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Algernon Sydney (1623 – 1683)


English politician, political theorist, and opponent of King Charles II of England.
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Algernon Sydney
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 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.
Sydney quotes
I thought fit to leave this testimony to the world, that, as I had from my youth endeavored to uphold the Common rights of mankind, the lawes of this land, and the true Protestant religion, against corrupt principles, arbitrary power and Popery, I doe now willingly lay down my life for the same; and having a sure witness within me, that God doth absolve me, and uphold me, in the utmost extremityes, am very littell sollicitous, though man doth condemne me.
Sydney
I am persuaded to believe that God had left nations to the liberty of setting up such governments as best pleased themselves, and that magistrates were set up for the good of nations, not nations for the honor and glory of magistrates. That the right and power of magistrates in every country was that which the laws of that country made it to be. That these laws are to be observed and the oaths taken by rulers to be kept. And that having the force of contracts between magistrates and people, they cannot be violated without danger of dissolving the whole fabric.




Sydney Algernon quotes
If these rules have not been well observed in the first constitution, or from the changes of times, corruption of manners, insensible encroachments, or violent usurpations of princes, have been rendered ineffectual, and the people exposed to all the calamities that may be brought upon them by the weakness, vices, and malice of the prince, or those who govern him, I confess the remedies are more difficult and dangerous; but even in those cases they must be tried. Nothing can be feared that is worse than what is suffered, or must in a short time fall upon those who are in this condition. They who are already fallen into all that is odious, shameful, and miserable, cannot justly fear. When things are brought to such a pass, the boldest counsels are the most safe; and if they must perish who lie still, and they can but perish who are most active, the choice is easily made. Let the danger be never so great, there is a possibility of safety, whilst men have life, hands, arms, and courage to use them; but that people must certainly perish, who tamely suffer themselves to be oppressed, either by the injustice, cruelty, and malice of an ill magistrate, or by those who prevail upon the vices and infirmities of weak princes. It is in vain to say, that this may give occasion to men of raising tumults, or civil war; for tho' these are evils, yet they are not the greatest of evils. Civil war, in Macchiavel's account, is a disease; but tyranny is the death of a state. Gentle ways are first to be used, and it is best if the work can be done by them; but it must not be left undone, if they fail. It is good to use supplications, advices, and remonstrances; but those who have no regard to justice, and will not hearken to counsel, must be constrained. It is folly to deal otherwise with a man who will not be guided by reason, and a magistrate who despises the law; or rather, to think him a man, who rejects the essential principle of a man; or to account him a magistrate, who overthrows the law by which he is a magistrate. This is the last result; but those nations must come to it, which cannot otherwise be preserved.
Sydney Algernon
That which is not just, is not Law; and that which is not Law, ought not to be obeyed.
Algernon Sydney quotes
God helps those who help themselves.
Algernon Sydney
Few men would be so gentle as to spare even the best, if by their destruction vile usurpers could become God's anointed, and by the most execrable wickedness invest themselves with that divine character.
Sydney Algernon quotes
At the moment my most intimate liaison is with Mr. Algernon Sidney; he is the man in England who seems to me to have the greatest understanding of affairs; he has great relations with the rest of the Republican party; And nobody in my opinion is more capable of rendering service than him.
Sydney
I was long since told that I must die or the plot die. And lest the means of destroying the best Protestants in England should fail, the Bench must be filled with such as had been blemished at the Bar. None but such as these would have advised with the King's Council of the means to bring a man to death: suffered a jury to be empanelled by the King's Solicitor and the Under-Sheriff: admit of jurymen who are no freeholders: receive such evidence as is above mentioned ... they assume unto themselves not only a power to make constructions, but such constructions as neither agree with law, reason nor common sense.
By them and their means, I am brought unto this place. The Lord forgive their practices and avert the evils that threaten the nation from them.
Sydney Algernon
Manus haec inimica tyrannis
Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem.
Algernon Sydney
Men lived like fishes; the great ones devoured the small.




Algernon Sydney quotes
Liars ought to have good memories.
Algernon Sydney
It is not necessary to light a candle to the sun.
Sydney quotes
We live in an age that makes truth pass for treason, and as I dare not say anything against it, so the ears of those that are about me will probably be found too tender to hear it. This my trial and condemnation do sufficiently evidence.
Sydney Algernon
If his Majesty is resolved to have my head, he may make a whistle of my arse if he pleases.
Sydney Algernon quotes
A man of the most extraordinary courage, a steady man, even to obstinacy, sincere, but of a rough and boisterous temper, that could not bear contradiction, but would give foul language upon it. He seemed to be a Christian, but in a particular form of his own. He thought it was to be like a divine philosophy in the mind, but he was against all public worship, and every thing that looked like church. He was stiff to all republican principles, and such an enemy to every thing that looked like monarchy, that he set himself in a high opposition against Cromwell when he was made protector. He had indeed studied the history of government in all its branches beyond any man I ever knew.
Algernon Sydney
The Lord sanctify these my sufferings unto me, and though I fall as a sacrifice unto the Idols, suffer not idolatry to be established in this land. Bless thy people and save them. Defend thy own cause and those that defend it. Stir up such as are faint. Direct those that are willing. Confirm those that waver. Give wisdom and integrity unto all. Order all things so as they may most redound unto thine own glory. Grant that I may die glorifying thee for all thy mercies and that (as the last) thou hast permitted me to be singled out as witness of thy truth, and even by the confession of my oppressors, for that Old Cause in which I was from my youth engaged and for which thou hast often and wonderfully declared thyself.
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