Pierre Bayle begins his defence of religious toleration with this appeal that the light of nature, or Reason, should be used to settle religious differences and not coercion (1708)

Pierre Bayle begins his defence of religious toleration with this appeal that the light of nature, or Reason, should be used to settle religious differences and not coercion:

Edward Gibbon wonders if Europe will avoid the same fate as the Roman Empire, collapse brought on as a result of prosperity, corruption, and military conquest (1776)

In an aside in Chapter XXXVIII of Volume VI of his massive work on the fall of Rome Gibbon summarized his thoughts and drew lessons for the present:

J.S. Mill spoke in Parliament in favour of granting women the right to vote, to have “a voice in determining who shall be their rulers” (1866)

In July 1866, Mill spoke in moving “for an Address for ‘Return of the number of Freeholders, Householders, and others in England and Wales who, fulfilling the conditions of property or rental prescribed by Law as the qualification for the Electoral Franchise, are excluded from the Franchise by reason of their sex.”:

Voltaire argued that religious intolerance was against the law of nature and was worse than the “right of the tiger” (1763)

Towards the end of his long life Voltaire took the courageous stand of defending a Protestant family against religious intolerance and legal persecution. In his Treatise on Toleration he argued that religious intolerance was against the law of nature and was worse than the “right of the tiger”:

J.S. Mill was convinced he was living in a time when he would experience an explosion of classical liberal reform because “the spirit of the age” had dramatically changed (1831)

In an essay which Mill wrote in 1831 at the age of 26, he confidently announces that “the spirit of the age” in which he lived would bring about revolutionary changes because men had suddenly “insisted on being governed in a new way”:

J.M. Keynes reflected on that “happy age” of international commerce and freedom of travel that was destroyed by the cataclysm of the First World War (1920)

2006 was the 90th anniversary of two of the bloodiest battles of the First World War, Verdun and the Somme. Keynes reminds us of the classical liberal world which was destroyed by that war:

J.S. Mill in a speech before parliament denounced the suspension of Habeas Corpus and the use of flogging in Ireland, saying that those who ordered this “deserved flogging as much as any of those who were flogged by his orders” (1866)

We continue to explore the great treasures which are hidden away in the 33 volume collection of the Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. In 1866, Mill gave a speech in the House of Commons denouncing the English mode of governing Ireland. The occasion was a bill granting the Chief Governor of Ireland the power to suspend habeus corpus, that is “to Apprehend and Detain … Such Persons as He or They Shall Suspect of Conspiring against Her Majesty’s Person and Government.”:

Lance Banning argues that within a decade of the creation of the US Constitution the nation was engaged in a bitter battle over the soul of the American Republic (2004)

In the Preface to his anthology of writings by the Federalists (the “friends of order”) and the Jeffersonian Republicans (the “friends of liberty”) the late Lance Banning noted that it was a struggle over concepts that are at the core of the American political tradition: popular self-governance, federalism, constitutionalism, and liberty:

Montesquieu thought that commerce improves manners and cures “the most destructive prejudices” (1748)

Montesquieu, like many writers in the 18th century, thought that commerce would have more than just economic benefits for societies. It would also improve morals.

Benjamin Constant argued that mediocre men, when they acquired power, became “more envious, more obstinate, more immoderate, and more convulsive” than men with talent (1815)

In a lengthy discussion of the composition and behavior of representative assemblies, Constant has this to say about mediocrity (pp. 329-30):

Frédéric Bastiat, while pondering the nature of war, concluded that society had always been divided into two classes - those who engaged in productive work and those who lived off their backs (1850)

In chapter 19 of the last work he ever completed, Frédéric Bastiat pondered on the nature of war and who benefits from it. He concluded that society is divided into two groups: those who live off the productive activity of others and the vast bulk of the people who engage in productive activities:

John Jay in the Federalist Papers discussed why nations go to war and concluded that it was not for justice but “whenever they have a prospect of getting any thing by it” (1787)

In a series of Federalist Papers, John Jay explores how a national government in America might deal with the problems of war and peace:

