New and of Note
Quotations about Liberty and Power
The Scottish historian John Millar (1735-1801) noted that although it was not the intention of the nobles to promote the liberties of ordinary Englishman when they challenged King John in 1215, by defending their own liberties they created both a precedent and a vocabulary for arguing for liberty against the crown:
Whoever enquires into the circumstances in which these great charters were procured, and into the general state of the country at that time, will easily see that the parties concerned in them were not actuated by the most liberal principles; and that it was not so much their intention to secure the liberties of the people at large, as to establish the privileges of a few individuals. A great tyrant on the one side, and a set of petty tyrants on the other, seem to have divided the kingdom; and the great body of the people, disregarded and oppressed on all hands, were beholden for any privileges bestowed upon them, to the jealousy of their masters; who, by limiting the authority of each other over their dependants, produced a reciprocal diminution of their power. But though the freedom of the common people was not intended in those charters, it was eventually secured to them; for when the peasantry, and other persons of low rank, were afterwards enabled, by their industry, and by the progress of arts, to emerge from their inferior and servile condition, and to acquire opulence, they were gradually admitted to the exercise of the same privileges which had been claimed by men of independent fortunes; and found themselves entitled, of course, to the benefit of that free government which was already established.
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[More works by John Millar (1735 – 1801) and on The Scottish Enlightenment]
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Samuel warns the Israelites of the Dangers
"Saul is ordered to destroy
all the Amalekites and their livestock,"
[page 24 verso, lower panel]
Picture Bible (c. 1250)
Many Christians in 17th century England and 17th and 18th
century North America were struck by some passages in I Samuel
in which the prophet Samuel warned about the dangers a King
would pose to the liberties of the Israelite people. This struck
a chord with those who were fighting the growing power of the
Stuart monarchy or the efforts of the British Empire to exert
its power over the North American colonies. The art we have
chosen to illustrate these passages come from the Illustrated
Bible commissioned by King Louis IX (1214-1270) of France in
the mid-13th century. They provide a stark contrast to the
anti-monarchical sentiment of 17th and 18th century Englishmen.
Louis IX arranged for these illustrations to be made because
he wanted to assert his divine right to rule France and saw
in the commands of Samuel and the actions of King Saul both
historical and theological precedent upon which he could draw
to justify his own behavior. [More]
[See other works by Samuel]
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