The treatise advocated republican principles and was much admired by the Founders and Framers. The object of Sidney's criticisms was Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, which defended "the divine right of kings." Sidney countered with a defense of the right of the people to rebel against tyranny.

Falsity of the Divine Right of Kings

Most do not realize that the divine right of kings was not a medieval theory, but a modern one. Sidney attacks the absurd claim that kingship was first given to Adam and descended to the King of England.

Government Exists for the Good of the Governed

The best form of government is not monarchy, but a mixed form that combines monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. The people do not desire unlimited power for themselves; that is a trait of tyrants.

We Owe No Duty of Obedience to Tyrants

No one should obey any command to do what is wrong, including that of a king. The people are the source of authority under government, and may choose whomever they please to represent their interests.

The Natural Right of Rebellion

The people are free by nature. They enter into government for the sake of justice. When those in power turn against the people, it is their right to engage in rebellion, which is the renewal of the war against tyranny.