J.S. Mill’s great principle was that “over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign” (1859)

In the Introductory section of his great work On Liberty, Mill states clearly the limits to state power over the liberty of the individual:

Thomas Jefferson opposed vehemently the Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798 which granted the President enormous powers showing that the government had become a tyranny which desired to govern with "a rod of iron" (1798)

Thomas Jefferson opposed vehemently the Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798 which granted the President enormous powers to restrict the activities of supporters of the French Revolution in the United States. Jefferson kept his authorship of the opposing Kentucky Resolutions a secret until 1821. In the 8th resolution Jefferson asserts that the US government had become a tyranny which desired to govern with “a rod of iron”:

The Earl of Shaftesbury states that civility and politeness is a consequence of liberty by which “we polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides” (1709)

Central to Shaftesbury’s idea of liberty is the notion of the free interchange of ideas, even if some of those ideas grate against those of others (p. 42, last paragraph of Section I):

John C. Calhoun notes that taxation divides the community into two great antagonistic classes, those who pay the taxes and those who benefit from them (1850)

In an extended critique of The Federalist, the pre-Civil War Southern political philosopher John C. Calhoun argued that any system of taxation inevitably divided citizens into two antagonistic groups - the net tax payers and the net tax consumers:

Thomas Gordon gives a long list of ridiculous and frivolous reasons why kings and tyrants have started wars which have led only to the enslavement and destruction of their own people (1737)

Gordon is best known as one of the authors of Cato’s Letters, a severe critique of the political corruption and wars of the British Empire which very much influenced the American colonists. In his lengthy “Discourses on Tacitus” he concludes a section on the Follies of Conquering with the following:

Adam Smith argues that the Habeas Corpus Act is a great security against the tyranny of the king (1763)

In his Lectures on Jurisprudence, Adam Smith notes the importance of the law of habeas corpus in protecting the liberty of subjects against oppression by the king:

Bernard Mandeville concludes his fable of the bees with a moral homily on the virtues of peace, hard work, and diligence (1705)

2005 was the 300th anniversary of the publication of the poem “The Grumbling Hive” which began Bernard Mandeville’s exploration of the idea that the pursuit of selfish goals by individuals, within the confines of the free market, could produce beneficial public benefits. This Moral concludes the poem:

Cicero urges the Senate to apply the laws equally in order to protect the reputation of Rome and to provide justice for the victims of a corrupt magistrate (1stC BC)

In a speech in favor of the impeachment of a corrupt magistrate, Caius Verres, Cicero urges the Senate to apply the laws equally in order to protect the reputation of Rome and to provide justice for his victims:

Aeschylus has Prometheus denounce the lord of heaven for unjustly punishing him for giving mankind the gift of fire (5thC BC)

Prometheus has become a symbol of resistance to injustice and the deprivation of liberty. In the words of the Greek playwright Aeschylus, Prometheus defies the gods thusly:

John Milton in Paradise Regained has Christ deplore the “false glory” which comes from military conquest and the despoiling of nations in battle (1671)

In Milton’s great poem Christ and Satan argue about the nature of greatness and glory. Christ makes the following points about the true nature of glory:

Mary Wollstonecraft believes that women are no more naturally subservient than men and nobody, male or female, values freedom unless they have had to struggle to attain it (1792)

Mary Wollstonecraft begins chapter 4 on “Observations on the State of the Degradation to which Woman is reduced by various Causes” with the following observation:

John Milton laments the case of a people who won their liberty “in the field” but who then foolishly “ran their necks again into the yoke” of tyranny (1660)

After having fought for individual liberty in the English Revolution, the English poet John Milton was appalled that oppressive monarchy would be returned in 1660:

Adam Ferguson notes that “implicit submission to any leader, or the uncontrouled exercise of any power” leads to a form of military government and ultimately despotism (1767)

In SECTION VI. “Of the Progress and Termination of Despotism” of his pioneering work of “philosophical history,” Adam Ferguson reflects on how free and prosperous nations might step-by-step degenerate into despotism: