Hugo Grotius states that in an unjust war any acts of hostility done in that war are “unjust in themselves” (1625)

Grotius attempted to codify the historical, moral, and legal grounds for justly waging war against an enemy. Here are his thoughts on acts committed in an unjust war:

Hugo Grotius discusses the just causes of going to war, especially the idea that the capacity to wage war must be matched by the intent to do so (1625)

Grotius attempted to codify the historical, moral, and legal grounds for justly waging war against an enemy. Here are his thoughts on waging war against a perceived threat:

Bernard Mandeville uses a fable about bees to show how prosperity and good order comes about through spontaneous order (1705)

In 1714 the poem “The Grumbling Hive” was published, which began 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:

The Australian radical liberal Bruce Smith lays down some very strict rules which should govern the actions of any legislator (1887)

Even in 1887 there were classical liberals, like the Australian barrister Bruce Smith, who lamented the fact that state intervention was on the increase and that legislators had little regard for individual liberty. Here is his list of principles which all legislators should keep in mind:

Edward Gibbon reveals the reasons why he wrote on the Decline of the Roman Empire, “the greatest, perhaps, and most awful scene in the history of mankind” (1776)

After 20 years of work, Gibbon finally completed his history of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776. The final paragraph of that monumental work reads as follows:

Wilhelm von Humboldt argued that freedom was the “Grand and Indispensable Condition” for individual flourishing (1792)

In Chapter II “Of the Individual Man, and the Highest Ends of his Existence” William von Humboldt explains the connection between liberty and a variety of situations, and their connection to the flourishing of the individual:

Edward Gibbon believed that unless public liberty was defended by “intrepid and vigilant guardians” any constitution would degenerate into despotism (1776)

In Chapter III of the first volume of his magesterial history of the decline of Rome, Edward Gibbon reflects upon the Constitution of the Roman Empire in the Age of the Antonines:

David Ricardo considered taxation to be a “great evil” which hindered the accumulation of productive capital and reduced consumption (1817)

In Chapter VIII “On Taxes” on page 152, David Ricardo reflects on the impact of taxation and concludes:

Less well known is Thomas Jefferson’s First Draft of the Declaration of Independence in which he denounced the slave trade as an “execrable Commerce” and slavery itself as a “cruel war against nature itself” (1776)

Less well known than the official version of the Declaration of Independence of the American colonies is Thomas Jefferson’s first draft where Jeffeson makes the following points about slavery:

Herbert Spencer argued that in a militant type of society the state would become more centralised and administrative, as compulsory education clearly showed (1882)

Central to Herbert Spencer’s sociology of the state was the distinction between what he called militant types of society and industrial types of society. In the latter type of society he observed that administration by the state is either non-existent or extremely decentralized, as the following quote shows:

Herbert Spencer makes a distinction between the “militant type of society” based upon violence and the “industrial type of society” based upon peaceful economic activity (1882)

Central to Herbert Spencer’s sociology of the state was the distinction between what he called “militant” types of society and “industrial” types of society. In the former type of society he observed a close link between militant activities and economic protectionism as the following quote shows:

William Graham Sumner denounced America’s war against Spain and thought that “war, debt, taxation, diplomacy, a grand governmental system, pomp, glory, a big army and navy, lavish expenditures, political jobbery” would result in imperialsm (1898)

In a lecture given in 1898, the great American sociologist William Graham Sumner pondered the long term economic and constitutional consequences of the war against Spain:

Erasmus has the personification of Peace come down to earth to see with dismay how war ravages human societies (1521)

The personification of Peace visits Earth and sees with dismay how war ravages human societies. This is, of course, a thinly veiled critique by Erasmus of Europe in the early 16th century:

With the return of spring the memories of Petrarch’s beloved Laura awaken a new pang in him (late 14thC)

With the return of spring the memories of Petrarch’s beloved Laura awaken a new pang in him:

J.S. Mill denounced the legal subjection of women as “wrong in itself” and as “one of the chief hindrances to human improvement” (1869)

John Suart Mill, the great 19th century English classical liberal, began his book on The Subjection of Women with the following unequivocal statement:

Montesquieu states that the Roman Empire fell because the costs of its military expansion introduced corruption and the loyalty of its soldiers was transferred from the City to its generals (1734)

Montesquieu argues that the military expansion of Rome led to its inevitable decline by introducing corruption and the transfering of the loyalty of its citizen soldiers from the city of Rome to their generals:

John Milton defends the right of freedom of the press and likens government censors to an “oligarchy” and a free press to a “flowery crop of knowledge” (1644)

In a pamphlet structured like a speech given before Parliament, the great English poet John Milton gave one of the most stirring defences of a free press ever penned:

John Milton believes men live under a “double tyranny” within (the tyranny of custom and passions) which makes them blind to the tyranny of government without (1649)

Milton draws upon classical authorities and Christian writers to support his argument that the people have the right and duty to rise up in rebellion and overthrow a tyrant:

John Locke tells a “gentleman” how important reading and thinking is to a man of his station whose “proper calling” should be the service of his country (late 1600s)

Locke begins his advice to a Gentleman on the importance of reading with the following thoughts:

Adam Smith argued that the “propensity to truck, barter, and exchange” was inherent in human nature and gave rise to things such as the division of labour (1776)

In his discussion of the division of labor, Adam Smith argues that the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange is part of human nature:

David Hume ponders why the many can be governed so easily by the few and concludes that both force and opinion play a role (1777)

In a collection of brilliant essays ranging over a number of disciplines, Hume reflects on the key aspect of the state - why people obey:

Thomas Hodgskin noted in his journey through the northern German states that the burden of heavy taxation was no better than it had been under the conqueror Napoleon (1820)

A few years after the defeat of Napoleon, the English radical individualist Thomas Hodgskin toured northern Germany where he observed the economic, political, and social condition of the people:

William Emerson, in his oration to commemorate the Declaration of Independence, reminded his listeners of the “unconquerable sense of liberty” which Americans had (1802)

On the first anniversary of the public launch of the Online Library of Liberty it is appropriate to look back at another anniversary, in this case an oration given in Boston 1802 by William Emerson (the father of Ralph Waldo Emerson) on the anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence:

Edmund Burke asks a key question of political theory: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (how is one to be defended against the very guardians who have been appointed to guard us?) (1756)

In a youthful essay, which may or may not be satirical, Burke criticizes all forms of government intervention, or what he calls “artificial society”:

In Joseph Addison’s play Cato Cato is asked what it would take for him to be Caesar’s “friend” - his answer is that Caesar would have to first “disband his legions” and then “restore the commonwealth to liberty” (1713)

In Act II Scene II of Addison’s play, Decius, the Ambassador from Caesar, asks Cato what it would take for Cato to be Caesar’s "friend" as Caesar began using his military successes to pave the way to his political conquest of Rome: